How Virgin Voyages Changed my Mind about Cruises
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March 12, 2023
I never thought I’d say this, but I am officially converted to a cruiser! Virgin Voyages is unlike any other cruise line and has completely elevated the industry. I’ve been on two (very short) press cruises before, and I have to say, they do not touch Virgin. These adults only cruises are luxurious, fun, and fabulous. Richard Branson sought to change the cruise industry, and he absolutely has. Virgin Voyages has been a dream for almost 40 years and was officially in the making for six years.
“I’ve never been on a cruise ship. I’ve never fancied a cruise ship,” Richard said. “But that’s the kind of reason why Virgin goes into something, to try to create a cruise experience completely different from what anybody else is doing.” I absolutely relate to this. Typically when I travel, I want to get out and explore. I want to experience the culture, I want to see the sights, eat the food, and dance until midnight. Going on a cruise is definitely a different kind of experience and it’s ideal for a few different travel styles, and in my experience, perfect for groups! And I have to say, when it comes down to it, adults only cruises are the way to go for me personally.
We went on a sailing to the Caribbean with a group of ten people (the Babes + partners) and it was great because we had enough space on the ship if we wanted to do our own thing, but never had to worry about someone getting lost, or safety in general, at all.
Use this link for 60% off your second sailor and $200 of sailor loot (onboard credit to use on spa services or shore excursions) – ship, ship, hooray! Valid on Voyages throughout the end of April 2023 in the Caribbean.
What to Know
It’s definitely most convenient to fly into MIA if you’re going on one of the Caribbean cruises, but I saved about $300 by flying into FLL. The car ride down to the port took about 45 minutes, so really not bad at all. When you get to the port, there’s a separate entrance for “rockstars” where they take you to a lounge if you get there too early to board. If you arrive later like I did, there’s no line and after check-in where you get your wristbands and cabin assignment card, you just walk straight on the ship. Super easy!
I also want to mention this amazing car service I used: Alto. It’s like a mix between Uber and a limousine. Unfortunately, FLL is out of their driving range, but if you’re flying in and out of MIA, it would be perfect for a nice, luxurious start and end to your trip!
Since all food is included in all packages, eating at the restaurants, getting your morning coffee, etc. is super easy. For the items that do require payment, you simply tap your wristband and the cost is added to your tab. You’ll also use your wristband as your room key, so it’s basically all you have to keep track of while you’re on board. This is also what you’ll use to check out and then to check back in if you get off the boat at the ports.
What to Pack
One of the best parts about adults only cruises is the fashion. Oh, just me? Ha! I love glamming it up for a little resort wear look when the time calls for it, and I never felt overdressed on board. Since the cast is studded with fabulous gay icons and even a drag queen, you will never be too over the top in comparison. The Babes and I shopped Petal + Pup, Abercrombie, Everything But Water, Dolce Vita, and more for this trip. Scroll through below to see what I wore. And most importantly, make sure to pack something RED for Scarlet Night (more on that later)!
Protip: Make sure to check the requirements for any excursions you book. One of ours required closed-toe shoes, so I’m glad I checked or else I wouldn’t have packed any!
Which Room/Suite to Pick
If you’re thinking about upgrading to a Rockstar suite, DO IT! We had a Sea Terrace and I absolutely wish we got a suite. It’s definitely one of my biggest regrets from the cruise (besides one of the excursions – more on that later!). In addition to the larger space on board, rockstar suites come with some pretty incredible perks including:
- Early booking & Priority access
- Richard’s Rooftop access (including daily Moet champagne happy hours!)
- Daily bar tab
- Daily spa access
- Transfer or Complimentary Parking
- Personal RockStar Agent
- Bottomless in-room bar
- Premium wifi in the Caribbean
The Sea Terrace rooms aren’t bad, but Virgin offers a “bid to upgrade” before setting sail. This opportunity offers a huge discount on the suites and is 100% worth it! Our sailing was at just about 30% capacity, so I know people were able to get suites for the lowest bidding option. Upgrade prices range from $100-$2000+ depending on which suite. The one I was eyeing was an $825 upgrade for a Gorgeous suite I believe. I definitely wish I did it and will for sure next time!
