Out At Sea: An Editor's Diary Aboard The SuperStar Virgo
Is going on a cruise part of your bucket list? These days, it’s possible to enjoy a luxurious vacation out at sea without breaking the bank. Join me as I recount our unforgettable experience aboard the SuperStar Virgo, where the journey is the destination!
The SuperStar Virgo
Day 1: All aboard!
We leave Manila Bay at around 2 in the afternoon, all set for five days of fun and frolicking out in the ocean, onboard the famed Superstar Virgo. We were set to visit two Asian cities for this trip: first was Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, and the next, Sanya, China!
Our group was a mix of first-timers and seasoned cruise travelers, alongside many other Filipino families, barkadas, and couples. After checking into our cabins, first on our agenda was to fill our tummies up with a special welcome lunch at the Star Dining Room—a huge fine dining-style restaurant serving Chinese to Western cuisines. We proceeded to tour the ship, up until it was time to feast again!
The Star Dining Room
We were in for a treat—a grand group dinner was set at the Taverna, an outdoor setup near the Parthenon pool on the top floor of the ship, where al fresco dining was the way to go. A scrumptious buffet of food was for the taking: Japanese fare like sushi, fresh salads, grilled beef, seafood, and chicken, Shawarma, classic Italian pasta, as well as Pinoy favorite Lechon were served.
The Parthenon Pool
Delectable dishes from the welcome dinner
The treats didn’t end there! Over at the ship’s Zodiac Theater, a two-level auditorium, was the “Love Around the World” show, a festive display of dance by talented European performers. We were left in awe at the breathtaking display on stage, so we pretty much called it a night after that. Everyone needed to gather as much energy for the long day out at sea on day two.
Day 2: We the seafarers
Waking up in the middle of the South China Sea is no walk in the park. We have to admit: even the most seasoned morning people would not find nausea due to huge waves the best thing to deal with early in the morning. Good thing the ship readily offers seasick medicine! After availing of this benefit, we all went our own way exploring the ship, relaxing, and basically killing time in the ship’s many entertainment areas.
The Oceanview Stateroom with Balcony
Being the fashion magazine people that we are, we were naturally drawn towards the duty-free area on the middle part of the ship, where international brands were available at good discounts. We saw cult beauty brands like Lancôme, Dior, and Estée Lauder, as well as K-Beauty brands such as Sulwhasoo, Nature Republic, and Laneige. Knick knacks like watches, accessories, and souvenirs are also available for much-needed retail therapy!
Others opted to explore the pool area for a dip, or the spa where foot reflexology and other massages are offered. A gym was open all day for the fitness buffs onboard (or those looking to burn some calories after all the feasting!) There are steam and sauna rooms, and a hairdressing salon for the ones looking at a little me time.
The Apollo Spa and fitness center
Day two was especially fun as the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra was onboard to serenade us all. Classic Christmas carols, love songs, as well as retro Filipino dance hits were performed by the lauded musical group, making the audience effortlessly break into dance by the end of the show!
The Manila Philharmonic Orchestra. Photo by Raff Colmenar
As for the day’s dining options, we were treated to a delicious Teppanyaki lunch at the ship’s Japanese joint Samurai, where a Filipino master chef did an elaborate cooking slash entertainment routine while preparing our feast. Snacks are available all day at the Blue Lagoon café, where Asian delights like iced coffee and Kaya Toast were offered at minimal cost. For dinner, we opted to avail of the free dinner at the Star Dining Room, where we got to enjoy a set Chinese menu. Packed as the day was, a post-dinner magic show dubbed “Spirits by Vincent Vignaud” was open for anyone looking for entertainment before hitting the sack. Indeed, it was a good day out at sea!
The Zodiac Theater
Day 3: Hello Ha Long Bay!
Early into day three we arrive in Vietnam, ready to take on adventure at UNESCO Heritage Site Ha Long Bay. It was a pretty gloomy day out with some rain showers, but that didn’t stop us from exploring this famed city. Armed with our plastic raincoats, we headed to our tourist buses, and made a first stop at the local market where we got our Vietnamese coffee fix and a fair share of bargain shopping for beautiful home decor!
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam—a UNESCO heritage site
Beautiful home decor sold at bargain prices at the local market
Hot Vietnamese pho on a rainy day, just what we needed!
Authentic pho was served at lunch while we enjoyed a panoramic view of Ha Long Bay. Shortly after the feast, we were brought to the Vincom Mall, a popular shopping spot in town, where we promptly headed to the supermarket to stuff our bags with local Vietnamese coffee packs for pasalubong!
Traditional Vietnamese coffee—a must!
A junk boat is the traditional way of getting around the bay
The main highlight of the tour was going onboard a traditional junk boat to get around the famed Vietnamese bay. At this point, the weather was getting pretty chilly and the rain did not stop, so we had to stay inside the boat to take in the sights. After another round of local coffee, it was time to go back to the cruise ship. Indeed, it was a short but sweet visit. A pleasure to have met you, Ha Long Bay!
Day 4: See you, Sanya!
Waking up on day four meant waking up in a new city—this time it was in Sanya, a city on the southern end of China’s Hainan island. Sanya serves as a hot spot for vacationers from mainland’s affluent crowd, as freezing, below zero degree temperatures get pretty bad during the winter. Though it can’t be compared to the tropical paradise beaches we have in the Philippines, the Chinese are fortunate to be able to travel to this place where enjoying the sun and sand is a possibility.
The SuperStar Virgo docked in Sanya, China
Getting into town from the cruise ship is a breeze, as tour buses took us through the city’s main roads, passing through big-name hotels like the Park Hyatt, Ritz Carlton, and the MGM Grand Sanya. About an hour and a half after, we arrive at our first agenda: the Nanshan Cultural Tourism Zone, where we got to see the famed Guanyin Statue of Hainan, a 108-meter tall statue, the fourth tallest in the world. In a hotel at the same venue, we were served with traditional Hainan cuisine for lunch (including our favorite Hainanese white chicken), and soon after, we ended our quick trip to Nanshan.
The Guayin Statue of Hainan
The Nanshan Cultural Tourism Zone
The Beauty Crown Hotel, a complex of buildings resembling Lego blocks built for the 2003 Miss World competition
On our way back into the city, we stopped by a local product shop where various coconut goods were for sale—coconut candy, coffee, and cookies are just some of the ones we got to sample! Getting back into Sanya at around 4 in the afternoon, we were led to the Summer Mall, where foreigners and locals alike flock for their shopping fix of both local and international fashion and beauty brands. We squeezed in a coffee trip to Starbucks (because who doesn’t do that in a foreign city), then proceeded to check out the popular beach nearby. The crowded hot spot in the island Dadonghai beach, is flocked by hordes of Chinese and Russians, where having a beer with various skewers is the cool thing to do.
A quick coffee trip to the local Starbucks
Window shopping at ARRITS, a local designer boutique at the Summer Mall
Restaurants overlooking Dadonghai beach
Ham and mushroom BBQ skewers by the beach
Pretty fruit shakes are a hit along Dadonghai beach!
After a packed day, we headed back to the ship to have dinner and call it a night. Ahead of us was a day and a half of South China Sea travel yet again, so we made sure to make the most of our time left onboard. Some of us opted for a few cocktails at the Taverna that night, while some availed of the “Close Up Magic Vision” show at the theater. A galley tour, sushi making class, and gala dinner were highlights during the final day, and before we knew it, we were back in sunny Manila. Thank you, Superstar Virgo for the beautiful sailing memories! We can’t wait to be back!
The SuperStar Virgo at night
For more information and bookings, log on here.
Special thanks to Lynch Imbat and Alex Pastor