You may have heard from our podcast episode that we recently experienced a voyage on the much anticipated Scarlet Lady– the ship from the Virgin Voyages cruise line based in Miami. Our itinerary was the “Dominican Daze” which sailed from Miami to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, then to North Bimini Island to the Beach Club at Bimini, then back to Miami.
NOTE- for a more updated blog post, since we have returned to voyage with Virgin Voyages, you can head this way. Both are helpful though.
Background on Scarlet Lady
Scarlet Lady is the inaugural ship from the Virgin Voyages cruise line. She was supposed to debut back in 2019 and have a full cruise season in 2020, but we all know what happened then. Of course, the cruise industry has taken quite a hit, so the launching of Scarlet Lady was delayed but is now in full throttle.
Pre-boarding and Embarkation of Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady
Everything starts with the Virgin Voyages app. The app takes you step-by-step through exactly what you need to do prior to embarkation day. Scanning a copy of your passport, entering your covid-vaccine information, etc. There is a health questionnaire you will answer. You will also enter your payment information so that it is loaded into the app. This payment will be the default for your folio charges on the ship. You will also take a selfie, so doll up friends! Don’t worry. This isn’t posted anywhere. This photo is just so that you can be identified by the crew internally and that it matches your passport. Just go through the steps of the app and you will be fine.
On embarkation day, we answered another health questionnaire via the app. These questions went through current symptoms if any. When we arrived to the port of Miami, we took a covid test, which was rapid, meaning we would get our results within the hour. The results came to our phone, and once they did, we could board the ship. It was all very organized and simple.
We’re going to include the muster drill in this part because honestly, it’s part of the pre-sail process and we cannot get over how absolutely amazing it was. If you have cruised before, you know how annoying the muster safety drill is. Ughhh. It is the worst part of cruising. The last time we went on a cruise (pre-covid) we said to each other, “let’s just not cruise anymore because this sucks.” We both were standing, wearing life jackets in a crowd of people, hot and sweaty as we were waiting to be counted and my (shannon) lifejacket smelled like bad body odor. We won’t mention the cruise line, but we definitely won’t ever cruise with that cruise line again.
Well, Virgin Voyages does things differently folks:
- You watch the safety drill video either on the app, or you can watch it in your room on the tablet or the TV.
- The video is FUN and very rock ‘n roll themed! We were laughing and being schooled at the same time! It was the first time that we took away learning lessons from the muster drill from a cruise ship. Seriously.
- You have a timeframe in which you check-in at your muster station where they show you how to use the life jacket and answer any questions you have. Easy peasy and clean. We likey!
Adults Only Cruise
We thought this was the most important topic to address. Why? Well, this was a selling point for us. If you haven’t cruised, well, you don’t get it. If you invest in your vacation and you are either getting away from your kids, or don’t have kids, then you sure don’t want to be around anyone else’s kids. Tom McAlpin, Virgin Voyages CEO McAlpin explained that this move was made to appeal largely to travel professionals within the more premium market looking for an “elevated” experience. Whatever the reason, we are here for it!
The vibe is just different on a ship without kids. It changes the dynamic of everything in a positive way. Look, we’re not kid haters or anything. We just want to vacation without them, or at least just with our nieces here and there. Virgin Voyages is for people like us. If you are reading this and getting angry, then well, it’s not for you, and that is ok.
Virgin Voyages’ Sustainability
Seriously, the fact that kids are not on board was pretty exciting, but the sustainability factor of Virgin Voyages comes in a tight battle for first place. When we were looking at their sea change report, which can be found here, we knew that the synergy we had with the cruise line could not be denied. Let’s talk about some of the sustainable practices we found aboard Scarlet Lady:
- Virgin Voyages eliminates single-use plastics, including straws, water bottles, shopping bags, food packaging, stirrers, and takeaway cups.
- They use tinted windows, LED lighting, and room sensors to use less energy and minimize their carbon footprint.
- Making differences when it comes to food.
