Star Cruises: Day 1 – What to Do and What to Expect
Prior to our sailing date, I have already done numerous researches on what to do and where to go. There are several things I have not found out in my research, so I included it here as I find these very useful and important. Please note that we took Star Cruise’s Super Star Virgo (SSV) March 10-15, 2018 sailing with the route of Manila – Naha (Japan) – Keelung (Taiwan) – Manila.
We got the promo where a senior citizen is free when sailing with one full paying costumer. The promo is offered by a travel agency (Asiatravel Philippines), before Star Cruises sold tickets online. We chose the cabin with window and paid 620 USD to Asiatravel Ph. I was lucky enough that the agency offered me a 6-month zero % interest installment if I pay via credit card.
After Asiatravel Ph sent me the confirmation slip (two weeks after my reservation), I emailed Star Cruises, and asked if my booking is really confirmed. I have heard several news on people scammed by travel agencies, and though Asiatravel has a very good reputation, it would be better to make sure.
Luckily, Star Cruises confirmed that my reservation is indeed confirmed. This was in November 2017.
Buying Packages Online
When in a cruise, you can disembark in different ports depending on the route. In these ports, there are tours offered, called Shore Excursions or shorex. When booked online, it is cheaper by a few dollars as discounts are offered.
Also, since internet connection is limited, the ship offers several internet packages which could also be purchased cheaper online. I purchase three 24-hours social media package for 44HKD each. Be reminded though that internet connection while inside and sailing is a bit slow. You can also get 1 hour free WiFi if you buy drinks (coffee/alcohol) from the bars inside.
Going to the Pier
The day of sailing finally arrived. In our confirmation slip, we were told to go to Pier 15 in Manila South Harbor for our embarkation. However, in the website of Star Cruises, a different nearby passenger terminal was mentioned (Eva Macapagal Super Terminal), so I was a little confused on what drop off point to book in Grab. I did not find this in my research. So I took chance and booked for Eva Macapagal Super Terminal.
When we got into the car, I asked the driver but he is not familiar. So we just followed the road to the Pier 15. Apparently, traffic was so heavy due to the in-going and outgoing passengers (the passengers of the previous trip just got out at 11:30AM and it is already 1PM and there are still so many outgoing passengers). Since I saw many are walking, we decided to walk to the terminal and I just asked the guards and traffic enforcers for the correct way.
Later, I learned that there is a free shuttle from Manila Ocean Park (MOP) to the pier for the cruise’s passengers. It is also the same upon arrival: a shuttle from the ship to the MOP.
The process is pretty much like the airport, though I think the terminal itself is small and not so organized. First to do would be to check in your luggage. You will have to line up, the crew will list down your name, cabin number, contact number, and will tag your luggage accordingly.
Your luggage will then be delivered to your respective cabins. There is a limit of one luggage per person only, with a maximum of 30kg per luggage. If you can carry your luggage, I suggest just hand-carry it to skip the long queue.
After checking in your luggage, there will be another queue for passenger’s check-in. I suggest that you check-in online, which is available for up to seven days before your sailing date, as the queue for those who are checked-in online is a bit short.
In this counter, we were told that our itinerary was changed and we were given a new itinerary which we are going to sign and return to the crew. Since our itinerary was changed, we are not going to Naha anymore, but to Miyakojima, each cabin was offered 675HKD compensation to be used in all Food and Beverage outlets onboard. If this is not acceptable, you have the option to sail on another date, but we opted to pursue as we are already there and we have to book another flight to Manila should we change our booking date.
Here, your passport, confirmation slip, and online sailing pass are checked and the photocopy of our passport was obtained (remember: have the photocopy of your passport in A4 size, one passport per sheet of paper). This will be used for the disembarkation in Taiwan. Now, another photocopy will be used during disembarkation in Japan, so you have to prepare another photocopy. Photocopying service is available in the ship for 7HKD per copy.
You will also get here your access card. This is an electro-magnetic card (like the ATM card), which you will use to open your cabin, have access in the restaurants and most important of all, you will pay all purchases inside the ship using this card. You will settle your bill at the end of the voyage. Currency used inside the ship is Hong Kong dollars.
Like in airports, your bags and you yourself will be subjected for X-ray inspection. Remove belts and watches here. I brought 2 bottles of 500mL Coca cola as I know it is expensive inside, and it was not confiscated. I also brought some chips and peanuts.
Here is another queue for the immigration processing. Good thing here is that there are chairs so you can sit while queuing. It is pretty fast as there are several immigration counters.
After your passport is stamped by the immigration officer, you can now board the ship. The crew will check and swipe your access card and they will get your passport (this will be returned to you upon disembarkation back in Manila, though, we got to touch it for a few minutes during disembarkation in Miyakojima, Japan).
Very Important to Bring:
Remember to bring the following as these might come in handy:
Bonamine – There are parts of the sea that will really make you feel dizzy so it helps to take some Bonamine
Loperamide – Due to the extensive buffet, a diarrhea is a possibility
Credit card – you will have an express check out if you pay via credit card
Ballpen – There are several forms needed to be filled-up
Snacks – There is a water heater in the room so you can have some coffee or cup noodles anytime when the inclusive restaurants are closed.
The trip may not be perfect but always make the most out of it!