Never sailed on Virgin Voyages and not quite sure what to expect? Maybe you’ve seen the advertisements and weren’t sure exactly how it compared to other major cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean or Norwegian.
Or maybe you saw that it was adults only and wanted to know more before you spend your hard-earned money on sailing a relatively new cruise line?
So what’s Virgin Voyages like? How is it different from other lines? And what else should you know before you sail? Below, we dive into these questions and give you the real scoop of everything about the cruise line.
How Is Virgin Voyages Different Than Other Cruise Lines?
Trying to explain all the differences between Virgin and more traditional cruise lines is a challenge. Put bluntly, there are a lot of changes both big and small.
Let’s start with being adults only. That actually means much more than simply there are no kids running around the ship.
Instead, everything about the cruise can be tailored to adult tastes. Entertainment on the ship is more mature, such as drag shows in the nightclub. Many events go on until later at night than on a normal cruise. The food offered is more adventurous and upscale (though traditional options are available). The amenities offered around the ship are also different. Instead of waterslides and putt-putt, it’s yoga classes, tattoo parlors, and fitness equipment.
Along with these changes, Virgin also seems to have taken a hard look at traditional things in cruising and made changes that will appeal to many. For instance, the cruise director, art auctions, and roving photographers are out. Instead of a buffet where everyone serves themselves, the cruise line offers a food hall with a number of spots to eat where food is either prepared as you order or plated for you if already made.
There’s no main dining room or formal night. Instead, Virgin Voyages has several different sit down restaurants that are all included with your fare. Gratuities are included in your fare as well, as is wi-fi service.
Bottom line: It’s much more of an all-inclusive feel on the ship, with more that aims to cater to adults that you simply wouldn’t find on other lines.
What’s Included on Virgin Voyages?
One of the big differences we mentioned above is that a number of items that are typically an extra charge on a cruise are included in your fare. Of course, your room, food, and entertainment on the ship are all included. But so are the following items:
- All restaurants on the ship
- Crewmember gratuities
- Basic non-alcoholic drinks, including soda
- Basic wi-fi
- Fitness classes
What you will still have to pay out of pocket for are things like casino gambling, spa treatments, shore excursions, and alcoholic drinks. Still, between food, gratuities, and wi-fi alone, the included items add up to hundreds of dollars per passenger.
What’s the Crowd Like Onboard?
Step onto the ship and you’ll likely notice that your other passengers overall are a little different than on some other lines. Compared to most lines, we think that Virgin Voyages sees passengers that skew younger and a bit more fashionable.
One thing you don’t have to worry about is fitting in. While marketing for Virgin seems to focus on the “cool” factor with lots of beautiful and trendy people, there are all sorts of people on the ship — young, old, black, white, beautiful and not-so-beautiful, gay, straight.
Overall, the crowd seems very inclusive and everyone was friendly as you’d expect on a normal cruise.
Is There a Difference Between Ships?
Anyone who has sailed before knows that so much of your cruise is actually spent onboard the ship. In many ways, the ship is the actual main destination of your cruise, not the ports of call.
Typically there is a major difference between newer and older ships. However, since Virgin Voyages is still a new line, it only has three ships (with a fourth on the way). These vessels all have the same layout. So whether you are on Scarlet Lady, Valiant Lady, or Resilient Lady, you’ll have a similar experience.
It also means you don’t have to worry about picking the right ship for your cruise. You really only have one option.
What’s the Atmosphere Like on the Ship?
Every cruise line has its own personality, and Virgin Voyages is no different. In our view, the atmosphere definitely tends to be more modern and a bit more “cool” than what’s seen on other lines. If Instagram built a cruise ship, it might look a bit like Virgin.
There’s a lot of use of color (especially lights) to set the mood for different spaces — even down to the wake coming off the back of the ship.
Around the ship are lots of seating and daybeds built for two, which combined with the red you see everywhere, adds to the “sexiness” of the cruise ship.
In fact, we found that most often the atmosphere can change depending on time of day. During most of the day, the atmosphere seems to focus more on relaxation and wellness. There are yoga classes, the vibe is relaxed, and generally slow-paced.
In the late afternoon and evening, things change up a bit with the evening programming that’s more focused on entertainment and partying, including Scarlet Night when everything is doused in red light and the nightclub can go until 3 a.m.
One other note: Overall, we found the staff to be a step above what’s on other cruise lines. Generally any cruise staff is going to be upbeat and friendly. On Virgin Voyages, it simply seemed more genuine and as if the staff had a strong camaraderie between each other. It’s hard to explain, but it was a feeling of the staff being happy you were there.
What Are the Cabins Like?
As you’d expect given the atmosphere on the ship, that “cool” factor extends to the cabin. You can expect the layout of the cruise cabin to be similar to other lines. You’ll have your bed, the bathroom, closet/storage, and balcony (with a hammock swing) if you choose that room type.
But cabins also have some upgraded touches. In a small (but loved) perk, Virgin offers a carafe of water and glasses. That means you don’t have to bring or buy bottles of water or drink out of the bathroom faucet just to get a swig of water in your cabin.
There are also some higher-end touches. In the cabin shower, there’s a rainfall showerhead included, instead of just the sprayer on the end of a wand. Your room is controlled by a tablet that acts as the remote control and can be used to dim lights, and even activate different colors to set the mood. Of course, if you don’t want to use the tablet, manual controls and a TV remote are also offered.
Bottom line: Much of the cabin will be familiar, but with some upgraded features that make it feel nicer than the average cruise room.
What Is The Band?
