Tips and Tricks When Cruising with Virgin Voyages

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Kelsey Parry

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Curator’s statement

Ready to take the leap and try adults-only cruising? Maybe you have already sailed with Virgin Voyages and wondered what else you could have experienced during your vacation. Here is my step-by-step guide with considerations and timelines to help make ship happen.

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Things to do on Virgin Voyages

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So your cruise is booked, yay! As soon as your voyage is confirmed, be sure to download the Virgin Voyages app and start the check-in process immediately. Unlike other cruise lines with a set date when check-in opens, Virgin Voyages allows sailors to start check-in and select an arrival time as soon as they book (though only available through the app). Rockstar and Mega Rockstars do not need to select a boarding time when checking in, as they are allowed to board at their leisure.

Splash of Romance Package: For those who do not have Deep Blue Extras (the interim loyalty perks), Splash of Romance is a great paid option at $200 per cabin that provides priority boarding, a daily fresh juice, two thermal spa passes, a bottle of Moët Champagne and a special sail away party. Check immediately after booking your voyage to see if any Splash of Romance spots are available on your sailing, as they cap sales at 70 packages per voyage. Those with Deep Blue Extras (DBE) will find some of the perks redundant and might consider passing on Splash of Romance.

Shore Things: Again, in a departure from other cruise lines, Shore Things (Virgin Voyages cruise speak for excursions) is only open for booking via the app 120 days prior to sailing for standard cabins (135 days prior for Rockstar and Mega Rockstar Suites). The app sometimes has issues when attempting to book, so call customer service for assistance with booking if you encounter a glitch.

Dining Reservations: One of the many fabulous features of Virgin Voyages is the lack of a main dining room. Instead, their specialty-dining-esque restaurants are all included in the voyage fare. Reservations for these restaurants are open for booking via the app 45 days prior to sailing for standard cabins (at ~12:00 am, local time of the departure port) and 60 days prior for Rockstar and Mega Rockstar Suites. For those who book close to the sail date, Virgin Voyages does hold back reservations for those who need to book onboard. If you have technical difficulties with the app when attempting to book dining reservations, call customer service, and they will assist with booking from their end.

Bar Tabs: As many have heard, Virgin Voyages does not have an unlimited drinks package available for purchase. Instead, drinks are pay-as-you-go at more reasonable prices than other mainstream cruise lines. It is strongly suggested to pick up a “Bar Tab” or two prior to sailing, which means you pay $300, and Virgin will then put $350 on your account for bar-related purchases (for those grandfathered in with Sea Blazer or Sea Rover status, the extra amount added is increased through 2024). For some perspective, a couple of two staying in a Rockstar suite (who are very social drinkers) could easily get by on a 7-day sailing with two $300 Bar Tabs ($700 with the added perk) by also utilizing daily Moët Champagne happy hour at Richard’s Rooftop, the in-suite bar and two bottles of wine brought onboard. If the same very social drinkers are staying in a standard cabin with either Deep Blue Extras or Splash of Romance (as both include a bottle of Moët) plus bringing onboard two bottles of wine, two $300 Bar Tabs ($700 with the added perk) will likely cover most of the drinks on a seven-day voyage. Any unused Bar Tab funds are lost at the end of the voyage and cannot be refunded or converted to onboard credit, so it is better to go slightly under when purchasing Bar Tabs and pay as-you go after using up the funds.

Packing considerations: Packing for any Virgin Voyages sailing should include Scarlet Night (red) attire, 80s workout-themed attire for the VHS Workout class and pajamas for the PJ Party. Other than these specific wardrobe suggestions, Virgin Voyages tend to skew more towards elevated casual attire, with most sailors not wearing anything close to cocktail or formal (in fact, you will stand out as an exception wearing anything formal).

Virgin Voyages does allow two bottles of wine per cabin, so remember to pack accordingly to help extend the longevity of your Bar Tab.

Virgin Voyages does not send luggage tags before sailing and will instead have tags onsite to put on your luggage when you arrive at the terminal. Those with Deep Blue Extras, Splash of Romance or Priority Boarding will see a special sign at the entrance of the terminal in order to get the proper band (whereas Rockstar and Mega Rockstars will usually have a separate entrance entirely). Also, keep your luggage tags on your suitcases, as they will be used again upon departure.

For those who have taken the leap and booked a Rockstar or Mega Rockstar suite with Virgin Voyages, consider bringing along some bar staples with you to better enjoy your in-suite bar. Your Rockstar agent can assist with bringing mixers like ginger ale, tonic water, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, sodas and lime and lemon wedges if you let them know you will be entertaining. However, to level up your bartending skills, consider bringing additions such as mini-bitters bottles, margarita mix, lime juice or powdered mix packets for even more options in your cabin. When you first meet with your Rockstar agent on boarding day, let them know which spirits you want to keep and which you would prefer to have swapped out for something different. Cabins usually come with tequila, rum, gin, vodka, whiskey and half-bottles of white, red and Champagne. As an example, you can swap out your bottle of whiskey for another bottle of tequila or both your white and red wine for another half-bottle of Champagne (though keep in mind you have a Champagne happy hour daily in Richard’s Rooftop, so Champagne fatigue does set in after a few days).

