Virgin Voyages Guide: A Cruise That Will Surprise You
Food & Wine
20+ Eateries on board designed by a Michelin Star Chef Collective and the top restaurateurs in NYC included. Fitness and Group Classes included. Top-tier entertainment from well-known choreographers, directors and artists included. Basics like gratuities and Wifi all included. The entire price tag up front and transparent. On top of it all, it’s an Adults Only oasis? Sign me up!
It all started when my boyfriend and I were trying to plan a trip around Europe. He only had 10 days to work with and we had so many places we wanted to see and so many things we wanted to do. The usual, right? As we were mapping out the logistics, we noticed that while we’d get some great sightseeing done, it wouldn’t be very restful. Adventurous, no doubt, but not quite the reset we wanted. All of a sudden I began seeing Virgin Voyages marketing left and right. It feels like a sign. Mind you, I have not taken a cruise since I was 13, sailing with Royal Caribbean. As an adult, it just never occurred to me. The stigma made me think there would be no one my age on the ship; it would feel tacky and the food was going to be like cafeteria food. Plus, awkward dinners with strangers were things I usually tried to avoid.
But Virgin kept on making its way to me, and as a Travel Advisor, I couldn’t resist. I had to brush up on my cruise knowledge of course, it’s educational. And boy was it. I had a lot to learn; Virgin was about to redefine the way I thought about cruising. I am a complete convert now.
Now I am set on sharing the love and getting everyone on board for this incredible experience and giving you some tips so it’s the best vacation ever.
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Things to do on Virgin Voyages
Incredibly important. Listen up! Download the Virgin Voyages App to your phone. Right when you get on board, connect to the ship’s wifi. Open the app and check the Itinerary for the week. Each day will have activities and entertainment scheduled. My advice? Sign up for everything that sounds even remotely interesting to you. Don’t worry about time conflicts just yet. Then, when you are sitting down to dinner or finished exploring the ship, you can narrow it down accordingly. If it requires tickets, sign up! There is no penalty for cancelling later on. If it does not require tickets, sign up anyways so you get reminders. Trust me, you’ll want them. With so much going on, it’s helpful to get those 15 minutes before!
Visit the Social Club for free arcade games, shuffleboard, air hockey, board games and often trivia and karaoke. I spent more time than I would like to admit playing Pac-Man and Mario, but hey, they had my weakness… Alcoholic Milkshakes. This is where the big kids come to play and it’s open late too for food, goodies and desserts. Always a fun time here!
Ship Eats is available 24/7. It’s tempting to want to experience every part of the ship, but sometimes, everyone loves a nice lie in. Cue Virgin’s version of room service, Ship Eats, where you can order select restaurant items and beverages through your app! If you don’t buy something, it’s $5, but just purchase a glass of wine or a specialty coffee with your drink allowance and you’re good to go!
Go to ALL of the shows, all of the entertainment is incredible. None of it is the tired, cringe-y, try-hard performances that you might have feared. Virgin has brought in some of the top people on the scene to create these stories! One of my favorite shows, Duel Reality, is an epic retelling of Romeo and Juliet with acrobatics, juggling, stunts and mind-bending agility. And it’s all happening within an arm's length distance from you. It’s truly wondrous. The sound guy came up to me afterward and told me he could hear my gasping throughout the show. That’s how much I was moved, folks! Another favorite I have to mention is the Miss Behave show. It’s like a raunchy, chaotic, shout-out your answer and try to be the winning team gameshow. Except it’s all at the same time very much not like any game show you have seen before with very foul-mouthed hosts and even a surprise performance in the middle. The audience interaction makes this one so fun, so be sure to participate, be loud, be proud and make it a great show!
Go to the magic show. It’s usually in a random place like On The Rocks or Sip at random times like 3:30pm, but definitely don’t sleep on this one. The quality of the magician is incredible. His tricks honestly left me dumbstruck. I am naturally skeptical, but he has me a believer. It was truly astounding and a pleasure to watch. Afterward, the Charmer, as Virgin calls him, handed out some exclusive cards. A secret message awaiting us lucky few detailing a meeting spot, a time and a mysterious figure to look for to present this card. A day later at the indicated time at 3:40pm on the dot, I went on to find the person sauntering around with a cane with a skull top and presented them with my secret invite. After waiting for our group of about 15 people, they led us to a secret location, took our phones, locked them up and had us attend a super-secret magic show with the most insane tricks I have ever seen up close. I have never enjoyed being called out of the audience to participate, but this time, I loved it. Was craving it, even (secretly).
Get your posh vibes on at Afternoon Tea at SIP. It only happens on certain days and does cost extra, but it can be paid for with your bar tab if you so choose. A great way to really seal in the luxury of the ship, a fancy meal with tiny cakes and sandwiches.
Fun fact: the ship was modeled after super-yachts in its sleek and modern design.
On the last morning of the last full day, check with Sailor Services on Deck 5 to see if you have any leftover Sailor Loot (on-board credit) or excess Bar Tab and spend appropriately! On our last night, we had $168 left on our drink tab and $132 to spend. The only sensible next step, of course, was a bottle of wine at dinner and a shopping spree on High Street. I’m currently writing this guide in my Virgin Voyages sweatpants. Like I said, total convert here!
