Thursday, October 14, 2021
Vacation News for the USA

Is Virgin Voyages’ “Scarlet Woman” the Proper Cruise for You?

Richard Branson mentioned he didn’t like cruises. So, he developed a cruise line for individuals like him. Did he succeed?…

By Staff , in Cruises , at October 14, 2021

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Richard Branson mentioned he didn’t like cruises. So, he developed a cruise line for individuals like him. Did he succeed?

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When Virgin Voyages’ 2,770-passenger Scarlet Woman sailed out of Miami for its “mermaiden” Caribbean cruise earlier this month, the send-off was all the things you’ll anticipate from the Richard Branson model—energetic, edgy, cheeky.

The check-in space pulsed with ’80s dance music. Champagne flowed and other people carrying mermaid costumes waved to passengers.

Onboard the loud music and get together vibe continued because the Scarlet Woman, its wake brightly lit in opposition to the darkening Miami skyline, set sail for the Bahamas whereas passengers sipped champagne and cocktails on the deck and the crew ready for a primary evening of pub crawls, dance events, stargazing with an “astral storyteller” (who relays legendary tales of the celebrities), and a rooftop pajama get together.

With more than 2,700 passengers, the “Scarlet Lady” is still big-ship cruising—with some twists.

Given the festive environment, I did a double take a couple of days later when throughout informal chatter within the spa’s spacious cave-inspired thermal room, I overheard a lady who cruises repeatedly say that what she appreciated most concerning the new ship was that “it’s quiet.”

“There aren’t any youngsters,” she mentioned.

And that, based on Frank Weber, senior vice chairman of resort operations for Scarlet Woman, is among the main promoting factors of the brand new adults-only cruise line, which Branson has mentioned he developed to disrupt the cruise business and entice individuals like himself who’ve by no means been occupied with cruising.

I, too, typically fall into that class of the big-ship cruising averse, so I jumped on the probability to affix the crusing and see if I could possibly be swayed.

The road, like all issues Virgin, is certainly completely different—from its bright-red and grey decor and yacht-inspired design to its provocative venue names and edgy sexual undertones. Do-it-yourself ice cream is served up on the “Lick Me Until Ice Cream” stand and the interactive “By no means Sleep Alone” comedy present ends with the (not actual) intercourse therapist-host asking volunteers from the viewers to simulate oral intercourse on one another utilizing watermelons and bananas.

The query is whether or not the enjoyable, very grownup environment with an virtually overwhelming menu of onboard exhibits, events, wellness choices, tremendous eating, and unconventional facilities just like the Squid Ink tattoo parlor is completely different sufficient to redefine big-ship cruising and lure those that haven’t historically been onboard (so to talk) with big-ship cruising.

The reply is sure and no.

What I appreciated most about Virgin Voyages and what units the cruise line aside

The informal, inclusive “come as you’re” environment. In contrast to many cruises, which frequently have not less than one formal evening and a few fundamental guidelines about how one can gown for dinner, there isn’t a gown code—ever. That meant I used to be in a position to hold my heels in my suitcase and slip on my favourite gold flip-flops for dinner.

Passengers can detox and unwind in the expansive spa and wellness areas.

Most of the public restrooms and the whole spa, together with locker rooms, are gender impartial. The dance exhibits function all physique shapes and dancers of various sexual orientations. Each women and men have been dressed as mermaids for the Retro-Glam pool get together. Tattoos, costumes, piercings, cross-dressing, and wild-colored hair are all welcome and embraced. One of the common onboard companies is Squid Ink, the tattoo and piercing parlor, which drew an almost hour-long line of individuals when it opened to take appointments on departure.

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Consent messaging. Whereas intercourse is certainly an underlying theme throughout the ship’s venues and exhibits, so, too, are reminders about accountable conduct. An outline of “By no means Sleep Alone” reminded company that “no means no.” And it’s a message that was repeated by the host in the course of the present. Likewise, one of many dance get together descriptors reminded company that “Consent is all the things, on and off the dance flooring.”

Vaccines and testing. On all Virgin Voyages sailings for the foreseeable future, everybody onboard should be vaccinated, so masks are non-obligatory (apart from crew, who’re required to put on them). As an added safeguard, the road performs fast COVID-19 antigen assessments on everybody earlier than they board, so I felt comfy wandering the ship mask-free.

The food, service, and health and safety protocols are all above par on Virgin Voyages, our reporter writes.

Crew interactions. Whereas many cruise traces confine crew to their very own quarters throughout downtime and after they’re off responsibility, the crew onboard the Scarlet Woman are allowed to mingle with company and use the general public areas after they’re not working. With a lot of the paying passengers of their 40s and 50s, the youthful crew provides to the range of the group, and the crew appeared completely happy to be socializing with company. And as anybody in hospitality is aware of, completely happy workers make for completely happy company. Certainly, I discovered the service excellent at each flip, I by no means waited greater than 10 minutes for my morning espresso, and my cheerful room attendant appeared to have a sixth sense for after I left my cabin, swooping in to straighten up, make my mattress, and refresh my towels. And once we discovered there was no meals at Richard’s Rooftop, a sundeck and bar space usually reserved for suite company, the bartender provided to run subsequent door to seize us some poke bowls.

