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Friday, December 28, 2018

SuperStar Virgo Cruise + Vietnam/China shore excursion

Crossing off an item on my Bucketlist:  Cruising

Sailing across the open sea aboard a luxury ship was really a dream come through TRUE for me.

But I always thought that would happen during my retirement years, so when I set foot inside Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo after the Immigration officer stamped my passport, it was then that I realized that I was really going to be able to cross one item off my bucketlist!

 Star Cruises is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Genting Hong Kong, a leading global leisure, entertainment and hospitality corporation. A pioneer in the Asia Pacific cruise industry, Star Cruises has been operating its fleet since 1993, taking on the bold initiative to grow the region as an international cruise destination with a fleet of five vessels including SuperStar Virgo, SuperStar Gemini, SuperStar Aquarius, Star Pisces and The Taipan.

The 13-storey SuperStar Virgo is a Leo class cruise ship owned and operated by Star Cruises.

It is the flagship of Star Cruises and has so many entertainment options and activities to do, there is no way you’ll be able to try everything out on a single cruise. Just checking the daily Star Navigator for the schedule of activities each day was almost overwhelming, you have absolutely no reason to be bored.

There are movie screenings in the afternoon and magical shows / performances at the Zodiac Theater every night. There are singers and pianists at the Grand Piazza as well as the Galaxy of the Stars. If you are feeling sporty, they have regular exercise sessions in the morning a gym, a sauna and a jacuzzi to cool you down.

Looking for games? There’s bingo, and other games being held every hour at various locations around the ship and if you want to test your luck you can always head to the Resorts World Casino and try out their games.

Cruising can also prove to be a culinary adventure with a lot of onboard dining options. There’s our favorite Lido Buffet at Deck 12 (for breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper!) The more formal Star Dining Room Deck 6 for Western and Chinese Cuisine. There’s also the Pavillon and Blue Lagoon which serves Asian Bistro, Silk Road, a Chinese Restaurant; Samurai, a Japanese Restaurant, and Taverna a bar located at the top deck.

Looking for gifts and souvenirs? There’s a Duty Free shop at the Grand Piazza. There was even a flash sale during the last day of our stay and I got to buy a lot of items at 30 to 70 percent discount!

The Grand Piazza

Oh and they even have a library, if you just want some quiet me-time.

Its that B I G of a ship! Plus we even had the chance to join the Shore Excursions to Vietnam and China.

Our route for SuperStar Virgo was Manila – Vietnam – Sanya, China– Manila. It was a 6 day full of fun from Dec 9-14, 2018.

It was my 2nd time to board the Superstar Virgo but my first official cruise. The first was just a High Seas Sailcation last March which gave us a feel of what we can experience on a cruise.

I was excited at the thought of being on a real cruise this time as we would also be visiting  Vietnam and China, and I have never been to any of these countries.

First day 

We could barely sleep from excitement and headed to Hotel H20 our meeting place quite early. We met with our blogger friends and had breakfast at NorthPark. Since you can’t bring your private vehicle to the pier, you have to ride the free shuttle from Hotel H20 to the port area.

The first step was to show our passport and tickets to the boarding officer and get our Cabin Access cards.

Your passport is a must when cruising.

We were provided a see-through plastic pouch for our passport and access card. Do not lose the access card as you will need it every time you enter a restaurant for a meal, or buy something from the shops / all your purchases will be charged to the card which you need to pay and clear before disembarkation.

This is also where you leave your check in luggage and fill up the immigration form. Next step is to have your passport stamped at immigration similar to the routine/procedure as you would travel via plane. Then we proceeded to the ship and swiped our Access cards and headed to our rooms

We stayed at Oceanview Stateroom and we had a Balcony that gave us great views of the sea.. We freshened up a bit and rested for a while but before we knew it, we overslept and missed the ship tour . We met up with the team during our dinner at the La Taverna for the best barbecue buffet.

The BBQ/ Dinner at Taverna was the best food experience when cruising with SSVirgo. There are many international dishes, soups and dessert choices. During our stay, they were serving lechon as well as several filipino favorites. Plus its happening at the Parthenon Pool one of the most instagram worthy of all places, at least for me.  We were planning to swim after dinner but the weather was bad. The deck was shaky and the pool that time was overflowing.

Like I mentioned there are many dining options to choose from, so you’ll never have to eat the same dishes from the same restaurant.

There is Lido Buffet, which is our favorite tambayan because it has an ocean view and its big.  I prefer eating at Lido Buffet because there are many food choices.

After the Mandatory Ship Safety Drill we headed to the Zodiac Theater to watch the first show of our tour-- Love Around the World. It was a good production with beautifully choreographed dances and I loved the costume and wardrobe changes.

We headed back to our cabin after the show, and readied ourselves for the next day.

Our second day was quite uneventful for me, the seas were a really rough and it was the first time I experience such a dizzy spell, I spent most of the day in our room just trying to save my energy for our big ShoreEx the next day.

TIP: Bring your anti-dizziness medications with you, there is an available anti dizzy bracelet at the reception located at The Piazza. Ask the crew around. 

TIP:  Change your peso/dollar to HK Dollar in Manila, it will save you a lot if you do that. The conversion is better in Manila.

3rd Day

Before disembarkation to Vietnam.

We readied ourselves and had our hearty breakfast at Lido at 6AM. I was glad the seas were a bit more calm and I was feeling much better.

The weather in Vietnam was 14 degrees and it was raining during the time. Disembarkation took place at 10 45Am we all met up at the Zodiac Theatre to get our ShoreEx reminders. We were told to prepare our access card, excursion ticket and the our arrival card prior to disembarkation.

We went to our assigned bus with tour guide and we were off to explore Halong Bay, Vietnam.

First stop was at their “Night” market. Everyone was selling replicas/knock offs from bubble jackets, branded bags, shoes, belts, wallets, name it they have it. Its the Greenhills version of Vietnam. I also spotted an MCM backpack knock off. There are also souvenirs from keychains to ref magnets. Just remember to haggle.  I got my Bali bag from 700dong to 250dong. That is equivalent to P575 Ph peso.

 Here in Manila,  Bali bag online is sold for P1500 to P1K so I saved a lot  for that item alone.

                             Our view from the top of Panorama Hotel

After shopping,  we had our lunch at the Panorama Hotel. They serve the best comfort food Pho and some other Vietnam dishes like spring rolls lumpia which is tasty and finished it with Coke in can.  I don’t drink soda but they have the best Coke there, its not sweet and it tasted like caramel. I loved it. I read somewhere that Coke differs in flavor in every country.

Our 3rd stop  was at Vincom Plaza. It was the best spot in Vietnam because of its backdrop, Halong Bay.  We had our pictorial with the colorful boats at Halong Bay. It was drizzling during the afternoon. So we went to the mall and ordered a coffee. I experimented with coffee with coconut milk inside the Nam Phong Coffee shop.  The coffee smelled gooood, with creamy and frothy aroma.  The best thing is I sipped a legit Viet coffee.

I didnt buy anything in the mall. The mall was big and the prices were almost the same here in Manila.  Besides our fellow cruisers there were only a few local shoppers around maybe because of the gloomy weather.

Part 2 China Shorex next on the blog..

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