Virgin Voyages aimed to deliver a whole new take on cruising, which was anything but your ordinary cruise vacation. With bold design, fresh ideas, and unique happenings, the cruise line certainly accomplished its goal. Did Virgin Voyages go too far to still appeal to more traditional cruisers like us? We are back from a recent trip on the new Scarlet Lady and weigh in with Everything We Loved (and Didn’t) about Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady.
Everything We Loved (and Didn’t) about Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady
All Inclusive Nature
One of the reasons that we love cruising is that so much is included in the cruise fare, and Virgin Voyages happily took that even one step further.
Virgin Voyages has launched with a more all-inclusive nature than most contemporary cruise lines. We loved having the flexibility to dine at “specialty restaurants” for no additional cost on Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady. Not to mention, basic WiFi, fitness classes, and even gratuities are on the house when you sail with the cruise line.
Though, if you are comparing Virgin Voyages to other luxury brands, then it does fall short when it comes to offerings like specialty coffee at the Grounds Club, beer and wine at meals, and access to the thermal suite. All of these will cost you extra.
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If you are going to appeal to a younger market, then technology is certainly a must. Virgin Voyages, like some new cruise ships from other lines, has certainly upped the ante when it comes to modern conveniences. With several USB outlets in the cabins as well as scattered throughout the ship in places like the Galley, sailors can stay powered up.
The Band is Virgin Voyages version of wearable technology. This stylish and eco-friendly accessory serves as your key card for the cruise. It can be used to enter your room, make purchases, and even pinpoint your location for delivery services like “shake for champagne”. While we have heard reports of the bands falling off or breaking, we didn’t have any issues with ours.
There is also the Sailor app where you can view the day’s happenings, book reservations, chat with Sailor Services, and more. Though, the app can be a bit glitchy at times.
Not to mention, there is a tablet in all staterooms. This device can be used to control the lights and temperature in the room as well as to request services like towels, water, or a cabin cleaning.
While there are a few kinks that still need to be worked out, we did appreciate this upgraded technology. The WiFi was also among the best we’ve experienced at sea.
With that being said though, Virgin Voyages did heavily rely on the app with minimal ship-wide notifications provided. We received no announcements in our cabin regarding time changes nor any notifications to sign up for a disembarkation timeslot outside of the app. You can easily miss out on important information if you are not tied to your smartphone.
Considering ourselves rather savvy cruisers, even we missed the time change memo.
Unique Design and Ship Layout
There is no doubt that Scarlet Lady is beautiful. From the glamorous entrance of the Manor and the many other Instagram-worthy spots around the ship, you can’t help but want to photograph this leading lady.
There are pops of color, trendy décor, and mood lighting everywhere you turn, even in the staterooms. All of the venues throughout the ship feel intimate, each with its own vibe. Yet, some of the furniture might be a bit uncomfortable for the average-sized cruiser.
Additionally, for traditional cruisers, the layout of the ship isn’t very intuitive. It did take us a bit to get our bearings as the design felt a bit maze-like. There were venues tucked in corners behind other venues, and there was general lack of signage throughout the ship. For instance, trying to find a public restroom might turn into a scavenger hunt.
Happily, we got the hang of it pretty quickly though.
Further, the outdoor decks felt narrow and somewhat closed off as well. This is particularly true if you walk deck 16 near the cabanas where there are walls of metal on each side of you.
While we could hit the gym a bit more often than we do, we get the emphasis on well-being and fitness. Though, we rarely saw any of the equipment in the outdoor Athletic Club being used. Besides for photo-ops, the boxing ring, see-saws, and other “equipment” seemed more in the way than anything else.
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Variety of Dining
Virgin Voyages shines when it comes to dining. There are a variety of dining options on Scarlet Lady that are all included in the cruise fare. From the upscale Wake restaurant which offers steak and seafood choices, along with fabulous wake views, to the eccentric vegan-friendly Razzle Dazzle, there are new and exciting menu items at each of these venues.
There is also Pink Agave (a trendy Mexican restaurant), Gunbae (the lively Korean BBQ), Test Kitchen (a Chef’s Table type experience), and Extra Virgin (an authentic Italian restaurant) serving up unique flavors from around the world.
We were able to dine at most of these venues and particularly enjoyed The Wake, Extra Virgin, and Pink Agave. Razzle Dazzle’s menu was the least appealing to us. It appeared that we were not alone, as this is the only venue that had availability every night of the cruise.
Sailors can make one dinner reservation at each restaurant pre-cruise. Brunch is served in the Wake and Razzle Dazzle, but these reservations can only be made once onboard the ship.
While Virgin Voyages claims there is no buffet, the Galley is a food court that very closely resembles a cruise ship buffet. It houses a burger bar, taco station, noodle bar, an all day diner, and more. While it really is just a buffet, the food selections and quality are top notch.
Everything that we ordered in the Galley was freshly prepared and delivered to our table. Of note, the delivery aspect is likely temporary due to COVID, but hopefully it sticks around.
Additionally, other included casual options are snacks at the Social Club, light bites at the Dock House, and the Pizza Parlor. There are even grab and go items available throughout the ship and gourmet ice cream for no additional charge. These options were a hit!
