Experience the salt air as you sail the Caribbean from Miami. Connect to the sea while cruising with Virgin Scarlet Lady.
Virgin Scarlet Lady, the newest superyacht in the Virgin Voyages fleet, sets sail from Miami’s Terminal V. Awarded Cruise Critic’s Editor’s Pick for Best New Cruise Ship in 2021, I was eager to experience Virgin’s hospitality as we set sail on the adult-only Scarlet Lady in the Caribbean.
Anticipating Virgin Scarlet Lady
Knowing that Virgin Voyages intended to shake up the cruise industry with its style of cruising, we looked forward to something different in the cruise world. Sailing in the midst of the pandemic, we followed Virgin Voyages’ health protocols, testing prior to departure and at the pier.
Several weeks before our sailing day, we received an upgrade offer. Being perfectly content with our Central Sea Terrace, we opted not to upgrade. We usually don’t spend much time in our cabin so didn’t submit a bid.
Sailing in a Scarlet Lady Sea Terrace
Having carefully reviewed the Virgin Voyages website, we knew what to expect in our cabin. Virgin Voyages promoted the flexibility of the cabin arrangement. The bed could convert to a sofa by day and then back to a bed in the evening. We asked our room steward to convert to that configuration as it doesn’t happen automatically. We found that we really appreciated the concept as our stateroom seemed much more spacious.
An unusual amenity, the hammock on the balcony inspires dreams of swaying the days away. Attempting to lie in the hammock proved difficult, so I opted to sit and swing.
Although Scarlet Lady first sailed in late 2021, ongoing updates took place in response to comments from previous guests. Our stateroom was halfway through the refurb. The addition of photo prints to the walls, a few wood elements, and a door to what was an exposed refrigerator niche warmed up the prior stark appearance of the room. Having viewed the staterooms prior to booking, I found them basic, reminding me of a private room in a youth hostel.
The minuscule bathroom offered scant space for placing toiletries. The water pressure from the rain shower head provided great flow. A separate handheld nozzle complemented the rain shower option. I enjoyed the fragrance of the Red Flower toiletries, which included shampoo, conditioner, and body wash.
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Cruising with Virgin Scarlet Lady
Having seen marketing materials for Virgin Voyages, I wasn’t certain what to expect sailing on Scarlet Lady. Many early advertisements featured younger, more hip guests than I.
A most appealing aspect of this cruise line to me is that it is for adults only. Mostly all-inclusive, we avoided most additional charges. Gratuities for the crew, alcoholic beverages, and spa services are included in the fare.
Flexible Cruising Options
Virgin Voyages takes into consideration that life changes for its booked guests. Certain changes to bookings that aren’t permitted or incur a fee on other cruise lines may be possible on Virgin Voyages. For example, name changes prior to 48 hours of the sailing date incur no penalty fee. Sailors—as Virgin calls its guests—may even change their sailing date prior to 45 days of the original sailing date. Flexibility like this makes planning easier and reduces costs.
Easy Cash-Free Access
Sailors wear or carry a woven wristband for access to their rooms and to pay for alcoholic beverages or anything in the shops. We found the wristband annoying and difficult to put on without assistance. But, it can be stuffed into a pocket or attached to a belt, so it wasn’t really a problem.
Virgin Scarlet Lady Activities
Virgin Voyages is committed to sustainability and is serious about protecting the environment. You will notice that commitment throughout the ship. One place where you will immediately notice the difference is that you can find all of the daily activities using the Virgin app. For old-school guests, it’s still possible to find a print copy of the daily activities or if the app flakes out. Continuing with the sustainability angle, your stateroom attendant does not deliver the newsletter to your room every evening, nor do they turn down your cabin.
So, for activities, you want to use your app to stay up-to-date on the happenings. Do make note that many shows require reservations. More importantly, certain shows, even with confirmed reservations, do not guarantee a seat! Get to any show far in advance. We only saw two shows—Duel Reality, an acrobatic aerial show, and another with the Divas. The Divas, who dress in drag, often do pop-up shows and invite guests to see magic tricks or play games.
Dining on Virgin Scarlet Lady
As with most cruises, there are many dining options onboard, ranging from casual to fine-dining experiences.
You won’t find a buffet on this ship, but you will find a food court. We went to grab a sandwich shortly after boarding and were instructed to sit down and somebody would come and take our order. The server arrived with a menu that included selections from the different eateries in the area. It is possible to serve yourself in the bakery area.
Within this area, the many options include tacos, sandwiches, burgers, Korean BBQ, and more. One spot with sit-down service at a counter is an all-day breakfast diner.
Grab-and-go boxes are a perfect option for those interested in dining in their room or in one of the many outdoor areas.
