~A Review~ Star Cruise Virgo Penang and Phuket

*warning: this is a long entry.

Many people who knew we went on Star Cruise have been asking me how was the trip. To summarise the experience, TERRIBLE. It was so bad that we had to send an email to Star cruise to look for explanations. However, the correspondences with them have been painful. Obviously, it’s either they knew they are in hot soup or they are not showing any interest in my complaint. I would love to post the email as well as our ‘ding dong’ replies laced with too much sarcasms and insinuations, but since it’s still an ongoing episode, I shall keep everything in another post when closure finally comes. I guess what irks me most is their use of ‘without prejudice’ in their email — a lame attempt to protect their a**.

ANYWAY, since I have titled this a review, I shall be as partial but truthful as I can. If I use percentage terms, the trip was 80% horrible, 20% enjoyable. (Note: I leave food out of the whole thing because you can find many reviews online and also we feel there’s nothing much to rave about except for maybe the Peking duck in Noble House that is not part of the complimentary f&b outlets.

I find 20% enjoyable because

1. The girls were oblivious to what we went through and they really enjoyed themselves, or rather, staying in the room. They hated Phuket and Penang except for the shopping malls. Loved the arcade and maybe that one pathetic hello kitty show. Most importantly, I think they enjoyed spending the time with us.

2. Casino. I lost money but oh well, it’s still fun. The acrobat show was great but I guess not enough for you to want to go back on cruise again.

3. I actually like the view of the ocean. I watched sunset of Penang and sunrise as we neared Phuket.

And that’s it, the 20%.

As for the 80% horrible, I extract what I wrote to star cruise and post here for your reference.

(1) The confusion during embarkment at Singapore Cruise Centre was unacceptable. We were seated among a group of passengers whom we realized later was part of a wedding party. There was no clear indication that the passengers would be dispatch row by row for custom clearance. As a result, there were some scuffles between that group of unruly passengers and the ground staff. As we were right in the middle, we did not feel safe at all. Moreover, the whole process we felt was very demeaning as we began to feel like refugees with no form of assurance from anyone as to what to expect. Later on at the custom clearance, our company of 11 was split. What upset us most was the ground staff separated my husband from me and my two young children, aged 4 and 2, assuming that I would be able to handle them all by myself. Another family, with young children, who was traveling with us faced the same issue. We find it extremely insensitive of the staff to make us go through this especially when after our wait was traumatizing due to the scuffle.

(2) The walk from customs to the cruise was also one that was distressing. We were rushed in by the staff and station by station, almost forced to take photographs, like some circus animals. To make matter worse, we were not even allowed to take pictures of the Hello Kitty mascots using our own camera. This was unacceptable as the cruise was a Hello Kitty themed one and we were deprived of that simple joy of snapping pictures just because Star Cruise has your own photographers and you need to rush passengers onboard. The distress was worsen upon boarding the ship. The welcome cocktail at Deck 7 was a huge disappointment. Being the balcony class passengers, instead of being served, we realized that we had to walk into a cordoned area to get our champagne. Not only that, after getting the drinks, we were rudely shooed off by the 3 lady staff, saying that we could not stay in that cordoned area. This was definitely not the kind of welcome we were expecting in the first 5 minutes onboard. We certainly did not feel very welcomed. After the checking into our room, we went to deck 13 for the so-called ‘Hello Kitty Sail Away Party’, fully expecting to see the mascots again. To our utter disappointment, especially the 4 young children in our company, there was only deafening music and no sign of the mascots. It was only after checking with at least 3 crew members that the so-called ‘Hello Kitty Sail Away Party’ would only be attended by the Hello Kitty Cast members who are just two ladies in sailor outfits. Honestly, we felt very cheated. The programme was clearly not well communicated to the passengers as well as to your service staff. Furthermore, during the entire cruise experience, our children had to be disappointed many times due to the lack of appearance of the Hello Kitty mascots until the very last day. Your crew at the Activity Centre was obviously unclear about which event should be pre-booked or not. We had to make a few trips down to the centre because the programme stated the need to pre-book for the show but your crew member seemed to understand otherwise. As a result, we were left very confused. Despite being a themed cruise, the programme certainly did not revolve a lot around the theme. we certainly felt very short-changed as a result.

(3) The service rendered at the cabins was also one with many discrepancies. As our group occupied three cabins, we realized that sometimes, one cabin would received complimentary fruits, while the other two cabins would not. Moreover, your housekeeping was not attentive enough to realize that we had finished the toothpaste or fully utilized the toiletries. As a result, we had to contact housekeeping numerous times to get the refills. We certainly did not expect such level of service from ‘the Leading Cruise Line in Asia Pacific’.

(4) The embarkment and disembarkment at Phuket was certainly one that left lasting bad impression of Star Cruise on us. During disembarkment, it was so obvious that there was disorganization and once again, your crew displayed insensitivities to the needs of passengers especially the elderly and families with young children. Queues were not clearly formed and your crew allowed blatant queue cutting. The embarkment at Phuket was worse. There was no obvious attempt by your ground crew to maintain order and as a result, there were a lot of jostling and pushing. Both my husband and I were carrying our sleeping children at that time and I nearly fell off the steps due to the pushing. My mother has some walking difficulties and my sister had a difficult time to ensure her safety. By sheer good luck, nothing happened to us. It was obvious that many elderly passengers as well as young families were struggling with the disorderly crowd. Your staff only reacted after some scuffle happened. Even so, it was just a feeble attempt to create some unobvious queuing line. This embarkment experience made us feel extremely unsafe and once again, we could see obvious lack of organization on the part of Star Cruise. Not forgetting how this episode made us feel like refugees scrambling to board some life-saving ship. This definitely did not feel like a holiday to us.

(5) There is certainly a lot for you to look into the disembarkment process at Singapore. We find it very unacceptable to be ‘chase out’ of our cabins two hours before disembarkment. The two hour wait at the Pavilion was almost excruciating. One of my children was napping and my husband had to carry her during the wait. There was also no attempt by your service crew to make us feel better, not even a glass of water. Once again, we felt like refugees in hiding. We could not comprehend why we cannot disembark by batch and why food and drinks have to be stopped during this wait to disembark. It felt extremely demeaning and we find it totally unnecessary to be out of our cabins and waste our precious time waiting. It was certainly not a pleasant feeling when we saw your crew happily disembark while we continued our wait even when the ship docked.

(6) After we finally got off the cruise, there was no clear signage to help ease bottleneck to go to the customs. Your crew was busy singing and jumping around. They certainly could be put to good use by directing Singapore citizens in the right direction to avoid that bottleneck. Baggage collection was also a complete nightmare. The group of unruly passengers we met on day one was there and there was no attempt to contain their behaviour. They had made the whole baggage collection extremely distressing. My parent took almost one hour to locate one of their baggage. They had placed two of their baggage together and fully expecting to collect them together. Apparently, your crew has mixed it up with those of the wedding party. Due to this, we almost missed our ride home and had to compensate our driver for the time wasted. The whole baggage collection experience once again showed how disorganized Star Cruise is.

So, here it is. A very long review on our experience on Star Cruise. I shall keep everyone updated on our correspondence with star cruise if things permit.

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