SuperFerry’s terrible.

Levels of Service

Travelers can choose from four levels of service:

  1. Stateroom
  2. Cabin
  3. Tourist
  4. Economy (called Mega)

There’s supposed to be five but I only noticed four; maybe they’ve discontinued Super Economy. I didn’t need to buy a ticket since I was the driver of my van and a lone traveler. The driver is entitled to free passage in Economy class. I wanted to upgrade however I could only upgrade at the Front Desk after the ship had pulled anchor and was underway. They had to do that since they don’t want to rely on their computer system. The simple fact is–they can’t.

This is a continuation of a previous post when I went to SuperFerry’s office to pre-board. It turns out that the concept of pre-boarding doesn’t exist for them! They did however have two bookings in my name. One originated from my email and the other from my phone call. That confusion took a few minutes to resolve.

L300 SuperFerry RoRo

Cooper's L300 in the bowels of SuperFerry 2

They charged me 18,000 to transport the van. The rate was based on cubic volume: 5 x 2 x 2 meters. I had free passage since I was the driver and I paid 200 pesos to upgrade my service level to Tourist. There was nothing available in the top two levels.

Tourist class differs from Economy because of the addition of large compartments. The compartments break the feeling of sleeping in a vast sea of bunk beds. Tourist class consists of large compartments that have four bunk beds–two on each side. Like Economy, Tourist class meant common restrooms.

Photos on their website were undoubtedly taken when the ship was delivered and new.

Restrooms stink.

The restrooms stink. I only saw one of the two restrooms that I used, cleaned (and cleaned only once) during the 38-hour voyage. There were a total of three faucets between the two restrooms and none of them worked. It was disgusting. To wash my hands I sneaked into the ladies room. Photos of any restroom would have been in bad taste. Each restroom had a shower but it was filthy. These restrooms are the kind you enter while holding your breath.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Food’s terrible. And expensive.

Small selection. Not once was my warm food warm. Portion sizes were small. Everything was expensive. Three-in-One coffee (Blend 45) was 20 bucks. The retail price is only 5. Their bottled water was Nature’s Spring and 1.5 liters was 50 bucks. The bottle label wasn’t even blue like the regular Nature’s Spring.

"bottled water" "Nature's Spring"

Nature's Spring

Rating: 1 out of 5

The dining areas are chaotic, dimly lit, and noisy.

A small TV pumping at maximum decibels could not keep up with the videoke system.

"Lunch crowd" "Filipinos" "SuperFerry 2"

The lunch crowd

Tabletops were not wiped. When I asked where I should throw my litter, the staff member told me to just leave it on the table. But nobody was clearing the tables. As a result people kept on occupying new tables. Eventually, after a few minutes, half of the tables would be occupied. The other half is unoccupied because of all the litter on top of the tables. Then the next batch of diners had to occupy the filthy but vacant tables. Ad nauseam.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Bunks

Tourist class got free linen it seems (although their website said it cost). You had to give them a 50 peso security deposit. The linens were the best part. The sleeping area was noisy and smelly. My neighbor across the aisle kept to himself. He used his linen like a curtain to give his bunk privacy.

There were babies and toddlers everywhere.  That wasn’t a surprise but I was listening to five different mothering styles.

I was able to sleep in four-hour chunks. I think if it wasn’t for sheer exhaustion, I might not have slept. When’s air-conditioning not desirable? When it becomes too cold because they aren’t using a thermostat. And you have a thin blanket. That was exactly the problem for Jun Z. (left). He had the bunk above Ben P. (right). Jun got less sleep than Ben or I.

Rating: 2 out of 5

passengers superferry

Jun-Alex Cooper-Ben

Safety

Definitely unsafe. Unsafe from the perspective of a maritime passenger. Unsafe from an anti-terrorist perspective. But SuperFerry 2 is safe, it seems, hull-wise and equipment-wise. The life raft canisters shown below were at least all serviced on their due dates.

"Inflatable Rafts" "SOLAS B" SuperFerry

Inflatable Rafts for 25.

These rafts are SOLAS B which indicate that they’re inflatable rafts equipped for coastal passages. SOLAS A rafts are equipped for offshore passages (i.e., open sea).

"SOLAS B" Raft SuperFerry

A SOLAS B Raft for 25 people

Liferaft Instructions

Liferaft Instructions

I’ve ridden a cruise ship before. So this isn’t an American cruise line but look at all the time passengers were made to wait. They could have inserted a program in there that explained the basics. They demonstrated life-jacket use at the start. This is a 38-hour passenger voyage between a lot of islands. A lot can go wrong in 38 hours.

Their staff demonstrated life-jackets at the start but most passengers weren’t listening. This is an instance where management should insist on complete attention. It isn’t difficult at all. But they should choose their time. Many passengers were still milling about; many were still settling in.

