After nearly 2 decades, I took a boat from Manila to Bacolod last May 24, 2016. I was surprisingly happy that I took that decision. Things are so different now compared to two decades ago, from Manila's seaport terminal to the boat itself. This was my boat, 2GO's St. Therese. Huge boat, a smaller version of those giant cruise ships.
I wanted to take the plane, went to Ticket Express days before. Cheapest fare for either Cebu Pac or PAL was almost P3,400, next 5 days flights, plus P200 terminal fee at the airport, nearly P3,600 total. My money was not enough that day, so I asked for a boat fare, P1,985 all in, with 4 meals (1 brkfast, 2 lunch, 1 dinner). Terminal fee was P95, ok na. I saved about P1,500 + a new experience.
A tug boat + fuel boats. For huge boats like this, they are like floating diesel power plants providing electricity in many parts of the boat -- aircon, lights, water heating, etc.
North Port terminal, a lot more modern than 2 or 1 decade/s ago. Terminal fee is P95 per passenger, nice but may not be justified because passengers seldom or do not stay there, they just check in, pass by the departure lounge, straight to a waiting bus that will bring them to the boat. Total stay of about 5 minutes only at the terminal.
Resto area for those in the economy, tourist, classes. Nice and clean.
The nearby karaoke bar. Beer in can in is P60, soda in can P40.
Aisle between the lobby and the karaoke bar, Fiesta resto.
The tourist class room where I stayed. 12 beds per room, double deck, air-con, with own flat tv. That day we were only 5 in the room. Each bed has own reading light. I stayed on the top right bed.
The bar, right beside the Fiesta restaurant. A 3-women live band performed last night, maybe they perform there every night. One can watch them even without ordering a beer. After a few songs, I left, did not take a bottle/can.
The boat's main lobby, looks like a small hotel lobby. This is just a few steps from my room.
Roofdeck, I like it here, day time or night time, feels like you're on top of a small but tall island in the middle of the sea, the fresh sea breeze tickling my hair and face.
People are casually promenading in the roofdeck. Among the perks of riding a big boat. Engine noise is manageable. People can talk without shouting at each other at the roofdeck, near the 2 chimney exhausts. Even at the economy class, the open air beds at the rear, people can casually talk.
The 4 meals. Crew sell extra rice P15/cup, soda P40/can, other juice drinks.
Iloilo port, for big boats only. The fast craft boats (Iloilo-Bacolod) have their separate port, on the mouth of Iloilo river, near the city center. The boat unloaded passengers, then take Manila-bound passengers. Instead of a 20 hours trip, it becomes a 27 hours trip. But at least I was comfortable in the room. All my 4 roommates that day got off, another passenger going to Manila came in.
Fastcraft boats plying the Bacolod-Iloilo route take the north route between Iloilo and Guimaras. The big boat took the south route, so one can see most parts of Guimaras island-province, until its southern tips and islets, then the boat turns left, Guimaras on the left, Negros island on the right.
I was surprised that wifi signal near Guimaras island was stronger than when we were in the port of Iloilo.
The boat's crew are mostly young, courteous. The trip was good value for money for friends and families, they can bring their own food and have a picnic at the roofdeck, resto, aisle, etc. There is free unlimited hot water at the resto.
For the bashers saying that "no change for years, now there will be change", huli pala kayo or tayo sa balita. Madami na changes, good improvements how some firms give comfortable sea travel for the people.