The Scarlet Lady was the first Virgin “Lady Ship” out of the shipyard and the brand has evolved a little since then. However, the experience, design, and concept remain nearly identical across all Virgin Voyages Ships.
This is a contribution from our guest Ariel Kaneshiro who has spent countless days on cruise ships over the past 10 years, sharing her first experience on the Scarlet Lady.
I had the pleasure of sailing on the Scarlet Lady with stops at Puerta Plata and Bimini. Having cruised with various lines including Princess, Celebrity, Royal, Carnival, NCL, and MSC, this voyage marked my 29th cruise. Following each cruise, I typically compile a comprehensive review of my experiences, primarily for my own records and to complete cruise surveys. However, I’m excited to share this one, especially with fellow seasoned cruisers or those interested in a cruise experience sans the focus on alcoholic beverages. (I stopped drinking long ago!)
For those who might find this review lengthy, the TLDR version is this: Virgin Cruises exceeded expectations, particularly in the realm of gastronomy. However, a slight yearning for more onboard activities like trivia and game shows surfaced during the journey on the Scarlet Lady.
My account of a cruise adventure aboard the Scarlet Lady
The ship was thoughtfully designed with an abundance of charging ports, ensuring convenience at every turn, be it at the buffet, in the room, or elsewhere. A unique feature was the hammock on the balcony, adding a charming touch to the accommodations. While not a necessity, it certainly added to the overall enjoyment.
The Food & Beverage on Scarlet Lady
One of the standout aspects of the cruise was undoubtedly the exquisite dining experience. The food surpassed expectations and outshone that of any other cruise ship. Octopus enthusiasts would find delight in discovering this delicacy at various spots on the ship.
The variety of non-alcoholic options, including an alcohol-free drink pairing at the Test Kitchen (see the menu), was appreciated. The Test Kitchen experience itself was exceptional, and it didn’t incur an extra cost was a definite plus. I’m used to paying extra for nicer dining on nearly every cruise line now.
The ship has an array of casual dining options, although some were tucked away and required a bit of exploration to find. The Dock House and Sun Club, for instance, were worth the effort for their delicious octopus and poke, respectively. The Dock House came highly recommended for its unsauced octopus!
Participating in the special mushroom class during the Eat & Drink festival surpassed expectations, offering an educational and creative culinary adventure.
Having all basic beverages and soda available all day at no charge is a nice advantage to Virgin Voyages. I don’t drink but enjoy a diet soda or ginger ale throughout the day and on other cruise lines, this can add up and get expensive really fast!
Refreshing juices and smoothies were readily available, offering a delightful option for a quick and healthy beverage.
For tea enthusiasts, the availability of loose-leaf tea was a pleasant surprise, even though some guidance was needed to prepare it just right.
Beer lovers will appreciate the impressive beer selection on offer, attested by a satisfied husband.
Bimini’s diverse and satisfying culinary offerings were a pleasant surprise, boasting shorter wait times compared to other cruise lines’ private island options.
The flexibility to enjoy a sit-down breakfast or lunch
Being able to chill out at various times with a range of restaurants on the Scarlet Lady was appreciated. This flexibility was notably different from other cruise lines that imposed time restrictions on meal options.
Menus presented in paper format at every restaurant were a thoughtful touch, particularly in contrast to the growing use of QR codes in the industry.
Convenience was key with grab-and-go food options, perfect for those wanting to enjoy a quick meal in the comfort of their room.
Entertainment & Casino on the Scarlet Lady
A distinctive feature of this cruise was the pre-planned schedule of all activities, providing the opportunity to plan the entire cruise experience in advance.
Engaging activities such as the Boy Band and 80s workout dance classes offered a refreshing and unique twist to traditional cruise entertainment.
The Scarlet Lady shows exceeded typical cruise ship standards, making them a worthwhile entertainment choice.
The acoustics were exceptional, with musical performances resonating throughout the lobby, ensuring a pleasant auditory experience throughout the ship.
The Red Room’s versatility and adaptability made it a standout venue, evolving its ambiance and offerings for different shows.
The private karaoke rooms were a hit, available in various sizes to suit different preferences. However, managing time slots was necessary to ensure an enjoyable experience.
A delightful surprise was the inclusion of a drinking scavenger hunt, with non-alcoholic alternatives provided, catering to all preferences.
It was enjoyable to use “sailor loot” at the casino, adding an extra layer of entertainment to the cruise.
While enjoying music trivia, a desire for more opportunities to participate in such activities and perhaps win some memorable souvenirs was noted, since the only prizes were a round of drinks. Appreciated, but for non-drinkers, it’s sort of lame.
