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15 Star Cruises Hong Kong Cruise Reviews

Don't waste your money. I chose this cruise because it started and ended in HK, where my son lives and we were looking forward to a short XMas family holiday together, visiting Vietnam. I had never been on a cruise, but so many ... Read More
Don't waste your money. I chose this cruise because it started and ended in HK, where my son lives and we were looking forward to a short XMas family holiday together, visiting Vietnam. I had never been on a cruise, but so many people told me that it's a great way to see different places, without much extra expense, nor the hassle of moving from hotel to hotel and that the food is always great.....sadly NOT SO ON THIS CRUISE! Everything cost extra, even playing Mahjong and attending stretch or spin class! The food was so poor, even in the restaurants, there was often more fat than muscle on the meat and I barely saw a fresh fruit or vegetable the whole time. If they are hoping to break into the Western market, which I understand they are, they will need to raise the bar a lot, in my opinion. It is a very new ship with some nice features, BUT.... these are some of the areas which led to such frustration and disappointment for me and my family: * before even embarking the ship, we were asked to sign letters to say we were happy to go ahead with the cruise, despite an itinerary change due to poor weather conditions. We were told we would each receive a discount on board and a free cruise to be used by June 2018, but have heard nothing about the cruise since. We were not given copies of what we signed, but should have taken photos, I know! * cabins/balconies were not properly cleaned. On arrival, we found mandarin peel inside and cigarette butts outside and our children found prescription medication in their cabin!! * staff were pleasant but mostly inexperienced and many couldn't speak English. When we asked about the beverage packages, which we'd received info. about on the Dream letterhead before leaving home, the first 3 people had never heard of such a thing! There ended up being only one Premium Package available, which was very limited and could only be used in certain areas. * gratuity fee which was automatically charged in advance (and I understand is quite standard on all cruise lines) could not be reversed, despite being told prior, that it could be, on request. I would have been very happy to pay, if we received good service, but everything felt like it was a challenge. * Restaurants were often booked out in advance and rather than costing a supplement of around AUD $20-40, as we had been advised by our agent, they were all a la carte and full charges applied. Given the quality of the food in the free buffets (especially breakfast which was particularly bad), we kept trying restaurants, hoping for something better. We fine dining Chinese the most. * Karaoke booths were also heavily booked out, but we managed to find just one time slot available, when we enquired. We had to agree to a minimum spend of food and drinks, but could not use the beverage package once we had hit that limit!! * We were told we could arrange visas for Vietnam on board and wouldn't have to take an excursion to leave the ship, but this was not the case. The excursion in Halong Bay (our only port in the end), went for 6.5 excruciating hours, 5 of which was travel time, with a non English speaking guide.We were charged not only for the excursion itself, but also a late fee for processing of the Visas. When my son asked for a second drink, he was told the charge included only one per person. * Shows had to be pre-booked, so we could not get a seat, when we first arrived for a show and were told we could enter only if there was room, once everybody had arrived. * I settled the accounts for 2 of our 3 cabins the night before we were disembarking, hoping to simplify the process on our last day, only to find new unexplained charges, which we spent 4 hours trying to understand, along with the very complicated billing system, before leaving the ship (in tears) to make our flight back to Australia.... The extra charges on board were 20 percent in excess of what I had budgeted for, based on all the information I had been given, when booking the holiday. All in all, a massive disappointment and far from the relaxing family holiday I thought we were signed up for. By the way, I did give the company the opportunity to address these concerns before writing this review, and they acknowledged some of the downfalls I highlighted, but offered me zero in the way of any compensation or true apology. The bad taste this experience has left me with remains..... Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
I took this 7-night cruise Hong Kong-China-Vietnam and it was a most pleasant trip. I have cruised on Star Cruises many times but this cruise is different. Ever innovative (Star Cruises pioneered the freestyle cruising concept, NCL, ... Read More
I took this 7-night cruise Hong Kong-China-Vietnam and it was a most pleasant trip. I have cruised on Star Cruises many times but this cruise is different. Ever innovative (Star Cruises pioneered the freestyle cruising concept, NCL, previously owned by them, is only a follower) but now they are doing non-inclusive meals instead. The idea is not cutting back but it gives cruisers even better free choice. Yes, everything is priced now, but they give each passenger an onboard credit that you can spend what you will, on food, excursions, and purchases. The normally inclusive meals are now priced very reasonably, so that even if you take meals as if inclusive, you may come to spend less than your daily allowance of HKD280 a day. And great that, under a new Executive Chef, the food quality and presentation is improved too. This allowance is for all passengers, but those booking a Balcony cabin or a Suite are further given a set of vouchers good for discount, free meals and drinks. Balcony passenger can order continental breakfast delivered free. The entertainment is the best, not only one of the best, and production shows are large scaled with more dancers and entertainers on stage even than onboard a ship double the tonnage. The ship seems old but refurbished and well-maintained. Because of the new F&B system, people no longer congested in the 'free' outlets but now spread out in the some 10 eating outlets that includes Japanese, Italian, Indian, Southeast Asian and of course Chinese and continental European. There are offering of dishes from well-known Hong Kong Michelin-starred restaurants too. With the choices where to eat, this is a real gourmet cruise not priced at gourmet level. The HKD125 lobster dish is a steal. It turned out to be a more enjoyable and carefree cruise than what I have recently enjoyed on other cruise lines. The trip visits Shekow (Shenzhen) where most passengers embark, then visited Ho Chi Ming City and Nha Thang, both interesting ports but far from the pier. My allowance was adequate to cover the normal food expenses as well as the bus transport. Highly recommended, although sea may be rough in winter. I look forward to their new itinerary from March, from Hong Kong to Kaoshiung (Taiwan) and Manila. Although I do not award a 5-star to this trip, it certainly is 4-star plus and plus trip and I have an experience that exceeds my expectation. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
I never write reviews but felt compelled to this time. I read the reviews on Star Cruises before we sailed with them. Having cruised before in different parts of the world, I thought it would be nice to travel with an Asian cruise line ... Read More
