REVIEWED BY Kimberly Krol Inlander



FXExpress Publications


PORTS OF CALL: Miami, Florida; Nassau, Bahamas; Bimini, Bahamas; Miami, Florida EMBARKATION/DISEMBARKATION: Poised to debut as the pandemic hit in 2020, Virgin Voyages was forced to delay its grand entrance into cruising, finally setting sail in fall 2021. With a goal of disrupting the traditional model of cruising, my husband and I planned to set sail on a four-day Miami-to-bahamas jaunt to check out the new cruise line and its model for ourselves. One major difference between Virgin Voyages and other cruise lines, the Branson brand only allows cruisers 18 years old and older. Our discovery of the Virgin Voyages experience began at the brand-new, dedicated Terminal V at Portmiami. After dropping our bags with a porter, we were directed to another building for mandatory COVID tests. Post-test, we began the check-in process inside the light-filled, clean terminal. We checked in, had our passports and vaccination documents reviewed and received our Sailor bands, which wrapped around our wrists, fastened with a cheeky anchor bauble and boasting a gray fob that would be our touch-and-go portal for everything we’d do aboard. We waited in a lounge area until we received our negative COVID test results via email and text. From there, it was through security and on to Scarlet Lady. Disembarkation at the end of our sailing was even simpler. We took our time in the morning, enjoying brunch in The Wake before collecting our bags, walking off the boat with just a few other travelers, clearing U.S. customs in literally just seconds. Before we knew it, we were in our Uber to our hotel. GUEST QUARTERS: Our 12th-floor Sea Terrace cabin measured 225–265 square feet. It was just two of us, but cabins are designed to be reconfigured to accommodate two to four guests. We requested the bed be converted into the couch set-up one day so we could see it, and it is truly a transformation that brings more space. Upon entering the cabin, the closet area, with both hanging space and drawers, was to the right and the bathroom to the left. The bathroom, while not large, was functional, and amenities in the shower were wall-mounted larger-sized bottles. Farther into the cabin was the bed/couch space, directly across from a wallmounted TV. The TV and other room controls can be operated via an in-room tablet-like device. One side of the bed housed a nightstand, and there was also a desk area and a chair in the corner, all leading to terrace doors. The highlight of our room was the terrace with its signature red hammock. SERVICES/AMENITIES: We were determined to make the most of our time and try all we could — a lofty goal considering the abundant offerings on Scarlet Lady. Our original itinerary was Nassau, Bimini and a day at sea before disembarkation, but weather prevented us from docking in Bimini on Day Two. Seamlessly, the cruise rearranged our schedule, so Day Two was at sea and Day Three in Bimini. We opted for a Shore Thing (the name for excursions) in Nassau. We were also originally scheduled for an outing in Bimini, but weather, again, had other plans and it was canceled. However, after spending a beautiful day at Virgin Voyages’ private beach club in Bimini, we couldn’t have been happier about the schedule change. Another focus of Virgin Voyages is wellness. The itineraries offer a whole schedule of workout classes; I’m not sure any other spin class will top the view I had during my class on Scarlet Lady! There was also a walking track at the top of the ship which we utilized daily. And, of course, we had to sample the spa. We left port during our couple’s massage, and the gentle movement made the treatment all the more relaxing. A world of entertainment and activities awaits Sailors. Some of those we took in include the arcade; the casino; and the productions of “Never Sleep Alone,” a playful, interactive, late-night cabaret, and “Duel Reality,” an acrobatic retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Bring your red clothing for Scarlet Night, when the entire ship transforms into various performances, stories and activities. More than 20 eateries are on offer, with dining on demand and restaurants that require a reservation (at no extra charge). Forget traditional buffets; the closest dining experience to those would be The Galley, more of an upscale dining hall, allowing diners to order or grab-and-go from a large assortment of eateries — think sandwiches, sushi, burgers, salads, tacos, ramen and sweets. We enjoyed dinner at The Wake, serving steak and seafood (the clam chowder is a must!); Pink Agave, delivering elevated Mexican cuisine; Extra Virgin, with homemade pasta and Italian delicacies; and Gunbae, a really lively and fun Korean BBQ experience. For lunch and some treats, we liked The Dock, The Pizza Place and Lick Me Till … Ice Cream. All alcoholic beverages were reasonably priced.