I couldn’t help thinking of the phrase ‘hello sailor’ as I boarded Virgin Voyages’ first cruise ship Scarlet Lady and was greeted by an over-the-top drag artist. The ship certainly breaks the mould and it will be interesting to see if it creates a new market for cruising.
Perhaps one of its best known features is Squid Ink, the first tattoo parlour at sea, but the differences don’t stop there.
My balcony cabin was small but the space well utilised by the bed formation. At night the two beds can be used as twins or put together as a double. During the day, however, one of them is turned sideways to make an L-shaped sofa, turning the cabin into a comfortable day lounge. The only possible downside to this is that many cruise passengers store their suitcases under the beds to save space – not so easy when one of them is moved every day.
The bathroom was disappointing and the smallest I have ever seen. No toiletries were provided except for a bar of black soap which left soot-like marks on the wash-basin. Outside there was a small balcony and a scarlet hammock hanging from its roof for those agile enough to climb into it; perhaps not the best idea on a windy day.
There is mood lighting and this and other functions are controlled by a tablet in the room, but I couldn’t get it to do anything. I asked the cabin steward how it all worked when she popped in to see how we were getting on, but she had no more luck than I did. Apparently she had not been on the training course. Perhaps there will be one for passengers too!
The public areas also look and feel a little different. As well as the tattoo parlour there is a spa and the usual selection of shops, plus a stall selling vinyl LPs. Furnishings tend to be minimalist and some seating resembles striped mattresses, complete with white fluffy buttons. There is an IKEA feel to the place. Many of the bars, lounges and recreation areas give the impression of wide corridors rather than spacious rooms. This was brought home to me when visiting the gym and the separate spinning room, both long and narrow with equipment crammed into the available space.
Cruising and food go hand in hand and there are twenty places to eat, including an always-open diner, and all are included in the price. The traditional buffet is replaced by the Galley, a food market with different stalls, which probably makes up some of the twenty.
Fancy a Mexican? Then head for Pink Agave, or if a Korean BBQ floats your boat, then Gundae (Korean for “cheers”) is the place to go where food is cooked on a hot plate in the centre of your table. Vegetarians and vegans are well catered for in Razzle Dazzle, which also has some ‘naughty’ options such as chicken. The Wake, the nearest Scarlet Lady has to a main restaurant, offers steak and seafood whilst on deck The Dock delivers Mediterranean-style mezze. Extra Virgin is an Italian restaurant and the Pizza Place does what it says on the tin.
As for entertainment, Scarlet Lady bucks the trend for full-scale Broadway productions and instead provides a number of specially-made shows. Drag items are also a feature. There is no traditional theatre, instead a long and not-too-wide performing space with banks of seating either side, which again reinforces the corridor feeling.
Late night activities focus on The Manor, a two-tiered nightclub with DJs pumping up the volume until the early hours. For suite passengers, Richard’s Rooftop offers a lounge and bar area with unusual furnishings.
Scarlet Lady is adults-only (18+) and prices include gratuities, soft drinks and internet access. There is no dress code and no set dining. Passengers can choose from inside, ocean view and balcony cabins, plus ‘rock star’ suites; over ninety percent of the 1400 cabins have a view of the ocean. The ship holds a total of 2,770 passengers.
Scarlet Lady offers four, five and seven night Caribbean cruises from Miami. However in 2021 her sister ship Valiant Lady will be offering seven night Mediterranean itineraries between May and October from her European home port of Barcelona. Some itineraries are extended to nine nights by adding a two-night pre-cruise stay in Barcelona. Third and fourth ships are scheduled for 2022 and 2023.
For more information please go to: www.virginvoyages.com
Mike Pickup is an award-winning travel writer and photographer who has over one hundred features a year published in newspapers, magazines and travel trade titles.
Photographs by Mike Pickup and Virgin Voyages