The SuperStar Virgo Cruise 2018 Experience

Hello!

Writing this post somewhat quite suddenly based on a need.  The hubby and I just came back from our first time cruise vacation with my family last week and we posted some photos from our trip in social media after we got back.  Turns out we had several friends who booked trips for the same cruise on later dates.  Posting now in case there are others who need useful info before their trip. 🙂

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All Aboard!

Background:  This is the 2nd time that Virgo will be based in Manila.  Last year was Manila-Laoag-Taiwan-HK-Manila, while this year’s route is Manila-Japan-Taiwan-Manila.  Shore excursions in Japan and Taiwan are 9 hours each, and there are 2 full days in high seas.  We booked this trip to take advantage of the seniors cruise for free promo, and some additional discounts for booking early.  It helped that the shore excursions were Japan (a place we’ve been to before and love)  and Taiwan (never been there and always wanted to explore).

 

Now on to the tips, as I expect these are what most readers need:

Tip#1 — Preparing for the Trip

I did a lot of research online before the trip and called their customer service at least twice but still a lot of what I learned was through experience.  So listen up! Haha!

Packing — since this is a ship, the limit on luggage is the weight and not the size.  30kilos luggage per person, plus a hand-carried bag (no wheeled luggage).  We opted to bring a bigger suitcase so that we would have space for items in case we went shopping.  I packed some gym clothes and swim suits but we did not get to use them.  The pool on deck 12 was 6.5 feet on the shallow end.  The gym was quite small and almost always full (opening hours 7am-1am).  There is, however, 4 Jacuzzis and a sauna in case you are interested.

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Performers entertain guests near the pool area during the barbecue dinner on the first night.

Embarkation — go early!  We received an email that there was a schedule of embarkation based on room assignments, but this clearly wasn’t followed.  They also provide shuttle service from Hotel H2O to the pier but there are only 2 buses for all the passengers.  The schedule for disembarkation was chaotic as well.

Gala Night — If you are planning to attend the gala dinner, it does not have to be formal.  Basically, no sandals, no shorts, no sandos.  Jeans are okay.  For ladies wearing dresses and planning to wear sandals, the sandals need to have some heels.  Even sneakers are okay.  But I think a lot still brought formal clothes (as if attending a wedding).  I didn’t want to since it would be cumbersome to pack formal wear, but we did bring a nice dress for me and some casual slacks and a long-sleeved shirt for the hubs. (Free flowing drinks during the gala ceremonies!)  Book your gala dinner as early as the first day by going to either Pavilion or Star Dining.   To help with the wrinkles on our shirts, I brought some Downy anti-wrinkle spray. 😀

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The captain introduces his crew.

Toiletries — The rooms were fully equipped with shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, toothbrushes, toothpaste, razor, shower cap, comb, lotion.  Pretty much like any luxury hotel.  Towels were also provided inside the room and at the pool area. Hair dryers also available, toilet paper, bath robes, and rubber slippers.

 

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Just like your favorite hotel.

Outlets — bring adapters for outlets for HK configuration.  If you don’t have one, you can borrow one from the lobby.  A deposit will be swiped in your access card ($70 HKD, I believe) but it will be returned in full once the adaptor is surrendered.  We needed to charge our phones since we used them a lot to take photos — but the batteries lasted longer than usual without the calling, texting, and wifi.  There is one hour free wifi onboard and beyond that you need to grab a prepaid account.  There are some wifi hotspots but they weren’t really reliable.

 

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Photo from ebay.com

 

 

Tip#2 — Ship Access Cards on ID laces

Ship access cards serve not just as keys to your rooms but are also your temporary credit cards.  They are swiped when you dine, disembark and embark on shore excursions, purchase items onboard, collecting passports, etc.  You need to keep them with you at all times.  Based on research, we wore them on ID laces and it was really helpful.  No need to rummage our bags to look for them.

 

Tip#3 — Bring markers.  The ship’s schedule of activities will be posted in the daily newsletter and you will want to mark up the ones you want to join.  Bonus points for me for bringing 2 different colors so hubby and I could differentiate our chosen activities.

 

Tip#4 — bring meds, especially if you’ve never travelled by boat.  I didn’t think I would get seasick, but there was a period when we passed by Taiwan where we hit bad weather and the boat was swaying pretty bad.  Lots of people on deck 12 threw up, but we survived with some ginger-based ointments and candies.

 

Tip#5 — You can bring non-alcoholic drinks and snacks.  You might wonder why since there is so much food onboard.  For the drinks — coffee, tea, and juice are served during breakfast, but for lunch and dinner only water is available, so you might want to brink your own soda or iced tea.  We also brought tumblers with us which you could refill during meals.  One bottled water per person is complimentary in the rooms.  The room has a mini ref too.  For food, you can bring chips if you want to munch during the shows.  We didn’t because we thought we’d just buy some in Japan during the stopover.

 

 

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Free drinks at the gala night.

 

 

 

Tip#6 — Currency exchange.  I prepared and exchanged JPY and TWD while we were still in Manila.  And I’m glad I did!  The guest services at the lobby provides forex, but the line was really, really, really long.  I didn’t notice the rates much though.  Everything on the ship uses HKD as currency, but you can pay in PHP through your access card.