I never write reviews but felt compelled to this time. I read the reviews on Star Cruises before we sailed with them. Having cruised before in different parts of the world, I thought it would be nice to travel with an Asian cruise line through Asian countries, even though I had read some bad reviews. What a big mistake that was. We knew it would be challenging, but had no idea just how hard it would be. There were only 4 English western passengers on board and hardly any of the other 2500 passengers could speak English. We absolutely know that was our fault for booking an Asian cruiser and don't blame the cruise line for that. It was our bad luck. I just want to advise non Asian passengers to definitely don't go with this cruise line. As I said it was our fault about the language but so frustrating with the announcements and entertainment - but getting on and off for excursions etc. was complete bedlam. You just had to join in and be pushed about as seems to be the custom. All the excursions are in Mandarin but we were made aware of this before we booked, but they didn't understand any English and I just pointed to my watch to find out what time we were due back on the bus at every stop. Lol. The food was average for the buffet, with little variety. To eat in any of the 3 free restaurants, you had to line up like at a Medicare office and wait until your number came up on the screen, this sometimes took 45 minutes of waiting. There were other restaurant on board (like you get on other cruise lines where you have two sittings in the dining room and the food is top quality) but it costs a minimum of $A30 per head. We had no complaint about the ship itself. It as lovely and kept clean and polished the whole trip and they staff were fabulous. They went out of their way in be polite and assist in every way possible. We picked this particular cruise because it was sailing down to Vietnam from Hong Kong. It had longtime been my dream to go to Halong Bay in Vietnam. But hey presto, literally at the last moment they informed us the cruise had been "rescheduled" and wasn't going to Vietnam but to two islands in Japan. They wouldn't even give us any reason, just that it had been rescheduled. I read this had happened before but assumed it had been a one-off problem. Although they offered a full refund on the cruise, it was only days before we were due to leave home, so we were out of the time limit on cancellations from the the airline, the accommodation and various tours in Hong Kong, so we had no choice but to go ahead. We spoke with the captain about the rescheduling and he told us he'd been informed by past western passengers that after 30 years of travelling, this had been the worst cruise they had been on. The rescheduling isn't unusual and he joked that is why you don't see Star Cruises advertised in brochures because of their unpredictable scheduling. We asked one waiter on the last night where the next trip was going and he said they're supposed to go Japan, but might end up in Vietnam!! So my advice to any Australians planning a trip in Asia, avoid this cruise line at all costs. Not because it's a bad line but because you will not like it and like us, non-Asian speaking passengers, you'll consider it a complete waste of time and money. It definitely wasn't cheap so spend your money on Princess, Royal Caribbean or any other line as you'll have a much more enjoyable holiday. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
We had previously sailed on Superstar Virgo 10 years ago from Singapore and had an enjoyable cruise so that when we saw that cruise on the same ship that left from Hong Kong were thought that this would be terrific. How wrong could we be. ... Read More
We had previously sailed on Superstar Virgo 10 years ago from Singapore and had an enjoyable cruise so that when we saw that cruise on the same ship that left from Hong Kong were thought that this would be terrific. How wrong could we be. This has been taken over by Chinese company and caters primarily for Chinese tourists. We were not given any pre-travel documentation or advice and had to google the embarkation location. The home port is now Guangzhou in China and they are in the process of changing all staff to Chinese... most of whom don't speak English. The ship no longer caters for westerners with the food being predominantly regional Chinese cuisine. This is not what we expected on an international cruise liner. There was no early or late sittings for dinner and you have to queue up with 2000 screaming and impatient Chinese to get into even the buffet area. They give preference to the Chinese and we were consistently told restaurant full and come back later. We missed having several meals on board due to incompetent staff. The ship is now set up as a gambling ship with 5 casinos on-board. The entertainment was sleazy and included strips show that were for dirty old men. The shore excursions were limited, were only conducted in Mandarin and go either to supermarkets or pharmacy. We were told by staff not to go on excursions because it was not for us. This is the first time in our cruising experience that we were pleased to get off the ship!!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
This was my second cruise on Superstar Virgo. I went last November when they travelled around Australia and enjoyed it so much, that I went back. I knew that it would be different, and expected the passengers to be primarily Chinese, but ... Read More
This was my second cruise on Superstar Virgo. I went last November when they travelled around Australia and enjoyed it so much, that I went back. I knew that it would be different, and expected the passengers to be primarily Chinese, but was not expecting so much to have changed in such a short time. I booked through an agent and there were some issues from the start. When I booked in January, the ship was going to Halong Bay and Danang in Vietnam, and Sanya in China, as well as the two dockings in Nansha, which is the ships main home port. I booked to get on and off in Hong Kong, so doing the 7 day cruise. Six weeks before boarding, they change the itinerary, so rather than 3 ports ( two of which I was really keen to see ), they changed to go to Naha in Okinawa and the tiny island of Miyakojima, Japan. While there was an option to cancel with full refund, I had non refundable fights and hotel bookings so chose to go ahead with it anyways. They did give an extra 700RMB room credits. I had issues with the tours - booked two pre boarding and when I had to cancel the Vietnam one, they gave me back half the price, even though this was the more expensive of the two tours I booked. They charge $100 per shore excursion, regardless of the price that's advertised or the exchange rate on the day. I ended up cancelling both tours and got my money back. I was advised that there would be tours in English for the ports so just chose to book them on board. Boarding in Hong Kong was relatively painless although they did give me one form in Chinese and had some issues finding an English version for me. The great majority of the passengers were Chinese, and I saw only two other Australians on board, although there were other English speaking passengers from places like India. Most passengers board in Nansha for a weekend cruise and then the five day cruise, so there appear to be very few getting on and off in Hong Kong. On the last cruise, pretty much all the staff had a good grasp of English and there were no issues with communication. This time, the balance of nationalities of the staff had changed, with many more Chinese only speaking staff and less that appeared to have a good grasp of English and did not seem to care to interact that much with non Chinese speaking passengers. The house keeping staff remained as friendly and likeable as last time; the staff in the Taverna bar were once again friendly and always happy to have a chat; two Filipino bands were wonderful to listen to and delightful to speak with and the Filipino cruise staff ( Godie, Francis, Mark and Faye ) were the most delightful, friendly and welcoming people. Sadly, none of the other cruise staff ( all Chinese ) made any efforts to interact with English speaking passengers either. The entertainment in the Lido theatre was as good as last time - the bits that I could see of it anyways. People continually came in late, pushed in front of you, stood in aisles, talked during shows, left early and shone lights everywhere. I found this behaviour extremely difficult to deal with and totally disrespectful to the performers and fellow passengers. Some of the activities during the day were only in Chinese, but most had a Filipino and Chinese host, so English version available - although depending on the activity, no one else playing would be able to understand you if you spoke English other than the host, which makes some activities easier to sit out. There was lots of dancing, which was fun. One thing I found vastly different on this cruise was the selling aspect - it was everywhere. There was the emphasis on gambling, which I was expecting, but there was selling everywhere - auctions, upselling rooms, stalls everywhere with items to buy, people walking around with baskets of things to sell and lots of bingo. This was not evident last time and a lot of the fun activities of last cruise were replaced with selling this time round. There was a lot more down time and it was difficult to find a quiet space and one without someone smoking - even with my ipod on the loudest setting, could not always drown out the constant chatter from passengers. Food - if you like Chinese food and eat meat, then you will probably enjoy the variety of food on board. If you are a vegetarian, then be warned - you will be eating salad all week! Breakfast had western and Asian options and