Paid partnership with Virgin Voyages.
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to become one of the first sailors on board Virgin’s latest venture – a luxury 17-deck cruise ship for the 18+ age range, aptly named the Scarlet Lady. Yes, it was indeed a pinch me moment. The flagship female for Virgin Voyages first fleet of Lady Ships (there are three more of these chicas coming), the name Scarlet Lady appeared on one of the earliest planes to fly for Virgin Atlantic, and much like her predecessor, she’s one hell of a disruptive offering.
With a mission to redefine cruising as we know it, the Virgin Voyages team have created a ship that’s adult by design and by nature; a space that combines high-end interiors, laidback living and impulsive elements for the wild and carefree. While wellbeing is at the forefront of the onboard experience via various spas and calming areas, there’s also plenty of time for partying and high-energy moments. Say goodbye to your preconceptions of the cruising world, because this folks, is a gamechanger. Full steam ahead for the lo-down.
Where is the Scarlet Lady headed?
During her inaugural season in 2020, the Scarlet Lady will sail a mix of Caribbean voyages from her maiden port of Miami. There’s a mixture of destinations to suit different tastes and trips. From the five-night Riviera Maya sailing to the Dominican Daze voyage and the four-night Fire and Sunset Soirées adventure, you’re bound to find something that floats your boat.
But what do they include? If you’ve ever fancied exploring the waterfalls of Puerto Plata or dancing in the famous sunsets of Key West, this is your chance to head to warmer climates with the same luxury accommodation guaranteed every evening. Better yet, every itinerary makes a stop at the Virgin Voyages private beach experience at Bimini, in the Bahamas – I’ll race you to the July voyage where Mark Ronson is on deck.
NB: If you’re on the hunt for a Meditteranean cruise, the Valiant Lady will be here to serve all your Spain and France vacay needs in 2021.
What are the cabins like?
I’ll be honest, in my whirlwind 24 hours on board the Scarlet Lady, I didn’t spend much time hunkering down. Nevertheless, I was impressed with the innovative patent pending cabin layout, designed by PearsonLloyd with Virgin Voyages’ Design team.
The Central Sea Terrace Room (pictured) is the most high-end of the smaller cabin offerings (thanks to that beautiful balcony) but generally speaking the Insider and Sea View cabins feature the same layout and rough size offering. It just depends whether you want that natural light, or would prefer a hidey hole after a night on the deck.
All of the Sea Terrace Cabins feature the Seabed, the first-ever transformational cabin bed at sea by Walter Knoll, and this for me was a huge selling point. Keep it as a living room by day for extra dancing space and turn it into your crash pad at night. Don’t worry, a crew member will even do it for you! In other good news for lazy people, the cabin lighting automatically adjusts to enhance the time of day based on where the ship is in the world and also feature PIR presence sensors that automatically detect when someone has left the cabin and go into energy saver mode. Clever, clever, clever.
Looking for something bigger? It sounds like you might be a rockstar, and instead a RockStar Suite is likely for you. These living quarters start at 5k per room so are indeed a splurge but come with all manner of extras, and a bigger and better everything. Some even include a rider, if the curved sofas and guitar on loan weren’t enough. Virgin says it’s fit for Jagger himself and I can’t help but agree that he’d be rather happy here.
NB: There are a number of wheelchair accessible cabins on board so get in touch if you want to know more!
Where can I eat on board the Scarlet Lady?
Here’s one of the real selling points for me. The Scarlet Lady features over 20 eateries on board and every single one of them is included in your booking. That’s right, all you can eat, all the time! From authentic Mexican cooked by Mexicans at Pink Agave to the laboratory-like experimental joint, The Test Kitchen, there’s a cuisine and a restaurant design for everyone.
We tried out Gunbae, a social and interactive Korean BBQ restaurant on the top deck (it literally means “cheers!”) and while the environment was lively, the food was truly magic. Or maybe that was the soju shots and encouraged Korean drinking games talking…
For breakfast we headed to Razzle Dazzle , a largely vegetarian American restaurant and juice bar, with impossible burgers, cookies and milk and many other naughty but nice treats. It’s home to the ship’s drag brunch, so expect a performance while dining.
If you’re after a quick bite, The Galley is where it’s at, featuring a mix of street food style offerings. There’s a dedicated bakery, pastry shop, a panini shop, a burger grill, taco shack, sushi bar, noodle bar, soup kitchen, salad stand AND a 24-hour American diner. Phew, that’s a lot to recall. The interior design here is sixties retro meets spaceship, so don’t forget your camera!
I wanna know where the party is at…
Here’s where the fun happens. With a multitude of sexy bars to quench your thirst, Virgin Voyages really are bringing new meaning to drunken sailors. Whether sipping Aperol Spritz at one of the outdoor bars or getting friendly with a Dark & Stormy in one of the more sultry joints, you can be sure that if you are after a party, it’s a banger you’ll get. I should know, I went for it.
While on board, there’s that oh-so-anticipated cruise ship entertainment, but not as you know it. The festival-like lineup features completely original entertainment developed by producers, directors and artists in the expansion of the company’s Creative Collective. We caught an acrobatic interpretation of Romeo & Juliet by world-renowned circus company The 7 Fingers and whooped, laughed and clapped contagiously throughout.
It was the perfect way to start a night before a trip to The Manor, the signature nightclub designed by Roman and Williams and inspired by the first ever Virgin music studio of the same name. This is where you might have seen those perfect Instagram moments from many of the first ship mates aboard. Dancing the night away to pop tunes in a slinky interior – what more could you want?
What about working out and relaxing?
Let’s face it, I was always going to bring my running gear with good intentions but they were never likely to make their way from my suitcase. My feet did however explore some of the pool, gym and spa areas so I can safely say that they do exist.
There’s an athletic centre, secluded sundeck for sunrise and sunset yoga, various gyms and wellbeing pools. The Redemption Spa, designed by Knibb Design, is a restorative hideaway complete with hydrotherapy pool, mud room, salt room, cold plunge pools, quartz beds, and rejuvenating spa treatments. Plus, you can get an array of massage treatments or a mani-pedi after all of that hard work.
Anything else I should know?
If all the above isn’t already doing it for you, can I tempt you with a tattoo parlour instead? I’d say that during my docked stay on board, I only saw about a quarter of the ship’s offering. It really is a city within a ship that you can’t visualise without visiting. Think hair salons, a full on luxury high street, a Japanese-style karaoke, gaming and movie lounge, and an on board record shop to boot.
As an interior buff, the design of the ship was hugely important to me and I honestly don’t think they could have made it much better. The design team worked with a Creative Collective comprised of some of my favourite designers including Roman and Williams, Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio, Concrete Amsterdam, Softroom of London and so many more incredible artists who have brought a fresh edge to the cruise industry. It really was a new approach to a holiday that I’d rarely considered and now it’s firmly on my bucket list thanks to its thoughtful approach to design, sustainable values and legendary party atmosphere. Please, if you need to know anything, it’s that you need to book it NOW.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady, head to the Virgin Voyages website to see the next time the anchors will be lifted. Prices start from £640 per person and if you’re stuck with anyone to go with, I can confirm I’m free to go anytime…