Updated: Oct 19
Spoiler alert: I enjoyed it!
From the moment I heard of Virgin Voyages, I was enthusiastic about the cruise line, and I was scheduled to be on one of the earliest cruises in March of 2020. That was canceled, for obvious reasons. Finally, in December 2021, I have recently disembarked from a 5-night cruise on Scarlet Lady. In case you are not aware, Virgin Voyages started with a mission to do things differently from other cruises. At some point, they asked people what they liked and disliked about cruising, and that influenced the design of their experience.
There are a few things that stood out to me as I anticipated the cruise. I knew that it would be adults only, and they call it “adult by design.” They also did away with the buffet and replaced it with what they call The Galley, which is sort of a food hall concept. Virgin Voyages also made a point to publicize that there would be no “nickel & diming,” so gratuities are included, all dining is included, and wifi is included.
On board, I felt that they have succeeded in accomplishing what they set out to do, and I had a great time. I thought a few of times about what a feat it was to not only start a new cruise line but also to do it in a different way. I also thought that it might be the perfect time to do such a thing, considering the change that has happened in the world since 2020. Many people have rethought what is important to them, and they are embracing life and other humans in new ways.
Having said that, Virgin Voyages creates a very open and accepting atmosphere. This is true for crew, as well as sailors (aka passengers), and I am referring to tattoos, hairstyles, and clothing, as well as lifestyles. For those who embrace diversity and individuality, as well as those who either seek or are not bothered by an LGBTQ friendly environment, then Virgin Voyages would be an excellent choice. I think the point is for everyone on board to feel comfortable as themselves and to sail and have fun together.
I believe this also ties into the “adult by design” concept, which is Virgin’s wording for “adults only.” If ships had ratings like movies have, most cruises would be G or PG rated. Virgin Voyages would range from PG to R, depending on the time of day. This doesn’t mean it’s a “den of iniquity,” by any means. It just means that you may hear words or see things that you wouldn’t see or hear on other ships. It’s simply a more relaxed environment in this regard. Everyone on board is an adult and can choose their experiences.
The ship itself is beautifully designed throughout. Like any cruise ship, there are many different areas, and each is designed differently. For example, The Dock House has a light and airy nautical theme, while the Sip Champagne Bar is lush and posh, with velvet and copper accents. The Roundabout is the name for the central atrium area, with a large spiral staircase that leads to The High Street (shops), a bar/performance space, and even an area with an arcade and photo booth.
My stateroom was also beautifully designed. Honestly, judging from photos and renderings, I was concerned that I wouldn’t like it, but it was a very comfortable space to call home for a few days. The actual room, a Sea Terrace cabin, was spacious and luxurious feeling. The bed was comfortable, the tablet was handy (controls temperature, lighting, and television), and the storage was functional. The bathroom was small but well designed and functional. Although the shower was quite small, a rainfall shower head was a major plus.
The food is what I give the most rave reviews. Not only are there 20+ eateries on board, but they are all quite good! Of those eateries, I think six are actual restaurants. Pink Agave (Mexican), The Wake (steakhouse), Razzle Dazzle (veggie forward), The Test Kitchen (molecular gastronomy), Extra Virgin (Italian) and Gunbae (Korean steakhouse) are the restaurants, and each has a completely different atmosphere. I had dinner in each restaurant, except Razzle Dazzle, and I had lunch there. I had an excellent experience in each place! The remaining eateries serve food such as poké, sushi, tacos, diner food, ice cream, desserts, salads, and more. There truly is something for everyone.
My only complaint with dining is the way I was dealt with as a solo sailor. Reservations were necessary for dinner, so my reservation showed that I would be dining alone. It would be nice if they had a table set for one so that when I arrived no questions were asked. Instead, I’d sit at the table set for two, and the server would have to ask if I was waiting for someone before clearing the other place setting. It’s not a big deal, but it’s a slightly awkward moment that could easily be eliminated.
