Star Cruises is making a major pitch for the fly-and-flop family market, offering a real alternative to the usual family playgrounds. Steven Hopkinson took his four-year-old along for a road test.
So you’ve been to Bali and played in Phuket. Now you are looking for something different. Especially since the “family” expanded. Now there is a child in tow.
How about taking in Penang and Langkawi in one, long trouble-free weekend? Three nights of fine dining, shows, resort-style pools and play areas … and no airport lounges or flight delays. No tantrums.
Can’t be done? Yes, it can. Welcome to short cruising Asian-style.
SuperStar Gemini is based in Singapore and sails to the Malaysian ports of Malacca, Pulau Redang, Pulau Tioman, Langkawi, Penang and Kuala Lumpur.
Star invited Cruise&Travel Asia to try out the benefits many young families are discovering as a hassle-free, well-priced alternative to the fly-and-flop weekend break. And after three days with my wife Lara and daughter Madison, all three of us recommend it for a great way to take some time out.
There was an array of food, fun and entertainment – from pools and shows to food and shopping. And Madison still talks about making her own pizza dough with friends.
Star Cruises has come a long way since the famous “cruise to no-where” that had passengers rushing for the casino almost as soon as the ship left the dockside. Today’s vessels are designed from everyone – especially families like ours, and multi-generation cruises, with granny and granddad accompanying toddlers and teens.
We travelled in a Superior Oceanview Stateroom which entitled us to Balcony Class privileges (without an actual balcony). We were on deck nine with a picture window, flat screen TV, separate small lounge area and a small desk. International plugs are standard.
There were five categories of cabins, ranging from 149 square feet inside rooms to 600 square feet executive suites.
Three-quarters of the 1000 cabins had a sea view and many had third and fourth berths for family use. All had safes, hairdryers and room service.
Balcony Class offered priority check-in with welcome drinks, and dining credits towards the cost of using the ship’s specialty restaurants.
There were three main restaurants: Bella Vista (Western inspired); Dynasty Chinese Buffet Restaurant; and Taipan (Chinese a la carte). In addition, Mariners Restaurant offered an international buffet and Oceana BBQ an outdoor international feast.
We tended to gravitate to the Bella Vista with its buffet selection for breakfast and a la carte options for lunch and dinner.
Other than a final night gala dinner, passengers could dine at their leisure.
We loved the fresh baked rolls and bread. The seafood and lamb dishes were excellent. And, with a large contingent from India, there were plenty of exceptional curry dishes.
Try and get yourself the window seats. The Malacca Straits put on an amazing display of shipping as we sailed serenely by.
There was plenty of entertainment for kids and adults, from illusionists, movies through the day and a Las Vegas act strictly for adults called the Marionettes. The latter show was described “a night of sultry story telling that will bring every man to different eras of romance and seduction that is way beyond their control.”
It was packed each night.
There were themed parties, a magical showcase and “Queen of Hearts” production show, an infusion of modern song and dance and acrobatic stunts.
Day time activities by the two main pool areas were aimed at children at one area and games at another.
Asian cruisers are renowned for their love of shopping. There was a good selection in the on-board duty free stores.
The crew was friendly and attentive.
Our shore excursions were easy. In Malaysia, there were no customs processes to go through.
We chose to take a shore excursion in Penang and Langkawi, which was a great way to get an overview of the different parts of these two fascinating towns. The historic areas of Penang (Georgetown) were a highlight.
The architecture was amazing, and good coffee shops and restaurants abounded.
After our brief tour of Langkawi, we spent a few hours on wonderful powder white sand beaches just chilling out.
Highs: Easy ship to navigate. Excellent stopovers in Penang and Langkawi.
Lows: The ship needs a barista.
Best for: Families and couples. This was a very cost effective start to cruising. The ship was ideal for a short cruise.