was enjoyable. For lunch and dinner all week, apart from one night when I had a special meal, I ate lettuce, tomato, cucumber and carrot with either kidney beans, green peas or corn. Everything else pretty much has meat of some description in it, so despite writing on the form that I was vegetarian it was not well catered for. The other included restaurant usually had one meal on the 5 course menu that was suitable for vegetarians. I found the rooms and ship to be clean and in good order. There were house keeping staff always visible, always vacuuming, dusting and cleaning. One could not fault them. Ports - highly disappointing that the ports were changed so close to sailing. After Hong Kong, you dock in Nansha - which is at a cargo port and everyone gets on a bus to go to immigration. As there was no information on what was available at the other end of the bus ride, and no English speaking tours, did not get off on either stop here ( and speaking to many of the crew, they had never been ashore here either ). Naha - dock at 3pm (4pm Japan time ) and depart at midnight. Tried to book a tour but only 1 bus of English speaking guide, so unless you in the first few to get in, you miss out. I walked into town, up and down the main street, and back to ship in the dark. Even on a tour, everything closed that hour of the day, so you drive past things and then end up at a shopping centre somewhere, which is perfect if you want to shop, but not so great if you want to see things. Next port - Miyakojima. Tiny island and no tours at all available in English. I just went wandering on my own, got terribly lost and saw absolutely nothing of any interest, so it was highly disappointing from my perspective. Perhaps there are good things to see there but I could not find them, and it was raining on the day too, which did not help. Personally this cruise had elements of being a 'cruise from hell' and me wanting to jump ship, but other days where it was fun and I loved it. I don't think that it should be marketed in Australia or western countries as its really aimed for the Chinese market. Having said that, I would do it again but I would chose the ship based on who was on the cruise staff more than anything, as for me, its the cruise staff that make it or break it. If you do chose to board Superstar Virgo, seek out the Filipino cruise staff, and drink at the Taverna where the staff are young, friendly and mostly speak good English. And be prepared to be one of a very few non Asians on board. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
The short cruise was 4-nights from Hong Kong visiting Taiwan, and it could serve as a convenient short 'trip away from trip' for visitors to Hong Kong. Passengers are, predominantly, more than 90%, Chinese, mostly Hong Kong ... Read More
The short cruise was 4-nights from Hong Kong visiting Taiwan, and it could serve as a convenient short 'trip away from trip' for visitors to Hong Kong. Passengers are, predominantly, more than 90%, Chinese, mostly Hong Kong residents but also some Mainland Chinese, but as always there are small groups of other nationals on such a cruise on Star and the ship's first language is actually English. One should be aware that Star Cruises operates cruises that offer a different cruise experience from that of mainline European/American cruises. It is casual, emphasising on variety of food and entertainment options, and I note that the redecorated ship has more shopping spaces than before to cater for Mainland Chinese guests who are heavy shoppers. With respect to food, there are some 8 food outlets to dine at your choice, some incur a reasonable charge. The inclusive restaurants serve adequate food of quantity rather than of quality. There is still the midnight buffet now missing from Western cruises, and there is always much to eat. But the highlight on this cruise is perhaps the guest service from no less than three of Hong Kong's Michelin starred restaurants, and believe it, they include the (previously achieved) 3-star Michelin Sun Tung Lok, the 2-star Ye Shanghai. Thus for the first time, I enjoyed really good Chinese food on a cruise. Even the inclusive restaurants offer real authentic Chinese food not to be found in most ships, even the luxury ships, the food of which proclaiming to be Chinese I consider Fillipino rather than Chinese food. Star Cruises is famous for its casino operations and on this ship you can even play baccarats on your mobile, once you download an App. The shows are quite spectacular and exciting, with dancers from Brazil that really have the look (while many cruise lines employ dancers not prosessing the appearance that one expects of a dancer. The shows are more sexy oriented than on American ships and so please the eye. The service is adequate and embarkation is good if you book at least the Balcony Class. While the ship is dated it still boasts of a grand lobby second to none. Reasonably priced, this a good-valued cruise much to my liking, but it must be said that it is not in the same style as you would expect on a Princess or Royal Caribbean cruise. For me, I enjoyed Star more, both for the food and the entertainment. It can be recommended to Western cruises looking for something different in a cruise. The itinerary offers two ports, Taichung and Keelung (for Taipei) and is interesting. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
We are a group of five with 3 elderly people staying in two cabins. We chose this cruise because it is on special offer, for about US$300 per person all inclusive. The elderly think it is good because they don't have to fly. Also the ... Read More
We are a group of five with 3 elderly people staying in two cabins. We chose this cruise because it is on special offer, for about US$300 per person all inclusive. The elderly think it is good because they don't have to fly. Also the itinerary means we (my wife and I) only need to take one day off from work. Embarkation is quite smooth but Ocean Terminal in Hong Kong is crowded. It only took about an hour to complete the whole procedure and get on board. But I really dislike how Star Cruises took our passports, ID cards and even the Taiwan entry visa. I think that's a serious violation of privacy and I am going to file a complaint to the authorities. Food, I will not spend too long on this. We have been told the western food in the main dining room (Genting Palace) is bad and should stick to the chinese offering. But after we tried both we think the western food is definitely better than the chinese food. In fact I think the chinese food is cooked by a Malaysian Chinese chef, because it does feel like the chinese food I had in Malaysia. You don't want to eat that. Also, I have no idea why Genting Palace does not accept bookings. Everyone has to queue up and then the waitress gives you a number and time to come back. What's the difference between this and taking a booking? The Mediterranean buffet is the only other eatery we tried. It is only open at specific times. It is always crowded. The selection is okay and taste is not bad. My father-in-law loves it and my own father is okay with it, too. My wife and I are fine but not overwhelmed. Our only port is Kaohsiung. We managed to book a six-seater taxi for 8 hours to take all five of us around for NT$3,000, which is about US$100. It is a lot cheaper than the organized tours. (You will need to be able to speak fairly good mandarin to contact the taxi company to arrange this.) The driver came to the port to pick us up and drove us to the various sights, including Takow British Consulate, Dream Mall and Luhe night market. The driver was very good and provided very good service. Next morning we went out on our own to see the Pier-2 Art Center, which is very near the port and very interesting. Then we also found a very nice coffee shop called "Do Good Coffee" and got our Latte, which is just besides the big Kaohsiung Port paifang (gate way). Do pay them a visit if you are near there! On the return trip we saw the show "Star Struck" after dinner. It is quite fun. They also offer a sexy erotic show at 11pm at night for HK$190. I am not certain there were many takers as most of the fellow cruisers are women and school teenagers. Yes, I think there is a girls school that used the cruise as their school trip. Disembarkation was easy except we had to queue to get our passports back again, which is truly troublesome and made no sense to me. Why they took them away in the first place? One thing I do have to applaud Star Cruises is that there are no gratuities to pay!!! We actually had no bills to settle. First time ever. Overall, not really impressed, but I had to take my hat off to Star Cruises for being able to handle so many noisy, always hungry and inexperienced Chinese cruisers. The staff managed to keep the ship very clean which is excellent work. But will I cruise with them again? No, thank you. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
