Star Cruises Asia Experience
I've heard about family & friends going on cruises and having the best time, so it always tickled my curiosity of what it's actually like to sleep on a ship, with the waves rocking you back and forth, taking advantage of on-board activities or just doing absolutely nothing (my kind of relaxation), and then docking in a new city to explore for a day. Star Cruises Asia recently launched a new home port in Manila with their famous ship called Superstar Virgo. You depart from Manila, travel to Ilocos Norte, make a stop in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, then visit Hong Kong (aka tax-free shopping haven), spend an entire day in the high seas before coming back home to Manila -- making it a total of a 5 nights/6 days cruise. What's cool is that Star Cruises makes it easy for families and friends to just pack their bags, get on a ship and travel visa-free this summer!
We departed Manila around 6:30 PM, right when the sun was setting. Our room had a nice balcony view where we would enjoy sunsets and sunrises for the next 6 days. We spent the first night relaxing, walking around the ship and having dinner at the ships Japanese restaurant, which was our favorite to eat in.
Laoag, Ilocos Norte/Sur & Vigan
From the ship itself, you can book tours for Ilocos Norte if you don't already have pre-booked tours. We docked in Laoag the next morning and our tour consisted of an hour long bus ride into Ilocos Sur, lunch at a place called Hidden Garden then a stop over at Calle Crisologo.
I've been around Ilocos Sur in the past, so we just walked around Calle Crisologo, grabbed some ice cream and bought some snacks for our cruise.
However, if you haven't been, it's one of the best places to visit in northern Philippines that's full of history & culture. In fact, Calle Crisologo was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to it's wonderfully preserved historical architecture.
Taiwan isn't usually a visa free country for the Philippines, but because we're all arriving through the cruise, they have a one day pass for everyone to explore Kaohsiung. Once again, if you haven't got a tour pre-booked, tours are available at the Star Cruises reception itself. Our tour consisted of a lunch in one of those big restaurants for tour groups, where we were served home cooked meals, and then a visit to Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum. This was the day I fell in love with Taiwanese food, which were quite honestly not very photogenic for photos but damn were they absolutely delicious.
The final destination before heading back to Manila is Hong Kong. We docked at Victoria Harbor, and from the ship you get a direct entry into Harbour City Mall. We were docked in Hong Kong from 2 o'clock in the afternoon until 11 o'clock that night, giving us ample time to go around Hong Kong and do a bit of shopping.
On the last night of every cruise that sets sail, there's a captain's night where everyone can get a chance to get dressed all nice & fancy and enjoy a nice three course meal, you also get a chance to mingle with the ships captains and have a nice chat with them. This is something you need to pre-book, and I believe it's something not to be missed in a your first cruise experience.
My overall experience in the cruise was a good one. Aside from stopping at cities and touring, the cruise itself has a daily schedule of activities you can participate in; there are games to join, performances (there's a theater that has entertainment each night), a casino, a gym, among many other things. I didn't take advantage of these and opted to just relax in my room whenever I could because staying still and doing absolutely nothing is one of the ways I relax, and that's what this cruise was to me, a time to just sit back and get some R&R.
If you're interested in doing a cruise, I've included this breakdown of the current promos for the month of May that you, your family and/or friends can take advantage of!
The cruise only runs from April to May due to the low likelihood of storms, giving you the best weather to be at sea and tour cities, so it's the perfect getaway trip for a week!
Photos edited using my Lightroom Presets, get them HERE.