Cruising has been around for years and if you speak to someone who hasn’t tried one, they will typically say ‘but they’re for old people’. But what does old really mean? We all end up there so is it even a bad thing? There are plenty of 80-year-olds who are young at heart and ready for a boogie!
Virgin Voyages has been a hotly anticipated break into the cruise market and has been on my radar ever since the rumours began that Richard Branson was going to embark on a new project. When I was invited to check out their first-ever ship, the Scarlet Lady, in Dover, I knew I couldn’t say no!
I drove down to the south coast on a very dull and drizzly day, parked at Cruise Terminal 2 and was swiftly transferred to the check-in terminal. There was a buzz in the room, everyone was excited to see the ship, the room was full of travel agents, newspaper writers, bloggers, influencers and even people who just wanted to get the first taste of what Virgin was offering. Unfortunately, there was a systems crash on the embarkation process which left us in the queue for longer than expected but once we got through it and onto the ship it was old news.
We were greeted with a glass of champagne, always nice! We then headed straight up to our room (they are not called ‘cabins’ on the Virgin ships) on deck 13. In fact, this was the first difference I noticed between the Scarlet Lady and other cruise ships I have been on, normally there is no deck 13! Virgin Voyages has no fear! Upon entering my room I was met with a living room rather than a traditional bedroom! ‘Where’s the bed?!’ I thought. It took some getting used to but once our cabin fairy had made our room up for the evening, it made perfect sense. Suddenly after a drink in the bar, we returned to our room and it had a bed rather than a sofa, as if by magic. A comfy bed that is, not anything like a sofa bed.
We explored the interior of the ship, it is mid-sized but felt huge as there is so much to see and do. We were on the ship just under 24 hours and didn’t manage to see everything (the drizzle and wind meant the outside decks were a no go for Gemma and I!), so although the ships are not the size of ships such as those built by Royal Caribbean, there is just as much on them but with fewer people which is always a bonus.
Each public area was different, the central seating area, home to an ice cream parlour, felt like a Love Island villa, with cool music, neon colours and funky seats. There are Instagram spots everywhere you look, from a glitter corridor to a restaurant entrance full of Hollywood lights, there is a photo opportunity in every corner!
The food was outstanding. Virgin do not want to encourage food wastage so traditional buffets are banned and a la carte meals are in! There are over 20 eateries on the ship including the first Korean BBQ restaurant on sea, a very glamorous seafood and steak restaurant, upscale Mexican, vegetarian, pizza parlour, burger bar, ice cream parlour and even a food market. Food is fresh and made to order, there are also plenty of elegant bars dotted around the Scarlet Lady so you will never have to be thirsty.
The perks of having a brand new cruising company on the scene is the pressure to be sustainable and Virgin Voyages have done everything they can to be kind to the sea, to their staff, their suppliers, and the environment in general. Single-use plastics are a big no-no aboard the Scarlet Lady, you won’t find a single straw, you won’t find water bottles, and all toiletries are in refillable bottles.
There has been no compromise in sustainability, whilst the ship is not perfect for the environment, the engines have been designed so they can adapt to future changes and environmental inventions and will take on the newest technology as it is released to ensure they are the greenest ships they can be. For someone who loves cruising, it is truly brilliant to see a company work so hard to be kinder to our natural surroundings and especially oceans. Virgin Voyages is working closely with and supporting Ocean Unite, a highly respected not-for-profit organisation focused on a mission of 30X30- which means protecting 30% of the world’s oceans by the year 2030.
My conclusion? Whilst many are calling the Scarlet Lady a ship for Millenials, I believe it is a ship for all who are young at heart (whether that be 21 or 81!), energised and looking for something fun and new. Be prepared to shop, boogie, eat, drink and be merry! The ship will be exclusively based in the Caribbean until further notice, and embarking on 4/5 night cruises. Guests can enjoy access to the exclusive 4.5-acre beach club on the island of Bimini in the Bahamas that offers a vibe to match Ibiza or St Tropez!
- All sailors aboard the Scarlet Lady must be 18 or over
- WiFi is included (hurrah!) – premium WiFi is available for streaming
- All food is included – there are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options too
- Virgin are taking good care of their staff, therefore tipping is not necessary
- Group workouts are included too!
Please note this review was written as part of a paid collaboration with Virgin Voyages. All opinions are my own and I have not been told what to say by the brand.