Late last year I did 2 sailings on “Virgin Voyages” on their “Scarlet Lady” ship.
If you’ve never heard of Virgin Voyages, they’re a BRAND NEW Cruiseline (I’ve been Cruising for 19 years now & that’s not something you get to experience often!) who are part of Richard Branson’s “Virgin Group”.
This new line was HIGHLY anticipated prior to their launch as they promised to “shake things up” in the Cruise Industry by not allowing kids onboard, by including more in their prices compared to other big ships, by ditching traditional “Main” dining rooms, by ditching traditional buffets, by modernizing entertainment, etc.
So, what was my experience like onboard Virgin Voyages’ “Scarlet Lady” ship?
Let’s get into it! 😉
Before I share my thoughts on my two “Virgin Voyages” sailings, I’d encourage you to not only read my below review but also to Visit Here to see my Picture & Video Gallery from my time onboard…
…that’s a great resource as not only will you see A LOT of pictures of the food, the ship, the entertainment, etc. & videos of the rooms but under most of those pictures & videos I write detailed captions giving you lots of great tips & “insider” info!
What was the Food Like On Virgin Voyages?
What you can eat onboard is always top of mind for most of us who love Cruising… I mean, who doesn’t love trying fancy new restaurants & dishes and having it all prepared/served/cleaned up for you!! 🙂
Well, when it came to dining, that was one area where Virgin Voyages promised to “revolutionize” Cruising by getting rid of big “Main” dining rooms as well as traditional buffets & by charging $0 for their “Specialty Restaurants”.
So, did they deliver?
In my opinion… sort of!
Here’s what I mean by that… after having sailed on Virgin Voyages two times within a 2 week period (in between I did a 3rd Cruise on another line) I developed a bit of a “Love/Hate” relationship with Virgin Voyages’ food offerings.
I say that as I REALLY enjoyed most of the food I experienced onboard (If you Visit Here you can see dozens of photos of the yummy food they served onboard) but I wasn’t thrilled, AT ALL, with the food choices!!
Reason being, Virgin Voyages ONLY has “Specialty Restaurant” type venues onboard and if you’ve been to those Restaurants on other ships you’ll know the menus rarely change (As they do in a “Main” Dining room) so if you go back multiple nights it’s the same menu each time… and on Virgin Voyages, these are even more limited menus since there’s $0 charge to eat in them they’re not big 2 page menus like on many ships with lots of choice… these are small menus with 3-4 appies/3-4 entrees/a few desserts, etc. and a couple of the places have ZERO choices… “Gunbae” & “The Test Kitchen”, for example, where they’re “Set” menus.
The point of all this is, this is all fine for a 5 night Cruise like I was on (with that said, I really wish they offered longer sailings as I’m NOT a fan of anything less than at least a week!!) IF you only go one time but if you go on a longer sailing (if Virgin Voyages doesn’t eventually start to offer these type of longer trips I’m not sure how they can be considered a serious Cruiseline who will attract a sophisticated clientele who like long itineraries/want to see the World) or if you do “Back to Back” sailings as I did…
…their food menus get Really Old/Really Fast!! 🙁
So, did I like the food on Virgin Voyages… absolutely… on my first Cruise with them that is!
But, when I got back on 9 nights later, I was less then thrilled eating the same food again & again! 🙁
In two of the venues (“Gunbae” the Korean BBQ & “The Test Kitchen” which is a tasting menu style place) we ate the EXACT same food, literally, and in the other three places we had a little new choice but not much/ended up eating almost identical meals to our first sailing.
To me, it’s like they never even considered people who may want to Cruise again & again with them (without Loyal repeat clients, how can they stay in Business??) nor did they put any thought into what happens when they start offering longer sailings?
As I said in my gallery here, it felt like they hired some Very lazy chefs who made a “one-time” menu & then retired… Very weird compared to a normal Cruise Ship experience!!
