Virgin Voyages is a new adults only cruise line that recently sailed their first cruise out of the Cruise Capital of the World, PortMiami.
I was on that first sailing on Scarlet Lady, the cruise line’s first of four cruise ships. While I was on board, I wrote my first impressions of Virgin Voyages and you can read that here. Now that I am home from the cruise, here is my full comprehensive review of Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady.
Virgin Voyages offers a unique experience that you can’t find on any other cruise line or ship in the world. I always have people asking me for something different after they have cruised on many different cruise lines. If you are looking for something truly different, then Virgin just might be what you are looking for. Their goal was to be different, and they sure succeeded. As the saying goes, “this is not your grandma’s cruise”.
Virgin offers a premium cruise experience and the prices reflect that. The cruise fare covers all gratuities, all 20+ eateries, WiFi, basic beverages, and fitness classes. I will go into detail on each of those in a little bit.
Because it’s a premium experience and the cruise fares include more than most, there is no nickel and diming on the ship. This is a big plus. There are no photographers trying to sell you photos, there are no papers sent to your cabin telling you about deals going on around the ship, and there are no restaurant upcharges including the ice cream shop. If you don’t drink, you can easily go on a Virgin cruise and walk away with a room bill of $0 and have a great experience.
You can read about the embarkation fiasco in my first impressions article. I will cut Virgin some slack since it was their first sailing out of Miami and some things take time to run efficiently. I say this because when I got off the ship, I saw signs up to help with embarkation boarding times that weren’t up for our cruise.
So Virgin is improving things that aren’t working efficiently and I actually saw this happen several times throughout our cruise.
Disembarkation went pretty smoothly. Virgin does not send disembarkation papers to your cabin. Everything is done through their app. I chose early walk-off and carried my own bags off the ship. It took around 10-15 minutes to go from ship to curb.
I loved how every area of the cruise ship was themed and unique.
However, the layout of the ship was confusing until you learned your way around as many restaurants are located at the end of dead end hallways. Many times you had to go the end of a hallway and turn a corner to find what you were looking for.
Below is an example of this. When you took an elevator up to the pool deck, this is what you would find. The hallway does not lead straight onto the pool deck like most cruise ships. You have to go through the entryway, take a right or left, and walk around a short curved hallway to get to the pool. I heard several cruisers say “Where’s the pool?” while standing in this hallway.
It’s not a big deal after day one or two since you know your way around but it can be confusing at first.
The ship does have a nice variety of comfortable loungers all around the deck that I loved relaxing in.
The stairwells on the ship did look rather cheap with just stainless steel railings. However, if there was one thing about the ship that no one really cares about, it’s what the stairwells look like. I heard a few people complaining about it but at the end of the day, have you ever booked or not booked a cruise based on the stairwells? It’s one of those thing that you don’t necessarily like, but it doesn’t really matter.
There is also a lack of signs around the ship. Bars and lounges do not have name plates up. Also when getting off the ship, there were no gangway signs. I went to deck 4 midship like they said and myself and everyone around me had no idea where to go. Later in the day, they did tape up a few gangway signs to the wall to help but it was still extremely confusing.
I did love the ship and the theming of each area and once you learn your way around, many of the above issues were no longer a problem. It just takes a day or two to figure things out.
One great feature on Scarlet Lady is that the entire inside of the cruise ship was no smoking. They did have a room right off of the casino where you could smoke but the smoke stayed in that room and did not enter other parts of the ship.
This is one area where Virgin Voyages got it right. The food was a highlight of the cruise and there are more than 20 places to eat on the ship. Each one is included in your cruise fare.
There is no traditional dining room on the ship but there are six main restaurants. You can dine one time at each restaurant for dinner and a second time if there are openings. During my four night cruise, I ate at two of them. I ate at Wake, the steakhouse/seafood restaurant on the ship and Extra Virgin, the Italian restaurant. Both were excellent and service was great. There is also a Korean BBQ, a vegetarian place, Mexican eatery, and the Test Kitchen.
While Virgin says that they don’t have a buffet, they do have an area just off the pool deck that looks extremely similar to a traditional cruise ship buffet.
The Galley has 7 or 8 stations with each one specializing in something different. There is a salad bar, a grill (diner food), dessert station, taco bar, ramen noodle station, sushi, popsicles, and 24/7 breakfast.
Due to COVID, they altered how you order your food in the Galley. You sit down, a crew member takes your order, and they deliver it right to you just a couple minutes later. There were a couple stations where you could go up and tell them what you want and they hand it to you. It was the salad bar where you can customize your salad and the dessert station.
