The Discovery Travel and Living Channel calls cruising the “ultimate vacation.” Star Cruises describes it as the “best vacation experience.” And just who am I to disagree?
In 2005, our whole extended family (about 20 of us) went on our first-ever Asian cruise via Star Cruises’ Superstar Virgo. It was a 4-day/3-night affair that started and ended in Singapore, with ports of call in Penang, Malaysia and Phuket, Thailand. I have to admit, the places we visited on land during our stops weren’t as interesting for us as the ship itself. Superstar Virgo was the main attraction for us—there was a lot of fun things to do and so much to explore with all of the ship’s amenities like swimming pools, library, karaoke pub, disco, theater, gym, child care center, movie house and many more. Plus the food, oh, the glorious food! It was such an exhilarating experience for all of us that we decided to do it again. After all, we’re the Cruz family. *wink*
Fast forward to three years later, in 2008, we boarded Superstar Virgo once again. Unlike the first time, we already knew what to expect. I, for instance, have carefully mapped out my diet plan a full month prior to the trip. As a self-confessed food lover, I consider the cruise ship as a food paradise! I’m not one to exercise—unless you consider malling as exercise—but weeks before the trip I played badminton until I dropped, with only visions of food in my head as inspiration and motivation. I was determined to lose a few pounds, knowing that I can easily pack it all up again during the cruise.
Our second cruise took 6 days and 5 nights—quite too long for an Asian cruise, to be very candid. By the fourth day, my daughter Bea [then barely four years old] and I got sea-sick due to the huge waves. We embarked in Hong Kong, sailed to Sanya (China), then Halong Bay (Vietnam), back to Hong Kong, Xiamen (China) and finally disembarked in Hong Kong, where we spent an extra night.
Upon boarding the floating 5-star resort known as Superstar Virgo, passengers are greeted by the very warm and friendly crew (many of whom are Filipinos) with a refreshing welcome drink at the magnificent lobby.
Dining at Sea
Just like before, we stayed in an Oceanview Stateroom with Balcony. As balcony-class passengers, we knew that we were entitled to extra credits that allowed us to dine in any of the ship’s dining outlets for up to six meals a day! Talk about a total binge.
There’s the Mediterranean Buffet and Terrace, which is always jam-packed because it serves all-you-can-eat international fare. There’s something for everyone at the Mediterranean Buffet—from soups, salads, pizza, strictly vegetarian dishes, to an amazing dessert station and even a separate kids’ buffet spread. There’s a Japanese restaurant called Samurai and an Indian restaurant named The Taj.
Palazzo offers Italian fusion, while Bellini is a cozy bar on the 8th deck (overlooking the majestic lobby, also known as the Grand Piazza) that features live music, bar chow, wines and other beverages. Bella Vista was our favorite place to have breakfast because it has opulent and very elegant interiors and because we enjoyed having eggs done our way. I loved the freshly baked croissants, Danish pastries and the fresh fruits and fruit juices. For lovers of the Chinese cuisine, just like our family, there are two restaurants on board to satisfy Chinese food cravings: The Pavilion Room is a huge family-style fine dining restaurant that offers traditional favorites served lauriat-style, while the Noble House is an alternative dining place with a more intimate setting.
The Taverna can be found on the ship’s highest deck, Deck 13. It’s a poolside bar that serves light snacks like burgers and fries as well as a wide assortment of alcoholic beverages. Among all of the dining outlets, my personal favorite is the 24-hour casual-dining place called Blue Lagoon. I particularly enjoyed the flavors of hawker-style Asian specialties such as the Hainanese Chicken Rice, Mixed Satay, and Nasi Goreng that sat very well with my palate. Often, our family capped our meals with ice cream from the Gelato Café on Deck 12. This ice cream bar was our favorite hang-out while we devoured our banana splits, sundaes and other frozen treats. It’s such a happy place!
Barbecue Night and Captain’s Gala Night
By mid-cruise, there’s a Barbecue Night held at the Parthenon (the adult pool area), where passengers are treated to a sumptuous feast of perfectly grilled meats, seafoods and vegetables—all cooked right before our eyes. The dessert spread is simply marvelous and I swear I could have stuffed myself to bursting with just about every cake, pastry, ice cream and fresh fruits if only I had more than one tummy. It’s truly a night of food, food and food galore.
Another highlight of the cruise is the Captain’s Gala Night, wherein guests are required to dress up in formal wear and are advised to make reservations for dinner. Of course, Asians are known not to observe the dress code so a lot of people go to the Gala in jeans. In 2005, we dined at The Pavilion for the Captain’s Gala Night, while we chose Noble House in 2008. I still remember the chilled avocado cream that was served for dessert in the latter. It was delicious!
Boredom is not an option on Virgo. Every night, a spectacular show awaits at The Lido—a show lounge that features awe-inspiring acrobatic shows, live musicals and even adult entertainment. We made sure we didn’t miss any of the extremely impressive and dynamic shows featuring performers from Russia, Belarus, China and other parts of the globe. We were also able to watch a couple of flicks at The Picture House and my little girl had a blast playing at Charlie’s Child Care Center while my husband and I spent some time on our own. We didn’t look forward to the shore excursions too much because we really didn’t want to leave the comforts of the ship.Altogether, our cruise experiences are something our family will treasure forever. We had the grandest time on the ship and we’d surely love to sail with Star Cruises for a third time someday. We love everything about Virgo. Impeccable service, first-rate amenities and lots of amazing eats—they’re what make the Star Cruise experience truly unforgettable. Indeed, cruising is the perfect getaway and, for me, the best opportunity to pig out. Just thinking about it makes me want to burp.