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Scarlet Lady Cruise Review to Caribbean - Western

Cruises: 7+ cruises
Review: 1
Helpful Votes: 9

Overall rating:

4 out of 5
Scarlet Lady

5 Night Riviera Maya (Miami Roundtrip)

Sail date: October 24, 2021

Ship: Scarlet Lady

Traveled as: Couple

Reviewed: 2 months ago

Review summary

This was our third rebook of this ship due to Covid delays and frankly never looked forward to any trip as much as this one. They did not disappoint. This is NOT Carnival, it not Royal, its not NCL, Celebrity, Princess or Holland. This is Virgin Voyages. Built for the new, young, elevated cruiser. You gotta try it at least once

Embarkation

4 out of 5
Being assigned an embarkation time has always been more of a suggestion. The idea of getting on early, grabbing lunch, exploring the ship and unpacking before everyone else is out the door on Virgin. Because they disembark later than most ships (10:30 am), they embark later than most ships (2:00 pm). The check-in process was smooth, and the Covid testing went quick and stress less. Then.... you're herded into a holding room and you wait (separate room for Rock Stars and regular Sailors.) Once the boarding begins at 2:00 pm Rock Stars go first, and then everyone else. But all went very quick and smooth. Lots of crew yelling "Ahoy". No log jams getting onboard waiting for photographers to snap pics in front of fake back drops or plastic ships wheels. In fact... there are NO photographers at all on this ship.

Ship experiences

Food and Dining

5 out of 5
Hands down... THE BEST overall dining experience we have ever had (18 cruises). You've already heard I am sure.... NO buffets, NO dining halls, NO commissaries. Every restaurant (even the quick eats, food court style Galley) has its own kitchen and executive chef. I could talk for hours about the dining experience so I will give you my highest-lites where every meal was a highlight. Breakfast at Razzle Dazzle is incredible, the brunch at The Wake rivals any high end brunch anywhere (try the Soft Shell Crab Benedict... Its a $40 entrée in any high end hotel). For the quick grab and go, or sit and enjoy lunch..... the Galley has everything. Sushi, Burgers, Paninis, Stir Fry, Salads Etc. All unique, all good options. However.... for the hidden gem head down to deck 7 and walk to the back of the ship. The Dock House has day-beds, and loungers, couches and tables. You can hang out there for hours drinking wine and cocktails but the Tapas menu is incredible. Small plates of grilled octopus, shrimp, chicken, steak, and polenta. Just put your flag up, lay back and keep on ordering until you're full and fall asleep to the calming surroundings, music and panoramic views of the sea. Never tried lunch in any of the restaurants, but did have lunch at the Beach Club on Bimini. Just "eh". Surprisingly different Caribbean style menu (I think I actually was looking forward to a burger so maybe that's why I'm not raving). Fish, Chicken, Beans & Rice, Corn. If you hang out at the beach all day, you'll be satisfied I am sure. Every night was an unrivaled experience for dinner. Extra Virgin is a MUST, try the charcuterie board, bread an oil.... like being in Tuscany. The house made pasta carbonara was to die for. Gunbae is a BLAST. Think intimate communal Korean BBQ with a show. We sat with two other couple we did not know, started ordering drinks, had the chef just start cooking food and ended up being the last table to leave. Great food, great drinks, great time. Pink Agave. this is NOT Mexican food. This is a Mexican inspired odyssey of flavors and presentations. No nachos, tacos, refried beans or rice here.... an incredible menu, not to be missed because you're imagining a floating "Chili's". We were told that Test Kitchen might be the one we would rethink later (have to try everything at least once... right?). Farthest from the truth. We chose to sit at the counter overlooking one of the many prep areas. Of course we quickly joined the always welcomed chit-chat with the couple adjacent to us. The food can only be described as "wild". The six course menu simply states the main ingredient. From there... your imagination simply has no concept of what will be plated and served. I wont ruin any of the surprises, but get those Instagram food shots ready. Snapping and posting is the activity you'll be doing that night. We saved The Wake for our last night (unfortunately, with only 5 nights we did not have enough nights to make Razzle Dazzle for dinner). The steak house concept worked well on Scarlet Lady. Not the highest rated meal (for us) on board but after four of the most unique and surprising dining experiences at sea, its hard to blow us away with meat and potatoes. Don't get me wrong... I'd eat that menu anywhere... Everything was delicious and prepared perfectly. Just wish we went back to one of the others one more time. "Hangry"? Just danced off dinner? Or you got wiped out at the Casino and ready for a late night bite? 2:00 am cruise pizza is just one of those snacks that not everyone in this world understands. I DO !!! The Pizza Place on deck 7 knows ho to make amazing pizza. The first thing you smell is the waft of truffle oil from the White Truffle and Egg Pizza someone ordered. We went with the Pepperoni and Carnalized Onion. Crispy, Salty, Oily.... AMAZING at any hour of the day. But not every day for us... its a treat. Drinks... I really do feel like this is where the value can be debated. I prepaid for $300.00 in "Sailor Loot" with that, I got a $125.00 bonus. However, loot is fungible. It is not used only for drinks. If I knew that I would have bought $600 or $900 and got another $125 or $250 in bonus loot to spend on board (which we did). Upgraded WiFi, shopping, duty free, spa, etc. Once you're on board... the bonus offer goes away and the meter on your cabin charges starts running. Drinks are not cheap. It sounds cheap, but the 1 1/2 oz pour of Titos or Black Label for $11.00 rings up fast. House wine prices (along with selection) varies from venue to venue. The precise pours into the jigger just aggravates me to watch. Sometimes it looked like they were measuring chemicals like if an extra drop fell out the place would explode. Many ships offer a "make it a double" option. Even if they poured 3 oz for $18 or $20, I'm pretty sure they'd be profitable. Just lose the jiggers Virgin. It kills the experience for drinkers.