Unlike on other cruise ships, there is no main dining room. Scarlet Lady features several themed dining rooms. There is no additional charge to eat in these dining rooms, but Sailors may only dine in each one once. All require reservations, so make your choices early.
Each of the restaurants focuses on a different style of food. Pink Agave features elevated Mexican. Don’t expect typical Mexican food, but rather twists on a few traditional foods from the Yucatan or other parts of Mexico.
Overlooking my favorite view, it’s no surprise that the aft steak and seafood restaurant is known as The Wake. My husband ordered a fish encrusted in a salted pastry. Our excellent server prepared it by meticulously releasing the fish from its jacket. Being a meat and potatoes lover, I selected a filet, which was cooked the way I liked it and nicely presented as well.
One of the most interesting restaurants on Scarlet Lady is Test Kitchen. The setting is like that of a laboratory, with the servers wearing lab coats. A menu listing six ingredients transforms into six courses. The presentation was wonderful, and great care was taken to create something out of the ordinary. It just didn’t work for us.
On our particular cruise, the Italian restaurant, Extra Virgin, seemed the most popular of all. We were ready for spaghetti or lasagna. Knowing that the restaurant served freshly-made pasta, we anticipated a nice hearty Italian meal.
The extensive menu lacked the traditional Italian dishes that we enjoy but had several that a seafood-lover would appreciate. With no lasagna on the menu, we both settled for the pappardelle because the only spaghetti selection had white clams in it.
Something for Everyone
On our last evening, we tried the veggie-forward restaurant Razzle Dazzle. Hidden down a hallway across from Guest Services, this restaurant boasts bright stripes and bold décor. For the convenience of non-vegetarians, meat dishes are offered and designated as naughty choices. Perhaps this was an attempt to get more people into this venue, which had few other diners.
Because of the short duration of Virgin Voyages cruises, we did not experience every dining venue. There is a Korean BBQ and several other food options available.
Ports of Call on Virgin Scarlet Lady
Caribbean cruises on Scarlet Lady range from four to eight nights. Our 5-night cruise included the Virgin Voyages Beach Club at Bimini and Costa Maya as port calls. Having never been to Bimini before, this itinerary intrigued me; having been to Costa Maya multiple times, this itinerary intrigued me even more.
Our first stop was Costa Maya, on the Yucatan Peninsula, south of the Riviera Maya. The port area is clean, well-developed, commercial, and hardly real.
My favorite place to go when my ship calls at Costa Maya is the fishing village of Mahahual, just a little over two miles south of the port area. From the commercial port area, it’s necessary to find the well-hidden area for taxis. It’s best to follow the signs for the shore excursions buses and find the taxi station. Restaurants, bars, and beach tables dot this expanse of sand. Locals take guests fishing or offer massages. Many cruisers that I have encountered did not know that this amazing and friendly village is so close. Don’t make the mistake of staying in the commercial port area!
Beach Club at Bimini
On our way heading back to our embarkation port of Miami, we stopped in the Bahamas at the island of Bimini. Virgin Voyages offers a private beach club experience in this port and it’s well worth a visit. Entrance into the club is included in the fare, as is a lunch meal. Drinks cost extra.
We found plenty of space at the club. Chairs with umbrellas for sun-shy people like me abound. Everything here was well maintained and clean.
In addition to the ability to swim in the Caribbean, there were also some large pools with adequate seating options around them as well. Although the brochure mentioned an evening fire and a later departure on this day, we left before dark.
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Final Thoughts on Sailing Virgin Scarlet Lady
Honestly, we really had to carefully process our thoughts about Virgin Scarlet Lady. We thought it needed more tweaking. Some things seem disorganized. For example, we went to a scheduled painting class. We waited and waited until we asked a crew member about it. After 45 minutes somebody came to lead the class. We heard other Sailors recount similar experiences with activities.
My favorite part of the cruise was the connection to the sea. There were plenty of outdoor areas, with great views. Several had options for snacks and also had nearby bars for beverages.
The absolutely amazing crew impressed us with their commitment to guests. Such a caring crew certainly makes the cruise experience a memorable one.
The spa looked lovely, but like on many cruise ships, comes with an additional price tag. On this cruise, a cost of $39 permitted you to use the thermal spa for three hours.
Would we return? Maybe if the itinerary intrigues us—we have our eye on the Riviera Maya cruise—but we have to think hard about it. We liked the emphasis on wellness and sustainability. We didn’t like finding out that some of the free options—like the fitness classes—had very limited space. When a class is offered only once daily and only has six spots, the chances of getting to experience this are slim. We never were able to find a space in any of those classes. Do check out Wander for more of our suggestions for some of our favorite cruises.