The day finally arrived! October 6, 2021, a day that will live in Mermaid History as the Scarlet Lady set out on her Mermaiden Voyage to the Caribbean with revenue passengers.
I was lucky enough to be able to sail on the Mermaiden Voyage in a Solo Insider Cabin. As one should expect for an inaugural sailing, there were some kinks that needed to be worked out. The hiccups were minor, and Virgin did a great job of resolving them when they would.
Over the four nights on the ship, there were extraordinary experiences, plenty of time to recharge and relax, and even at times, I forgot that I was on a ship instead of an oceanfront boutique hotel.
Instead of writing a play-by-play of my time on the ship, I’m going to use this opportunity to share the most significant wins, the opportunities for improvement, and a few secrets that you won’t know until you’re on the ship.
I’ve posted videos on YouTube that I’d encourage you to check out if you want to see more of the Scarlet Lady and get an idea of which type of cabin is right for you.
If you’re planning on booking a Virgin Voyage, be sure to give me a call or shot me an email. I’d love the chance to talk to you about the Scarlet Lady and Virgin in more detail and help you get the most out of your vacation.
Virgin Voyages Biggest Wins:
The ship – The Scarlet Lady and her soon-to-be-launched sisters are unlike any other cruise ship I’ve sailed. The ships were designed by individuals outside of the industry, and it does have a boutique hotel feel in the main areas on Decks 5, 6, and 7.
The wearable band works beautifully. The bracelet is your room key, charge card, and for those staying in Rockstar or Mega Rockstar Quarters, how you’re identified as being a part of the cool club. I had no issues with my bracelet (apart from taking longer than I care to admit figuring out how to make it large enough for my wrist), and each time I needed a drink or wanted to make a purchase it was just a tap on the crew’s iPhone.
The food was fantastic across the ship. You can taste the difference between having your food prepared fresh versus cooked in a massive kitchen in bulk. Each restaurant has its dedicated kitchen, and the options in the Galley cook it right at their station.
The entertainment was terrific! Virgin is first and foremost an entertainment company that has started a cruise line. All the entertainers put on a great show at each activity/show that they’re doing. If you didn’t see it, check out my Reel on Instagram of Abi the Hostess for an example.
Virgin Voyages Biggest Opportunities:
The App SUCKS; it has been an ongoing issue for Virgin as they were getting ready to launch into the Mermaiden Voyage. I had to reinstall it twice while on the ship, and others couldn’t get it to work at all. Virgin is aware of how bad this is and is working to fix it, which according to the crew, we had it better than those on the UK sailings….so progress is at least being made (slowly). Even when I could use the app, the hours for what’s open weren’t always accurate.
Hours for the food options. The main restaurants are open during standard meal times, but the other options on the ship are not consistent, and the Galley closes far earlier than you would expect it to. The second night of the cruise, I got to the Galley at 10:15 PM looking for dinner and was told the options were noodles or breakfast. It was disappointing that they didn’t have more options open later, especially given that the activities and parties go on until 3 AM just about every night.
When this voyage was originally booked, we expected to go to Key West. That was changed a few months before we sailed since the Keys don’t want cruise ships (yet). Instead, we went to Nassau and with all-aboard not until 7:30 PM. I’ll give Virgin credit for having excursion (Shore Things) options that weren’t the run-of-the-mill ones you see on every cruise line, but the options were still minimal. Also, we did not need to stay in Nassau as late as we did, as it would seem everyone was onboard well before 7:30 since the ship started to pull lines right at 7:30.
The Mermaiden Voyage was much more subdued than I expected. There were a few small treats left in our cabins, a handful of unique experiences, but it felt like they wanted it to feel like a regular voyage.
Virgin Voyages Biggest Surprises:
The app would randomly ask me to fill out a quick survey about some part of my day. The first time it asked about my dinner experience the second night, I gave them an earful about my experience in the Galley. To my surprise, the manager for the Galley came and found me the next night at dinner to apologize and to ask for more details so they could work to make improvements. I was beyond impressed that they cared that much to seek me out and that they genuinely wanted to knock this experience out of the park.
The Bar Tab is a great value, and drinks are affordable. The standard bar tab offer is a $50 bonus for every $300 spent; with the prices of most uncomplicated drinks right around $10 the Bar Tab can easily last a complete voyage. Virgin regularly offers higher bonuses for buying Bar Tab, so watch out for those promotions.
Tips are really not expected. Virgin includes tips in the cost of the voyage, drinks, spa services, and everything else. There is no option to sign an additional tip to your tab, and in my experience, when presented with cash, each crew member refused it.
Tips to have a fabulous Virgin Voyage:
Book your dining times before you get on the ship, but look at the itinerary (the Line Up) before you do. There’s a lot happening on the ship and several shows you don’t want to miss, so make sure you plan to dine around those times.
If you want a tattoo from Squid Ink, make sure you get down to the ship before they open the first night. The appointment times go FAST, I got the last time slot for a piece my size for the entire voyage, and I booked it two hours after the shop opened.
Speaking of tattoos, the shop has a minimum spend. If you’re getting a tattoo (even one of the predesigned ones), make sure it’s large enough to make it worth the cost. Squid Ink isn’t a place you want to get your first tattoo; it’s a shop for people who already have ink and want (and are willing to pay for) a unique experience. My Merman cost $900, about 20-25% more than I would have paid on land (before adding a tip for the land artist).
Pack lots of red for Scarlet Night. The entire ship turns red, and the parties are unique. Get involved and have fun at the pool party. You won’t be disappointed.
Get out of your comfort zone in the restaurants. There are AMAZING dishes, but you won’t find the typical steak frit, so expect to try something new.
The experience onboard the Mermaiden Voyage was unlike any other cruise I’ve been on, and I’m looking forward to my next voyage. Even with all the minor issues, the overall experience was fabulous, and I could feel how hard everyone on the ship had worked to prepare and how happy they were to have us on the ship.
I’ll admit that Virgin is not for everyone, but that can be said of every cruise line. That’s why it’s important to work with a Rainbow Getaways travel advisor who knows the quirks of each line. I’ve spent years learning all there is about each cruise line and will pair you with the best one for your travel personality.
Do you want to talk about Virgin Voyages or have questions I didn’t cover here? Schedule a consultation, and let’s chat. I’ll help clear up anything you’re unsure about and will ensure you have a stress-free vacation.
Ready to start planning? Head over to Virgin Voyages to start looking at all the options! The best part of using that link is that Rainbow Getaways can help you from the moment you start planning until you get home.
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