If you’ve cruised before, it was likely on a line that has a credit card style room key that served to open your room, check you on and off the ship, and charge items to your onboard account.
On Virgin Voyages, you have “The Band” instead. This is a stylish little bracelet (complete with an anchor clasp) that holds a gray tag. This serves the same function as the room keycard. You swipe it on your door sign to unlock the room. It’s scanned when you come and go on the ship, and it’s scanned whenever you make a purchase onboard.
It’s a bit easier than having to dig out your card each time to need it, but it does have a tendency to want to come off occasionally.
What Sort of Entertainment Is There on the Ship?
You’d expect that a ship focused on adults might have different entertainment, and in this case, you’re right.
First, the biggest difference we noticed is that Virgin doesn’t offer a traditional large theater that seats hundreds and hundreds at one time. Instead, they have smaller venues. As a result, there aren’t the big production shows like you see elsewhere.
Instead, the shows are more intimate in crowd size, but still feature amazing talent. One show we say was an acrobatic program between a red team and blue team that features climbing a 25-foot pole in the middle of the stage with no harness, flips after being launched in the air on a see-saw, juggling, and more.
Other shows included a mentalist and comedian with a quick-witted sense of humor that was able to make off-color jokes since everyone was adults. Virgin also had a resident drag queen with several performances during the cruise.
Are Drinks Included? How Much Do They Cost?
So much is included on your cruise, but one area that isn’t — alcoholic beverages. Virgin Voyages does charge for these, but there are a couple of things to know.
First, when it comes to cost the menu prices range from about $10-14 depending on the drink. We ordered some simple drinks (Moscow mule and a mojito) that were only $9. One nice thing is that because gratuity is included, the menu price is what you pay. There is no additional tip tacked on.
As well, Virgin doesn’t have drink packages. Instead they have a “Bar Tab” that’s credit toward drinks. Depending on your booking, you can get this included in your trip. During our cruise we booked and had $300 already included, so drinks were on the house.
How Does Food Work on the Cruise? Is it Good?
One thing you’ll like about Virgin Voyages is that all food on the ship is included. There are no extra charges for some restaurants.
The dining onboard can be thought of in two groups. First, there is The Galley. While the ships don’t have buffets, The Galley is a large dining hall with a number of different stalls serving different foods. There’s a burger spot, a taco spot, ramen/noodle bar, a sushi area, salad area, dessert spot and more. All of these spots are either grab and go or you simply wait a few minutes while they prepare your meal.
Then there are a number of sit-down restaurants serving anything from upscale Mexican to Italian, steak, and more. These spots typically require reservations (though walk-ins are welcome) and fill up quickly. It’s your choice where to eat, and you can dine at whatever time you are able. There is no assigned seating or dining rooms like on many other cruise lines.
To us, the food was solid to very good. The Galley offers a lot of options, whether you want simple (burger and fries) to more adventurous (sushi, ramen). However, the sit-down restaurants are a step above. We especially enjoyed Pink Agave, the upscale Mexican restaurant where everything was phenomenal.
What’s Good About Cruising Virgin Voyages?
There’s a lot that’s different about Virgin Voyages, and we think that’s what makes it a great cruise line to sail if you’re an adult looking for a getaway.
For one, we think the cruise line earns high marks in reinventing what a cruise can be. If you’re someone that’s been turned off by some of the “kitsch” in cruising, then cruising Virgin will be refreshing. There’s no line dancing on the pool deck or roving photographers or overly-excited cruise director.
As well, by including many things with the cruise, the headache of being nickeled and dimed around the ship is gone. Essentially the only things you’ll pay for onboard are alcohol, spa treatments, and gambling.
Finally, by catering to adults Virgin has shifted the design of everything from the ship to food to entertainment to more mature tastes that are more appealing to many.
What Are the Downsides of Cruising Virgin Voyages?
There’s a lot to like about Virgin, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. So what should you know that’s not so good?
Our biggest complaint is that the pool area seems small given the size of the ship. There are two pools, but the main pool only had seating for a couple of hundred people around it that seemed to fill up quickly when at sea.
As well, the reservation system for restaurants needs work. During our cruise we found that reservations were completely booked days in advance, yet when we went down to see if there was any space for walk-in, the restaurants had plenty of open tables. (We were seated immediately.)
We will also say that compared to other mass market lines with mega ships, there aren’t near as many things to do as you see elsewhere. For instance, there’s no roller coaster, go-kart track, zipline, rock-climbing wall or the like. That’s by design as these are largely included to appeal to kids and teens on the ship. However, if you’re someone that likes to be more active, you might be wanting more things to do.
Is Virgin Voyages Right for Me?
Having sailed the line recently, we think there is a lot for passengers to like about the cruise line no matter who you are. As mentioned, we saw all types on the ship from older couples to bachelorette parties. And the appeal is broad.
Overall, the crowd seems to skew younger — and more upscale — than most cruises. The atmosphere — ranging from the vibe on the ship to food to entertainment — definitely caters more to adult tastes. We think who would love the cruise line the most would be a couple from 30-60 years old celebrating an anniversary, special occasion, or simply wanting a romantic trip away. That, however, also casts too narrow a net as we saw all sorts having a great time.
In fact, outside of families, we have a hard time pinpointing who the cruise line wouldn’t appeal to. Personally we were worried that the cruise would be too trendy and cool for us to feel comfortable (there is a tattoo parlor onboard, after all), but that wasn’t the case at all. Instead, it was a great time with a lot of changes made to the traditional cruise to make it more appealing.