Mainstream cruise lines have never advertised an all-inclusive experience; however, within the past year, many lines have made changes to their product, from reducing the number of times that staterooms are serviced per day to charging for extra entrees in the Main Dining Room.
Virgin Voyages is a relatively new adults-only cruise line, first setting sail in August 2021. Her launch, however, was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, as she was initially slated to set sail in mid-2020.
They advertise "always included luxury," meaning that you get more included in your base fare than with other mainstream cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean or Carnival.
In one of their most recent marketing emails, Virgin Voyages called out other cruise lines by saying that while they might be cutting back, Virgin is giving you more.
"They're cutting back. We're giving you more"
"...don’t settle for cutting back to a once-a-day cabin-cleaning service, paying for a suite without exclusive dedicated support, or accepting packages that no longer include covering tips," reads an email sent out by Virgin's marketing team on September 19, "let us treat you to the kind of luxury cruise experience you deserve."
They even included a review written by Olivia Dullard of Miami: "Virgin really does it right. You get all the extras without the hidden charges making it an incredible value. I didn't feel like they had their hands in my purse. And they go the extra mile for everything. Never cruising with anyone else ever again."
Others have been outraged by extra hidden fees and cutbacks on other cruise lines
An angry dad recently took to TikTok to voice his frustration with Norwegian Cruise Line. TikTok user Moonie complained about the hundreds of extra dollars that they had to spend while onboard Norwegian Bliss for add-ons like internet access and Starbucks coffee, even though they had booked a suite within The Haven.
Moreover, other cruise lines -- like Royal Caribbean -- have reduced the amount of times that they service the staterooms each day. Back in February, they announced that rather than service standard cabins twice per day, cruise ship cabin stewards would only be visiting once. Guests, however, have a choice of whether they want the service to take place in the morning or afternoon.
Maggie M commented on a Royal Caribbean Blog discussion forum saying, "I, too, would miss the evening turn-down service with the compass (if they even print them anymore), and towel animals - especially if we took a nap during the day if it was a sea day or we decided to stay on the ship."
Another user, Twangster, thought the change was inevitable: "When you lose $43B USD there are bound to be service adjustments. It's well known they've had a hard time recruiting crew so yes, gratuity has increased as they've had to entice recruits with higher compensation."
Another change Royal Caribbean made was regarding lobster on formal nights; guests are no longer entitled to unlimited lobster tails, meaning that if you want more than one, you will be subject to an additional fee, which is currently $16.99.
Most recently, Celebrity Cruises made changes to their "All Included" package, as well as what's included if you book a suite within The Retreat. Effective October 4, 2023, gratuities will no longer be included with any Celebrity cruise fare. This means that the All Included fare will now only include a Classic Drink Package and Basic Wi-Fi.
Similarly, those booked within The Retreat will now have to pay for their gratuities, and they will no longer receive any onboard credit. Gratuities for The Retreat are $23 per person, per day.
What does Virgin Voyages include in their base fare?
One aspect of the Virgin experience that sets them apart from competitors is their approach to dining. You won't find a main dining room or buffet onboard any of their ships. Instead, all 20+ of their eateries -- ranging from relaxed casual venues to those featuring menus curated by Michelin star chefs -- are included.
Additionally, Virgin Voyages includes all essential drinks. While other cruise lines require you to either purchase a drink package or pay for each drink á la carte, Virgin includes beverages like still and sparkling water, non-pressed juices, sodas, teas, and even drip coffees.
It is no surprise that drink packages are some of the most expensive cruise add-ons. While the cost varies based on cruise line and selected package, non-alcoholic beverage packages can cost upwards of $30 per person, per day, such as Royal Caribbean's Royal Refreshment Package.
Hoping to stay connected while at sea? You can for no extra cost onboard one of Virgin's three ships. In comparison, Carnival Cruise Line charges $12.75 per day for their social plan. If you want the most inclusive option that allows you to do anything from send emails to video chat via Skype or FaceTime, you will have to be willing to pay $18.70 per day!
Moreover, you won't have to worry about paying for gratuities, either. On other cruise lines, this can easily add another $100 or more per person, depending on the length of your cruise and cabin category.
Disney Cruise Line, for instance, recommends $14.50 per person, per day. This means that if you're sailing on a 7-night cruise with four people, you can expect to pay another $406, in addition to the base fare.
If you're a fitness junkie, you will appreciate all of the included group fitness classes, too. Virgin offers things like yoga, meditation, cycling, HIIT classes, and more to keep you active throughout your journey.
Finally, all of the onboard entertainment options are available to you for no extra cost, whether it's an original stage production or lively evening party on the ship's top deck.
What isn't included with a Virgin Voyages sailing?
Despite including more than the average cruise line, Virgin does not offer an all-inclusive experience, so you will need to be prepared to shell out extra money on certain add-ons.
First and foremost are alcoholic beverages. While Virgin does include most non-alcoholic drinks in the cost of their cruise fare, they don't have any drink packages. Sometimes, however, you can score a deal in which they give you a certain amount of money that can be put towards your bar tab, effectively reducing the overall cost that you'll spend on drinks.
Shore excursions are not included, either, so if you want to book a fun tour for your day ashore, you will have to book that separately.
If you're looking for a day of pampering, that will cost you extra, too. Spa and salon treatments are not included in Virgin Voyages' base fare. That means you cannot get a relaxing hot stone massage or blowout without the cost being billed to your onboard account.
Did you know that you can get a tattoo while at sea onboard Virgin ships? Unfortunately, in order to leave your vacation with a permanent memory, you will have to pay. The minimum is pretty high, too, and starts around $250.
Is Virgin's more expensive base fare worth it?
If you are someone who values specialty dining and internet, the cost of a Virgin Voyages cruise may be worth it to you, but let's see how the pricing actually compares to other mainstream cruise lines.
At the time of writing, a 5-night cruise onboard Valiant Lady to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic and Bimini, Bahamas departing on June 7, 2024 starts at $2,074 for two people in an inside cabin.
This does not include any add-ons like shore excursions or spa treatments; however, it does include wi-fi, all dining options, and gratuities.
In comparison, a 5-night cruise onboard Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas departing on June 10, 2024 starts at $1,676.98 for two people in an interior room.
Gratuities cost an extra $160, and internet for Royal Caribbean ships usually costs around $20 per person, per day, meaning that these two add-ons alone add around $360, bringing the total cost to just around $2,030 without any specialty dining or non-alcoholic drink packages.
A 5-night Eastern Caribbean cruise onboard Carnival Sunrise that departs from Miami, Florida on June 15, 2024 costs $1,693.30 for two people in an interior stateroom. The gratuities will cost you an extra $160, and if you want the most inclusive wi-fi plan, you'll have to pay about $190 for that, too. This brings the cost to about $2,040.
Thankfully, Carnival is known for having some of the cheapest add-ons such as drink packages and specialty dining, but that will cost you more than the above price.
Do you think Virgin Voyages' is worth the extra cost? Let us know in the comments!