Virgin Voyages, for better or worse, is a completely different kind of cruise. Reflecting back on my 5 Night cruise, it really didn’t feel much like I was on a cruise. It might have felt more like I was on a land based resort. One thing is for sure, it felt really different.
The first thing that might stand out about the Virgin Voyages experience is that there is no figure that you look to help plan your day like a traditional cruise director. They had a cruise host and activities team, but not a person that seemed to be leading the way for the cruise.
On a traditional cruise, there is a show in main theater every night that is different and that theater typically holds about 1/2 of the guests. With an early show and a late show, the cruise director typically comes on stage to not only introduce the entertainers, but also at the end of the show to let folks know what else was going on on the ship that evening and the next day. On Scarlett Lady, there were two smaller entertainment venues that only held a couple hundred people, and reservations were required for the shows. Each of those shows were presented on several different nights during the cruise, so we were not greeted by a Cruise Director, nor presented with what is going on.
All the schedules for the day were done through the Virgin Voyages App. There was no back-up paper scheduled delivered to the room, the app was the sole source of information about what was going on the cruise. So if apps are your thing and your really like to plan your day via an app Virgin is a great cruise line for you. The app featured a schedule of what is going on through out the ship and the option to even register or reserve that activity. This would have worked better if the app wasn’t so buggy. It froze or crashed often and several features, while displayed, were not implemented yet.
The app was especially important for the shows and fitness classes. It also let you pre-reserve your dining times via for the 6 major restaurants. This was not so important when the ship was sailing half full like during our week, but when the ship is full dinner reservations are going to be a must. Guests can reserve each of the 6 major venues via the app only once during a cruise, so dining around is also a must on Virgin. I’ll have seperate review for the the dining venues.
Entertainment and Venues
The layout of the ship felt completely different in that there were lots of different dining and entertainment venues and nothing centralized. I liked the little nooks and crannies. This is where the ship might have felt more like a land resort with lots of different bars from which to choose. On The Rocks was a live music venue where most nights we listened to live blues music. The Manor was the central night club of the ship. This venue felt very much like a land based venue as it had no windows, had that twinkle light entry and seemed much more like a big city night club than a cruise ship night club. The offered a racy cabaret here called “No One Sleeps Alone” that was presented by sex expert and entertainer. That didn’t exactly sound like my cup of tea, so I skipped that one, but those who gave it a go said it was funny and entertaining. We did however very much enjoy the evening when the Funk Band “Free Label” that played this venue. Great music for listening or dancing, and the closed in night club setting made it seem like a great show at a big city night club. You could have been anywhere but on a cruise ship for that night.
The Red Room entertainment venue was a multi purpose room that featured a dance party called “Untitled Dance Party Thingy”. We were late coming from dinner so only caught the last 5 minutes of the experience, but it seemed to be an interactive dance party. Crowd attending seemed to be having fun. We saw two other shows in this venue. The first one was a comedy singer. She sang goofy songs about her life and sex life as a millennial. She had a good voice and was very talented, but did I really need a 45 minute show with singing about a millennial’s anxieties with Instagram and how much she loves sex? Probably not.
The final show, Dual Reality, was the most enjoyable and out of the box. It was an acrobatic circus based on the idea of Rome and Juliet, two rival teams take each other on in series of acrobatic show-downs that included tumbling, acrobatic balancing and throws, juggling, pole climbing stunts, trapeze and teeter-totter. I loved what I could see, but with the bleacher seating and the performers below, we could only see the performers who were standing on the floor from the waist up. When they did two person high acrobatics, the pole work or the trapeze, it was easy to see them. My favorite part of the show was the climax at the end when two of the acrobats did increasingly higher and more complicated flips on the teeter-totter. They were incredibly athletic and skilled and the easy to follow story made the show enjoyable. The show featured simple athletic wear as costumes and did not have any kind of set as it took place between two sets of “bleachers” with each side of the audience representing one side of the rivalry.
Guests can used the app to find a variety of activities through out the ship through-out the day and evening. These included trivia contests. The Scarlett Lady sail away party was spectacular for three reasons: the great funk band, the free flowing champagne and the spectacular Miami Sky line. The captain, from whom we didn’t hear very often, took the ship out towards Miami before turning the ship around and heading out to sea. Champagne was handed out left and right and the band kept the party going. Following the sail away, the ship hosted a Pajama Party on the aft ourdoor deck.
Karaoke night was well attended, with good audience participation and the system had a great variety of songs. The ship also had a private karaoke lounge that could be blocked out for 1 hour segments. So if a guest wanted to play with the versions that they had on she ship to pick the best version of their favorite song or play with the key change function, they could go the private set up during the day in 1 hour blocks to practice. This would also be fun for small groups as well. They had Karaoke on two nights of the 5 night cruise. The twist in the experience was because it was an adults only cruise, one of the hosts sangs a very naughty Nicki Minaj song that would have been totally inappropriate on any other cruise line.
Another activity that they had was “Board Game Time”, or at least that is what I called it. This was hosted by the activities staff and guests got to meet up and find boardgames to play with other guests. I found some folks with which I played Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne. Those are two games we love to play at home and have brought with us to play on other extended cruises. It was a fun day!
In addition to the larger theater setup being noticeably absent from this ship, so too was the forward of aft facing observation lounge. Replacing those areas were large open aft facing decks with lots of lounge chairs. Weirdly most of the chairs were either highly stylized low sitting wooden chairs, bar stool type wooden chairs, or large chaise platform loungers. The low lying wooden chairs were great for viewing the ocean, but hard for old folks like us to get in an out of. There was more beds on the decks than chairs.
The ship offered one of the most extensive wellness and fitness programs with most activities like fitness classes, spin classes, barre, posture and yoga and boxing classes included in the price of the cruise. The fitness center was well equipped with both weight and cardio equipment, most notably cardio equipment in good working order with TV’s and fitness programs actually working on them. One of the upper decks was dedicated to a complete jogging/walking track that did not cross over public spaces like they so often do on other ships.
Finally, our room we had an Sea View Terrace, or standard balcony cabin. Our interior room was one of the smallest we have cruised in during recent memory. The size is probably most similar to a standard balcony on Princess or an older Celebrity cruise ship. Our most recent Celebrity cruises have all been 192 sq feet or bigger. The rooms seemed slightly smaller on Virgin, but most of that extra square footage on Celebrity is in the bath where it made the most difference. The bath for the standard balcony cabins on Virgin was just too small. I would recommend the XL Terrace Room for any one looking for a little more square footage in the bath as that is where most of the extra is put. The ship also has a variety of suites and slightly higher prices than these standard cabin. The layout of the room was fine, but when walking between the Bed and the TV bumped into one or the other because the space was so tight. The plus of the room was that there were lots of electrical outlets for charging phones and laptops, drying and styling hair etc. In room entertainment was extensive including lots of free movies and music. The balcony was spacious enough to accommodate two chairs, a small table and a hammock. However, the grey and red color scheme felt a little to industrial. If you prefer to cruise in a little more style, the Rock Star Suites are the way to go!
I would have to say that overall I liked the décor of the ship that ranged from stark and industrial to warm and welcoming. The state rooms had a dorm room vibe, which might be good for the younger folks. The Dock House on deck 7 particularly comes to mind as warm and inviting with its Mediterranean nautical decorations. All of the dining venues had engaging décor that was on them for the venue. They seemed to run our decorating budget in the elevator areas. They were very plain, stark, and reminded me of a hospital hallway. There will be a separate review of the dining venues with more pictures but here are some shots of the general décor of those venues.