If you are not Asian this is not the ship for you. Star Virgo has been turned into a ship catering predominantly to the Asian to gamble. Norma cruise culture of cocktails, dinner, musical entertainment and dancing just doesn’t happen. ... Read More
If you are not Asian this is not the ship for you. Star Virgo has been turned into a ship catering predominantly to the Asian to gamble. Norma cruise culture of cocktails, dinner, musical entertainment and dancing just doesn’t happen. The one lounge/bar is empty most of the time and there is little entertainment. Generally by around 10,30 pm there is nothing to entertain than gambling. They have even put poker machines into the one and only lounge/bar. Two other small bars exist. One with no tables only poker machines and the other in the middle of the duty free store. The first night and the last night this one and only proper lounge bar was closed to a private function! The food in the main dining room if you select from the western menu is borderline inedible. Also part of the room is sectioned off with bamboo and calico for renovation. Not a good look. They have 4 specialty restaurants that they say has “minimal charge” which actually equates to around $100 Aus for 2 people to have a main and one glass of wine. Definitely not cheap! As for the idea of getting dressed for the evening, they just don’t. If you love you coffee don’t buy any on board. It all comes out of a press button machine and is appallingly bad. On the positive side however, and there isn’t a lot, the alcohol is quite cheap and the balcony cabin was quite nice. They also gave us a credit of approximately $350 Aus to spend on drinks and specialty restaurants which was a big plus. In conclusion I say I can understand what Star have done with Virgo basing it now out of HongKong to cater to Asian gamblers, that’s how they are making their money. We did however only pay 30% of the very expensive cruise fare as a last minute booking. Having been on many cruises with other lines we got 30% or less of service and cruise delights. Be warned! And to Star cruises if you are reading this, change your marketing material for Virgo to portray it as it is, not as it probably once was.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
We have sailed on many cruise lines over the years and last year travelled on this same ship when she departed from Singapore. We chose to sail again on her as she is the only Star Cruise line ship with a balcony and felt that leaving from ... Read More
We have sailed on many cruise lines over the years and last year travelled on this same ship when she departed from Singapore. We chose to sail again on her as she is the only Star Cruise line ship with a balcony and felt that leaving from Hong Kong for different waters would give us a similar experience with different destinations. I booked this online direct with the cruise line from Australia in Australian dollars (about $600 per night average for 2 people on deck 11 balcony BA class) so assumed it would be good for that amount of expense. The ship has been completely redesigned now with very regimented dining options at limited set times and the meals are very little better than the quality you would buy for $5 on any roadside diner, certainly not the 4 or 5 star options offered by other cruise liners. Meals are designed entirely around the Chinese market they are marketing to and indeed, the number of English speaking staff has greatly reduced. Not 1 of the TV channels is in English. A great let down on our previous experience with this cruise company. I would personally not recommend non Chinese speaking/eating people, especially Australians used to better treatment and standards to use this liner while it sails from Hong Kong to Taiwan as this cruise did as there is far better value and courtesy to be had elsewhere. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
This was our 10th cruise...first cruise in Asia. The only cruiseline with an embarkation port anywhere in Taiwan is Star Cruiseline, hence, our choice to sail on the Superstar Libra. This is a very old (entered service in 1988) and very ... Read More
This was our 10th cruise...first cruise in Asia. The only cruiseline with an embarkation port anywhere in Taiwan is Star Cruiseline, hence, our choice to sail on the Superstar Libra. This is a very old (entered service in 1988) and very small ship (in comparison to today's newly built ships), however, it is a very well maintained ship! The ship has 2 main sit-down dining rooms, a buffet, a pay-to-eat cafe, and a pay-to-eat Japanese restaurant. Of the 2 main dining rooms, 1 is "Western" oriented and the other is "Asian" oriented. The buffet is supposedly "Internationally" oriented. After living in Taiwan for a year, I was ready for some good "Western" food. Our first lunch on the ship was in the buffet restaurant. It was extremely disappointing! There were only a couple of choices and those choices were cold. We went to dinner in the Four Seasons Restaurant (western food) the first evening, and the food was over-cooked and over-seasoned. At this point in time I commented to my husband that this will be the first cruise where I actually lose weight! LOL The next day we tried the buffet again for breakfast...still very limited choices and the "hot" dishes were cold. That was the last chance at the buffet. We went there due to the fact that the main restaurants didn't open until 8AM for breakfast...something we are not accustomed to (late breakfast), so we gave in and went to the buffet. After that last buffet visit, we ate the remainder of our meals in the Four Seasons dining room. Excluding the first day, all of our meals were excellent! The service was also excellent! Note that we were the only "foreigners" on the ship (as far as we could tell)...the remainder of the passengers were Asian in origin. Our cabin was small, but had more than sufficient closet space. In fact, this was the smallest cabin we have ever had (Oceanview), however, it had the most storage of any cabin we have stayed in. The beds were comfortable and the linens were clean and soft. The bathroom was a typical small bathroom. The towels were old and worn thin, however, they were clean. All-in-all, the cabins were nice, well-maintained, clean, and comfortable. We bought one photo on the ship. It was our embarkation photo. We usually don't spend an inordinate amount of money on photos. This photo was moderately priced ($8 USD equivalent for a 5 x 7). We used the casino more than we should have... LOL The casino staff was friendly and did a good job. We spent time in the hot tubs and the pools. They were typical cruise-sized pools and hot tubs. They were clean and filled with fresh water. Not a lot of drink pushing...in fact, we had to flag someone down to buy a drink vs. push them away all of the time! We did not play BINGO, so I have no idea how that went on an Asian cruise. The shows were AWESOME! I was truly shocked by the quality of the entertainment...every entertainer from the piano player in the reception area to the "broadway-type" shows in the theater were awesome! The dancers were excellent, the chosen music was appropriate... I can't say enought about the quality of the entertainment! The theater was not the best...lots of obstructions and all seating was at the same level...so, the people in the back had to really strain their necks to see what was happening on the stage. The crew was OUTSTANDING! They took care of our every needs! They were pleasant and worked hard to take care of the guests! They made the cruise one of the best we have been on from a service perspective! We never made it to either of the ports we were to visit (Ishigaki and Naha -- both in Japan) due to a tropical storm causing the ports to be closed. So, we spent our entire cruise out at sea. The ship returned to Keelung one day early...I assume due to the need for fuel, however, I'm not sure. Many passengers insisted on getting a full refund due to not visiting the ports. I was a bit more understanding as I know that things like this happen when saiiling during hurricane season! Regardless, the ship gave everyone either 50% off the current cruise (refunding the fare and taxes), or a free cruise next year, compensation that I thought was more than fair! We then learned that ship was returning to sea that evening for a one-night cruise. We told them we want to stay on the ship for that next cruise and they were OK with that. So we cruised 3 nights and 4 days, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Overall -- it was not a luxury cruise, nor was it a Caribbean or Mediterranean cruise, however, it was fun, the ship was nice, the food was good, and the crew was outstanding. Given the opportunity, we would cruise with them again! Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
