When Richard Branson sneezes the world catches a cold. So it’s not surprising that when Branson first said the words “cruise ship” in 2017 cruisers and non-cruisers alike sat up. You can bet your bottom dollar that cruise convention will be thrown overboard.
Virgin Voyages promises a pared-down sailing experience; an “escape from the chaos” of casinos and kid-filled creches. Sailors will be encouraged to raid the chef’s fridge and create a midnight feast at the late-night lock-ins.
You’ll be able to get a tattoo and go to a drag show. You can cook-up a Korean barbecue for dinner or grab a mani-pedi at the Stubble and Groom barbershop.
At the cave-inspired Redemption, the ship’s spa, mermaids and mermen will find hydrotherapy pools and quartz beds – essential rejuvenation for the evening’s DJ-hosted spa parties. Next sailors can make a move to The Manor, a signature nightclub, inspired by the name of Branson’s first music studio.
And this is only the beginning. After Scarlet Lady there are three more ships in the pipeline. Here’s everything we know about the Scarlet Lady so far.
Why is she called Scarlet Lady?
Chanelling the red that is synonymous with the Virgin brand the Lady is also a “spiritual guide” according to Branson, inspired by one of the first planes that flew for Virgin Atlantic. She also reflects the cruise brand’s mermaid image – a siren call on the bow of the ship.
Who’s on board?
Sailors, if you don’t mind (no passengers here). According to Branson, they’ll be; “young at heart people that want a good time.” They will explore, have adventures and enjoy free-spirited days and nights with nary a care in the world.
Save us a sun bed.
Throwing off typical cruise dining traditions, Scarlet Lady will offer over 20 dining options from casual to haute cuisine (all included in the fare). Many ships charge a small premium to dine in the posher spots. Not here. Buffet is a dirty word; so is anything prefixed with the word “formal”. Chuck out the rule book. Sailors will be able to dine at some venues into the wee hours (Bloody Mary brunches here we come).
Among the nine venues revealed so far is the glamourous Wake, which takes a leaf out of the likes of The Wolseley in London and The Grill in New York. Think sirloin and seafood. Meanwhile, Razzle Dazzle will offer vegetarian and vegan fare and a juice bar – with meat add-ons and the option to spike smoothies with boozy shots.
Its Drag Brunches will be a hit with RuPaul fans. Scarlet Lady’s resident drag performer and friends will offer entertainment and, for a small fee, guest can enjoy bottomless cocktails, such as “Yaaassss Queen”.
Where can we get a bibimbap?
You’ll be heading straight for Geonbae – a name taken from the Korean phrase that’s equivalent to “bottoms up”. The Korean BBQ restaurant will be a rowdy affair. Each meal will begin with a complimentary round of soju (a Korean national drink) for the table and guests will be encouraged to take part in Korean drinking games. Geonbae will feature specially engineered flameless grills built into each table and diners will be be able to cook their perfect BBQ.
Got a hankering for Mexican?
Pink Agave, designed by Tom Dixon, won’t disappoint. Fill your face with tlayudas, memelas, sopes, tortas, esquites and tamales, plus a large collection of mezcals.
Want to pick up some new skills at sea? The Test Kitchen, part cooking school, part restaurant, will be a laboratory-like eatery where sailors can try their hand at cooking classes, mixology school and coffee labs. This is also where you can raid the larder and create a midnight feast at the late-night lock-ins.
Other casual hangouts will include Dock, a beach-club inspired spot serving Mediterranean small plates, salads, dips and mezzes and The Galley, modelled on food halls and featuring shops and food carts.
What can I do on board?
What can’t you do? With the announcement of an on board tattoo studio, Squid Ink, Scarlet Lady’s sailors will be able to recreate a signature seafaring image involving plenty of body ink.
Tattoo artist Lou Rubino Jr has handpicked two resident tattooists for the studio as well as a line-up of guest artists. Virgin Voyages celebrated the announcement last month by giving away 100 free nautical-inspired micro tattoos at Soho Ink in Manhattan.
What’s going on at Richard’s Rooftop?
The ship’s top deck will be an exclusive outdoor lounge and private club reserved for suite guests. Designed by Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio it will have a futuristic look with circular loungers, giant umbrellas and dichroic rainbow-effect glass. We suggest you wear white.
Several interior designers, including New York’s Roman and Williams (The Ace Hotel and the Standard Highline), Concrete Amsterdam (Citizen M and Hotel Zoku), and Softroom in London are working in partnership to bring Virgin’s Modern Romance of Sailing concept to life.
What’s all this about Vitamin C?
Virgin Voyages has a thread of nautical word-play running through its branding, which includes its onboard wellbeing programme, Vitamin Sea. It is – according to the cruise line – inspired by the oceans and their importance in health and well-being for the planet and our everyday lives. There will be numerous group fitness classes on offer, as well as The Runway running track, The B Complex with rooms for spin, yoga and cardio, and The Athletics Club featuring a boxing ring and gym equipment.
There will also be plenty of pampering options in Redemption, the blow dry bar, barber shop, male pedicure spa and mani-pedi spa.
Who’ll be looking after us?
1,150 crew from around the world will be taking care of 2,700 sailors. Recruitement begins early next year. “We want to see more women stepping up and taking command of our ships,” said a spokesperson.
“We want to see more female engineers in our engine control rooms and we want to build a bridge and see more women steer us into the future.”
Aren’t cruise ships bad for the environment?
To mark the single-use plastic ban at the ship’s big reveal in Genoa, Branson crushed a giant plastic water bottle with a hammer. We assume this means he’s serious about his fleet’s green credentials.
Complimentary filtered still and sparkling water will be available all over the ship, and alongside the plastic ban Virgin Voyages is developing clean energy technology. The line has recently ordered its fourth ship and each vessel will feature Azipod propulsion technology, which reduces fuel consumption by 15 per cent.
It also has a partnership with Climeon, a Swedish start-up, with the aim of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by converting the heat from the ship’s engines into electricity.
Where will I sail to?
Her inaugural season is in the Caribbean with Havana, Cuba at the top of the agenda. Havana is one of the Caribbean’s most up-and-coming cruise destinations so it’s perhaps not a surprise to find Virgin here. Branson said: “Virgin Atlantic has been visiting Cuba for 13 years, and I cannot wait to see our iconic Scarlet Lady gleaming in the Havana harbour.” All sailings to Cuba from Miami will include an overnight stay, giving passengers more time to explore the capital’s nightlife and culture.
When can we set sail?
She’ll set sail in 2020 for her inaugural season in the Caribbean. Details are fairly sparse so far, but her ports of call will include Havana, Cuba and she’ll sail from Miami. Keep your eyes peeled and you could nab a cabin on Scarlet Lady’s inaugural season in 2020.