As mentioned, one of the perks of a suite is access to Richard’s Rooftop which is near the pool. There are two hot tubs, plenty of cabanas to lounge in, a bar, and most importantly, the Moet champagne happy hour every day at 5! We made sure to go every day as a group to reconvene/meet up after a day of excursions, pool lounging, etc.
Restaurants on Board
Overall, it’s important to know that the restaurants on Virgin Voyages are amazing. The food is one of the major draws in my opinion and is miles above any other cruise line I’ve ever been on. The menus are created by Michelin-starred chefs and the service provided is impeccable. The dining experiences are truly upscale, memorable, and fabulous all around. Focusing on the food is something that only makes sense for adults only cruises, so there’s another point for Virgin Voyages!
With over 20 eateries, 24-hour options, and no buffets or dining halls, you’re sure to have a more high-end experience than what you’d typically expect on a cruise. There are six seated dining restaurants that require reservations, and they get booked up quickly, so I highly recommend making your dinner reservations ahead of time, especially if you’re with a group. You can book via the app weeks before your cruise for a reason! Here’s a quick overview of the restaurants to help with your bookings. Plus my favorite fast casual spot thrown in at the end!
Extra Virgin is the Italian restaurant on board and it is phenomenal. I made the mistake of coming to dinner not absolutely ravenous and I’m devastated that I wasn’t able to try everything on the menu. I’m not exaggerating when I say I still think about one of the pasta dishes here. SO incredibly delicious. I really wish I had a chance to go here more than once.
Test Kitchen is Virgin’s experimental gastronomy dining option. It’s a set menu, but if you have any dietary restrictions, they will happily accommodate. They also have the option of a wine pairing or a cocktail pairing. We did the wine pairing and it was great. Test Kitchen provides a truly special and unique experience. A great option for date night!
Razzle Dazzle is the more casual dining option and is very cheeky and fun. They have an old fashioned that they serve in a vintage popcorn cup – with popcorn! The food here isn’t anything super special, but it’s still great. I recommend brunch for a more unique experience!
The Wake is the steakhouse on board and it is very upscale. Even as a vegetarian, I absolutely loved The Wake. There are plenty of options for non-meat eaters, and everyone said the steak was delicious.
Gunbae! Such a fun dinner here. Gunbae is a korean bbq restaurant, so as a vegetarian I didn’t indulge in the meats, but if you are a meat eater, then you’ll love it here. The best part is definitely the fun drinking games. This experience is very interactive, loud, and enjoyable. It’s almost like a classy spin on a college drinking game. Try it for yourself!
Pink Agave is the mexican/tex-mex restaurant on board and it’s great! Definitely more upscale that a typical mexican restaurant, with the food being more of a tex-mex style.
The Pizza Place
I ate here literally every day – so good! The pizzas are personal size and made to order, so fresh and delicious! The only downside is they aren’t open 24 hours, including dinner time. So you’re better off making reservations each night at the various restaurants and then heading to The Pizza place for lunch or a late-night indulgence.
Shore Things aka Excursions
To be honest, I’m torn on Virgin’s Shore Things. I can say with confidence that Virgin has high standards, so I would expect the same of the excursion options. Unfortunately, that was not the case in my experience. In full transparency, I only did one excursion and it was a complete disappointment. I did share this with Virgin and they gave me a $30 refund on a $125 excursion, which I did not find satisfactory. I found the description of the excursion on the app very misleading and Ryan even had to throw out his shoes because they got so destroyed (which we were not warned of at all!).
Honestly, the experience on board is so great that looking back, I wouldn’t have even gotten off the boat at any of the ports if I had known what it would be like. The ports are incredibly overrun with tourists from the other cruises and just not my vibe at all. Alternatively, on board, port days are chill, not crowded at all, and perfect for the pool or spa. I will say that for the Europe cruises, I believe the experience would be vastly different at the ports and I would get off for sure. I just wouldn’t book any Shore Things; I’d search and book directly on my own, if anything.
It’s important to mention that one of my friends is an avid snorkeler and she and her husband did a couple snorkel excursions that they LOVED. So maybe I just had bad luck with my particular excursion!
