About to sail on a Virgin Voyages cruise? As we’ve explained before, there is a lot that’s different that you’ll want to know about before you step on board.
Some of the biggest differences — no kids allowed, wi-fi and gratuities included in the fare — are well known and advertised heavily. But there are also a lot of things you may not know before your cruise that are unique to Virgin.
That’s why we’ve created a helpful list of a dozen things that are great tips and things to know for the cruise line. If you’ve never sailed before Virgin, this list can help make you a pro in no time…
Pack Some Red For Your Wardrobe
The signature color on Virgin Voyages is red. You’ll see it everywhere from the logo to the lighting around the ship to the uniforms of some crew members. But one thing you’ll want to do is bring a little red of your own — best if it’s in a snazzy outfit.
One big feature of a Virgin cruise is Scarlet Night. You may have seen ’80s or neon-themed parties on other lines. In a twist, Scarlet Night is where you wear your best red and the ship turns into a red-themed party. There’s red lighting everywhere, entertainers performing around the ship, and everyone is dressed up.
What you don’t want to do is feel out of the loop by leaving your red at home.
High Status on Another Line? See About a Match
One hard part of creating a new cruise line is getting customers that are loyal to another line to give it a shot. Since cruise lines give perks to customers that have sailed often, getting them to jump to try another is difficult.
To solve this, Virgin Voyages introduced “Experience Match.” If you’re someone with a high status on another line, then Virgin will provide a match that opens up the perks that the cruise line offers its own loyalty program guests. This can include things like bar credit, premium wi-fi, daily coffee credit, and more.
Now you will need to have fairly high status on another cruise line to get a match (for example, Platinum or higher on Carnival) so not everyone will be able to take advantage. But if you can, it’s a no-brainer.
Pay Attention to the Letter on Your Cabin Number
Finding your cabin on the ship can be a little confusing your first time sailing Virgin Voyages due to the numbering convention used.
First, instead of having odd numbered cabins on one side and even numbers on the other, the cruise line uses “A” for rooms on one side of the ship and “Z’ for the other side. Ships in the middle use “M.”
But if you are in room 5266A, there’s another room on the other side of the ship that’s 5266Z. And there could be a mid-ship room that’s 5266M. In other words, you need to pay attention to the entire room number, including the letter at the end.
Otherwise, it could be for some awkward conversations when you’re trying to open up the door to the wrong cabin late at night.
Reservations Are Tricky
When you’re on the ship, you’ll want to be thinking ahead of what you will do. The cruise line uses reservations for its sit-down restaurants and also for some shows. The available spots fill up quickly. If you wait until the day of a show or even just a couple of days before dinner, then you aren’t likely to get a spot.
That’s the bad news. The good news is there are ways to get around not having a reservation.
For shows, often the cruise line has the same performances multiple times during a cruise. So if you don’t see a spot available at first, look at the schedule for later in the cruise on the Virgin Voyages app to see if there are openings at another showtime.
As for restaurants, the cruise line leaves space open for walk-ins. Even if you don’t have a reservation, head down anyway to see if you can get a table. We did this twice during a four-day cruise and were seated immediately both times.
No Announcements, So Pay Attention
If you’re used to traditional cruise lines, one thing that might catch you off-guard is the lack of announcements. There’s no cruise director on the ship, so there’s not someone coming over the intercom every few hours to tell you what’s happening.
This also applies to notifications like when you can leave the ship when docked at a port of call. Instead, you simply need to keep an eye on the time and head down when the ship is scheduled to allow passengers off the ship — or when you see people already debarking.
For those that like having reminders, it can be a bit different. For those who get tired of the interruption of a full-ship announcement, it’s a nice change.
How to Use the Stairwells to Navigate
Many lines have hidden clues in cabin hallways to help you navigate. For instance, Norwegian Cruise Line uses the carpet design to point the way forward with fish swimming ahead or arrows pointing forward.
Virgin uses something similar. Look carefully and you’ll notice that the carpet in the stairwell/elevator areas is actually a different color. It’s red at the aft elevators, blue in the middle of the ship, and purple in the forward stairwell.
This way you can have an idea of where on the ship you are even if there are no windows or other clues to get your bearings.
