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Mid Singapore to Sydney cruise observations and information


Tralfaz1138
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I'm just over midway through the Singapore to Sydney repositioning cruise staying in the Big Terrace Sweet Aft Suite.  This is my first voyage on Virgin Voyages so I thought I would throw out a bit of an update on this cruise and how Virgin is doing (as a first timer).  I will start, however, by saying that I did expect the cruise to be...different...than the typical Virgin cruise people have talked about on these forums.

 

I'll start with the pre-cruise preparation.  For me, at least, it seems like Virgin tried to get us prepared for all of the visas we would need for the trip.  I did get an e-mail a few months before the cruise telling me the ship would apply for a visa to Bali so nothing to worry about there, but we were responsible to get our visa sorted out for Australia and they informed us of what we would need to do to fly in to Singapore.  So there were no surprises there.  I'll circle back around to this topic in a bit, but there is a reason I mention it.

 

The boarding process in Singapore was...chaotic.  Given it's the first time Virgin has docked there the staff were, understandably, contract help.  In addition to this, a huge RC ship had docked at the same time as Resilient Lady, so that created a mess for people disembarking the ship.  They had the "VIP" line, "Priority" line and others set up, but they couldn't tell us when each was boarding, and at one point filed everyone that was VIP or Priority into the priority line.  Then they said VIP should go to the other line, so many of us ducked under the separators to VIP.  When we got to the check-in counter the computers went down.  In the end my step-daughter who was in the priority line made it in to the ship about 5 or 10 minutes before my wife and I in the VIP line.  I'll be curious how things work out next year when they do this cruise again.  Mind you, I expected chaos, but not everyone did and there were some upset people in line.

 

Once we got on board things got a lot smoother.  We met with our Rockstar agent, Gavin, in the Sip Lounge and he got us sorted out on the wifi and getting set up to book events on board.  There were not all that many people in the lounge, the reason being (as we discovered later) there were a large number of people on board in the suites that had been on the ship since Athens so they were already dialed in to the system.  Since it does seem like the policy for swapping out items in the bar varies I'll note that (in our case) we were told we could swap 2 bottles of liquor for another type.  I also got the Redbull and some beers swapped out for another style of beer.  I'm not a big drinker and honestly I'm only about half way through a $400 bar tab and I've not made a huge dent in what comes with the cabin.

 

The ship itself has been amazing.  Our Rockstar Agent has either stopped by or we've run across him probably 3 times a day and he's always asking if we need anything.  He's very on top of helping us out with anything.  The room isn't one of the "largest" suites, but it's perfectly good for sleeping in and the occasional time we're hanging out in it.  The larger balcony is very nice (and I'm sitting on it as I type this).  It's especially nice at night when they have lights on the tail lit up so the wake of the ship is blue in the evening.  One thing I wasn't clear on as a "Rockstar perk" is that they 5-6 champaign on Richards Rooftop is every night.  I had thought it was just when sailing away.

 

As a port, Bali was interesting.  Since the ship had taken care of the visas, disembarking was extremely fast and easy.It's obviously a wonderful island in Indonesia.  They people were extremely friendly.  We did book our own driver/tour guide for our time there, and we stayed overnight at a VRBO in Ubud.  The thing I will warn with Bali is that, at times and in certain places, traffic is no joke.  We had planned 4 places to go to our first day but we were running late when we were done at our 3rd and had to drop the 4th stop.  So, for anyone planning to book their own activities just keep that in mind.

 

At this point I'll circle back to getting the Australian visa.  For anyone planning to do this same cruise next year, or possibly doing the New Zealand to Australia cruise, make certain you have your Australian visa sorted out.  My step-daughter joined us on this cruise and we got a call from her while we were in our cabin after returning saying she was being told to leave the ship.  In order to streamline people disembarking in our Australia ports, Australian immigration boarded the ship in Bali so they could do immigration interviews during our two at sea days to Darwin.  Anyone on board that didn't have an approved visa was told to get back off the ship or was denied re-entry to the ship.  There were a few others beside my step-daughter.  We talked to another couple the day after all of this that said they never got the e-mail saying they needed a visa.  They tried to apply for it on board, but the visa application you use on your phone requires detecting you are in a valid location outside of Australia.  So they applied for it in Bali and it was granted.  (The approval process is actually very fast).  But my step-daughter, for some reason, keeps having hers rejected with no clear answer why so she's still sorting through this 4 days after leaving Bali.

