The family that cruised on the Virgo consisted of 4 adults, one of which was in a wheelchair, plus 5 year old twins, 6 in total. The cruise left from Singapore and sailed to Hong Kong. Overall the experience was OK, but the shipping line ... Read More
The family that cruised on the Virgo consisted of 4 adults, one of which was in a wheelchair, plus 5 year old twins, 6 in total. The cruise left from Singapore and sailed to Hong Kong. Overall the experience was OK, but the shipping line could learn a lot from Holland America and Cunard. Firstly the information package for the trip was late in delivery and scant on details, in particular the point of embarkation. There are two embarkation points in Singapore and even after phoning the company in Singapore, we told the wrong location which added more expense and trauma for the family. Many other passengers suffered the same fate.
The embarkation arrangements, were, putting it mildly, a disaster. There was almost no organisation resulting in delays of hours to get on board. Some how our family missed getting boarding passes, totally our own fault, but even though we were checked several times, this important omission wasn't picked up until were about to board the ship. After getting no help from several senior crew members, we eventually were assisted by a very efficient female who resolved the problem very quickly.
The wheelchair cabin was excellent, possible the best we have had on any ship, (including the Queen Mary 2), for space and layout. The bathroom was extremely well thought out. ( I wish most hotels were as good for the physically handicapped.) The cabin for my daughter and her twins was very cramped due the requirement to have three beds at floor level. The bunk bed had no adequate safety rails which meant the children couldn't use it and it wasn't practical for my daughter to get in to it.
One of the reasons for travelling on a cruise was for my daughter to have a rest from her very stressful job and use the child care facilities advertised for the children. Firstly we we were informed that an adult had to stay with the children at all times. Although this is understandable, she couldn't even leave them so she could have a meal, even though the child minder would know her location in case of a problem. To make matters worse the child minding services cost AU$20/ hour, and they charged double for the twins. This meant that a one hour child free meal would cost AU$40.00! (My daughter broke down and cried when she heard the arrangements.) The activities and the girls who looked after the children were very good, but it was not what was implied in the brochures.
The European buffet was OK, but no complementary fruit juices were available at lunch or dinner. This meant that you had to buy soft drinks at at least $5.00 per grass. Fruit juice was available at breakfast but were very watery. The buffet was very crowded and you had to wait to be allocated a table. The "Genting" restaurant was one of the three places which were included in the package and the food and service were adequate although there were certainly not enough attendants. Again there was the problem of table allocation. Why they didn't just have two sittings like most other cruise lines is beyond me. We had a particularly good supervisor who allocated our family the same table each meal which made it very much easier for my wife in her wheelchair. All the staff were particularly good to the twins who are particularly difficult eaters.
The on board entertainment and activities were OK, but on a whole not well attended except for the stage shows. I think one reason for this was that the majority of the passengers were from Asia and a lot of the activities were "western" based and gambling was more important. The crew did their best to engender some excitement and get people involved.
The prices for the additional services such as drinks, meals at the special restaurants and the onshore tours were extortionate. The "drinks" packages were very limited and very expensive. Internet was available at a reasonable cost but we found it very slow. As far as the excursions were concerned, the timing for arriving and leaving the ports boarded on the ridiculous! We arrived at the port for Bangkok at 4pm in the afternoon and left at 4pm the next day. The trip to Bangkok takes 4 hours there and back which left only 3 hours to look around the city, assuming no traffic jams! The timing for Da Nang was even worse arriving at 2.00pm and leaving at 10.00pm especially when all the tourist attractions close at 6.00pm. As it happened, because of a head wind we didn't arrive at Da Nang until 4.00pm which meant that the tours to Hue were cancelled, a great disappointment for me.
If we thought the embarkation was a fiasco, leaving the ship took chaos to a new level. Since my wife was in wheelchair our family got priority going ashore, however no one thought to guide her to the lift to exit the terminal so she had to be physically carried in her chair down a flight of steps which totally traumatized her. Once ashore the passengers were confronted by a total disaster in the baggage claim area. It took hours to claim all the baggage for the family. My wife and the twins were very distressed with all the crowds and chaos. To make things even worse was the fact that although there were trolleys, we weren't able to use them! The staff tried their best to help in very difficult conditions, but was a total failure in baggage handing 101.
So at the end of it all, although there are some really bad problems that the company should be addressing, (but obviously they have been happy to ignore them for years), the trip was OK, but I would be forewarning any of my friends of the pitfalls of traveling with this particular company. As always, don't believe all that the brochures have to say. Read Less