So, when you see/hear Virgin Voyages “mocking” the big “Main” dining rooms on traditional Cruise ships, kindly remind them the menus change in those places EVERY NIGHT and have WAY more choices each night so you can be onboard for weeks without repeating dishes… maybe sometimes, things that aren’t broken shouldn’t be “fixed”??
Same with “getting rid” of the buffet concept.
In reality, pretty much all lines did that years ago… besides on “Cunard” (Check out the caption under this picture!), I haven’t gone to a “1 line” buffet-style set up on a Cruise Ship in forever… these days they all have “stations” spread out with different cuisines and you simply head to the “stations” that appeal to your taste buds… AND, the dishes change often at these places (Asian, American, Italian, French, etc., etc.)… I showed an example from a recent Cruise on “Carnival” (the most basic of Cruiselines) where they had 6 different cakes prepared each day/42 total over a week.. that’s A LOT of choice!!!!!
BUT, again, Virgin Voyages “fixed” something that wasn’t broken… they have their “The Galley” area which is EXACTLY like “stations” on other Cruise Ships but each place NEVER changes their menu?? 🙁
Their dessert station… EXACTLY the same items at lunchtime each day & EXACTLY the same items at dinner-time each day.
The EXACT same sushi each day at their sushi bar… & it’s pre-made & kept cold, that’s gross for someone like me from Vancouver who can get amazingly fresh sushi on every corner! 🙁
The EXACT same sandwiches each day at their sandwich place.
The EXACT same Tacos each day at their Taco place.
Day 1, 2 it was okay but after a few days it was like “What are we supposed to eat here?”
Luckily, in another area of the ship, they had a nice Pizza Restaurant & a Bar at the back of the ship that served tapas.
I’ve literally never seen a Cruiseline with so few choices before!!
Don’t get me wrong, if you’re a rookie Cruiser/go on Virgin Voyages it’ll seem amazing but if you’re like me & have done back-to-back sailings on many occasions & if you’ve done longer 10 day to 2-3 week sailings or more, I KNOW you’ll get what I’m talking about!
Even something as simple as their “24/7” diner at “The Galley”… it had ONE, yes, ONE item available outside of breakfast… a roast beef sandwich.
I was on Norwegian for my other Cruise between my two Virgin Voyages sailings and their “24/7” Diner had 24 items to choose from… I literally counted them!!
Anyways, I won’t go on but the point of my thoughts is the food was VERY good on Virgin Voyages (nice tastes/nice presentation, etc.) but after 5 nights onboard we literally tried it all/on our second 5 nights onboard we pretty much ate all the same meals/were less than thrilled with the experience! 🙁
So as I said, “Love/Hate” for me when it comes to dining onboard “Virgin Voyages”!!
Besides The Food, What Was Virgin Voyages Like In Other Areas?
Okay, as I spent a lot of time talking about the food (As myself and A LOT of my clients truly enjoy the onboard dining experience on ships I felt it was justified!) I’ll do my best to summarize the other areas more concisely! 😉
This is an “Adults Only” Cruiseline where, no exceptions, no one under 18 can be onboard… I have zero against kids but this was great as there were no “smaller humans” running up & down the halls & stairways, there was plenty of space in the pools (on some ships kids literally can take over), it changes the entertainment that can be offered onboard, etc.
FYI, Virgin Voyages doesn’t hide this fact at all/they highlight it to get those interested in “kidless” Vacations onboard… check out this Very Funny Video (especially the ending) of how they “flaunt” this feature that’s unique to them! 🙂
Virgin Voyages includes more in their prices than other “Big Ship” lines like Wifi, All Food (other ships include lots of Free food but you have to pay for specialty restaurants & many even charge for room service now + for certain items in the main dining room, etc.), gratuities for the onboard staff, all group workouts, most non-alcoholic drinks, etc. Yes, other big ships give you the choice to add “packages” to include many of these items but they still have their cheaper “A-La-Carte” prices that some people book who don’t understand the value of the packages which overall leads to a not as good onboard experience…. with Virgin Voyages, there is no choice, all these items are included which is a GREAT thing as no one likes being “nickeled & dimed” when on Vacation!!