Onboard Activities

3 out of 5
Truth... we are not big "activities" people. We enjoy the days relaxing by the pool, and other serene venues. It appeared that some games, educational, and immersive experiences were offered, but nothing that drew us away from the chaise lounges, and sun beds.

Entertainment

3 out of 5
Its hard to disappoint us with the entertainment. Depending on the show, we can always find something to get us up and entertained but not-so-much on Scarlet Lady. The "UntitledDanceShowPartyThing" was interesting but maybe I'm just too old to appreciate this kind of vehicle for delivering that kind of message. Never Sleep Alone was raunchy, but not very titillating. Glad we went to the early show. Not really sure if they're trying to promote promiscuity or what. We are far from prudes... but just found it strange all around. Duel Reality was great. Think if Cirque Du Soleil made a show by combining The Warriors, West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet. Fast paced acrobatics with great sounds and visuals. No bar service (to be found) at this show. Lost my "short pour" buzz about 15 minutes in but made up for it afterwards :-) The Deck party on night one and the the Scarlet Nights party on night 4 was the best of the entertainment. Wild, wet deck party with lots of dancing. The house band is great, but they don't play every night, and they mix more DJ sets in than live music. This ship really needs another (perhaps two) live music venues at night. Maybe have the rock band play 3 or four full sets per cruise, maybe a piano bar, or even add a jazz band in the lounges at happy hour. The App was not really clear where the music was going to be. One night we just happened to stumble upon a couple playing easy listening and folk music in the Grounds Club coffee shop. It wasn't on the App, and we never would have known if we hadn't gone for a coffee at that time. The "club beat" all day at the pool is ok, and they did have the DJ play a set or two during Sea Days but I think more music at the pool would go a long way to make it a party.

Children's Programs

5 out of 5
NO KIDS on Virgin Voyages. This was a great decision on their part. 'Nuff said

Service and Staff

4 out of 5
We ha a couple of issues that needed to be addressed and they were handled to the best of the crew's ability. Can't complain about that... However, there were two instances where we sought out a crew member to answer a simple question, and were were rudely scoffed at. If you have a name badge on... regardless of whether its your department or not... you should stop ad address the guest's question. "I don't know, or sorry, I'm not sure" is never an acceptable answer. find out, or find someone who can. Don't blow me off. The cabin stewards, wait staff, guest services staff and bar servers are awesome. I had the great privilege of meeting the Captain while sitting in the sauna and started chatting. He was extremely interested in our feedback and invited us up to the bridge for a tour. We spent about an hour talking and laughing and learning about the boat and the company. He even showed us his personal living quarters. Captain Giovanni is a fantastic guy. You can see him all around the ship all of the time but you'd never know it as none of the crew wear uniforms. They wear polo shirts. Virgin has totally killed the military style nautical uniforms of every other cruise line. The crew is part of the experience, NOT just thee to serve. Well done Virgin. I think this works

