Destinations

11 issues I cherished on Virgin Voyages — and 6 that I form of hated

I’ve quickly gone from vacationing on shore to setting sail as an everyday cruise passenger. Regardless of changing into a cheerful household cruiser lately, I actually had no thought how I might react to leaving my children again house with their grandparents to step onto an adults-only Virgin Voyages ship with my husband. In any case, each cruise I’ve beforehand loved has been with our youngsters on Disney Cruise Line.

Given the kid-free coverage and edgy, adult-oriented slant to cruising the road presents, I wasn’t fairly positive what I might consider this crusing. Whereas I may think about the cruise being the perfect 4 days of my life, it additionally would not have shocked me if it was the 4 weirdest days I’ve ever had at sea, as the road presents a drastically completely different tackle cruising than what I am used to.

In the end, our cruise ended up being someplace within the center, providing many highlights, plus a number of downsides. Which particulars did I really like, and which may use some work? Listed below are my favourite and least-favorite elements of Virgin Voyages cruises.

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Hated: Boarding

I’ve admittedly develop into a bit spoiled with Disney’s boarding course of as a concierge passenger, so I knew this expertise can be completely different. Nonetheless, even with that upgraded possibility factored out, I strongly disliked the boarding course of with Virgin Voyages.

Not like Disney Cruise Line, which allows entry into the terminal as you wait and staggers arrival occasions so passengers are processed quicker, Virgin Voyages requires cruisers to face exterior — in my case, that meant within the Florida warmth — in roped-off rows based mostly in your time slot and wait till it is your flip to enter the terminal.

Traces are allowed to type a lot sooner than the posted occasions counsel, inflicting the world to get crowded quick. We arrived at 1:25 p.m., obtained by the skin portion of the road at 1:57 p.m., have been upstairs within the packed terminal at 2:11 p.m. and ultimately walked on board at 2:39 p.m. Had we not obtained a Group 1 boarding move after determining the wristband state of affairs for these with standing within the Virgin Voyages program, we’d have boarded in a later group.

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Beloved: The variety of passengers

Regardless of what some preliminary buzz and advertising could have indicated, Virgin Voyages just isn’t a ship solely filled with 20- and 30-somethings.

In reality, we met and frolicked with people of all ages, spanning from their 20s to their 80s. Passengers weren’t solely extraordinarily pleasant general, however they have been various in just about each observable manner.

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Possibly a part of our impression stems from how starved for grownup interplay we have been prior to now few years, however we discovered everybody we met to be fabulous. The individuals on board actually have been a spotlight of the expertise for us.

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Hated: The cabin rest room

Though our cabin was respectable sufficient, one a part of the area was borderline insufferable: the cabin rest room.

Coming from Disney Cruise Line, which presents a split-bathroom structure in most cabins so you will have two distinct areas that can be utilized on the similar time, we discovered this one tiny rest room to be tough to tolerate.

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Should you’re cruising solo, it is tight however workable, however in the event you plan on touring with one other particular person, know that you will have restricted rest room area to work with. Sharing the area with another person for days on finish rapidly turns into an disagreeable expertise.

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Beloved and hated: The swimming pools

Let’s begin with the great components of the pool space.

With no children on the ship, there are occasions when the primary pool and sizzling tubs usually are not as busy as they’d be on a typical cruise. In reality, we regularly had them to ourselves when visiting early within the day, throughout well-liked port days and at night time.

Nonetheless, the primary pool is definitely small for the variety of passengers on board.

Though our crusing was removed from full capability, the pool deck was overcrowded throughout prime pool occasions. On sea day afternoons, count on body-to-body pool time in the event you’re set on taking a dip.

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To get round this inconvenience, do as we did and strategically time your pool visits so that you’re avoiding the height swimming hours.

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Beloved: The ports of name

If I by no means take a cruise to Nassau within the Bahamas once more, it will be fantastic. I’ve nothing towards Nassau, however the vacation spot’s spread-out structure and dear excursions make it a spot we really feel we have adequately skilled throughout earlier visits.

Our time with Virgin Voyages didn’t embrace a cease in Nassau, a lot to our reduction. I used to be thrilled to have Key West as a port of name on this crusing, as I have been to Key Largo however by no means as far south as Key West. It may be extraordinarily costly to go to Key West as an in a single day visitor, so with the ability to test it out with out paying resort charges was phenomenal.

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The dock is actually within the coronary heart of city, so I used to be capable of stroll off and do a $50 group bike tour I booked by Virgin Voyages. However even in the event you did not wish to do any organized actions, the guts of Key West is fairly compact. You’ll be able to rapidly get to quite a lot of eating places, bars and noteworthy actions simply blocks from the dock, so it is simple to hop off, have some enjoyable on land after which hop again on the ship.

