Int’l cruise liner makes Manila its home port
For the first time in recent memory, an international luxury cruise ship has made Manila its home port.
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Sunday led government and travel sector executives in the rites for the launch of the SuperStar Virgo cruise from Pier 15 at Manila North Harbor.
Presentations by the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation, cultural dance performers and Higantes stilt walkers welcomed the foreign and local travelers embarking on the six-day cruise, which would take them to Laoag City, Kaohsiung in Taiwan, Hong Kong and back to Manila.
The SuperStar Virgo departed at around 2 p.m. for its next destination, Laoag, docking at the nearby Currimao port, from where the cruise passengers would be taken on side trips to visit sights such as Ilocos Norte’s famous Baroque churches, Spanish colonial houses and the popular Pagudpud Beach.
Celebrities led by the reigning Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa from the Philippines also graced the welcome ceremony.
The 13-story SuperStar Virgo, operated by the Hong Kong-based Star Cruises, has 935 cabins and can carry 2,400 passengers. It has a crew of 1,100.
The ship’s Italian-themed guest facilities include the main hall, called the Grand Piazza; the Palazzo, a restaurant; and an indoor theatre, the Lido, which would feature a production show of the Arabian epic “1,001 Nights.”
The ship has a dozen smaller restaurants and entertainment bars; an outdoor swimming pool featuring a 100-meter mega water slide; golf-driving range; mini-golf; basketball court and jogging circuit; jet current exercise pool, steam sauna, beauty salon, private karaoke rooms, dance lounge, card and majhong game venues and duty-free shops.
The German-built SuperStar Virgo will take a total of a dozen trips from Manila, the last scheduled on May 23. The cruise fares range from $490 for an inside stateroom to $1,530 for executive suites for each person holding a Philippine passport, exclusive of $165 port charges.
Those booking early may get promo discounts by as much as 40 percent, while the third and fourth persons in groups or family travelers can get up to 50 percent discounts.
The trips are part of the “Jewels of the South China Sea” cruises being promoted by Star Cruises and its partners.
Star Cruises President Ang Moo Lim announced that Filipino passengers can enjoy the visa-free cruise with no baggage allowance.
Special arrangements will also be made with Taiwanese authorities so that the cruise passengers can disembark there visa-free.
Star Cruises, owned by Genting Hong Kong, is the third largest cruise line in the world.