Background: Well, this is our second cruise. Our first cruise was in the Caribbean with Celebrity cruise which was fantastic. We booked this cruise through the internet and we did not receive any information other than the information ... Read More
Background: Well, this is our second cruise. Our first cruise was in the Caribbean with Celebrity cruise which was fantastic. We booked this cruise through the internet and we did not receive any information other than the information published in their web page. We learnt later from the Hong Kong Superstar cruise office that the last check-in was 4pm instead of the published 6pm. This could create a problem for other passengers who did not realize this vital information. There was definitely some confusion where we saw people were rushing to board the ship after 5pm. Later we were told that the crew was made up of people from China, Philippines and Indians. There were over 1,500 passengers where 30% are elderly and 20% are kids. There were 50% from Mainland China, 10% from Hong Kong, 15% from Japan & Korea, 10% from Australians, 5% from India & others. Day 1: We arrived early and took about 10 minutes to pass through immigration. Once we aboard the ship, we had to take a stupid picture with an ugly mascot. We like our room especially the 15" LCD TV but the pillow is too thin which gave us a stiff neck each morning. There was a muster drill but many people did not attend. We explored the ship which was quite big and nice. We had our 1st dinner at the Bella Vista (Western dining), the food was bad. I had the roast beef which was extremely overcooked while my wife had the salmon which was cold. Then we went to the Lido to watch our 1st ship show at the Lido which was a magic show with a lame magician proclaimed as the "robot magician" which was nothing like David Copperfield. Day 2: The weather was getting bad with occasional showers. We had our 1st breakfast at the Mediterranean Buffet which we found the food was terrible. The eggs and bacons were burned. The bacons that were not burned can not be eaten because it was so hard that even a knife can not cut it. The orange juice was not freshly squeezed, it was mostly water. The other hot food was also bad so the only thing we ate was the pastries and fruits. We were so disappointed that we decided to try the Pavilion (Chinese dining) for lunch. To our surprise, the food was much better. After lunch, we were looking forward to our 1pm excursion to Sanya. At around 1pm, there was an announcement that there was a storm and the Sanya port was closed. We do not understand why it took them so long to make this important announcement. It seems like a last minute decision. We were very disappointed because my wife was looking forward for the trip. So the ship continued our journey to Halong Bay. We played some card games and my wife booked a facial treatment which she said was pretty good. We had dinner at the Mediterranean buffet which was a no thrill. We watched our 2nd show, "The Musicians of Bremen" which we found the singer and dancers quite boring but we enjoyed the performance by the acrobats from China. Day 3: The weather was cloudy and we arrived at Halong Bay at 8am, we joined the shored excursion Halong Bay Cruise. There were about 20 people with us and we boarded the sightseeing boat at 9:30am and the local tour guide refused to leave the dock because there were 2 missing receipts. A 15min was wasted to find who did not bring their receipts. Finally, our sightseeing boat was forced to leave the dock because other sightseeing boats were waiting to dock to pick-up other passengers. The local guide finally found the 2 people who did not bring their receipt with them. They complained the receipt was in the cabin and no one announced that we have to bring it along with us. It was true that there was no announcement that we must bring the receipt with us. Luckily, it just happened that the receipt was attached to the little round sticker where we put on our shirt to indicate our group number. We found Halong Bay was very beautiful with so many low-lying islands. After 1hr, we finally arrived at the "Surprise Cave", the tour guide refused to take us up to the cave until those 2 people paid for the tour. The tour guide made a couple of phone calls which wasted us another 30 minutes and finally those 2 people gave in and paid the HK$520 tour fees. The cave was beautiful and remarkable with magnificent stalactites and stalagmites. Then the sightseeing boat took us to a nearby seafood stall to buy our own seafood lunch. The sightseeing boat will charge 15% of the seafood price to cook the seafood for us. We arrived back to the ship at around 2pm. The ship was now heading back to Hong Kong. Unfortunately, we had to pass through the storm and the ship was rocking back and forth making everyone sick. Everywhere, we saw people lying on the table (even the crew) and some people went to the washroom to throw up. The washroom was a disaster. Finally, everyone was so sick that they went back to their room to lie down. My wife did throw up at least once and finally I went to the reception to get some motion sickness pills. There was a long long-up at the reception. Our last show was called "Sports Unlimited", again the dancers were hopelessly bad but the acrobats from China and Belarus were great. It was Captain's dinner where everyone dressed up formally. We had our dinner at the Bella Vista. The food was again terrible. I had the beef Wellington which was overcooked while my wife had the fish which was too salty. Day 4: Finally we pass the storm and we had some sunshine. We just relax near the pool and done some reading. We arrived at Hong Kong at 4pm. The check-out process was slow and there was a long queue which took us 30min to disembark from the ship. The pick-up point for the luggage was very far away (10min from where we exit from the ship) and there were no staff guiding us. The Superstar Virgo is a lovely ship but the crew was not friendly (they rarely smile), lazy (very slow in doing their work), unorganized (always last minute announcement and long queue), and not professional (not providing accurate/essential information to the passengers). Also they should hire staff who can speak proper English where we found those who can speak English had very strong accent. The worst is the food. They should hire real chef. Maybe fire the whole kitchen? The funny thing is that we lost weight after the holiday. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
Asian cruises have a very small share of the overall cruise market, in fact, Westerners like myself on this cruise were pretty rare, but that just kind of made the whole trip feel a little more exclusive for me. Ship - Very clean and ... Read More
Asian cruises have a very small share of the overall cruise market, in fact, Westerners like myself on this cruise were pretty rare, but that just kind of made the whole trip feel a little more exclusive for me. Ship - Very clean and well maintained, built in Germany in 1999. It looked about new. They did a very good job maximizing the space on this ship, despite its size it felt quite big and had plenty of public area, but felt somewhat confusing at times. The guests weren't really party animals, they all seemed to be in the casinos the whole time. The bars and clubs felt relatively empty. The ship itself was C-O-L-D. I have no idea why they kept the temperature so low. Outside the ship was very hot, encouraging one to wear shorts and short sleeves, but inside the ship, a light jacket and pants were in order. This was very frustrating and lead me to request a set outside on the deck most of the time when eating. At least the rooms had controllable AC. Value - One compelling reason I chose the Virgo (as opposed to the Libra that left from Singapore) was the high availability of balcony rooms. These were downright cheap, and there were plenty of them. Also, with the vast majority of the crew and passengers being Asian, no one tips, and no one expects a tip. It is a completely foreign concept to them. This was my first cruise, but I cannot imaging one without a balcony it was great. Crew - The crew hailed from all over, Hong Kong (service desks/admin), Nepal(waiters), India(room service/cleaning), Thailand(masseuse), Vietnam(bartenders), China(entertainers), Korea(misc/guest service), and even eastern Europe(casino workers). Most spoke excellent English except for the Eastern Europeans, but this