Prior to the North American debut of Virgin Voyages, we heard many promises: The new ship, Scarlet Lady, would be irresistible. Cruises would be filled with surprises and delights. And perhaps most of all, that Virgin Voyages would be charting its own path with high-profile innovations in an already well-known and well-loved mode of travel.
Cruise Specialists Vice President Teresa Tennant took part in one of Scarlet Lady’s premier voyages, departing on a 5-day cruise from Miami on October 10, 2021. Scarlet Lady exceeded Teresa’s expectations and would be an excellent option for a wide variety of adults seeking a carefree getaway in some of the world’s most beloved cruise destinations—namely the Caribbean and Mediterranean.
One of the primary differentiators of Virgin Voyages is its adults-only philosophy. This allows the cruise line to be a little bolder with many things, from spicier names at onboard venues, to the content of some shows and activities, and an elevated dining scene that has more room to explore tastes and options without needing to cater to children. (Although if you’re hungry for pizza or hot dogs on this ship, they are easy enough to find!) While the name Scarlet Lady evokes curiosity as to what the onboard ambiance might be, Teresa’s takeaway from the cruise is that it offers a relaxing, no-pressure vacation with opportunities to unwind or have fun for all adults—whatever your style or tastes might be.
Teresa reports that one of the major topics of conversation on board was the cuisine—how wonderful it was, what people had tried and what they were looking forward to tasting next. With more than 20 dining options, all included in your fare, you simply will not have time on a 5-day cruise to try it all. World-class chefs such as Brad Farmerie (of PUBLIC in NYC) and Sohui Kim (of The Good Fork and Insa in NYC) are two of the names behind Virgin Voyages’ wondrous menus.
“Incredible thought has gone into the dining program. There is beautiful tableware, serving ware, and décor, and the menu items are delectable,” said Teresa. “My favorite meal was at Extra Virgin. The chef’s selection of Salumi and Formaggi (cured meats and cheeses) along with the Braised Mini Meatballs were delicious appetizers. The Pappardelle al Ragu and Porcini-Rubbed New York Strip were our main courses. The meal highlight was the Affogato dessert that was prepared tableside. We also had a nice window table for sailaway on embarkation night.”
Teresa pointed out one of the more convenient aspects of Virgin Voyages’ cuisine is the attention they put on to-go snacks available throughout the day. One might choose some oatmeal with fruit to take back to their cabin for breakfast, or a convenient bento box of mixed fruit or sushi to enjoy on deck . “This thoughtful touch adds flexibility to your day and recognizes that not everyone wants to sit at a restaurant for every meal. Room service is also available for your convenience,” said Teresa.
The Dock House—a casual Mediterranean restaurant—and The Dock, its outside mezze lounge, were two of Teresa’s other favorite places on the ship. Here, one can enjoy Mediterranean-inspired menus, including small bites such as house-made pita and dips from a roving cart. The Dock is set up like an elegant cabana with plush seating areas and an expansive beverage menu.
Nicely Appointed Accommodations
Teresa and her travel companion stayed in a Sea Terrace stateroom. This cabin type ranges from 225 to 265 square feet and has a queen-size bed that can be configured to two twin beds. All Sea Terraces offer a hand-woven hammock on the private balcony to give you a new way to relax and enjoy the sweeping views. Teresa notes that the hammock was indeed one of her favorite places on the entire ship to relax with her book.
Entertainment runs the gamut. Take a complimentary group fitness class in B-Complex, the extensive gym. Join in at the Aquatic Club for a throwback seahorse racing competition. On Teresa’s Caribbean cruise, the weather was perfect for taking dips in the pool, and the flamingo-shaped floaties provided a sense of whimsy and playfulness for all the young at heart. With varied productions including an acrobatics show, the evenings are filled with options. You can stop by the casino for a game of Blackjack. Or be the entertainment at The Groupie, your private karaoke venue. A signature event on each cruise is the Scarlet Night, where all Sailors (guests) and Crew wear red and dance the night away.
