Travel: The Best of Virgin Voyages

This Virgin cruise helps you remember how to have fun.
The adult-only Virgin Voyages

Ahoy Matey! The adult-only Virgin Voyages redefines the luxury cruise vacation. (PHOTOS COURTESY OF VIRGIN VOYAGES)

Sir Richard Branson built a spaceship, but he’d never been on a cruise ship. Assigned seating in main dining rooms, formal attire nights and kids clubs aren’t really his speed. So, like all things under his scarlet Virgin banner, Branson smashed the model and made a new mold, nixing the buffet, the dress code and everyone under the age of 18. 

Meet exclusively adult Virgin Voyages, whose second ship Valiant Lady sailed her first, aka “MerMaiden,” Caribbean voyage from the Port of Miami on October 30, 2022. Think boutique resort on the Vegas strip, where passengers snag dinner reservations on the shipboard app at any of six signature restaurants, don a carnival mask and spill a sexual secret to a stranger at an interactive cabaret show, and circle back for scoops at the popular Lick Me Till Ice Cream Parlour (say it fast and blush). If Virgin Voyages were a movie, it would definitely be rated NC-17 for mature audiences. 

The ship’s capacity is 2,700 passengers but it’s designed like a towering Jenga of cozy, well-appointed spaces—including the cabins, the majority of which have a terrace—for lounging or playing, that satisfy introverts and extroverts alike. Using the shipboard app’s food delivery feature ShipEats, you can order anything from popcorn and cake pops to strip steak and chardonnay to be delivered to your cabin. “Shake for Champagne,” on the other hand, finds you anywhere on the ship. Want a bottle of Moët to sip on your Deck 7 chaise? Shake your phone while in the Virgin Voyages app, and a bottle on ice soon appears, just like magic. 

Real magic pops up unexpectedly by the Happenings Cast who engage and entertain, whether dancing, juggling or performing magic tricks. The headline evenings are intimate and inventive. 

“UNTITLED DANCESHOW PARTYTHING” is an immersive performance art experience that opens with a digitized cat setting the house rules, “Have fun, but don’t be an @sshole.” The audience stands throughout until moved to dance. And everyone dances. If they want to. At “Duel Reality,” each half of the audience cheers on one of the two feuding families at the center of this theatrical acrobatic interpretation of “Romeo and Juliet.” You wouldn’t be the first to squeeze in a second viewing. “Never Sleep Alone” is a humorous sex-positive show that has the entire audience singing Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” in the first 60 seconds and participating to win a golden condom that can be traded in for a glass of champagne. Sexologist Dr. Anna may push some passengers a bit out of their comfort zone, but that’s the point of a Virgin cruise. 

Letting loose is easiest when you aren’t thinking about what it costs, so let’s start with the food.  All 20-plus outlets are included, as are basic beverages like soda, filtered water, fresh juice, coffee and tea. Casual options range from ramen and midnight made-to-order pizzas to cheeseburgers and breakfast any time. Specialty dining covers Mexican, Italian, veggie-centered, a chef’s table, steak house and Korean barbeque menus. Even showstopper dishes like the salt-crusted whole dorade at The Wake are included. There are a few “treat yourself” add-ons but honestly, wouldn’t you rather pay for a dollop of premium caviar with your champagne or shaved white truffles over your pasta than not have the option at all?  

From the finest food, electrifying entertainment and thrilling activities, Virgin Voyages is the epitome of the luxury cruise experience. (PHOTOS COURTESY OF VIRGIN VOYAGES)

Also included are all tips, fitness classes (many have a Virgin twist, like the ‘80s VHS workout), entertainment and basic Wi-Fi; though expect to pay for premium unless your goal is to unplug completely. Of course, there are plenty of ways to spend money, from getting inked by a top-talent tattoo artist, hitting the tables in the casino, indulging with spa treatments, or seamlessly snagging a spot on a shore excursion to explore the Caribbean ports with a single tap in the app. Roatán is new for Virgin, and passengers’ reports from the “MerMaiden” voyage were across-the-board positive: horseback riding on the beach, ziplining through the jungle, and snorkeling on the second-largest barrier reef in the world. 

Most passengers pre-pay for a bar tab to which Virgin adds a bonus. A tap of your wristband (which is also your cabin key and ship ID) covers Intelligentsia coffee drinks, a Popcorn Old-Fashioned at Razzle Dazzle, paired wines with your six-course tasting menu at the Test Kitchen, boozy milkshakes at the Social Club—you get the picture. The beverage program is lots of fun and stacked for adventure without the sticker shock, which could also describe a Virgin Voyages cruise. 

If you’ve needed a nudge to get back out into the world, a Virgin cruise helps you remember how to have fun. And if you never forgot, then just go and play. 

Explore the Ports

Virgin Voyages’ two ships cruise the Caribbean through April 22 with itineraries of four and five days on the Scarlet Lady; and six and eight days on the Valiant Lady. Itineraries mix and match from ports including Key West, Bimini, Puerto Plata, San Juan, St. Croix, Roatán, Costa Maya and Cozumel. Sailings shift to Europe in May; a new ship will add Australia and New Zealand.

Every passenger spends a day in Bimini at Virgin Voyages’ private beach club. Feeling adventurous? Renting a golf cart (Sue & Joy’s) is a sporty way to try fresh conch salad (Stuart’s), Bimini Bread (Nate’s), lobster pizza (Edith’s) and visit the ever-evolving Dolphin House Museum.

Because all of Virgin’s Caribbean cruises depart from Miami, start your vacation a day early. Stay in a bay-view room at InterContinental Miami to watch the cruise ships pass in and out of the harbor. See the compelling murals by renowned street artists at Wynwood Walls Museum then head to Bakan for regional Mexican dishes, where the ceviche is divine. In the morning, walk through Bayfront Park or take the free Metro mover (right next to the InterContinental) to see the contemporary collection at Pérez Art Museum Miami, followed by brunch on the terrace. From here, you’ll see the Scarlet or Valiant Lady awaiting your arrival.

Categories: Travel