 

TIP#7 — Bring 2 photocopies of your passport in A4.  It will be needed for both Japan and Taiwan.  If you photocopy onboard, it will be expensive (something like Php30 per page)

 

TIP#8 — Meals — go early.  There will be lines!  There are 3 inclusive restaurants, Pavilion (Chinese food), Star Dining (Western/Chinese), and Lido (buffet).  Pavilion offers appetizer, soup, 4 dishes, and dessert.  Star Dining lets you choose western or Chinese (all people in a group must have the same choice) then serves appetizer, soup, main course, and dessert.  You can order more of the same dishes if you like them.  Lido buffet is more of a cafeteria type and has more varieties.  I think they are the best bet for breakfast.  There are 6 meal times per day and all are free as long as you eat only once per set time slot.  If the line in Lido is long and you don’t mind eating al fresco, you can request to be seated at the Jack’s bar.  You’ll need to walk back in to get your food though as there is no buffet table outside.

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My best lunch included this vegetarian lasagna at Star Dining.  

 

 

TIP#9 — Shore excursions.  We decided to go free and easy (aka DIY) and not book shore excursions as I felt that they were quite expensive.  Taxi from Naha port to Kokusai Dori was about JPY900 and took 10 minutes.  For Keelung, we just stayed within the port vicinity.  Bonus: I managed to score an affordable Yukata (summer kimono) at the shops at Heiwa street along Kokusai Dori.  I didn’t get the belt though as it was expensive and I thought I could just stitch one myself. :p

dav

 

 

TIP#10 — Shows.  The shows are free and are pretty good!  In our case, the theme for that week was Greatest Hits and they invited The Boyfriends and VST & Co to perform.  I thought this was a great idea considering the number of senior citizens onboard.  And boy did they have a blast!!!  Check out the facebook page of Star Cruises to get updates on the themes per travel date.  For the shows, go at least 30 minutes early to save seats as the theatre can get pretty full.  There are also balcony seats accessible from Deck 8.

 

 

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The Greatest Hits show featuring The Boyfriends and VST & CO.  The senior citizens had a blast and danced up a storm!

 

 

TIP#11 — Activities.  Join them!  The games gave out free shirts to the winners and the cooking demo handed out free food.  Some activities are not free though, such as the tour of the bridge, or the use of the arcade.

 

 

 

TIP#12 — Souvenirs.  Buy them online before you board, at least 3 days early.  In our case, we thought the Ship Model Puzzle was a pretty good deal.  We haven’t put it together yet, but the material is pretty good and well made.  Just purchase online then pick up on Deck 12 when you board.

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Purchased online at Star Cruise’s Shop and Cruise page.  Photo courtesy of Star Cruises website.

 

TIP#13 — Plan, plan, plan!  I printed out deck plans of the ship, available online, as well as the map of Naha and Keelung ports, and the names of the places we were going to (to show the taxi driver).  There is a tourist information center on both locations, but the one in Japan was extremely helpful.  In Taiwan, apply for Tax Refund after disembarking and before going shopping as it takes 3 hours to process the paperwork.  You can just come back after shopping to show your receipts and get the refund before embarkation.  Also, check the weather.  It rained in Keelung but we had brought with us rain jackets and umbrellas.  I also had hubby wear a bracelet with a compass in case we got lost.

 

TIP#14 — Know the language.  The daily newsletter will tell you the location of each activity by stating the deck number followed by FWD (front), AFT (back), or (MID).  You will find your way just by looking out the window and checking the direction of the ship. 🙂

 

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Maps throughout the ship will help you find your way.

 

Overall, we had a great time as the cruise crew were great and super helpful.  There were only 3 things that we did not like…

First, the bad weather at Taiwan.  No one can prevent this but it did put a damper on some plans and some activities were closed for safety.  The crew however made sure that they did their best to make everyone comfortable.

Second, the food was hit and miss.  I’m not a picky eater, and neither is my hubby.  Some dishes were really good and there were some that we couldn’t finish even if we didn’t want to waste food.  This is a biggie for me as a traveler, and we would think about booking again sometime in the future if the food were much better.  In any case, we were glad we tried going on a cruise once, and I’m glad I was able to go with my mom and dad and sister and hubby.

 

 

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Menu from the Pavilion Restaurant.

 

Third, the embarkation and disembarkation process.  I wish the staff would be more stringent on the standard protocol.  It ended up chaotic, with long lines full of upset people.  People were literally screaming and complaining at the port when we got back.  We were the first batch and our arrival was delayed by 4 hours, and I can’t imagine how terrible it must be for those in the 2nd batch who couldn’t get in the port terminal with the crowd.  There were so many senior citizens, some in wheelchairs, who had to endure the hot sun to wait for the shuttle.  It was a terrible way to end a great trip, and we got home feeling drained afterwards.  Hopefully it’ll be a different experience for the future batches!

 

Please feel free to share your 2018 Star Cruise Virgo experience in the comments section. I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions. Whatever happens though, I hope you enjoy your trip and use the time to bond with your loved ones. 🙂  I’m still checking out our pictures to see how many we can pull together for a digital photo album. 🙂

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Comments
4 Responses to “The SuperStar Virgo Cruise 2018 Experience”
  1. deohsan says:

    Agree on all points.

  2. Lem Salonga says:

    Very helpful information as we are joining the cruise tomorrow. Thank you for taking the time to write about it, this is highly appreciated. : )

    • emnidy says:

      You’re welcome! That was really my goal because I also had a lot of questions before we got on the cruise and I couldn’t find the answers. Hope you have fun! 🙂

  3. Dolly Cerrer says:

    thanks for sharing. very helpful 😉

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