It's so bad, I wrote a complaint letter to Star Cruises immediately after I returned home. They just wrote back without any apologies but only explaining "some" the issues behind their problems and that they will now inform their various departments to improve. It's ridiculous that a cruise line that has been running since 1993 still make these kind of amateur mistakes.
To get a gist of their issues, read my complaint letter (with personal information removed).
Dear Superstar Virgo,
I must write to express my sincere disappointment with your cruise line and arrangements. I have just returned from a 4 days cruise between August 17 - 20, 2014 from Hong Kong, Sanya, Halong Bay, Hong Kong. I purchased my tickets through CTS Travel in Hong Kong. I traveled in a group of 12 including 1 senior which needed wheelchair assistant and 5 children.
We have had issues from pre-departure all the way to the end of the trip. I can't even explain how upset and frustrated we are about your cruise line and services.
Please allow me to breakdown just "some" of the key concerns we've had.
PRE-DEPARTURE ISSUES WHICH CAUSED ISSUE ONBOARD
1) JUNIOR CRUISER PROGRAM
Prior to departure, I was doing research and found that you had a Junior Cruiser Program. Your website shows very little detail about it, therefore I called your hotline +(852) 2317 7711 on August 13 (cantonese language selection) to ask for details on what kind of activities and cost of program. The girl on the line had no clue what I was talking about and said that there was no such program. I explained that I found this website and asked for her to help look for more information http://shop.starcruises.com/superstar_virgo/index.php/lifestyle/onboard-activities.html.
She replied back on August 13 via email and sent me a Taiwan trip flyer which had nothing to do with my trip. I emailed them back with the link one more time for their reference. Shortly after, someone called me back and told me verbally that there was no Junior Cruiser Program on my ship. You can find the details of my email with firstname.lastname@example.org with Subject: 麗星郵輪-處女星. (Please also note the other question that I posted in my email which I had asked which port we will be tendered to in Ha Long Bay. Which I never got a replied from). I can send you the email if you can't find it.
Of course, once I boarded and have gone to the 10/F Activity center, there was a Junior Cruiser Program for HKD 300 which I had joined for 3 of our children.
2) INCORRECT PORT INFORMATION
As I had previously stated, I had asked in an email about where we will be tendered to at Ha Long Bay. I never received an reply via email, therefore I called the hotline again on Aug 15 about 1:00 pm and selecting the English option this time. The wait time was shorter and staff was a bit more helpful. I had asked about the Ha Long Bay port arrangement and the male personnel (I think Arthur or a name that started with an A) on the line confirmed to me that it will be at Cai Lan Port and provided me with the full address. I had arranged for my driver then to pick me up at Cai Lan Port as I arranged my own excursion. Upon leaving the ship, we got a Emergency Contact slip which only then found out that we were going to the Saigon Tour Jetty at Bai Chay Port. My plan and schedule was all messed up and had a panic point because the incorrect information was given to me on the phone.
3) DRESS CODE FOR GALA DINNER
Before packing for the trip, I had specifically asked my travel agent to contact the cruise line to see if there is a dress code for the Gala Dinner, please see #5. This was my reply from my travel agent after talking to the the cruise line.
Subject: Re: 2014年8月17日麗星郵輪處女星號4日3夜郵輪
Date: Wed, 13 Aug 2014 18:47:35 +0800
Thank you for using China Travel Service (HK) Ltd online service.
1) Attached please 4 cruise confirmation slip for your booking. Other than that, please the map of ferry terminal, information of travel document and itinerary of Shore Excursion.
2) Start check in time will be 11:30am on 17 Aug.
3) Room have been reserved, room numbers are xxxx.
4) There has doctors on board
5) There will hve captane dinner but no need formal dressing.
6) Wheelchair service only for boarding and alighting, if for whole trip that managed by guest own.
7) Junior Cruise Program is not yet apply on this trip, which for Taiwan itinerary on 6 and 13 Aug.
Wishing you have a nice trip!
Should you have any enquiry, please call or email us.
We look foward to serving you.
China Travel Service (HK) Ltd
Tel :852 2998 7888
Fax:852 2749 9248
Due to this information, I have told my family that there is no dress code but should still have a collar shirt and no jean shorts.
On Tuesday August 19, as we entered the dining room for 2nd seating. My husband and brother was rejected into the dining room because they were wearing dress shorts. The hostess asked them to return to their room and call housekeeping to borrow a pair of pants. They complied and attempted to call housekeeping to find out that housekeeping was closed at 8pm. They returned to Bella Vista. I was very upset at this point as I have seen many other patron entering the dining room in shorts, in t-shirts, bike shorts and running shoes. I have stated my complaint immediately and expressed how disguised I was with the arrangement. I pressed for my husband and brother to enter the Gala dinner.
I understand that the dress code was printed only on the reservation slip. However, only 1 person from our group of 12 was holding the slip, therefore the information was not obvious to all passengers. In addition, even the Navigator only stated elegant causal which to me a pair of dress shorts is applicable.
At the end, one of the supervisor (Ana I think) apologized and offered to reserve a table for our breakfast and lunch the next day.
