Let me first say that I had sworn off cruises forever. FOREVER! My last cruise was on Carnival Cruise Lines. We went to Honduras, Cozumel and probably somewhere else. It wasn't so much of the cruise stops as it was the condition of the ship and the quality of the food. I was tired of tiny rooms, rusted bathrooms, 1970s disco décor and the subpar quality of the food. I found myself eating a burger everyday because the burgers tasted the best, consistently. Cruises are like floating resorts. I've been on Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line too. I feel the same about all three. So, I decided that if I wanted to go to a resort, from now on, I would just fly to one.
But, Virgin Voyages has changed my mind. It's still a floating resort. But, the newness of the ship is the first thing that caught my eye. There were a lot of room options. You can go from an inexpensive inside room with no window to an expensive penthouse suite. I landed somewhere in the middle but closer to the penthouse in a Brilliant Suite. Now, with any suite it comes with automatic Rockstar Status. Think of it as Faster to the Fun on Carnival. We picked our arrival time in advance, dropped our luggage off at the entrance, skipped the general check in line and headed straight to the Rockstar Check-In. They give you a black bracelet that's a room key and connected to your credit card on file. You are invited to drink all the Moet you want from 5 pm - 6 pm on Richard's Rooftop everyday. From there, your room is already ready and I was pressed to see it. It was huge!
The room is the biggest room I've ever stayed in on a cruise. No more spinning around in place in the shower. No more stepping over luggage. The shower had two shower heads and was big enough to fit two people comfortably. There was a private water closet. And the sink had enough space to fit all my products. But, one thing about the shower, there is a window that you can see out and in. So, travel with someone that you don't mind showering in front of. The bed was comfortable and faced the balcony. The suite comes with a complimentary stocked bar, cocktail making kit and an assortment of cocktail glasses. We asked to switch out a couple bottles of the alcohol we don't drink for the alcohol we do. We also requested lime juice and simple syrup. Not only were our requests fulfilled, we were surprised with fresh whole limes too. Every balcony comes with the infamous red hammock, that is very sturdy might I add. The room is controlled by a tablet. There is a cool selection of movies and TV shows. You can store your luggage under the bed. And the bonus is that the alcohol is yours to keep. We drank one bottle out of the 10 and took the rest home. Unlike Carnival, there is no laundry room. So, you have to request a steamer and they give you about an hour to use it.
Virgin Voyages is filled with restaurants. My favorite restaurant was Extra Virgin. The pasta was fresh. The steak was the best. Everything was so good. Gunbae is a good experience for Korean BBQ. Pink Agave is their take on Mexican food. The Wake is an upscale steak restaurant that was really good. I tried bone marrow for the first time. It was an interesting texture but tasty. I consider The Galley to be the cafeteria. But, they have waiters who provide table service and manned food stations. I'm not a breakfast person so I ordered ramen every morning. However, their french toast, omelets, smoked salmon among other options were delicious. And you can order as much as you want at all the food places. The service is really good and no tipping is allowed, as tips are already included in the total cost. We didn't try Test Kitchen or Razzle Dazzle. Next time.
The Scarlet Lady ship is a dream of cruise ships. The colors are appealing and electric. The style is modern. There are nooks and crannies everywhere of things to do. They have private karaoke rooms, a casino with $5 tables, a high stakes poker room, theaters, a club, game area, inconspicuous bars, random live performances, tattoo parlor (all tattoos start at $250) and a shopping area with high end items. Of course there is a gym and a pool or two. I'm positive I didn't see the whole ship. It was just so much. We enjoyed a whiskey tasting for $25. At the end, we were surprised with the $25 going towards a bottle of whiskey. We learned how to play Texas Holdem. We ran into a cocktail making class. It was cocktail making and photography. The drinks weren't that good. But, Ryan, the host, was so hilarious and shady that he made the class fun. And they had setups and ideas for us to get the best photos. Really nice experience!
Scarlet Lady has a Scarlet Night on the second night of the voyage. Everyone wears red (I wore black) and the party moves around the ship. I participated in the first part of the night, which was dancing to a DJ in some part of the ship I hadn't seen up until that point. Then the party moved outside to the pool. I don't know what happened at the pool, or the after party, or the after after party. But, from what I heard, it gets real ADULT.
The stops we had were Key West and Bimini. Key West is blah to me. There are a bunch of bars and small restaurants. It's an old beach town. I thought of something different to do and that was to find the original key lime pie. Kermit's Key West Lime Shoppe claims to be the originator of key lime pie. I tried it. Glad others have taken to torch and ran with it. It was so tart that I couldn't get it down. Trash. I did try their chocolate dipped key lime pie on a stick and that was much better. I also had a Key Lime Colada from Fat Tuesday. That was pretty good. Bimini is in the Bahamas. I thought it was just a cruise port but it's the westernmost district of the Bahamas and the closest point in the Bahamas to the mainland United States. We ventured to the Beach Club there. It was beautiful clear water, just like I like it. The waves were a bit rough. The food is awful. And the drinks are bad. But, the pool side was lit. It was 20 million people in the pool with the DJ throwing a full-on party mid day. I'm a beach girl so the pool side didn't entice me. However, they were having a ball.
Would I do another cruise? Well, yes! Only on Virgin Voyages though. Their food options and attention to sanitation was great. The suite was amazing. The crew members were so friendly and helpful. The condition of the ship was well maintained. I wouldn't sail to Key West again. And they could definitely upgrade their towels and pillows. But, overall, Virgin Voyages has changed my mind.
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