Staterooms & Suites
Like the food, I had a bit of a “Love/Hate” relationship with Virgin Voyages’ Staterooms… great technology in them, lots of Free movies (which is a rarity on big ships these days!), very comfy beds and their “Hammocks” on their balconies are VERY cool/much comfier then I expected BUT their bathrooms were too small with NO shelf space at all (Literally) and there was a lack of drawer/closet space in the room as well so not sure how they ever plan to offer longer sailings unless they change this?
FYI, if you’d like to see **Detailed Videos** of the “Sea Terrace” (Balcony) Stateroom I stayed in, Visit Here or if you’d like to see some bigger “Rock Star Quarters” (Suites), then Visit Here & also check out the 5 videos that follow that one!
Virgin Voyages’ entertainment was Very different than on most lines as they don’t have a “Main” Theatre where you sit down for a show each night. They have their “Red Room” where they had a “Dance Party” type show & a Cirque-style show (which was REALLY good) but then other entertainment was in the night-club, etc.
Overall, what we saw was good/modern/fairly unique BUT overall there was little entertainment onboard… there was no comedy, At All, for example which I found super strange as it’s VERY popular on most big-ship lines/I feel a Comedy Club on Virgin Voyages’ ships would be a hit (especially since they don’t have to worry about their shows being “Family Friendly”) but nada… no comedy at all?
And during the day there was literally zero entertainment… no games, no lectures, no trivia, Nothing… unless you want to work out constantly when on your Vacation (I exercise daily when home so am not against this at all… when I’M HOME!!) as they had LOTS of “fitness” stuff during the days or if being “pitched” is considered entertainment to you (lots of skin care/acupuncture, etc. “info sessions” which were all about selling you stuff) or if paying for booze tasting is your thing, there was zero organized Free events during the day… maybe their chefs created their daytime entertainment “menu” as well??
Don’t get me wrong, their pool areas were nice with good energy but unless you spend hours & hours at the pool each day, not sure what else you’re supposed to do onboard besides watch movies… again though, if you love working out/being sold stuff they have you covered!! 😉
Drinks & Bars
One thing I really liked on Virgin Voyages was that it felt like you never had to walk far to find a bar/get a drink & their alcohol prices were really good compared to other big-ship lines… for example, you could get $5-$6 beers with tip included… other ships I was on recently were more like $6.50 + a 18-20% tip… that’s as much as over 50% more!! Basic cocktails were $9 with tip included & lots of wines were $10 or under with tip included…
…if you compare that to other big-ship lines/it’s significantly cheaper!
And, although they don’t sell “drink packages” as most lines do, they have a deal where if you pre-pay for some of your drinks you’ll get some free “money/credits” to spend so overall same idea… pre-pay & you get a better deal!
Alright, I think I’ve covered most everything when it comes to my experience on both of my Virgin Voyages sailings!
So, did I LOVE Virgin Voyages… definitely not… did I HATE Virgin Voyages… definitely not!!
I fall somewhere in between.
They did some things great/some not great at all but overall I like that they’re trying to be innovative/trying to make changes to the overall Cruising concept but I think they “fixed” some things that weren’t at all broken…
…I hope they figure that out & make some changes as if not I won’t be running back to Cruise Virgin Voyages anytime soon and I don’t see them being able to build a Loyal clientele without those changes!!
I think if you like to have planned activities during the day, you like tons of variety in the food you eat, etc. then stick with your current favorite Cruiseline but if you want zero kids onboard, you love hanging by the pool all day, you’re only interested in short Cruises & only Cruise 1-2 times per year or so, Virgin Voyages might be worth a try.
Either way, if you decide to sail with Virgin Voyages (You can Contact Me Here for more info/to get you booked) I for sure want to hear your thoughts all about them once back!! 😉
Till next time… Happy Cruising!! 🙂
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