They also had several Grab and Go stations around the ship where you could grab pre-made meals and take it back to your cabin.
There were places where you could get food all around the ship.
The most popular restaurant on board seemed to be The Wake. Razzle Dazzle, the vegetarian restaurant, always had plenty of openings each night.
The only restaurant that you may be seated with others is Gumbae, the Korean BBQ eatery.
I booked this cruise just a few days before sailing and paid for the cheapest balcony available, an obstructed view on deck 8. When I went to check in for my cruise, I noticed they moved me up to a deck 14 balcony right below The Galley.
When I first saw photos of Virgin’s cabins, I thought they looked cheap and like they ordered everything from IKEA. I was pleasantly surprised when I got in my cabin and it looked much better in person.
You can take a short two minute video tour of my cabin below:
One of my favorite features of my cabin was the tablet that controlled everything in it. I think every cruise line needs to switch over to Smart Cabins now. The tablet controlled everything from the TV, curtains, lights, to mood lighting.
There were different preset settings for mood lighting and you could control the brightness of the main lighting from 1-100.
The bathroom was a bit tiny but the awesome rain head shower made of that it.
There was not a lot of storage space. Since this was a four night cruise and I was cruising solo, it wasn’t a big deal. There was a decent amount of space to hang clothes though, just not a ton of storage shelving. Since the ship is sailing just four and five night cruises, this shouldn’t be much of an issue unless you are sharing a cabin with three people.
All balcony cabins come with a hammock. I never knew I needed a hammock on a cruise until my cruise with Virgin Voyages. I loved it and wish every cruise line had this feature.
— Cruise Fever (@CruiseFever) October 7, 2021
I did have one issue with the cabin. The bed has a daytime mode where it turns into a comfy couch. I thought that the cabin stewards automatically did this during the day. By the second day when they didn’t convert it, I found a setting on the tablet that said bed. I pushed it and went to dinner.
When I came back to my cabin at 10:30 pm., my bed was converted into the daytime sofa and all the sheets and covers were gone. After messing with tablet, it has instructions on how to convert the bed yourself so I was able to turn it back into a bed to sleep.
The next day my room steward told me that if you press the bed button, they convert it to the daytime sofa. This is one change that Virgin needs to make, they need to have a button for bed and another daytime sofa. This way it isn’t confusing.
View Prices on Cruise on Virgin Voyages
Entertainment on the ship was far different than anything I’ve ever experienced on a cruise ship. There is no main theatre but the ship does have the Red Room where the main shows take places.
One thing I did not understand was disclaimers that they had for a few shows. Here is an example:
I went to one show (just so I could write about it) that had this disclaimer and was fully prepared to leave as this did not interest me one bit. However, there was nothing going on that was anything close to the description. I know Virgin is trying to be edgy but it seems like they were pushing it too hard.
There were a few events (sex therapist etc) that I did not go to but heard from other passengers that they were very adult oriented.
They did have some unique street type entertainment going on around the ship. One day I was walking through a stairwell and there was a girl playing the violin with a cardboard sign like you would see on the street.
They also had some short fun skits that would pop up at random times around the ship.
Another time, I was sitting and talking with two writers from The Points Guy and a couple of the ship’s entertainers came up to us. They did a couple minute skit and then walked away. I’m not going to lie, it was a little bizarre but Virgin is giving you an experience that you can’t find anywhere else.
They also had some parties late at night up on the pool deck and you never knew what to expect.
— Cruise Fever (@CruiseFever) October 8, 2021
There was not a lot of live music on the ship. One night early in the cruise, there was no live music until midnight. As the cruise went on, there did seem to be more live music around the ship but no where near what you would experience on other cruise lines.
The crew on board was great, the service was fast at restaurants and I was greeted with a friendly hello everywhere I went. I have nothing but good things to say about the crew on Scarlet Lady.
Beach Club at Bimini
All of Virgin’s Voyages sailings out of Miami stop at the Beach Club at Bimini. This is the cruise line’s private beach club and is not your typical private island stop. For one, you have to take a tram through town to get to the Beach Club.
The Beach Club is actually owned by Resorts World but I assume Virgin leases it when their ship’s stop there. They had a sign up that read “Private Event: Virgin Voyages” on the day we stopped there. Based on signs they had up around the pool regarding children, it seems that the Beach Club is used for other things when Virgin isn’t stopping there. Nevertheless, it’s a great place to relax in a tropical setting.
