Planning your next vacation and running out of inspiration? Maybe you could consider cruising. With destinations to choose from and activities galore on board, a cruise is becoming a popular alternative to more traditional getaways. Especially one that operates a convenient short hop from home and offers everything from fine dining to Hollywood-style entertainment, swimming to game arcades, night clubs and casinos.
“With the added advantage of baby sitters and day care centres, parents can relax till the ship drops anchor and then disembark at an exotic destination,” says Naresh Rawal, vice-president, marketing, Star Cruises. Their flagship vessel, the Super Star Virgo, has recently been completely refurbished for 25 million USD and is specially geared to the Indian and Oriental market. “You can even plan a wedding at sea, hold your corporate team as pampered hostages while you get business done between spa treatments and catered dinners. With one price buying you your cabin, dining, entertainment and more, you can have the vacation of a life-time,” he adds.
Walking the plank
Taking Rawal at his word, we decided to explore the options on board the Virgo, which anchors at Singapore’s well known Harbour Front Centre connected to their ruthlessly efficient metro rail network. It is also adjacent to Vivocity, one of the largest shop-ping malls in the country.
Virgo has 13 decks and over 935 cab-ins, with the entertainment, dining and recreation spaced out in between. The decor has a kind of east-meets-west theme — with plenty of gilt mirrors, opulent statuary, red and gold accents and plush carpeting. Not to mention cheerful yet persistent staff who like to back you into corners and get you to sign up for food and beverage packages or shows that are not included in your price tag.
Life on board
There are five categories of cabins — from 149 square ft of carefully designed, limited storage space to 600 square ft roomy executive suites. Just below the suites rank the balcony class cabins, which come with extra perks like priority check-ins, free welcome drinks and dining credits that can be redeemed at the ship’s specialty restaurants. Most of the cabins have a sea view and many have third and fourth berths for family use.
Once you settle in, unpack and maybe snack on the thoughtful fruit and candy basket in your cab-in, the entertainment and dining options on board beckon. Belle Vista, the international restaurant, has an open seating plan, the Pavilion Room with speciality Chinese cuisine and the Mediterranean Terrace which lays out a buffet four times a day right through to a midnight supper has a mix of global cuisine. Specialty restaurants like Noble House and Samurai have excellent Peking duck and quality Japanese food.
Entertainment onboard comes in many guises and a flier tucked into your cabin door keeps you apprised of the day’s programme. You can choose between napkin folding demos, Zumba classes or movies. Kids can run themselves ragged at Neptune’s Wet & Wild — a super-vised kiddie pool, or at the Starlight Video Arcade. Between the swim-ming , endless snacks and gaming centres, they could exhaust them-selves easily and allow their parents to take in the late night adult shows in peace by the end of the day. Like the ‘hot strip off party’ — replete with risque guest interaction and spirited cross dressing fun, Nikita — a topless revue, an Elvis concert — performed by Johnny ‘Elvis’ Thompson from Las Vegas or lively Russian dancers. You can even let your inner rock-star rip at the Out of Africa karaoke lounge — which you must privately hire and pay for, or boogie away at the ‘Galaxy of Stars’ lounge with a live band in attendance. Dress code in general is smart casual, so men can skip their dinner jackets and ladies can get by with a couple of dressy evening ensembles. Flip flops and beachwear are thankfully discouraged indoors and Star Cruises operates on a no-tipping policy.
It’s advisable to tack on a couple of extra days after the cruise and enjoy some of the attractions that Singapore is constantly upgrading. Like Resorts World Sentosa with its collection of hotels, Universal Studios theme park and the world’s largest oceanarium — Marine Life Park. Universal Studios like its American counterpart has enough exciting rides and entertainment to keep you going through the day. The well laid out shopping malls with their extensive food courts are a browsers haven. Try the celebrity chef restaurants at Marina Sands for an upscale dining experience or the interesting hawkers’ centres that offer you a wide range of Far Eastern specialties.
The writer was invited by Star Cruises for this experience. Cruises vary from five nights destinations that include Penang-Phuket, Malacca and Kuala Lumpur to a weekend affair, around Singapore and back.
Prices start at `17, 500 per head for two nights. A multiple entry Singapore visa is required.