Still full from a hearty Malaysian breakfast, I stepped out of the deck and welcomed the morning. The horizon is an endless blue of the Sea of Sulu. A pool ripples along with the waves a storey below me and from afar, I can finally see land. From my estimate, I think we finally crossed over to the Philippines and I’m seeing the tail-end of the Palawan Peninsula.
48 hours ago, I was in Palawan for a four-day photo assignment. From Busuanga, I boarded a plane back to Manila, threw my dirty clothes on the floor of my room and packed in a fresh set in my backpack. I was back in the airport and in no time was flying to Sabah in Malaysia; my itinerary, to go back to Palawan through Kota Kinabalu via Star Cruises’ Superstar Aquarius ship.
It was my first time to visit Kota Kinabalu but the city flashed before my eyes far too quickly. Minutes after landing at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, we were immediately herded to a van and were soon facing the colossal hulk of the Superstar Aquarius. I’ve been on ships before, but this one is simply massive.
The Superstar Aquarius has a gross tonnage of 51,039, measures 754 feet from end to end and has a width of 93 feet.
You can fit 15 basketball courts inside one deck of the ship. It has a total of 13 floors and has 10 restaurants, 3 retail shops, numerous game rooms, a basketball court, golf driving range, swimming pools, spa, beauty salons and a jogging track. All in full luxury cruise style, of course.
It was really too much to take in all at once, but my confoundment was emphasized even more as we went aboard and headed to our designated cabins. The room hallways were endless. The Superstar Aquarius can accommodate a total of 1,511 passengers on its 756 cabins. And that spells a lot of tourists.
Finally finding my room at the port-side of the ship, I slipped in my keycard and was greeted by a spacious two-bed cabin with the view of the sea; well, it’s not called the Oceanview Stateroom for nothing.
It has an LCD television, a closet, a vanity table and an en suite toilet and bath with hot water. Sweet!
While everything about my room is great, what I really liked about it is the lounge area where a sofa and a table are set. This is my favorite part of my cabin. This is where I read, browse the web through the ship’s satellite Wi-Fi, watch TV and simply relax while looking at the passing sea through the porthole.
Unloading my backpack, I quickly met with the Star Cruises Philippines group at the Dynasty Restaurant for lunch. I haven’t had anything since my very early breakfast from home and I was rarin’ to try out the Chinese dishes offered at this restaurant.
Food was served as soon as we took a seat. Chicken soup, fried chicken, shrimp omelet, braised eggplant and vegetable curry. Everything was good but the one that stood out for me was the crispy fried chicken marinated with bean curd. Fried chicken? Yeah fried chicken!
Settling in, I roamed the ship, looking like a first-time cruiser. And indeed, this is the first time I’ve been on a cruise, and so far, I’m loving it. It felt like I’m on a five-star hotel, only it’s moving through the high seas.
Surprisingly, you’d think that you’d get bored from simply being on a ship, but it wasn’t long before we were being called out again to eat.
Dinner was again set at the Dynasty Restaurant, but this time, the buffet spread consisted of multi-Asian cuisine. They have Chinese, Balinese, Taiwanese, Singaporean and a plethora of other dishes. I did a round of everything and came back for a second serving of laksa noodles. I’m already burstingly full, but it was that good.
Before bedding down, we were invited at the Stardust Lounge. A magic show was being held there and we were just in time for it. The Superstar Aquarious cruise features different shows nightly; some are free of charge, the others you have to pay for.
We saw two shows during our cruise, and both were excellently done. The production was first-rate, the performers were spot on and they were really entertaining. I initially thought of passing them up, having had to finish some work-related matters, it was a good thing I didn’t though. Work can wait, lol.
I was up early the next day and was looking through the choices for breakfast. I can either have it at the Mariners, where they serve international dishes, or at the Spices Restaurant, where they have Malaysian food.
It was a total no-brainer for me.
Before this trip, I was constantly craving for mee goreng, a Malaysian noodle dish I’ve tried during my trips to Kuala Lumpur earlier in the year. And I wasn’t disappointed as I checked the buffet set at Spices; they have my favorite noodle dish along with curries and the usual Malaysian fare.
To top my breakfast, I asked for a glass of kopi ice, which goes perfectly with mee goreng.
With time to spare before docking in Puerto Princesa, we were toured around the ship by one of the cruise’s staff. They showed us the shops, the bars, rooms and other facilities of the Superstar Aquarius. My companions particularly took note of where the Skyline Karaoke is set. A singing session seemed to be brewing up. Oh no.
We were all impressed with the suites shown to us, which drew oohs and aahs, but I find the kiddie cabins to be much more fun. Everything about the room is dressed up for kids and one of my companions even wanted to stay in one. I’m pretty sure this is a big hit for the children aboard the cruise.
Before docking, we converged at the Mariners Restaurant for lunch. It was gonna be a multi-course one, something I’m usually fidgety about. I’m pretty much a street-food kind of guy and I’m not really that comfortable with fancy, swanky dishes.
They served us breads for starters, which I found to be quite good, followed by soup. For the main course, I chose the… Alright, I forgot the name of the dish, it was simply too long! As far as I know, it’s pasta with a slab of steak topped by prawn. It was actually superb and filling, which was surprising for me as I usually find fancy dishes to be too bland.
Lounging around the ship, I soon noticed the familiar shapes of outrigger boats sailing alongside the Superstar Aquarius. After more than 24 hours on high sea, we finally hit the waters of Puerto Princesa. A few minutes later and we were all being called to the departure lounge where a day pass was handed out.
And just like that, I’m back in Palawan once more.
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