AHOY! I kicked off 2022 with a 5 night sailing on Virgin Voyages beautiful Scarlet Lady. This brand-new cruise line is unlike anything else currently sailing the high seas. That could be a good or a bad thing depending on what your expectations are. Virgin Voyages is not for everyone, and I don’t think they are trying to be. My husband would have enjoyed the food, but not the overall experience, which was why I was smart and brought my 22-year-old daughter instead.
Who is the perfect Virgin Voyages sailor? They are tired of or not interested in the traditional cruise experience and are looking for something funky and different. They don’t need a cruise director or list of scheduled activities to find their fun. They are a foody and not afraid to try new things. They are tech savvy. They are looking for an “adults only spring break” type of vibe. They are open minded, non-judgmental and just want to have a crazy good time.
Honestly, Virgin Voyages is brand new to the cruise market, so if you want to find things to complain about onboard you absolutely can. A perfect example would be the lady we overheard at Sailor Services who was going off about how her suite was completely unacceptable, the service was terrible and none of the crew could answer even the most basic of her questions. She had come to these conclusions less than 2 hours after boarding, so she was really committed to having a horrible cruise experience. I hope they encouraged her to quickly disembark before we set sail so we could leave all of her negativity at the port and get the party started.
Let me break down the good, the bad and the fun of our Virgin Voyage cruise experience:
Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…Virgin Voyages calls their passengers sailors, so I will too. We departed from the port of Miami. Virgin Voyages does their pre cruise Covid testing right at the pier, which was free, easy and super convenient. If you are concerned about testing positive and being denied boarding, you can always pretest at home prior to your cruise. Virgin Voyages doesn’t allow sailors onboard until 2 pm, so there is no need to get to the pier early, even if you are in a suite.
While you are waiting for your test results, you can log onto the ships WIFI and book your dining, exercise classes, and show reservations through the app. Pro Tip: The app is a little finicky. To get the best results, make sure that all other apps are closed, and your phone is on the ships WIFI in airplane mode. If you still get the white loading screen, you may have to delete the app and reinstall it. We arrived at 2 pm and were checked in, tested, ressies booked and onboard within 30 minutes.
They mailed our bracelets/bands and bag tags to us in advance, but many people just picked them up at the pier. The bands are activated at check in, and all purchases onboard are made with a tap of the band. You also use it to tap and unlock your cabin. So super convenient and worked flawlessly.
On the other end, disembarkation was also so super easy and convenient. Virgin Voyages allows their sailors to have a relaxing morning on-board and leave the ship at their leisure any time before 10:30 am. You can put your bags out the night before and pick them up in customs or just roll them off yourself when you leave. They offer full breakfast service and no announcements so you really can sleep in after enjoying the last night of your cruise. We left our cabin at 10:15 and were in an Uber on our way to the Miami airport by 10:30. Virgin Voyages does not offer transfer service, but there were more than enough cabs/Ubers/Lyfts waiting to take us. When we ordered our car we waited 1 minute for him to pull up.
Virgin Voyages includes “Basic Bevvies” like coffee, tea, water, juice and soft drinks in your cruise fare. They offer all the fancy coffees for an extra change. Pro Tip: Bring a refillable water bottle onboard because there are filling stations throughout the ship. Virgin is super eco-friendly and does not use any single use plastics onboard, so no plastic water bottles.
Basic Wi-Fi is included, but to stream or video conference you will need to upgrade to their deluxe Wi-Fi which is an additional $10 per device per day.
Tips are also included, which I initially thought was a good thing, but I now have mixed feelings about. Virgin claims that all their employees are paid good salaries so additional tipping is not required or expected. But we did notice some of the normal levels of service were lacking. For example, I was out by the pool for several hours on both sea days and was never asked if I wanted to order a drink. You had to get up and go to the bar for service. There also was no drink service on the beach or at the pool at the Bimini Beach Club. When we visited sailor services to ask a question about our account, there were only 2 people working and always sailors waiting. There were more crew than passengers on our sailing, so service should have been top notch. I am wondering how things will run when they are sailing at full capacity.
We stayed in a Seaview Terrace, which is a standard ocean view balcony by other cruise lines definitions. It was simple but totally fine for our needs. Virgin Voyages doesn’t have the normal cabin steward service twice a day like on other cruise lines. You use the tablet on the desk to turn the lights on and off, open and close the blinds, change the temperature, order room service and request towels, ice, and cabin cleaning from your cabin steward. We never even saw him/her. The best feature was the awesome hammock on the balcony. We are on a mission to try and buy one just like it to enjoy at home. Pro Tip: Avoid cabins on deck 14 since they stack all the chairs on the pool deck (15) wash it down and put them back out during the late night/early morning hours. Very noisy!
This is where Virgin Voyages really stands out from their cruise competition. All their dining locations are included in your basic price, so there is no main dining room and alternate dining options available at an upcharge. Honestly, everything we ate onboard was amazing.
I am a big dessert lover and usually cruise line offerings are mass produced and bland. Virgin ROCKED their desserts. Pro Tip: Don’t miss the lemon cheesecake in The Wake, the Chocolate Tacos in Pink Agave, the Razzle Dazzle Cake or Cookies and Milk in Razzle Dazzle and the Macaroons, Smores Jar and Scarlet Lady dessert in The Galley.
