When Virgin Voyages announced their brand-new, industry-changing adult-only cruise line, I was intrigued. Although I do love cruising with my kids, I often cruise with friends. The prospect of an adult-only cruise line sounded exciting, and I’m always interested in whatever Richard Branson creates.
Recently, I embarked on my first Virgin Voyages cruise on the Scarlet Lady – their first ship. This cruise ship currently leaves from PortMiami on various itineraries including Bahamian and Caribbean cruises. We booked the four day Fire and Sunset Soiree, which stopped at Nassau and the private Beach Club at Bimini.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, or if you are just reading the title of the blog, you probably know this isn’t our usual content. Instead, it’s the start of a new category here called Slash Mid Travel. This new category will focus on travels beyond family travel, when you are ready to progress into mid-life travel.
Virgin Cruise Review: Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady
Virgin Voyages Differences
Virgin Voyages new cruise line has really changed the cruising paradigm. Some of the differences are very obvious from the start. The traditional key card has been replaced by The Band, a bracelet-style wearable that can be used to get into your room and charge purchases.
The main dining room, and set dining times are gone. Instead, there are included specialty restaurants on board. Guests are able to reserve these in advance, and can make one dinner reservation per venue.
The traditional cruising buffet is also gone. Instead, you’ll find the Galley, a food hall style venue with lots of options. Servers bring your order directly to you. Options at the Galley include ramen, sushi, burgers, salads, sandwiches, and tacos. Soda, filtered/sparkling water, tea, regular coffee, and standard juices are also included.
Instead of a cruise director, Virgin has the Happenings cast. Each one has their own role, with unique titles such as “The Hype”, “The Glow”, “The Hostess”, and “The Bounce”. The amazing crew was all fantastic, and unlike other cruises, tips are all included in your cruise fare.
It took a day or two, but I realized that Virgin Voyages also doesn’t have any ship photographers. As someone who never purchases the photos and never wants to take them, I really appreciated this.
Wifi is also included. There are higher speeds available for purchase. I definitely noticed that the included free WiFi was pretty slow, but it served its purpose of keeping me in contact with home. If I had work to do that required WiFi, I would have purchased the upgrade.
When booking your stateroom, you won’t have the option to choose your specific room. Instead, you’ll be assigned one. You can, however, upgrade to a central location when booking your cruise.
Virgin Voyages also doesn’t use single-use plastics. There are no water bottles for sale on the ship, and you’ll have a carafe of water in your room each day. Refill stations are also available around the ship.
Before the Cruise
We registered for a May cruise in March, so we paid in full right away. Restaurant reservations were available in the Virgin Voyages app several weeks later. I tried to time our dining times with the show schedule, and ended up being pretty successful. Our sailing was at less than half capacity, so there were plenty of openings.
Check-in can be done in advance on the app, and you’ll be able to provide a payment method, a selfie, health information, and your passport, making your first day a bit easier.
Virgin Voyages allow guests to stay onboard longer than other cruise lines on the last day. Therefore, check in times tend to be a little later on embarkation day. We received the 1:30pm time, which was the earliest offered.
Guests can choose to bring their own test results or test at the port (free, but does take some time). We brought our own, and were led to a line for verification. From there, it was an easy process to check in, get our wearable, and get on the ship. Our cabins were all available when we arrived, and our luggage was delivered within two hours.
Staterooms on the Scarlet Lady
We booked a sea terrace cabin, which includes a king bed that can be split, as well as a balcony (called sea terrace). The room was very comfortable, although a bit smaller than other cruise rooms I’ve been in recently. The balconies include bright red hammocks, which is a fantastic addition. I loved reading on the hammock while we were at sea.
Rooms include mood lighting, which can be controlled by an tablet over the desk. Lights, blinds, and the tv can be individually controlled, or there are also presets that help set a mood.
Hairdryers, mini refrigerators, a carafe of water, a chair, a small table, and bath toiletries (refillable pumps including body wash, conditioner, and shampoo) are all offered in the room. Stateroom service is done once per day, but special requests can be made through the app or the tablet.
Unlike other cruise staterooms I’ve been in, there is no couch. The bed does split into a L position if you are traveling with a friend and want your own bed.
Before our sailing, we received an offer to bid for an upgrade to a suite. We decided, however, to save money and stick with the room we had booked.
There are six main restaurants on board, in addition to the Galley, the Dock, the Social Club, the ice cream shop, several coffee shops, and other dining options. Room service is also offered. There was also a display at the entrance of the Galley offering packaged food to go including charcuterie plates, crudite, and salads.
We dined at five of the restaurants – four for dinner, and a fifth for three breakfasts. Reservations for these sit down breakfast meals need to be made in advance, on the app.
Razzle Dazzle: This stylish vegetarian restaurant does have a “naughty” section of the menu including meat dishes including a chicken sandwich and unbelievably delicious bacon. They also have a gorgeous Red Bar. We only ate there for breakfast, but really loved it.
Extra Virgin: This Italian restaurant offers a selection of antipasto, appetizers, main entrees, and pastas. We ate there on our first night and really enjoyed it. The highlight of the meal is the affogato cart, which includes a selection of gelatos along with toppings.
Gunbae: We didn’t have a chance to dine in this Korean BBQ restaurant, but we had heard great things about it.
The Wake: The Wake is an upscale steak and seafood restaurant. The decor is closest to the main dining room decors on other cruise lines, and it’s the most upscale of the restaurants. However, like every venue on Virgin Voyages, there is no dress code.
