The sea can be bewitching

 

The imposing sight of Superstar Virgo docked at Manila Port stirred excitement among first-time cruisers. The mere sight of a big boat can turn one into a giddy kid about to enter a theme park. You will feel the thrill as soon as you step onto the gangplank of the ship.

 

    This was my second cruise with Superstar Virgo, yet it felt like a new experience. With the stunning ocean view from our room’s balcony, I had the perfect escape, away from land routines that can be monotonous at times.

 

  I began exploring — err, re-exploring — as I revisited the familiar spots that I remembered from my first trip. The middle part of the ship had the Asian ambience, highlighted by the imposing presence of three golden horses by the lobby. Selfie here. Selfie there.

 

   My re-exploration brought me back to Blue Lagoon, a 24-hour restaurant on Deck 7. During my first cruise, this was my dining hideaway for comfort food. A few steps from its walkway was the entrance to KTV Lounge. That was the part of the ship where the tour group would later build their friendship, shared with shots of spirits, uninhibited karaoke singing, laughs and no-care-in-the-world dancing.

 

   I took the carpeted stairs that led me to ResortWorld Casino on Deck 8, where you’ll find DutyFree and other specialty shops. But it was too early to shop, so I headed out and went up to Deck 12, where the cruise director and his team were dancing with some passengers, ready to party. I walked past the party scene and headed up to Deck 13, the top deck, from which you can see the ocean’s vastness.

Many things can go wrong on a cruise but it’s a matter of perspective.   The low internet connectivity on the ship can be frustrating, but at the same time it served as a digital detox for those who want to enjoy real-time bonding. A delay should mean extra time to sleep in and a long queue is an opportunity to meet new friends.

  The relaxing sight of the blue water, the salty wind and glorious sun— you can take as much of them as you can. Nobody is rushing you. It’s a great time for solitary thinking. Though the big ship had a thousand passengers, you’ll always find a room or a corner for privacy, away from the party medley.

 

   There is no shortage of things to do aboard. Our familiarization tour hosts led by Kathy Mercado, ResortWorld Manila VP for International Marketing and Hotel Sales with Janine Chua, Sharmaine Saringan and Mae Bernardo, made sure all the 20 tour participants of the group tour were well-fed, entertained and taken care of.

 

  The opportunity to see Japan and Taiwan via shore excursions was another reason for me to join a business-class flight on Philippine Airlines with 20 others from Guam, Saipan and Hawaii.

 

  The third day of the cruise brought us to our first port call in Naha City, the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, Japan.

 

   The highlight of the day was the trip to Shurijo Castle, which tells the history of Ryukyu Kingdom constructed around the 14th century and has since been listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. An hour is not enough to cover all the historical gates, towers, gardens and buildings of the destination.

 

   Our last stop was at Kokusaidori, a 2-kilometer stretch of shops, bars, restaurants also known as International Road or Miracle Mile because of its rapid recovery after WWII.  The street is bustling with tourists who are shopping for trinkets, savoring the taste of Okinawa delicacies and shrieking at the sight of habushu.  Believed to be an aphrodisiac, habushu is an alcoholic beverage with poisonous pit vipers mixed with ginseng, honey and herbs.

 

   The next port call was in Taiwan. We got up early hoping to maximize our time in Keelung. An hour-long bus trip to Yehliu allowed us to enjoy the breathtaking view of the north-east coastline of Taiwan. Although it was cloudy, several breakwaters with huge rock formations adorning the straits provided a magnificent picture.

 

  A visit to Taiwan is not complete without getting the street food action. Our last stop was at Keelung’s Miaokou Night Market, where tiny food portions pack huge flavors, satisfying a big appetite and serving delight to gastronomes for pocket change. We had a field day.

 

  On our way back to Manila, the ship captain announced a rough water alert. It was a cue for me to take my anti-seasick medicine. But I wouldn’t let the sea’s erratic behavior spoil my remaining 24 hours on the cruise. I pampered myself at the spa with a 90 -minute massage and pedicure. I was ready for Captain’s Ball.

 

  The tour wrapped up with a stylish dinner at The Star Dining and a magic show by Vincent Vignaud at the Zodiac Theater.

 

   Many things can go wrong on a cruise but it’s a matter of perspective.   The low internet connectivity on the ship can be frustrating, but at the same time it served as a digital detox for those who want to enjoy real-time bonding. A delay should mean extra time to sleep in and a long queue is an opportunity to meet new friends.

 

                          

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