- Virgin Voyages doesn’t have buffets, they serve sustainable seafood, direct trade coffee, and use some clever techniques to reduce waste.
- Virgin Voyages is pioneering innovative technologies that transform heat from the ship’s engines into clean energy and purify wastewater so that it’s even clean enough to drink.
The Service Aboard Scarlet Lady
From the start, everyone we encountered prior to walking aboard Scarlet Lady, to the very end at disembarkation was amazing. The kindness all seemed genuine, and not fake. The interesting thing here is that they do not work for tips. Meaning, the staff does not accept tips from you. We were told that prior to boarding, but we even attempted to give the staff tips and they did not accept them. It was very odd at first. We’re not sure what the hiring process is like for Virgin Voyages but they do a fabulous job!
Each encounter felt as though we were forming relationships. When we left, we really wanted to give them a hug, though we’re not sure they felt the same, so, you know, we didn’t. Respecting boundaries and all… but you get our point. The service cannot be beaten!
Our Cabin Aboard Scarlet Lady
We stayed in the Sea Terrace, which was lovely. Our cabin had a balcony/terrace, which if you have cruised, really is the only way to go. Once you go balcony, you really cannot go backward. The room is approximately 265 square feet, which is a decent size. It was beautiful, again see our highlights on Instagram for a video tour.
A modern chic design that can change with your mood. The mood lighting and music can be changed from bow-chica-bow-wow time (ok, our verbiage not Virgin’s, but you get it), photoshoot lighting (yes, really), and dance party lighting. As we mentioned in the sustainability discussion, the room senses when you are gone, and goes into energy-saving mode. The blinds close, the a/c adjusts to save energy, and the lights dim or go off. The room literally greets you when you open the door again, sometimes with a transcendental-like music sound. It’s simply amazing.
The bed can be transitioned into a couch during the day, however, we did not do that. We didn’t spend that much time there to do so. There is a mini-bar (not furnished due to covid) but we did have ample water supplied for us regularly. We were given the choice of still or sparkling and our glasses were changed out several times a day.
The bathroom was quite elegant, especially for a cruise ship. Lots of counters and mirror space were available, and the shower. Oh my, the shower. It was very spa-like with a rainshower overhead. It was glorious, which is not often said about a cruise ship shower.
Our balcony/terrace had the most amazing red hammock made by Yellow Leaf -a company that is founded by a couple who gives jobs to women in Thailand. The women weave the hammocks by hand. The goal is to empower their families to break the cycle of poverty and build a brighter future. Pretty great, right?! They are the most comfortable hammock we have ever relaxed in and they made us actually want to hang out in the room in the evenings. We spent a few evenings with champagne on the terrace, watching the ocean by moonlight. Heaven cannot be much better than that.
Covid-Safety Aboard Scarlet Lady
We felt very safe regarding the covid health precautions that were taken prior to our boarding. As we mentioned above, Virgin Voyages had us submit our vaccination information, we took a covid test prior to boarding, and there were precautions that were on board as well.
- Masks are optional- but staff wear them. We felt fine with that since everyone was vaccinated and had tested negative for covid.
- Hand sanitizer stations are outside of elevators, doorways, pools, almost everywhere.
- No reusable dishes, hence as we mentioned, no buffets, so the risk is drastically reduced when dining anyway.
- Muster drill, as we mentioned, is contactless.
- Masks are required at some locations when in port. You will see signs and be advised if rules change or when they are mandated.
- Note- mask mandates continually evolve, so please check directly with Virgin Voyages prior to your voyage.
The Aesthetic Aboard Scarlet Lady
Scarlet Lady is one sassy lady! She is modern chic meets Miami flair. Similar to how we described our experience at South Beach’s The Goodtime Hotel, Scarlet Lady is not only an Instagram heaven, meaning there are so many instagrammable photo opps, but the designers of the ship knew what they were doing when they were creating beautiful spaces to not only enjoy from a comfort stance, but aesthetically.
