Sunday 23/5/08. SSVirgo Cruise/ First timers. Arrived at Ocean Terminal for check in for the cruise. Deposited luggage and were told to come back at 1.30. Had a walk around the shops in the terminal, then went outside and got our first sight of the SSVirgo up close. Wow, what an impressive ship, we were getting really excited now, it was so big. Back to check in area and there were not too many people, thought this can't be right, but we were right in front of the balcony class section entrance and a few more people began lining up behind us. Hadn't been waiting too long when we were escorted to the customs section and everything happened so fast, rushed through to check in area and in a matter of minutes were walking through the door to be greeted and photographed by the greeting crew. We were up that gangplank so fast, it seemed unreal as there were no other people around, we had visions of everyone madly rushing to board the ship, but it was such a lovely experience.
Into the lobby and greeted again with a welcome drink. Wow! we were speechless, quickly drank our drinks as we wanted to get moving and explore, felt like I imagined it would feel like stepping into the Big Brother house for the first time. We went straight up to the pool deck and ordered a drink, feeling they must not be open yet as no one else to be seen on deck except the crew. It was like we had the whole ship to ourselves that first half hour. Off to check out our balcony cabin, our luggage was already there, unbelievable!! How cool, we were so happy we got a balcony cabin, there is stacks of room and it is really cosy. We found out later that the bed was so comfy and I loved the feeling of getting rocked to sleep ever so slightly every night.
Well by now we were getting peckish, the first place we found was the Bella Vista, a 5 star restaurant no doubt and we were in our shorts and thongs( shoes). As we were the only ones in there, they didn't seem to mind and we feasted on a 3 course late lunch. The food here is top notch and every meal we had was perfect, in proportion and to how it was cooked. The service is really good too. Nothing is too much trouble for the staff. Back to Taverna for a cocktail, then mosied on down to Bellini for another as we people watched the gathering that was growing in the lobby. We must have been about to sail as we had to do the safety drill then out on deck at our nominated stations. All good and well except many people inside still walking around and many didn't even go and get their lifejackets. Hmmm
We decided the best vantage point would be the front of the ship to sail out of H/K, it was a pretty clear evening so we got to see a lot, stayed there for a couple of hours drinking Tiger beer, chatting to people. There's something magical about being on that ship. I guess as the Virgo is our first cruise ship, it will remain our favorite, funny that, how the first is always the best remembered. We spent a lot of time at Out of Africa karaoke bar and got to know the girls pretty well there. It got to the point we couldn't even walk through to the casino without my husband being handed the mike for a song or two. Hahaha, I even got to sing a few, must have had one too many cocktails, well that's my excuse!
Monday the ship stopped at Sanya, As we had only one Chinese visa, the cruise people told us we should save it for Xiamen and if we wanted to go ashore at Sanya, we had to stay with the tour group. We were not too fussed so decided to stay aboard. Had foot reflexology for one hour in a leather recliner overlooking Sanya Bay… sheer heaven! Had a relaxing day just chilling out and booked for Halong Bay tour next day.
Tuesday: Breakfast was at the Mediterranean Buffet, good choice but a bit of a dogfight, everyone is so scared of missing out, there is so much food, really it was an eyeopener, we were really appalled at the manners of one certain culture,, who by the end of our trip, we let know we disliked their behavior on many occasions. This was the only let down of the whole cruise, these rude, pushy people who love to stare and push their way around everywhere, but we didn't let it spoil our holiday. Halong Bay was really pretty, the organization however of the tour we went on left a lot to be desired. It basically took 6 hours to have a half our lunch at an hotel in Halong. We had heard so many people hated the Sanya tours, so we were hoping the Halong bay tour would be nice to see. We got 25 minutes shopping time at the markets, 40 minutes for lunch, the rest of the time was spent lining up waiting for buses, people who didn't come back on time and then we were nearly an hour late getting back on board. We know this leg of the cruise is relatively new so has some teething problems, but we would much rather have had our own time, we would have seen at least more than one street in 6 hours. Very disappointing. Everyone was pretty crabby by the time we got back to the ship, sick of waiting in the heat and getting pushed in front of by you know who's.
Xiamen: After the fiasco of Halong Bay we and friends Jill and Steve decided to stay on board as we didn't want another wasted day, shame really, but your time is precious and there is nothing worse than being stuck somewhere you don't want to be… Needless to say, Chris and Mike did the trip on their own and had a ball, found great shopping and loved Xiamen. We were a bit disappointed we missed out but there's another reason to do the cruise again, right??
Quick rundown of things we did…
Massage at the spa… fantastic. Husband tried the sauna and was going to have a sponge bath till he found out the water was ice cold. I had a hand and arm exfoliation and massage and the gym is really spacious and well equipped. The Taverna has good snack type meals, quite large and the pizzas are mmmm divine. The casino is really quite bigger than we thought it would be. We are still amazed how there is so much stuff onboard and she still floats hahaha, those horses in the lobby are huge. Credit card got a hammering at duty free onboard. We ate at the Raj Indian restaurant one evening and the food was very nice. Zen Japanese: We went to dinner with new friends, Chris and Mike from Sydney, had the Teppanyaki, with Gerry the chef cooking and entertaining us with his juggling skills with the utensils. One of the best meals we had onboard and highly recommended, just go easy on the Sake! Ice cream Parlour does fantastic banana splits. Internet in Library is soooo slow, don't bother, 29 minutes to send an email. Wait till you get off the ship, instead of wasting precious time there. Galaxy of the stars: Great for meeting people and having a quiet drink, lots of activities held here day and night. I won $1800 H/K at Bingo, and I had to dance for it, damn you Karen from the Philippines, lovely girl! Book signing with pastry chef Gerard Dubois. Got to chat with him at the Mediterranean buffet, lovely guy. And he eats at the buffet, good sign. Swimming pool and spa's: Didn't spend too much time in the sun this trip, but the spa and pool were great, always clean and never too crowded when we went in.
Last night was spent at… you guessed it, Karaoke bar till 3 am with our new friends. But was worth it, just didn't want to leave. All in all, we had the most enjoyable time, met some lovely people, ate some wicked food, drank too much, as you do and we are hooked on cruising, 26 times to Phuket, thought we couldn't get any better, but cruising is such a different holiday. Can't wait for the next one. Sue & Colin Perth WA