Virgin Voyages has had the roughest 2 years as any cruise line. Set to beginning cruising in March 2020 they had to delay their start until August 2021 in the UK. In the meantime construction keep on go going on 2 additional sister ships that are sitting and ready to go. Launching a new brand with really different ideas but now launching a brand with not 1 but 3 cruise ship it becomes really challenging in still challenging times.
The Scarlet Lady is a 2,770 passenger ship with Sir Richard Branson’s night attached and some of his ideas. The brand has made no secret that they intend to be something different and it is true. As a passenger you are called a “sailor”, there are no sailors under 18 years of age, there are no pa announcements, there is no daily programs among other things. There is a Tattoo Parlor.
The cabins are very disappointing. They look like a college dorm room furnished by IKEA. They are just a barely foot wider than your bed is long. The bathroom is the smallest I have ever seen on a cruise ship. Your closet has a curtain instead of a solid door. If you love a rock hard bed you love this one if not you are going to hate it. We requested that our bed remain as a bed during the cruise versus converting into an old fashion day bed from yester year.
The Entertainment is first highlight of this ship. While we were on a 5 night cruise we were only able to catch 2 of 3 shows as advance reservations are a most. The two showrooms have very limited seating for a 2,700+ vessel. The largest showroom actually relies on standing on the showroom floor to up the numbers. The shows are very contemporary one was extremely high deck ending in a full blown dance party. The other was a show by a “well know” sexologist. This show is a very adult show that will leave you in stitches. I am not going to explain it in this review but it is great fun. Call me for details.
One thing that is very noticeably missing is lounge/bar entertainment from about 6 pm to 10:30 when the night shows start. The very nice Dock House bar is located on the aft exterior of the ship and an excellent spot however the pop up entertainment play the same set of music every day, very odd. The day time programing is almost all gear toward wellness which means that if you are not into yoga etc. you are out of luck almost totally.
The swimming pools, there are 2, are way too small. We had only 1,400 passengers and the pools were standing room only. There is also limited setting around these pools. There is however another bar sitting area aft on the ship on the upper deck which didn’t seem to be getting much action.
Dining on Scarlet Lady was a very pleasant surprise. In reality there are only 6 restaurants on the ship not 20 plus. While they say there is no buffet their ship does have what anyone would call a buffet with different food stations which they are counting as food outlets. The nice thing is someone takes your order and you are served versus standing in line with a tray.
The main restaurants include a vegan option, steakhouse, Italian, Mexican, Test Kitchen and Korean BBQ (the only one at sea). The food was really good and the Mexican restaurant was exceptional. Food service is from the same folks that do Oceania so you get an idea of the variety and quality. This was a real pleasant surprise and leaves many contemporary and premium brands in the dust.
Technology is a key factor in the DNA of Scarlet Lady but unfortunately was not really ready for prime time. The ability to pre-book shows and dining reservation pre cruise was not working and dining had to be with crew assistance on the ship. We felt that it was very much a work in progress.
The crew are very, very multinational and very well trained. There were several issues with the cruise and they went out of the way to help. The crew are a huge asset to this ship.
Our cruise took us to Costa Maya which is not our favorite port of call and to Bimini. Bimini was a very nice surprise. Virgin in conjunction with Resorts World have developed a beach experience that has everything you need for a great day at the beach. You take a shuttle from the ship to the beach which is private to Virgin when they are in town but available to the Resort World guest on other day. Being so close to Miami this allows for a late departure from the island on the final night of your cruise.
This is a new cruise ship for a new cruise line so I am sure many changes will be coming in the weeks and the months come. Due to the size of the entertainment venues and the restaurant sizes we feel that ship can handle a group size of 50 to 70 at this time. Additionally you need to know how to make the booking to make it really work for a true incentive group.