The ship doesn’t have the traditional cruise ship feel. Each space changes as you transition to a different area, and each space is as inviting as the next. If you want a party, you’ve got that. If you want to chill, you’ve got that feel, too. You want to experience every nook and you want to keep exploring each space as fomo sets in! Even though this is an adult-only cruise, there are spaces that are so playful, you feel like a kid again, like the Razzle Dazzle restaurant, or some of the photo opps where there are swings and neon lights above. Your senses are all teased with the interior and exterior design of Scarlet Lady, so you should be ready, physically, emotionally… all in a positive way, of course. Oh, and camera-ready. Naturally.
Scarlet Lady’s Culinary Game
Speaking of camera-ready. Remember, the camera always eats first. The food on Scarlet Lady is as beautiful to the eyes as it is to the mouth. There are more than 20 dining options on the Scarlet Lady and we attempted to experience all of them. Ah, shucks. We’ll just have to go back and make another attempt. Michelin-starred chefs were behind the menus of the restaurants on board the Scarlet Lady. They didn’t skimp on the planning of making sure your taste buds were entertained.
Some options include al fresco fine-dining, upscale Mexican, a pizza parlor, a vegan diner, a Korean BBQ, an Italian trattoria, burger (including veggie), and a really cool place called the Test Kitchen where the staff wears lab coats. It was like a laboratory eating experience, with small portions, but plenty of them, sort of like a tapas restaurant, but in a fancy science lab. It was so exquisite and so delish.
The best part? No buffets! There is table service everywhere. No standing and waiting, There is always sit-down service. Don’t worry about your attire. Of course, not all of the restaurants want you to wear your swimwear, but you can walk in with your shorts and flip-flops- no problem. At dinner, we did pull it together and shower, and doll ourselves up a bit. We like to have a celebration of sorts for our dinners, but that’s just us. To see some of our meals in action, visit our highlights here.
Entertainment Aboard Scarlet Lady
This isn’t your traditional cruise, folks. Well, of course, you will find the standard casino, and night comedy show if that is what you are looking for, but on Scarlet Lady, you will also find a Drag Show, which we LOVED! You’ll also find a few musicians of various genres who pop up at various places on the ship, unexpectedly. We were serenaded by a troubadour on the pool deck one afternoon and then like magic, he was gone. Pop-up dancers will just appear while you are walking through to a bar on the ship. Oh, and let’s not forget Squid Ink, where you can get a tattoo should the mood strike your fancy.
Technology Aboard Scarlet Lady
The technology onboard is on its A-game, but we would be severely disappointed with anything less, considering this is Virgin. From the moment you begin your covid testing, everything is automated. Your results come onto your phone. You get a very cool wristband that also serves as your form of payment and key to your room (Correct! No key card to keep up with!) The ordering process at the restaurant and bar is all done via QR code ordering which we loved! Sustainable ordering warms our hearts. Just bring your cell phone to scan the code, and peruse the menu on your phone. They did have paper menus available if someone preferred that.
The rooms have mood lighting, all controlled by the tablet in the room, which by the way, controls everything. You can order room service, control maintenance issues should you have them, control the temp in the room, change the channel of the television, open and close the shades, everything! The room automatically goes into energy-saving mode during the day.
We mentioned the Virgin Voyages app earlier during embarkation, but again, it is something that is used during the entire trip. You can access all of the dinner plans, entertainment, ongoings of the ship, and hours of anything and everything! Contact information is accessed here, and you can even chat with Sailor Services (customer service) if you have an issue or a question, all via the app.
Scarlet Lady’s Redemption Spa
On the Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady, there are wonderful amenities for your well-being. One of them is the Redemption Spa. Inside the Redemption Spa is the Thermal Suite. Sweat, relax or just chill. It’s really up to you in the Thermal Suite. This part of the spa has a sauna, mud bath, salt room, cold & hot plunge bath, steam room, and marble slab meditation area. This area will leave you rejuvenated and ready to enjoy whatever the rest of the cruise has in store for you. We had a 3-hour pass in the Thermal Suite to indulge in massive relaxation and rejuvenation. You can view more about our experience here.
