Set Sail the Virgin Way
A few weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of being amongst the very first sailors on the new Virgin Voyages cruise line aboard Scarlet Lady out of her home port in Miami, FL. This was a cruise experience like non other - in fact I said numerous times that this is the perfect cruise for those who think they are not cruisers!! I'd love to share with you some of my experiences and maybe something will resonate with you!
First, some facts....
Virgin Voyages is the brand spankin' new endeavor from thought leader, entrepreneur and billionaire, Richard Branson. Everything is splashy, edgy and fun! The music, the food, the layout, the crew - every aspect is just different from any other line I've experienced. It's adult only, very avant-garde, even provocative at times. I would say there's almost nothing understated about the experience. It's unapologetically bold, brave and inclusive. There is nothing stuffy or old fashioned about it! Experiential is a great descriptor.
Virgin Voyages was to have begun sailing March 2020 and, well, we all know what happened mid-March 2020 - THE PANDEMIC! But there we were, after many MANY delays, we were finally about to board! I couldn't wait to see how this lined up with my previous cruise experiences. Well, I think the first hour? day? few days? Let's be honest - for the entire time, I felt like I walked around trying not to trip on my jaw, which was mostly on the ground!
But I am jumping ahead - let's start at the very beginning...
The Experience - Boarding
We arrived at the pier an hour ahead of our scheduled boarding time, which I HIGHLY recommend, and I'm really glad we did. The lines were long, but not unreasonably so. I should also say we did not have priority boarding, nor did we have rock star status.
We wound around outside for a little bit and for the most part the line moved. To board the ship all passengers and crew were required to be 100% vaccinated from Covid and then we were given an antigen test in the terminal. Once we received our negative results via email, we simply showed them to a crew member and off we went! Can I just tell you how great it felt knowing that when I got on that ship and looked around, I COULD SEE PEOPLE'S FACES! You know why? We were all safe - very few masks were worn on the ship - we'd been vaxxed, we'd been tested and we were CLEAR!
All told from the time we exited our rideshare outside the pier until we walked on the ship was about 2 hours - and I'd say it went by pretty fast!
The first thing you notice is that it's very bright and colorful. There's a lot of natural light, modern furnishings, fantastic little sitting areas with very comfortable seating. LOTS of hang out spaces - LOTS of bars. And a lot of friendly crew. Scarlet Lady carries about 2,770 passengers and we were sailing with only about 1,300 and it was FANTASTIC.
We found our cabin, we were staying in a Sea View Terrace (aka a Balcony cabin). Of course the first thing you notice is that when you enter the cabin using your handy dandy wrist fob, the curtains open and the lights come on! And the NEXT thing you notice is the hammock. Yes I'll admit I logged a lot of time in that hammock!
The furnishings were minimalistic, reminiscent of a large, 4-letter Swedish retailer but hey, how much time does one spend in their cabin when there's an entire amazing ship to explore?
I was lucky enough to be able to tour some of the Rock Star Quarters and was sufficiently impressed (ok, VERY impressed) by the Posh Suite, measuring a whopping 833 sq feet, featuring a large marble bath, an extra 1/2 bath, a super sized terrace, a separate living area, a nifty bar setup and a private lounge area for all the Rock Stars to share!
Now, let's talk about the grub!
Here's where Virgin Voyages really shines, in my opinion. The food! The first thing to notice is that you will not find anything resembling a traditional main dining room on this ship - nope, nowhere to be found. Instead there are many MANY dining options, from an all-day breakfast diner, a noodle bar, burger joint or bento boxes in The Market; to 7 fantastic specialty dining restaurants. You will have no shortage of choices to satisfy any culinary craving you have!
I enjoyed gelato almost daily -- candy and popcorn at the social club diner, AMAZING pizza, a lovely hot latte daily made with love by my favorite Italian barista named Davide in Fresh Grounds! Evenings brought choices that ranged from Pink Agave, authentic Mexican, to Extra Virgin, my personal favorite featuring homemade pastas and the most AMAZING AFFOGATO CART - READ THAT AGAIN, DO NOT MISS THE AFFOGATO CART!!! (Little known fact: you can go into Extra Virgin any evening and request an affogato!!) There's also the Wake where I had an amazing steak cooked to perfection. There's Razzle Dazzle, veggie forward, The Test Kitchen, a haven for any foodie, and many others. But I have to say the most FUN was Gunbae the Korean BBQ eatery. Demonstration grilling, a super fun crew, drinking games and new friends - really WOWed here!
Entertainment, 'nuf said...
Whether you define entertainment as the gym, the casino, playing Bingo, seeing a live performance, participating in a game show, trivia night getting a new tattoo or playing shuffle puck or foosball, there is so much to keep you busy here and something for everyone.
The live shows can be a little provocative - the hostess was something else - a voice that was AMAZING and personality for days! I thoroughly enjoyed Duel Reality - the dancing, the energy, the acrobatics - I was drawn in from the moment it began! I will admit I attended the Scarlet night party and several of the immersive experiences but not too many of the other shows.
The gyms (there are 7 on board) will help keep you sane - whether you're taking yoga on the deck or running laps or a spin class or lifting weights - you will have EVERY modern convenience and then some. There are several pools, of course, and the DJ/pool party music will keep you there far longer than you thought you might want to stay! It's really amazing!
The spa - worthy of mentioning. I was also able to tour this space. There's a mud bath area, a Himalayan pink sea salt room, a sauna, several plunge pools of different temperatures and of course a wide variety of treatments available - really - top notch all the way.
And last but not least, Bimini Beach Club
What can I say, Bimini is beautiful. This is not a private island owned by Richard Branson, as was rumored and believed by many who didn't read or didn't pay attention. Rather this is a private beach club that as a guest, when in Bimini you have full access to. The beach is amazing, pool spectacular, a lunch and afternoon snacks are brought on shore by the Virgin Voyages crew and of course, a special section of beach and a Pavilion for the Rock Stars!
In summary, it was an unforgettable 5 days... truly unforgettable. I will leave you with a few more images of the ship and all the fun little nooks and crannies. If this experience seems right up your alley, or floats your boat (yes, sorry, bad pun) I'm here to help you put together an amazing vacation you will not soon forget! Just reach out and let's talk! For now, ahoy mate!