didn't stop them from going way out of their way to help me once (I didn't even ask for help). On a star cruise, more than likely, your bar tender has a four year college degree, or your waiter had some family connection to get their job. This doesn't mean they are bitter though, they are extremely happy to have their jobs because the countries they come from have rampant poverty and hyper competitive job markets (except maybe some hired from Hong Kong). This translates into a happy crew and great customer service. The Superstar Virgo also had a high crew to passenger ration, about 1 crew member per 2.6 passengers. There were some exceptions, one girl at the service desk declined to change my Korean Won (the "Italian Lira" of Asia) for Hong Kong Dollars, she seemed to think I was trying to exchange some unreasonable amount of money and instead wanted me to go to the casino. In the end it turned out to be me who was a bit silly, there was no way I needed $100 dollars worth of local currency for any of these shore excursions, $20 would be more than enough. Regardless she never did exchange my money and got completely distracted in the mad house the the ship turned into prior to the shore excursions. Restaurants - There were MANY restaurants (over 6 if you count the small lunch bar), especially for a ship this size. We didn't even get a chance to go through all the free ones of which there are three. Of these the best had to be the buffet on the top floor. Breakfast, lunch, odd hours of the night, that place was open and you could get almost any food you wanted, from pizza to Indian food, I loved it. The western restaurant in contrast looked opulent but in a tacky sort of way. The time between courses was too long, and the food looked very fancy but tasted no where near as good as it looked, but as always the non-Chinese crew was very friendly. Only go to that one if you want to kill time, otherwise it is best to stick with the buffet. Entertainment - I did not expect much from their main show, so I was thoroughly impressed by the skill of the Chinese acrobats. They were quite well practiced. The other elements of the show were cute, and borrowed heavily from Monty Python jokes, but never really reached the level of funny they were trying for. My wife and I thought about attending the adult show, but later decided against it as we were tired (and I preferred waking up early to catch the sunset).Disembarkation - The Hong Kong terminal had plenty great places to shop, and when they built it they made sure to put as many as they could between the entrance and the boarding area. I did not enjoy dragging all my luggage through the crowded mall just to get to the boarding area. Actual embarking was amazing. I had seen Hong Kong from the bay in so many pictures, but words cannot describe how awe inspiring it was from the desk of that ship, especially with the was the sun reflected off of everything. Only the term "crystal city" comes to mind. Just amazing. Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
Day 1 - Sunday This was our 3rd cruise, 2nd with Star having done their 7N Straits of Malacca from KL on the Gemini last year. Also did a 7N Western Caribbean on the Carnival Glory last year. Boarded at Ocean terminal HK mid afternoon, ... Read More
Day 1 - Sunday This was our 3rd cruise, 2nd with Star having done their 7N Straits of Malacca from KL on the Gemini last year. Also did a 7N Western Caribbean on the Carnival Glory last year. Boarded at Ocean terminal HK mid afternoon, went pretty well, less queues than I remember last year on the Gemini, although we were plucked a couple of times out of the line and fast tracked - I have no idea why, but wasn't complaining. Passports are kept by Star as you board the ship. Very happy with our room, this was our first balcony and was lovely to have a view/chairs to ourselves. Plenty of storage space for the 2 of us. Beds were set up as single, so we asked the room stewart to put them together, which eventually happened later that night. Unfortunately he didn't use the proper cover that zips them together, so we had the nice gap in the middle to get stuck in occasionally! Others we met on the cruise mentioned theirs were put together with the cover/no gap so we asked again, got lots of nodding and yes's, but nothing changed. Not much of a drama, and beds were very comfy so that's the main thing. If you're in a balcony room, you actually get a 30min headstart (open at 4pm) on booking the restaurant you'd like for the Gala Dinner on Tuesday. This is not well announced, you need to read the fine print on the Star Navigator (daily news sheet). So we headed down at 4pm, put our name down for Noble House, the Chinese restaurant early sitting, and 5 minutes it was announced that Noble House was fully booked. On formal night you can book the 2 main restaurants (Bella Vista & Pavilion), or balcony class can also book 2 of the speciality restaurants that would usually involve an extra cost for no charge (Noble House - Chinese & Samurai - Japanese), hence our decision to go for Noble House. We had dinner that night in the Pavilion (Chinese), some of the dishes we really enjoyed (delicious duck and also scallop dish), but others were (as you'd expect) more traditional Chinese, but was fun to try for a night. The show that night was "Street Life" with various forms of dance performed, as well as acrobatic displays from China & Belarus. There was also a magician who was fairly lame, particularly his "robot magician" act, but show is definitely worth seeing for the acrobats. Later that night 4 synchronized swimmers from Belarus performed in the pool, and boy were they great. Like most people, we've usually rubbished synchronized swimming as a sport, but when you see the athleticism, strength and timing required, it was very impressive and entertaining to watch. Day 2 - Sanya, Hainan Island, China Had a lazy morning as we didn't dock until 1pm, and due back onboard at 8pm for a 9pm departure, so looking forward to 7 hours in port. We like to research the ports beforehand, and do our own thing ('free & easy' in Star terminology) rather than join the many buses of Star tours that shuffle through their crystal shops and other 'attractions'. So we headed down at 1pm to be given the joyous news that we had to wait until all the Star tours had departed before any 'free & easy' could leave. We ended up spending over 2 very "happy" hours watching trail after trail of Star excursion people leave the ship, while we didn't end up in Sanya until almost 3.30pm. So our lovely 7 hours became 4.5 hours.....not happy Jan! We had to go through Chinese immigration at the port, where they kept our passports. Bit disconcerting heading into China with no passport, but that's the process. On the 15 min walk to the taxi rank (cabs aren't allowed into the dock unless they have a ship passenger with them, so on the way back you can be taken right to the ship, but on the way out you have to walk - unless you do a Star tour of course). We'd met another Aussie couple onboard yesterday who were also keen to do their own thing. Armed with their lonely planet book we intended to hire a taxi to take us up the East Coast to Jalong Bay and then back to the Pearl Plaza (shopping centre in Sanya that the Star Tours plug) and to have us back at the ship by 7.30. We met up with a Star cruise employee on his day off, so he agreed to negotiate with the driver for us in Chinese. He covered it all with the driver, everything agreed to and fine, including the driver staying with us for 4 hours and dropping us back at 7.30pm for 300RMB. Only took 30mins to get to Jalong Bay, pretty spot, lots of resort hotels. Reminded me of Nusa Dua or Tanjung Benoa beach in Bali with heaps of water sports available - parasailing, banana boats etc. We didn't do any, but had a nice look around, some Chinese navy ships also there. We went to step onto the beach and were stopped very sternly. The beach is only free for those staying at the resorts, all others have to pay to touch the sand. We weren't that in need of sand in our feet, so stayed on the boardwalk, looked at a couple of market stalls there, bought an ice cream and then headed back with our driver to his taxi. As we'd only been gone less than an hour we suggested going up the coast a bit further, but after 10mins of discussion he wanted to take us back to Sanya, so we agreed as that was the original plan. On the way back we confirm we're going to Pearl Plaza, and he starts showing us photos of a shop that sells pearls (which is not Pearl Plaza), so we say no, we want Pearl Plaza and he starts saying he doesn't know it (despite happily agreeing with our ship interpreter in both Chinese and English that he does originally!). Eventually