Last month Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Voyages and The Bahamas Tourist Board invited us to The Bahamas for a few days. With Rhys literally just back from holiday and Rob and Sinead tied up with family commitments, we were struggling to find someone who wanted an all-expenses-paid 5-star business class trip.
Luckily our occasional contributor Jamie was bravely willing to step up and take one for the team. We are not reviewing the flights – we reviewed Virgin Atlantic Upper Class on a Boeing 787 here which has the old-style herringbone seat – but we are covering his visit to Scarlet Lady and his hotels over the next four days. Over to Jamie ….
As part of our promotional trip to The Bahamas with Virgin Atlantic and The Bahamas Tourist Board, I was invited to spend an afternoon aboard Virgin Voyages first cruise ship, Scarlet Lady, which was spending a day moored in Nassau.
I must confess that I have never been on a cruise ship before so had no idea what to expect. Childhood memories of the overnight ferry from Portsmouth to Roscoff spring to mind – rough seas, sliding plastic food trays, bunk beds and getting to play arcade games if I was lucky.
However I felt it was unfair to compare my experiences from family holidays in the eighties to what I was about to see today. That being said, I don’t truly have anything to compare this visit to so my musings here are pretty much matter of fact – simply an observation of what I saw during those few hours in port and the impression it gave me.
And I did see an awful lot. An overwhelming amount in fact. There were surprises around every corner. Needless to say, I left feeling a little dazed but with a great deal of envy for those sailors (the Virgin Voyages term for guests) who were staying onboard for the remainder of the cruise. It was very impressive indeed.
About Scarlet Lady
Firstly some background on the vessel. It was delivered in February 2020 and had its inaugural voyage from Miami in October 2021, after several UK based warm-up cruises in the summer. It is currently operating four and five night cruises from Miami to Mexico and the Caribbean.
There are 1,330 cabins and 78 RockStar Quarters aboard, enough room for over 2,770 sailors. It has a crew of 1,160.
The design of Scarlet Lady is intended to mimic that of a superyacht, encompassing a sleek silvery hull with smoked glass and touches of the distinctive Virgin red. It has an iconic red Virgin funnel created by the British yacht designers RWD, making it very easy to identify from afar.
Click on any image to enlarge.
Virgin Voyages are referred to as ‘Adult-by-Design, offering a sanctuary at sea for the 18+ traveller’. So adults only on board then.
Cruise ships are not renowned for their outstanding environmental credentials. Virgin Voyages is attempting to move the industry forward through collaborations with companies such as technology based Climeon (whose goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by converting engine waste heat into clean electricity) and waste management systems provider Scanship (exploring reducing ocean discharge by turning waste into energy). As a brand new ship, Scarlet Lady is designed to the latest energy-efficiency standards. All direct climate change emissions are offset through the purchase of carbon offsets.
All single use plastics are banned on board including straws, condiment packets and food packaging. Any disposable plastic water bottles brought on to the ship will be confiscated. Complimentary filtered still and sparkling water is provided so bring along your drinks bottle.
Onboard Scarlet Lady
Following the prerequisite ID and Covid checks, we were warmly welcomed aboard and escorted to our meeting point. First impressions were good. The ship was sparkling, clean and modern. Instantly, there were so many classic and contemporary details to the interior decor to admire, whether you were waiting for the lift:
At times it felt more like the Frieze Art Fair than a cruise ship and I liked that.
No two corridors were the same. Some had bizarre intricate illustrations adorning the walls:
Other sections didn’t take themselves too seriously, being bright and fun. I imagine this is partially done to help sailors remember areas and navigate the vessel.
Before our main tour, we were treated to an afternoon tea at SIP, a sleek little champagne lounge.
As this was a Virgin afternoon tea, there was more than a little flair and twist to the usual sandwich and cake offerings.
It comes with an optional glass of champagne which I gladly accepted. Whilst all dining is included in the cruise price, there is an additional cost for this treat. Although I enjoyed the afternoon tea enormously, I doubt it would tempt me if I was a sailor due to the huge selection of readily available and delicious looking free food around the ship (more on that later). As if to illustrate this, one of our group disappeared off during the occasion and returned with a freshly made pizza!
A tour of Scarlet Lady
Following our very nice afternoon tea, we were given a whistle stop tour of the ship. I won’t try to cover this in any kind of orderly way, I was disorientated within a few minutes of the tour starting so have no idea where restaurants, entertainment venues etc are in relation to each other. The ship is so jam packed full of interesting features that I suspect by the end of a five day cruise you would still be learning how to navigate it, discovering exciting new aspects right up until the last minute.
Food and drink
I’ll start with the dining options. There are over twenty eateries onboard. There are no large scale buffet type dining halls. Instead there is range of restaurants and cafes suited to your mood, whether that be casual or high end, European or Asian.
There is no sitting in a massive hall at the captains table in a tuxedo. That may put you off but it only endears me more. The cost of each cruise includes all food at these eateries, basic beverages (not alcohol) and gratuities, so no more worrying about how much you need to tip. Free wifi is also included. I have been told this can be rather costly on some cruise ships. There are casual diners such this one.
This area is called The Galley and offers a variety of food and drink options ranging from a salad bar to freshly baked Cornish pasties and breads to sushi. There is also a 24 hour American diner here too.
For more upscale dining there are options such as Gunbae.
This is the first Korean barbecue restaurant to feature on a cruise ship. As is traditional, sailors are able to cook their dishes in the middle of the table.
There is an Italian restaurant called Extra Virgin and a largely vegetarian restaurant called Razzle Dazzle, although you can order your food ‘naughty’ i.e. with meat. This eatery is also home to the ships resident drag performer so expect an entertaining night.
This is the entrance to The Test Kitchen, described as laboratory-like molecular cuisine. It sounded all very Heston B.
When dining here, you are provided with a list of ingredients and wait to see what the chef feels like creating for you.
I think this was my favourite looking place. It’s a Mexican restaurant called Pink Agave and was simply stunning. This is the entrance:
The interior is just as impressive:
It is designed by Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio and you would be forgiven for forgetting you were at sea in such luxurious surroundings.
This is the staircase down to The Wake restaurant, situated unsurprisingly at the ships aft.
Billed as the most glamorous restaurant onboard, it offers steak, seafood and champagne poured by the glass from a magnum bottle. The classic interior design is very stylish with a ceiling covered in sculptured metal.
Some of the tables have magnificent sea views:
If seafood is your thing, there is plenty to get excited about here.
Next up was the Dock House, a Mediterranean inspired outdoor eatery. It comes with a quirky little red flag that you raise when ready to order.
Due to length, we have split this review into two parts. Click here for the second half of our Scarlet Lady review.
How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (February 2023)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.
You can choose from two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (apply here, the Reward+ card has a bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points):
You can also earn Virgin Points from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for a year and comes with 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 20,000 Virgin Points.
The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points.
Small business owners should consider the two American Express Business cards. Points convert at 1:1 into Virgin Points.
(Want to earn more Virgin Points? Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)