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Monday, February 13, 2012, 16:00 Hrs  [IST]

International Focus: SuperStar Virgo: A Sojourn on the High Seas

Star Cruises’ recently refurbished SuperStar Virgo offers passengers a veritable cornucopia of delights in terms of entertainment and dining options. Lyandra D’souza shares her experiences of the luxurious array of facilities and activities available onboard this magnificent ship

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A destination in itself, Star Cruises’ description of SuperStar Virgo as a Floating Resort is not an unsupported claim. My first impression of the liner when I glimpsed it across the bay from Sentosa Island was of pure, unadulterated awe as the stateliness of this 13-deck, 879 feet-long ship hit home. With the Goddess of Harvest gliding along on the flank, the SuperStar Virgo is a pleasure to behold. The newly re-furbished liner had received a facelift during its three-week dry-dock period in January, with a new hull design as well as a makeover for its cabins, restaurants, shopping, sports and recreation venues and I knew, even while looking at the ship from afar, that the next three days I would spend aboard the ship were going to be a lot of fun.

130212_df_2.jpgBeing a part of a seven-member FAM trip organised by Star Cruises for the media, I must say our experience of the Virgo was an especially smooth one, right from the boarding. Passing through the harbour front immigration, we were handed Key Access Cards with SGD 100 loaded on to use as a cashless credit card as well as for access to our cabins. The long walk to the ship from the harbour was interspersed with costumed mermaids, robots and fairytale princes and princesses who gamely posed with passengers for photos.

130212_df_3.jpgWe entered directly onto Deck 7 where, as Balcony Class passengers, we were greeted with cocktails and champagne. The atrium of Deck 7 made me wonder for a moment whether I had somehow reached Italy with its life-like Roman statues, three 23 carat gold-plated horses prancing above a grand piano with faux columns, and transparent lifts. Post the welcome drink, we were taken to our cabins where we found our bags waiting for us. The Balcony Class cabins had ample room with en-suite shower facilities, a writing deck, a lounge and two beds, but what I liked  the most about my cabin was the attached private balcony where I spent quite some time looking out over the seas in solitude.

130212_df_4.jpgOver the next two days, we were in a dilemma over which of the multitude of entertainment options to indulge in. However, two clear winners emerged for me: the 100-metre steel water slide and the Jacuzzi. The water slide was a favourite because it has a portion made completely out of clear plexi-glass which protrudes over one side of the ship, over the sea. And let me tell you, there are few things as exciting as sliding through water, 14 stories above the sea, with nothing but water beneath you; most of us gleefully rode the slide at least three to four times. Star Cruises also offers many other sporting attractions such as a gymnasium with a steam room as well as a sauna, a basketball court, a mini golf course, a jogging track as well as two ‘swim against the current’ pools. For those who prefer a more laid-back experience, there are four Jacuzzis adjacent to the pool as well as a number of sun loungers around the pool and on other decks.

130212_df_5.jpgBut if you are like me and prefer to spend  time reading, then the library is the place to be. With a wide variety of newspapers and books in languages such as Hindi, Malay, English and Chinese, it was the perfect place to spend a quiet afternoon. You can also take a book back to your cabin against a deposit.

Designed exclusively for the Asian cruise market, the 76,800-tonne SuperStar Virgo, with an accommodation capacity of 1,870 guests, will ply the straits of Singapore and Malacca in various itineraries including two-night, three-night and five-night destination cruises calling at locations such as Phuket, Langkawi, Port Klang, Malacca, Redang, and Penang; and one-night and  two-night high seas cruises. Speaking about the refurbishment of the SuperStar Virgo, William Ng, COO, Star Cruises, said, “This USD 25 million investment underpins our drive to grow Asia’s cruise industry. The Asia-Pacific cruise industry is expected to grow with leaps and bounds, and we are well-positioned to take the lead in further developing and expanding the industry.”

130212_df_6.jpgTargeted at Asian travellers, the SuperStar Virgo is being heavily promoted by Star Cruises in India. The cruise company is focusing heavily on the School Group and Wedding segments in the country. Manvendra Singh Vaghela, Second Assistant VP - Sales, Star Cruises (India), said, “We are in talks with travel agents who organise trips for school groups since it will be a mix of fun and education for the kids onboard. The wedding segment is an emerging one in India and we want to capitalise on it.” India has always been a major market target for Star Cruises. In 2005, Star Cruises deployed the SuperStar Libra in Indian waters offering cruise holidays from Mumbai, covering Goa and the Lakshadweep islands. However, these cruises were discontinued in 2007 and the Libra now offers cruises from Penang, Malaysia to Phuket and Krabi in Thailand.

130212_df_7.jpgEntertainment Options
Most of the late night entertainment on-board the ship is centred around the Lido Theatre which features cabarets and dance performances. During our high seas cruise, the highlight was the burlesque show ‘Nikita’, inspired by the French film, ‘La Femme Nikita’, one of the newer productions on-board. Among the other entertainment options available were the ‘Reflections of Russia’ as well as a karaoke lounge. But perhaps the best was the ‘Hot Strip Off Party’ which had most of us rather intrigued until we discovered that the ones being made to strip were members of the audience! All in all, it was a fun, light-hearted evening and we left having had a very good time.

130212_df_8.jpgAnother popular draw for passengers aboard the Virgo, I observed, was the Casino. With gambling banned in Singapore for local citizens, the Casino was perpetually full and buzzing, 24 hours a day, and was well-equipped with blackjack, baccarat, Russian Roulette and Poker tables. I was told that there was also a ‘high rollers’ room that was by invitation only; but sadly, before we could catch a quick peek, security guards spotted us with a camera bag in our hands and herded us out.

For those looking for a spot of pampering though, the SuperStar Virgo also has a spa on board which we availed of for a foot and hand massage. It was so relaxing that I managed to fall asleep halfway through.

130212_df_9.jpgThe liner also features plenty of options to occupy children, with a childcare centre, baby-sitting facilities, a computer learning centre and several children programmes throughout the day. Kids below 12 also have a separate pool of their own and the Neptune’s Wet & Wild fun slide where they can run themselves ragged.

Dining In
One of the key draws on a cruise is its food and the SuperStar Virgo is no slouch when it comes to this. On the Virgo, passengers can dine at any of the three inclusive restaurants - Bella Vista, Mediterranean and Pavilion. The Bella Vista serves western cuisine, the Mediterranean provides Indian cuisine and the Pavilion gives us a taste of authentic Chinese food. However, if you wish to pay as you dine, there are many other options available on board; the Noble House, Palazzo, Taj, Samurai and the Taverna serve international food. There is also a Gelato store where I popped in for dessert post-lunch. Of all these dining options, my favourite was the plush Palazzo restaurant which served gourmet Italian food. The restaurant does not permit children below 12 years of age and requires a formal dress code. It is an elegant affair and is efficiently and courteously staffed with the chef visiting each table in turn to enquire about everyone’s  dining experience.

Facts about SuperStar Virgo at a Glance
Country of Registry
Panama
Gross Tonnage (grt)
76800
Length
268m/879ft
Width
32m/106ft
Number of Cabins
935
Passenger Capacity (based on lower berths)
1870

Literally a floating world, I left the SuperStar Virgo, with a feeling that a two-night cruise  stay was not enough to sample all that the ship had to offer.
 
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