The meals. With no important eating space aside from the meals court-style Galley that gives all the things from road tacos to ramen noodles, burgers, and a wide range of grab-and-go meal packing containers, there are a number of smaller eating venues which have devoted cooks and workers to ship eating experiences that honestly rival these of common big-city eating places. There’s selfmade pasta at Additional Virgin, genuine cooked-at-your desk Korean barbecue at Gunbae (which opens each meal with pictures of soju). Vegans and their nonvegan mates can eat collectively at Razzle Dazzle, which has a “naughty” menu of nonvegan choices that features a fried hen sandwich. Tastings and wine-pairing menus are provided on the Take a look at Kitchen, conventional steaks and seafood on the Wake, and Mexican-inspired dishes with a bunch of mezcal and tequila-based drinks at Pink Agave. My favorites have been Pink Agave and Gunbae, though I didn’t have an opportunity to attempt Additional Virgin, a venue that basically caught my eye.

The Mexican-inspired cuisine at the Pink Agave restaurant is a culinary highlight of the food-rich ship.

The exhibits. Just like the eating places on board, the exhibits are held in a number of, smaller venues (usually for round 350 to 450 company) throughout the ship, not in a single important, giant theater. They vary from comedy to Cirque du Soleil–fashion acrobatic exhibits and dance performances. The exhibits are top-quality productions which might be typically not than an hour, good for these of us with shorter consideration spans.

On the “Scarlet Lady” you can party to your heart’s content or relax with intent—or both.

There actually is one thing for everybody. Need a wellness escape? There’s basically a full-size well being membership on board with boxing rings, basketball courts, and a full menu of health courses all through the day and night that embrace ’80s-style Richard Simmons–impressed cardio exercises, the newest in interval coaching, and aerial yoga. A wide range of wellness workshops cowl posture, skincare, and balancing thoughts and meditation. The spa has an enormous thermal space with hot and cold tubs, mud and salt rooms, plus a steam room and sauna.

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You can too get together to your coronary heart’s content material on the greater than half dozen indoor and outside bars that encourage partying till the wee hours of the morning. For enjoyable minus the partying, company can be a part of board sport competitions, guide karaoke rooms, take part in trivia contests, take mixology courses, head to the Craft Room for nice beers, style champagne, and revel in excessive tea on the bar Sip. On the relaxed, Mediterranean-inspired Dock Home, quieter acoustic and folks music performances are held each indoors and out.

The drawbacks of Virgin Voyages

In the long run, nevertheless, Scarlet Woman remains to be a giant ship with loads of passengers. Meaning you must plan forward and act rapidly on embarkation to safe prime dinner reservations and spots in the most well-liked exhibits and exercise courses. And whereas the road payments itself as all-inclusive, all alcoholic drinks and excursions are additional, and the free Wi-Fi all however unusable. I paid $40 to improve for the four-day cruise after I used to be unable to ship e-mail on the free community.

Whereas Virgin guarantees distinctive excursions at value factors decrease than different cruise traces, executives say lots of these are nonetheless being developed. Our four-night, three-day cruise had simply two stops, in Nassau and Bimini. Shore excursions have been much like these provided by different traces. Nassau choices included a jeep tour, snorkeling with sea turtles, and frolicking with Bahamas’ famed swimming pigs with costs within the $100 to $200 vary per tour. Our second (and solely different cease) was to the non-public Bimini seaside membership Virgin developed in partnership with Resorts World Worldwide. When Virgin is in port, the seaside membership, with its lovely white sand seaside and pool, is reserved completely for Virgin passengers and is staffed by Virgin crew members, who put together native delicacies and supply a bunch of tropical cocktails. Actions embrace summer time camp–fashion video games like tug-of-war. The road additionally affords excursions round Bimini, together with a possibility to scuba dive or swim with sharks. 

While sleek in design, the majority of cabins are “cruise-ship small.”

Though there are 78 “rock star” suites as giant as 2,100 sq. ft with marble loos, scorching tubs, and perks that embrace a private assistant, hair and make-up crews, and a nightly swimsuit drying service, nearly all of cabins, like my Sea Terrace room with a balcony, are conventional cruise-ship small, with particularly tight loos. Nonetheless, they’re properly laid out with a mattress that may be break up and became a sofa in the course of the day, and so they embrace a small desk and adjoining seating space. In addition they have enjoyable options, like a purple hammock on every balcony and temper lighting

So, did the road ship on its purpose of offering a novel, enjoyable, grownup expertise for the younger at coronary heart? Sure. Did it persuade me to eschew my annual journey with my husband to a calming seaside resort? In all probability not. But when I have been to choose a giant ocean cruise for a extra energetic, fun-focused group journey with the women or with different {couples}, Virgin Voyages would undoubtedly prime the record.

The Scarlet Woman is presently crusing from Miami to the Bahamas and alongside Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Sailings to the Dominican Republic are scheduled for December. Costs per particular person begin at round $1,500 (primarily based on double occupancy). The road will probably add transatlantic and European sailings subsequent 12 months. Virgin Voyages will likely be launching two extra ships, the Valiant Woman and the Resilient Woman, however has but to launch the precise dates when these vessels will set sail.

>> Subsequent: The Higher Option to Cruise in Venice

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