Star Pisces: A piece of Hong Kong in the open seas

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Victoria Harbor, which connects Hong Kong to the world, is the site of an amazing play of lights come dusk and well into the night. Hong Kong is not only bursting with energy; it is overflowing with neon-colored beauty as well. Sleek bridges defy the seas that divide one island from another. Highways lead us deep into a crowd of skyscrapers towering over the narrow city streets. Flashy Ferraris speed past us in a blur. Packs of trendy pedestrians shuffle in the busy streets of Tsim Sha Tsui. Hong Kong is a city on steroids. It is Asia’s shopping mecca, a haven for both the card-swiping elite and the prudent bargain-hunter.

Enticing though these may all be, my affair with the lively streets of Tsim Sha Tsui are short-lived, for I was not spending the night on land. I would be sailing into the South China Sea aboard a white behemoth moored right at the historic harbor, returning to the familiar skyline of Hong Kong the following morning. And I was going to do all that aboard the Star Pisces.

Hong Kong onboard

Trust Hong Kong to dare to impress at every turn. The way to Star Pisces is not some drab terminal reeking of industrial waste, but the sleek and modern Ocean Terminal, connected rather seamlessly with Harbor City, a multilevel luxury shopping center. Just a staircase away, are the Hong Kong Museum of Art—at the time of our visit hosting an exhibition of pop art legend Andy Warhol—and the Avenue of the Stars, Hong Kong’s take on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It’s little wonder therefore, in weaving itself expertly into this tourist blanket, that Star Pisces has become a destination in itself.

At a time when the best that harbor cruises have to offer are dinner and cocktails, the Star Pisces—part of the multi-awarded seven-ship fleet of the Star Cruises portfolio of Genting Hong Kong—kicks the experience several notches higher by offering suites by the sea and sundry leisure options that are at par with, if not offer more value than, the ones on land.

Star Pisces’ nightly voyage into the open seas is part of the novel Hong Kong experience that Genting Hong Kong wants to introduce to both seasoned Hong Kong travelers and first-time visitors. Genting Hong Kong Assistant Vice President for Corporate Communications Benson Chao puts it succinctly: those who want a quick getaway can opt for an overnight cruise aboard the Star Pisces instead of staying at relatively pricier accommodation options on land.

For those coming from the Philippines, this is made even more straightforward through Resorts World Manila, whose integrated resort concept allows travelers to book a trip on any of the Star Cruises ships with ease. Other Asia Pacific destinations under the Star Cruises line include Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, and South Korea. This is apart from those offered by the Norwegian Cruise Line, which is also partly owned by Genting Hong Kong. This combined 18-ship fleet sails to over 200 destinations around the world.

Freestyle cruising

No dress codes—Star Pisces prides itself for its freestyle cruising concept, which spares guests the usual strict formal dress codes of other cruise lines, as well as on-the-dot mealtimes. No one dictates how guests dress onboard, and they have the liberty to take their meals any time they want, explains Chao.

It was, indeed, a welcome “rule” I was all too happy to comply with. This also meant one other thing: guests onboard have complete control of their leisure, making the expansive ship their very own playground. And when it comes to leisure options, an overnight stay is most likely too short to fully enjoy everything Star Pisces has to offer.

I counted a dozen bars, lounges, and restaurants spread over its 12 decks. I spotted a gym adjacent the massage rooms, but I figured that the sauna and pool would have to be the better options. Milan Station, Hong Kong’s most popular designer bag outlet, is right onboard along with other specialty retail shops carrying select pieces for the discriminating shopper. A partnership with Duty Free China also means guests need not scour Hong Kong’s maze of streets for some great-value purchases: competitively priced jewelry, perfume and timepieces are right onboard as well.

The twelfth and eleventh decks are aptly the crowning glory of Star Pisces, for they provide guests a view of the famed harbor from the middle of the ocean, something not everyone who heads for Hong Kong can enjoy—at least not in the same way.

It was not the only thing that was unique about the Star Pisces experience either. Guests can try their luck in the ship’s casino while sailing into the South China Sea, or else enjoy cocktails while watching the night’s live performance at the ship’s Galaxy of the Stars—something we were delighted to experience on our first night onboard.

Neon lights and smoke filled the circular hall as the ship’s in-house team of international performers delivered a charged, flawless medley of modern dance, ballet, and acrobatic performances. The Ray Charles classic Hit the Road Jack gave way to Another Day from Rent, and the 1949 Broadway musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend also came in streaming from the speakers as we sailed farther out to sea.

Great regional eats

Dining, meanwhile, was a treat to look forward to, because we dined on a different restaurant every time. And short though my time on the streets of Hong Kong had been, what we had onboard ably provided a taste of the territory’s famed cuisine just the same. Dim sum favorites such as xiao long bao and vegetable dumplings were readily available, as well as stir-fried vegetables and savory deep-fried duck and goose dishes.

Nobody, regardless of taste, will be left wanting because of the diverse selections from the ship’s restaurants—there are continental options at Mariners Buffet, Chinese staples at Taipan and Ocean Palace, and Japanese cuisine at Umigawa. Nightcaps are great at the Sunset Boulevard or the Blue Lagoon, but those who prefer cocktails can opt for the Castaway Piano Bar instead, where glasses of Grasshoppers, Tequila Sunrise and Blue Lagoons await.

Beds by the sea

I realized all too soon that getting around the ship’s decks needed the ceremonial wrong turns, something the very efficient staff, nearly half of whom are Filipinos, was too willing to assist on. If any, these turned out to be short-lived adventures one couldn’t help but experience when navigating such an expansive space.

The Deluxe Stateroom that was to be my home for two nights looked out into the oceans—something that was delightful for the most part because of the view of the harbor it afforded me.

All 626 cabins, we would see as we were toured around, are outfitted to accommodate the entire spectrum of traveler budgets, from spacious suites to comfortable singles, doubles, and twins. The 56-square-meter Genting Suite—the crème de la crème of the more than 40,000-ton ship’s accommodation options—features a capacious master bedroom with en suite Jacuzzi, as well as a connecting living dining area. All other seven cabin options spread over four decks are cozy and equipped with a private bath, as well as the usual comforts of a television and a compact study.

The two nights I had spent onboard consisted of a regimen of relaxation, alternating between waiting for Hong Kong to flicker to life at dusk at the top deck, feasting on good food and enjoying great company, and curling up as the oceans swayed underneath. It was nothing like being on land, but in many ways it was familiar ground as well—the best of both worlds.

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