The advertising promo for the five-day SuperStar Virgo Cruise to Japan and Taiwan on March 5-9 was irresistible. For senior citizens traveling with a full paying passenger, it’s free. You pay only for your nonsenior companion.
It was too good to be true!
And so the booking was filled right away. I was one of the more than 2,500 passengers. I reserved two cabins for my wife, her caregiver, my godson and myself.
Since my wife suffered a stroke four years ago and is half-paralyzed, and also because of my heart condition, we never had a chance to travel by plane anymore. The cruise was set to leave Manila by March 5, with stopovers in Okinawa, Japan, and Keelung, Taiwan. I wanted to treat my wife to that cruise since it is our 50th wedding anniversary.
But then, my dream plan turned into a nightmare. It was the worst cruise I have ever experienced in my life. I had been on an international cruise to Mexico, but it was never like what we experienced in this Star Cruise’s SuperStar Virgo’s Manila-Japan-Taiwan route.
First, the senior citizens were treated shabbily. They were not given priority on the entire trip, not in the restaurants, in the shows, not in the land tours. The toilets in the cabins had no PWD provisions. They were standard for all cabins.
Since the promo was for senior citizens with nonsenior companions, one would expect 50 percent of passengers would be seniors. But I observed that there must have been about
70-80 percent senior citizens. I even saw one senior citizen limping on a cane, trying to manage the place alone. I saw him several times, and didn’t see any crew member try to help him.
Second, it sometimes took us more than 30 minutes of waiting in the restaurants because they were too crowded. Again, senior citizens or those on wheelchairs were not given priority by the crew, except on one or two occasions when the other passengers themselves took pity on them and gave way. But all the crew did was watch.
Third, I saw the mostly Chinese crew members, waiters, waitresses, etc. give priority to Chinese passengers to the detriment of Filipinos. There was obviously racial discrimination which was noticed even by my Chinese-Filipino guest whom I had invited to join us on the cruise. She protested aloud and told the restaurant’s crew they were giving us dog food.
That’s complaint number three. The food, which was included in the fee, was generally tasteless and of poor quality, whereas the food in the special restaurants, where you had to pay, was excellent. We had a chance to compare the two.
Fourth, the entertainment was so-so. They were not exciting at all and so we didn’t go to any. This was a far cry from the Mexican cruise we took years ago in Los Angeles. Everybody had fun on that Carnival cruise!
I believe the cruise was overbooked. Either that or the crew was completely unprepared to handle a big crowd, or simply incompetent. There was no system at all.
Another complaint was the land tour. I joined one of several land tour destinations, which included a visit to the night market in Taiwan. We did not join any tour in Okinawa because my companion had a Filipino friend who lives and works there. He and his wife took us around instead.
In the Taiwan land tour, we were supposed to visit the Imperial Palace, the National Museum, the Taipei 101 and the night market. I was looking forward to the night market and even changed some US dollars into Taiwan money at the National Museum.
The Chinese tour guide named Edna took unnecessarily too long at the National Museum and Taipei 101, which not everybody was interested in anyway, so that we did not have enough time for the night market.
“Is it all right with you if we cancel it? Lets put this to a vote,” asked the tour guide. Most said yes. A Swedish guy and I shouted, “No!” but our voices were drowned out.
Actually, I think she manipulated and stretched the time at the National Museum and Taipei 101 so that there would not be enough time for the night market. She knew all along there would not be enough time for the night market if she prolonged our stay in those two places I found not interesting at all. I told her assistant as much.
How could a guide who had been doing that job for 10 years not know how to manage the tour group’s time? Sticking to schedule is one of the skills of a tour guide. We were had—I said—because we were charged a large amount for that tour which was not completed.
I learned from the group my friend joined that part of their tour was also canceled and they protested, to no avail.
The last straw was on the cruise’s last day, March 10. The arrival in Manila at 8 a.m. was delayed for 3½ hours. No reason or excuse was given. It seems a generator or something conked out. They did not have a spare generator?
Then it was announced that all passengers were to carry their own luggage out of the ship. No one could assist us because the entire crew was suddenly assigned to the incoming passengers already waiting to board the ship for the next scheduled cruise.
Imagine over 2,500 mostly senior passengers trudging slowly and dragging their heavy luggage down the ship and walking to a shuttle bus located half a kilometer away!
It was an experience we shall never forget.
Oh, about the only thing very efficiently done by the cruise is the billing. It came on time and in detail.
Star Cruises’ statement: We take our guest comments very seriously
We asked Star Cruises to comment on Mr. Licauco’s complaint. We received this statement from Mr. Desmond Chung, assistant vice president, PR and corporate communications of Star Cruises. We are running it in full.
On Friday, March 16, we received an email from Mr. Jaime Licauco about his time with us on board the 6D5N SuperStar Virgo cruise that sailed from Manila to Japan and Taiwan on March 5. We understand his journey was below his expectations and we are in the process of looking into his feedback.
Our passengers’ experience is of the utmost importance to us, and each and every one of our staff members take pride in providing the best possible customer experience. We take our guest comments very seriously especially when it pertains to our level of hospitality and service.
SuperStar Virgo is our flagship cruise liner and has hosted and entertained families and individuals for over 18 years. Our sailings on board this vessel, too, have been positively reviewed.
All customer feedback is valuable to us in helping us improve our offering. We will also be personally reaching out to Mr. Licauco to understand his experience better.