Sun-kissed, I sit back on the lounger as I watch my bikini-clad friends enjoy the cobalt pool under the piercing sun. From afar, the cerulean sea shimmers against the emerald green massif.
As I write this, we’re at the heart of the Strait of Malacca aboard the Superstar Gemini, under the fleet of Star Cruises. Everything here is draped by opulence yet never intimidating. Perhaps it’s the casual outfit of the cruisers or maybe the genuinely friendly crew that induce the pretty relaxed ambiance. Whatever it is, I am in a real-life Instagram photo, and I am having a blast!
Traveling has a way of changing us, including the way we travel. While we’re young, many of us long for adventures, we tend to seek uncharted destinations and travel on a shoestring budget. But as we near our 30’s or so, we feel the need to travel comfortably and hassle-free. It’s like saying “Been there, done that, time to try something new”. While from to time to time we miss backpacking, we also have this urge to try new ways to travel , like traveling via cruise ship.
“Cruising gives you a new travel experience where one doesn’t need to wait to arrive at their destination for the vacation to start. Whatever type of adventure you’re after, we’ll try to bring you there. Especially nowadays, we see a lot of people booking left and right, looking for the next great adventure , they can share with the world through their social media accounts,” shares Lynch Imbat, Star Cruises Marketing Executive.
Recently, I received an invite to experience a 4 day 3 night cruise from Singapore to Penang and Langkawi, Malaysia via Superstar Gemini of Star Cruises together with my friends Mervin, Marky, Christian, Edgar and Carla. And as you might have surmised, I was pretty excited for my first cruise.
Straight from our flight from Manila, we rushed to Singapore’s Cruise Center. With our passport in handy, we queued and checked-in for our Superstar Gemini cruise. Luckily, we were early, so the line was short, but if you want to skip the queue, I suggest you check-in online at www.starcruises.com. You can do this starting 7 days from your departure date up to 8 hours from your departure time.
I was handed my own access card that serves as my room key and credit card on board. Everything you consume that is not included in your cruise package will be charged in the cabin/access card (and payable upon disembarking the vessel), so never misplace it! You should also take it with you whenever you disembark the ship.
Since Vivo City, the largest shopping mall in the country is adjacent to the port, passengers can go shopping while waiting for their boarding time. We grabbed a quick bite at one of the cafes inside the Singapore Cruise Center while killing time and then exchanged our Philippine peso to Singapore dollars and Malaysian Ringgit at one of the money changers inside the cruise center. If you fail to do this before boarding, don’t fret as a FOREX counter is available inside the ship.
Before boarding the vessel, we passed through Immigration for the Singapore exit stamp in our passport. Then at the gate of the cruise ship, we left our passports, to be returned back to us after our cruise.
THE CRUISE SHIP
Superstar Gemini is operated by Star Cruises, the leading cruise line in Asia-Pacific. The vessel houses 765 cabins that can accommodate up to 1,530 passengers. Superstar Gemini sails from Singapore to Malaysian ports like Penang, Langkawi, Malacca, Pulau Redang, Pulau Tioman and Kuala Lumpur.
I’m a sucker for ocean-view rooms, so I was glad that our cabin at Superstar Gemini offered just that. Imagine waking up everyday awash with natural morning light and the floor-to-ceiling window serving up soothing sea view? Gorgeous, isn’t it?
As expected of cabins, the space is confined, but the cream wall adorned with framed paintings and the carpeted floor induced a swish feel. The cabin layout includes a full seating area near the window complete with two comfy sofa and a table, a perfect place to curl up with a good read. There are two marshmallow-y bed perfect for that dreamy sleep.
The cabin is furnished with two closets. Nonetheless, my roommate Ada Laud of Grid Magazine and I opted to place our luggage below our bed so we can pull it out easily if we need to get something. We just hung some of our clothes inside the closet. The room is also equipped with TV, a small fridge and a safe. A dresser is conveniently located near the compact bathroom and toilet.
I stay connected online with the Superstar Gemini’s Wi-Fi on board for SGD 50 (PHP 1,742), unlimited connection for the duration of my 4 days 3 night cruise. As expected, the signal is intermittent especially whenever we’re in the middle of the sea. But it is helpful if you want to update your social media and chat with friends or family back home.
OUTLETS AND FACILITIES
Inside Superstar Gemini by Star Cruises, you’ll find everything you expect to see in a posh cruise ship such as a fitness center, a salon, a Duty Free shopping center, a FOREX counter, an observatory lounge/KTV, 4 bars, two outdoor saltwater pools, an outdoor Jacuzzi, basketball court, medical center, child center, gaming center and an activity center. Needless to say, the vessel was stylishly-designed with comfort in mind.
