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10 things I loved and hated about my first Virgin Voyages cruise

Nicole hero

On any vacation, you are bound to experience things that you loved and things that you wish you could have changed, and cruises are no exception. Sailing on a new-to-me cruise line is exciting, as I get to experience everything with fresh eyes, and I don’t always know what to expect.

I recently returned from a 4-night cruise to Key West and Bimini onboard Virgin Voyage’s Scarlet Lady. Virgin Voyages is an adults-only cruise line and is known for their trendy, sleek, and modern cruise ships.

Before my Virgin sailing, I had heard reviews that raved about the cruise line and others warning others about what it was actually like to sail onboard, so I was intrigued to see what the experience would be like firsthand.

Here are 10 things I loved and hated about my first Virgin Voyages cruise.

Loved: The easy boarding process

Scarlet Lady Boarding

Prior to embarkation, I was expecting the boarding process to be one of the things I hated. Now, I’m still not sure if we just got lucky or if our experience is how it is for all Virgin cruises. 

Much like other cruise lines, we needed to go into the cruise app and fill out information prior to boarding. This information included things such as passport details, emergency contacts, addresses, and more. 

However, while they do utilize boarding times, there weren’t many to choose from, and that is because Virgin Voyages offers late check outs to their cruisers, allowing you to stay onboard until 10:30am on disembarkation day. That means that the boarding times for new passengers don’t start until later in the afternoon. You also don’t get any type of sail pass or luggage tags to bring with you to the terminal. 

I was expecting there to be some chaos, as there was little information given prior to arriving. However, once we arrived, we were able to either carry our luggage on the ship or drop it off with the porters, who would fill out a luggage tag for us. We were on the ship within 15 minutes! Virgin Voyages truly made the embarkation process one of the easiest I’ve experienced.

Hated: The small and crowded pools

Scarlet Lady Pool

One of the most common complaints about Scarlet Lady is the small and cramped pools. For a ship that can carry 2,770 passengers, I was surprised to see only two pools, both of which were tiny. We immediately knew that these two pools would not accommodate the amount of cruisers onboard. 

We tried to go to the pool twice on our sailing, and both times it was so crowded that those in the pool were basically standing shoulder-to-shoulder with those around them. We even tried sitting on the sun shelf at one point and just immediately felt disgusted after counting 45 other people in the pool at the same time. 

There also was just a small number of pool chairs and seating options around the pool, so if you arrived after 9am you weren’t likely to find a good spot to sit. 

Another issue we ran into was the flooring around the pool deck. It was made of a material that was almost burning hot in the sun. We felt like we burned our feet when we tried to walk to the pool without sandals on. You can forget trying to walk to the bar or towel stands barefoot; it was that uncomfortable. We were disappointed that they didn’t put more effort into their pool decks.

Loved: The experience match offer

Scarlet Lady Coconut

After we booked our sailing, I noticed that Virgin Voyages was offering status-matching programs for certain tiers on other cruise lines. Named their experience match offer, we were lucky enough to be included in their Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society tier matching, which gave us some great upgrades for our cruise. 

After qualifying, we got an email explaining that we had access to Virgin’s Deep Blue Extras program. While this program included a large list of extras, there were only a few that we participated in. 

Since both my husband and I qualified, we each got an extra $100 Bar Tab for our cabin to help cover extra drinks such as cocktails, specialty coffees, and even fresh coconut water. We also got the upgraded Premium Wi-Fi, which allowed us to connect two devices at the same time. 

We didn’t end up using the enhanced boarding, dedicated sailor services support onboard, laundry service, or the exclusive sail away hour, but it was great to have so many options included.

Hated: The lack of entertainment options

Scarlet Lady Octopus

One of my favorite things about sailing on a cruise ship is knowing that there are plenty of entertainment options at any given time. We were disappointed when we got on Scarlet Lady to realize that there were only a few headline performances, which often were repeated on our short sailing. 

We only ended up going to two entertainment shows on our 4-night sailing and ended up having a lot of downtime trying to figure out how to spend our time onboard. While there were plenty of activities you could partake in across the ship, like the arcade, we wished that there had been more shows available to watch.

Loved: The all-inclusive price

Save Water Drink Champagne

While the initial cost of sailing onboard Virgin Voyages had kept me away in the past, I quickly realized that the price was much more all-inclusive than other cruise lines I’ve sailed with. 

