Richard Branson’s Virgin Voyages cruise line is definitely NOT your average ocean cruise. When Sir Richard set out to reinvent the cruise experience, many things were on the table – food, beverages, cabins, entertainment; virtually every aspect of cruising was reviewed and refined.
Even the way things are referred to is unique – the trip is a Voyage, passengers are Sailors, and the standard greeting is Ahoy! Virgin Voyages promises an “Epic Sea Change for All” and delivers just that in so many ways. To begin with, Virgin Voyages is an adults-only experience – all sailors must be 18 or older. And the ships reflect that, in design and activities.
The Virgin ships are called ladyships, acknowledging the long tradition of referring to ships as female or perhaps a nod to the British heritage of Sir Richard. The design of the ladyships is upscale, modern, adult, and sustainable. No detail was overlooked by the top designers who created what Richard Branson likes to refer to as his superyachts.
The Sailor experience starts with the app on a smart phone and the band on the Sailor’s wrist. These replace the usual credit card size piece of plastic cruisers have used for decades to charge things and open their cabin doors. About two weeks before the voyage begins, a small brown box arrives, containing bands and luggage tags. Sailors check in for the voyage on the app and can make reservations for dinner, sign up for activities and make reservations for entertainment venues.
Packing for a Virgin Voyage is more flexible too. No “formal nights” here, but Sailors may want to pack fancy sleepwear for the Pajama Party, and something red for Scarlet Night. A Virgin Voyage is more relaxed, and personal style determines dress – glam, casual, or in between.
Food service is also very different on Virgin Voyages. There is no large main dining room. Instead, there are six smaller restaurants where Sailors can dine by reservation, at no additional charge.
Gunbae Korean Barbecue has communal tables for grilling. Pink Agave Mexican has a great selection of tequilas and margaritas and modern takes on traditional Mexican food. Extra Virgin showcases Italian cuisine. Razzle Dazzle is vegetarian forward but has a “secret steak menu” and the best bacon on the ship for breakfast. The Wake is a steak house, although not exactly traditional, where for an additional charge diners can order a Tomahawk steak (bone in ribeye) that will easily feed two. And finally, there is the Test Kitchen, where every plate is a work of art with impeccable flavors.
There is also no buffet – the Galley is more of a food hall, with 6 or more options for various types of foods. Once seated, servers will take orders and deliver everything from burgers (the Burger Bar) to ramen (Noodle Around) to paninis (Hot off the Press) to sushi (Bento Baby) to Mexican (Let’s Taco ‘Bout It) and all-American faves (Diner & Dash.)
Beverages are handled by a Bar Tab, purchased in advanced and topped off by Virgin to create a credit on the account. As beverages, alcoholic or not, are ordered the cost is deducted from the tab. And there are plenty of non-alcoholic options, from fresh pressed juices to specialty coffees to (dare we say it?) virgin cocktails. Or Sailors can just charge the bevvies to the room account.
Speaking of the room, expect clean lines and modern design. Lucky Sailors with a veranda cabin might find a comfy hammock to relax in. The lighting, TV and curtains are all controlled from a tablet. The beds convert to a queen bed or can be arranged as a day bed/sofa for daytime use. Wi-Fi is included in your cruise fare, as are the gratuities for staff.
Oh, yes, staff. The usual activities staff has been replaced by folks with titles like The Hostess, The Gamer, The Flare, etc. And you will find them all around the ship – Bingo or Cocktail Hour with the Hostess, perhaps? Or board and electronic games with, who else?, The Gamer.
Probably no surprise at this point, the evening’s entertainment is not the typical cruise ship Broadway-style production. The “Untitled DanceShowPartyThing” features interactive hip-hop interpretive dance and music with a moving stage so everyone has a great seat… Well, no seats, actually, but a great view.
NSA (Never Sleep Alone) is a sex therapist audience participation night, filled with lots of shock, awe and laughs. Duel Reality is an acrobatic Cirque du Soleil-style version of Romeo and Juliet, with Reds vs Blues. If you still have any energy left, there is a casino, a night club, and private karaoke studios. And don’t miss the Sail Away party up on deck with incredible views of Miami and free-pouring bubbly.
In case you think it is all food, drink and party, there is a lovely spa with a thermal suite, a well-equipped gym and outdoor fitness area, basketball court, track and tons of yoga and fitness classes to be had. There is even a full-service tattoo parlor onboard. Be sure to sign up early though, those spots go fast!
Scarlet Lady sails from Miami on 2 different 5-day itineraries, one to the Dominican Republic and one to Mexico, both stopping at Virgin Voyages private Bimini Beach Club. Be sure to hang around for the bonfire!
If you are ready to take an adventure on a Virgin cruise and enjoy an a-typical not-average cruise experience then contact me, Polly, at 954-702-0040.
If you want to be in the know about traveling or cruising or are ready to book your next adventure then check out my website : www.adventuresbypolly.com or follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AdventureswithPolly – Cruise Planners or on Instagram @advbypolly.
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Polly Hemstock ACC is a franchise owner/travel consultant with Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative. Polly has spent a lifetime cultivating her passion for food, wine, and travel. She is an avid traveler, retired chef/restaurateur, a Certified Specialist of Wine and is now a Certified Cruise Counsellor.
Polly retired to Florida from New England and came out of retirement to become a travel agent, inspired by years of cruising, much of it from Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale. She enjoys all types of food and wine, cooking and dining out. She started her food career as a food scientist, developing consumer food products for General Foods.
Polly obtained her culinary education at The New York Restaurant School and had a career as a chef and restaurant owner, followed by working as a sales representative for a gourmet food supplier and a wine distributor. While working in the wine industry, she traveled to the wine regions of California, Oregon, Argentina and Chile.
She has traveled extensively in the US including Hawaii and Alaska, as well as Canada, much of the Caribbean, Mexico, Brazil, and the Mediterranean. Find Polly at AdventuresbyPolly.com or on Facebook at AdventuresbyPolly.com – Cruise Planners and Instagram @advbypolly.