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Too hip or simply proper? This is what it was actually like crusing on Virgin Voyages for the primary time

With a nighttime present known as “By no means Sleep Alone” that awards golden condoms to members, an onboard tattoo parlor and in-room music and lighting settings with choices like “get it on” and “hangover mode,” adults-only Virgin Voyages clearly caters to a kid-free crowd. Nonetheless, I had no thought what to anticipate as I stepped onto Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Girl.

Main as much as its maiden voyage in 2021, Virgin Voyages marketed itself because the cruise line for vacationers who in any other case weren’t excited by conventional cruising. It aimed to enchantment to those that had been younger and hip, needed to get together and craved an environment with out little children working round.

Up till just lately, I would solely ever sailed with Disney Cruise Line — and with my children in tow. Nevertheless, the Virgin Voyages idea has intrigued me because it launched.

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Might Richard Branson’s edgy Virgin Voyages actually be an ideal match for journeys with out children? Or, would I really feel utterly misplaced and overwhelmed by the rock star angle featured all through the cruise line’s ships?

There was just one strategy to fulfill my curiosity — I booked a crusing on Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Girl.

Would the four-night cruise from Miami, with stops in each Key West, Florida, and Bimini, Bahamas, impress me sufficient to contemplate Virgin Voyages for future journeys? This is what I took away from the expertise — and whether or not I would cruise with Virgin Voyages once more.

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There is a surprisingly numerous crowd on board

Like many individuals, I went into my cruise anticipating most passengers (or “sailors,” as the road calls them) to be millennials based mostly on the flashy advertising I’ve seen from the road. A lot to my shock, although, there was a good combine of individuals on my crusing.

Positive, there have been millennials of their late 20s, 30s and even early 40s — together with me, as I fall inside the oldest bracket for that era — however for each 27-year-old on board, there was additionally somebody near 70 years outdated just like the cruise line’s founder, Richard Branson.

Final yr, Tom McAlpin, the president and CEO of Virgin Voyages, instructed TPG’s resident cruise skilled Gene Sloan that on early sailings of Scarlet Girl, the common passenger age was within the 50s, with loads on board of their 60s and 70s. Based mostly on my journey, I would say that’s nonetheless a fairly correct illustration.

After a couple of days on board, it grew to become clear that what passengers had in frequent wasn’t the age listed of their passports however reasonably the shared need to have a great time. For essentially the most half, my fellow cruisers had been a various, inclusive and vibrant group of vacationers who had been all wanting to strike up conversations with others, no matter age.

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The adult-oriented persona is not as excessive as you may count on

Whereas there’s a “Scarlet Night time” celebration that includes a number of crimson lights and sailors donning their finest scarlet-colored apparel, the ambiance on board is much from what you may discover in Amsterdam’s Purple Gentle District.

The leisure we skilled fell someplace between PG-13 and R, although we admittedly headed to mattress by 11 p.m., so maybe choices leaned extra X-rated because the night time went on.

There have been a few exhibits that I would not need to see with, say, my mother and father, such because the beforehand talked about “By no means Sleep Alone.” Throughout that occasion, members had been awarded golden condoms that granted entry to a post-show VIP get together. Nevertheless, these grownup actions had been simple to identify on the agenda, so you possibly can simply skip them in case you needed a extra tame cruise expertise.

Past the night leisure, the vibe was just like what you’d discover in Las Vegas. The swimming pools, eating places, spa, on line casino and train courses all featured loads of skimpy outfits and adult-oriented jokes and innuendos, although you possibly can keep away from something that was too exterior your consolation zone.

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Eating choices are plentiful (albeit hit and miss)

So far as I am involved, cruises are for consuming — and Virgin Voyages gives quite a few locations to dine on Scarlet Girl.

Along with that includes greater than 20 grab-and-go spots and conventional sit-down eateries, there’s the big Galley venue with varied distributors organized in a manner just like what you’d discover in a meals court docket or buffet.

Given all of the choices obtainable, there have been extra locations than we may strive on our first Virgin Voyages cruise. Nonetheless, we sought to pattern as a lot as doable throughout our four-night crusing.

For those who’re searching for a conventional sit-down expertise, six onboard eating places settle for reservations for dinner: The Wake (which serves steaks and seafood), Razzle Dazzle Restaurant (a up to date venue with vegetarian and American fare), The Check Kitchen (a laboratory-style eatery), Pink Agave (the place connoisseur Mexican delicacies is on the menu), Further Virgin (an Italian-inspired venue) and Gunbae (which focuses on Korean barbecue).

Your cruise value covers eating in any respect of those spots, plus the fast chew choices on the ship. Nevertheless, some eating places provide buy-up choices labeled as “deal with your self” dishes that price additional. For instance, a half-dozen oysters at The Wake are going to set you again a further $20, however the steak and clam chowder are 100% included.

Apart from the principle eating places, there’s the beforehand talked about Galley, the place you possibly can savor the whole lot from sushi roll bento bins to 24-hour diner meals. It’s a hybrid of a grab-and-go and dine-in expertise, that means the way you order will differ relying on which station you go to.

Moreover, you may discover informal spots that serve ice cream, pizza, poke bowls and extra. You may also order room service; the meals is complimentary, however there is a $5 supply charge.

Whereas I appreciated the array of choices at our disposal, I discovered the standard of the meals and repair to be hit and miss. Some eating places I cherished a lot that I went again a second time; at others, I took a solitary chew of meals earlier than deciding to maneuver on.

For instance, the tuna poke bowl I excitedly tried on the Solar Membership Cafe was patently terrible, and the sushi rolls at The Galley had been disappointing, reminding me of what I would discover in my Texas grocery retailer.