Go to the spa and unwind. A sauna, steam room, salt room, Turkish bath, circuit, mud room and heated marble surfaces to lounge upon offer a perfect wellness getaway and chance to let it all go. Thermal passes are $39 on port days and $59 on sailing days and give you three glorious hours of access to this rejuvenation station. The spa is open until 11:00pm, so perhaps consider a night-time spot if the 3-5 slots get too full. I recommend signing up for this one as you get on the ship, too so you can get your ideal time. Just know, it will be busy from 11am-5pm and on sailing days. So if you are looking for a more serene experience, keep that in mind!
Get late-night pizza every night!!! The Pizza Place has a new flavor each day, and it is always worth trying. Plus, one day you won’t be able to get oven-fired, made-to-order pizza for free at 2am and you will wish for the good old days on your Virgin Cruise.
Pay a daily visit to the ice cream shop, also. Every day a new flavor is on display and worthy of being tasted. Not a single flavor here disappointed me and I was quite diligent in my research, if I do say so myself, with twice-a-day visits.
Don’t just bring something red to wear for Scarlet night; go ALL OUT. I’m talking red sequins, sparkly, shiny, silky, everything. Make it surprising. Make it big. Give it texture. The more noticeable you are, the more likely the staff if to pick you for *special* or *secret* surprises! They are feeling especially generous during this event.
-Definitely get a SIM code for your phone so that you have maps and connections to the ship. It's great for peace of mind in emergencies, but it's also really helpful to have access to the internet for practical getting-around reasons while in port. This will also make sure you aren't in airplane mode. You wouldn't want your phone to be reading the wrong time. You have to be back on the boat ship time, not port time. -
-Take an extra day in your port cities that you embark and disembark the ship from and to. Not only does this take away the hectic and stressed feeling of having to stack travel, but it gives you the opportunity to do a bit more of a deep dive of the city you're departing from or arriving back into. For example, on my Irresistible Med trip, we embarked and disembarked in Barcelona. My boyfriend and I got there two days before embarking on our cruise and stayed one extra day after disembarking. It's nice to not have to step one foot back on to land and the other immediately into the taxi to rush off to the airport and fly transatlantic back home.
-Don't forget to book your dining 45 days prior to sailing 65 for Rockstars! Restaurants fill up fast, and on this ship it is incredibly hard to walk in at a normal time or sometimes at all.
My favorite itineraries on offer at the moment and the ones begging to be crossed off my bucket list:
-Adriatic Sea and Greek Gems, which sails from Athens to Dubrovnik, Split, Kotor, Corfu and back to Athens
-From the UK to Spain and Morocco which sails from Portsmouth to La Coruna, Lisbon, Casablanca, Malaga, Ibiza and Barcelona
-Southeastern Caribbean Isles which sails from San Juan to Tortola, Point-a-Pitre, Bridgetown, Castries, and back to San Juan
-New Zealand Fjords and Australian Shores which sails from Auckland to Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hobart, Melbourne and Sydney
-Singapore, Bali and Australia, which sails from Singapore to Benoa, Bali to Darwin, Cairns, Airlie Beach and Sydney.
Conclusion: After my first Virgin Voyage, I admit, I'm obsessed. So much so that I'll be back on board soon in just two weeks! To be able to compare and contrast European and Caribbean sailings and Valiant and Scarlet Lady ships, of course. All business here ;) There's nothing that I disliked about this cruise, and on the last day, I was truly sad for the journey to be ending. That's how I knew Virgin Voyages was something really special that everyone needed to experience.
Places to eat & drink on Virgin Voyages
Guys, don’t sleep on Razzle Dazzle. Razzle Dazzle had some of the best food and the best menu out of all the reservable eateries. Drinks, too! This restaurant just underwent a total menu makeover and concept redo. It is no longer championed as the vegan-forward restaurant but more a Californian-American fusion restaurant. Personally, as a meat eater, I was very happy for this shift and was excited to see savories like Lamb Shank and Short Rib on their menu.
Hands down the best restaurant on the ship. I would die for them to have brunch. Maybe if we all keep having that same feedback, it’ll be added, wink wink, nudge nudge. But honestly, the flavors of the dishes were insane. Packed with taste! We ordered one of every appetizer and one of every entree. There is nothing I wouldn’t recommend but my favorite was definitely the Pork Entree; it will make your mouth light up with flavor!
This is a super-solid Italian restaurant and has an absolutely killer cheese board. Plus, to be able to taste more and dance around the menu a bit, you can order half sizes of pasta. Also a great wine list here, so be sure to pair properly for the perfect experience!
My one exception to dining with strangers is at Gun-Bae, the Korean BBQ restaurant where they give you shots of free soju and help facilitate icebreaker drinking games. Not to mention they cook on the grill right in front of you, which is always a fun style of dinner and a show. I highly suggest the K-Pop Disco Water here. Yes, it is served in a Disco Ball glass, yes it has pop rocks in it and yes it is wonderfully delicious.
The Grounds Club has the best cookies and muffins. It’s the perfect place to stop by when you’re craving a little something sweet but don’t want to hoof it all the way up to Deck 15.
The daily soup flavor at the Daily Mix salad space is always worth a glance. It’s a reliably tasty flavor each day and they have fresh-baked bread to go with it too. Perfect soup, salad, bread combo for a nice lunch.
Well Bread and The Sweet Side features new items and rotating items each day too, so it is always worth it to walk by and glimpse it. One day they had Dulce de Leche macarons and brioche that I still salivate just thinking about.
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This is part of our ongoing series on cruises.