Credit: Virgin Voyages/Rich & Helen Chalu

Lady in Red: Virgin Voyages new ship Scarlet Lady review

Author: Rich and Helen Chalu

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Virgin Voyages first ship Scarlet Lady was hotly anticipated among cruising fans. On board the ship's first cruise around the UK, World of Cruising's ambassadors enjoyed a fun-filled trip full of surprises.

Virgin Voyages launched its debut ship in February 2020. But while she looked great, the timing couldn’t have been worse – and as the world went into lockdown, Scarlet Lady stayed in port.

Luckily for cruise fans, that unplanned gap year has done nothing to dim her stellar appeal, and this summer she finally got her chance to shine.

First impressions

Richard Branson always said that Virgin would shake up the world of cruising, so we were prepared for Scarlet Lady to be a little different from the norm.

We boarded to the sound of music reverberating around the ‘roundabout’ (that’s the atrium, for cruise traditionalists) but we were pleasantly surprised to find no glittery boas or dayglo dancers.

Instead, we were greeted by a gathering of enthusiastic, smiling crew. So far, so good.

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Scarlet Lady cabins

Virgin Voyages’ mission to modernise extends to the onboard accommodation, but the bed in our standard ‘Sea Terrace’ cabin was reassuringly comfortable. The difference is that, on request, it can be set up as a sofa during the day – an excellent touch.

The bathroom, though tiny, redeemed itself with a gorgeous, fully enclosed and very powerful drench shower, and we found the cabin as a whole to be thoughtfully designed to make the most of the space available.

- READ MORE: Virgin Voyages top tips for being a savvy cruiser -

If you choose a cruise on this ship, don’t forget to try out the tablet you’ll find in every cabin. In fact you’ll be lost without it, as this controls the curtains, mood lighting, temperature and TV, including the option to activate ‘cinema mode’ when you want to watch a movie.

The best aspect of the whole cabin is its balcony, which is much deeper than you’ll find on many of the larger new cruise ships. Each balcony cabin also comes with a red hammock – a bit gimmicky, we thought at first, but once you’re in, you’ll happily doze away the day, lulled by the lapping of the waves.

Virgin Voyages’ mission to modernise extends to the onboard accommodation. Credit: Virgin Voyages

Scarlet Lady technology and design

Personalised tech is sweeping through the cruise industry so it will come as no surprise that guests on Scarlet Lady need to download the Virgin Voyages app to enjoy all the fun onboard.

This will be your main resource for everything from restaurant reservations and menus to guest services and the ever-changing entertainment line-up.

- READ MORE: Why Virgin Voyages is unique -

Traditional cruise cards are also replaced by wearable tech in the form of a trendy rope bracelet that you can use to open your cabin door, make purchases and pre-book shows. It’s all very user-friendly, very convenient and very Virgin.

Exploring this massive ship is a delight, with plenty of small venues to discover. Each has been individually designed and thoughtfully furnished, and the same goes for the open decks, which are generously supplied with cushioned day beds and oversized loungers.

Virgin Voyages: Exploring this massive ship is a delight. Credit: Shutterstock

Scarlet Lady entertainment

As you’d expect from Virgin, the onboard entertainment is fantastic. Not only are there plenty of headline shows to enjoy (bookable on the app) but you’ll be continually surprised and delighted by more ad-hoc stuff, too.

Every day you’ll find something random, like a comedian or a musician popping up, performing, then melting back into the scenery as if they never existed. And the variety of what’s on offer is simply vast.

- READ MORE: What's onboard cruise ship Scarlet Lady? Ship guide -

On our trip we enjoyed cocktail singers, jazz bands, solo guitarists, pool parties, stand-up comedy, an incredible acrobatic show, stargazing, pyjama parties, guest bands and some great DJs.

Ever felt FOMO? There’s so much happening aboard Scarlet Lady that Fear of Missing Out is almost inevitable.

Scarlet Lady: As you’d expect from Virgin, the onboard entertainment is fantastic. Credit: Virgin Voyages

Scarlet Lady bars and restaurants

There are six speciality restaurants onboard and many smaller food outlets offering delicious and varied dishes.

All restaurants are included in your ticket price, so you can eat where you like, as often as you like (subject to booking availability). If that means lunch of tender filet mignon at The Wake followed by cocktails in the company of drag queens at Razzle Dazzle, then so be it.

- READ MORE: No buffets, no set times - dine with a difference on Virgin ships -

Somewhat more conventional is The Galley, Virgin’s Covid-conscious take on the traditional cruise buffet.

It isn’t self-service – you just look at the online menu, order whatever takes your fancy, and then it’s served at your table almost instantly. And that means there are no queues, no bottlenecks, and there’s no wandering about in a dither, trying to decide what to eat.

Scarlet Lady: There are six speciality restaurants on board and many smaller food outlets. Credit: Virgin Voyages

Scarlet Lady spa and fitness

You may want to party 24/7 on your cruise but this is also a great ship for those who like to stay bright-eyed and healthy.

Virgin Voyages offers a comprehensive wellness and physical fitness set-up including large and brilliantly equipped fitness areas, and every day is filled with a range of complimentary classes, from meditation and yoga to spin and HIIT sessions.

- READ MORE: Your foolproof guide to visiting spas at sea -

Our personal favourite was the 80s VHS workout complete with complimentary leg warmers and headbands.

For more serious fitness fans, the gym is divided into two sections – Build & Balance for resistance training, and Bike & Burn for cardio – and there’s also an extensive array of open-air equipment at the Venice Beach-style Athletic Club.

Virgin Voyages offers a comprehensive wellness and physical fitness set-up. Credit: Virgin Voyages

Our verdict

Virgin Voyages aimed to create a unique cruise experience, and with Scarlet Lady, they’ve succeeded. In fact, we would highly recommend the ship to anyone who appreciates great food, eclectic entertainment, live music and a good time.

And even if you prefer a quieter experience, you can easily escape into the comfy world of cafes, champagne bars and beach-club vibes in the Dock House. Oh, and there’s also the most gorgeous spa we’ve ever seen at sea.

- READ MORE: Win an all-inclusive three-night Virgin Voyages cruise for two -

It takes courage to be different, and there’s no doubt Virgin Voyages has made a bold move with its first cruise ship. Yes, Scarlet Lady is a little bit quirky, but in a world of megaships that often feel very similar, this highly individual line is a breath of fresh air.

Get on board

Four-night ‘Fire & Sunset Soirées’ cruise aboard Scarlet Lady, round trip from Miami via Key West and Beach Club at Bimini, departing 5 October 2022, from £1,136,

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