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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
Interested in discounted cruise ship packages?
Inquire at: www.facebook.com/thetravelguyshops