12 Things to Expect on Your First Cruise Ship Experience

Considering to travel by cruise ship can be discouraging because on top of the cruise fare, you would usually need to pay for additional airfare expenses to fly to certain hub cities, such as Singapore or Hong Kong in Asia.
 
Luckily for Filipinos recently, SuperStar Virgo by Star Cruises graced Manila with its presence by docking at Manila port for the first time and stopping at Laoag, Kaohsiung, Hong Kong and back to Manila . The cruise ship was in and out of Manila for about 3 months from March to May, letting a lot of us Filipinos experience traveling by cruise ship for the first time in our lives.
Like many other Filipinos, I (together with my family and relatives) took this opportunity to finally be able to go on our first cruise ship experience. My cousins enjoyed so much that they kept asking me when the next cruise we could join was! Here’s what I learned:

 

1. First of all, you WILL save on airfare

When you travel by cruise ship you are essentially paying for 1) accommodations 2) all meals while on board 3) access to the amenities and 4) the voyage from one city to the next until you you’re back in your origin city. Our itinerary on this cruise was Manila-Laoag-Kaohsiung-Hong Kong-high seas-Manila. If we opted to go to these destinations on our itinerary by flying, we would have needed to take 4 flights (although there is currently no direct flight from Laoag to Kaohsiung.) For some people, taking flights can be exhausting and time-consuming. So if you hate flying, traveling by cruise ship could be for you.
Traveling to Laoag from Manila NOT by land or air – it’s possible!
China Airlines no longer had a monopoly on the Manila-Kaohsiung route… at least for a few months
I was able to go to Hong Kong without paying for airfare! (The shirt I have on was purchased in Kaohsiung the day before)

2. The cruise ship rocks – it’s impossible not to have fun!

Overall, the room amenities and housekeeping can be classified as a 5-star hotel in my opinion. The free of charge facilities of Superstar Virgo include: a roof deck pool with hot tubs and a slide, a fitness center, basketball court, jogging track and board game center. Some facilities are free of charge only for certain room (higher) room categories like the saunas and locker rooms at the fitness centers, while others such as the video game room, salon, spa, mahjong room and karaoke room (we were cruising around Asia after all haha) were available to use for a fee. Most itineraries include a day or two on the “high seas,” meaning the ship will not be landing anywhere but simply be voyaging the whole time. This is the perfect opportunity to enjoy these amenities.

 

The cruise ship staff were mostly either Mainland Chinese or Filipino. Luckily, the one manning the slide was Pinoy. When I told him it was going to be my first and only time to try it since it was our last day, he didn’t prohibit me from holding on to my phone. He even said he would stand in front of the CCTV for me so that I wouldn’t be seen doing so! Thanks Kuya!
The pool, hot tubs and slide on top of the ship with a partial glass bottom!
Closer view of the slide
Night view
The gaming and entertainment room
Luckily, they have a gym to burn off all the food you’ve been eating, and it comes with a view of the ocean
The quiet room for reading and renting PCs

3. The cruise ship rocks… literally

Traveling by cruise is like taking a normal vacation… except your hotel room moves as you sleep (and you might feel the movement.) This is where some motion sickness medicine could come in handy. You’d think that a gigantic ship made of steel could withstand the push and pull of the waves, but no. No ship is a match for Mother Nature. Remember the Titanic? Thankfully there aren’t any glaciers on this part of the planet. And just like taking a flight, the ship crew holds a safety demonstration in case of emergencies for guests on the first day of the cruise.

 

The weather out in the open sea can be quite unpredictable. It could be humid (at least at that time of the year – April), light showers, gale-force winds or all of the above. Just don’t stand too close to the ledge to avoid a case of man overboard.
This is your balcony room… it moves
View of Manila pier from a balcony room on SS Virgo
An Inside Stateroom, the cheapest room, for 3 people. It’s the same room for 4, and the 4th person sleeps on a pull-out sofa bed located on the edge of the single bed.

 

5-star hotel room-quality bathroom of an Inside Stateroom

4. It’s efficient

You’re given your access card which is your room key, charge card for when you use the facilities and ID card when you go through the ship’s in-house immigration officers. In case you were wondering, they don’t charge you to replace lost cards. In addition, sometimes there are special visa arrangements: There was a no visa arrangement for Taiwan, even though normally PH passport holders have to get one or at least an online Travel Authorization form if you have a valid US, Japan or other visa.

 

5. …But you’d  still end up having to fall in line and wait

Imagine thousands of people leaving the ship through one entry/exit point upon arriving at a new city.
This is what it looks like if your city (in this case Manila) isn’t ready to handle throngs of cruise ship passengers
It is also worth noting that unlike Hong Kong and Kaohsiung, some ports are not yet fully-equipped to handle cruise ship guests. Specifically, I am referring to Manila’s Pier 15 and Laoag’s Currimao port. The current capacity of these ports simply could not handle all of the passengers at a given time.

 

6. Nonetheless, it’s relaxing – especially at sunset!

You see the ship gliding over the sea, a gentle breeze in your face, and the view is enchanting especially from a balcony room!
Sunset view FROM the sea!

7. It’s fancy

On the last night, a gala dinner will be held where there is a smart casual dress code. Tip: book the nicest restaurant as early as possible (in the case of SS Virgo, it’s Genting Palace) for some Titanic feels.
Suit Up! My cousins, sister and I dressed up for the gala night.

8. You will be entertained and served by crew from all over the world

There are a number of free shows by mostly European performers, even a talent show by your fellow guests, as well as paid shows *for adults only,* and by adults I mean straight men. lol
Bring ’em showgirls!
Circus… on a ship!

9. You will get fat

All meals (six a day, beverages not included except for the buffet restaurant) are part of the cruise fare you pay, and at least one of the many restaurants you can try offers buffet-style food and drink all day. Although, it’s unlikely you’ll have all six meals a day especially you’ll disembark at and explore a new city nearly everyday.
Fancy Chinese appetizers served during the gala night
Delicious key lime pie served at Genting Palace, one of the a la carte restaurants
The buffet restaurant is open for your late-night cravings

10. You can learn about how a ship functions

There is a tour, but you can also visit the captain’s deck to get a first-person view from the edge of the ship.
A mini-me of SS Virgo, where we were

11. Forget about wi-fi

SS Virgo offers free 2-hour access for all guests and charges for usage on top of that, but it’s painfully slow. Posting on Facebook will have to wait until it’s Land Ahoy.
Since there’s practically no wifi, you can enjoy the live band or mingle with the other passengers at the very extra lobby, or go up the stairs to shop for duty-free fragrances, make-up and other items.

12. You’ll get views like you’ve never seen before

Because how often do you find yourself in the middle of the ocean? Or taking views of popular city skylines from the bay?
The Hong Kong skyline
The Hong Kong skyline PLUS a view of the rear deck and pool of the cruise ship!

 

Interested in discounted cruise ship packages?

         

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