When Virgin Voyages first announced the launch of its new adults-only cruise line, the maiden voyage was scheduled for 2020. After a Covid-related delay, the first ship, the Scarlet Lady, is now leaving PortMiami. Although we are used to sailing with children, we took the opportunity to discover this new way of sailing and really enjoyed our Virgin Voyages experience. Here’s what it’s like to browse Virgin Voyages now.
Like most cruise lines, you’ll need to download their app to get the best onboard experience. Virgin Voyages is different in many ways, but one of the biggest differences is noticeable even before you go on a cruise. There is no buffet or main dining room on the ship. Therefore, you will need to book in advance for the included specialty restaurants.
Customers can make one reservation per restaurant. With six restaurants and only four days on board, we had choices to make. According to the crew members, we were sailing with only over 800 guests, so none of our chosen restaurants were full.
The Scarlet Lady leaves PortMiami’s brand new Terminal V. Before leaving, you will need to complete an online health form and submit documents. Covid tests are mandatory for all sailors. Free tests are available at the port, or you can arrive with a negative test in hand. Check their website for the most up-to-date information before you go so you have the proper testing and documentation.
Virgin Voyages generally allows guests to stay on board a bit later than other cruise lines on the day of disembarkation. This means that the earliest boarding time is later than normal. Our group boarding time of 1:30 p.m. was the first offered, with the ship usually opening for sailors around 2:00 p.m.
On arrival at the port, guests were directed to two areas – one to have the results checked that you brought with you, while the other was to register for the port tests. Each area had multiple lines separated by upcoming port arrival times, so even if you can arrive a little earlier, you won’t be able to board early. For our port arrival time of 1:30am, there were lines for 1:30pm, 1:45pm and 2:00pm.
Virgin Voyages offers a wearable wristband instead of a traditional key card. It makes things so much easier because you’ll never have to pull out your card to pay for a purchase or enter your cabin. Portable devices are sometimes sent home ahead of time, unlike ours. We were able to pick them up when we arrived.
Unlike our experience on other cruise lines, our cabins were already ready when we arrived on the ship. The rooms have a small tablet to control the TV, mood lights and balcony blinds. There are even mood settings to choose from, instead of manually choosing each setting. The luggage arrived in the early afternoon.
It’s unclear if this is due to their ‘we do things differently’ mantra or Covid protocols, but the muster exercise was very quick and simple. After watching a video in our cabin (which definitely followed the rock star theme), we had to check in at our muster station to get a brief life jacket demonstration.
Virgin Voyages Shows
While restaurant reservations and shore excursions (called Shore Things on Virgin) can be made in advance, show reservations must be made once you’re on board. Entertainment is more adult-focused on Virgin Voyages, and there are none of the musical-style shows seen on other cruise lines. Instead, you’ll find acrobatic shows, game shows, adult cabarets, and more.
With such a limited number of guests on our boat, it was not difficult to get reservations for anything. Full-capacity cruises can make it a little more urgent to make those reservations early.
Every night (and during the day on our day in Bimini) there is a fun ship-wide party. The highlight of these is Scarlet Night, where everyone puts on their best red clothes and dances the night away on the pool deck.
Due to the reduced number of passengers and the size of the entertainment venues, we felt we saw a lot more of our fellow travelers. By the end, it was obvious that many new friendships had formed between the various passengers.
One of the other changes Virgin is making to the cruise experience is the elimination of the traditional cruise director role. Instead, they have the “Happenings” cast, which is made up of 12 different energetic personalities, with titles like “The Hype” and “The Foodie.” We met these crew members throughout our trip, and they truly lived up to their names.
All inclusive experience
Virgin offers an all-inclusive experience, which was refreshing to experience. This includes the following:
- All tips
- Specialty meals are all free. There were a few items that were offered as an extra (like the raw bar tower in the Wake, for example). “Essential” beverages, such as water (filtered or sparkling, no bottled water is offered on the ship), soft drinks, juices (not pressed), standard tea and coffee are included. Additional charges apply for alcoholic and specialty beverages and coffees.
- Basic Wi-Fi is free, and higher speeds are offered for an additional fee.
- Group workouts are included but may require pre-registration.
There are additional things on the ship offered at an additional cost. These include shore excursions (called Shore Things), afternoon tea (available with or without a glass of champagne), bingo, a Shot for Shot mixology/photography class, and a night painting class.
Restaurants on Virgin Voyages
There are so many places to eat on the ship, including the six main places. These include:
- Pink Agave, a Mexican restaurant that was my favorite restaurant on board
- Razzle Dazzle, a vegetarian restaurant with some “cheeky” (meat-based) options
- The Wake, a steak and seafood restaurant
- The Test Kitchen, offering an experimental 6-course menu
- Extra Virgin, an Italian restaurant
- Gunbae, a Korean barbecue restaurant offering communal meals and drinking games
In addition, there is the Galley, which replaces the traditional buffet. Instead, it’s more of a food hall with small themed booths. Choose a seat, scan a QR code and a waiter will pick up and deliver your order. I really enjoyed this concept, and there were enough choices for most preferences.
There are other places to eat during the day, including the Dock offering Mediterranean appetizers, Pizza Place and the Sun Club Cafe offering poke bowls. Room service is also offered.
With fewer passengers on the ship, I was concerned about the opening hours of restaurants and other venues. I didn’t notice any change, though – everything seemed to be open when I expected it to be open.
While the Virgin Voyages experience is definitely different from any cruise experience I’ve had, it’s a refreshing change. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a fantastic addition to the cruise industry.