 

The benefit to doing things they way they did with immigration officials getting on in Bali is that getting off the ship in Darwin was very fast.  We didn't need our passports so getting off was as simple as scanning your wrist band and getting your bag inspected for forbidden items, and getting on was the reverse.

 

One final thing to note on this particular voyage is that the demographic on board definitely skews toward older people.  There are a decent amount of younger people as well, but the majority are certainly older.  It's not a surprise, but I figured I would confirm that.  The other thing to note is that the majority of the sailors are Australian.  Again, not unexpected and they've been a fun group.  It's been great talking to a number of them during champagne hour and they've tried to offer advice when they can on my step-daughters visa adventure.

 

As far as general thoughts on the cruise go (and I'll note that we were told there are 1900 people on board, do not "full" but not "empty):

  • The food has been mostly fantastic.  (Nothing is ever perfect so one our two items might have been misfires but not in any way that made it "bad", just less "good").
  • The service has been fantastic.  I've never felt like I was just sitting there waiting for service.
  • We've had the A menu at Test Kitchen and loved it.
  • In "honor" of the Americans on board they did have a few days of meals where they added a special "Thanksgiving" option.
  • We've loved most of the shows.  They have brought a few comedians on board for the longer voyage who have been alright, but the "normal" Virgin shows have really been the standouts.
  • We did end up going to one of the "secret" shows and it was a lot of fun as well, though it was a performance by a rather quirky magician.  We enjoyed his performance, but talking to someone else that had seen it before it sounded like he was less impressed.
  • I was initially worried about so many days at sea but we're about half through those now and there is enough to do on the ship that I've never felt "bored".
  • The Galley is certainly busy at breakfast and lunch time but it's never taken very long to get food there.  The only challenge is finding a seat at times and the fact that people take the salt and pepper shakers to their room, so finding them there is hit or miss.
  • My wife and I got the Splash of Romance as well.  I will warn people, do not let them tighten that wrist band on you too much.  That thing has a sharkbite collar and is made of incredibly tough material so you need to hunt down someone with scissors to get it off.

 

One final thing to note.  The original itinerary for the cruise showed Darwin as a tender port, and has Yorkey's Knob as the next port.  I guess things changed so in Darwin we were docked, and now the ship will actually be docking in Cairns, which is much more convenient.

 

I'll throw up another update after we've wrapped up the cruise in Sydney, but so far I'm sold on Virgin Voyages as a great vacation option for us.

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We are sailing on this same cruise - also Rockstars. Between my husband and myself we have 13 Virgin cruises behind us so on the other side of the coin from you. I also sailed on this ship a few weeks ago (Adriatic Gems in October). So the single biggest thing we have noticed is that this is not the typical VV clients on board which we knew going in. What we didn't count on and are somewhat disappointed in is that VV has changed the music to appease the large group onboard and we think in doing so have kind of changed the experience of their normal clients. Having said that today by the pool they do seem to have gone back to louder more upbeat music which is a very welcome change.

 

I am hoping once we hit Sydney and the regular shorter non-repositioning cruises they will be back to their younger at heart crowd and music. Regardless this certainly hasn't put us off VV cruises - if anything we are are looking forward to our next one even more knowing that it will be the fun, happy upbeat vibe we have come to know and love. We are just really hoping that all the Negative Nancys on this cruise don't go home and write horrible reviews about being on a cruise ship that they did zero research on and clearly aren't meant for. 

 

One other important thing (to some) to note is that due to Australian restrictions, the casino and shops were closed after we left Darwin for the night, are open today but then closed again for 3 consecutive days until the last sea day.

 

Glad you are enjoying your cruise so far and that your step-daughter was able to rectify the visa situation. 

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1 hour ago, Janthere said:

We are just really hoping that all the Negative Nancys on this cruise don't go home and write horrible reviews about being on a cruise ship that they did zero research on and clearly aren't meant for. 

 

I forgot to mention one thing.  We met a passenger that told us there was a long line of people at sailor services in Athens looking to cancel their cruise even if it meant losing the money.  I guess it's part of the reason a number of cabins, including suites, opened up a month before this leg of the cruise left.

 

Many of the Australians I have talked to have told me this was sold as one long cruise there versus the 3 cruises it was sold as in the US.  So I guess, maybe, the vibe of the happenings cast as you board and some of the other sailors on board didnt match up with what some of the crowd that would take a 45 day cruise expects.  I'm not sure what other issues would come up before even leaving port.