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Equally, The Wake was lackluster, to say the least. Whereas some fellow cruisers we met loved the restaurant, it was extraordinarily underwhelming throughout our go to, serving the worst shrimp and grits I’ve ever had. To not point out, the service was gradual and seafood choices had been surprisingly restricted for a restaurant that claims to specialise in steak and seafood.

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It wasn’t all mediocre, although.

Gunbae’s Korean fare was not solely scrumptious however served in a setting that was an absolute blast to expertise. It actually captured how Virgin markets itself by providing staff-led ingesting video games and communal seating that encourages socializing. We had such a good time there that once we walked right into a quiet and sparsely populated restaurant on our final night time, we circled and went again to Gunbae for a repeat expertise that was simply as memorable as our first go to.

Pink Agave was one other standout restaurant. It did not provide as a lot of a celebration vibe as Gunbae, but it surely nonetheless felt vigorous and served a stable choice of Mexican dishes.

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The cabins are respectable however could possibly be improved

Except you splurge on a pricy RockStar suite, you may be positioned in a cabin that appears trendy however in any other case appears pretty commonplace, aside from the flamboyant temper lighting.

Our Sea Terrace cabin was spotless and stayed true to the trendy theme featured all through the ship, but it surely wasn’t essentially the most snug spot on the entire.

Whereas we loved the crimson outside hammock that was shockingly snug and never merely a cute, Instagram-worthy gimmick, in addition to the choice of in-room films, which ranged from the unique “Prime Gun” to newer releases like “Elvis,” the remainder of the cabin left loads to be desired.

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The lavatory was fairly small, to the purpose the place it bordered on being a claustrophobic expertise.

The mattress was additionally reasonably laborious and uncomfortable for my preferences, a lot in order that by the final night time of our journey, I used to be able to return to my extra inviting setup at dwelling.

Moreover, not like Disney Cruise Line, the place cabin attendants make it a degree to get to know you and your preferences, Virgin Voyages lacked the identical customized service. I by no means interacted with an individual answerable for our cabin, as it will be serviced whereas we had been out (after pushing a button that despatched the request to the crew) by an individual that, to us, remained anonymous and faceless.

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The non-public seashore membership is top-notch

Whereas different ports of name differ based mostly on the crusing, a continuing for Scarlet Girl is a cease at its non-public seashore membership within the Bahamas.

Located on the island of Bimini, this spot was, in a phrase, fabulous.

Though it is not fairly a non-public island like Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay and Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Cay, that does not actually matter. You may really feel such as you’re in an unique setting after taking the open-air tram from the ship’s dock to the trendy, stunning seashore membership.

The membership gives a few massive swimming pools, ample lounge chairs and towels, loads of bars and a picture-perfect seashore. A swim-up bar would have been good, however that is being choosy.

Throughout your go to to the membership, any drinks you order are charged to the ship, so bar tab credit you have got throughout your cruise will work right here, too. The meals, which ranged from snapper steamed in a banana leaf to a salad that includes Bahamian mango and macadamia, is included, although some dishes had been higher than others. I cherished mixing the curry, rice and snapper I ordered all collectively to create a fairly tasty bowl.

On-island leisure is on the market as effectively, although I am unable to converse to what occurred because the afternoon wore on, as we hit our solar quota by noon. Nevertheless, rumor has it there was a pool float get together that occurred after our departure.

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You will not discover the same old cruise expertise on board

Virgin Voyages doesn’t merely give its facilities and actions quirky names — like “Lick Me Til Ice Cream” for the onboard ice cream store. The general expertise is a bit completely different than what you may come throughout on conventional cruise strains.

To start out, there aren’t any drink packages — and that was a giant criticism I heard on the ship from people who had been used to crusing with different strains that supply limitless drink inclusion choices. As a substitute, Virgin Voyages gives a bar tab that you could load earlier than you sail. Generally bar tab credit score can be included with the crusing as a part of a promotion.

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Blessedly, there aren’t any keycards and related lanyards to maintain up with however reasonably adjustable bracelets that appear like friendship bracelets from center faculty. In contrast to those out of your childhood, these have built-in know-how that opens your cabin door, permits you to cost issues to your account and extra.

There are additionally no set eating occasions, restaurant rotations or gown codes, although you possibly can — and will — make dinner reservations. Because of this, you possibly can dine at whichever restaurant you favor at a time that works for you.

Apart from the cabin cleanings, the crew was extra noticeable, too. We noticed crew members on the basketball courts, consuming in The Galley and simply usually out and about across the ship even once they did not look like on the clock, which helped create a extra relaxed ambiance.

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Moreover, we did not have to fret about additional suggestions, taxes or charges. Suggestions for the crew, spa companies and extra are factored into your cruise value, so what you see on the menu actually is what you possibly can count on to pay.

One other noticeable (and welcome) distinction was how laid-back the road was with bulletins and disembarking. Exterior of a welcome announcement from the captain on the primary day, we did not hear one other peep. On the final day, you simply needed to be off the ship by a good 10:45 a.m., so you possibly can nonetheless go to a exercise class, play some air hockey and have brunch with out feeling rushed to depart.

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Backside line

Regardless of some underwhelming points right here and there, equivalent to some design selections we did not love and a really crowded pool space, we had a good time.

The late-night spicy ramen, social ambiance and enjoyable ports greater than made up for any hiccups. For us, it was like a four-day lengthy get together with out the hangover.

The truth is, we had such a good time that earlier than disembarking Scarlet Girl, we put a $300 deposit down on a future Virgin Voyages crusing so we may obtain $900 in reductions and credit the subsequent time round.

It is secure to say that total, the cruise was completely price it — and one we won’t wait to do another time.

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