Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady Review: A Trendy New Experience
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I recently embarked on a unique four-night cruise with Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady. Scarlet Lady has reinvented the cruise experience with its unconventional approach to cruising.
The trendy tattoo parlor, hipster karaoke lounge, and edgy entertainment options set this ship apart from other cruise ships I’ve sailed with.
Virgin Voyages’ relaxed dress code, refined dining, elegant cabins, vibrant nightlife, and welcoming crew members only added to the allure of the Scarlet Lady. The attentiveness to detail and commitment to quality service made my time onboard truly memorable.
I was really looking forward to writing my Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady review.
After all the marketing and excitement around the new adult-only cruise line, I couldn’t wait to explore everything the ship had to offer. And I was thoroughly impressed.
Scarlet Lady is a cruise ship owned and operated by Virgin Voyages cruise line. She is the inaugural ship for the cruise line and was delivered on February 14, 2020, by Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri. The ship completed its maiden voyages in October 2021 after delays during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ship can accommodate 2,770 passengers and 1,150 crew members, resulting in a passenger-to-crew ratio of 2.41. The vessel has 17 decks and offers over 20 restaurants and dining experiences.
Scarlet Lady uses wearable technology rather than a traditional cruise card. Sailors can use the bracelet to make purchases, access their room, game at the ship’s casino, and embark and disembark the ship.
“The Band” is made in partnership with BIONIC® Yarn and contains six grams of recycled ocean plastic. The wearable technology showcases Virgin Cruises’ commitment to sustainable ocean travel while providing sailors with state-of-the-art technology to enhance the guest experience.
The ship’s chic layout includes modern bars, nightspots, and a Squid Ink tattoo parlor.
It all goes into the cruise line’s casual, fun, and party atmosphere.
Virgin Voyages definitely isn’t shy. Sex is an underlying theme on the cruise ship. You’ll find provocative venue names and sexual undertones at most venues and shows.
The edgy and sexual undertones were fun initially but became tiring and overworked by the end of the voyage.
I did get a laugh at the ice cream place “Lick Me Till Ice Cream.”
When stepping aboard Scarlet Lady, I immediately noticed the ship’s unique design and aesthetics. Bold colors and contemporary design elements create an upscale atmosphere, making the trip feel more like a luxury yacht than a cruise ship.
One of my favorite aspects of the cabins was the private terraces with their bright red hammocks. The terrace provides a perfect spot to enjoy the open sea.
Each area of the ship has a unique theme and atmosphere.
Virgin put a lot of thought into the ship’s design. The venues are simply marvelous.
But I can’t help but find a lack of attention placed on navigation.
Despite studying the deck plans, the ship’s layout is somewhat confusing. The winding hallways don’t follow a logical route.
Many of the venues are challenging to locate.
Take the pool, for example.
You’d expect to find the doors leading to the pool deck when you exit the elevator. Instead, you must walk to the end of a hallway before making a left or right. And then make your way down another short corridor before you find the pool.
Sailor Services is another example of lousy layout choices.
Most cruise ships place guest services in a central location, such as the atrium.
On Scarlet Lady, Sailor Services is on Deck 5.
Worse still, behind Sailor Services is the Pink Agave restaurant. The only way in or out of the restaurant is by walking through guest services.
Unlike most cruise ships, Scarlet Lady lacks a traditional multi-story atrium. Instead, The Roundabout functions as the ship’s central hub.
A ship’s atrium is where you feel the excitement of passengers. Without a proper atrium, the vessel felt a bit quiet.
While I loved the unique experiences and atmospheres around the ship, the small rooms, closed doors, and lack of multi-story venues made the vessel feel small and gave me a claustrophobic feeling.
But awkward layout choices didn’t ruin the experience. After a couple of days, I got the hang of navigating the ship.
The cruise line could improve navigation by adding more signs around the ship. Although there are interactive displays near the elevators, a few signs would make finding where you’re going easier.
