Completed trip July 2009. 5 night / 6 day Strait of Malacca. Balcony Class (Deck 10 mid-for)
Itinery Singapore - Penang - Phuket - Singapore - Port Klang / Kuala Lumpur - Singapore
Strongly recomend that potential crusiers refer to the Virgo Forum on the Cruise Critic Boards. This gives pretty fair overview of most things relating to the cruise (currently located under Boards, Cruise Lines A-O, Other Crusie Lines, Super Star Virgo - though Star Cruises should probably have its own cruise company category).
Travelled as two adult couples 35-45 in two adjoing cabins. Being adjacent made things more fun as we could spend time out on our balcony watching the sights and taking in the Straits without having to spend time in each others cabin. This was a first time crusie and the short holiday nature coupled with a few days in Singapore at either end was not too onerous or demanding - a great introduction to cruising with regular stops and sights to see. The main negative is the mid-trip return to Singapore to address the 3-night / 2 night short-trippers.
SuperStar Virgo is a relatively large ship (certainly in Star Crusies fleet) and as a result has many good features and opportunities, with the added advantage of adeqaute space and quiet corners to get away from the more populated pool areas when the desire arose.
Shore Excursions - very good. Range of options with prices ranging from S$25pp to get a bus to the appropriate shopping/tourist area, to organised sightseeing to main attractions at S$60-S$80pp and special adventure trips for those inclined (S$100+). The only real issue is that the time on ground is usually 5-8 hours - however in most cases these locatiojns can be visited on another holiday and the day trips are really just a pleasant daily-interlude in the crusing holiday.
Restaurants - combination of included and pay venues on board.
Included restaurants are free dining during specified meal/opening times. Best bet is to allow the initial rush to subside and be rewarded with no queues, better seating options, better service and less delays (as for any restaurant).
Meditaranean Buffet is the lowest level and pretty much a cafeteria - unless you really have to due to children/perceived need then this is one to avoid. The Bella Vista is excellent and serves a variety of western style foods following a 3-course served menu with 2-3 choices in ecah course. Best option for Breakfast and great for dinner/lunch. Pavilion is Chinese cuisine (3 copurse set menu of shared dishes), ate there twice for lunch. Food is good and the experience great but it is asian chinese food not western chinese so there may be the odd item that does not appeal to the Western palate.
Upmarket pay venues are small intimate restaurants. Balcony Class and above get dining credits - S$400 for 5 night cruise for Balcony - so this pretty much covers dining for at least 2, maybe 3 upmarket meals. All meals in pay restaurants is a la carte from good menu selections.
Palazzo is Italian/French/European and very classy. Small and intimate - requires booking. The artwork has some renowned names and there are a couple of originals. The Noble House is a Chinese Restaurant comparable to a speciality hotel restaurant with Peking Duck one of the choice items. There is also an Indian restaurant (The Taj) and Japanese (Samurai).
In addition there are a couple of F&B areas along the bar/cafe/bistro line that provide various levels of casual meals and snacks covering most parts of the day and night. Most of these are pay venues.
In general we found the food to be quite good and certainly on a par with a reasonable 3 star restaurant for Bella Vista and Pavilion. The pay restaurants were certainly 4 star plus but there is a cost to enjoy. The Meditaranean Buffet is very much a cafeteria/food hall and best left to the families - the food was OK but venue lacked in atmosphere. If eating there for lunch or breakfast get a table on the Terrace rather than inside, the view there is quite good. As for all mass eating houses the buffet has its share of less-classy behaviours and food queues.
Large range of activities but in our case we found that after eating and day trips it was nice to just sit out on the balcony and enjoy a few quiet drinks - the prime advantage of Balcony Cabins and Suites. The Gala night and associated show, cocktail party with crew and meal (Bella Vista in our case) was excellent and certainly a cruise experience/highlight. Best bet is to book eraly when first boarding and look at the second sitting (this is a pre-booked fixed dining event for the venues involved).
Everything on board cost something and included a 15% service & gratuity charge. However given charges are in Singapore $ most Australian, US and European are offset by the currency conversion rates. Leaving most charges for drinks etc on a par with the bars/F&B venues in most hotels and resorts. Beer & Wine approx S$7 can/glass, cocktails S$10, soft drink S$4-6. Some discounts for beer in jugs/multiple purchase in bar areas and cocktail and mocktail specials. Wine is generally expensive in SE Asia - so bottles at S$30-40 are comparable to Singapore prices.
Cabin service was excellent and a S$5/S$10 note every now and again ensured very good attention from the steward/ess and housekeeping staff. Otherwise tipping is not necessary anywhere else (and is not permitted in gaming areas anyway). Drinks in cabin approach mini-bar prices due to room-service charge so best bet is to supply your own - this is tolerated in cabin (keep to duty free amounts) and you can pick up cheap soft drinks/bottled water at harbour stops.
Recomended for people who want are wanting to test cruising with a casual experience in quiet waters within a short holiday. Singapore is excellent and can be coupled with various hotels at Travel Package Rates. Make sure you spend at least 3-4 days in Singapore rather than fly in/out direct from cruise.
Rating: 4 out of 5. Certainly some aspects that could be better but generally a good experience. The odd negative but nothing that detracted significantly away from the overall experience.