Virgin Voyages & Scarlet Lady: Day Four (Sea Day) Recap
Through Sunday, January 30th, Premier Custom Travel Founder and President Chris Grum is onboard Scarlet Lady, the first ship launched by the newest cruise brand – Virgin Voyages. Each day, Chris will be posting a recap blog with his thoughts on the ship and the experience. In his last blog in this series, he looks at his final day onboard.
Today was my final full day onboard Scarlet Lady and it will filled with fun, both in exploring the ship and the events I attended. As you can see from the photos above, I finally got to see the bed in the “daytime” mode. As it turns out, they don’t automatically convert it anymore, which I guess makes a lot of sense and also saves time. Instead, there is a button on your in-room iPad that will alert them to change it over. I pressed the button, left for lunch, and when I returned the bed was now a comfy sofa. This also gives you an idea of how the beds would be configured if you were to select two twins instead of a queen.
Perhaps the most unusual feature of Scarlet Lady is the onboard tattoo parlor called Squid Ink. It’s a partnership of World Famous Tattoo Ink, Soho Ink ,and Freshly Inked Magazine. The parlor charges a non-refundable deposit of $150 to cover the artist’s time and then where you go from there is up to your imagination. I was surprised to find that every time I walked by, someone was in there getting inked. I was curious about whether or not this would be a good idea on a ship, but apparently it is pretty popular. I would just recommend making sure you go during calm seas.
HIGH TEA, SCARLET STYLE
Many ships offer afternoon tea, and it should be no surprise that it is also available on sea days onboard Scarlet Lady. Tea time runs from 1pm to 4pm and you can arrive at any time during that window and enjoy a nice relaxing experience. Tea is served in the Sip Lounge (the champagne bar) and you have two options: Tea with or without bubbly. It is $35 if you opt for the whole experience, or just $19 for the non-alcoholic tea time. Both include a wide variety of rare teas from around the world and a delicious variety of snacks.
THE ONE SPOT I DIDN’T VISIT
In my four days onboard, I’ve managed to explore almost every inch of Scarlet Lady. But there is one spot I did not visit – the jogging track on deck 17. I had planned on going up there today, but we have run into some colder, damp, windy weather and quite frankly, it is too cold to go up there today. So please take a look at the ship’s model above, which is on display in the atrium. You can see the jogging track goes all the way around that top deck. Other than that one missing element, you can see photos from the entire rest of the ship on our Facebook page. I believe there are over 500 snaps there now and more to come after I finish this blog.
MORE UNIQUE ENTERTAINMENT
One thing I can say for certain – you will never find a more eclectic mix of entertainment at sea like you will find on Virgin Voyages. I’ve laughed, I’ve been touched, I’ve sometimes wondered “What the hell am I watching?” but it’s always been unique and mostly entertaining.
I thought last night’s fantastic show Duel Reality would be my favorite of the cruise, but then I went this afternoon to Tamar Broadbent’s cabaret show “Best Life.” I had the privilege of dining with her the other night at Gunbae by random chance, and I only wish I had seen her show prior to that dinner, as I would have gone back to laugh all over again. Combine a strong-willed woman, pearls of wisdom from her grandmother (#DoingItForGrandma), avocados, and cat memes, and you have the makings of one hilarious and touching show. Tamar (rhymes with hammer) sings hilarious songs she’s written about love, sex, and Instagram, plus she tells stories that are relatable and yet hilarious. This was her last show onboard before flying home to England tomorrow and I’m grateful I got to catch her and spend a bit of time with her as well. If you have a chance to see her show, be sure to do so. It was a huge highlight of this trip (and she’s very nice and a bit cheeky too!)
The evening show was another production from the same company that did “Duel Reality” – a company called The 7 Fingers. Tonight’s show was called “Ships in the Night” and was more of a visual and ethereal experience than the more stunt-filled “Duel Reality.” It’s amazing how different The Red Room was for this performance versus the last. That space is highly customizable and I can see why Virgin Voyages opted to crate it. I was also surprised to learn that the 7 Fingers folks were one of the collaborators on the recent Broadway revival of PIPPIN. Makes total sense seeing as how their performers are so versatile and great at amazing stunts and choreography. Both shows should be on your list if you sail with Virgin Voyages. Bravo to cast and crew on both.
FINAL NIGHT DINNER
I had originally planned to go to The Test Kitchen tonight, where the menu consists of seven courses using just one word (Mushroom, egg, scallops, venison, blue cheese, chocolate) and then the courses will feature that ingredient somehow. At the last minute, however, I decided I was in the mood for the ship’s steak and seafood option, The Wake. It’s also one of the only restaurants onboard I had not visited yet. (The other, Razzle Dazzle, is the ship’s vegan option and I did not get to dine there during this short cruise.)
Again, the food did not disappoint, even if the service was a bit clumsy to begin. I ordered a sazerac and they brought me something that clearly was not that drink, despite the waiter’s protestations that it was, indeed, what I ordered. I politely tried to explain that sazeracs are not yellow with an orange in them, but he would not listen. So I decided whatever it was, I was going to enjoy it. Right as I was about to take a sip, he returned and explained that he had brought me the wrong drink (told ya!) and would fix it right away. After that, everything was great including the service (and the sazerac was fantastic).