What to Do on Board
There are so many fun activities to do on board the Valiant Lady (and Scarlet Lady!). With tons of bars, restaurants, shopping, the pool, and more, you will never be bored! In addition to all the permanent fixtures on board, there are also many activities like tarot readings, whiskey tastings, pub crawls, trivia, and more. The activities involving alcohol do have fees associated, but trivia, tarot, etc. are free, you just need to sign up on the app. My favorite activity was Risky Quizness Trivia!
In addition to the activities, there are also lots of shows on board. We enjoyed quite a few of them and it was awesome! The circus show, Duel Reality, was really cool. We also accidentally stumbled upon a drag show, which was awesome – and I even got called up on stage to participate in a game! There’s also an old-school arcade with classics like Pacman, NBA Jam, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and more!
The best thing to do on board, though, is Scarlet Night! This is the one night when everyone wears red. The entertainment begins in the main areas of the ship with dances, performances, and more. You kind of go on a little scavenger hunt around the ship with different activities along the way. We had a secret challenge we had to complete and got rewarded with a secret show! This is definitely something to shoot for on board. Just ask one of the staff if you can be invited to the secret party. But be secretive about it!
After all the fun on the main levels, the party moves out to the pool on the upper deck. There’s more music, dancing, and drinking until sailors are finally invited to dance in the pool – in their clothes! It was such a great night with memories that I will hold on to forever. This wild night is another great perk to adults only cruises!
Pool, Fitness & Spa
To be honest, the pool is a lot smaller than I expected. I also assumed there would be more than one, but there is in fact just one pool on board the Valiant Lady. Despite that, it never got too crowded and we were able to find a spot in a lounger anytime we wanted. We opted to hang at the pool on port days and it was incredibly peaceful.
Fitness is huge on Virgin Voyages. The gym and workout areas take up almost an entire floor, which is huge on a cruise ship. I can’t say I participated in anything, but I do know they have a boxing area, a gym with lots of high-end equipment, work out classes, and more.
Now, the spa, that I can comment on. The services you can get are expensive, but you also have the option of just hanging in the general spa area. Our package came with access, but even if your package doesn’t it’s only like $30 for 3 hours. Totally worth it! There’s a steam room, a sauna, small pools, a really super cold plunge pool, a mud room, a salt room, and a hot stone lounge area. This was absolutely perfect for the morning after Scarlet Night. Ok, fine, it wasn’t technically morning anymore by the time I rolled out of bed, lol!
I can’t say enough great things about my experience with Virgin Voyages. Despite the minor hiccup with the excursion, I would absolutely go on another cruise with Virgin. I’m dying to go on one of their European sailings!
Don’t forget to use this link for 60% off your second sailor and $200 of sailor loot (onboard credit to use on spa services or shore excursions) – ship, ship, hooray! Valid on Voyages throughout the end of April 2023 in the Caribbean.
Have you ever been on a cruise? Do you consider yourself a cruise person?
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Photos by Ryan Carpenter and Babes That Wander.
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February 28, 2023 @ 10:50 am
I’ve ever had any desire to take a cruise until now! This one looks like so much fun! Especially knowing I wont get splashed or bothered by any kids at the pool LOLOL
March 9, 2023 @ 8:56 pm
Omg you would LOVE this one!! It’s seriously unlike any cruise experience I’ve ever had. So relaxing and enjoyable! Let’s gooo!
February 28, 2023 @ 9:28 pm
I didn’t go on my first cruise until I was 30, because they sounded boring to me. I’m not a big fan of siting by the pool all day and I don’t drink, which is what I thought people did. I couldn’t have been more wrong! I have now done 3 cruises within the past few years and am HOOKED! There is so much to do! You can be as active or relaxed as you want, which makes for the perfect vacation.
March 9, 2023 @ 8:58 pm
Yes! I love that aspect of cruises. I always avoided them because I’m not a fan of the touristy cruise ports, but once I shifted my focus to enjoying all of the amenities on the ship it totally changed my perspective!
March 14, 2023 @ 11:07 pm
Ok — the idea of going out with a group and not having to worry if anyone gets lost or in trouble and then add no kids!! Yes, please. 🙂