4) E-CHECK IN
a) The data accuracy in the e-Check In system and the functionality of the system is absolutely untested. I had attempted to do an e-Check In on Friday August 15. I had attempted to log in multiple times and with different passengers since it didn't work. After failing to access it for the 1x of times, I again called the hotline +(852) 2317 7711 for help. It turns out that all except for one passenger in my group had the correct birthday inputted. All our birthdays were Jan 1, 1980. The lady told me that I can update the birthday once I log-in.
b) After inputting every single field in my form and submit, it gave me an invalid data error. I had tried it several times and called the helpline again and they couldn't figure out the issue either. After 1/2 hour and trail and error, I exited the program about to give up and re-logged in with Jan 1, 1980 again but it failed. And then tried again with my actual birthday and it allowed me into the system. The system had somehow registered my actual birthday without me saving it and exiting. So then, I had to repeat the same step for the rest of my group by updating the birthday, exit without saving and re-log in again for all the adults in my group.
c) As your system had logged everyone in my group as adults (even the 5 children), I was unable to change their year of birth at e-check in. In order to print their boarding pass, I just put 1977 as their year of birth for all 5 children.
d) On the actual day of check in (Aug 17), I informed the counter staff that the birthdays are incorrect for the children, but it was not updated. I found out because a later incident happened at the clinic where the staff was checking our personal detail and found that the birthdays are incorrect.
5) ACTIVITY CENTER
a) Generally, the activity center is ok but there are some safety concerns. We dropped off 3 of our kids at the center every day for the Junior Cruiser Program. Not every time we were given a pick up slip, nor was there a checking of pick up slip upon pick up.
b) On day 1 while the kids were getting a ship tour, some kids wondered off and had to be rushed back with the group.
c) The activities were not that interesting. Many of the activities, we could have done with the kids ourselves for free. E.g. Ship tour, watching shows, gala dinner etc. On Monday August 18, the kids were taken to see the Where is the Lamp show and we were not notified until afterwards.
d) During the Kids Gala Dinner on Tuesday August 19, one of our 5 year old had an accident with a plastic tray hitting his head causing a red mark on his forehead. He was later taken to the Clinic to be checked by the doctor.
e) I think it would be more appropriate if the activities were split into age groups.
6) MIKA MUSIC PARTY
On Monday August 18, we joined Mika Music Party. The game was actually quite dangerous for younger children. There were 20-30 kids of all age that had to run towards Mika. The 1st to hug Mika can answer a question to win a prize.
a) It wasn't fair to the younger children
b) Kids were falling over each other. One of the children was hurt and started crying.
c) Behind Mika were speakers and metal equipment. If Mika falls over with the kids, it's an accident waiting to happen.
d) Many people arrived at the Galaxy of the Star prior to the start of the party. Those that were there early were not told that the first 15 people to register would get a gift bag. Therefore, some that came early didn't even get a chance to take a gift bag.
The food was very average at Bella Vista. During our last lunch (table 20) at Bella Vista on August 20, we waited 1/2 hour for our first course of salad/soup to be served. We had to check with two servers before our food came. There are servers everywhere, but all seem to just wonder around and not efficiently providing service. Other cruise line offers the same table for dinner every night with the same server based on 1st or 2nd seating times. There was no need to wait in queue to have a sit down dinner.
The Indian food was ok but the other Asian food was not to par. Eating at the buffet felt like we were homeless fighting for food and seats. Especially on the last day's afternoon tea. There were very limited food brought out and even coffee was all out.
8) PHOTO GALLERY
Quality of the photos were average. I bought two photos anyway at around 11:30am on August 20. The staff told us to return at 3pm to pick up the prints as we wanted the picture without the borders. I returned after 3:30pm and the photos were still not available. The staff there had to call to follow up and I still waited 10 minutes.
The selection of the movie "About Last Night" was a good movie for adults, but there was no warning about the profound language and sexual scenes that repeatedly displayed during the movie. There were some children in the theater and this movie was definitely not appropriate.
10) PASSPORT PICKUP
Logistically it worked I guess but having to wait an hour to pick up our Passport/ID is a bit long. I recall going on other cruises and they were much more organized and efficient with prearranging pickup time and tables based on deck.
11) STAFF GENERAL KNOWLEDGE & COMMUNICATION
a) While on the swimming pool deck on BBQ night, I had asked one of the server how to get to the golfing bay. They had no idea and had to ask another crew.
b) I personally speak English and Cantonese. I found that many of the crew spoke Mandarin with very poor English. For a cruise based mostly with Hong Kong passengers, there weren't many Cantonese speaking crew members.
c) Lacks basic smile (especially the girls at front reception) and greeting from crew staff
d) During the first day when I first arrived at my cabin, I asked the housekeeper to provide me with an English Navigator. She said later, but I was never given one.
THINGS THAT DESERVES A POSITIVE MENTION
1) We had a member in our group that needed wheelchair assistance. Those that helped us to board and alight the ship were very friendly although they spoke in Mandarin only. Leo was one of them along with a few other Chinese crews. Only exception was the Indian man that I met at Baggage Claim in HK on Aug 20 where I had to ask a few times before he would help get a wheelchair from the ship to take us to the Taxi stand.
2) Teresa we meet at the Grand Piazza was helpful in assisting my group in exiting the ship for excursions.
Again, I am truly disappointed with my trip and it ruined the precious time that I should of been having with my family. I will be sure to share my experience with my friends and on forums. I would appreciate if you can acknowledge my email in writing within two weeks even if resolution takes longer. If I do not hear back, I will extend my dissatisfaction to the president of your cruise line and even to appropriate departments like the Consumer Council.