It’s also essential to keep the design choices in perspective. Scarlet Lady is the first cruise ship by a brand new cruise line. While not perfect, Scarlet Lady does an impressive job with its design, atmosphere, and offerings.
Health and safety protocols were clearly a priority throughout my time on the Scarlet Lady, giving me peace of mind as I enjoyed my cruise. The crew maintained a clean and hygienic environment, with frequent public spaces and facilities sanitation.
The ship was remarkably clean. Even for a newer ship, I was impressed at the level of cleanliness.
Scarlet Lady features plenty of seating in public spaces, often accompanied by pillows for comfort. No matter how passengers used the pillows, the Virgin Voyages staff quickly put them back in place.
It was rare to see unattended pillows out of place for more than a few minutes.
As part of protocols, every passenger must complete the mandatory muster drill before the ship departs. Completing the muster drill was quick and easy, as we were given a two-hour window to visit our assigned station.
Scarlet Lady’s cabins are cleverly designed to maximize space and functionality. An impressive 93 percent of staterooms have ocean views, with most cabins boasting balconies, offering passengers private ocean views.
Upon entering my Sea Terrace accommodations, the cabin makes quite the first impression.
As I entered, I was immediately greeted by the curtains opening, revealing the Miami skyline. At the same time, the cabin’s neon lighting turned on, showcasing a modern yet comfortable cabin aesthetic.
Despite the minimal square footage, the bright colors and contemporary design made the small cabin feel spacious.
The cabin has a double bed that can be split into two, providing two single beds or a single bed and sofa configuration.
There’s also flat-screen interactive TV, an iPad for controlling room features, a mini-fridge, a closet, and a safe.
The iPad controlled everything from TV, curtains, lights, mood lighting, and music. There are preset settings for the mood lighting and music to set the scene for a party, nap, relaxing getaway, or adult time.
I travel light, so I have more than enough storage space. But, the cabin has noticeably less storage than other cruise ships.
The ship currently sails on four and five-night itineraries. So the lack of storage shouldn’t be an issue. But it is something to be aware of before your sail.
The desk provided several outlets and USB charging stations, but it had fewer drawers than expected.
I never knew I needed a hammock on balcony cabins until now. I spent more time than I could count swaying in the hammock. It’s a feature I wish more cruise lines would adopt.
Like other cruise ships, the cabin bathroom is especially small. I appreciated the glass shower door compared to the curtain on some cruise ships—and taller passengers like myself like the ceiling-mounted shower head.
The hot water and pressure were better than I expected. And there were complimentary bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash.
The traditional “Do Not Disturb” door signs are replaced by a switch in the wardrobe.
Our room was made up once per day by the room stewards, and we could specify when they cleaned the room using the Do Not Disturb buttons.
A highlight of the Scarlet Lady is its Rock Star Quarters, featuring 78 luxury suites designed by Tom Dixon. The suites offer perks such as priority access to restaurants and venues, dedicated onboard agents, and access to the exclusive “Richard’s Rooftop” sundeck and bar.
Each suite has loungers, a hammock, a marble bathroom, and a king-sized bed. Suite options include the Brilliant Suite, Cheeky Corner Suite, Seriously Suite, and Sweet Aft Suite.
The Mega Rockstar Suites, including the Massive Suite, take luxury to another level with complimentary beverages onboard, private transfers, free access to the Redemption Spa thermal suite, and complimentary laundry. The Massive Suite has a primary bedroom, a private music room, a living room with a vinyl record player, and an expansive balcony with a hot tub, among other luxurious amenities.
Scarlet Lady offers plenty of activities and entertainment options. Before booking this cruise, I had heard a lot of positives about the onboard entertainment.
Unfortunately, this is one area where Scarlet Lady came up short.
The ship offers conventional fun like board games, swimming pools, hot tubs, trivia, and the casino.
One of my favorite activities was the massive chessboard positioned on deck 16’s starboard side towards the ship’s aft.