They x-rayed my storage totes but not my laptop bag after I told them it contained a laptop. The two SuperFerry reps at the x-ray facility didn’t sound sure of themselves. After I told them what it contained, one asked the other if they still needed to x-ray it.

"Manila Hotel"

This is the line to have your belongings x-rayed at South Harbor.

Two serious-looking guards had me unload my cargo and had their dog sniff all around my van.

The Abu Sayaff bombed a sister ship, SuperFerry 14, in 2004. What does that make it? Among the world’s ten deadliest terrorist strike since 9/11 and among Asia’s worst since the Bali bombings of October 2002, according to the TIME magazine article.

From chatting with the Front Desk, I learned that every voyage was accompanied by two or three military (Navy, Coast Guard, Army) or paramilitary (National Police) personnel. These were in addition to the many armed private security guards of SuperFerry.

I heard of one passenger whose cellphone was stolen. I had seen the pay chargers below before. Apparently you buy minutes of charging time. The passenger was waiting but he must not have been paying attention since his phone was gone after charging it for 10 minutes.

"Charging Station" Cellphones Philippines

Charging Station for Cellphones and the like.

The ship wasn’t overcrowded but there was stuff everywhere. Stuff expands to fill the space available, doesn’t it? The problem was that the stuff was blocking stairwells and passageways that should not be blocked.

Stuff SuperFerry

Colorful stuff everywhere on SuperFerry

Maritime safety is an issue in the Philippines. This list of the deadliest maritime accidents includes two sister ships–SuperFerrys 14 and 9. There’s at least one tragic accident a year. The last tragedy? SuperFerry 9 which sank in September 2009.

Certain animals are allowed. Numerous fighting cocks lined one corridor. Both mornings, Saturday and Sunday, these alpha roosters were crowing up a storm.

Rating: 2 out of 5

What’s supposed to happen

The ship is scheduled to depart every Friday, around midnight.

If you’re a RoRo customer, they’d like you to report to the dock between 11:30 and 2. (If you ask another employee, you’ll probably get a different answer.)

They give you three tasks to perform. These took me two hours. You can and should pay their fee after you accomplish all three. If you hit a snag, it’s easy to reschedule.

  • Get your vehicle weighed.
  • Obtain Coast Guard clearance. (Bring the vehicle’s Certificate of Registration and Official Receipt.)
  • Get your stuff x-rayed.

If you’re a regular passenger, you can arrive and wait in the Eva Macapagal terminal till they allow boarding (9:30 p.m.) For RoRo customers, you can show up anytime up to 9:30.

Fees

My vehicle weighed 1,500 kilos. It occupied 20 cubic meters. And passage cost 18,000 pesos. That includes free passage for the vehicle’s driver in the Economy section (worth about 1,000 bucks).

Route

SuperFerry 2 left Manila at 12:15 on Saturday early-morning. It arrived in Coron at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. It was docked there for two hours. It left at 3:30 p.m. Saturday and arrived in Puerto at 3 a.m. on Sunday. You can assume that Manila to Coron and Coron to Puerto are each at least 12 hours long.

SuperFerry 2 Coron Palawan

Pierside homes in Coron town

Passengers "SuperFerry 2"

Coron-bound passengers of SuperFerry 2 lining up to disembark.

The passengers below were boarding at Coron in order to go to Puerto.

passengers "SuperFerry" Coron

Puerto-bound passengers of SuperFerry 2 lining up to board.

Note the presence of three soldiers above in the foreground.

SuperFerry Coron Palawan

The Port of Coron, Palawan

Arrival in Puerto Princesa

Unloading the vehicle was a hassle. Jun, Ben, and I hung around because we all had RoRo vehicles. There weren’t many on this voyage–about six or seven RoRo vehicles. After leaving Coron, the Front Desk told us that we had to drive our vehicles on to the pier shortly after the ship docks. So we three lined up to get out at the head of the line. In retrospect, we should have all waited in the ship and headed down after 90 minutes.

I had to disembark and walk towards the ramp which was at the stern of the ship. But the crew and dockside workers clearly weren’t coordinated. As I walked down, arrastre workers gave me contradictory information.

Arrastre, incidentally, is a Spanish word that, in the Philippines, has come to mean “hauling service” referring to the cargo at a dock.

At any rate, several containers were first towed out. That took about 45 minutes. We were finally allowed to enter the ramp to drive our vehicles out at 4:30.

One final hassle. We had to bring our papers to the Port Authority office and get them stamped.

Advice

SuperFerry makes sense if you need to transport a lot of stuff and have limited funds. Use SuperFerry to transport your vehicle but don’t be a passenger. Fly to Coron or Puerto and pick your vehicle up from the pier.

Jun, Ben, and I agree on that.

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One response to “SuperFerry’s terrible.

  1. Pingback: Four Buyers Interested in Former Hawaii Superferries « Damon Tucker: Hawaii News and Big Island Information

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