Rock Star Status & Richard’s Rooftop
On the Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady Cruise Ship, you can travel in various ways, but when you travel the “Rock Star” way, meaning you have a rock star suite, you have access to Richard’s Rooftop. It was one of our favorite aspects of the trip. Richard’s Rooftop gives you the true “yacht life” experience. It’s peaceful, and tranquil, and allows you to have the relaxation you have been craving, with cabanas, round fluffy sunning beds, drinks and cocktails from the bar anytime you want, hot tubs, and of course, the amazing sea views and sea breeze. Did we mention, at 5:30 pm each day, happy hour, with complimentary champagne?! Yes, it’s true! Why travel any other way, when you can travel like a rockstar! Seas the day! You can get a snippet of that life here.
Shore Excursions Available
Again, the Virgin Voyages app is super helpful for choosing and obtaining information about shore excursions. You just click the Discover section. There is also an excursions expert of sorts who specializes in Shore Things or you can visit Sailor Services. There are plenty of options at each port and each excursion is well organized by detailing the strenuous level, what you will need to bring, time to prepare for, directions, etc.
When we arrived in Bimini, we took advantage of the Bimini Heritage and Cultural Tour which we were thrilled to have done. The tour guides were locals and we felt as though we were getting the back door look at the island. We love to go exploring on our own at ports, but when you book an excursion, you are often getting a glance at parts of the location that you may not have been able to access on your own. Also, you can make note of things that you will want to explore in-depth the next time you return.
Virgin Voyages has staff at the port who will gladly direct you towards your Shore Things excursion should you need help, and transportation is provided if yours is further than you want to walk.
Need To Know
There are a few things that we feel are important for you to know before you go so that you are able to have the best experience aboard Scarlet Lady:
- There is no drinking package, so don’t expect to buy one on board. If you drink alcohol, you will be buying those drinks individually. You can access your spending via the wallet section of your app.
- There is an evening called, “Scarlet Night” where everyone wears red. We happened to have red clothing, but we didn’t know anything about it. If you aren’t prepared, you wouldn’t know anything about it and may have to resort to buying something on the ship, so bring something red to wear that evening or you may be one of the odd ones not wearing red. Here is more information about that. It is a good time!
- No need for formal clothes as there is no formal evening on Scarlet Lady. You know what we’re talking about if you have cruised before. This is a very good thing!
- If you have dietary restrictions. e.g. Shannon has a tree nut allergy, just make sure you tell the server. They are VERY good about this! Once it was in our profile, they made accommodations, even though there are warnings that they do not have an allergy-free kitchen.
- Bring an empty reusable water bottle with you on your trip so that you can take it with you off of the ship. Oh, and fill it with water prior to leaving the ship. Often, when you begin venturing into a new port, you forget how thirsty you may be, and sometimes you cannot find a place to purchase water in a new territory, so in the meantime, you will want to have water until you do find a place.
It truly is a new day in cruising! We are a couple who really never stops working, though we know when to shut it down. Taking days off at a time is wonderful, but it was nice to be able to stay plugged in and accessible when we needed to be, but also turn it off when we chose to. We want that option and Virgin Voyages allowed that. They definitely cater to today’s remote workers and entrepreneurs.
We also feel that even as child-free adults, there are plenty of people who want to vacation without their children. People invest in their vacations and want rest and relaxation, so Virgin Voyages is the space for that, should you wish for the outlet to not have your kids, or any kids around.
Lastly, prior to taking this cruise, we had read a lot of articles saying that this cruise was for Millenials. We beg to differ. Scarlet Lady is for every adult. There was a space for everyone. We found that there was a place for the millennial, there was a place for the partier, there was a place for the relaxed vacay adult, there was a space for the playful adult, and there was a space for the couples or solo traveler who want to worship the sun with boat drinks. Scarlet Lady welcomes all demographics, and we felt that! We loved every second of our time aboard Scarlet Lady, and look forward to her welcoming us back.
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