Last week, I introduced you to the Virgin Voyages experience and gave the lowdown on accommodations and cuisine choices. If you missed it, you can read about it HERE (but come back to this blog to get the rest). This week, I’ll fill in the gaps with entertainment, spa, private beach club, insider tips, and my opinion on the hits and misses of this new cruise line experience.
One of the somewhat stressful things about making reservations in advance for shows is that you might miss out if they fill up too quickly. Not to worry, some of the more popular shows are offered at least twice during the voyage, so if you miss it one night, you can catch it on another night. I hate to admit it, but we only saw a couple of shows during our cruise. Most entertainment happened late at night, and I’m an early riser, so I couldn’t stay awake that long! We missed the Untitled DanceShowPartyThing, and Pajama Party under the stars, which I had heard were a lot of fun.
Duel Reality was a really incredible cross between West Side Story, Cirque du Soleil, and a cheerleading competition. I won’t spoil the story, but I will say the death-defying acrobatics and energetic performances were nothing short of spectacular!
“Scarlet Night” was held on the second night of the voyage. It’s a ship-wide party that starts around 9pm in the Rotunda (curved staircase mid-ship) with performances by the cast (where a bunch of dancers just suddenly appear), and the party roams around the ship and ends up on the pool deck. Everyone wears a “splash of red.” Even the lighting (including the elevators) takes on a reddish hue. You just kind of follow the party all over the ship and ultimately to the pool deck where there is dancing among a giant inflatable octopus, among other things. Be sure to take your Instagram pic in the sparkling tunnel at The Manor nightclub early in the evening as the lines get pretty long the later it gets.
During the day, you’ll often see pop-up music performances throughout the ship, and we were lucky to be at the right place at the right time. The one we saw ended up being a type of puppet show with props and ended in being gifted a homemade chocolate chip cookie). Super fun!
The Redemption Spa was a nice respite from the sometimes craziness of the rest of the ship. Before your spa experience, you can utilize hydrotherapy (steam room with mud, sauna, cold and hot plunge pools, etc.) to open up your pores. I had the rejuvenation treatment with seaweed wrap, scrub, and massage. I slept better that night than I have in years!
One of the stops on our cruise was at VV’s Beach Club in Bimini. It’s not a private island like some cruise ships have, but rather a private club. The ship docks all day in Bimini, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy the beach club and fit in an excursion if you like. The club has two huge pools and a private beach with gorgeous Bahamian blue water and soft white sand. There are plenty of free beach chairs, umbrellas, and couches to hang out on, as well as cabanas (which you reserve at a steep cost), so don’t feel like you have to get there early. There is a live DJ, and tons of animal pool floats early in the afternoon for a lively pool party. Lunch consisted of Caribbean-inspired dishes like banana leaf steamed red snapper, watermelon and jicama salad, and rum cake with guava sauce. After dark, they have a beach party bonfire.
Rockstar suite guests have a butler who can get them on the list of “sold out” things.
Right before sail away, they offer everyone complimentary bubbly between 6-7pm with a massive party on the pool deck with a rock band. As soon as reservations open up on the app (45 days or so before your sailing), make as many reservations as possible for dinner, shows, Mixology, and exercise classes. The Mixology and the bungee classes fill up the fastest. They only offer a limited number of spots ahead of time, so if you don’t get this done before boarding, be sure to do so once you are close enough to tap into the ship’s wi-fi. There is drawer space under the bed (and room to hide your luggage under there, too). Some people didn’t realize that until AFTER their cruise! Luckily, I wasn’t one of them. Disembarkation is super easy and relaxing. You don’t have to set your luggage out the night before, just select a later disembarkation time on the app well in advance of your cruise, and then enjoy a relaxing breakfast on the last day, followed by simply walking off the ship with your luggage. Easy peasy!
If I had to summarize my experience on the ship, I’ll point out what worked for me and what didn’t this way:
• Lots of variety of healthy food choices: Gluten-free and vegan options were plentiful
• The Galley – a food court (tableside dining with lots of variety and quick service). Tacos, bento boxes, sandwiches, noodles, breakfast all day, homemade popsicles, and delicious sweets
• Test Kitchen was a fantastic dinner experience (get the wine or cocktail pairing – it really enhances the meal)
• French toast burger for breakfast in The Galley. I swore I was only gonna eat half, and I couldn’t stop eating it!
• No extra charge for specialty dining
• The wi-fi is included and works very well. I upgraded for my 4-night voyage for $40, but I probably didn’t have to
• The biggest gym at sea that I’ve ever seen. There was a basketball court, walking/running track, yoga studio, spin classroom, HUGE gym with so many different pieces of equipment that you never had to wait. Even the workout classes are included.
• Lots of tucked away places to hang out and be comfortable (comfy lounge chairs and day beds on several decks)
• Well-organized disembarkation process
• The crew seems VERY happy to work for Virgin. The company takes great care of them, and they are well-paid and get more time off to relax than other cruise lines they have worked for. One example is that they get free wi-fi and water on board. Did you know other cruise lines make crew pay for this?
• Promises of sea bands being sent before departure only to pick them up at the pier (not personalized). On the subject of sea bands, their design is not optimal (the hook isn’t secure, and they keep falling off)
• Limited menus in specialty restaurants. Wake doesn’t have the best breakfast menu. They say it’s brunch, but it’s not really except for eggs Benedict and steak/eggs, so unless you like that or clam chowder and salad for breakfast, just go up to the Galley
• The app doesn’t work all the time, and the experience relies heavily on it. I had to delete it and reinstall it to get it to work, and my friend’s didn’t work the entire time.
• Pool is tiny and shallow on both ends with a small square that is deep enough to stand in but not conducive to swimming laps or even swimming in general
• No holiday decorations (I was onboard December 15-19, so very close to Christmas). I did hear they started decorating a little for the 12/24 cruise, however
• The popular workout classes and shows sell out quickly, so you have to sign up as soon as you get to the pier and connect to wi-fi
• No lotion (what’s up with that?)
• Black hand soap in the bathroom – soap gets very slimy and messy
• On days in port, very few of the ship’s venues are open. I suppose this is to give the crew some time off, but it was a little disappointing for those folks who like to stay on the ship instead of exploring in a port they’ve seen a million times.
As many things as Virgin Voyages has going for it, it is not for everyone. Some folks love the out-of-the-box interpretation of a cruise experience and can’t wait to go again (I spoke to many on back-to-back Virgin cruises), and others want to prefer a more classic cruise experience and layout that they are used to.
If you need a little Vitamin Sea and think Virgin Voyages is your cup of tea (or you just want to see what all the hype is about), contact me, and I’ll get you on board! If you book any voyage on any ship now, you’ll get 20% off and $100 toward your prepaid Bar Tab.* Plus, when you plan ahead, you’ll get an extra 10% off if you book with their Pay in Full Discount program!
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