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3 hours ago, Tralfaz1138 said:

Many of the Australians I have talked to have told me this was sold as one long cruise there versus the 3 cruises it was sold as in the US.  So I guess, maybe, the vibe of the happenings cast as you board and some of the other sailors on board didnt match up with what some of the crowd that would take a 45 day cruise expects.  I'm not sure what other issues would come up before even leaving port.

Although I acknowledge people looking for a 45 day trip are more likely to be retirees, it’s not hard to research what the entertainment and vibe of the ship will be. VV has been operating for two years, with most of the general entertainment and parties now bedded in for over a year. Specifically to Resilient Lady it’s been six months since that ship launched so also plenty of reviews and videos. 

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1 hour ago, jon81uk said:

it’s not hard to research what the entertainment and vibe of the ship will be.

As I've mentioned this to other retiree passengers they have said the same thing.  I've found no sympathy from anyone for people that booked this without understanding what they were signing up for.

 

Most everyone I've talked to like the vibe of the ship, and not all retirees are "conservative".  It is definitely mystifying that someone would sign up for 45 days on a ship without really knowing what the ship is like.

 

We talked to a group tonight that also heard some people complain about the lack of a library (though there is a small one here so they were a bit wrong there) and not having a chapel.  They also pointed out some people were a little put off by not being presented the option to book different legs of the repositioning in Australia.  It's hard to tell what exactly was the thing that tipped some people over the edge.

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15 hours ago, neverendingcruising said:

I sure hope those that booked the “45 day” voyage got the same room for all 3 legs. That would be a shock to move every two weeks! 

What I was told is that they were able to book the same room for the whole trip.  However, a number of people bid on upgrades on each leg, so those that won them kept switching rooms.  One person also told us that they were required to disembark at Dubai and Singapore, so they couldn't just stay on the ship at those ports.

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On 11/29/2023 at 4:59 AM, neverendingcruising said:

I sure hope those that booked the “45 day” voyage got the same room for all 3 legs. That would be a shock to move every two weeks! 

I saw one who had three different cabins on the voyage.  Some had two different cabins.  I think the staff shift belongings for other cruise lines.  

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  • 2 weeks later...

We just got off the same cruise and heard many different and conflicting versions of the issues related to the bulk of the Australian passengers. Most (as many as 1,200 - 1,300) were booked by one or two Australian travel marketing agents who purchased packages from Virgin. One version of the story is that those agencies sold it to their regular clients without disclosing that it was three cruises and/or without regard for the fact that the experience would be different than what those clients were used to. The other version--from an employee of one of the travel bookers we met in Airlie Bech--was that the Australian passengers knew (or should have known) that it was three cruises and that Virgin told the agencies in advance that the experience would be different than the usual Virgin cruise experience.

 

It was our first Virgin cruise so I can't speak directly to how the vibe was off but friends who had cruised remarked on the fact that the pool deck was notably quieter and devoid of more contemporary music. It also seemed to me that at least one of the bands on board was actively learning (and later playing) classic rock songs that weren't part of the repertoire they brought on board. 

 

Other random facts include that crew told us liquor sales were as much as 25% of what they would normally sell (although they apparently were out of Dom before the Singapore cruise departed; at least we never were able to find any and they replaced it in the chicken and bubbles tasting). 

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We did the middle leg (Dubai to Singapore) on this cruise.

We are from Australia and I can tell you that the cruise was definatley marketed as 3 separate cruises.

We all had a choice of of 1,2 or all 3 legs.

The cruise was only sold through 2 agencies so we all had the same advice.You were able to use any agent you liked but they had to deal with the 2 Virgin approved agencies in Australia.

The sailors that had to change cabins after each leg (not many as far as i can understand) were those who booked as 2 or 3 leg cruises to get the slightly better perks that were offered for doing so.

Yes there were plenty of Aussies on board and the majority of us are older retirees but how many younger people can have 30-45 days off work and away from families and then fly back to the US or Europe afterwards.

We were pleasently surprised that the entertainment outside of the usual Virgin shows were directed toward a largely older Australian crowd and that was much appriciated by us. 

You are correct in saying that anyone who didn't do their research on Virgin before booking were going to be a bit surprised by the Virgin product.

Overall we had a great time and we know we didn't get the full Virgin experience as truthfully they are geared up for shorter cruises but we have booked a shorter 5 day European cruise for 2025 while on board and are looking forward to that.

Cheers

Daz 

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