Scarlet Lady - Review

The Scarlet Lady: A Review of Sir Richard Branson’s newest ship sailing out of Miami

The pitter-patter of little feet. The giggles of a baby at the table next to you. The piercing scream of a toddler whose cookie has disappeared because she ate it. These are sounds you’ll NEVER hear on the spectacular new ocean liner, The Scarlet Lady. That’s because children are not now and will never be permitted on Virgin Cruises’ ships. The marketing director assured me. “Never,” he said.

While this isn’t the BEST thing about the ship…okay, yes, it’s the best thing. I’m a foodie, a world traveler, a restaurant critic, and an absolute snob. The tag on my SUV says LDYMARY. Not joking. A toddler’s scream right before I take a well-deserved bite of my Beef Wellington is an event I truly despise. I haven’t been on a cruise in years because they typically leave something to be desired: privacy, quiet, quality dining, ambience, and elegance. Most cruise lines are missing these elements. These words and “cruise” just don’t seem to go together.  

However, surely there is a market for folks who don’t necessarily want go-carts, waterslides, human-sized chessboards, and ball pits on their cruise. Adults like theater, pub trivia, yoga, shuffleboard, bars, and restaurants (really good restaurants). Can’t we just have all of that without the wet toddlers and three-story rock-climbing walls?

It turns out we can.

I recently discovered I am not the only cruiser who wants a grown-up cruise.

Fortunately, Sir Richard Branson feels the same. You know, the guy who brought us Virgin Airlines where they give you pj`s and tuck you in?  Yeah, he’s the one we want designing a cruise ship for sure.

When I booked a Virgin cruise for my husband for a Christmas present (the man has everything), I began to research what to do, what to take, what to avoid, that sort of thing. I’m a writer. I’m a researcher. I’m a snob. Now, for the sake of this article NOT turning into a love letter about Virgin, let me break it into three do’s and three don’ts.  

Scarlet Lady: Do´s and Don´ts

Do upgrade to a rock star suite. 

You don’t have to get the BIGGEST one, though that’s a sweet terrace. But DO upgrade. They stock your room with booze, and the balconies are incredible. We ordered (free) room service to our suite to be delivered every morning. Coffee, fruit, and granola arrived every day at 8:00 a.m.

We ate it on the terrace of our room in our rock star robes after watching the sunrise. We didn’t have to book reservations for anything, our agent did it all for us. Dinner, shows, room service: she booked it all. The free drinks during happy hour alone (if you drink champagne as we do) will cover your upgrade.

Also, if it’s crowded around the pool (it wasn’t), there are two hot tubs and another bar on Richard’s Rockstar Deck, and non-rockstars aren’t allowed there. Check-in and that dreaded safety presentation is also a breeze.  Done personally by your agent and in your cabin on the TV.

Don’t upgrade to a mega rock star suite. 

They are about two grand more and not quite worth it, in my opinion. The regular rock star rooms are on the back of the ship which is a bit better. And quieter. The mega rock star suites are a bit bigger, but they are on the front of the boat, so unless you are wanting to feel like Rose in Titanic ALL of the time on your balcony, ride on the back with us where the wind won’t knock over your champagne. The view back there is spectacular and special lighting on the wake makes it even more special.

Do check out all the restaurants.

We didn’t even realize there was a galley (buffet) until the last day. We never missed it. Who wants a buffet when there are a dozen wonderful international servers waiting to take care of you! The diversity on the ship is truly a breath of fresh air. They love telling you where they are from and showing off their tattoos! Honestly, the CREW is what makes this experience. Go to the restaurants and meet them all!   

Pro tip: Elevenses are your friend. (Second breakfast. Look it up.😉)

Don’t panic that you are gaining weight.

As long as you stay out of the galley (buffet), you’ll be fine. The ship is so big that we walked it off every day! I was shocked to learn I only gained one pound when I got home! Eat and drink it all, and walk or dance it off!

Do schedule a tattoo for your last day if that’s your thing!

Squid Ink is incredible, and the artists are magnificent. My husband’s tattoo was big, beautiful, and bright and took about 90 minutes. He also said he almost went to sleep because the artist had such a light hand. If tattoos are not your thing, be sure to check out a show! The shows are only about an hour and are VERY high quality.

They are solid, contemporary artistic dance and theater combined with spectacular feats of strength and agility by world-class performers. I’ve lived in Vegas and London and been to dozens of shows there. These shows are good. Not just “good for being in a theater on a boat.”  I mean GOOD.

Don’t forget to take advantage of discounts that you might see online and sign up for Virgin’s email offers! 

We got a free $100 bar tab, and when we rebooked we got a free $300 one. When we booked for a friend, too, they gave us all free $500 ones. The drinks are not over-priced, and they were definitely cheaper than when we got off the boat and went drinking (glaring at you, Miami).   Don’t stick to beer and champagne. 

Try the cocktails at one of the MANY bars and pubs onboard.

When I researched the ship, I read reviews like, “Be careful on Scarlet Night, there are swingers everywhere” or “The Sex Show at night is too racy.” 

Oh my God, people. Every single person we met on board was as nice as anyone we knew, and NO ONE was creepy or racy! The “Sex” show is called “NSA: Never Sleep Alone” and it is hosted by an adorable “Sexologist” who encourages people to flirt and be more open to meeting people. It’s a dating workshop if anything. The raciest thing we saw was a hot gay couple kissing onstage. No complaints there!

Also, I saw a review that said, “Be sure to bring a bottle of water on the ship, as you can’t buy bottled water!” Dutifully, my husband and I got personalized water bottles and brought them, but we never used them!

Anywhere you go, someone will happily bring you a glass of ice water, and it doesn’t even taste like cruise water (or Florida water; if you know, you know.) Their filtration system must be a doozy. 

So if you’re considering a cruise, splurge and get a rock star suite on a Virgin ship. We’ll never cruise again with any other company. For example numbers: when we booked our second cruise, it was for five days/four nights in a rockstar suite, and the cruise was $2300 for the cabin.

It includes a $500 onboard credit for drinks, spa visits, tattoos, whatever. $2300. That’s about $450 per day. $225 per person.  For an awesome room with a huge balcony, multiple meals at multiple restaurants, a stocked mini-bar (they left us a litre of Belvedere and Bulleit), shows, ports of call, and a $500 booze credit. Cheaper than hotels and drinks and restaurants on land! (Again, glaring at you, Miami).

If you’ve ever wanted to be treated like a rock star, this is your chance.  I get the feeling these reasonable prices won’t last long. That’s the one reason we booked our next one so quickly. There’s so much more to tell, like the Shotctopus, trivia, fruit pizza, yoga, drinking games at Gunbae, and the hilarious custom room settings, but I hate ruining surprises, so check it out for yourself!