For adrenaline junkies, the Athletic Club on Deck 16 has a suspended cargo net that hangs above the ship’s wake. Watching others as they apprehensively walk across the net is still entertaining if you don’t have the nerve to give it a go.
I was disappointed by the limited activities and live music during the day. The ship didn’t have any live music around the pool deck. And there were very few live performances at the bars and lounges.
You can see the daily activities in the app. But I was surprised at how few activities were scheduled each day.
Scarlet Lady does an excellent job of spreading people throughout the ship. It’s rare to find large gatherings.
While the lack of crowds was excellent, there seemed to be fewer crowds because there was less to do.
With fewer activities around the ship, the two pools were almost always crowded. And I had no luck getting a pool lounger after 11 am.
Come nighttime, the ship’s entertainment picks up for one of the better parties at sea.
Scarlet Lady offers two primary entertainment venues; The Manor, part theatre and part night club, and The Red Room, a transformational theatre where the main shows occur.
The Red Room is the ship’s main auditorium, hosting high-tech productions and music-focused showcases. This innovative theater morphs into different configurations and offers a unique setting each evening.
I found the shows to be outstanding. The performers did an incredible job, and the technology provided a unique experience that sets Virgin Voyages shows apart from others in the cruise industry.
But, while the production value was high, many of the shows lacked direction.
Each show had a specific focus. For example, Dual Reality showcased incredible acrobatics and aerial stunts. While the performers were captivating, the show’s plot seemed convoluted.
For the amount of effort the cruise line takes to put on such a spectacle, a little attention to the story elements would go a long way.
The Manor, named in homage to Richard Branson’s first recording studio, functions as a bar, theater, and club spread over two levels. Imbued with a mix of theatrical elegance and the raw energy of ’70s punk, it’s a venue that knows how to set the mood.
For a dose of nostalgia, the ship also boasts an arcade reminiscent of the golden age of gaming. If you have a flair for singing, The Groupie offers private karaoke sessions.
One of the ship’s most sought-after events is the Scarlet Night Pool Party. Sailors don red attire and dance under the stars alongside performers on the main pool deck.
The food and restaurants on Virgin Voyages were some of the best dining experiences, not just at sea but anywhere.
Unlike traditional cruise ships, there’s no main dining room on Scarlet Lady.
Instead, the ship is home to more than 20 places to eat, with menus created in partnership with Micheline star chefs.
Most of the restaurants are open throughout the day. But a few of the specialty venues have limited lunch and dinner hours.
You can book a reservation once per restaurant during a sailing. There’s no limit to the number of times you can eat at a restaurant, but if you run out of reservations, you may need to wait until a table becomes available.
While on the cruise, I ate at all Scarlet Lady’s restaurants.
Each restaurant offers a unique experience, from the decor to the menu. With so many options, there’s something for everyone to love.
The Gally replaces the traditional cruise ship buffet. This food court-style eatery is home to several dining options.
Each venue in The Galley has its own hours of operation, which makes it a bit confusing, considering the menu doesn’t list the hours of operation for each food stall.
If you can sail on Virgin Voyages, you must stop by The Pizza Place for the best pizza at sea. My personal favorites are “pretty fly for a white pie” and “chicken pesto.”
Pink Agave and Gunbae provide shared dining experiences. As a more reserved person, I hesitated to share a table with strangers. But I met some really incredible people.
Gunbae is a Korean-style barbeque restaurant. The night begins with a drinking game hosted by your waiter. After the game, your server prepares the food with BBQ grills built into the table.
Test Kitchen is another favorite of mine. The restaurant has a laboratory-themed atmosphere and provides a six-course meal of culinary experimentation. The restaurant offers two menus that rotate during the cruise. I regret not returning to try the second Test Kitchen menu.
There are several bars and lounges with unique atmospheres and signature drinks.
Sip is a popular champagne bar with an upscale atmosphere. The signature cocktail Double Agent is one of the most delicious drinks I’ve ever had.
