Making waves with its very direct approach to onboarding the next generation of cruisers, Virgin Voyages has finally launched its first of four ships in the US earlier this month. 

As someone squarely in their target demo, a novice cruiser under the age of 25, I accepted Virgin Voyages' invitation to be among the first to check out the new Scarlet Lady. The cruise was one of their new standard routes, four nights from Miami to Nassau and Bimini Beach in the Bahamas; markedly different from the standard 7-10 night Caribbean trips you'll find on other cruise lines. 

What I found onboard was surprising and gave me definitive answers to the questions many travelers are pondering: Can Virgin Voyages actually bridge the generation gap and be considered cool?

Who is sailing on Virgin Voyages? 

18+ and fully vaccinated? Welcome aboard! Virgin Voyages adults-only scene changes up the attitude and energy of everyone onboard, giving the whole experience an exclusive, club vibe. The ship doesn't lack for anything you'd find on your standard cruise, with plenty of uniquely themed bars (a dozen to be exact), two pools, plenty of hot tubs and a nightclub as cool as any I've seen on more solid ground. The guests on my sailing were from all walks of life and notably younger. 

The sea terrace cabins included a hammock on each balcony..jpg
The sea terrace cabins include a hammock on each balcony © Ram Sanchez

Will I have to wear a mask on board? 

It's really up to you regarding masks on board as masks are recommended but not required. Walking around the ship, you'd see about one in every 50 people onboard wore masks and all the staff is masked at all times. Though with a sweeping vaccine mandate for all passengers and crew as well as thorough testing prior to boarding from every port, Virgin is hoping to significantly reduce the risk of onboard outbreaks. At this point, a full vaccine mandate is not possible on cruises that include children, which makes Virgin Voyages among the safest travel experiences you can have now.

The new, affordable spring break destination

As soon as the Scarlet Lady departs US waters the drinking age becomes 18 and the ship is ready to party. The pricing for this cruise line is done a bit differently, charging for cabins that have the capacity for up to 3 passengers (or 'sailors' as the line refers to its passengers). With rates that hover around $1,300 per cabin for 4-5 night trips, Virgin is poised to become the perfect upscale yet affordable vacation for a friends group looking to experience some new destinations. 

The sea terrace cabin in “sleep” mode.jpg
The relaxing  'sleep' mode in a cabin ©Ram Sanchez

What are the cabins like? Will I feel comfortable? 

For my stay, I was booked in the Sea Terrace cabin, which is their standard balcony cabin.  Although the bathroom was a little small, I appreciated the extra space in the stylish room. The cabin is high-tech and low-touch with a tablet that centralizes all the controls in the room including the lights, AC, the TV and the window shades. The mood of the cabin changes with a quick swipe as lighting presets add a playful touch with one designed for social media photoshoots and another for hangovers, maybe the most useful feature I found on this party ship. 

My favorite cabin feature? The red hammock on the terrace, perfect for lounging, watching the sea roll by. 

Will I be able to post easily on Instagram while onboard? 

Given that the ship was basically built for social media, Virgin was smart to make WiFi available and free to all guests. Premium and higher-speed WiFi packages are also available for a fee. The highest speed available is $40 for the whole voyage if purchased on the first day. While your social media channels will load perfectly with the free package, and posting is a breeze, working may be a challenge. Most video call services are either blocked by the cruise line or use up too much bandwidth to work as they would on land. Hopefully, you’re not working on vacation, but if you need to make that one important client video call, you may be in trouble.

Pink Agave restaurant on Virgin Voyages.jpg
Dinner at Pink Agave Mexican restaurant © Ram Sanchez

What's the food like? 

Virgin really excels at atmosphere and the dining experiences at the all-inclusive onboard restaurants are distinct, unique and sexy. Favorites included the fresh Mexican fare at Pink Agave, and Gunbae, a Korean BBQ experience where you’re able to cook some of your own food. Each restaurant also features “Treat Yourself” options for an additional charge, think lobster, steak and oysters. The included food options, however, never left me wanting more. 

Will I have to bring my wallet around the ship to tip? 

There’s no need to tip when you go out to dinner or drinks onboard or at their private beach club (more on that later). This means even when you purchase an alcoholic beverage, you won’t need to add an extra tip and it won’t be automatically added to your account, as it would be on other cruise lines. I wanted to see what would happen if I tried to give my bartender a cash tip one night and they declined to take it. Use your discretion here.

View from Virgin Voyages’ private beach club at Bimini, Bahamas.jpg
View from Virgin Voyages private beach club at Bimini, Bahamas ©Ram Sanchez

The Beach Club at Bimini: the line's private island oasis

Expect classy, Vegas pool party vibes at Virgin Voyages' exclusive The Beach Club at Bimini, a destination on most of its voyages. The emphasis here is on fun, not necessarily relaxing. The music is loud, drinks are prominent and the free WiFi around the pool ensures easy access to social media. The music is great and goes beyond standard Top 40 hits and Caribbean beats. Plan to stay later into the night for the sunset bonfire, the perfect way to toast a day in paradise. 

Yes, you really can get a tattoo on the ship

That's right, they have a tattoo parlor onboard, Squid Ink, and it's real. Be sure to book ahead as the first and only chance to get your ink at sea fills up fast. 

The shows are actually fun

Every live performance I saw was fun and fully immersive. With at least one live performance nightly in the ship’s theater, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to catch them all.

The highlight for me was the ship's “Untitled Dance Party Show Thing”. The one-of-a-kind variety show makes the audience the spectacle as the space transforms into a dance club. The young crowd went wild for it and so did I; it may be one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen.

You can take several workout classes on board, including spin..jpg
The ship's spinning class studio  ©Ram Sanchez

What's the overall vibe on the ship? 

Entertainment and performance is the star of the show aboard the Scarlet Lady.  Live entertainment seemingly pops up around every corner of the ship. 

Because of this atmosphere, there is no cruise director, instead, there is a “Happenings” cast made up of several personalities including “the Artist," “the Dancer,” “the Gamer” and more. They pop up throughout your journey and lead to fun and highly interactive experiences.

The Bottom Line

Virgin Voyages is offering a lot to differentiate them from some of the players in the industry, but at the end of the day, it is still a cruise. A very cool cruise though, worth the trip.

Here and now: Miami's South Beach

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