Despite numerous movies and TV series (yes, I’m old enough to have watched The Love Boat back in the day) depicting sea travel as a luxurious experience, I’ve always been wary about taking this route, partly because of weather concerns, the long travel time and also due to the notion of being seasick, even though it’s something I never experienced.
It took some convincing but I finally decided to travel by sea during a recent sojourn to Bacolod for this year’s Masskara Festival. Not counting the usual boat rides I take from Caticlan to Boracay and back, my previous sea travel was a 90-minute ferry trip from Cagayan de Oro to Camiguin, a rather uneventful journey that does not in any way prepare me for my more adventurous voyage from Bacolod to Manila last month.
Our group took a plane ride from Manila to Bacolod where we spent the next four days in the City of Smiles, it was the journey back to Manila where we booked MV 2GO Maligaya, a state-of-the-art vessel recently acquired by 2GO from Japan. Although 2GO calls the MV 2GO Maligaya its “youngest roll-on, roll-off passenger vessel,” the experience of being on board, depending on your choice of accommodation, is pretty close to being on a cruise.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. During our time in Bacolod, I finally got to know this wonderful city. I was here for business on two occasions during my previous corporate job way back in the 1990s so I did not have the time to get to know the Negros Occidental capital until now.
City of Smiles indeed
Defined largely by its rich history and culture, sought-after cuisine as well as by its warm and friendly people, I finally got to know Bacolod City a little more through several landmarks that are part of our itinerary. There’s the historic San Sebastian Cathedral, a late 19th-century Catholic church. There’s the Negros Museum, the Public Plaza, Capitol Park and Lagoon, and the Art District. Of course, there’s also The Ruins, touted as the Taj Mahal of Negros Island.
Along with popular dining options such as Delicioso Wine Food Coffee, Aida’s Chicken Inasal, Lanai by FreshStart Organic, Gina’s Seafood Restaurant, and Calea Pastries and Coffee, these places all add to Bacolod City’s unique appeal to both locals and tourists alike. I’m not surprised that this is such a sought-after destination for 2GO where it sails here four times a week.
And then there’s the Masskara Festival, one of the most anticipated festivals in the Philippines and very much comparable to Cebu’s Sinulog and Iloilo’s Dinagyang in terms of pageantry and splendor. The festive atmosphere during this time of the year is so infectious, I personally had to participate in the revelry. 2GO was one of the popular establishments that took part in its Float Parade and I was invited on board its luminous float where I danced to that infectious Masskara theme song along with its mascot, Shippy and other 2GO personnel. I hope to come back here for next year’s festivities.
It was American literary giant Ralph Waldo Emerson who once said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” No truer words are spoken when it comes to sea travel, especially when sailing in style via MV 2GO Maligaya, one of the largest vessels in 2GO’s current fleet.
Because of its size, it also has the feel of a posh hotel from the minute you enter its lobby where on-board amenities like the reception desk, salon, clinic, charging station, gear shop, KTV, Sea Breeze lounge, and QwikMart with grocery essentials and Watsons products and café and restaurant can be seen even before you get to your cabin.
During our trip, I was booked in one of their luxurious State Rooms which includes twin beds, a coffee table with two chairs, and more importantly, its own bathroom with shower. While there is wifi throughout the vessel, the connection becomes intermittent during the long trip but does pick up from time to time.
I used the idle time to catch up on my sleep and later to sing along with my fellow passengers in either the “jukebox” karaoke machine at Sea Breeze and later, with the rest of our group in one of the more private KTV rooms.
I also took the opportunity to go around the open areas but was slightly disappointed that the sundeck where passengers also love to roam is currently under renovation.
But even without the sundeck experience, my first trip inside a passenger ship was pretty much a memorable affair. Our voyage from Bacolod to Manila took us, at least in my estimate, over 20 hours but provided me with enough time to recharge and more than enough respite from work. And no, I didn’t feel seasick at all.
Provided time is not an element and you’re very much open to trying something new or something different, then traveling via 2GO just might be the way to go. In my particular case, the journey is just as eventful as the destination.
Image credits: Bobby Fabayos