Ahoy Sailors! When Scarlet Lady was first revealed in 2020, she really made waves with her approach to cruising. I spent a night on board in February 2020, and you can read my original review here. I was lucky to spend some more time on board Scarlet in August 2021, so I really got to get a feel for what Virgin Voyages are all about.
Virgin are breaking the traditional mould of cruising and you know what, it’s refreshing and exciting to see. And almost all reviews I’ve read and watched have said similar things. So, what has changed? In fact, very little – the product is pretty much what was originally launched in 2020 with small tweaks and touches here and there. What is different is that the more time you spend on board, the more you appreciate the product as a whole and what it’s all about. Put simply, it works.
Disclaimer: I paid for this voyage, retain editorial content and all opinions are my own. This article features affiliate links to Cruise118.com and will be highlighted accordingly.
What makes Scarlet Lady different from most cruise ships, especially for her size, is that it’s not about huge grandiose spaces. You won’t find large lounges or atriums here. Rather, in designing the ship, she is more about intimate moments, spaces and nooks which can be used for a whole host of things. But with this, each venue has clearly been painstakingly designed to work with all the others around it, in an ecosystem of venues that support one another.
During my first visit, I highlighted how I loved the design of many of the venues on board, but in coming back on board I was really reminded of this – whether that’s the high-class SIP Champagne Bar, the chic On The Rocks bar, or the more casual Dock, with its Mediterranean indoor-outdoor spaces.
I’d be very interested to sail on board in warmer climates as I do think Scarlet and her sisters will truly come into their own. We lucked out on our journey through the English Channel as the weather was amazing, and you could see how all the outside spaces played to their strengths with such a great vibe everywhere you went. So, it’s going to be exciting when Scarlet Lady heads to the Caribbean later this year and Valiant Lady and Resilient Lady start sailing around the Western Mediterranean and Greek Islands in 2022 – You can check out some of the itineraries at Cruise 118 here [Ad].
The one subject that really divided opinion when Scarlet Lady launched was the design of the Sea Terrace cabin, with the convertible sofa bed and progressive design.
So, after spending a few nights on board, what did I think? I actually loved the cabin space and everyone I’ve spoken to really didn’t have any issues with it. The one thing that has changed is that the sofa bed starts as a bed and will stay like that unless you ask for it to be changed to a sofa. In discussing this with Virgin, they felt this is a better approach to allow people to adjust to the design of the cabins – and it works! For more information about the cabins, visit Cruise 118 here [Ad].
Otherwise, I didn’t really have any issues with the room and as I say, most people seem to enjoy the space. There are intriguing elements I hadn’t appreciated when I first visited in 2020. Mainly, this is how the room is slightly triangular to accommodate all the facilities and give a feeling of space. There are plenty of USB and power outlets for all your devices and needs, and while there is technically only one drawer under the bed, there is plenty of shelf space to store everything. I’d be happy to spend a cruise of any length in here – and the hammock is a genius idea to spend time in on a balcony!
One other thing I noted in my original review is that the bathrooms are also quite small on board. Again, I didn’t have a big issue with this practically and that actually there are some clever reasons behind this, including creating a larger shower space for the amazing rainfall shower.
Of course, you can also choose to live like a star on board, with the Rockstar and Mega Rockstar suites. I was fortunate enough to spend quite a bit of time with some friends in the flagship Massive Suite at the weekend and it is the perfect space to let out your inner star – from the expansive outdoor spaces, to the Tom Dixon designed interiors and bottomless in-room bar.
Activities and entertainment … Virgin style
One area I came away from the first time on board was the strength and quality of the entertainment. Having spent more time with Scarlet I couldn’t echo this more. During our voyage, there was only one main theatre show in the Red Room (which was plenty as it was a three-night cruise). Dual Reality is a show that plays on the Romeo & Juliet story utilising acrobatics and circus skills. It’s by far one of the best shows I’ve seen on land or sea, and the talent involved is simply incredible. You can watch a short clip here over on my Instagram.
And this quality is echoed in all the entertainment on board. Whether that is the various daily parties, or a whole host of other fun activities ranging a variety of talks, cocktail hours, retro gaming sessions and other fun items such as stargazing. At the centre of this is Abi The Hostess, the conductor of ceremonies and events. Make sure you check out her Instagram here.
Little things that could have been considered gimmicks honestly do just work on board. For example, on the upper deck of the Roundabout atrium space, there is the vinyl shop and DJ booth. During certain times of day, the resident DJ will play music here and the whole space spontaneously comes to life with people dancing – it has such a great vibe.
Food & Drink
Coming away from my first real voyage with Virgin I can honestly say the jewel in the crown of the experience is the food. It is out of this World. And that’s across the board at every venue, whether that’s at one of the more formalised intimate restaurants, or just grabbing something casually in The Galley space (which is Virgin’s take on the buffet but designed more like a food hall). So much thought has been given to the dining experience on board, with distinctly designed intimate venues, and mouth-watering accompaniments.
There are even little touches which I didn’t expect but are great ideas. Things like the casual tapas and mezze on offer when you spend time in the dock, or the freshly made takeaway salads and other snacks available in key locations across the ship (all in sustainable packaging) for when you’re on the go or don’t want to go to a formal venue.
Some of my highlights and recommendations include the Pink Agave Mexican, the delights of Razzle Dazzle and the first Korean BBQ at sea. I’m gutted that I’ve still not had time to try everything on board Virgin, but everything I have has been truly exceptional – by far and above some of the best food I’ve eaten at sea.
A real highlight for me on Virgin is the focus on brunch – something very close to my heart. I’ve not really ever noticed brunch as a thing on any cruise line, but it’s a real core part of everyday life on Virgin. We had brunch in two places on board, firstly Razzle Dazzle and then secondly in The Wake. Both were incredible, but if someone were to ask me where to eat anywhere on board, I would recommend brunch in The Wake. The venue is stunning, the views are incredible over the wake of the ship and the food is hand-on-heart out of this word – Top tip, you must try the Crepe Cake!
Relaxed service with a smile
One thing that really strikes you on board is the sheer level of service and willingness to assist by all members of staff. It’s hard to quantify but there is something about the approach to service that I found different to other ships. I found the level of service is more akin to a much smaller ship – it’s very impressive. On top of this, the service is very relaxed, with a simple approach to uniforms and a policy that allows for tattoos and piercings to be on show. This even applies to the captain and his deck officers, where Virgin has a no-stripes policy, and you can find the officers all wearing polo shirts and slacks. I found myself shopping with the captain at one point and hadn’t even clocked he was stood next to me!
A foundation of wellness
While Virgin have always spoken about wellness being a core part of Virgin Voyage’s DNA, it’s not until you spend time on the ship that you really appreciate this. So much space on board is dedicated to this including the Redemption Spa, the B-Complex (Burn, Build, Balance and Bike), The Athletic Club, with its outdoor gym space, The Perch, an outdoor space dedicated to yoga and other classes and then The Runway – the dedicated jogging track on board. On top of this, wellness forms a core part of the activities on board – with classes and talks taking place all day on a variety of subjects.
Cruising the Virgin way
I’ve honestly come away so impressed with my first Voyage with Virgin. I cannot fault what they are doing and their unique approach to cruising. It’s different, it’s non-fussy, it’s sometimes out there, but when you consider it all together it works in a refreshing sense. So much so that I booked back on board for next year! Watch this space!
You can learn all about Virgin Voyages here.
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So, what do you think? Would you take the plunge and cruise with Virgin Voyages? Let me know in the comments and on social media?