— Cruise Fever (@CruiseFever) October 8, 2021
There are two main pools and tons of loungers and umbrellas. They serve lunch and dinner here since our cruise stayed in port until midnight. When the sun went down, they lit three bonfires on the beach and had live music so it made for a fun evening that you normally don’t get on a cruise.
You could also rent a cabana for the day.
Virgin Voyages uses an app for just about everything on board. You use the app to book dining reservations, shows, and to see what activities are going around the ship. Note, you can get a paper copy of daily activities down at guest services.
However, the app often popped up a message that said “It looks like something went wrong. Hmmm we seem to be having (technical) issues. Please try again.” I was told by a Virgin employee that the app worked better on Android than iPhones. This made me really not want to know how many issues everyone with iPhones had.
The UI also needs a bit a work as you have to click on four different links just to get to basic things like restaurant reservations. It took a couple days to finally learn where everything was in the app.
One nice feature on the app was you could easily link your account with friends through QR codes on the ship so you could make dining and show reservations together.
Other Thoughts About Virgin Voyages
While WiFi is included in all cruise fares, you have the option to upgrade to a faster connection. For my cruise, it was just $40 and I could connect multiple devices at a time. I could not have been happier with the faster WiFi. I’ve cruised on all the major cruise lines and many of them brag about having the best WiFi at sea.
While many cruise line’s WiFi is fine when using your phone, I find that the connection is often terrible when doing real work on my laptop since desktop web browsers require a lot more bandwidth. The connection I got on Virgin while on my laptop was the best I’ve ever had on a cruise. It was $40 well spent.
Bring something red to wear for Scarlet Night.
The top outside deck had a lot of unique things that you normally don’t find on a cruise ship and I never saw anyone use them during our cruise.
A few things found deck 16 of Scarlet Lady: a boxing ring, seesaw, and other things I have yet to see anyone use. pic.twitter.com/AetR7CcfS2
— Cruise Fever (@CruiseFever) October 9, 2021
Due to the unique layout of the ship and Virgin wanting to do things different, you could find things in areas where you normally don’t find them. For instance when sitting in the main atrium, you can watch people have their hair cut or getting a tattoo. Yes, there’s a tattoo parlor on board. The fitness center is located right off of the pool deck and away from the spa which I really like.
The thermal suite was really nice, although a bit expensive ($70 a day).
For those who want the perfect Instagram shot, there are certain areas of the ship created just for that unique photo.
There are no drink packages offered by Virgin and drink prices were slightly higher than you would find on other cruise lines. However, you are not charged extra gratuity on each drink you order. The price you see is the price you pay.
There were a lot of power outlets and USB ports all around the ship, especially in The Galley. This made it easy to charge your cell phone without having to go back to your cabin.
View Prices on Cruise on Virgin Voyages
There is a retro arcade that has many of our favorite games from our childhood. All games are free and you can play at no extra charge.
There is no nickel and diming anywhere on the ship and no pesky photographers. Soda also has no extra charge and is included in cruise fares.
Virgin has done away with traditional key cards and you have a band that goes around your wrist instead. I had the worst time keeping it on my wrist as it kept falling off. It eventually fell off somewhere on the ship and they gave me a traditional cruise card to use instead.
We had around 1,200 sailing on our cruise out of a ship capacity of 2,700. This made the cruise experience even better since the ship never felt crowded. However, some restaurants and shows were completely booked up. It made me wonder how things would be when the ship sails at full capacity.
Even though most restaurants said they were fully booked before the cruise, many spots opened up on the day we boarded the ship. This is something to keep in mind if you book last minute like I did and are worried about getting dinner reservations at your favorite restaurant. Like other cruise lines, it seems like they keep spots open for people to book that first day.
There are not a lot of quiet places on the ship as music with a beat is being played throughout the entire ship. After all, it’s Virgin. There was a vlogger on our cruise who was trying to find a quiet place to film and ended up using one of the karaoke rooms.
Even though the entertainment wasn’t geared towards me, would I cruise on Virgin Voyages again? Absolutely! I loved the restaurants and food on board and the premium feel the ship gave you.
I’ve always thought that the two most important things on a cruise are the food and the service. Virgin Voyages excelled at both.
I loved the all of the themed spaces and the unique seating that each area offered. It’s different and after cruising on every other major cruise line, it was a nice change.
Also, I loved the cabin and would definitely book a balcony again.
Virgin Voyages is definitely not for everyone or anyone look for the traditional cruise experience. However, I overheard many other Sailors (what Virgin calls their passengers) say that this is the only way they want to cruise.
If you’re looking for something different and want a premium cruise experience without any kids on board, then Virgin just might be for you.