Think of The Beach Club Port Stop as Two Days
If you sail from Miami, then your cruise will include a stop at The Beach Club. This is Virgin Voyages’ private destination on Bimini in The Bahamas. It features a huge pool area, plenty of spots to relax, and a wide stretch of white sand beach and electric blue water.
When you visit, you’ll only spend a day here. However, it can really be thought of as two days. Head out in the morning, and it feels like a relaxing beach resort. There aren’t a ton of people, the music is calm, and you have your run of the place. Lay in a hammock, swim on the beach, take a dip in the pool.
In the afternoon, things change a little. You can still find your place to relax, but the pool party starts up complete with a DJ, dancers from the entertainment team and dozens of inflatable floats. It’s a very different atmosphere.
Be Careful Booking a Room on Deck 8, Mid-Ship
If you are able to book a specific room on your cruise, there’s one spot we’d suggest you avoid at all costs — the middle of the ship on Deck 8.
Most of the time cruise lines are thoughtful about where they place cabins in relation to public spaces, but Virgin Voyages ships were built with a quirk. The Manor is a nightclub on the ship, and it takes up two decks — Decks 6 and 7. That means the roof of the hotspot is the floor of Deck 8 where there are cabins.
We were assigned a cabin here, and the bass from the nightclub reverberated through the walls, straight through the bed and seemingly right into our ear. Finally at about 1:30 a.m. on the first night, we went to the front desk to ask about changing rooms. Thankfully, the staff had another room and we moved immediately.
The better bet is just to avoid this spot on the ship unless you plan to be the one in the nightclub yourself. (You can see a deck plan here.)
Talk to “Chart Room” Desk for Faster Service
Every ship has a Guest Services desk (on Virgin Voyages it’s called Sailor Services) that can help you with any question you might have on the ship. This can cover anything from having to switch rooms due to being over the nightclub to fixing your onboard account.
However, the lines here — especially at the beginning and end of the cruise — can be long on any ship. That’s why Virgin Voyages also has a second location that many people don’t realize.
If you need help with something, you can also stop by the Chart Room, located on Deck 7. It’s not heavily advertised, but they are able to help with most questions, giving you a chance to get any issues taken care of without having to wait in line.
Internet Is Included, But Upgrade to Stream Video/Music
One great thing about the cruise is that a lot is included in the fare. This includes gratuities, all food, and wi-fi.
And truth be told, the wi-fi is solid. When we tested the speed, it only came in at 1.5 Mbps, but felt much faster. It also didn’t have issues with slowing down or dropping service as we’ve seen on other lines. The only drawback is that you can’t stream with the basic included wi-fi.
If you want to stream video or music, then you’ll need to upgrade. The cost is $15 per day and you can do it by the day or the entire trip. When we upgraded we reached speeds of around 6 Mbps and had no issues streaming such as buffering or lagging. It did take a few minutes of watching before the picture turned to sharp HD.
There’s no Keycard on Virgin, but The Band
If you’ve sailed other cruise lines, then you know that most have a credit card style room key. You use this to access your cabin, make purchases on the ship, and for disembarking.
Virgin Voyages uses something called The Band. Instead of a plastic card you have a stylish bracelet that you wrap around your wrist and keep on with the anchor clasp. If you don’t want to wear it on your wrist, you could also put it on a lanyard or just keep it in your pocket. It can be a little annoying as it wears a bit loose, but it is also nice not to have to dig into your pocket every time you want to get into the room.
Hot Tubs at the Back of the Ship Rarely Get Full
Want to have your own personal hot tub on the ship? It’s not really yours, but it may as well be.
The pool area on the ship can get crowded and it feels like there isn’t much seating either in the pool or around it. This includes the hot tubs. What we saw, however, was that during the cruise the two hot tubs at the back of the ship were largely forgotten. They were either empty or only had two people in them.
If you’re wanting a spot to relax and watch the sunset, it’s hard to beat this location.
More on Sailing Virgin Voyages:
- What to Expect on Virgin Voyages Compared to Other Cruise Lines (Differences, What to Know, & More)
- Virgin Voyages Live Blog: First Impressions of a Completely Different Cruise Line