SuperStar Virgo

Prologue


Built at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany and launched in 1999, the 76,800-GRT SuperStar Virgo recently underwent an extensive refurbishment to update its product offerings in the wake of new competition and over 10 years of service. We recently had the opportunity to sail on her and find out how the revitalized Asian-focused cruise ship stacks up against her American and European counterparts.

 

First Impressions

   

Entering the cool surrounds of the Grand Piazza, we were greeted with a welcome drink by the staff and entertainment from the live band while taking in the splendour of the ship’s 3 iconic golden horses. We felt the relaxed atmosphere set the mood for the entire voyage, in-line with the Freestyle Cruising concept adopted by Star Cruises and sister line Norwegian Cruise Line.

 

Cabins

Our Oceanview Stateroom with Balcony featured 2 single beds combined to form a Queen-sized bed, a convertible sofa bed, flatscreen television, wardrobe, workdesk and bathroom unit. Located on decks 9, 10 and 11, these are amongst the more popular accommodation types onboard.

   

The compact, modular design did not leave much maneuvering room, but was adequate for 2 passengers. With space a premium onboard, the bathroom is cleverly separated into a toilet to the left, vanity in the center and shower to the right, while the in-cabin coffee-/tea-making facilities were tucked neatly into the shelf unit.

  

We found the cabin condition to be rather good, with fittings still looking new after 6 months of sailing and cleanliness standards high. We particularly like the balcony, which proved an ideal place to catch the sunrise in the mornings and generally watch the world go by with a good book.

   

Cabin amenities included terry bathrobes, pool slippers, toiletries and bottled water that was replenished daily. Brownie points for the additional pillows and a blanket stored in the wardrobe to complement the duvet, as well as satellite programming covering channels from China, Hong Kong, India and Malaysia together with CNN and HBO.

SuperStar Virgo offers 8 more accommodation options (Inside Stateroom, Deluxe Inside Stateroom, Oceanview Stateroom with Porthole, Oceanview Stateroom with Window, Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Window, Star Suite, Junior Suite and Executive Suite), located on decks 4 through 11. These range in size from 12 to 60.4 square meters and accommodate up to 4 adults.

 

Dining

  

   

Included in the cruise fare is dining at 3 inclusive restaurants. We had breakfast at the main Bella Vista dining room, where a continental buffet and eggs made-to-order was available daily (although portions were small even for Asian standards). This was also 1 of 4 outlets for the Captain’s Gala Dinner on the last evening and served a good-tasting 4 course western dinner.

  

   

The Pavilion Chinese dining room was another popular inclusive restaurant (owing to the ship’s majority Asian clientele). Serving portions here were slightly larger, but food quality was unfortunately average at best with the exception of the dim sum breakfast which was comparable to its counterparts on shore. The Mediterranean Buffet was convenient for snacks in between meals with its pastries and light bites, as well as a delectable barbecue spread by the swimming pool on 1 evening.

  

7 specialty restaurants and cafes present varied cuisines at moderate charges. Amongst the outlets is The Taj, the only Halal-certified restaurant at sea offering Indian cuisine, while cruisers can also dine on sashimi and sushi at Samurai, pastas and succulent grilled meats at Palazzo and the signature Peking Roasted Duck of Noble House. For casual dining, SuperStar Virgo offers the 24-hour Blue Lagoon cafe and the Cafe Gelato ice cream parlour was a favorite with the younger cruisers. We spent our afternoons at the Taverna beer garden on deck 13, which provided a relaxed atmosphere of cold beers paired with German dishes.

   

Bellini is a champagne bar with nightly live music entertainment providing easy listening tunes. The venue doubles as a lecture venue and show lounge in the day, with a separate tea room and cigar lounge for connoisseurs. 2 other venues, Galaxy of the Stars and Celebrity, offer alternate venues for a drink onboard to views of the ocean scenery from large floor-to-ceiling windows.

 

Pools & Decks

  

Located on deck 12, the Parthenon Pool is the main swimming and watersports area onboard SuperStar Virgo, comprising a main pool, 4 whirlpools and a waterslide towering above the deck. Sailing during low season, the area was not overly crowded and the separate Neptunes Wet & Wild fun pool for children meant a more pleasant experience for adult cruisers. The ship also features 2 all-weather, indoor jet current pools for swimmers who wish to log the distance while training.

We felt that sun areas were limited at the poolside, with loungers and deck chairs that would be insufficient during high season with a full complement of passengers. The area is situated mid-ship near the main elevators, which resulted in heavy foot traffic and cruisers seeking a quiet spot are advised to head to the smaller section 1 deck above.

The Promenade on deck 7 is an open-air, wooden boardwalk that wraps around the ship. This area is suited for passengers seeking to slow things down, with many cruisers on our voyage engaging in casual strolls and traditional deck games.

 

Recreation

   

Sports facilities onboard included the Apollo Spa & Fitness Centre, where the Universal Gym was located. For a ship of this size, we felt the gymnasium could be larger to cater for an increasing attention to fitness by cruisers. The Star Track on deck 13 is a good way to start the mornings, catching the sunrise as you jog around the ship’s distinctive funnel, while an onboard driving range, mini golf course and a full-sized basketball court are also found here.

  

Oscar’s Salon offers a menu of hairdressing and beauty regimes, with prices comparable to those on land. 2 retail outlets, the Star Boutique and Ports O’ Call, stock and display a variety of items ranging from sundry items and souvenirs to duty-free alcohol, fragrances and jewellery.

   

  

From the moment of boarding, cruisers will find an array of activities to partake in. The ship’s entertainment crew got right down to work hosting the sail-away party shortly after departure, while several house bands rotate performances around various locations. During the cruise, several rounds of favorites including bingo, line-dancing and special-interest classes were held, with guests also able to loan a selection of games and equipment from the onboard Activity Centre. A reading room/library, mahjong and card room, as well as private karaoke rooms reflect the uniquely Asian character of the ship.

   

Younger guests are kept entertained at Charlie’s, the onboard child care centre where a selection of games and activities are conducted by the staff daily. Adjacent to the facility is the Stardust video arcade, which remained largely empty during our cruise owing to the lack of teenagers onboard.

 

Entertainment

  

   

Our cruise featured a different show each evening, adding variety to the entertainment offering. A ventriloquist performance, crew show and original production were performed at The Lido theatre, the latter of which featured acrobatic acts from Russia and the Ukraine. Adults-only entertainment in the form of a belly dancing showcase and a burlesque performance were also available at an additional charge.

  

With gaming a key facet of Asian cruising, a highlight for many cruisers was the Star Club, which was open while the ship sailed in international waters. Popular table games and slots were available (with the latter also found at the Galaxy of the Stars lounge) and we found the casino packed late into the nights. Top-tier members of the Genting Rewards program also enjoyed access to the exclusive Genting Club and VIP Club.

 

Service / Staff

The 1,390 crew onboard SuperStar Virgo hail from 30 countries around the world, with Filipinos, Indians and mainland Chinese the predominant groups. While the majority of the staff were not particularly warm, service levels were fair for a mass market cruise line with a level of professionalism. The room attendants, waiters and guest service staff we interacted with were polite and helpful at all times and generally ensured our cruise was hassle-free.

 

Verdict

The SuperStar Virgo remains a pleasure to cruise on after more than 10 years sailing Asian waters. Her excellent build quality and recent refit keeps the offerings fresh for new and seasoned cruisers. While ever-larger and newer ships from European and North American lines are introduced to the region, she certainly deserves pride of place with her blend of Asian-focused facilities and activities that are unique to Star Cruises.

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