Sunday 1 March 2020

Introducing Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady

Paid Partnership with Virgin Voyages - see disclaimer

The launch of Virgin Voyages has been hotly anticipated by many, it sees Sir Richard Branson's first step into the world of cruising, completely shaking up the cruise world as we know it. I was invited to spend a night on Virgin Voyages' Scarlet Lady as she embarked on her world tour so with my holdall in-hand and my dancing shoes packed I hot-footed it to Dover for a night like no other. 

Scarlet Lady has arrived ladies and gentlemen and boy was she worth the wait.

Virgin Voyages have torn up the rule book and created something completely different, gone are the hues of blue and white and formal nights - Scarlet Lady (and right on her tail, Valiant Lady) is awash with silver, red and spotlights galore. 

It's exciting, it's fun and you're in for a wild ride from the moment you step onboard. 

Virgin Voyages' first fleet will be known as the Lady Ships, a play on the term ‘your ladyship’ giving a nod to Virgin's British heritage. Scarlet Lady is the first of four Lady Ships being launched by the brand, she'll be docked in Port Miami in 2020 ahead of her inaugural sailing season where she will set sail for the Caribbean accommodating 2770 sailors, what the brand like to call their guests as well as 1160 crew sailing from Florida to explore the beautiful Caribbean.

Ship facts
Maiden voyage 1st April 2020
Builder Fincantieri
Tonnage 110,000
Length 277.2m
Beam 38m
Decks 17

Virgin Voyages offer: Book before March 31st 2020 and get up to $400 onboard credit. Book here

The brand new cruise line is aimed at people who would never normally cruise, it's adult only - a complete hideaway at sea for the 18+ traveller. It's an interesting move for Virgin Voyages but let's face it - Virgin have never been ones to fit in. They're appealing to a completely different generation of cruisers and with dance parties, lucid dance shows, resident drag queens, famous DJs and of course, the tattoo parlour - this is the cruise line for cool twenty-somethings and hopefully early thirty-somethings because I want a piece of the Scarlet Lady pie. 

I think one of the most important angles to Virgin Voyages is their stance on Sustainability. We're all aware of the impact cruise ships have on the environment and our oceans, I don't think it's sensible to say "oh well they're not that bad" - we need to acknowledge that they are and find a way to counteract this and I think Virgin Voyages have made a great start at this. Offsetting its carbon emissions from its very first cruise, Virgin Voyages will be the first cruise line in history to declare itself carbon-neutral from its first day of commercial operation.

"There is nothing more important in this world than our oceans, and we're on a mission to protect them and set an example. Success needn't compromise sustainability"
Sir Richard Branson

The company has also ​banned single-use plastics onboard​ its ships, including straws, bottled water, other beverage bottles, condiment packets, shopping bags, food packaging, stirrers, and take-away coffee and teacups. Instead, the company will emphasize the use of recyclable and reusable materials across the ship. While onboard, sailors will be provided with access to complimentary filtered still and sparkling water - any excuse to purchase the Scarlet Lady refillable water bottle eh?

In cabins, sailors will be given bands that function as their room key with each one being made from recycled ocean plastic. You'll find recycled toilet paper as well as refillable shower gel, shampoo and conditioner containers in their statement red branding in bathrooms plus the cabin sensors mean lights are turned off while air conditioning is operated lower when cabins aren't occupied.

It's not just on the ship that things have an eco flare, Virgin Voyages are curating sustainable experiences on land by treading lightly with smaller tours, seeking immersive and authentic experiences that tap into true local culture, helping to preserve the beauty and health of the natural environment and as a matter of practice, they will not offer tours that feature captive swim with programs.

Virgin Voyages has also partnered with Climeon, a Sweden-based technology company, intending to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions by converting engine waste heat into clean electricity as well as signing an agreement with Scanship, providers of advanced waste management systems. Together, they are exploring the development of potentially game-changing technology that could one day significantly reduce ocean discharge by turning waste into energy. 

It's a cruise ship first but can it be a cruise ship future for all? Time will tell. 

The most notable conversation I've seen surrounding Scarlet Lady are the cabins. People seem to love or hate them but I think that's the beauty of the ship, it's a bit like Marmite and I love Marmite. 

