I have never gone on a cruise before, so when we booked a two night cruise onboard Star Cruise’s Superstar Virgo from Singapore, I was excited though not entirely sure of what to expect. The 2 night 1 day cruise itinerary included shore excursions to Malacca and Port Klang, both in Malaysia which were thankfully optional as I’m not one for hurried vacations.
Getting there :
Our ship was scheduled to leave Singapore at 11 pm and the check in process from the Star Cruise terminal at Singapore’s Harbourfront started at 8 pm. We reached there right on time only to find that there were quite a few before us. The check in process is quite the same as in an airport. You check in the bigger pieces of luggage, pass through immigration and board. The waiting period to board could be long and may even seem chaotic. You get to wait it out in an almost empty lounge and get escorted inside if you have tickets to the Admiral class (suite rooms) and get priority embarkation if you have balcony rooms, though the rest of the junta have to queue it out for entry. However if you are patient, the process is smooth enough as the ship’s crew is extremely efficient and well trained.
Photo courtsey: www.starcruises.com
With 935 cabins and a passenger capacity of more than 1800, the ship is really massive. Finding the way to your cabin may seem daunting at first but there is helpful signage to guide you and elevators to make the process faster. Though you are better off taking the stairs in my experience, especially during boarding and busy mealtimes.
What’s on board :
Our room was a junior suite which came with a living area with balcony, a bedroom and a bathroom with a Jacuzzi! The Jacuzzi was quite a hit with our kids while I loved the balcony, especially early in the mornings. That part was an absolute unmatched experience. You also get a sofa bed in the living room, which makes it ideal for families.
Early morning view from the balcony
Our cruise was a two night one and we decided to avoid the shore excursions. The first shore excursion was at Malacca in Malaysia at 7 am in the morning and though it is a heritage site, we decided to give it a miss as it is a 13 hour trip that moves on to Kuala Lumpur, taking us out of the ship for an entire day. Keep in mind that you will need to book your shore excursion early enough. Also, your local travel operator through whom you need to book the cruise may not tell you that it extends to 13 hours!
You also get the option to go on a shore excursion at Port Klang, where the ship docks around 2 pm and go to Kuala Lumpur from there, getting back to the ship by 9 pm.
With quite a lot to do on the ship and not a whole lot of time on our hands, we decided to give the excursions a miss and check out what’s available onboard. One of the reasons was also going to sleep really late the night before, chiefly because of ventriloquist Willer Nicolodi’s amazing show, enjoyed even by my six and half year old.
There are several other shows on offer, including some adult ones, which seem to be so much in demand that the child care centre even offers you two hours free if you buy tickets to those shows!!!
The elaborate (and golden) interior
Night owls have a lot to look out for with onboard parties and of course a casino.
The second show we caught on our next night was a musical spectacle called Somewhere in time, with acrobats, dancers and performers giving it quite a magical spin. One of the highlights, at least for me, was the contortionist who was part of the show.
Daytime activities include a splash in the pool. There are two of them on board. One for children and another for everyone else, complete with a water slide. Both the pool areas have a couple of warm Jacuzzi tubs for you to relax in. While the kiddie pool area features mini slides and showers, the Parthenon pool, as the main one is called, has music going on, adding to the party atmosphere. If you are not one for the crowds, be warned that it tends to get crowded, especially post 11 am, once everyone’s had their breakfast.
The other crowded area is the Grand Piazza or the highly ornate interior of the ship, which you have approach via the promenade deck. Depending on your taste, you may be tempted to take your picture with the golden horses that tower over the area or avoid it as much as you can.
Promenade on a rainy night (deck 7)
For peace and quiet, your best bet would be Deck 13 or the sports deck with its mini putting green, basketball court and walking tracks. Every place has enough deck chairs to lounge on and take in the view as the giant ship smoothly glides along. We also liked the Tavern Bar on this deck.
