No one has ever accused Richard Branson of not being bold enough.
The English businessman, investor, and author is one of the world’s most famous purveyors of radical ideas, which have helped transform industries from music, to telecom, to hotels, and more.
His latest venture is another that is set to transform an industry being reborn post-COVID-19 pandemic, the industry. Brandon, fresh off a trip to space with another one of his ventures, Virgin Galactic, was on-hand in New York last month to help unveil Scarlet Lady, the first cruise ship from his new cruise line Virgin Voyages.
The ship, the first of four planned from Virgin, was delivered in February 2020, just before the pandemic forced the industry into a voluntarily shut-down period. Now, with pent-up demand for the cruise experience building, Virgin will welcome its first official guests (or Sailors as it refers to them) this month.
It’s a part of a new definition of luxury cruising, one that favors ease, personalization, and an adults-only experience. It’s a formula that Virgin hopes attracts both cruisers and non-cruisers alike. Here’s what guests can come to expect onboard:
Scarlet Lady debuts at over 900 feet long with a gross tonnage of 110,000 tons. To put that in perspective, Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, another cruise ship we have profiled, sails at about 228,081 gross tons and is close to 1,200 feet long.
Make no mistake, Scarlet Lady is a large cruise ship and offers that type of experience to its 2,770 passengers. However, the ship is designed to keep things intimate. No matter where you go on the ship, there’s a level of intimacy because of how the ship is designed, with smaller spaces occupying the majority of the ship and no main dining room.
The largest venue on board, the Red Room, could host around 900 people pre-COVID, a number that is now capped at around 60% capacity currently.
It’s an intimate experience, with small settings, onboard a large ship.
In terms of regions, Scarlet Lady is currently scheduled to welcome guests onboard on Oct. 6 for a 4-night cruise out of Miami. That sailing is the first in a schedule of Caribbean and Mexican sailings for the ship, which is scheduled to homeport in Miami for the foreseeable future.
Food and drink
Scarlet Lady sails with more 20 eateries onboard, offerings guests the kind of choices that rarely come during a vacation on the high seas, and more likely come during an urban escape. There are no surcharges for any of the restaurants, as Virgin’s all-inclusive fare covers any add-ons.
There is also no main dining room, instead guests can opt to have dinner at restaurants such as Razzle Dazzle, a striking black and white dining room that offers a menu focused both on vegan and vegetarian dishes, along with others for meat-eaters. Guests here will not just be treated to unique fare, but also unique entertainment, with a resident drag queen serving up quip between cocktails.
There’s also Gunbae, a Korean BBQ restaurant, the first one ever to be put on a cruise ship. A flameless grill in the middle of the table lets guests have the traditional Korean BBQ experience, something you’d never find in the middle of the ocean.
Guests can also learn onboard, too. Test Kitchen, a part restaurant and part cooking school, welcomes guests to a new world of spices and cooking skills, including inviting them to learn how to shake, mix, and whisk cocktails.
There’s also Pink Agave, a Mexican eatery that promotes a shared plate experience that goes back to the focus on socializing that Virgin Voyages is debuting with. It’s “elevated Mexican” with dishes inspired by Miami’s iconic food scene and an interior designed by Tom Dixon.
There are no run-of-the-mill cabins on Scarlet Lady—Tom Dixon, the iconic British fashion designer and creative director, helped design the suites, so you can be sure that each one comes with style, design, and a level of individuality you won’t find anywhere else.
Even the most basic cabin includes touches that will get guests excited, including a bed that transforms into a sofa, allowing sailors to entertain in their cabin. But what is really eye-catching on Scarlet Lady is just what is on offer in the higher suite categories.
The Massive Suite is just that…massive. At almost 2,200 square feet, the suite is big enough to live a full year in, with views just as big. The three-room suite includes a terrace with plenty of entertaining space and a hot tub, along with a personal music room that can transform into a second bedroom, and more. For context on just how massive the suite is, it’s Branson’s personal choice for when he comes aboard.
Just below the Massive Suite is the Fab Suite, a 950-square-foot offering that includes its own terrace, inside bar, and more. Virgin says that the Fab Suite is “for those who love to host,” and, if you’re hosting, you can do so with duel inside and outside showers.
At 833 square feet, the Posh Suite is the third highest category on the Scarlet Lady. Like its larger counterparts, the Posh Suite offers a champagne bucket style table on its terrace, along with an in-room bar and vinyl record player. Its bathroom includes a peek-a-view shower with an iridescent glass window.
The last in Scarlet Lady’s suite categories, the Gorgeous Suite offers 570-square-feet of living space, with those same peek-a-view showers, and massive European king bed in the bedroom.
Wellness and pools
Even with a heavy focus on socializing, and late nights for some guests, Virgin has also created a well-being paradise onboard the Scarlet Lady. So if you’re in need of a recovery, or just want to get a workout in, there are no shortages of options onboard.
The ship sports two different gyms—Build & Balance, a weighting and stretching space, along with Bike & Burn, a cardio-centric space.
The two spaces are almost adjacent to each other, giving sailors the chance to hop back and forth between the two.
For those who want to keep the socializing theme in their workout, Scarlet Lady also welcomes them to Training Camp, a group fitness space that offers complimentary group fitness classes including HIIT, yoga, and more.
The ship also features two distinct pools on its top deck.
The first sits in a wellness-focused area that Virgin is calling its WellBeing Space, an area that sits in the middle of Build & Balance and Bike & Burn.
The other is the Aquatic Club, which, aside from jacuzzis and a heated pool, also features its own bar.
For those who want a pure spa-experience, the ship’s Redemption Spa, an area of tranquility onboard. Virgin describes the experience as “get dirty in the mudroom, let the sauna cleanse you, or spend an entire afternoon floating from hot stone massage to seaweed wrap until you’ve aged backwards.”