Cruise

Ship review: Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady

Laura French steps aboard Scarlet Lady, the first ship from Virgin Voyages, and finds Rockstar Suites and a tattoo studio

Overview: Richard Branson said he wanted to bring “the luxe experience of a boutique hotel to the sea”. The line has taken luxury yachts as inspiration, and it shows in several design details aboard Scarlet Lady, as well as in the (oh-so-Virgin) policy that guests are referred to as ‘sailors’, not passengers.

The first ship in Virgin Voyages’ growing fleet, Scarlet Lady has capacity for 2,770 passengers across 1,330 cabins. Domestic sailings operated along the UK coast from Portsmouth during summer, before relocating to sail four- and five-night Caribbean round-trip itineraries from Miami from September 2021. Virgin Voyages’ second ship Valiant Lady will sail the Mediterranean from November, while Resilient Lady will explore the Greek islands and Adriatic coast in 2022.

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Cabins: Cabins are split into Sea Terrace, Sea View and Insider (windowless) options, including several designed for solo travellers and some with bunk beds for groups of four. They’re cleverly appointed, with sofas that turn into surprisingly comfortable beds to maximise space, though bathrooms are on the small side.

The 78 RockStar Suites have record players and sizeable balconies

The two Massive Suites are especially impressive, sleeping up to four, complete with their own music room, plus a huge balcony made for partying.

Food and drink: Food is one of the key selling points. Meals are all included, with eight à la carte restaurants – among them a Korean BBQ house where you grill your own meat at the table, and one designed like a lab, where the menu is a surprise, alongside a big selection of street-food-style stalls at The Galley market hall.

The Razzle Dazzle restaurant is covered in black and white stripes and illuminated in signature Virgin red

Brunch is embraced (lie-ins are encouraged). Bars include a champagne lounge and a trendy cocktail spot. This is far from your typical cruise, but it’s an exciting concept for youthful clients looking to embrace all things ‘cool’ and live it up a little, Miami-style.

Facilities: Unusually, there’s a tattoo studio. Other facilities include a small outdoor pool, a spa, a jogging track, a gym and an athletics club, plus several shops stocking Virgin-branded goods.

Entertainment is dazzling. The Manor nightclub is home to a glittering corridor of mirrors lit with hundreds of fairy lights. Intensely creative performances ranged from an immersive acrobatics show to a trippy, light-flashing dance spectacle that turned into a party with the cast afterwards. Beyond the shows, there was a whole team of entertainers aboard – among them DJs, a quirky pop-up band, a resident drag queen and party-starters leading carnival-style parades through the ship.

For more information, visit trade-voyagestore.com

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