My other favourite area would be the Galaxy of Stars on Deck 12. This glass walled enclosure offers you a 360 degree panoramic view of the sea. You can even climb down a spiral staircase to watch the captain and the ship’s senior crew in action, though they are separated and undisturbed by a glass wall. You can look at the ship’s memorabilia and brush up on some facts about Virgo, such as it consumes 2500 kg of sugar in one week, 2800 kg of fish and 40,000 (yes) pieces of eggs.
You can even walk to the Viewpoint or the absolute nose of the ship and do a Titanic if you want. This is approachable through Deck 7. Just be careful as one slip through those wide railings and you’re down several feet under.
What to eat :
There are three complimentary restaurants on board, a Mediterranean (cum Indian I should say), a Chinese and a Western restaurant that was closed for the night when we cruised. If you have children travelling with you the Mediterranean would be a better option as they have a kid’s area as well and overall offer more variety. It’s a buffet system and can get crowded though. We preferred sitting on the terrace of the restaurant taking in the view outside than inside. The food is a mix of Chinese and Western, with a Vegetarian section that mainly has Indian food and in particular Jain food for those with religious preferences.
We dined at the Chinese restaurant (Pavillion) one night and though I found the set menu interesting with its Chinese style Sea Cucumber (gelatinous and not bad at all) and a jellyfish and chicken dish along with other standard inclusions like pork and fish, if you are someone who loves his or her Indian Chinese you will find the food very different here. You can order a vegetarian set meal here as well. Chinese of course.
Room with a view
Mealtimes are strictly followed and during our cruise breakfast at the Mediterranean buffet was wrapped up 10 am sharp no matter what. So if you like to sleep in late, there is the Blue Lagoon restaurant that’s open 24 hours. There is also an Indian restaurant, a fine dining Chinese and Japanese restaurant on board, along with a Tea Appreciation corner, a Cigar Lounge, a Champagne Bar and a Gelato Buffet Bar.
You get a food and beverage credit if you book Balcony rooms and above.
Activities on Board :
Having heard a lot about children’s activities from relatives who are North American cruise regulars, I was a little disappointed here. The Neptune Wet & Wild, the children’s water play area is fun but once the kids are out of water and dried off, there’s not much free stuff to do unless the ship’s daily activity (found in the newspaper Star Navigator, delivered to your room everyday) has something planned. The child care centre showed promising and interesting stuff but came with charges of 16 and 11 Singapore dollars for my 19 month old and 6 and half year old.
There is a Video Games arcade, which is again, paid activity. After paying so much, you expect that there should be enough for the kids to do.
Children love the open air decks
When it comes to activities for everyone else however, there is quite a lot. Since a large number of the passengers are Chinese, there is a Mah Jong room. There is also a library and activities like Karaoke singing. A Bollywood Karaoke session was on in full swing on our first day on the ship so if that rocks your boat, it’s on the house.
There are enough parties on at any time, from Chocolate sampling parties to a Mascots party so you can take your pick. These are all family friendly, though be warned about crowds.
When you board the ship, you are photographed by the ship’s photographer with several performers. This keeps happening and if you want, you can keep your photo coupon and buy your picture from the Gallery. A photo keychain was priced around 12 Singapore dollars.
If you wish to shop on the ship, you can try Ports of Call, for duty-free, though since this sails out of Singapore, keep your dollars for the duty-free at Changi airport.
While the cruise was a fun experience, I felt Superstar Virgo is more inclined towards honeymooning couples and the casino and gambling loving crowd than families. Of course that’s just an impression as children won’t be bored, especially if they are curious and this is their first cruise. When the ship was docked at Port Klang, there was a routine rescue drill for the crew and my son was thrilled to see the boats lowered and later pulled up as well as hear the captain announce (not before he emphasized that this was just a drill) Abandon Ship!
Overall, Star Cruise’s could certainly improve the activities on offer for children.
The service on the ship is quite good and our guest relations executives, Kim from Korea and Kiko from Japan were gracious and helpful. One of the things I enjoyed was chatting up crew members. The guest relations team is a young one and seems to be enjoying the 10 month nonstop work that entails working on a cruise ship. It was good to meet a young and smiling crew from different countries across Asia, being very patient with people from different cultures with varying needs and requirements.