Ian and I just went on what might be my favorite cruise ever! Now nothing can beat the natural beauty of Alaska or Hawaii BUT based on the ship experience alone it was hands down the BEST!
I have been excited about this line for years because it is ADULTS ONLY! Yes, you heard me, adults only! Now many of you know that I was a teacher for many years and I have 3 great step kids. But when vacationing without them, I prefer not to have a lot of kids running around the pool deck screaming because they are on a sugar high from so much self-serve ice cream. Honestly, once my regional sales manager said adults only, I was sold.
Virgin does require everyone to have a passport and right now everyone does have to be vaccinated. In addition to being vaccinated, they are testing you at the port. This was all pretty simple and they have improved their process since the Mer Maiden Voyage in October. From the curbside to our cabin took around 1.5 hours. Once on board the ship our rooms were ready, I am not sure if this is because of limited capacity due to Covid or their overall plan but it is GREAT! If you have been on a cruise before you know there is usually only the buffet available and EVERYONE is at the buffet trying to eat all at the same time. Not good, so I loved this process.
The ship, The Scarlet Lady, is brand new and seems to have a more intimate feel. Here are a few of the key points.
There is no main dining room or buffet. There are multiple restaurants similar to the "specialty dining" you find on other cruise lines. They do use the term "elevated dining" when describing their food and I have to agree. They have Mexican and Italian, a steak/ seafood restaurant, a "veggie-forward" restaurant, and the Test Kitchen. The test kitchen is different and if you are very picky you might not enjoy it. I personally loved it and all their unique presentations. You could choose either beef or venison but then it is a set menu. They have more vegan/ vegeterian/ glueten free options than most other cruise lines. They do place a lot of emphasis on health and wellness so that is not too surprising. There are some items on the menu that cost more like the seafood tower in The Wake, but you should have plenty to choose from without paying any extra.
Instead of a buffet, they have The Galley which is similar to a food court. You can sit down and be waited on or go up to the food stand and order. They had a wide variety there like sushi, which was the only thing on the whole ship that I was disappointed in, ramen, diner food, salads, sandwiches and tacos/ burritos.
They also have The Dock for tapas, I Scream for Ice Cream with some fantastic ice cream, and some of the best pizza I have had on a ship. In several places around the ship, they have grab-and-go boxes with things like raw veggies, sandwiches, salads, and some desserts. Since there are no single-use plastics on the ships for their sailors, they are reusable and I LOVED this idea. Room service is also free but they do charge a $5 delivery fee. Happy to pay $5 for a late-night snack or breakfast in the room! If you order something it is also a good idea to order a few soft drinks if you like to have those in your room. This way you won't have to pay each time you want a soft drink and don't want to leave your comfy hammock on the balcony. One of the amazing things is that most drinks "basic bevvies" are included. This means soft drinks and most juices as well as coffee and tea. They do have a coffee shop on board and the specialty coffees are extra. You can pay for these with your bar tab which you can pre-purchase before boarding. When you pay $300 on your bar tab they do give you an extra $50. At times they offer an extra $50. Currently, they are offering $100 for Wave season.
During the day you may be surprised by some interesting pop-up entertainment throughout the ship. Some of it is unusual, some of it is amazing but it is all fun. There are some scheduled activities throughout the day but you may want to take a good book and just plan on chilling until evening because there isn't a lot planned. One fun thing was that they have all types of board games, even kids games, out during the day so that you can have some fun with those. They had everything from Hungry Hippos to Cards Against Humanity. The pool is not really designed for swimming, more for just lounging in but since there are no kids that makes total sense to me. If you want to work out they have a TON of options and all group classes are included. They have a cross-fit style workout area, boxing, and tons of space outside in addition to the regular machines you usually see on a cruise ship. They even have an adult teeter-totter! In the evening they do have 2 or 3 shows for a 5-day cruise. On our cruise, we saw Puddles Pity Party which you will recognize if you are an AGT fan. They had a high-energy cirque-type show and one called Never Sleep Alone. I will say that if you are easily offended you will need to skip that last one! They do not have a formal night but they do have the Scarlet Party which is a ship-wide party with entertainment all over. You will start around the main staircase then follow them around the ship and end up at the pool for a pool party. You can be as casual or dressy as you like. This is actually the theme for the entire cruise! Don't want to dress up for dinner, fine! Want to wear a cocktail dress for dinner, also fine! Come as you are just don't wear a wet bathing suit. If you get to know the crew, you may even get invited to some private shows. They do of course have a nightclub where you can dance and have fun until the wee hours. There are plans to have a drag queen brunch but Covid has derailed that for the moment.
As you can tell from all of this, this is not your momma's cruise line! Sir Richard Branson is not going to follow the lead of anyone else and it shows when it comes to this cruise line. The ship is highly instagrammable if that is your thing. There is no cruise director instead they have a great social crew in charge of entertainment. They were all incredibly nice and a lot of fun to talk to. This actually goes for the whole crew on the ship. Richard Branson has said that if your employees are happy, your guests will be happy and that is definitely true when it comes to the Scarlet Lady. The staff will come up and have drinks with the sailors, they are having a good time and several that I spoke to said it is so much better than other cruise lines they have worked on. Because of the non-traditional feel of the ship, the elevated dining, and some other things this may not be the right cruise line for you. Part of my job as an agent is working with my clients to help them choose the best vacation for them. Let's chat is see if Virgin Voyages is right for you!
Currently they only have Scarlet Lady but are getting ready to add 2 more ships. The Scarlet Lady has several itineraries in the Caribbean and once Valiant Lady is added they will be cruising in the Mediterranean, these itineraries are available for booking now. Each port has unique shore excursions and all Caribbean cruises include a day at their private beach club at Bimini.