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Star Legend Review

4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating
120 reviews
13 Awards

Comprehensive China Exploration, Back2Back with Pop Kings

Review for Star Legend to Asia
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CruiseOrLand
6-10 Cruises • Age 70s

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Additional details

Sail Date: Oct 2018
Cabin: Balcony Suite

"Comprehensive China Exploration" Beijing to Hong Kong or reverse

The title suggest that there is more “China” than there was, even before one port was deleted. But we certainly hit a lot of countries on the trip. (Note that you should get the 10-year “Multi-Entry” visa from China if you go on such a trip. It costs the same as a “Single-Entry” visa, and uses the same annoying application form.) This itinerary is part of a long sweep of Star Legend cruises from Southeast Alaska to Malaysia and beyond. This may be the one with the most sea days, and it would be hard to market without Beijing and Hong Kong. But I would suggest that they reduce the total mileage covered. It was just too many sea days and too many lines for immigration. But if you stayed several days in Beijing before the cruise (which we did not, having been on the previous cruise), you might feel differently about the title!

We booked fairly close to the trip, because of a Windstar sale announcement in their weekly specials. We had to pay the full amount at the time of booking. It was interesting to note that the Windstar proprietary "travel insurance" product is priced on the total actually spent, so it was an especially good value when the cruise has been discounted.

Cabin Review

Balcony Suite

Cabin BS

(from my Back2Back review just below) Cabin 315 Deck 6 “Balcony Suite”. We received an email about a month before our departure offering us an upgrade from the lowest deck (fixed windows) to a choice of six other cabins. This was a single charge of $400, covering both passengers. We accepted it. Star Legend has only single sinks, but we were very happy with our huge tub with hosed shower head. The motor yacht cabins are much larger than on the sailing vessels, and that helps us to prefer the MV cruises. Our pair of stewards took good care of our room, which did not show much wear and tear since the last renovation of this older ship. Some guests might want more than one 120 Volt outlet, but we always carry lots of Shuco prong adaptors for our electronics (which don't care about the voltage.) The “Balcony” is a worthwhile splurge. It's almost floor to ceiling glass, opens 100%, and has a balcony with a glass front, about 17” deep. There seem to be some slight drafts around the outside, but the opaque drapes muffle it. The doors can apparently be locked remotely during a storm. We never used the DVD player. Sattelite TV channels are very limited, and Standard Definition at best. Because we went to the Yacht Club so often (particularly for early breakfast) this cabin turned out to be very well located to run up the stairs to Deck 8. Very happy with this cabin. The only “noise” was a thoughtless directly-adjacent guest who slammed his door every single time he exited or entered. That's not Windstar's fault.

Port Reviews

Taipei (Keelung)

The ship actually docks in Keelung, Taiwan, which is 45 minutes by train from Taipei. Even on (our) Sunday, the trains were often as frequent as 4 per hour, and cheap. We got small paper tickets that were to be inserted into the turnstiles (entry and also exit) and were returned to you both times. We docked at 7:00 AM; The immigration officers had rubber-stamped color copies of our (held by the ship) passports, which we carried off the ship. Our ship had the spot farthest from the Keelung rail station, about 1/4 mile around the rectangular port basin. The first station-like building you come to is the bus station, which has a long passage to the almost new South Rail station. (Returning to the ship, you may prefer to exit the train station platform at the "-> Bus Station" end.) Getting off at the Main Taipei Train Station (there are two other downtown stops), we bought one-day Metro passes.

Our main interest was the Jianguo Holiday (i.e. weekend) Flower Market, under the elevated highway one block from the Daan Park (R06) Metro station. It was huge, about 500 meters long, with two aisles. We were particularly interested in their abundant and incrediby cheap orchids, even though they can't be imported individually by Americans. While scoping out the adjacent Jade Market (also very large, but hard to judge quality), we found a rather Western competitor of Starbucks (Lu.Coffee, ) where we had coffee and fresh panini for lunch. More daring diners can get NT$80 hot noodles with the additions of your choice, right inside the Flower Market. We later had tea at the lavish, theatrical Grand Hotel, because I stayed there on business in 1990. It's surrounded by a large, steeply forested park, with paved stairways and hiking, with a few shrines (and squatter's shacks.) The two subway stops nearest to the hotel (Red line) go to the main train station without needing to change.

Hong Kong

There's a sea day for the 500 miles to Hong Kong. We had a deck burger bar option for lunch, and the officers' farewell reception before dinner. It's another spectacular harbor, with the docking at 9:00AM so you don't miss the view sailing in. The ship has a full day and night in Hong Kong before you disembark from the cruise. A startling 60 passengers were on a double ("Star Collector") cruise with this port between them.