My three-hour bike tour with Key Lime Bike Excursions was capped off with an included slice of key lime pie on the Key Lime Pie Firm, which I savored earlier than wandering over to Conch Republic Seafood Firm to have some scrumptious coconut shrimp. Key West was an extremely easy-to-navigate and pleasurable port that I might fortunately return to once more.

Our cruise additionally included a cease at Bimini, a less-crowded Bahamian island that is house to Virgin Voyages’ non-public seaside membership. To get to the membership, all it’s a must to do is hop on the complimentary tram on the port.

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Like Nassau, you will discover lovely seashores right here. But Bimini’s quieter setting makes it simpler to really unwind whereas lounging on the smooth sand and swimming within the crystal-clear water. To not point out, the seaside membership’s lovely pool and attractive (complimentary) meals add to the sensation of treating your self whereas on trip. What’s to not love about all of that?

Hated: The app’s fixed crashing

Once I learn complaints about Virgin Voyages’ app earlier than the cruise, I admit I’ll have rolled my eyes. How a lot can an app affect the enjoyment of your cruise?

Nicely, when every thing from ordering room service to registering for dinner or actions is housed in that app, it seems that it may have an effect on you rather a lot.

When the app labored, it was helpful and a very good solution to keep on high of all of your bookings and each day schedule. Nonetheless, when it grew to become completely unresponsive a minimum of a dozen occasions, I discovered myself beginning to stress. It was not the sensation of whole leisure I search whereas on trip.

On a number of events, I resorted to restarting my cellphone in an effort to repair the issue. However a lot to my disappointment, my cellphone was not the issue. It was a widespread problem that others skilled, too, so mentally put together for this inconvenience and set your expectations accordingly.

Beloved: Most meals and the vigorous Korean restaurant

A variety of the meals and eating places on the ship are fairly incredible. Whereas there have been some culinary misses, for essentially the most half we loved the venues we visited.

That stated, there was one restaurant particularly that deserves its personal love letter: Gunbae.

At this Korean barbecue joint, dinner is served in cubicles that you simply share with fellow cruisers. We initially thought this sounded a little bit bizarre, however we ended up totally having fun with the idea, because it invitations you to socialize with others whereas on board.

That will help you get to know your seatmates, the employees organizes a consuming recreation for everybody to play that’s each straightforward and enjoyable. As soon as you’ve got develop into acquainted, you will dine on an array of Korean barbecue staples which are simply as memorable because the environment they’re served in. We cherished the meals a lot that we ended up visiting twice throughout our cruise.

However Gunbae wasn’t the one eating venue we loved. Most of the eating places we tried served meals we might order once more. Even once they did not, the plethora of choices accessible made it straightforward sufficient to maneuver on to the following dish after we have been lower than impressed.

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Beloved: The monitor

Once I’m on the street (or at sea), I attempt to keep a little bit extra lively, so operating above the ocean on the 1/6-mile monitor that goes all the way in which across the ship was a wonderful solution to begin the day.

As a result of it is a devoted area, you do not have to fret about bothering people who’re enjoyable in close by deck chairs as you jog by.

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For a exercise past the monitor, Scarlet Girl presents a basketball court docket, boxing ring and out of doors space with weights, punching luggage and different gear. Moreover, passengers have entry to a big indoor health club with every thing from train bikes to a row of treadmills, must you desire to interrupt a sweat indoors.

You can even join group exercise courses. They refill quick, so ensure you make your class reservations as quickly as you board.

Beloved: The hair and nail salons

Cruise charges for Virgin Voyages embrace suggestions, that means the listed worth for a service is strictly what you will pay. I used to be an enormous fan of this pricing system, as realizing that one thing actually prices $59 makes it simpler to stay to a funds.

Since I did not must consider taxes and charges for add-ons like hair and nail companies, I may simply evaluate the price of these extras to what I sometimes spend again house. In the end, the charges have been related, so I made a decision to deal with myself to a pedicure and a hair wash and blow dry whereas on board. Each the hair salon and the nail salon have been top-notch areas, providing relaxed atmospheres and excellent service by the crew.

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Hated: The spa

Just like the hair and nail salons, the spa additionally presents an array of companies which are priced to incorporate suggestions. Nonetheless, I discovered my expertise on the spa to be disappointing general.

The therapeutic massage itself was OK at finest. Moreover, the altering room state of affairs was removed from excellent because of the small altering rooms and lockers offered within the compact communal space.

The thermal spa space was additionally a letdown, because it was almost as crowded because the pool space throughout well-liked occasions. Entry is bought at an affordable fee or as a part of packages just like the “Romance Package deal,” so it was a busy space that lacked the tranquil, enjoyable setting I might hoped to search out.