he says he does know it, so takes us to a street in Sanya, but it doesn't look like a shopping mall. We say 'is this pearl plaza' and he says 'yes', so we go to hop out......but he then starts with sign language and pointing at another taxi drivers picture he's pulled out of the glove box and begins to draw us a map in Chinese. Turns out he's saying his shift is ending, we should pay him the 300RMB now, and then follow this map in Chinese where we'll meet another driver when we're finished shopping.......oh boy. After another 15mins of wasted discussion, trying to say 'but you agreed to 4 hours Jalong Bay/Pearl Plaza/ship' for 300RMB (we even found someone else who spoke English who helped with translation), he wouldn't budge. We said he could wait here for us and started to walk around the shops there, but he just followed and kept at us. Eventually we gave in and paid him, it just wasn't worth the hassle anymore, but boy it left a bad taste in our mouths. We did however find out that Pearl Plaza (personally I was sick of the sound of the place by now, but after all this saga we felt like we'd better check it out!) was 800m down the road, so off we set. Had an entertaining walk before finally reaching the shopping centre. Of course, it turned out to be just your average shopping centre, bought a couple of trinkets, was most happy with a little cross stitch kit I picked up for 9RMB, red butterfly with Chinese lettering that will make a lovely Christmas ornament. We hopped in a taxi back to the ship, and figured that despite (or even because of!) it was still a more enjoyable experience for us than sitting in the bland Star tour bus. Ship looked lovely all lit up at night as we boarded, we had dinner in the Bella Vista but gave the show a miss, it was "Twice as Nice" a husband and wife singing duo, but we were ready for an early night before our 9am arrival into Halong Bay Vietnam. Day 3 - Halong Bay, Vietnam I had already pre-booked (& paid deposit via Western Union) a private 6 hr tour here with www.halongbay-vietnam.com. We arrived in port at 9am, had to be back on ship by 2pm, and given our free & easy experience yesterday I thought we would end up with a 3hr tour. As with yesterday, we took over 2 hours to get off the ship, and were tendered into dock. Our meeting point for the tour was the Heritage hotel, only a few minutes walk from the dock. I'd rung their mobile number while we were on the tender boat to ask if they would meet us at the dock so we could leave directly, but he wanted to meet at Heritage. So we got there, the hotel reception had our names and rang our tour guide - he wasn't even there waiting. He arrived about 10mins later, called us a taxi to take us to the boat….tick tick tick……more waiting as they call for the boat to be brought around, and organize for the food for our lunch to be brought around. It was probably about noon by the time we set sail, and we had to be back by 2.30pm to get the tender back to the Virgo, so 6hr private cruise now 2.5hrs. Once we set sail however, things started looking up. The boat was gorgeous, much nicer than the ones we saw the Star tours using, table was set beautifully. We discussed our new shortened itinerary, had to drop Heavenly Palace cave and just visit Surprising Cave and then have lunch while sailing round some of the other Halong Bay features - the dog, Man Island & fighting cocks. Enjoyed Surprising cave, lovely formations and then headed back on board for lunch, and boy was it fantastic. So much food, very well cooked, including crab (which the waitress cut up for us), prawns, a superb baby squid dish, a plate of thinly sliced cucumbers and tomatoes with delicious herbs and chilli sprinkled on (I've never wolfed down cucumbers with such gusto before), a fried chicken dish, succulent fish and probably some others I'd forgotten, it was a wonderful feast. The waitress then bought out some pearls for us to look at/buy…..I bought a small necklace/earrings for US$20, which I saw later was way overpriced….oh well. We wanted to dock straight back at the jetty the Star tender had brought us too, rather than this tours wharf to save time, but as we approached the Star people waved us away and said we were not allowed to stop there. It was right on 2.30pm so we thought we'd miss the boat, so we yelled out 'what time is the last tender' and they replied '3pm'…..phew! Our ship zipped back to their original wharf, out we hopped and then had to wait for a cab. Our waitress pulled up next to us in her little motorbike and asked if one of us would like to hop on, so I did, and had a fabulous ride back to the Star pier, the others came past me in the cab and we arrived at the same time. Almost 3pm by this time, but there were still huge queues of Star tour groups lining up for tender, so we got 15mins to do a quick look round the market stalls there before we joined the back of the queue to head back. I talked to someone on one of the Star tours, they'd only done the 1 cave too, Surprising Cave and then toured round the Bay, so even though we missed out on a lot of time, we seemed to have seen the same things, for less $ with a much nicer meal - although it was a bit of stress worrying that it was going to fit. There was another Star tour that did the water puppet show, then toured round the bay (no caves), this couple said the water puppets were really enjoyable. If you were staying in Halong Bay I would recommend this tour company, to do the whole 6hr private tour for the same price (US$55/person for 2, reducing to $40/person for 4 and less again for more), but they weren't that great at fitting in with the Star schedule. They really should have met us at the pier and taken us straight out, with no Heritage hotel detour. When the tender brought us back to the Virgo, there were a couple of tiny home made local boats right near the ship with families with children on who were begging from the Star passengers, was very sad. When we went back to our room and were on the balcony, those families were still down there, asking for people to throw them notes from their balconies. Some people near us put money in a bottle and threw it down and they got it, another guy folded a note up as a paper aeroplane and flew it down to them. They had to row quickly over to get it, but they got it before it sunk. That guy then made this intricate helicopter like thing out of a couple of notes, it went down (we were on level 10 of the ship), but it didn't go out as far as the plane and ended up being suck back into the ship on about level 2, so they missed out on that one. Tonight was Gala Dinner, so after what felt like a full day we went back to our cabins and had a snooze for an hour, then got dressed up. We didn't bother with the cocktail party, but loved our Noble House dinner. Several courses, the highlight of which was the first - thinly sliced Peking Duck wrapped in small thin crepes - delicious! Thankfully we were offered an alternative to the 2nd course (Shark fin soup), so my husband had corn & sweet crab meat soup, while I had a hot & sour chicken soup - both were delicious. Several other courses, all very enjoyable, was a lovely meal. We then headed to the show, "Sports Unlimited" and it was truly amazing. I haven't seen that many cruise shows (only our 3rd cruise), but I was speaking to a guy from HK who cruises several times a year, and he said it was the best one he'd ever seen. I don't want to give you too many details and spoil it, but there were acrobats, synchronized swimmers, dancers and so on - just DON'T MISS IT! Day 4 - Hong Kong At the Gala show last night they gave us some details on the makeup of passengers onboard which was interesting. There were 1800+ passengers onboard, many different nationalities, the largest groups included 188 Australians, 200+ Chinese, 200+ Hong Kong, 200+ South Korea, 200+ Malaysia, and several smaller groups. Quite a few passengers were only on the 3 day cruise, so left the ship when we docked back in HK. There were more who joined us in HK though, for just a 2 day cruise to Xiamen. After a lazy morning, we arrived into HK at 4pm. After our last 2 days we were thrilled that Star offered no tours here, so everyone was free and easy and could depart immediately, hence we were on land by 4.15pm. Our plan was to take the tram up Victoria Peak and see the views of HK. Had intended to do it on our first day in HK, but smog was so bad we didn't think we'd see much, so decided to leave it. Of course today the smog/cloud was even lower and thicker, with The Peak completely encased, so decided it was not to be yet again. That leaves us only with Friday afternoon to try it now, so hopefully we'll make it then. Opposite the Star Ferry terminal was a great internet cafe, fraction