When Sir Richard Branson decided he wanted to create a cruise experience like no other, he pulled out all the stops and disrupted the travel industry with a ship that offers an adults-only, yacht-inspired experience on the high seas.
Partnering with some of the best interior designers, artists, and architects—Roman and Williams, Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio, Concrete Amsterdam, and Softroom of London (many of whom design some of the most stylish boutique hotels and resorts across the U.S. and Europe)—Branson (yes, he is involved in the design) and his team created unique and intimate spaces onboard that capture the romance and glamour of ocean travel though a modern, fun, and sophisticated lens.
I never thought of myself as a “cruiser” but have always loved the Virgin brand so decided to see if Branson could change my mind about cruising. With nightclubs, nightly shows, multiple bars, six restaurants, a luxury spa, a world-class gym, sunbathing lounges, whirlpools, an elevated running track, exquisite interior design, a tattoo parlor, hair salon, and a stellar staff, Branson did indeed change my mind. In fact, it was one of the most fun and rejuvenating vacations. Here’s what I experienced.
I boarded Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady in Miami for a five-day cruise with an itinerary to visit sunny destinations in the Caribbean, including Virgin Voyages’ signature Beach Club in Bimini and Costa Maya, Mexico. I was instantly taken by the beauty of the ship and its unique and intimate spaces, each one more impressive than the next.
I headed to my cabin to freshen up before I ventured out to the pool deck to be part of the action. I was delightfully surprised by the comfort and style of these hideaways with all the latest technology to make the cabin as comfortably to my liking as possible—complete with mood lighting and temperature controls. I opened the sliding door onto my sea terrace to breathe in the refreshing salty air and climb into the bright red hammock to take it all in as the ship began to cut through the waves.
I next visited the Aquatic Club, a pool deck perfect for sunbathing and lounging on oversized daybeds with a rum cocktail in hand. The crew is attentive, friendly, and professional; I am perfectly content to ease into my journey. A DJ keeps the scene enlivened with a playlist that made the whole experience fun and celebratory. For a more private experience, you might rent a cabana while sunbathing.
The liner takes a unique approach to cruise dining—instead of being assigned a seat in a large dining hall for your entire trip, Virgin Voyages offers several dining options. My first night, I decided to dine at Extra Virgin, the ship’s trattoria, serving delicious Italian dishes in a stunning setting. Later in the week I was able to experience The Wake, a swanky seafood and steak restaurant that exudes the glamour of 1930s Hollywood; The Test Kitchen, which offers menus designed by Michelin-star chefs; and Pink Agave, presenting elevated authentic Mexican cuisine. Shipboard dining is incredible: There is something to please every palate.
After months and months of shuttered gyms or spas, I wanted to focus my experience on wellness and movement. With an outdoor track, alfresco yoga, hardcore spinning classes, a weight room, and a basketball court, there was no shortage of ways to move my body and get in my much-needed steps after a long hiatus from exercising. I opted for spinning and yoga as my go-to classes—and the instructors were amazing.
Well-being will be at the forefront of the onboard experience, activated through a mix of high-energy moments coupled with relaxation and rejuvenation. The luxurious Redemption Spa is a haven of tranquility. Hot tubs, a mud room, sauna, hot stone massages, and seaweed wraps are all on offer to put you in a Nirvana-like state. You can book for several hours at a time or make a whole day of it—well worth the experience.
The ship also offers several Rock Star Suites. If you are looking for the most glamourous experience, my advice is to book one. The suites come with access to Richard’s Rooftop, an exclusive area with massive loungers, round daybed, hot tubs, a full bar, and top-notch service.
Cleanest Cruise at Sea
Virgin Voyages is committed to having one of the cleanest fleets at sea.
The company has banned single-use plastics on board its ships, including straws, bottled water, other beverage bottles, condiment packets, shopping bags, food packaging, stirrers, and take-away coffee and teacups. Instead, the company will emphasize the use of recyclable and reusable materials across the ship. While onboard, sailors will be provided with access to complimentary filtered still and sparkling water.
Not only has the brand designed its fleet of ships to the latest energy-efficiency standards with state-of-the art equipment, but Virgin Voyages is also offsetting its direct climate-change emissions through the purchase of carbon offsets. This commitment makes the brand the first cruise line to become carbon-neutral for its direct emissions footprint from its first day of commercial operation.
For more information, visit virginvoyages.com