Virgin Voyages encourages its Sailors to share their good times and fantastic meals, whether with fellow guests on board or on their social media feeds. So, it may come as no surprise that Scarlet Lady is designed to be photographed. There are lots of photo-ready spaces, from cleverly worded neon signs to comfortable niches where you and your friends might celebrate with a Champagne toast.
We can’t forget about the Shake for ChampagneTM feature: from the Virgin Voyages Sailor App, all it takes is a shake of your phone and the press of a button and a bottle of perfectly chilled Möet & Chandon Impérial® will be delivered to you, anywhere on the ship. Teresa reports that travelers will find these types of twists on service to be fun and invigorating. She also mentioned that while the Crew is of course very friendly and helpful, there is an easy-going, low-pressure atmosphere that really makes all guests feel at ease. The dress code is up to personal preference, which means you may see a wide variety of styles and fashions.
The Beach Club at Bimini
All Miami departures to the Caribbean include a stop at the private Virgin Voyages Beach Club in Bimini, Bahamas. There are two large pool areas, private cabanas, a Rockstar Retreat and enough beach chairs and umbrellas for everyone. “Food, soft drinks and changing areas are provided, alcoholic beverages are available for purchase (using your shipboard account) and various watersports toys can be rented,” said Teresa. An open-air shuttle runs throughout the day between the ship, the beach club, and the meeting point for the shore tours. Teresa took part in the Bimini Heritage and Cultural Tour visiting the unique Dolphin House and Museum and sampling local conch chowder. Her friend joined the Wild Dolphin Safari, swimming with dolphins in their natural habitat. In the evening, as the sun sets, several beach bonfire stations are lit.
What Experienced Cruisers Should Know
There are some intricacies about Virgin Voyages that those who have cruised before may want to be aware of:
- Bar Tab. This is a unique concept in the cruising world: you can pre-pay a set amount for your Bar Tab before you set sail. Different from a beverage package, it is a non-refundable onboard credit that’s able to be spent on premium beverages all around the ship and at The Beach Club at Bimini. You can also use it to buy drinks for other people.
- Room Attendants. The traditional format for having one’s room made up on a ship is that it is made up once in the morning, and in the evening, you receive turn-down service, where your room and bed are prepared for a restful night’s sleep. Virgin Voyages typically makes the rounds to your room once per day. That said, it is easy to request any service any time via the in-room tablet, for things such as evening turn-down service, fresh towels or filtered water refills.
- Room Service. Unlike most other cruise lines, there is a nominal fee for room service, but if you order certain items for which there is already a charge, such as a cappuccino or alcoholic beverage, the fee is waived.
Here is an overview of COVID-19 precautions taken prior to the cruise and some of the practices during the cruise. Keep in mind these vary by cruise line and are subject to change on any cruise line or cruise ship at any time.
- COVID-19 test at the pier (at no cost to guests)
- Vaccination card required at embarkation
- Completion of health survey form prior to cruise
- Masks required in cruise terminal
- Crew wore masks at all times in guest areas
- Guests not required to wear masks on board, but were required to in some locations ashore
- Staff was diligent about frequent cleaning and sanitizing on board in all public areas
- Hand-washing stations are available near many dining venues but are not always monitored
Virgin Voyages does have an app, which the cruise line strongly encourages Sailors to download and use. Here you can complete pre-cruise check-in steps, including loading your security photo, passport, completing the health survey and more. Teresa noted that a new photo was also taken at embarkation. “The app can be used to make dining reservations, shore excursion reservations and spa appointments, and also to view daily program and destination information,” said Teresa.
Is Virgin Voyages Right for Me?
With the promises of being different, along with being adults only, our assessment is that Virgin Voyages most certainly can be for just about everyone. Virgin Voyages offers many opportunities to do what you want to do. Whether it’s going to a show, playing a game of Bingo, or reading a book on a comfortable hammock, how you spend your time on Virgin Voyages is completely up to you. And that, to us, is one of the best parts of any cruise.
Do you have questions about Virgin Voyages? Ask one of our Cruise Consultants.