Ship Quality

4 out of 5
This ship is different. The layout definitely took a day or so to digest, but it was not horrible. There is a lot of dead ends, and odd routes needed to take to get around. The gym is off the pool deck 15 instead of adjacent to the spa deck 5 (strange). Most of the restaurants and bars and public spaces are on decks 5, 6, 7 so its fairly well organized. The pool is small. With only 50% capacity on board it was packed. I cant imagine what a sea day would be like at 80%-90% capacity. But it is a beautiful, new, clean and really unique ship

Cabin / Stateroom

3 out of 5
Soooo... here is where it gets interesting. We had a Central Sea Terrace cabin (TC) on Deck 10. The room itself was nice but the bathroom was very small. Small shower, small basin area, very small closet and storage areas. The balcony was nice with a hammock, 2 chairs and a small table. Not a great view as the lifeboats hang further outside the cabins than most ships I've seen. The lighting is low. I understand that ambient lighting is environmentally friendly.... but its just hard to see anything at night. There was a problem with our door to the terrace so we were offered a new room. Kind of an upgrade (but not to a suite). This is known as Sea Terrace XL. This is important because it is the difference between being able to lift your arms in the shower or not. The cabin itself had more space (but still tight around the bed), but the bathroom had a separate water closet, separate large shower, and separate large basin and counter area. There was a much larger closet and much more storage space. When we sail again with Virgin, I will make sure we are in at least this category or higher. There are NO major TV channels to watch. Only MSNBC, FOX NEWS, and BBC. There is some other older movies and nature content but if you wanted to watch any Network TV, you are out of luck. The A/C vents are directly over the bed. We are from South Florida so A/C pumping 24/7 is not foreign to us. However dripping condensation on us is. We had to get up a few times a night to wipe off the vent. We were told that if we want it to stop, we would have to turn down the A/C. Uhhh... hello... we're in the Caribbean. Its hot out. If those are our choices... dripping it is.

Ship tip

Buy more "Loot" than you think you will need. Worse case scenario id, you buy a bottle or two in the duty free shops and take them home with you. Also, don't waste our time or money on the Thermal Suite pass. They get $70.00 per day. Its a sauna, steam, mud room and a bunch of hot/cold plunge pools. They have some warm marble slabs that are supposed to be somewhere to lay down but not like the thermal loungers on every other boat I've been on. There's a communal locker room with changing stalls. No basins or mirrors to shave in the steam (my personal favorite). Most ships sell you a length of stay package for like $200-$250 or so, and you could spend hours at a time. I was in and out in less than an hour and it would be $350 for the length of stay. Get room service at least once (even if its just for coffee and pastry in the morning). The way that they deliver food and drink is pretty cool. If Uber Eats or Door Dash did it this way, I'd probably order in more.

Ports of call

Miami, Florida

4 out of 5
Interesting story.... While we were at sea traveling the Florida Straights between Cuba and Key West, we were having breakfast and noticed something in the water a ways away through the window. Thinking that it may have been a small fishing boat or even a large buoy... paid no attention until we noticed the ship turning around. We quickly went up on deck to watch our captain rescue a boat full of Cuban migrants making their way to US land. The story I heard is that they were paddling for 9 days. The captain came on the speaker to explain that we were heading back to Key West to meet the Coast Guard for the hand-off. It gave us great pause that day. Here we are... eating decadent food, being catered to every need like royalty, entertained, and pampered aboard a luxurious floating hotel and these men and women were willing to risk their lives (which likely will cost them, if not already) to just taste clean water, meager sustenance, and simple freedom. Sad... and unfair

Cozumel, Mexico

4 out of 5
Been there many times. Really enjoyed the quiet day at the pool

The Beach Club (Virgin Voyages), Bimini Bahamas

4 out of 5
Nicely appointed amenities, nice pools, loungers and clean beach. Lovely.

Disembarkation

5 out of 5
It was nice to get up, have one more nice breakfast at a reasonable hour, be able to get back to our cabin, pack up and get off the boat after 10:00 am. There was no mad rush, no long lines, no confusion about where and how to disembark. Just felt like we checked out of a hotel at our leisure. Very well organized.
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