Virgin Voyages ~ A Totally Innovative Way of Cruising
There are numerous cruise lines these days and with things finally getting back to ‘normal’, they are doing new and innovative things to get old and new passengers alike to come “sail away” with them.
We were very fortunate to be invited by Virgin Voyages to become sailors~as they call their guests aboard their ‘voyages’~ to join Sir Richard Branson on his big birthday bash cruise. Thank you to everyone at Virgin Voyages for making it one of the most fun and unique experiences we have ever had!
Virgin Voyages is a small fleet, having only two ships in their fleet, the Valiant Lady and the Scarlet Lady, the latter the ship we cruised on. They have two other ships on the order due to debut in the spring and fall of 2023.
The ship grabs your attention right away, the amount of red not going unnoticed. It is a perfect size and holds up to 2700 sailors. The crew is spectacular and super attentive and friendly all the way around. From the moment you step on, to the dining room, cabin hosts, everywhere, they had a “chill vibe” and always there to lend a helping hand or give a suggestion.
It is an adult only cruise, as you must be 18 or older to sail, and it was, to say the least, an edgier vibe than other cruise lines, but that is the draw and unique blend that Virgin Voyages and the overall Virgin brand exemplify. From deck parties to games where they “interview” you to make sure you will be comfortable with the content, they make sure that whatever you are looking for in this cruise you will be satisfied with.
FOOD AND DINING
The food was great! Unlike other standard cruise lines, there is no “dining room” or set dining and the biggest surprise, no buffet!! That’s right, no buffet. Instead, all twenty kitchens have their own eateries and chefs, making each dining experience fun, unique and different. There is a variety of food, and yes.. the ol’ standby pizza.. and you can even eat family style if you are with a family or large group and try a variety of different dishes. All in all, it was the best food adventure and gets the highest score.
There is also no dress code, which I really found appealing and no formal dining evening. No lines of photographers on deck waiting to take your picture, although there were plenty opportunities if you wanted that. This made it much more relaxed and for those that wanted to dress up they did and those that didn’t, well didn’t. Even doing that, everyone had a great time.
Another great thing about Virgin Voyages is that they are “almost inclusive” as all their restaurants are included with the cruise fare as well as soda, bottled water and sparkling water, which as you know if you have cruised before, these can add up! I have to say, this was a great perk as you could try all the restaurants you wanted and not worry about spending hundreds of dollars over and above the fare. With their onboard app, you can even shake your phone and they will deliver champagne to wherever you are on the ship.. sick!!
Scarlet Lady has numerous eateries, several of which are unique in the cruise industry. Geonbae is a Korean barbecue restaurant where diners can cook their own meals over flameless grills. Razzle Dazzle focuses on vegetarian and vegan fare (meat add-ons are available), as well as a juice bar, re-emphasizing their focus on health and wellness. The Test Kitchen is a laboratory-themed venue serving tasting menus of innovative cuisine and doubling as a cooking school, which on other cruise lines, being able to go in the galley or attend a cooking class could run you hundreds per person alone.
Other options include an Italian trattoria, an upscale family-style Mexican restaurant, a food hall, an alfresco Mediterranean venue, a pizza place and a throwback steakhouse.
The cabin was smaller than some other cruise lines but for two people had plenty of space. The only drawback was storage, and admitting that we may carry more than most vacationers, we did learn that Virgin listens to their guests and are working on remedying this in the future. The bed was super comfortable and the lighting, plugs, etc. plenty.
The coolest thing is the technology in the rooms. Each cabin is equipped with a tablet of sorts that you can order room service, control lighting, TV, and was very user friendly. The balcony was awesome, even has a hammock that you can lazy lounge in, looking out over the ocean and letting the sea rock you into a tranquil dream like state. A surprising 86% of Scarlet Lady’s cabins are balconies. Sitting is comfortable and spacious. The bathrooms are quite a good size and loved the fact that they have shower doors instead of that ominous curtain that sticks to you once you get all soaped up.
For those looking to take their onboard accommodations up a notch, Scarlet Lady will has 78 RockStar “Quarters”, ranging in size from 416 to 2,147 square feet. All have perks including early boarding, priority access to booking and 24/7 access to dedicated “RockStar” agents to deal with any of your rock star needs. The top four suite options, however, give guests the ability to create their own RockStar rider, which could include items like Lucky Charms for breakfast every day, all green M&M’s and an electric guitar to rock out to, among many other choices. I was fortunate to be given this status for the sailing and again, it made the experience memorable, fun and one of a kind.
Overall, the room was a 9/10 only giving one point off for lack of storage.
HEALTH AND FITNESS
The main focus on Virgin Voyages is fitness and wellness. You can see it from the second you step on the ship. Unlike other cruises, all fitness classes are included, encouraging guest to have no excuses when it comes to getting in your yoga or spin class. They have a track so you can walk or jog off that ice cream sundae or extra helping of mac and cheese as well as a beautiful spa called ‘Redemption’ offering all the amenities of a top notch one on land, including a hydrotherapy pool, a mud room a salt room and a cold plunge pool. Healthy food options are widely available, even on the room service menu and the beauty on how they are presented make you want to try them, at least once.
They have alfresco yoga, a boxing ring, gymnastics equipment and an indoor gym as well as an adult playground with equipment by the main pool. Again, no excuses not to get in a little exercise while on board.
Now, this is where it goes a little off the road.. the shows onboard need a little work. Not that the talent is exceptional but it was just in the presentation and delivery. Besides that, their other forms of entertainment are very on point, focused to adults and much like Disney’s adult only, making sense as the CEO previously worked as president of Disney Cruise Lines.
There is an onboard tattoo parlor (which you have to admit is very cool) called Squid Ink.. cute, free DJ workshops, and a $8 million dollar night club that puts even those in NY under it. It champagne entrance.. incredible and super immersive and gets you feeling the vibe the second you enter. They even have a drag show brunch, again, letting you know that this voyage is unlike any other you have been on.
Their dance parties were lit and the bars were at full throttle. This is not a cruise where it goes quiet after 9pm as their are people up from dawn till dawn, getting in all the fun and festivities that they can.
Included in this voyage was the man himself, Sir Richard Branson. From greeting guests as they boarded the ship, at one point dressed like King Titan himself, to jumping in the pool in the middle of guests, you can tell that he not only takes pride in his brand but enjoys it as well. We had several opportunities to just walk up and talk to him and he was outgoing, friendly and extremely approachable. His stamp is everywhere and you can tell that he puts all of his creative flair and expertise in building exactly what he feels customers are looking for.
They dedicate one of their stops to their exclusive Virgin beach resort at port in Bimini, Bahamas—complete with poolside DJs, all-inclusive restaurants, and the clearest water you’ll find in the Caribbean. No kids, no dress code, no set schedules, just gobs of rest and relaxation. This truly was paradise and cannot wait to go back again.
Again, thank you to Virgin Voyages and yes.. we already booked our next one.. and we cannot wait!
Virgin Voyages; Spokesmayne