Other things to do on the ship
A relaxing and enjoyable visit to the spa was a highlight, especially taking advantage of the port day special. Minor suggestions for improvement included the addition of a hot tub and more spacious heated chairs.
The ship was a walker’s paradise, offering multiple walking areas like the jogging track on Deck 17 and the promenade deck on Deck 6, each with its unique charm.
The back area of the Galley provided a serene retreat with ample space and a pleasantly uncrowded atmosphere. Additionally, the staff’s accommodating service enhanced the experience.
The bungee class, included in the cruise package, was an exhilarating and enjoyable activity. And don’t forget about all of the other fitness classes that are included!
Whispers of secret parties added an intriguing element to the overall cruise experience.
Things we loved about the Scarlet Lady
The prompt availability of rooms upon boarding, even for Deep Blue Extras guests, was a smooth and appreciated process.
Efficient line management ensured that wait times for sailor services were minimal, enhancing the overall cruise experience.
The absence of intrusive announcements was a welcomed change, enhancing the tranquil ambiance aboard the ship.
The extension of the Deep Blue Extras perks to 2024 was a welcome surprise and a major incentive for choosing a Virgin cruise. The laundry service was a convenient offering, despite minor inconveniences.
For those valuing connectivity, the premium Wi-Fi offered excellent speed, though there were a few instances of downtime, especially for certain devices.
The bed offered a satisfactory level of comfort, and the bathroom size was comparable to that of a standard cruise ship.
Despite initial concerns about storage space, the room provided adequate options, although additional drawers under the table would be a welcomed addition.
The tablet in the room, while functional, had occasional issues with charging and screen functionality.
About the app & oddities
The ship’s app provided a convenient way to access information, although occasional glitches were noted. The availability of a paper schedule was appreciated.
Direct messaging to Sailor Services added to the convenience of communication, though some inconsistencies were observed in the responses.
Booking dinner reservations, while slightly stressful, was manageable even for guests who missed the initial booking window.
Areas for Improvement on the Scarlet Lady
- The room key system proved to be cumbersome, often falling off, and the Princess Medallion system is a more efficient alternative.
- The room’s angled table, while unique, presented challenges for activities like scrapbooking, and the red chair lacked adequate back support.
- The absence of a speakerphone in the room’s phone proved inconvenient during calls to guest services.
- The cocktail party for Deep Blue Extras guests, though a nice gesture, could be enhanced with the presence of the captain and entertainment staff, along with a broader selection of complimentary beverages.
- The lack of door decorations was unexpected, as these are often a fun tradition on cruise ships.
- Improving the clarity and accessibility of account charges for all parties when accounts are combined would enhance convenience.
- Fine-tuning the process of brewing tea, ensuring different water temperatures for black and green tea, would cater to tea enthusiasts.
- Addressing the challenge of extended standing during events like the Untitled Dance Party Thing would improve the overall experience for guests.
- Enhancements to the “free” laundry service, including better communication about drop-off times and a smoother process for express service, would be beneficial.
- Addressing the lackluster video poker odds and payouts would improve the casino experience for guests.
- Introducing organized events like a meet-and-greet with the Happenings cast or a Q&A session with the Captain would provide structured opportunities for guests to interact and learn more.
- Improving communication regarding activity cancellations, such as the stand-up Paddleboard Class, would prevent guests from missing out on planned experiences.
- Addressing the closure of certain bars during port days and its impact on events like the drinking scavenger hunt would enhance the guest experience.
- Diversifying the musical entertainment options with more eclectic and varied music styles would cater to different musical tastes.
- Expanding the range of dance classes to include genres like Hip Hop or trendy options like a “TikTok Dance” class would provide more choices for guests.
- Scheduling exclusive events like the Juice Walk and the Mushroom event during the Eat&Drink festival to avoid overlapping would ensure guests can fully enjoy both offerings.
“Next Time” Recommendations on Virgin Voyages
Explore dinner options at Wake, particularly given its popularity during brunch.
Test room service to experience a different dining option.
Participate in Diva bingo for a lively and entertaining activity.
Take a dip in the ship’s pool for a relaxing and enjoyable experience.
Try out the pool on the Scarlet Lady and enjoy a refreshing swim.
Consider alternative dining options for the next cruise, such as Gunbae, to diversify the culinary experience.
Overall, the Scarlet Lady cruise offered a delightful blend of exceptional dining, diverse activities, and thoughtful amenities. While there were some areas for improvement, the overall experience was thoroughly enjoyable, leaving a desire to explore more during future voyages.