There are 1330 cabins with several categories as well as 78 Rockstar suites. We stayed within one of the Sea Terrace cabins that feature the controversial Seabed. The cabin layout has been designed by Pearson Lloyd alongside the Virgin Voyages' design team using intelligent architecture to optimise space and views of the ocean. Each of the cabins is custom-created to accommodate the Seabed, the first-ever transformational cabin bed at sea, specially engineered and handcrafted by Walter Knoll in Germany. The concept of the Seabed came from the convivial nature of cruising and gives Sailors more space for social gatherings in the cabin. 

I loved this addition to the room, it gave us more space while we spent some time in the cabin getting ready and when we went back to our cabin after the night's activities our bed was transformed for us and still turned down for the night. Our cases also fitted perfectly underneath, sure an extra table would've been a plus and maybe if we were spending more nights onboard we may have found it more of an inconvenience than we did but we actually loved the bed - it was really comfortable and we still had plenty of space once it was transformed too. 

The cabins feature PIR presence sensors that automatically detect when someone has left the cabin and go into energy saver mode, where blinds will close and air conditioning will adjust to an eco-saver temperature as mentioned above.

The room also featured a 43"+ 4K flat-screen HDTV, mini bar, a desk area that I transformed into my makeup station and freshwater and glasses that were regularly replaced throughout our stay. The wardrobes were much roomier than I feel some realise and I loved the flexible curtain idea. There was a good-sized rail, plenty of floor space as well as a cupboard featuring nine shelves to store more of your belongings. Considering Scarlet Lady will be operating between three and five-night sailings - there is plenty of space for your belongings.

You don't need to store a ballgown after all. 

The bathroom space has also been quite controversial but for me, it was what I was expecting. Each bathroom comes equipped with toilet, sink and shower with a rain shower head for a spa-like wash as well as toiletries and towels including the cute as a button makeup towel. Space is limited and I wasn't a fan of the black soaps but that is a personal preference and I feel if you're someone who carries a lot less skincare and makeup than I do - you really won't have an issue.

86% of cabins have a balcony on Scarlet Lady (93% have a sea view!) and each of them features a custom-designed hammock, handwoven by artisans from Yellow Leaf a social enterprise that fosters women's empowerment and community transformation in rural Thailand. Dover was a tad too windy for me to get the full experience of the hammock but I imagine in the Caribbean it would be a great place to chill out with a book. 

The Rockstar Suites have been a huge talking point and boy can you see why. There are 78 suites on board and Rockstar Suite Sailors will are given exclusive backstage and early access for a variety of things such as entertainment, restaurants, Shore Things, a private transfer to and from the ship in Miami and an exclusive express VIP pathway to the ship during embarkation as well as access to Richard's Rooftop private members club.

Sailors with have their very own wardrobe team to help unpack and repack, complimentary pressing service and nightly express swimsuit drying service. It's the little things right?! 

All suites are clever cabins, with mood lighting that automatically adjusts to match the time of day and in-room tablets that allow sailors to adjust the lighting. Sailors will enjoy luxurious comforts like premium linens and a plush European king bed in every suite as well as upgraded bath amenities for pampering. Mega Rockstars, ​the largest suites with a prime location on deck 15 get added RockStar Service extras like a custom bar set up and a RockStar rider to create the perfect holiday. It's next level cruising like you've never seen before. 

You can discover exactly what cabins are available via Cabin Overview to determine which would be best suited for you.

You'll need five days on Scarlet Lady just so you can enjoy the multiple bars and restaurants dotted around the ship. We took ourselves on a self-guided tour to discover exactly what was on offer and we weren't disappointed. Eating while on Scarlet Lady has become a more relaxing experience than you may find on other cruise lines - gone are the days of stale buffets and unnecessary food waste, Scarlet Lady is the inclusive and oh so delicious dining experience you've waited for.

There are over 20 eateries onboard offering everything from traditional Mexican and BBQ Korean to sophisticated steak and seafood and the much talked about Impossible Burger - a vegan delight.