They offer tons of healthy dining choices and options, too. We split lots of dishes so that we could try a little of this and a little of that and loved everything. The Test Kitchen is an extremely unique dining experience. If you have an open mind and aren’t a picky eater give it a try. Another Pro Tip: Make reservations at Razzle Dazzle or The Wake for breakfast a few mornings instead of always eating in The Galley. Last Food Pro Tip: Go to the back of the ship on deck 7 at sunset and order some skewers and cocktails at the Dock. Seriously. It’s a don’t miss. Also try the Poke Bowls by Richards Rooftop. I could honestly write pages about the food, but just know that you won’t be disappointed. I’ll let some of the pictures that we took speak for themselves.
This was another Virgin Voyages unique option. Instead of a “Drink Package”, Virgin offers a “Bar Tab”. In our case, we pre purchased a $300 bar credit and Virgin added a $100 bonus to our tab. The nice thing about the bar tab is it can be shared between sailors. You can use it to buy drinks for other people, too. Technically, it is supposed to be used for drinks only, but in our case all our shipboard expenses (like gift shop purchases and laundry) were posted against our bar tab. YMMV.
This is the area where I have mixed feelings about our experience. Virgin Voyages doesn’t have a cruise director onboard, but they have 12 people who are like “camp counselors” that run the various activities. They also are free to “hang out” with the guests and in all public areas on the ship.
To be honest, there were not many activity options during the day. My daughter did the sunrise yoga and meditation sessions each morning, then worked out in the gym. The bungee exercise class was one of the highlights of her cruise. It fills up quickly, so if you are interested be sure to book it early. I walked the outside track or treadmill. Throughout the week they did have a few other exercise classes offered, a couple of seminars to promote their products (spa, skincare, shopping) and some drinking activities (shot for shot and mixology classes), plus bingo one day. That’s honestly all I can remember as far as things to do during the day on sea days besides lay by the pool or gamble in the small casino. Pro Tip: Don’t miss the 80’s VHS workout class. So much fun!
In the evening, they had a “grog walk” which was a bar hopping tour that we missed but heard was quite fun and a great way to meet people. They offered a show each evening. The first night was a fun “Untitled Dance Party Thingy” that was interactive with the audience and very unique. The other two shows we saw, “Ships in the Night” and “Dueling Realities” were just ok for me. They were interpretive dance/music/acrobatic performances that I really didn’t get, but maybe they just weren’t my thing. The other show we attended was “Never Sleep Alone”, which is a risqué fun and funny interactive group session with a singing sex therapist. That’s the only way I can describe it and if you are not easily offended it is a don’t miss. Pro Tip: Attend the late-night session, not the 6 pm. And don’t sit near the stage if you don’t want to be part of the show.
Late night is when the parties really started onboard. The Manor was where the club/dance party was most nights. Some of the DJ’s really got the dance floor hopping and some were just ok.
We had mixed feelings about the highly promoted “Scarlet Night” also. Most sailors did make an effort to dress in red. Around 9 pm, things started happening, first at “The Roundabout” and then spreading throughout the ship. What we saw was not anything to get excited about. A few performers would break into dance at one bar, then someone would juggle at another lounge, then a game of charades started at another bar. You had to wander aimlessly around the ship to try and find the “pop up performances”. There was no official schedule or plan, so we were just following people around trying to find the fun. At that point, I called it a night. My daughter stayed out with a group of friends that had formed onboard and she assured me that once they got up to the Scarlet Night pool party at 10:30 things got crazy fun. She said the DJ was great and everyone was dancing and then people started jumping into the pool fully clothed. At midnight, they moved the party back down to the Manor and kept dancing until the wee hours of the morning. There were a lot of sailors getting a slow start or trying to recover by sleeping in the sun at the Bimini Beach Club the next day. Lol!
Bimini Beach Club
Speaking of the Bimini Beach Club, it was a beautiful relaxing beach/pool day. The club itself is part of Resort World and leased out to Virgin Voyages when they are in port. You take a 5-minute ride in a tram from the dock to the club. Virgin Voyages initially promoted this as being an all-day beach club that would turn into a late-night party with guest DJ’s and bonfires where you could dance under the stars. They have really toned that down. There was a DJ by the pool in the afternoon and they blew up some fun floaties for about an hour, but besides that there was not much going on at all. They had offered SUP yoga (which is yoga on a stand up board), but that was cancelled due to rough water. The weather was perfect, and we had a wonderful relaxing day walking the beach and enjoying the pool. We headed back to the ship around 4 pm and the beach club had really cleared out by that point. They did do a 15-minute fire ball lighting ceremony around 7:00 pm before we sailed out at 7:30, but we missed it because we had dinner reservations.
We had a wonderful time sailing on Scarlet Lady with Virgin Voyages. I personally felt like they over promised and under delivered in some areas, but it certainly wasn’t enough of an issue to ruin our time onboard. I am confident they will work out the kinks with more experience. If you are open minded and looking for a fun and funky vacation, give it a try. Plan to relax, let loose and don’t worry about making a fool of yourself. Try a new exercise class you haven’t ever done. Volunteer to go on stage during one of the shows. Eat and drink things you have never tried before. Dance all night like no one is watching. Virgin offers a judgement free, open accepting environment for everyone. You don’t even have to be a virgin. Lol! Just contact one of our cruise specialists here and we will wish you a Bon Voyage with some extra perks to enjoy onboard!
Here’s a last little look at just how much fun you can squeeze into 5 days…