What I really love about going on a cruise is the endless supply of food! For our dining pleasures, there are about 11 restaurants inside Superstar Gemini. Four of them are inclusive restaurants serving buffet meals, meaning we can dine here six times a day and it is complimentary!!!
The inclusive restaurants include, Oceana at Deck 12 (International and Indian cuisines), Dynasty at Deck 11 (Chinese buffet), Bella Vista at Deck 9 (Western and Family-Style Indian Dishes) and Mariners at Deck 9 (International and Indian Cuisines).
For lunch, I like to savor Asian dishes at Dynasty and garden salads filled with tropical fruits while sitting near the window looking out to the ocean. In the evening, we dined at Oceana under the canopy of stars with live band, at times we head to Bella Vista for their Western dishes and luscious desserts. Breakfast is equally impressive too!
Meanwhile, Ala Carte restaurants include Blue Lagoon at Deck 11 (our favorite) and Taipan at Deck 11 serving Chinese a la carte and steam boat. We happily dined here too, feasting on a variety of tempting cuisines!
THINGS TO DO IN STAR CRUISES SUPERSTAR GEMINI
Every day, a paper with the headline “STAR NAVIGATOR” was delivered to our doorstep. I always read it as it contains interesting line-up of daily activities, many are free while some have minimal fees and require registration. Starting from 8:00 AM to 2:00 AM, you will never run out of things to do in Superstar Gemini, just refer to your Star Navigator and the myriad kid-friendly activities here will surely keep the kids entertained too!
One of the activities inside the Star Cruises Superstar Gemini cruise ship is the Tour and Meet the Captain at the Bridge, we registered in advance to join. We were ushered to the bridge of the cruise ship to meet the captain and the crew.
Here they showed us how they navigate the ship and how they see the other ships and boats on the sea, we even sat on their chair and played captain for a few minutes.
Then we joined the Gallery Tour with Special Sushi Demonstration. We head inside the kitchen where the chef showed us how the things work inside. There was a walk-in fridge where the food are kept, a massive machine was used for dish washing and the cook and other staff were all busy cooking and preparing the meals. The chef rotates the dishes daily, so the menu is completely different every day.
During the Gallery Tour, I serendipitously met a reader who was also taking the cruise with friends! We all agreed the sushi was one of the best we’ve tasted, I reckon it is worthy of a Michelin Star. The Gallery Tour ended at the Bella Vista, where sumptuous Instagram-worthy desserts welcomed us. And yes, we ate again!
Other activities on board include paper art making, game shows, dance class, fun trivia quiz and a couple of kid-friendly activities like cake decoration, pizza making and race challenge.
But perhaps the most memorable activity for me aboard Superstar Gemini was The Copy Cat (Lip Sync Battle). Apparently, stylist Patrick Galang of Rouge Magazine, signed me up. I was hesitant at first but I decided to join the fun with my friends Carla and Edgar. Talk about peer pressure! But I don’t regret it as it was such a pleasant experience. We even took home a CD with a video of our “performance”!
Superstar Gemini cruise ship turns livelier in the evening especially at the plush Stardust Lounge which is oozing with luxurious theatrical atmosphere.
Here, we witnessed famed Filipina singer Kyla serenading the guests (free admission) while the Magic Class with Master Illusionist Richard Burr (pre-registration required with minimal charge) kept our eyes glued to the stage.
The Queen of Hearts also kept us entertained with their theatrical performances while the Marionettes adult show was pretty neck-swiveling and certainly piqued our interest. You can buy tickets in advance at the activity center, it comes with 1 free cocktail.
Aside from Kyla’s mini concert, there is a range of musical options onboard to entertain the passengers at night. We enjoyed listening to Cross Over Band playing love hits and popular music at Oceana. During our cruise, pianist Freddie Chin also performed at the Maxims Lounge while Insta Sound Band performed under the moonlight at Oceana.
One night, we also partied during the Neon Lights Disco with DJ Anil, we had so much fun that we retired to our cozy bed at around 2 AM already.
Just when we thought we’ve had enough of partying, the next morning we found ourselves partying again at the pool on a midday! Yes, at 11:00 AM to 12 noon, we danced like no one was watching during the Wet and Wild Party by the pool at Deck 12.