The Wake serves a sophisticated take on steak and seafood and is where we headed for breakfast for an unbelievable three-course brunch! Designed by Roman and Williams, it's the most glamorous restaurant on the ship offering a gorgeous mid-twentieth century chop-house atmosphere, a raw bar, table-side drink cart service and champagne poured by the glass from a magnum bottle. The Wake was the ideal place to enjoy breakfast after the night before. We were greeted at the bottom of the stairs by friendly staff and led to a table with ocean views (I say ocean, Dover doesn't have the same ring to it). Breakfast was an incredible three course affair with impeccable service - our server was attentive, so friendly and rushed off to find some soya milk for me to enjoy with an Americano. I couldn't fault our experience in The Wake at all, my friend said it was the best eggs she's ever had!

It was absolutely spectacular and I want my entire house designed by Roman & Williams now.

I feel Razzle Dazzle deserves a special mention as it was just fabulous from top to bottom. It was designed by Concrete Amsterdam and offers vibrant and creative twists on a largely vegetarian menu. All dishes can be made 'naughty' with meat add-ons or boozy shots if you're feeling adventurous. The menu adds a twist to traditional dishes by offering plant-based vegetarian and vegan alternatives to classic dishes. Razzle Dazzle is also the home of the ship's drag brunch, where sailors are treated to a performance by the Scarlet Lady's resident drag performer and friends - who might I add are a bloody ball! 

We dined at Pink Agave which is a Mexican restaurant designed by Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio. Pink Agave takes you to the vibrant streets of Mexico City through immersive void lighting, soft music and an incredible menu. Offering a wide variety of Mexican specialities that allow you to discover authentic Mexican flavours such as tlayudas, memelas, sopes, tortas, esquites, tamales and an array of mezcals. 

Starting with a classic margarita cocktail we tried a selection of starters such as the Papas con Chorizo which were Yukon gold potatoes, onion and garlic, the Enchilada de Pollo delicious roasted chicken salsa verde and crema as well as the Camaron en Amarillo which was seared shrimp, mole Amarillo and new potatoes. For main, I had the Pato - roasted duck, mole ahumado and smoked yam puree, it was nice but it needed a side of fresh vegetables. The dessert, however, was the best bit, Tacos de Chocolate was delectable Mexican chocolate, Canela and dulce de leche set in crisp biscuit tacos. 

I'd happily live on the Tacos de Chocolate given half the chance! 

Oh and let's not forget The Galley, the food hall features eight shops and food carts each offering a unique concept that focuses on a curated offering of signature dish-driven food such as a dedicated bakery and pastry shop, a panini shop, a burger grill, a taco shack, a sushi bar with bento boxes, a noodle bar, a soup and salad stand, and a 24-hour American diner. 

2am snack club? I'm there!

From fabulous eateries to the oh so beautiful bars onboard, there is something for everyone.

Sip is a beautifully curated champagne lounge designed for all. It's inspired by the glamour and effervescence of champagne featuring a long marble bar with rose-gold inlay, gold and rose-pink hues that echo the colour of the champagne that is served all of which is beautifully offset by deep watery blues and Carrara marble bars and tables. 

On the Rocks found just behind the roundabout on deck 6, is a unique place to enjoy a cocktail or two. You can forget the menu here and just tell the bartender exactly what flavours you like and watch them create something unique and magical before your eyes. Danny served us at On the Rocks and we had such a laugh with him we spent a lot of the evening at the bar chatting with him about our lives, jobs and of course cocktails. He made my fave Aperol Spritz for me too so I was more than happy. Danny is such a great addition to the Virgin Voyages team.

Deck 7 features some fab public spaces to enjoy such as The Grounds Club, the thoughtfully sourced coffee shop, The Pizza Place which serves artisan pizzas made using local dough from Mister 01 in Miami and The Dock House which was another favourite of mine. It's a casual eatery with tastes of the Mediterranean, acoustic sounds and the most relaxing seating. 

There's a multitude of bars, fun hangouts, a shopping quarter, a retro gaming room, casino, and artist area - the sky really is the limit for activities on Virgin Voyages. Scarlet Lady is ultimately fun, excitement and full of laughs and that reflects in the entertainment which is provided so perfectly.

While on the ship you'll be able to choose from a festival-like lineup of all-new completely original entertainment developed by some of the world’s most-talked-about producers, directors and artists in the expansion of the company’s Creative Collective. This includes Jenny Gersten, Randy Weiner, Sam Pinkleton, Ani Taj, PigPen Theatre Co, The 7 Fingers, Roslyn Hart and Alfredo Guenzani and the Spark Cooperative. 