Related Post: Scarlet Lady Restaurant Guide
The entertainment offerings on Virgin Voyages are less structured and more dynamic than most contemporary cruise lines. Instead of a cruise director, the brand has a happenings cast that engages passengers in a variety of “micro-plays” with a flash mob vibe at times.
Then, there’s the Scarlet Night party complete with a giant octopus and other risqué entertainment like the show Never Sleep Alone.
Further, the entertainment spaces on Scarlet Lady are as equally dynamic.
The Red Room is Scarlet Lady’s main theater. This venue can take on many different configurations to allow for completely different experiences throughout the cruise. The seating arrangements definitely make you feel closer to the action.
We really enjoyed Duel Reality, a star-crossed love story without the fancy costumes or stage props of other cruise productions. Instead, the talented and athletic cast tell the tale with acrobatics and strength acts.
Some of the other entertainment is far too difficult to describe other than it being very different. So, you will have to form your own opinions.
If you like traditional cruise entertainment, this might be a bit too out of your comfort zone. If you are the kind of person who thinks traditional cruise entertainment is a bit cheesy, then this fresh take might be perfect for you.
Honestly, hubby liked UNTITLED DANCESHOWPARTYTHING and Never Sleep Alone much more than I did, as I still gravitate towards traditional cruise entertainment.
We felt that there was a glaring omission of live music around the ship. While the VV band did perform some nights and there were pop-up acts from the Phantom Folktales, we missed the traditional acoustic guitarist and piano music found on other cruise lines.
Also, there were no televisions or sports bars around the ship. For those looking to watch their home team play, you might be out of luck. We would love to see the Social Club and Loose Cannon turned into a larger, more unified sporting venue.
While the staterooms on Virgin Voyages have gotten a somewhat negative reputation and have been likened to Ikea, we kind of liked our Sea Terrace cabin.
We enjoyed the technological enhancements in the cabins as mentioned previously. From the blinds and lighting changing as you enter the room, to the plentiful outlets, these cabins were designed for the modern day cruiser. The mood lighting, while not necessary, is a nice added touch as well.
Yes, the transformational seabeds are not all that functional. Though, we just chose to have our bed remain in the nighttime “bed” configuration the entire time. In this configuration, we were still able to store our empty luggage under the bed.
Further, the amount of storage space surprised us. For a 5-day cruise, the closet set-up allowed for ample storage of our clothing and shoes.
The bathroom is on the small side but does have an amazing rainfall shower head. Of course, we always bring an over the door shoe organizer to house all our toiletries.
And who doesn’t love a hammock on the balcony? While there is a learning curve for getting in and out of it, it is quite enjoyable to lounge here with some scenic views and ocean breezes. It was certainly a favorite spot for me.
Related Post: What You Need to Know Before Cruising on Scarlet Lady
The Beach Club at Bimini
The Beach Club at Bimini is Virgin Voyages private destination in the Bahamas. Every Caribbean cruise will include a stop at this private oasis on Bimini. Many will feature late day stays here.
While the Beach Club is a private resort, guests do need to take an approximately 7 minute shuttle ride from the terminal to the Club.
The extra step is worth it though, as the Beach Club is really nice! It offers plenty of beach space for relaxation, complete with complimentary loungers and umbrellas, as well as day beds. There are also up-charge cabanas for rent.
Additionally, there are two, large lagoon-style pools with guest DJs in the afternoons and 3 bars. We spent our day in a shaded beach bed near one of these pools and loved it.
Further, there are other eco-friendly shore excursion options, so you can be as chill or active as you wish.
Of course, there is complimentary food available throughout the day as well. The menu (lunch, snacks) was a bit more eclectic than your traditional beach barbecue, but all of the offerings were well-prepared and flavorful.
While Virgin Voyages painted the picture of the Beach Club at Bimini being a crazy pool party scene, it really wasn’t, and we are perfectly fine with that. We liked the more relaxed vibe.
While Virgin Voyages really hyped up the late day stays at the resort, the nighttime activities really only consisted of beach bonfires. In fact, the bars at the Beach Club closed two hours before our set departure time. This was a bit of a disappointment as we were expecting more.
We have sailed on over 30 cruises to date with more than 10 different cruise lines, and we believe that Virgin Voyages has succeeded in being different, in a good way.
While we are millennials by definition (barely), we are not into the club or party scene. Yet, we still had an enjoyable time on Scarlet Lady. Regardless of age, Virgin Voyages delivers a good time without all the structure of traditional cruising.
While there are some kinks that still need to be worked out, and maybe even a few design flaws, we think Virgin has found its place in the cruise industry. This adult-only cruise line certainly appeals to a wider market than we initially thought. It’s still a cruise, just with a Virgin twist.
Further, the price point has certainly decreased since bookings initially opened. The more competitive rates and the shorter duration cruises (4 and 5-day sailings) make it the perfect opportunity for you to test the waters with Virgin Voyages. Are you ready, Sailor?
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Do you agree with our Everything We Loved (and Didn’t) about Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady? Do you have plans to sail on this new cruise line? Drop us an anchor below to share your thoughts on Virgin Voyages.