I’ve always been a fan of Richard Branson ever since I read his autobiography, “Losing My Virginity.” It’s a great read and tells the story of Virgin Records and Virgin Airways from his perspective as well as tales of his life, business philosophy and just plain old Richard wisdom on disrupting traditional business models.
I recently sailed on the October 20 sailing of the new Virgin Voyage Scarlet Lady titled, “Fire and Sunset Soiree’s”. A four night itinerary out of Miami sailing to Nassau and Bimini in the Bahamas. The ship itself is beautiful with high end touches and finishes and a yacht like feel. She holds 2,770 passengers so she is not a large mega ship and compared to others in port, she sure is sexy.
Why is a Virgin Voyage Different than a typical cruise?
Adults only—If you like kids, but don’t want to see them on vacation, this is the ship for you. Only 18 and up are allowed, and if you’ve been on a ship this size before, think of all the space dedicated to families, take that away, and you have a lot more room to cater to adult fun.
Gratuities are included—I thought this was a great concept in theory and tips would be gently hinted at, but throughout the entire voyage, this was not the case. When I booked a spa treatment, it indicates in the price the gratuity is included and when I completed the treatment and asked if I was all set, they said I was. I just finished and walked out; it was that simple. This was also the case throughout the entire voyage, even on the shore things (AKA shore excursions), no mention of a tip or hint of one was implied.
No buffets and no specialty restaurant up charges—The ship has a fantastic food selection, from Italian, to Korean BBQ, Mexican and even Vegan options, there is something for every taste. One of our favorites’ was the Test Kitchen, a five course tasting menu in which you are only given the ingredients of the selections, not how it’s prepared. The server asks if there are any dietary restrictions or allergies and if there is an ingredient you don’t care for, will provide a substitution. It’s a unique experience, in a high end dining atmosphere and encourages you to venture out into new tastes and cuisines. Overall, the food was fantastic, the service exceptional and we enjoyed all our meals.
Wellness options are included—For the person who enjoys a good workout while on vacation, this is the option for you. Unlike other cruise lines, Virgin Voyages does not charge extra for classes and they have some different options too—like Barre and Roll Out and Recovery. They offer sunrise yoga in the morning and have a host of different classes throughout the day for the entire voyage. The gym is spacious too—offering one side with weight training equipment and the other is all cardio—treadmills, bikes, ellipticals, etc. They have a running track around the top of the ship for fantastic views, a boxing ring with speed and punching bags outside, an adult sea saw, and basketball court. There is plenty for everyone and it’s the biggest gym I’ve seen so far at sea. They also offer wellness seminars and personal training (although there is a charge for this option).
Single Use Plastics Are No Where to Be Found—Let’s face it, we need to get a grip on single use plastics and Virgin Voyages has definitely taken the lead here. There are linen napkins, plates, cups and silverware and while some of them are plastic, they are washed and reusable—nothing is throw away. We loved the “Ship Eats” bag delivered to our cabin with our coffee, fruit and homemade protein bar. It was essentially a dry bag with plates and cups designed to fit and stack inside with a thermos for the coffee. For those of you who enjoy grab and go, they had reusable plastic boxes in the Galley with açaí bowls, charcuterie, salads, sandwiches and more if you wanted to take back to your cabin for later.
Unique Details at Every Turn—They say the devil is in the details and they have obviously paid close attention to peoples likes and dislikes about cruising. While some of the ports of call may be typical, they are in port longer allowing you more time for exploration and eliminating the feeling of being rushed to get off the ship. And while they don’t have their own private island, they do have the Beach Club in Bimini. It’s spectacularly appointed with a spacious lagoon shaped pool, swings by the bar, beds on the beach, and fire balls by Aragorn’s Art Studio in the British Virgin Islands. It’s the perfect beach day all around topped off by the bonfire bon voyage before departing Bimini. For the technology lovers, you can download the app to upload your security photo and fill out all the paperwork virtually so you don’t have to wait in line to board. They simply activate your cool bracelet wrist band and you walk right onto the ship, straight to your cabin where your convertible sea bed awaits and you can swing on your sea hammock (a personal fave) while enjoying your morning coffee. Play a game of the old classics Donkey Kong or Pac Man in the arcade (included at no charge), grab a boozy milk shake or party the night away in the Manor with a fantastic kick-your-shoes-up-band, sailing the Virgin way, is different at every turn and definitely not the typical cruise.
Paula Iwanski is a Virgin Voyages Specialist or First Mate. Booking with a First Mate gives you access to an expert in all things Virgin with exclusive, first-hand knowledge providing you with a fantastic voyage from start to finish.