Richard Branson’s new cruise line, Virgin Voyages, will launch in late summer 2021.
I am a skeptic when it comes to cruises. Almost 20 years ago, my husband Mike and I made the terrible mistake of booking a budget cruise to Mexico from our home state of California for our honeymoon. I had hoped for romantic tranquility, sipping cocktails at the pool while gazing out to sea and, of course, into each other’s eyes.
Yeah, not so much. “Who Let The Dogs Out? Who? Who? Who? Who?” blasted out on speakers all over the ship, the pool was FREEZING and overflowing with screaming kids and bikini-clad partiers. The jacuzzi was non-operational, and I kid you not, someone announced, “Hairy Man Contest at the pool in 10 minutes!” over the loud speaker.
To my surprise there were no toiletries in the room, so we were forced to buy overpriced from the ship’s gift shop. Our beds … our HONEYMOON beds … were two rubber-topped narrow twins, and the non-fitted sheets practically flew off them if you moved. Ew ... Ew ... Ew. Yeah, you can imagine. It was NOT fun.
We clearly had no idea what to expect, and honestly, our travel agent should have known better. She didn’t take the time to educate us on the various TYPES of cruises available. She didn’t explain that 1. This was a budget party boat, and 2. Here’s what “budget” means on cruise lines.
We were naive then. But the experience left its mark. To this day, I’ve never gone on another cruise. I can’t even get myself to invest in a trip with cruise lines I KNOW are more luxurious. My rebellious self prefers to invest in independent travel. I’d rather go explore on my own terms.
But I finally bit the bullet: along with a fellow travel professional, I’m heading to the Caribbean in February 2022 to get a taste of the highly anticipated Scarlett Lady, the brand-spankin’-new flagship of the Virgin Voyages cruise line. I'm trying out the Fire and Sunset Soirées voyage.
What made me take the jump? Well, it’s Virgin. I kind of love everything that Richard Branson touches. Virgin Atlantic has always been our family's preferred airline when headed to the U.K.
You simply can’t compare Virgin Atlantic to the others who frequent those US-UK routes. Even in coach, you feel like you’re in first class. Branson has cast off the class-dividing culture of modern air travel, where us cheap bastards are treated like cattle. The thoughtful touches all over the plane, the roomier seats, the attentive service … for a girl who always hunts out the cheapest flights, I NEVER hesitate to pay a little more for Virgin.
I like Branson’s rebellious ways, pushing back against the travel mentality of herding cattle from one place to the next. I can’t wait to see what he does with Virgin Voyages.
He’s shaking up the way cruise lines do food, for example. “There’s a Virgin twist on everything you’ll see aboard the Scarlet Lady, which means there will be no stuffy formalities, boring buffets and no main dining rooms. Sailors are not going to want to leave our ship after they experience how we’ve designed our restaurants and tasted the dishes we are going to be serving up,” Branson said recently. He’s going gourmet, and he’s not sneaking in the extra charges you see on other cruise lines -- no upcharges to dine in the “nice” restaurants, thank you very much. And I bet his chefs won’t bat an eyelash at my high-maintenance food allergies.
But this might be the clincher for me: Virgin Voyages is supporting local exploration, not just on-ship experience. "We’ve teamed up with locals in each of our ports to reveal sides of places you’ve yet to explore — from the people who know the destinations best."
I am very tempted to just linger at the Beach Club at Bimini, Virgin Voyage's cherished spot in the Bahamas. It looks stunning. But knowing that I can step out of the "comfort zone" with a local? Yeah, that may have been what secured my spot on this ship.
Virgin Voyages is Branson’s first foray into the cruise industry. “Rebellious Luxe” probably best describes his brand. An innovative nod to the way cruise lines used to be. Targeting the adults-only crowd, with a rock n’ roll aesthetic, complete with a vinyl record store, a tattoo parlor, a drag show, and DJ-hosted dance clubs, there's no doubt that this is a party boat. A big part of me thinks, “Oh, Erica, what are you getting yourself into? This is SO not you.”
But Mr. Branson, only for you would I do this. I’m intrigued to see what you put together. Your ideas are always counter-cultural, and you have gained a reputation for over-delivering on luxury. I KNOW you’re not going to go budget on me and my clients.
I am not much of a party girl, but I sure do love being spoiled by the Virgin brand. Let's see whatcha got!
Ready to book? Give us a call. Virgin Voyages offers Caribbean, European, and Transatlantic Cruises. Here's a little taste of the Fire and Sunset Soirées to tempt you!