- September 21, 2021
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Exterior, The Scarlet Lady
Sir Richard Branson’s latest venture is a super-luxe cruise line, Virgin Voyages, with four ships on order for delivery by 2023. The fleet, known as the “Lady Ships” is a play on the term “your ladyship” and pays homage to Branson’s British heritage. The first ship, Scarlet Lady is presently docked at Pier 88 on Manhattan’s west side, dwarfing the Intrepid in the next berth. The Scarlet Lady, which will soon sail from PortMiami to the Caribbean, carries more than 2,770 “sailors” (as Virgin is calling the passengers), and an international crew of 1,160, making it an almost two-sailors to one-crew-member ratio.
Why Scarlet Lady? The name appeared on one of the earliest planes to fly for Virgin Atlantic. The exterior of the Scarlet Lady sports a mermaid adorning the hull, inspired by the figureheads of historic vessels. Here, she serves as the ship’s spirit guide to show the world what it is like to set sail the Virgin way. And what a way that is.
Seared Scallops with Serrano Ham from the Test Kitchen
There are 20+ food choices onboard with no buffet, no main dining room, no formal wear required and no assigned seating or dining times. Food ranges from steak, seafood, contemporary American fare, Mexican, Italian, and piazza, to the Test Kitchen, in which the meal is put entirely in the hands of the chef to deliver mouth-watering innovative cuisine. Want a late-night posh nosh? Some of the restaurants remain open till the early hours of the morning. And, most surprising, while many other ships charge more for specialty restaurants, all of Virgin’s onboard eateries are included in the voyage fare.
One of six bars onboard Scarlet Lady
Crowded bars? Not here. There are six bars and lounges for imbibing, an at-sea theatre, personal listening stations to hear music on vinyl, and a karaoke gaming and movie lounge. All gratuities are included, wifi is free, and there are complimentary basic beverages.
Want to work out in the sun? An outdoor training zone includes a boxing ring, individual punching bag stations, strength and gymnastics equipment. There are also indoor workout facilities and, for the ultimate in well-being, all fitness rooms have dramatic ocean views. This includes rooms for spin, yoga and cardio (with state-of-the-art technology). In addition there is a quarter-mile deck track for walking, running, and skating.
Razzle Dazzle restaurant inside the new Scarlet Lady Virgin Voyages cruise ship.
Completing the outdoor amenities is an entire pool area featuring a large whirlpool, two plunge pools, and outdoor fitness apparatus. Unfortunately, the one thing lacking on the ship is that there is no lap pool, so those who want to swim laps will have to content themselves splashing around in the shallow pool.
The spacious spa is complete with hydrotherapy pool, mud room, salt room, cold plunge pools, quartz beds and an array of spa treatments. The ship boasts an upscale barber shop, hairstyling salon, mani-pedi spa and, yes, the first ever tattoo studio on board a cruise ship. Plus, all crew members are allowed to have visible tattoos.
A bedroom cabin the Scarlet Lady ship
There are 78 suites onboard including two 2,147 square-foot “Massive Suites” with a music room (including four guitars, tuned and ready to play), an amplifier, vinyl turntable, a “primping” area with a hot tub and vanity area. A peek-a-boo window looks from both the bedroom and the sea to the indoor shower. The master bedroom has a mattress which might be a little too firm for many sailors’ taste, but with the sliding glass doors to the sea outside, they should have no trouble sleeping. The expansive terrace includes an outdoor shower, conversation pit, lounging chairs, two full-length hammocks, dining for six, and a dance area.
Amid all this poshness, Virgin wholeheartedly believes in sustainability. Single-use plastics are banned and the company offers only recyclable and reusable materials. There is complimentary filtered still and sparkling water onboard. And the Virgin brand is the first to become carbon-neutral for its direct emissions footprint.
Richard Branson onboard the Scarlet Lady
For Branson, the inspiration to create a cruise line came from his pondering what sort of trip he would like to experience with his family and friends. He gathered a group of cruise experts, discussed all the things wrong about the cruise industry and addressed those issues to make the best ship possible for sailing the seas. Branson admits that even his daughter, skeptical about cruise ships, had a great time on board with her husband and friends.
Those worried about Covid can rest assured that the Scarlet Lady has taken every precaution to keep its “sailors” safe. “Sailors” must show a valid vaccination card as well as a negative Covid test.
Exterior of Scarlet Lady
Margie Goldsmith has won 94 writing awards including the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Gold Award. She has written for Travel & Leisure, Robb Report, National
Margie Goldsmith has won 94 writing awards including the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Gold Award. She has written for Travel & Leisure, Robb Report, National Geographic Traveler, Coastal Living, Virtuoso Life, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, O the Oprah Magazine, American Way, Hemispheres, Parade, and more. She is a contributing feature writer at Business Jet Traveler and Wine, Dine & Travel, She has published three books including the recent “Master of the Harmonica Share Their Craft.” She is a member of SATW, ASJA and NATJA. When not traveling, she hikes, bikes, and play blues harmonica at open mic jams.