of the cost of the ship and light speed in comparison, so we logged on for an hour and were able to chat with the kids at home which was fun. We then headed to the Temple St night markets on the fabulous MTR with our Octopus cards, had a good shop and nice meal, although after we got off the ship on Friday we did the Ladies markets and thought these were much bigger and better than Temple St. We hopped back on the train and went to the waterfront to watch the "Symphony of Lights". Many of the waterfront buildings have huge light shows on them, and beams of light that flash from their roof top, synchronized to music, its quite entertaining. We walked back to the cruise ship, we had to be back on board at 8.30pm for a 9.30pm sailing, and as we came back they were packing everything up, turns out we were the last to re-board at 8.25pm, so we certainly made the most of our port time today. The show tonight was a musical written by Star Cruises "The Musicians of Bremen". It was entertaining due to the acrobatics and production (even had trampolining) but I really have no clue what the plot was, although the guy and girl did seem to get together in the end - it makes Gilbert & Sullivan look like literary genius'. We certainly laughed a lot though, there was some great music - everything from ABBA to the song from Happy Feet. We're heading to Xiamen China tomorrow and have bitten the bullet and booked a Star tour today, have to check them out and keen to make the most of the timing in our last port. Day 5 - Xiamen, China We booked on the first tour leaving the ship, and were on land by 1.15pm after docking at 1pm - much better start! There is a huge new ocean terminal there, incredibly spacious, but the customs officials sat at card tables to process our passports. We got our passports back in the morning on the ship, and actually kept them with us this time in China. We were then bussed to the ferry terminal in Xiamen to take the 10min trip across to Gulangyu Islet, a very quaint place also known as 'piano island' as it apparently has the highest concentration of pianos per capita in the world. There are 20,000 residents on the island and 5000 pianos. There are no cars on the island, lots of narrow streets, but lovely to walk around as you can just wander,without having to watch for traffic. The island has a Portugese/French influence, so lots of lovely architecture and features. Our group was "B1" so we followed Sandy our tour guide around with her long stick with a blue flag on the end. She was constantly saying "B1" in English & Chinese to keep us together, so it was echoing in our head all day. Our first 'stop' as a group was to watch a puppet show, even though it was all in Chinese the plot was more understandable than the 'Musicians of Bremen' on the ship the prior evening! Puppets were well done, quite entertaining and not too long. We then wandered some more, looking at historical buildings/displays and then headed to a lovely garden with bridges, rock features that led into their Piano museum. The building is designed to look like the keys on a piano, it's quite clever. As we arrived there was actually a pocket of blue sky, it was SOO spectacular to finally see the sky, not just the pea soup grey fog, the 6 Aussies/kiwi's in our group were all very excited, and snapped away. The piano museum was quite interesting, with all manner of pianos on display. We then had dinner in the restaurant of a hotel, and we could have quite happily skipped that part and explored more of the island on our own (the benefit of hindsight). There was a LOT of food, all served banquet style, we were on a table with our new friends from Melbourne, and then a family of 4 from Chennai India (who instantly bonded with my husband over their mutual love of cricket). Obviously the food was very local Chinese, given that most on the tour were Asian. The first dish was an undercooked chicken, complete with its head, and a plate of eel (again, with head).......so we ate very little of many of the meals. There was a nice noodle soup though, and they bought a plate of honey fried pork that was delicious, we devoured that. As we left I noticed the only dish we'd eaten (the pork) was the dish all the other tables with had left. We then had over an hour to shop, wandering through the streets, lots of pearl places and trinket selling. Bought a couple of things, not much then went back on the ferry/bus to the ship, where they took our passports back off us. The show was a repeat of the show from Gala night, and even though it was really good, we didn't really feel like watching it again. We ended up meeting friends for a drink (we're both trying to use up our drinks credits) in the Bellini bar. We're due to disembark back in Hong Kong tomorrow, crossing everything that we'll get a clear day to make the Peak. Day 6 - Hong Kong - final Sad to wake up for our last morning onboard, but sadder once we opened the curtains and saw yet more smog, with visibility of 200M. I'd pictured us sitting on the balcony often, but was really not so appealing when you seemed to be often in a cloud. It's worth repeating this - if you book a balcony cabin on the Virgo you automatically get a $HKD 2000 food/beverage credit per cabin. Some travel agents will tell you this, but not all, as we found out - and Star don't mention it when you check in. The credit can only be used for food or drinks, not internet, laundry or any other purchases - although it does apply to bottles of alcohol purchased at the ships bottleshop. We knew about it, and rang reception a few times to check on our tally. We had about $130 left by our last day - enough for a glass of wine each at lunch. We ended up sitting with another couple from Perth at lunch who were onboard to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. We asked them how they went with using up their $2000, and their response was "don't talk about it, we're so upset"......turns out their travel agent didn't tell them about the credit, and they'd been really frugal with the drinks and had only bought 1 each, so had $1900 left on the card, and they only found out when they went to settle their bill - giving them about 3 hours to use it up!! Oh I felt so bad for them, the lady doesn't drink, but hubby does. She said every morning she'd see the freshly squeezed juice at breakfast and think that would be nice, but too expensive so better not have one......it's just ridiculous that Star doesn't remind everyone as they get onboard. Our travel agent didn't know about it either, I'd read it online and had to get them to verify it. So anyway, this couple were determined to use it, so they ordered a non-alcoholic cocktail for her, a rum/coke for him and a bottle of wine for us on their tab!! We ended up having enough left over on our money to hit the ice cream parlour for a huge sundae each after lunch. I saw them again just before leaving and he was dragging his suitcase in 1 hand, and had another rum/coke in the other. I asked the lady if she'd got to get an ice-cream, as she was keen on the idea, but she said "no, we stopped by the bar and John was wanting to shout as many people as he could to use his $$ up!!" We were in the ice cream parlour as we sailed into Hong Kong harbor, hoeing into a chocolate/walnut sundae each (yum), and what should we see as we sail in but ……BLUE skies!!! OK, not the whole sky, but several large patches, which made us pretty excited (we broke out the camera again to record it). Got off the boat pretty quickly, dropped our bags at the hotel (the wonderful Salisbury YMCA, can't get a better location) and hopped to the Star Ferry to head for the Peak. Of course as we were on the ferry the blue sky patches started to shrink, but we were not to be deterred, hopped on the bus to the terminus and then the Peak Tram to head up. By the time we were on the observation deck I don't think there was any blue left, but we did get some nice shots before the clouds fully descended again. Really enjoyed the Peak, good shopping and Madam Tussaud's was fun too, had dinner at Café Deco (sublime) while watching the lights come on. Spent one more day in HK, walked the couple of blocks from our hotel to Kowloon Park in the morning, then did the Ngong Ping cable car to Giant Buddha on Lantau Island, before catching the bus to the airport and heading home. We certainly enjoyed the cruise, but also nice to be home and appreciate the gorgeous clear skies we have in Australia! 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Sail Date May 2008
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 ... Read More
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 Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
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