It’s time for me to explore more of the Philippines and this time I’m taking a Philippines ferry. While this may be a new mode of transportation for me in the Philippines, I’ve taken ferries before. I was also looking forward to being back on the water and enjoying a day at sea before my next city to investigate, Iloilo.
Buying A Ticket
After researching ferries, I could either buy my tickets online or in person at any one of the many 2Go offices located just about everywhere. This is where I realize I am a totally spoiled Westerner because I just wanted to show my tickets on my phone. Here in the Philippines, printing tickets off at home is pretty normal. You’ll need to show your tickets to just about everyone, especially security. So I decided to buy my tickets at a local office and let them print my tickets off for me.
With my Philippines ferry ticket from Manila to Iloilo at 9 am in hand, I was ready to go. 2Go recommends arriving at the terminal 4 hours before sailing. That meant arriving at 5 am, which meant I was going to be a super sleepy redhead, but that’s ok. I could always sleep once onboard.
North Port Passenger Terminal
2Go operates out of the North Port Passenger Terminal at Pier 4 in Manila. I decided not to arrive at 5 am, but 6 am and it was fairly quiet at the port.
Since I had my ticket, I decided to pay the terminal fee before going inside. Have cash on hand to pay the 95 PHP fee (around $1.75) to pay the fee at the window labeled “Terminal Fee Counter.” They will attach your receipt to your ticket to show as proof of payment if and when you’re asked.
From there, I proceeded inside to check in at the ticket counter after clearing security. It’s similar to the process at an airport, but I wasn’t sure exactly what they were screening for. At the check in counter they ask for an ID and take your picture. Then, like that, I was able to board the ferry, St. Therese Child of Jesus. I just had to pass through the terminal and walk over to the ship in what is an active and very busy commercial shipyard.
TSG Tip: I was admittedly slightly nervous about taking a ferry in the Philippines, especially after all that I’ve seen online. I chose 2Go because of its reputation and since it has newer ships. In fact, this one, the St. Therese Child of Jesus, is its newest one. But I also learned that new to a company doesn’t mean a new build. It was actually built in 1989 and she is definitely showing her age.
Classes of service onboard include Super Value, Mega Value, Tourist, Business, Stateroom, and Suite. The price for one ticket in Super Value was around 1,000 pesos (around $19 USD). The difference in price between Super Value and Mega Value is about 200 pesos (around $3 USD) for the same accommodations. So why the price difference? Mega Value includes air conditioning. The beds are bunk style in a large room with no personal space, linens, or pillows. You can rent them or bring your own and food is available for purchase. If you’re looking for a cheap way to get from point A to B, then this might be your preferred choice of travel.
As for me, I was looking for air conditioning so that ruled out a Super Value ticket. Tourist and Business class are still shared accommodations, but with fewer beds in a room. Bathrooms, however, are shared. Staterooms and Suites are private with their own bathroom.
Since I was traveling alone, if I wanted a suite or a stateroom, I’d have to pay the fare for two guests. That meant the suite cost for me was approximately 7,000 pesos (around $131 USD). That may sound like a lot, but I’ve been super conservative with my money all summer and thought I’d splurge on a suite. The accommodations are also supposed to include meals so I thought that would be an additional savings. The suite had two twin beds that can’t be moved together. There’s a desk, but no chair, a sofa, and a bathroom.
The bathroom has a tub, sink, and toilet and that’s pretty much all I can report about that.
Business, Stateroom, and Suite guests can enjoy their meals in the Horizons Cafe. But there’s a catch. When I went in around 7 or 8 am on the day I boarded, I was told I’d have to pay. Lunch is served from 11 am – 2 pm. I fell asleep for a few hours and when I went up at 1:45 pm to see what was available to eat, they’d already broken down the entire food service and said nothing was available. I was able to eat some okra and white rice at dinner and since we arrived early morning the next day, no breakfast. So what happened to my meals are included?
TSG Tip: Always pack food when you travel to avoid situations like this. I definitely should’ve known better.
Guests traveling in Mega Value, Super Value, or Tourist Class will need to purchase their meals onboard. One place they can choose to go is the Coffee Shop, which has a few drinks, snacks, and some noodle cups available.
At night, this is also where you can do videoke, which is right next to where the entertainment (as in live music) plays. Try to guess what song is playing when that’s happening.
For a bigger meal and to stretch out and relax while listening to the onboard entertainment, head over to Island Fiesta.
Guests can choose from a variety of fairly standard Filipino food like rice, chicken, pork, and so on as well as desserts and beverages.
TSG Tip: Filipino food isn’t exactly vegan friendly. Even on those rare occasions where there might be a side of veggies available, always ask how it’s made. Usually there’s oyster sauce, shrimp paste, or pork added to make the vegetables “taste better.”
Guests then pay before picking out a table to sit at in the large dining room. It’s nothing super fancy, but that’s the overall idea I guess.
In case you forget to bring something or want to grab a snack or a souvenir, head over to the Quik Mart. That’s where I had potato chips and a soda for lunch. 🙁
If you’re feeling like you need a moment to pray or meditate, yes – there’s even an onboard chapel on this Philippines ferry. There’s also a hair salon that’s a similar size where you can have your hair done and even a manicure or pedicure.
If you’re looking for some outside spaces to relax on this Philippines ferry, you’ll find that there really aren’t any. There is one area outside designated for smokers. They have to smoke in this area that’s near where animals are kept in crates outside under the cover of a tarp. So the smell in this area is less than desirable.
I took a few pics outside, like this one as we were about to sail out of Manila, but after that I pretty much stayed inside for the remainder of the trip. The next morning, guests were woken up by an overhead announcement at 4:30 am about our arrival in Iloilo. YOu have to get up and evacuate your cabin and stay in one of the public spaces until disembarkation. However, we didn’t actually get off the ferry until 6:30 am. No announcements were made to inform guests why there was a delay so I still don’t know what happened. I was tired, hungry, and cold after having to sit in front of an air conditioning unit that was blowing ice cold air. Ahhh… the Philippines. A land of many extremes.
Overall, choosing a Philippines ferry as a mode of transportation can be a cost effective and economical option for most travelers. I was kind of bored as there really wasn’t much to do. I ended up sleeping and watching shows on my iPad to pass the time. I was concerned about boredom on my return trip when I then found out that it was cancelled. I was able to go to a 2Go office and get a refund and then purchase an airline ticket back to Manila. That was definitely an easier, faster, and less expensive option in the end. Some people like slow travel and I do as well, but if I had to do it again, I’d definitely fly instead.
Next up, I’m headed into Iloilo to explore the city. Have you visited Iloilo? Can you suggest other destinations in the Philippines that you think I should explore? Leave your comments below. Discover some other great destinations and travel ideas here on the Travel Shop Girl website.