Setting Sail on an Unforgettable Adventure: A Comprehensive Review of My First Virgin Voyages Cruise
Disclaimer: Even though I received a 4-day cruise at a very deep discount by Virgin Voyages to try their cruise line out, they are not sponsoring this review. Therefore, this review is completely my opinion without any say by Virgin Voyages.
I recently got to try a 4-day cruise on the adults-only Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady. We set sail from Miami with stops in Key West, Florida, and Bimini, Bahamas, as well as a day at sea. Even though I went through intensive training through Virgin Voyages (and became a gold level advisor), I had never sailed with them. So, it was nice to experience everything I had learned.
Here’s my review by these various areas:
The Virgin Voyages app is a must! This is how you’ll complete your online check-in, make dinner reservations, book shows/activities and shore things (excursions). It's also your daily happenings guide. For the most part, the app is very easy to use.
Embarkation was very simple. Complete your check-in process well in advance of your cruise via the app. When you complete the online check-in you’ll also select an embarkation time. Be sure to arrive early as our boarding group was allowed to begin 30 minutes early.
You’ll go through a check-in process where you will be given your sea bands (a wearable that gets scanned anytime you board or leave the ship, access your stateroom, or make purchases onboard at the stores or bar). After you get your wearable you will proceed through security and then put into another boarding group.
This went very quickly and smoothly. We were on board within 30 minutes of arriving at the terminal.
Disembarking wasn’t bad but was a bit confusing. There wasn’t much communication about this process other than you need to select a disembarkation time in the app. Once this process began it went fairly easy but took a little while. Just like any other cruise line, they’ll scan you off the ship and then you’ll proceed through customs.
We were in a Sea Terrace room (also known as a balcony stateroom on other cruise lines). The rooms were typical size. The air conditioning worked very well. The only negative about the room is there is no couch. The bed can be made into a couch supposedly but that’s not as convenient. Also, the bathrooms are the smallest I’ve ever been in on a cruise ship. Only one person can be in the bathroom at a time.
A fresh bottle of water is provided daily. The water tastes good without any funny taste unlike some cruise lines.
There are no towel animals or evening turndown service on Virgin Voyages. So if you are used to that when you cruise, don’t expect it with Virgin Voyages.
There are no buffets on Virgin Voyages. I am mixed about this. I do like being able to go and pick out what I want to eat but I also cannot stand to see food wasted by greedy passengers who stack their plates high with food and never eat it.
The “casual” dining area is called The Galley. This is kind of like a food court. However, you order from your table and servers will bring it to you. The food in the galley is ok but nothing to get excited about. I did have issues almost every day with service here. The servers are super nice but often would forget to bring part of my breakfast each day and after waiting I would have to remind them.
The restaurants are top notch! Not only do they have impeccable service, but the food quality is superb. My favorite was The Test Kitchen for the experience and The Pink Agave for the food. With its unique six course meal, The Test Kitchen is Michelin quality food, in my opinion.
The Wake is the hardest one to get into as it is the most popular one. So we didn’t get to try it. However, we did eat at Razzle Dazzle (vegetarian but has a secret menu with steaks), The Test Kitchen (set menu with six courses of uniquely prepared recipes), The Pink Agave (high end Mexican cuisine), and Gunbae (Korean BBQ grill).
Reservations are recommended for each of the restaurants so you do not have a wait.
Basic drinks, including soft drinks are included in your cruise fare. If you want specialty coffee or alcoholic beverages then you will need to pay for those.
You can opt to do a “bar tab” that has a special bonus if you pre-purchase (ask me about it when you book your cruise). The beauty of Virgin Voyages’s bar tab is that you can link your cabin mates to it and share with them. So not everyone in your travel party has to have a “drink package” to use. If you don’t consume much alcohol then it's probably not worth getting a bar tab and instead simply purchase your drinks individually. They are very reasonably priced and often cheaper than what you would spend at many restaurants back at home.
For this to be an adults-only cruise, I was a bit disappointed by the size of the pools. They have one small pool and one larger pool. These are the happening places, especially on sea days. There isn’t much seating and it gets taken quickly by those saving seats for others.
Virgin Voyages is a “come as you are '' sailing. So shorts, collared shirts, jeans, slacks, sun dresses, etc. are perfectly fine for dining. No formal attire is needed.
Rember, Virgin Voyages is an adults-only (18+) cruise line. So, NO KIDS!! Does that make you want to book a cruise today?
BIMINI BEACH CLUB
I was somewhat disappointed over Virgin’s beach club at Bimini, Bahamas. The beach was clean and pretty but you must be off the ship early to get a good seat unless you reserved (for a hefty fee) one of the cabanas.
They do not start serving lunch until around noon. Beyond that there is nothing to eat at the club. So, you must take snacks from the ship with you if you want to eat before lunch is served. I found this to be disappointing since they start serving drinks at 10:30 a.m. Sometimes you want a snack with your beverage, am I right?
The lunch offering was pretty tasty and is included in your cruise fare.
Nobody comes to the seating area to take drink orders or even collect your drinkware. I found that interesting as they could have probably made more money by doing this.
The worst part about the beach club is they allow smoking pretty much anywhere except the bar area. So while we were trying to enjoy our time lounging we had people smoking around us. This is horrible. We wanted to enjoy our day but were exposed to cigar and cigarette smoke. Virgin should allow smoking only in a designated area away from the general crowd.
The next time I sail with Virgin, I would probably just opt to just spend the day at the pool on the ship instead of getting off and going to the beach club.
There is no cruise director. So, unless you keep up with what’s happening on the ship via the app you do miss a good bit of opportunity for activities, games, and shows.
I do like that they have an area where they have all sorts of board games, air hockey, etc. This is a great place to hang out and socialize with your group or with someone you met onboard. You can get popcorn, hot dogs, pretzels and candy here to snack on while enjoying social time.
The Dual Reality show is a must-see! I equate this show similar to Cirque du Soleil. You will definitely be entertained and energized. Be sure to book a reservation for this in the app.
Even though you are supposed to “book” a slot for the various activities/games on board the ship, nobody ever checked that. So, just be prepared that the activity could be full when it's your time to show up. Therefore, get to your activity early.
There are several shops on board. Most are high-end items. However, there’s one that sells Virgin Voyages souvenirs and also a sundry shop. The duty free liquor store was very reasonably priced.
SHIP SIZE If you aren’t a fan of the mega ships, then Virgin Voyages’s ships are probably just what you are looking for. With an approximate capacity of 2,800 passengers and 1,200 crew, these ships are very easy to get around which makes it ideal for those who prefer smaller ships.
While not as clean as a Disney cruise ship, I felt Virgin Voyages did a really good job to keep the ship clean, especially compared to other cruise lines I have sailed on.
While we did not use the fitness facilities, spa, or casino, those are available and are really nice. Be sure to reserve those complimentary fitness classes early!
All-in-all, while I was critical of a few things regarding my cruise, I would not hesitate to go again or sell the cruise line to my clients. I think it certainly has a good fit for the right clients and overall a really good value for what’s included.
So, if you are interested in learning more about Virgin Voyages, please feel free to contact me.
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