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
As you can see from the app message I got above, Virgin Voyages appreciates (or at least they say they appreciate) your feedback. I received messages like this several times during the cruise, asking me to rate and evaluate different features of the ship or voyage. I was as honest as I could be, and I thought I’d share some of those observations here as well.
As I’ve said before, I wasn’t sure if I would fit in or not with this brand, but I can honestly say that I would gladly return again. Here are the things I thought they did very well:
- DINING – The food was uniformly excellent. There wasn’t anything that I thought was sub-par in this category
- CREW – Very friendly and approachable. Didn’t experience a single language barrier the entire voyage and everyone I interacted with was pleasant and helpful. They seem to really like working for this company.
- SHIP DESIGN – She’s absolutely gorgeous.
- BATHROOM SHOWER – Love the rainforest head and how spacious (at least for a ship) the shower is.
- THE SEA TERRACE HAMMOCK – Why doesn’t every cruise line have this? Such a cool, relaxing feature.
- PLUGS! – There are plugs by the beds in the cabins and plugs throughout the ship. This is great for charging your phone at night or for when you need to do a bit of work in one of the lounges or bars. Wish other ships had this many plug options throughout. Well done, VV.
- NO ANNOUNCEMENTS! – The only time anyone got on the public address system was during embarkation (the reminders about the required muster drill and then the drill itself) and then twice when they were doing crew drills in the two ports. I honestly wondered how I would feel about a cruise without a cruise director, but this seemed to work very well. The only place that their announcements and guidance were missed were in the procedures onboard – more on that below. And no offense to my cruise director friends – I enjoy you very much when I’m onboard your ships.
- ENTERTAINMENT – I wasn’t a huge fan of the sex therapy show “Never Sleep Alone,” but every other entertainment option I chose was fantastic. Really well done indeed.
These are things I thought were okay, but could be improved.
- BEDDING – Harder than I would have liked but I did sleep fairly well each night. I know they’re already addressing this issue with their re-design.
- STORAGE SPACE IN THE CABIN – Especially in the bathroom, space is at a premium. I’m not sure how they solve this, but it needs to be addressed. Apparently it will be a part of the bed re-design and I welcome both.
- CABIN TECHNOLOGY – The iPad is cool and being able to control everything is nice. But could we maybe get more TV channels that the very limited choices offered?
- FORM OVER FUNCTION – There are a few places, especially with the seating in some restaurants and bars, where they went with good looking options over comfortable ones. The design of every venue on this ship is stunning, but a few of them could use a bit more comfy furniture, especially if you are a larger person or tall.
There is some work to be done, and these are areas that need immediate attention.
- COMMUNICATION – I had to go ask about getting off the ship and what to do with my luggage. There was no instruction sheet in the cabin, and I was not told to keep my luggage tags for debarkation (which you are supposed to do). A little communication goes a long way. I think they’re trying too hard to be “cool” here and it ends up confusing people. I’ve sailed 41 cruises and consider myself very well read when it comes to my brands, but I found myself often having to search for answers about things they should have clearly told us.
- THE APP – Their app has potential to be great, but it’s way too glitchy. I had to uninstall and re-download it several times and even the folks at Sailor Services said this is par for the course. I think they know they have issues here, but for a ship that relies heavily on the app to create an experience, they need to get this solved ASAP.
- MAP CHANNEL – Why is there not a place to see the ship’s current position on the TV? This is a feature of every other cruise line on which I’ve sailed, yet I could not find this anywhere on VV TV. There is a VV TV channel, but it appears to only have the daily schedule and venue opening and closing times. This is a big miss in my book.
- MASK ENFORCEMENT – I don’t want to wear one either, but the rules for this voyage CLEARLY stated that masks were required except when eating or drinking. Yet as the cruise went on, folks seemed to be ignoring this more and more. There was a letter in our cabin and the app sent reminders every few hours, yet I never saw a single crew member ever ask someone to put their mask on. Not once. I know we’re all tired of this, but I also know the impact the industry being shut down had on my business alone, much less our cruise line partners. I don’t care if you think masks work or not, and I don’t care if you’re tired of them or not. If the rules say you must wear them to sail, follow them. Don’t be “that guy.”
- CASINO – I finally figured out where the video poker was on the final day – it’s in the smoker’s room, which is a completely separate area from the casino. I can understand putting some machines in there, but if you’re only going to have four poker machines, choose something else. If you’re sailing for the gambling, this ship shouldn’t be your first choice. Small, intimate casino with few options.
So who should sail on Virgin Voyages? I think it’s much more than just a millennial’s cruise line or a cruise line for people who don’t think they’ll like cruises. It certainly has elements you will find on any ship, but it also has a unique vibe that I think will appeal to more people than one might expect. I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed almost every aspect of this experience.
If you are reserved, very conservative or easily offended, very picky with your food choices, or looking for a vanilla cruise choice, this probably isn’t for you. But if the thought of a different kind of fun and finer dining appeals to you, then this might be a great choice for you. If you are into fitness and general health and wellness, you will certainly appreciate the many options this ship offers in those areas. I’d also add that as far as the more edgy and immersive aspects go, I never felt compelled to do anything I didn’t want to do nor did I feel judged or left out if I didn’t participate.
Thanks for reading – and good night and goodbye from onboard Scarlet Lady.