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Overview:

This was our fifth Star Cruise, second time on the Virgo and previously cruised on the Aries, Leo and Gemini.

Ship: Virgo, Star Cruises

Décor:

The ship is nearly in the same condition as it was in 2001, spotless with very few signs that she is now 10 years old.

Service:

The luggage drop commences at 10am and embarkation starts at noon.

TIP: Do not arrive early as the boarding does not start until noon and there is no seating area.

If you are travelling balcony class, then you will be greeted with a cold face towel and a glass of champagne, which was most welcome after standing in the embarkation line for an hour.

Destination:

PENANG

We arrived at noon and joined the shopping centre tour. The guide was very good and had a sense of humor. The first stop was an up-market mall, then a visit to a local (white) coffee and herbal remedy shop and then on to a local mall where you can buy “not quite genuine” items including DVD’s. The 5hr tour cost $25 (Singapore), which was good value.

PHUKET

We arrived by tender at 8am right in the heart of Patong beach.

TIP: The small stalls do not open until 10am and the main shopping stores until 11am so if you are not doing a tour take your time.

We have been to Phuket many times so we did not join a tour. Instead we had a 45-minute facial (yes guys, don’t knock it until to have tried it nor be embarrassed) at the Jungcelyon Shopping Centre for 300 Baht (AUS$10). Did some shopping at the Robinson Department store. For something different we tried then the foot pedicure by fish. It tickles a little as the fish nibble away all the dead skin leaving your feet feeling so clean. We had a nice lunch at the Holiday Inn before returning to the ship. That night was the Gala dinner.

SINGAPORE

Arrived back in Singapore around 7pm. There was the mandatory lifeboat drill for the new passengers, which was broadcast throughout the ship including the cabins so an early nights sleep was out of the question. The ship sailed at midnight.

MALACCA & PORT KELANG KULA LUMPER

Virgo stopped in the Straits of Malacca to drop off by tender those passengers who were going on the bus tour to Port Kelang. We did not fancy the 11hr bus trip. Around 2pm we arrived at Port Kelang but did not disembark as we have been there before.

TIP: The port is about an hour out of Kuala Lumpur depending on the traffic. Some people I spoke to who did the shopping tour said that out of a 5hr tour they only ended up with an hour for shopping because of the traffic.

This was the last night on board, so we decided to listen to the singers & band playing in the Galaxy of the Stars. They were quite good but it was embarrassing when the audience numbered only around 12 people.

SINGAPORE

We had to place our luggage outside the cabin between 10am and noon and were to leave the cabin by 1pm. We went to lunch at the Mediterranean Buffet but it’s better to give this a miss & have lunch at the Blue Lagoon (chargeable). The ship docked at 2pm. We then picked our passports at the Galaxy of the Stars and were disembarked within 30 minutes. A record for any cruise line!

Entertainment:

A magician one night & some acrobats another. There was also a late night “Las Vegas review” which supposedly was fairly risqué but at $50 each (Singapore) we did not bother to attend.

Food & Drink:

MEDITERRANEAN BUFFET – (free dining)

BREAKFAST: Avoid it as there is no omelet station and the other varieties of eggs looked like they were micro-waved.

LUNCH & DINNER: This was not much better than breakfast being mostly Asian dishes and vegetarian with not much variety. During lunch there was the sandwich station, which had turkey/ham, tuna, cheese, tomato & lettuce. The use of multi partitioned trays reminding me of a scene from a M*A*S*H episode.

BELLA VISTA (Main restaurant – free dining)

This was always a delight. The staff are friendly, the service quick and the meals superb. After eating at this restaurant the Mediterranean buffet was not really an option.

BREAKFAST: At breakfast there was a list (with pencil) at the table to mark how you like your eggs cooked, if you want hash browns, grilled tomatoes, bacon etc. Fast service & as ordered.

LUNCH: The menu changed daily and was never crowded.

DINNER: There was always something for everyone on the menu be it Western or Asian style.

TIP: Balcony Class guests can book a restaurant for the Gala dinner on the day of embarkation and the ideal time is after the mandatory lifeboat drill. I recommend booking the late sitting as on that day the ship is in Phuket and it gives time for you to relax after the shore excursions.

ALTERNATIVE RESTURANTS (chargeable)

Pallazzo (Italian), Noble House (Chinese), Pavillion (Chinese), Samuri (Japanese), Taj (Indian) & the Blue Lagoon (Asian & Western).

If you are cruising Balcony Class you automatically receive $400 (Singapore) for the 5 days, which can be spent on dining and/or drinks. The alternative restaurants are a good way to use the money. We tried the Pallazzo and it was excellent. The food was served on Versace plates with style and elegance. I had the prawns followed by lobster, which was the best I ever tasted. The total price was $155 (Singapore) for 2 persons, which included a few drinks.

TIP: You need to book one of the alternative restaurants at least by day of the cruise otherwise you will miss out.

Cabins:

Our cabin was ready as soon as we boarded. It was showing a few signs of wear but overall in good shape. The cabin had a flat LCD TV and electronic safe. The beds were very comfortable and were no longer hard as a rock as on the previous cruise. I suspect they changed them during the last dry dock.

TIP: Be careful when you enter the bathroom. You will see an amenity pack. They are not free and you will be charged if you use it! The shower was a good size but most times you had to run the water for at least 5 minutes before the hot water came through.

Extras eg spas, gym, pool:

The sail away parties each night with a live band on the deck are fun. When the ship was last dry docked in 2009 they added a waterslide. Now don’t think the slide is just for kids, as the majority using it were adults. Great fun, so do try it.

The Verdict:

They need to improve the Mediterranean Buffet. The cabin was good. The poor quality picture on the LCD TV and its lack of input sockets for a DVD player output was disappointing. The staff was friendly but some needed more training. We would cruise with Star Cruises again if they had some new ports and/or stayed longer in the more interesting ones like Phuket.

  • Favorite ship: Rhapsody of the Seas & Sapphire Princess
  • Favorite destination: Asia
  • Number of cruises: 36

Words: Colin Fisher