Scarlet Lady, the first ‘ladyship’ from new cruise line Virgin Voyages. is stylish and innovative, discovers Liz Jarvis
From the moment you walk into the atrium of Scarlet Lady to be greeted by a DJ spinning vinyl, you know this isn’t going to be a usual cruise experience. The vibe is laid-back beach-lovers cool, and the crew are all ready to give you the time of your life, with super effusive welcomes at every turn. Reserved Brits may find it a little unsettling to be greeted with so much enthusiasm, particularly after a heavy night, but you soon become used to the fact that this is no ordinary ship.
All the restaurants on Scarlet Lady are high concept and beautifully designed. My dining companions, all carnivores, seemed to enjoy cooking their own meat at Gunbae, the Korean bbq, which also serves excellent Soju cocktails; I was very impressed with my vegan breakfast at the ‘veggie-forward’ eaterie, Razzle Dazzle, where everything was freshly made, delicious and instagrammable. This is where you will also find the drag brunch, where you can be roasted (with comedy insults) by the ship’s resident drag queen.
The bars, too, are achingly hip, and taking selfies in the shimmering entrance to The Manor nightclub is practically compulsory. There’s also a Japanese-style karaoke room, The Groupie, and bars including Champagne lounge Sip, and On the Rocks, as well as the Draught House, a local tap room with curated drafts.
Everything about this adults-only ship is geared up for partying, but there’s a strong focus on wellbeing, too. The Redemption Spa is blissfully serene, an enchanting haven to cocoon yourself on sea days.
In addition, the ship features a massive gym, B-Complex, which offers everything from strength and yoga training to cycle and cardio workouts, plus a big running track.
As with Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Voyages is doing something different and innovative, for which it has to be applauded. There are some things that don’t quite work: it’s slightly disconcerting to walk into your cabin and find a Swedish-style sofa instead of a bed, for example (it’s converted every night, which seems like a lot of extra work for the attendants), and a rail and curtain instead of a wardrobe.
While the Rock Star suites are glamorous, the bathrooms in the lower grade cabins are rather compact. Still the hammocks on the balconies look cool, although with gale force winds at Dover, it wasn’t the right time to try out mine – in the Med or Bahamas it would be a different story. The main swimming pool isn’t very big, but perhaps it’s anticipated the Sailors (that’s what Virgin calls passengers) will spend more time working out
and chilling than actually swimming during the day. Or perhaps they’ll be getting inked at the tattoo parlour, the first at sea; I know I was tempted.
But there is a lot to recommend this new ship and cruise line, not least for its commitment to greener cruising: no single-use plastics, no buffets, so as to minimise food waste (other cruise lines, please take note), using new technology to reduce fuel consumption, and offsetting to achieve carbon neutrality for its direct emissions footprint. In the current climate, with the emphasis on environmentally friendly travel, these are all big pluses. But it will be interesting to see just how Scarlet Lady evolves.
A six-night package, including a five-night round-trip sailing from Miami and an overnight hotel stay pre-cruise, departing on 17 September, costs from £1,399pp, including flights
(020 3993 2539; iglucruise.com).