I’m sitting in the lounge at the Miami airport, reflecting on the last week that my partner and I spent on board the Valiant Lady, the second ship in Virgin Voyages’ ocean cruise ship fleet.
The Valiant Lady, docked in Roatan, Honduras, the first of our three ports of call on Virgin Voyages' "Western Caribbean Charm" itinerary.
Let’s start with what we loved.
First, the all-included luxury approach, particularly when it comes to dining. No matter where we travel, we both like eating well, and were able to do that (maybe too much of that) on the Valiant Lady. With over 20 eateries, ranging from The Wake, the ship’s steak and seafood specialty restaurant, to Let’s Taco ‘bout It, an eatery in the modern “food hall” on deck 15, there was always something available - at least until 2 am if not all night (we didn’t stay up that late, so you’ll have to test that for yourself). AND finding vegetarian options was a piece of cake!
The vegetarian tart option at The Test Kitchen on our first night - we loved this experience.
Second, the size and the attitude. Virgin Voyages creates a cheeky, adults-only experience on a mid-sized ship (max. 2,762 sailors) with no kids. Everyone is welcome to come as they are, to dress as they wish, and to be themselves all day and all night. There is no dress code for restaurants (although they ask you not to wear your bathing suit); we saw sparkly ball gowns, t-shirts and shorts, and everything in between.
Many ask if this is a cruise line for the young – I’d say younger and young at heart. There was a massive age-range, with guests from their mid-20s to their 90s and everything in between. But everyone had one thing in common – wanting an adults-only vibe with some energy, rather than a sleepy week at sea.
This is about as cheeky as it gets on board...the ALL INCLUDED ice cream shop called "Lick Me Till...Ice Cream"
Third, was the variety. We liked the ratio of three port days to two sea days (though we had to skip Bimini due to weather). We also really liked that this cruise can be completely curated to be what YOU want it to be. Here to relax? Enjoy the pool deck, The Dock, or the Redemption Spa. Want to party all night? Get thee to The Manor for a dance party like no other. Want something in between? Enjoy trivia or mind benders at The Social Club, find some live music at On the Rocks, win or lose at the casino, or book a private karaoke room at The Groupie.
Fourth, was the approach to drinks. There are no expensive beverage packages or outrageously priced drinks here. You can pre-pay for a use-it-or-lose-it bar tab that you can share with others (we are not huge drinkers and found, even with a shot of Baileys in our morning cappuccino, that $300 USD + the VV bonus offer of $50 USD) was plenty for us for a week, especially since pop, sparkling water, juice, drip coffee, etc. - the essentials - are all free). You could even "Shake for Champagne" and have it delivered anywhere on the ship! And all the drinks were served in reusable or compostable/recyclable cups. We didn’t see any single-use plastic aboard – Virgin Voyages has done away with it all and there is NONE on the ship! Three cheers for being green!
Fifth, was the technology. Everything is driven through your bracelet, whether buying a drink, getting into your room, or making a reservation. The Virgin Voyages app is great and really easy to use, with lots of updates and information about what’s happening when and where. You can see your “wallet” (and how fast you are depleting that bar tab!), manage your restaurant and show reservations, and generally just stay in the know. Even your room — from ordering towels or room service to adjusting the lighting or opening the curtains – was run from a provided tablet. The Basic Wifi was free for all guests, with a reasonably priced upgrade available if you needed it for more than just surfing.
My bracelet / room key / wallet ... and it was removable (which I loved).
The only thing we wished for on our cruise was a more comfortable bed (it’s a fancy sofa bed that can be converted to a couch during the day and to a bed at night). Maybe we’re just getting old? It certainly wasn’t uncomfortable, but I’ve been more comfortable on a river cruise or at home.
We also had trouble feeling “settled” somewhere. We tried multiple places and found ourselves doing a lot of wandering. Whether that was because of ever-changing activities piquing our curiosity or a change in vibe as the music or events at a particular venue changed, we never quite found “that spot” where we felt settled. Mind you, we were always busy and entertained; activities were fun, cheeky, and not-too-long; and, en route from one place to another, there was always a new drink to try, an ice cream to have, or people watching to be done.
All in all, we had a really great week. We’ll likely cruise Virgin Voyages again – maybe next time we’ll be on the Med.