OnboardThrough its NCL and Orient Lines subsidiaries, Star Cruises is now established as a global operator, but its big appeal to US travelers is that its ships not only take you around Asia -- they also let you experience the Asian lifestyle as you go.
The company's SuperStar ships were the first to offer the widest range of restaurants afloat; as well as casual buffets, poolside grills and one formal dining room apiece, SuperStars Leo and Virgo offer Chinese, Italian, Asian and Japanese restaurants -- and Virgo has the only Indian restaurant afloat.
All restaurants offer open seating for maximum flexibility -- Star was one of the pioneers of casual, "dine when and where you please" cruising. And the "Asia afloat" feel extends to onboard entertainment; card rooms are filled with fans of Mah Jong, onboard shows feature spectacularly flexible Chinese acrobats, and the ships have extensive karaoke facilities, including private rooms for parties (the Orientals take their karaoke very seriously!).
Service, too, is Oriental-style -- discreet, friendly and impeccable. Star Cruises, which operates a no-tipping policy, has one of the highest crew-to-passenger ratios in the industry, with one staff member for every two passengers.
About Star CruisesStar Cruises was founded in 1993 to realize the Far East's potential as an international cruising destination. Its mission was not only to encourage Asian travelers to take to the seas, but also to attract North American, Australian, European and British cruisers eager to explore the dazzling variety of cultures, cuisines and holiday experiences the Asia Pacific region has to offer.
It succeeded to an elaborate degree: In its first five years, Star carried more than 2.4 million passengers and captured a 50 percent share of the Far East domestic market. The Malaysia-based Star Cruises is now the world's third largest cruise company, following its acquisition (in 2000) of Norwegian Cruise Line and Orient Lines, along with a dynamic program of fleet development.
Star Cruises FleetThe company started with just two ships -- the former Baltic ferries Athena and Kalypso, which it bought for $250 million and renamed Star Aquarius and Star Pisces. A year later -- in 1994 -- it paid $100 million for two upmarket small ships (Classical Cruises' Aurora 1 and 2) which became the Megastar Aries and Megastar Taurus. And a year after that, Crown Cruises' 19,093-ton, 900-passenger Crown Jewel joined the fleet as SuperStar Gemini. Star took on the 28,388-ton, 1,430-passenger SuperStar Capricorn (formerly the Royal Viking Sky) in 1997. SuperStar Aries, former Hapag Lloyd's Europa, was added in the fleet in 1998.
Then the newbuildings began.
SuperStar Leo was the first 76,800-ton megaship to be custom-built for operation in Asia; incorporating Asian decor and cuisine, it entered service in 1998 and was shortly followed by SuperStar Virgo, its sister ship.
Two new 91,200-ton, 2,244-passenger sisterships originally ordered for the Star Fleet were switched to NCL and became Norwegian Star and Norwegian Dawn in 2001 and 2002. And now the 75,338-ton, 1,966-passenger SuperStar Leo has moved across to become the Norwegian Spirit.
SuperStar Aquarius was deployed in spring 2011, after undergoing a month-long, $1.6 million refurb in Hong Kong. SuperStar Libra debuted in winter 2011. This leaves Star with four own-brand ships (SuperStar Aries and SuperStar Capricorn have been sold), so as Leo transfers, the line is left with SuperStar Aquarius, SuperStar Libra, Star Pisces and SuperStar Virgo.
Fellow PassengersStar Cruises primarily markets to Asian travelers. Folks from other regions may want to consider, for a first-Star experience, the more internationally-focused SuperStar Virgo, which attracts passengers that range from Malaysians to Japanese and Australians to New Zealanders -- along with adventurous-spirited European and North American vagabonds.
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