Pink Agave is hidden away at the lower decks, with the Mezcal Bar offering a vast selection of tequila and Mezcal. The Dock and the Dock House at the aft provide a laid-back vibe with small Mediterranean dishes. They also offer amazing pressed juices.
Razzle Dazzle has the Red Bar with Instagram-worthy cocktails, such as the goldfish or the popcorn old-fashioned. Draught Haus is a haven for beer lovers with various brews on tap, bottled, and canned beers.
On the Rocks is one of the most popular bars on the ship, with a central location on the lower deck of the atrium. The bar features a menu of martinis and cocktails, emphasizing aged spirits served “on the rocks.” My favorite drink was, Are We At Sea?
Virgin Voyages places a big emphasis on healthy living. Regarding fitness at sea, the cruise line has your back (and your biceps and your zen)!
Sweat it out with sunrise yoga, outdoor boxing, meditation, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
The ship also features state-of-the-art Techno Gym equipment for weights, stretching, and core exercises. As a fitness buff, I can honestly say the gym on Scarlet Lady was one of the best-equipped fitness centers on a cruise ship.
The ship also offers free group fitness classes or even get one-on-one attention with personal training sessions. If cardio is your thing, head to the Bike & Burn section for some heart-pounding workouts on state-of-the-art machines or a spin class in the cycling studio.
But wellness isn’t just about getting your heart rate up.
The Redemption Spa is your haven of tranquility and self-preservation.
The Thermal Suite offers various services, from a mud room, salt room, sauna, and steam room, to hot and cold plunge pools and heated marble hammam benches.
Virgin Voyages offers plenty of other opportunities to pamper yourself on Scarlet Lady.
Looking for a beauty touch-up? The Tune Up offers luxurious manicures and pedicures, from organic and invigorating soaks to more lavish decorative nail art.
And if you’re seeking Medi-spa services (like Botox, fillers, or IV therapy), you’ll check in here and be taken to your therapeutic services.
Get your hair done at the salon, where you can coif, tease, dye, or curl your way to the mermaid locks of your dreams. From blowouts and conditioning treatments to highlights and brow services, you’ll look as good as you feel.
Stubble & Groom is a barber shop with nods to past British traditions of men looking and feeling ship shape. From beard trims and haircuts to pedicures designed to put an extra pep in your step, it’s the perfect place to refresh and refine.
And for those looking for a more permanent souvenir of their voyage, Virgin Voyages has partnered with World Famous Tattoo Ink, Body Art Alliance, and Freshly Inked Magazine to open the first tattoo studio at sea. Squid Ink provides small-sized tattoos with nautical and traditional themes.
Virgin Voyages offers an inclusive cruise fare termed “Always Included Luxury.”
Their inclusive pricing makes Virgin one of the most inclusive-priced mainstream cruise lines. Though it may initially seem more expensive than other cruise lines, Virgin Voyages eliminates hidden fees and provides a comprehensive package. Below is the summary of what’s included on my Scarlet Lady cruise:
Virgin Voyages’ pricing is all-inclusive and transparent, providing cruisers a hassle-free and luxurious experience. While the cruise fare is higher than other brands, I loved knowing all my upfront costs. The staff wasn’t pushy selling upsells, and it made for a more relaxing experience.
The Virgin Voyages App is essential for getting the most out of your Virgin Voyages cruise. You can make reservations, purchase shore excursions, and book activities and shows all from the app.
You can also get a paper copy of the daily activities from Sailor Services or at Grounds Club.
You don’t need to make dinner reservations to eat at any of the onboard restaurants, but I highly recommend booking your time.
Dinner spots fill up fast. And if you don’t have a reservation, you may be stuck waiting in line or eating dinner in the gally.
You can view and manage my onboard expenses easily through the app. Purchases update in real-time so you can easily track your spending.
One nice feature is adding friends and family through a QR code. Once you add someone, you can book reservations and shore excursions together.
There’s also a secret button hidden in the app.