In The Red Room, the first-ever transformational, multi-form theatre at sea there will be six original shows and Pinkleton & Ani Taj have created a hype music video disguised as an absurdist style dance party, called ​UNTITLED DANCESHOWPARTYTHING​. It is quite a sight for eyes featuring lucid neons and a giant pink whale - I won't give the rest away!

I think the place that has received the most amount of love is, of course, The Manor. It's set behind a mirrored door that doesn't look like much but once you step inside you'll discover the most beautiful and dazzling, wall to floor twinkle covered corridor. It was Instagram heaven and Sparkle Central as we called it was the place to be to get that all-important shot! 

As you venture through the twinkling walls you'll come to the signature nightclub designed by Roman and Williams, inspired by Richard Branson's history in the music industry and his first-ever Virgin music studio of the same name. The space doubles as a nightclub and area for entertainment and is where we ended our night with a set by Twiggy Garcia under blue strobe lights, glasses of champagne and pumping dance music.

It really was quite spectacular. 

If taking a few hours out to completely pamper yourself after all that dancing then the Redemption Spa is the place to be. Designed by Knibb Design, the gorgeous hideaway is complete with hydrotherapy pool, mudroom, salt room, cold plunge pools, quartz beds, and rejuvenating spa treatments. It's absolutely beautiful and if I closed my eyes while I took five minutes on the quartz beds I could almost smell the Caribbean - in my dreams right?!

As well as the spa, there's plenty of places to head for a spruce up -  Stubble and Groom​, designed by Softroom is an intimate upscale barbershop while The Dry Dock is a blow-dry and hairstyling beauty bar. There's also the Mani Pedi Spa to make sure your nails are looking ship-shape.

And who could forget Squid Ink? If you're feeling adventurous at sea why not head to the first-ever tattoo parlour at sea which will offer tattooing, permanent makeup and body piercing services. The studio will have two resident tattoo artists as well as an occasional guest artist from the World Famous Tattoo Ink Pro Team.

Last but not least is, of course, the outside decks, one of the first places we headed to explore while we battled the Dover wind. Virgin Voyages’ brand design ethos, ​Modern Romance of Sailing,​ seeks to enchant crew, sailors and pirates alike by capturing a fresh, contemporary and sleek look, with nods of glamour and romance that evoke the soul's innate love of the sea and pairs it with touches of saltiness and nautical tradition. This can be seen perfectly once you venture outside, from cosy cabanas and poolside bars to wellbeing pools and quiet corners, the higher decks are where you'll want to be under the Caribbean sunshine. 

The Perch ​designed by Concrete Amsterdam is a space offering 360-degree ocean views as a secluded sundeck for sunrise and sunset yoga while The Runway also ​designed by Concrete Amsterdam, is a standalone running track that forms a halo-like vision over the ship. You'll also discover the Well-Being Pool featuring a large whirlpool and two plunge pools. 

The Aquatic Club is where you can lounge poolside and soak up the sun with a cocktail in hand. The pool certainly has a lot of people talking, especially about its size but size doesn't matter, right?! 

Yes, it's small - it's considerably smaller than the majority of ships in service but I don't hate it. I think that's because there's so much on the ship to do that spending every moment around the pool would be at the bottom of my to-do list, especially when you can hop off the ship in the most gorgeous locations the Caribbean has to offer and dip your toes in crystal clear water instead. 

I really did love Scarlet Lady and I did not want to get off, sure I'd have prefered a trip to the Caribbean instead of its next stop in Liverpool but you can't always get your own way. I think that many have forgotten that Virgin Voyages aren't looking for your seasoned cruisers - gone are the formal nights, stuffy dining rooms and the traditional cruising way and in place is something cool, hip and actually quite groundbreaking. 

Virgin Voyages set out to be different, they wanted to shake things up and to be honest, I think they've done it. Would I need to experience a few days sailing to really get a feel for the ship? Totally but first impressions count and mine were exceeded beyond comprehension. 

Sometimes a new dog doesn't need to be taught old tricks for it to work. 

You can book now for cruises departing from April 2020. All itineraries and information can be found on the Virgin Voyages website and don't forget, if you book before March 31st 2020 you can get up to $400 onboard credit by hitting this link here

So what do you think?

Blogger Template by pipdig