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Beloved: The completely relaxed strategy to cruising

With Virgin Voyages, you don’t rotate by assigned eating places, have night photo-ops by onboard photographers whereas at dinner, hear frequent bulletins or have strict costume codes to comply with.

When you do must make reservations for some issues (most of which aren’t accessible till you board), your cruise is what you make of it at a tempo that’s totally yours to set, which I totally loved.

Hated: The bar tab

Many fellow sailors we met have been sad that Virgin Voyages didn’t provide limitless drink packages. Disney Cruise Line would not have these both, so I did not miss having one thing I’ve by no means tried. Nonetheless, I used to be not a fan of the cruise line’s bar tab strategy.

Previous to your cruise, you’ll be able to add cash to your bar tab, which ends up in you getting a bonus quantity to spend. The idea sounds nice in concept, however in apply, it was inconceivable to understand how a lot you’d actually spend on drinks. Because of this, a bit of our funds ended up going to waste since we could not switch them to different onboard costs or a future cruise.

Beloved: The brand new standing perks

Regardless of encountering a number of issues when it got here to the execution of a number of the perks we obtained by standing matching into the brand new Virgin Voyages Crusing Membership, general, we discovered the advantages to be fairly incredible.

By matching my Disney Castaway Membership standing, we got Group 1 boarding, premium Wi-Fi, a each day $10 credit score for espresso drinks, an invitation to an unique occasion (with free drinks), one bag of free laundry and a free “Shake for Champagne” order, which might’ve in any other case value us $95.

All of those complimentary advantages saved us a number of hundred {dollars}. To not point out, it was nice to go house with some clear garments for as soon as.

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Beloved: The free onboard video games

It has been a very long time since I spent any measurable period of time taking part in video games that did not contain my children. However by the tip of the crusing, we had our fill of all of the classics, together with air hockey, shuffleboard and varied arcade video games.

Given the varied number of choices, we by no means discovered ourselves ready for a machine to develop into accessible, leaving us extra time for a spherical or two of arcade favorites like Ms. Pac-Man. And sure, these video games are all included — no quarters required.

Beloved and hated: The ‘Shake for Champagne’ characteristic within the app

As beforehand talked about, one of many standing perks we obtained was a complimentary “Shake for Champagne” profit. Whereas I did not totally hate the perk, because it provided free bubbly, it did have some annoying glitches.

I naively thought that if you shook your Virgin Voyages app, your order would arrive inside 5 or 10 minutes. Since we have been sitting inside a number of ft of a bar after we shook the app, I assumed our order would fall inside this presumed arrival window.

Nonetheless, the service gave the impression to be well-liked and was not coming straight from the bar, leading to delays. It took a complete of 41 minutes for the Champagne to reach. And whilst you wait, there are not any real-time updates on the app, so it is inconceivable to guess how lengthy supply will take.

As soon as the bubbly was dropped at us, it greater than hit the spot, so in the event you do not thoughts a wait, positively give it a attempt.

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Beloved: The worth

We booked this cruise as a result of we wished an reasonably priced grownup getaway. Not like other forms of holidays involving flights, motels and even meals, cruises are usually extra budget-friendly, as a lot of your bills are lined by the cruise fare.

For instance, the ocean terrace room we booked for this four-night crusing from Miami to Key West and Bimini value us $1,400 — or $175 per particular person, per night time.

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Sure, a few of your alcohol will add to that whole, however you’ll be able to usually get a drink credit score included along with your reserving. Plus, you’ll have alternatives to partake in particular gatherings with free alcohol, such because the sailaway occasion. Even in the event you do not, you will discover that drink costs on board are much more cheap than they’re at most resorts, as many drinks value between $6 and $10.

Had we stayed in Miami at a good resort and gone out for meals or ordered room service for 4 nights, we’d have doubtless spent far more than $1,400. Consider our visits to different seaside locations, and it is protected to say our out-of-pocket prices would’ve soared previous what we spent on this cruise.

If you wish to save extra, individuals who sail with Virgin Voyages in November 2022 get a $300 drink credit score for every cabin. Plus, you will get a reduction of as much as 50% utilizing a code from the Bilt program.

Backside line

There is not any denying that Virgin Voyages does issues a bit otherwise. From its bar tab idea to its emphasis on socializing with different sailors, the cruise line presents many elements that you will doubtless love and others you could hate.

We cherished much more issues than we did not, which helped us really feel like we obtained our cash’s value. In reality, we have been so impressed with what we skilled on board that I fortunately put down a deposit for a future cruise. Since I locked in that subsequent crusing earlier than our first one ended, we’ll obtain an excellent bigger low cost and extra inclusions subsequent time round.

So long as you go into your cruise realizing that there could also be a number of hiccups alongside the way in which, odds are you will have a enjoyable time filled with recollections you will cherish for years to come back.

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