Surrender to culinary delights on-board the Superstar Virgo, sailing this March from Manila
When it comes to traveling to dream destinations, taking a cruise is high on everybody’s bucket list. Some of us may fancy a relaxing vacation in the Caribbean, an educational trip around the Mediterranean, or perhaps discover some unexplored, exotic part in Asia.
But one of the biggest hindrances to making this dream come true for most Filipinos is usually the prohibitive price of a round trip plane ticket to the country of departure, and of course, the cost of the cruise itself.
For the first time this summer, the Superstar Virgo is departing from Manila with several summer sailings beginning this March all the way up to May. Pinoy travelers looking for adventure may now sail from Manila to Naha, Japan, and on to Keelung in Taiwan, then back to Manila, over a 5-night, 6-day voyage. Naha is the biggest city in the Okinawa prefecture of Japan, while Keelung is Taiwan’s main port harbor, just a few minutes’ walk to the famous Keelung Night Market.
It’s a very relaxed itinerary that’s perfect for first time cruisers, allowing them to start their visa-free vacation as soon as they get on the 75-ton, 880-foot long, 900+ cabin ship. For a starting price of $655 per passenger, with rooms at twin sharing passengers aboard this cruise can feast on six buffet meals per day. They even have a family package where two paying adults get to bring two of their kids below 12 years of age, for free. What a sweet deal!
Having never been on a cruise before, I accepted the invitation to visit the Superstar Virgo while docked in the Manila’s Pier 15 for twelve hours, just enough time for the other tourists to disembark and take a tour of old Manila or go shopping for souvenirs.
Once we walked past the gangplank, everything else inside the ship looked like a hotel, complete with a grand staircase flanked by golden statues, a swimming pool with water-park slides, a fully equipped gym, a library, and even duty free shops. Room accommodations range from simple and basic to first-class and fancy, but it was the quality of the food that impressed me the most.
DINING WHILE CRUISING
The Superstar Virgo, belonging to the fleet of Star Cruises (a subsidiary of Genting Hongkong), boasts of several specialty restaurant outlets including Silk Road Chinese restaurant, Samurai Japanese restaurant, Palazzo Italian restaurant, and The Taj Indian restaurant. These are apart from the three international buffet restaurants, and the different bars strategically positioned throughout the ship. My cruiser friends are consistent in saying that the best part of joining a cruise is having one’s fill of food onboard. “Spoiled for choice” was a phrase often used to describe their experience.
As someone who cooks in a home kitchen, the sheer logistics of cooking on a large scale simply boggles my mind. How much meat, poultry, fish and seafood, plus vegetables, fruits and pantry items can a ship load for a six-day voyage (others take much longer) to feed over a thousand people almost 24/7? How big are their kitchens? How many chefs and kitchen staff do they employ?
LUNCH IS SERVED
As we walked into the Star Dining Room, I heard whispers from people around me saying it’s like we were on the set of the movie Titanic. Leonardo di Caprio did not appear, but the appetizer plate more than made up for his absence. It came in an impressive trio of dill-marinated salmon shaped into a rose, a chilled Alaskan King crab leg drizzled with wasabi sauce, and prosciutto-wrapped steamed asparagus.
Next came the soup course: a golden puff pastry dome that revealed a rich and luscious soup of mixed forest and morel mushrooms. Steam billowed out of the crust as I poked it with my spoon, and inhaled the unmistakable aroma of umami. Every sip was pure bliss!
Being an old soul, I opted for the retro dish called Surf and Turf, which was the Grilled Beef Tenderloin and Rock Lobster Thermidor. I went for the creamy lobster first – its bubbling golden cheese topping just waiting for my fork to give it a stretch. The tenderloin was equally delicious, and I was thrilled to have both meat and seafood as my main dish. One of our companions at the table ordered the Honey Soy Glazed Alaskan Cod Fish, and it looked perfectly seared on the outside.
Dessert came in the form of Virgo’s Sweet Temptation, a chocolate cake with matcha-flavored mousse. Since I’m not much of a matcha fan, I focused instead on cleansing my taste buds with the accompanying scoop of vanilla ice cream and the mixed fresh berries doused in Amaretto liqueur. What a fabulous ending to a memorable meal.
Yes, there’s something truly romantic and exciting about dining aboard a sailing ship. For now, I can only wish for it and dream about it happening someday soon. “Going on a cruise” has definitely moved up to number one on my bucket list.
SUPERSTAR VIRGO SAILING DATES:
- MARCH 30, 2018
- APRIL 4 & 9, 2018
- MAY 9, 14, 19, 24, 2018
The Star Cruises culinary team has won numerous awards in culinary competitions
By Nina Daza-Puyat