Manila Bay Dinner Cruise
Writer and photographer Anson Yu compares the two ways to experience a romantic cruise around Manila Bay.
The concept of the Manila Bay dinner cruise has been around for some time. It was pioneered by Prestige Cruises, a sister company of Barbara's Food and Catering Service Co. They were the ones that operated the popular "MV Tennessee Walker". The company retired the "MV Tennessee Walker," replacing it with the "MV Spirit of Manila", a fifty-passenger vessel. But Prestige Cruises felt that her capacity was limited and so sold her to Sun Cruises, who are behind the Manila-Corregidor Ferry. Sun Cruises currently uses the "MV Spirit of Manila" on the Manila Bay Cruise route while Prestige Cruises has since commissioned a new vessel, the "MV Spirit of Manila 2,"a 250-passenger flat bottom hull vessel patterned after "The Tennessee Walker".
To board both cruises, you first have to go to the dock located next to the Folk Arts Theater at the CCP Complex. They both operate daily unless there is bad weather, such as during typhoon. The ticketing table for both cruises are located at the entrance of the docks. Prestige Cruise offers four trips on weekdays and five trips on weekends and holidays, while Sun Cruise offers three trips daily. Sun Cruises charges P 550 per person for its dinner cruise, while Prestige charges a more affordable P 495. If you've already made plans for dinner elsewhere, you can still board the Prestige Cruise for P 250.
I was impressed by the appearance of the vessels. The "MV Spirit of Manila" has two decks, while the "MV Spirit of Manila 2" has three. On the "MV Spirit of Manila", the lower deck is enclosed, while on "MV Spirit of Manila 2," it is open to the elements. There are no seating areas in both vessels, as the dining room takes up all the decks. The interior seems to be an afterthought, as both operators use monobloc tables and chairs. To their credit, they did try to make them look stylish by covering them with linen and seat covers.
Both operators start sailing at around 4pm. Prestige Cruises' first departure is at 4:15 pm, while Sun Cruises follows fifteen minutes later at 4:30pm. However, you need to show up at least 30 minutes earlier to board the cruise, as the crew needs to submit the passenger manifest to the Coast Guard before it leaves. Once the crew submits the manifest, you can no longer board the vessel. If you are late, you need to wait for the next scheduled service.
It is interesting to note that Sun Cruises will set sail even if there are only three passengers on board. Prestige Cruises, on the other hand, if there are less than fifteen people have registered. If that happens, you can either wait for the next scheduled service or take Sun Cruises instead.
From outward appearance, both ships look clean and seaworthy. My confidence was further boosted by the crew, as they appear to be professionally trained. Sun Cruises may have the upper hand here, as parent company Magsaysay Group is also known for its training centers for seamen. To further ease the minds of the passengers, one of the crewmembers will perform a safety demonstration, similar to what you see on airlines, before the vessel leaves the dock.
Both cruises follow a similar route that will take at least an hour and fifteen minutes. Once they leave the dock, they go southwards toward the vicinity of the Mall of Asia before heading toward Roxas Boulevard then turning around and heading back to the dock. Depending on the time you booked your cruise, you can either enjoy spectacular sunset views or Manila lighting up against the black velvet night sky. I was glad that during my cruise, certain "aromas" did not mar my views of the city. That was because I was advised to take the trip during high tide when it is no longer noticeable. It also helped that the wind was in the right direction.
The boats were generally stable throughout the cruise, as I could travel between decks without any difficulty. I also did not smell any diesel fumes emanating from the engine.
As for the food, both cruises offer a single set menu for their passengers. Sun Cruises offers a three-course meal, while Prestige offers a four-course meal. Sun Cruises meals are cooked elsewhere then re-plated on board. Prestige Cruises prepares the ingredients elsewhere and then cooks them on board. You can bring a light snack on board the Sun Cruises and they won't charge you corkage. Prestige, however, will charge you P 500. If you want soda, juice or beer, you have to buy them on both vessels.
After the meal service, both will offer live entertainment in the form of an acoustic duo. After singing a few tunes, they will ask for the audience's requests. It is all great fun, especially when the foreign tourists joining the cruise let loose.
Sun Cruise - 4:30 pm, 6:15pm and 8pm (Sailing time)
Tel # 8346857 or 5275555
Prestige Cruise - Weekdays - 4:15 pm, 6:15 pm, 8:15 pm and 10:15 pm
Weekends - 3:45 pm, 5:45pm, 7:45pm, 9:45pm and 1145pm
Tel # 8328967 / 0917-5255455
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