The entertainment was interesting and unusual, and I felt that it was all done well. One of the least unusual things I heard onboard was the band that played at the sail away party. They played a variety of high energy music that would appeal to adults (classic rock, R&B, etc.), and it was fantastic! Phantom Folktales is a group that is part of a theatre company, and they did a variety of things. When I first saw them, they were in The Dock House playing an intimate concert of folky, bluegrass-ish music. It was really lovely, and at other times, the same people could be found doing very bizarre things like walking around with umbrellas and flashlights or playing with kitchen utensils. Each night, a blues singer performed with his band in a lounge area near The Roundabout. It was always a fantastic, fun show!
The Red Room and The Manor are two spaces that function like a theatre or nightclub. In those spaces, there were four shows, I think. “Best Life” and “Never Sleep Alone” were sort of one woman shows. Both had “adult” content, and “Best Life” was my favorite. In the show, Tamar Broadbent sings and talks as she tells the story of her twenties. It was hilarious, and she is an excellent singer. I’m happy that I got a chance to tell her that! “Duel Reality” is one of the shows in The Red Room, and some describe it as a circus. There were about 10 people doing all sorts of acrobatic feats, including hanging climbing and falling from ropes. Not only was their physical display impressive, but the show told a powerful story. It sounds like the acts will change over time, so sailors should be ready for anything!
There are so many fitness classes offered on the cruise, and they are all included. For example, each morning you could take two yoga classes and a meditation/breathing class all back-to-back. Then, there are spinning classes, HIIT classes, and more throughout the day. I’ve learned in my travels that I love participating in fitness classes while traveling. Not only do they make me feel better for the rest of the day, but they also give me opportunities to try new forms of exercise. This was one of my favorite things on Scarlet Lady.
However, I know that some people don’t want to think about exercise, especially not on vacation. This is a criticism I overheard form a fellow sailor, and I understand that. On sea days, after doing whatever classes I did in the morning, there weren’t many other organized activities on the agenda. There were a couple of bingo games offered, as well as other games. A food photography class and cocktail making class were offered, but they were fully booked after the first day. You could find either live music or a DJ playing most times of the day somewhere on board. As I’m writing this, it sounds like plenty, but what was missing was multiple opportunities to participate in an activity where you have fun interacting with the crew and other sailors.
A few aspects of Virgin Voyages were adjustments from what is normally experienced on other cruises. For example, announcements were very rare. While it is refreshing not to have the cruise director coming over the loudspeaker multiple times a day, especially early in the morning, I also missed it. On one hand, those announcements help you to feel connected to the cruise director (the hostess on Virgin). On the other hand, they also provide useful information, such as “Welcome to Bimini. The gangway is located on deck 4 forward. You are now free to go ashore!” Nothing like that ever happened, so at the first port, I wandered around until I felt the heat from an open door, which told me I was near an exit.
Once I found my way off the ship at each port, I had a great time in Bimini and in Costa Maya (Mahahual)!
Another adjustment is Bar Tab and Sailor Loot. Bar Tab is a program that allows you to add money to your onboard account for the purpose of buying drinks. The normal promotion with Bar Tab means that you pay $300 in advance, and they give you a $50 bonus ($100 right now). Sailor Loot is like the usual onboard credit, and it can be used for everything onboard (spa treatments, shopping, etc), including drinks. I opted for Sailor Loot since I was sailing solo and didn’t know where I would want to spend my money. I just know that I enjoy an all-inclusive experience, not because I want unlimited alcohol, but because I don’t like the stress of keeping up with how much I’m being charged and how much I have left to spend! Just like not knowing where to go to exit the ship, it’s a stress I’d rather not have while on a cruise. A way to get around this is to book a Mega Rockstar Cabin, which comes with some amount of daily Bar Tab included, as well as in-room drinks and other perks!
Having said all of that, I am already booked on another cruise with Virgin Voyages, and I can't wait! I'll be sailing on Valiant Lady in the Mediterranean in 2022. All of the Mediterranean voyages will overnight in Ibiza, which should be a very fun experience, in addition to all of the other amazing ports we will visit! There are always some promotions going on, and they are currently offering 20% off, plus $100 bar tab bonus. Please contact me with any questions or if you are ready to book your adults only voyage!