When the app opens, shake your phone to reveal a “Shake for Champagne” button. Click the button to have Moet Champagne delivered to your location.
The cruise line claimed that the smart bracelets made it easy for staff to deliver champagne. But it’s a common sight to see lost and confused staff members searching for the correct passenger to deliver the bottle of champagne.
While the app is useful when it works, I often encountered bugs and glitches.
All too often, I’d see a notice about technical difficulties or trouble connecting to online services.
The user interface could be better. While the app is straightforward, booking restaurants and shore excursions took far too many clicks.
There’s also a messaging feature. But after a couple of tries and too many issues to count, I gave up on messaging.
The app works with the free Virgin Voyages WiFi.
I recommend upgrading to the faster Premium Voyage internet package. The quicker speeds go a long way. It’s slower than you might be used to, but it’s much better than the free internet.
During my Scarlet Lady cruise, I enjoyed visiting Virgin’s private club, Beack Club at Bimini.
The club is located on North Bimini Island in the Bahamas, offering a private resort experience for cruise-goers.
Surprisingly, The Beach Club is actually owned by Resorts World. Virgin Voyages and Resorts World worked together in constructing the private beach resort.
When a Virgin cruise ship is docked in Bimini, cruise guests have exclusive access to the club.
My day at the Beach Club started with a short walk from the ship to the shuttle line.
Upon reaching the club, I was greeted by two large pools, a live DJ, white sand beaches, and crystal blue waters. The club was large and had plenty of space for guests to spread out, offering plenty of loungers and umbrellas.
While at Beach Club at Bimini, I enjoyed lounging on beach chairs, sipping refreshing drinks, listening to music, and dipping my toes in the pool.
Virgin Voyages begins embarkation later than other cruise lines, with the first group embarking at 2 pm.
The check-in process was efficient and smooth, with minimal waiting in lines.
I booked my cruise only three days before departure, so I was resigned to choosing a later, 4:30 embarkation time slot. Still, the speedy embarkation process had me on the ship earlier than my assigned time.
A whole hour and a half earlier.
The helpful staff ensured I was cared for as quickly as possible, making my overall embarkation experience quite pleasurable.
Once I boarded the ship, I found my way to my cabin. I only packed a carry-on bag, so I didn’t need to wait for my luggage to arrive.
Disembarkation did not go so smoothly.
I booked a late disembarkation through the app.
I thought sleeping in and enjoying my lunch would be more relaxing before heading to Miami International Airport.
Maybe it was because of our late arrival at Miami Cruise Port, but disembarking could have been smoother. It took nearly an hour and a half of waiting in line before I got off the ship.
I’m going to cut them some slack, as our arrival was delayed by PortMiami.
The Virgin Voyages crew was outstanding. Every crew member interaction I had was kind, friendly, and helpful.
Crew members weren’t pushy to get passengers to purchase upsells, which was a nice change of pace from other mainstream cruise lines. But that also meant getting a server to take my drink order took a bit longer than expected.
The staff can mingle with guests and use public spaces when they’re not working.
With an average guest age in the 40s and 50s, the young crew made for a more diverse crowd on the ship.
I had the opportunity to sail on the Scarlet Lady, Virgin Voyages’ first cruise ship, and overall, I must say that my experience was outstanding. The ship is beautifully designed, and I couldn’t help but admire its aesthetics. I loved many aspects of the cruise, including the adult-only environment, the modern and stylish design, the inclusive pricing, and the variety of dining options available.
I especially enjoyed the live music and entertainment options throughout the cruise. There was always something happening, and the performers were genuinely talented. I also appreciated the focus on sustainability and environmental friendliness, which seemed to be a priority for Virgin Voyages.
The new cruise line has done an excellent job positioning itself as a modern and trendy vacation option for young adults. And the food was the best I’ve ever had on a cruise.
I recommend a Scarlet Lady cruise. And it won’t be the last time I sail with Virgin Voyages.