The azure pool was peppered with cruisers who were either swimming in the pool or getting a tan while lazing on loungers by the poolside, while those who avoided the sun settled on sipping cocktails and beers (charges apply) which you can order from the nearby Topsider Bar.
A less-crowded and more intimate pool is located in front of the Bella Vista restaurant, so we stayed there. But if you’d rather dip amid bubbles instead of swimming in denim-blue saltwater pool, rush to the seductive outdoor Jacuzzi at Deck 12.
The crew at Superstar Gemini are mostly Asians, in fact, about 70% are Filipinos! So you’ll really feel at home having well-trained, genuinely friendly and helpful crew on board. I got to speak to a couple of them especially those working for the entertainment, though sometimes homesickness hit them, they are incredibly grateful for their jobs.
Our 4 day 3 night Superstar Gemini Itinerary includes a stop at the ports of Penang and Langkawi so we had two shore excursions. Tour rates at Superstar Gemini starts at SGD 32 (PHP 1,115). I will be writing a more detailed post about this next. But to give you an idea, we availed of the Experience of the Pearl of the Orient Tour with meals priced at SGD 112 (PHP 3,920) for adult and SGD 97 (PHP 3,387) per child. The tour took approximately 5-6 hours which include a visit to Khoo Kongsi Temple, Clan Jetty, City Town Hall, Mural Street, local product shop and cocoa product showroom, Trishaw ride and a sumptuous buffet dinner.
For Langkawi, we availed of the Mangrove Cruise with seafood lunch priced at SGD 109 (PHP 3,798) per adult and SGD 94 per child. We had the mangrove cruise tour, visit to the fish farm, mangrove swamp and bat caves and eagle feeding.
If you wish to do the tour on your own, you can, just make sure to be back on the ship on time. Avoid being late as the vessel leaves on time without waiting for late passengers. We were instructed we needed to get back to the ship before 11:00 PM ship’s time.
It’s time for us to leave the poolside and freshen up, as we are about to disembark the boat. I’ll certainly miss the food, the shows, the activities and the slow rhythm of life here. And how we enjoyed the subtle pleasures such as the changing colors of the clouds and the sea.
I can’t believe that all it takes is just a few days to set my heart racing again. I discovered another place that I felt genuinely sad about leaving. But this time, it’s not just your usual destination, it’s a ship, and it’s not just your usual ship… it’s The Superstar Gemini. And I found out that it is best to share the journey here with friends.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
HOW MUCH IS THE CRUISE VIA SUPERSTAR GEMINI?
Cruise rates start at SGD 450 (PHP 15, 713) per person, depending on the season and when you book. Book in advance to get cheaper rates. Follow Star Cruises on Facebook to get updates on their promos. Currently they are running a promo – 50% off (cabins for January are full already, try April onward), you can check the promo at www.starcruises.com
WHAT’S INCLUSIVE ON SUPERSTAR GEMINI STAR CRUISES?
When you book at Star Cruises, the cruise is inclusive of port fees, meals and shows, but you need to check which restaurants are inclusive, same with shows. So if you don’t want to be charged extra, dine on inclusive restaurants only such as Oceana, Bella Vista, Dynasty and Mariners. You can dine max 6 times a day on inclusive restaurants.
Take note that for all Singapore departures for Superstar Gemini, there is a gratuity fee of SGD 17 (PHP 593) per person per night for all cabin categories and SGD 21 (PHP 733) per person per night for suite cabins. This is payable upon disembarkation.
WHERE TO BOOK STAR CRUISES TOURS?
You can book online at www.starcruises.com or through travel agents.
5th Floor Star Cruises Center
100 Andrews Avenue, Pasay City, Metro Manila
Phone #: (+63) 836 6830 to 32
E-mail: [email protected]
Pack casual clothes, but do bring swimming outfit if you want to use the pool. There is a formal dinner with the Captain and ship crew, reservation in advance is required, so do bring semi-formal or formal wear if you want to join. Bring comfortable shoes for the shore excursion. .
WHAT NOT TO BRING
Bringing of alcoholic beverages (bottles, cans of spirits, wines, beer) on board the cruise ship is prohibited. However, after the cruise, say you purchased booze at Duty Free Shop, you can take it to Singapore as long as you declare it at the Custom Office prior to x-ray and exiting terminal. Tax will be imposed depending on the quantity and alcoholic content. There is no GST/Duty Free concession on liquors, cigarettes and other tobacco products in Singapore.
*Rates are based on : 1 SGD = PHP 34.84
DISCLOSURE: This trip was made possible by Star Cruises.
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