Included in your cruise fare are accommodations, essential drinks, food at over 20 venues, standard Wi-Fi, gratuities, and entertainment. When we booked, we also had a promotion for a $300 bar tab.

We didn’t need to spend extra money to purchase a drink package, book specialty dining, or pay for internet onboard, saving us hundreds of dollars. When sailing on other cruise lines, the price you pay when you book the cruise is almost never the price you end up paying. It was great to not have to constantly be adding on different packages to enjoy our cruise.

Hated: The confusing cruise ship layout

Scarlet Lady Hallway

While the design of Scarlet Lady was impressive, I was quickly surprised by the layout after boarding. Oftentimes, cruise ships will utilize the center of the ship for gathering spaces and main points of interest. Scarlet Lady, however, used the sides of the ship for venues, shops, and dining.

The layout of the ship was quite confusing, and we often found ourselves running into dead ends and needed to backtrack to find the venue we were looking for. The signage on the ship was minimal, and oftentimes we didn’t know what side of the ship, or even what deck, we were on. Their fan-favorite pizza venue was tucked away in a dead end that took us a while to find, for example.

There were a lot of venues that we were still finding on our last day because they were tucked away in obscure hallways that felt like they weren’t meant for cruise passengers.

Loved: The quality of the dining options

Scarlet Lady Pink Agave

Knowing that Virgin Voyages includes all of their dining venues in their price, I was very curious to see what kind of dining options they had onboard their ships. With other cruise lines often having you pay an upcharge for their better quality restaurants, I wasn’t sure what the quality of the included food would be onboard. 

Over the course of our cruise, we enjoyed their signature Italian, Mexican, and steakhouse restaurants. Each one was similar to those upcharge restaurants on other cruise lines, and we were amazed that we didn’t have to pay anything extra to enjoy them. 

We also ate at the Galley, which consists of eight quick service vendors; The Pizza Place, which featured made-to-order artisan pizzas; Lick Me Till… Ice Cream with fresh scooped flavors; and the Social Club for warm pretzels with cheese and chicken wings.

Hated: The lack of a buffet

Scarlet Lady Pizza

While the quality of the food onboard exceeded our expectations, I did find myself missing the typical cruise buffets at times. While the grab-and-go options, along with The Galley were great, I missed the ease and variety of options that buffets provide. 

For instance, the last evening onboard we didn’t want to get dressed up to go to a sit-down restaurant and ended up back at The Pizza Place for dinner. 

While the pizza was good, it did have me missing themed buffet dinners that I’ve enjoyed in the past. The options in The Galley were the closest thing to a buffet, but each vendor offered the same few options each day, and we had already eaten the items that appealed to us enough times. I know that cruise buffets are a hot-button topic amongst cruisers, but this sailing reconfirmed that I am a fan of them.  

Read more: Why you should eat dinner in the buffet

Loved: The modern cabins


We booked the cheapest cabin available, which was an interior cabin. Called The Insider on Virgin ships, this cruise cabin had no windows and was located in the middle of the ship on Deck 10. Not only did we get lucky with our room location, as we were able to access it from both the starboard and port sides of the ship, but the room itself blew us away. 

When sailing in interior cabins in the past, I often found them to be cramped and dingy. Immediately upon entering our cabin for the first time, I was impressed by the size and layout. It felt larger than any other interior cabin I’d been in before and had more than enough space for the two of us sailing. 

I mean, when was the last time you could easily walk around both sides of your bed in an interior cabin? Not only the layout but the modern design and technology included in this room made it a wonderful experience. 


The lights and television were all controlled from the provided tablet, and they had preset options to change the lighting in the room depending on what mood you were in. T

These rooms also featured an electronic door sign controlled from the inside that allowed your cabin steward to know if you didn’t want to be disturbed or if you needed your cabin serviced.

Hated: The Virgin Voyages app

Scarlet Lady App

Widely known amongst those who have sailed on a Virgin Voyages ship, the app is maybe the worst part of the cruising experience. The app was confusing to navigate, with you oftentimes having to go back to the home screen to get to a different part of the app. 

With most of the dining venues requiring reservations, cruisers relied on the app for bookings. This process was so confusing that the guest services team needed to help many cruisers book their dinner reservations shortly after embarking. 

The app would also crash randomly when using it, and we experienced many bugs while on it. Probably the most frustrating was that it would send you multiple duplicate notifications for upcoming reservations. 

With a cruise line that relies so heavily on technology, you would hope that their app offers a smoother experience.

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