Well, my friend, it has been a long time since I was a virgin…just sayin’! We are recently back from our first cruise on Scarlet Lady, Sir Richard Branson’s newest ship. If you think you are not a cruiser, think again! You will be called a “Sailor” on this cruise line and the experience is unique and cheeky, to be sure. This sailor had a fabulous time exploring both the Lady and her ports of call. I love sharing my thoughts after a cruise. This one was from the port of Miami for five funtastic nights.
The journey began with some horrible weather across the Midwest, and we barely escaped the winter ice and snow. We were on the last flight to leave Cincinnati at 6:30 am! Phew. Two of our 5 companions were not so lucky, as American refused to fly at 6 am that morning. Thank you, Delta, for being brave. An overnight at the Miami Novotel Brickell served us beautifully (that is the rooftop pool), and since very close to the free trolley ride up to Little Havana, we did that. I had never been! It was a blast to visit Ball & Chain and hear live Cuban music.
Here is a brief video as we left Miami in the dark…that was a first for me!
The three of us who stayed in Miami worked our way by Lyft to the pier, and we were disappointed that the brand-new pier would not be opening until a week after our cruise. It will be something to behold, I am certain. For now, with quick antigen tests confirmed negative for all, we boarded Scarlet Lady for a 5-night adventure. Our companion had some issues with the APP not working with his email address, then another delay as he was pulled out of our line while our group was called to board. Glitches in the APP are happening often to the frustration of sailors and crew. We hope this is resolved soon, Sir Richard. We did like the convenience of wearing the red bracelet as our key and ship “credit”.
This cruise was more about the ship than the destinations. Taino Bay, Puerto Plata is working towards a revival yet is still pretty rough, but we loved the new beach club at Bimini and spent the entire day there. The water was calm enough for my ocean swim but not enough for my paddleboard yoga class. The sand is soft, the shelling great, and this sailor even caught a little nap in our private lounger bed, thanks to the pull-up shade! (If your cruise is close to full, we were only at about 1/3 capacity, I would get up early to grab your spot). The pool party was hopping with a live DJ, and in the afternoon some sailors did a fun group teams’ activity with lots of different games down on the sand.
In Taino Bay there is a pool and “beach” spot at the end of the pier, and the shopping there in the port was extensive, but we opted to take a ‘tour” from a local driver named Mike…cost was $30 per person. It was primarily a means to an end for the local jewelry store called “Fifi Jewelry and Cigar Store”. The owner was Mike’s “cousin”. Grin. We bought some lovely Amber/Larimar silver pieces. It felt good to help the local economy, to be honest. Miguel also took us to a nice local beach restaurant called La Carihuela so we could have some fresh fish and local cuisine following a quick stop at the fort. It was a Sunday, so many local families were dining after church and playing on the grounds near the fort. While we were not planning to spend so much money that day, it certainly was fun.
The beach club is about 10 minutes by private trolley from the ship and it would be a long, hot walk from the ship. There are plenty of chairs at the beach, and from 11-2 they serve a yummy lunch of local foods. Two bars and lots of servers kept the alcohol flowing. We loved the fact that this cruise has no single use plastic items. Even the straws are made of paper. The water delivery system is fabulous in the room. All glass containers, and it is replenished at the touch of a button on your in-room tablet. I suggest you bring along a re-fillable water bottle as well. The water tasted fresh and was delicious. You might do some more research to learn about how this and his other two sister ships are extremely eco-conscious. I completed a learning program for industry partners recently and was blown away by the futuristic technology being used. Way to go, Richard.
Virgin Voyages is a company designed for adults only, and the marketing is aimed at those who think they would not enjoy a cruise. The profile of these ships mimics a modern yacht. Even the descriptions of the food when you dine is eclectic and fun. Cheeky Richard, right? And speaking of food…never in my entire life have I dined on such unique, delicious and nutritious food for five nights in a row! Foodies will be delighted! I will refrain from reviewing each ala carte restaurant because I want you to experience it for yourselves.
The Galley on the pool deck was the place to sample several cuisines, grab a snack, and even pick up a take-out container. These were of dishwasher safe plastic, too! No buffets here. Virgin is working towards no food waste, and it’s lovely to be served here as well. And sushi, baby! Most every time of the day!
Did I mention young at heart? The house DJ was busy in different locations, the shows were unique, and there were quite a few thongs at the pool. Some of the venues were a bit small, so you will certainly want to keep track via the APP or by picking up a paper copy of the day’s activities, either at the coffee station in the Galley or at Sailor Services, so you don’t miss one you want to see. The athleticism on our cruise by the entertainers was really impressive. Hint: don’t miss Dual Reality. Club beats were the norm at the pool, but in the dining venues I heard lovely standards and other styles. The Scarlet Night pool event was tons of fun, too.
If you purchase a bar tab in advance you will see Virgin throw in an extra amount. During our cruise it was an extra $100! That was nice, and we used every bit of it and then some, trying all the fun and different wines, beers and cocktails. It is not all-inclusive…and I like this, as you can easily share one between the two of you. I dislike it when ships require BOTH in a cabin have the alcohol package. Pricing for alcohol is quite reasonable and you have many choices. Refreshing. Of course, they have an extensive list of top-shelf, as well. The ship store is another story. Goodness, the clothing items for sale were Fifth Avenue pricey. Well, the T-shirts were not too bad. Grin. Beware of the shot glasses. First washing and the sticker slid off!
I will be remiss not to mention the spa on Scarlet Lady. What a gorgeous space to relax. For just $39 you can book a 3-hour visit, and we did that on our second sea day. Mud room, sauna, steam, showers, and hydrotherapy. The open, co-ed area has warm tubs, a warm pool, and two cold water tubs. So good for you! They also have an area of warm tiles to lie on, however I would have preferred them to be shaped with curves to lie one instead of flat. We were relaxed all day after doing this circuit early one morning. If you combine this with the free fitness classes offered plus the fine, healthy foods and the yummy cleansing juices you can get at the Athletic Club bar where the warm water large pool is, you have a beautiful spa trip! Seriously, this ship is what you want it to be.
I like a little bit “naughty” and a little bit “nice”, as one ship’s menu describes the menu items. Razzle Dazzle had a breakfast, brunch and dinner menu, and we found it delicious and fun. This one is “veggie forward”, with some naughty thrown in for good measure. You can even do “Bottomless Bloody Marys” between 11:30-2 for $25 per person. And bubbly, too.
Are you ready to be called “SAILOR”? While you may find some things still needing to be tweaked a bit…I understand they are already adding a drawer or two to the cabin closets…my negative vibes were few. My older eyes would appreciate a two-way switch on the over-bed lighting so I could actually read. The Wi-Fi, while good and “free”, was a little bit weak if you only get the basic (free) plan. They do have an upgrade if you are a gamer. I suggested a station in the spa before mud to exfoliate the body. I laughed at myself trying to raise the toilet seat lid the first couple of days, as the small opening was not in the front, but on each side. Strange! And one of my sailors would have liked the “RED BOOK” in the room to be required reading from the APP or website before we left home OR have someone at check-in explain that the APP works much better if you have the phone on airplane mode. He and I struggled to communicate the entire cruise because he did not get the memo about airplane mode.
I hope you found this review helpful. I am at your service if you would enjoy learning more. Check out the website at www.virginvoyages.com to read more about the Mediterranean and Southern Caribbean voyages. They will be coming soon, but you can book them now!
PS Enjoy these favorite photos of the ship and experiences.