Pink Agave: We loved the food at this upscale Mexican restaurant. We ate there on our last night, and it was my favorite meal of the sailing.
The Test Kitchen: The Test Kitchen is an experimental restaurant offering a set, six course menu. It’s definitely an experience, and it’s fun to try food prepared in these different unique ways.
Shops on the Scarlet Lady
With a nod to her British heritage, most of the shops on the Scarlet Lady are located on High Street. Shops include two Virgin Voyages watch shops, a Cause sunglass shop, a resort-wear shop, a duty-free shop, a cosmetics shop, an essentials shop, a jewelry shop, and a watch shop. In addition, there’s a small display selling vinyl records.
Like other cruise lines, the shops are only open when the ship is not at port. In our experience, they were never too crowded. However, I would have liked to see more branded merchandise.
Tattoos on the Scarlet Lady
Virgin Voyages launched with the first tattoo studio at sea – Squid Ink. Squid Ink offers some of the best tattoo artist around the work, on the ship for a limited engagement. You can’t book your tattoo or piercing appointment until you are onboard, but you can look at their Instagram stories to see which artists will be on the ship during your sailing.
Once you are on the ship’s WiFi, you’ll be able to view the schedule for the ship events. Included will be the open booking hours for tattoos. Squid Ink offers some flash tattoo options, and can also accommodate custom requests.
I got a small wave flash tattoo, and it was great experience onboard. I’d definitely recommend it if you are considering a tattoo. I did find that the prices were higher than those at shops at home, but the experience is worth it.
Shows on Virgin Voyages
As you’d expect, the shows on Virgin Voyages are different from those you may be used to on other cruise lines. While the selection may vary depending on voyage and ship, expect to find several different shows playing. Most have several different showings, so you can work them into your dining schedule.
During our sailing, there were several options including Never Sleep Alone, a sex-themed show hosted by “The Doctor”, a 2-part drag show hosted by “The Diva”, and a Romeo and Juliet inspired acrobatics show called “Duel Reality”. Bingo on the ship is also hosted by the Diva, along with another member of the Happenings team.
Reservations are required for these shows, and they can be made in the app. For Bingo, you can purchase your cards before the actual games start.
There are several show venues on board, and they are beautiful and unique. The Manor is a two-story venue with a bar, stage, and seats around small tables. There’s a gorgeous mirrored hallways leading to it.
There’s also the Red Room, a multi-use room with stadium style seating. Both venues are intimate and fairly small.
Parties on Virgin Voyages
There are fun ship-wide parties held every night of your sailing. The most popular of these is Scarlet Night, which was held on day two of our sailing. Be sure to pack your best bright red apparel.
Other parties include a PJ party (held on the first night of our sailing) and a pool float party (held at the Beach Club at Bimini). The parties are all optional.
There are some additional experiences that can be booked on board, in addition to the Shore Things (shore excursions). We signed up for two of them – both at an extra charge.
Shot for Shot – a mixology seminar hosted in The Test Kitchen. In addition to learning how to mix four drinks, you’ll also have the opportunity to learn how to photograph these best for social media postings.
Afternoon Tea – hosted in the Sip Lounge, afternoon tea is an elegant affair with your choice of teas, as well as a selection of scones, pastries, and mini sandwiches. Your tea is offered with or without bubbles (champagne).
There’s also a paint night style event where you’ll learn how to create artwork with the Artist. We didn’t do that event, however.
There’s no beverage package offered on Virgin Voyages. However, you are able to pre-purchase a bar tab. Currently, you’ll get extra money added to the top of your bar tab when you purchase it in advance.
Other Amenities on the Scarlet Lady
In addition to the parties, events, and shows, there are other things to do on Virgin Voyages. There’s a fitness center, as well as a full array of group fitness classes that are included. You do need to sign up for some of these in advance. I didn’t do any of these, but they seemed really popular.
The top deck of the ship has a jogging trail loop, and there is also fitness and recreation equipment, like a basketball court, punching bag, boxing ring, swings, and more, on the outdoor decks.
The ship has two pools in the pool area, including one with seating all around the edges. There are also hot tubs on the pool deck.
I loved the arcade, which includes old-school games like Tapper and Donkey Kong. There are also board games that can be played in the Social Club. The Gamer is around at times to show you various games.
Like karaoke? There are several private karaoke rooms that can be booked for small groups.
The Beach Club at Bimini
Although Virgin Voyages does not have a private island, guests do have access to a private beach club. The Beach Club at Bimini is located with the Resorts World area on Bimini, in the Bahamas. During our sailing, our ship was docked at Bimini starting at 8am and ending with a ship return time of 7:30pm.
As you exit the ship, you’ll see containers of towels that you can bring with you to the beach. Bring along the essentials you’ll need, like your phone charger, sunscreen, reading materials, etc. Shore things excursions are available, including cabana rentals at the Beach Club. However, there are plenty of beach and pool chairs and umbrellas available.
The sand and sea water at the Beach Club at Bimini are absolutely amazing. The water is a beautiful light blue and the sand is incredibly soft. The resort includes bars, restrooms, two pools, lots of waterfront space, and more.
Unfortunately, during our day at Bimini, a thunderstorm interrupted our plans. While we did have the chance to spend some time at the beach and the pool, we didn’t get the opportunity to eat there. I definitely want to return – it’s a beautiful beach resort.
For adults looking for something a little different, Virgin Voyages is a fantastic option. I will definitely return for another sailing in the future.