We had the best berth at the International Port. ( https://goo.gl/maps/jGfEih8xFLK2 ) Our starboard side faced the open harbor and the massive towers of Hong Kong island. A good pitcher might have been able to hit a Star Ferry with a baseball. On the minus side, the exit from the ship requires a very, very long walk through a soulless new shopping mall with all the same-old international luxury brands. The cruise ship access seems to be about 1% of the mall's square footage, but the developer got to make you walk by an entire floor of shops to get to Tsim Sha Tsui. And then you have to walk two blocks back to the Star Ferry terminal, if that's where you're going. My estimate is 1/4-mile to the Tsim Shat Tsui Metro subway stop. With all the Cartier and Miu Miu outlets, it feels like forever.

I was last in Hong Kong in 1990. While it's still wonderful, much of it has been redeveloped, cleaned, and sanitized for mass consumption. For example, the Bird Market "street" is now a purpose-built sweep of pavement without residences, with drainage trenches, and multiple spotless covered dumpsters for recycling and, er ... bird debris. There are custom-welded pipe frames to hang up bird cages. The adjacent Flower Market has a little more charm.

The Disembarkation cruise-taxi line moved slowly during disembarkation, with single red cabs pulling up (far from the main streets) two minutes apart. But we got a cheerful driver who graciously took us from Airport Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 when I found that (excellent) Vietnam Airways was in the latter building. (It was hard to use their website on my elderly Iphone 5.)

Osaka

NOT OSAKA. Ishigaki, Japan was not listed in the CC dropdown box! It takes two nights and one full day at 12 knots to get back to the southernmost part of Japan, Okinawa Prefecture. MV Star Legend docked (for once, entirely on its own, with no tugboats standing by), at Ishigaki Island (quite far from the island of Okinawa.) This is a 50,000-population resort community in "tropical Japan." Vegetation and climate are similar to the greener small Caribbean islands, and there are many beaches (and beach hotels.) The cruise pier is off on its own peninsula, and look to be about two miles from downtown. The port provided a shuttle bus every 30-40 minutes, which dropped you at the ferry terminal, close to shopping and dining.

We independently bought round-trip ferry tickets (around 1600 Yen p/p) to the nearest island, Taketomi (15-minutes, 30-60 minutes between boats, multiple companies-we rode with Anei Kanko ferries). It's only about 1 mile square. Most local homeowners have pledged to maintain the size and appearance of there homes to approximate historical Ryūkyū culture. There are town busses and private cars, but most traffic consists of bicycles. We found a small rental company (less choice of bike size, maybe. GPS: ) just behind the massive nature-park orientation building, a few steps from the northeast ferry terminal. ( https://goo.gl/maps/9ATRLgFKo6q ). We paid the same price we found around the island, 300 Yen per hour. It was a sweaty but rewarding self-tour. There are a few cafes, but there is little retail on Taketomi. You are asked to carry out your own trash, including at public toilets. We liked the tea towels and tee shirts at the ferry terminal. We encountered the ship's tour taking their oxcart ride on Taketomi.

Because one port was not listed in the CruiseCritic dropdown list, I have to add it in the body of my review, here. (Note that the ports do not display in the same order as the itinerary.)

Ishigaki, Japan. It takes two nights and one full day at 12 knots to get back to the southernmost part of Japan, Okinawa Prefecture. MV Star Legend docked (for once, entirely on its own, with no tugboats standing by), at Ishigaki Island (quite far from the island of Okinawa.) This is a 50,000-population resort community in "tropical Japan." Vegetation and climate are similar to the greener small Caribbean islands, and there are many beaches (and beach hotels.) The cruise pier is off on its own peninsula, and looked to be about two miles from downtown. The local TI had a tent on the pier for maps and advice. The port provided a shuttle bus every 30-40 minutes, which dropped you at the ferry terminal, close to shopping and dining. There are multiple islands served by the ferry terminal, but it seemed smartest to (independently ... ) visit the closest island to Ishigaki.

We bought round-trip ferry tickets (around 1600 Yen p/p) to the nearest island, Taketomi (15-minutes, 30-60 minutes between boats, multiple companies-we rode with Anei Kanko). It's only about 1 mile square. Most local homeowners have pledged to maintain the size and appearance of there homes to approximate historical Ryūkyū culture. There are town busses and private cars, but most traffic consists of bicycles. We found a small rental company (less choice of bike size, maybe. GPS: (24.335278, 124.092361) ) just behind the massive nature-park orientation building (worthwhile visit), a few steps from the northeast ferry terminal. ( https://goo.gl/maps/9ATRLgFKo6q ). We paid the same price ("touring" bikes, one gear, hand brakes) we found around the island, 300 Yen per hour. It was a sweaty but rewarding self-tour. There are a few cafes, but there is little retail on Taketomi. You are asked to carry out your own trash, including at public toilets. We liked the tea towels and tee shirts at the Taketomi ferry terminal. We encountered the ship's tour taking their oxcart (!) ride on Taketomi. It was very hot and humid. You get to the next destination overnight.

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