As the Scarlet Lady arrived in Miami in preparation for her MerMaiden Voyage on October 6, I was invited to “seize the sea day” with a sneak peek at all her glorious glory while the ship stayed dockside. My exclusive preview transported me into what it means to Set Sail the Virgin Way and learn about all this lady ship has to offer.
I’m sure you recognize the Virgin namesake: Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Music, Virgin Wines, Virgin Unite, Virgin Telco, Virgin StartUp, Virgin Red, Virgin Orbit, Virgin Music… you get the idea. In all his ventures, founder Richard Branson is famously committed to Having Fun in Business, and with Virgin Voyages, he’s found the perfect industry! Everything about the Scarlet Lady–the first to launch among four ships that will sail the Caribbean, Europe, and the Transatlantic–reflects Branson’s vision.
Let me tell you a little bit about the Scarlet Lady.
- Adult-by-Design. Guests must be 18 or older, so far, bookings have been in the 37-to-62 range, with an average age of 47. More than half of the guests are married and/or have children at home, suggesting they’ve discovered the value of taking time for themselves and reconnecting with adult family and friends.
- An “On-Us” offering. The voyage fare includes extras worth more than $600, including dining at 20+ eateries, basic beverages, unlimited Wi-Fi, all gratuities, and group fitness classes.
- 50+ public spaces by world-renowned designers like Concrete Amsterdam, Roman and Williams, and Rom Dixon.
- A Sea-Focused Sailor experience: 93% of cabins are ocean-facing.
- Low guest-to-crew ratio: 2,770 Sailors / 1,150 Crew members
- 4/5/7-night sailings leaving from the port of Miami.
As soon as I arrived at the Terminal, I saw that the Virgin Voyages experience is unique. During the check-in process, club music plays from strategically placed speakers, and Instagrammable backdrops allow guests to start their vacation experience immediately.
Once on the ship, I wanted to check out the cabins. The Scarlet Lady is so much more than just a space to live! Five accommodation categories are available: Insider, Sea View, Sea Terrace, Rockstar Quarters (Suites), and Mega RockStar Quarters. In each, Cleave cabin technology makes life easier and cooler. It also allows you to adjust the lighting to set a mood, and ensures that you won’t wake in the morning to fluorescent lights! The room layout is flexible, adapting to a functional living space during the day and a personal retreat at night. Plus, every balcony includes a vibrant red handwoven hammock.
As you might expect, the Rockstar Quarters come with exclusive VIP perks. This includes early booking/priority access and Select beverages on Virgin. The best perk, in my opinion, is access to Richard’s Rooftop on the ship’s top deck. This VIP sundeck features Chi circular loungers, giant umbrellas, and a full bar for exclusive use of the ship’s suite passengers.
Did I mention the 20+ eateries? Their Dive and delicious specialty eateries offer dishes that will crush any craving. A few of my favorites:
- The Test Kitchen – Inspired by Escoffier’s Ma Cuisine, this laboratory-like spot is part cooking school and part restaurant.
- Extra Virgin – Start with a shared antipasti and follow with any pasta-centric favorite. Worship the carb gods like a good vacation begs of you. Top it off with a traditional Italian aperitif to make your night complete…or help it get started.
- The Dock – This feels like an elegant cabana caught between the chill, seaside perfection of Ibiza and the rustic-chic resorts of Brazil. Try the Grapevine.
- Lick Me till Ice Scream – I’m embarrassed even to write that! But this whimsical ice cream shop harkens back to magical, hometown/summer nostalgia with a Virgin Voyages twist. It offers six seasonal, ship-made, artisanal flavors, including the vegan Green Machine and the Gianduiotto Chocolat. And a featured daily flavor is announced from a DJ booth in the nearby record shop.
- Gunbae – a Korean BBQ with hands-on meat grilling and soju drinking. A perfect spot for maximum social engagement. Who doesn’t love a restaurant that starts out with a drinking game?
The Scarlet Lady does not offer drink packages, because Virgin wants Sailors to focus on the experience rather than free drinks. They do, however, offer:
- A Bar Tab Bonus. Your Bar Tab is an onboard credit for all beverages not already included in the voyage fare, including non-alcoholic options like specialty coffees, smoothies, and pressed juices. When your tab reaches $300, Virgin will “top it off” with a $50 bonus!
- Champagne delivery. I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention “Shake for Champagne.” You literally shake the Virgin Voyages Sailor App to reveal a secret champagne button, and with one press, a 750ml bottle of Möet Chandon Impérial®, in a red champagne bucket with two glasses, is delivered to your room. Says Tom Mcalpin, CEO of Virgin Voyages: “It’s never too early for champagne, and there is always something to toast to while aboard the Scarlet Lady. We want our Sailors to enjoy a glamorous holiday, and what better way to feel like a RockStar than a sip of bubbly whenever and wherever you want it?”
Staying Fit at Sea. By now you know that you’ll eat and sleep like a rock star. But keeping a Rockstar body comes at a price. Good news: I could not believe the number of workout facilities spread throughout the ship!
I do want to leave some surprises… so I won’t tell you about the entertainment, except to say that you won’t be disappointed. From song-driven micro-plays, dinner theater, and participatory shows to karaoke studios and live music-video experiences, you’ll want to sample it all.
If you are creative and value great design, love to explore, love to be treated like a Rock Star, embrace wellness and diversity, see a connection with others as a key element of travel, and want luxury that isn’t “stuffy” or formal, Virgin Voyages is a cruise line to experience. I guarantee this is cruising as you’ve never seen it before.