Another tip for Rockstar and Mega Rockstar guests is that the suites feature vinyl record players with limited selections of records (Virgin Voyages used a library to swap out records based on guests' preferences, but this library has dwindled over the last year). If space allows, consider bringing a few of your own vinyls to enjoy during the voyage.

Embarkation Day: Embarkation and disembarkation here occur slightly later than most cruise lines. This difference ensures that sailor's cabins are ready upon boarding and allows passengers to sleep slightly later on disembarkation day than on other lines.

Entertainment Reservations: As soon as you have proceeded through security and are waiting to board in the terminal, connect to the ship’s wifi (often something along the lines of AHOY-Resilient-Sailor or Mermaid-Resilient-Guest), select whether you will be utilizing the free included wifi, pay for premium wifi (or if premium wifi is included in your package, go through the motions of purchasing premium wifi and it will be removed from your bill). Once you have fully connected to the ship’s wifi via the app, you can make show reservations, group fitness classes (snag those bungee classes immediately if you want them) and dining reservations. If you have issues with the app and booking, head straight to Sailor Services once onboard (which is the big red table on deck 7, at the top of the Roundabout staircase). If you are in a Rockstar or Mega Rockstar cabin and have issues with the app, head to the Sip Lounge to meet your Rockstar agent, who will take care of booking for you.

Tips and Activities during the Cruise: One of the most appealing elements to any Virgin Voyages sailing is the Happenings Cast, which is Virgin’s replacement for a typical “cruise director”. Instead of having one person for sailors to connect with, the Happenings Cast has various roles and themes, which range from The Foodie (leads tastings and activities), The Gamer (in charge of trivia, contests, seahorse racing, etc.), The Artist (provides arts and crafts opportunities throughout the voyage), The Hostess, The Diva (resident drag queen), The Balancer (more health and spiritual-related) and more. Having ten members of the Happenings Cast around the ship provides many more opportunities for sailors to connect with crew members. It also helps solo travelers join the festivities more easily and connect with others.

Virgin Voyages does not require sailors to check out pool towels like other cruise lines, so appreciate and do not disabuse their trust!

The Sail Away Party on Virgin Voyages is not to be missed (unlike many other cruise lines, which are quite lackluster). This is the first opportunity to see and meet your Happenings Cast (and maybe even start getting invitations to secret parties). Most importantly, for the duration of the party, the crew will be handing out sparkling wine to sailors at no cost (so drink up since Virgin Voyages does not have an unlimited drinks package). For Rockstar and Mega Rockstar sailors, enjoy Richard’s Rooftop for Moët Champagne happy hour, and then head out to the party as it starts and watch from deck 16. You will be standing next to most of the Happenings Cast and enjoying Champagne instead of sparkling wine.

For sailors who want to meet and mingle, those in the know, book the Grog Walk for the first evening of the voyage as soon as they board the ship and log onto the wifi. The Grog Walk is an additional cost of $45 but does include four cocktails from various bars around the ship. It is a great way to meet other joiners early on in the voyage.

Usually held at the Athletic Club all the way on deck 16 (weather permitting), the PJ Party is a blast for those who pace themselves enough on Day 1 to make it until 11:00 pm. This is also the last stop of the Grog Walk, so consider wearing your pajamas to the Grog Walk in preparation. Depending on the ship, there may even be a competition for the best pajamas!

When you see Seahorse Auction on the app without much description, just go ahead and show up. The Seahorse Auction is the first part of a multi-faceted activity that includes auctioning off wooden seahorses (handheld, not big enough to ride) and painting the seahorses while enjoying an included bucket of beer or wine. Then, racing said seahorses against the other owners later in the voyage. This is another great way to meet other sailors, and the winner takes home the kitty (minus 10% for the casino).

Karaoke on the Virgin Voyages falls into two different categories: full, reserved karaoke booths at the Groupie (the designed karaoke haunt on deck 7 forward) or the more social karaoke events held in the Social Club, where everyone walking by can enjoy or participate. The former does require sign-up reservations, so head down early before the spots fill up. The latter is perhaps more fun, as it is hosted by various Happenings Cast throughout the sailing, so drop by multiple times in the hopes of catching the evening Diva hosts (which is often Scarlet Night).

Trivia Types Onboard with One Common Denominator: a free drink for the winning team (which is a great perk, considering there is no drink package). Risky Quizness is just one of the many fun versions of trivia hosted; this one includes activities teams have to complete, in addition to correct answers, in order to get points or tokens (but in the end, the winning team in this version of trivia is up to the Happenings Cast member leading it).

Another standby of all the ships, the VHS workout is a hilarious, 80s-themed Richard Simmons-esque workout class, complete with shake weights, unitards, leg warmers and sweatbands (so bring along your own outfit if luggage space permits).

The bungee class is the most difficult group fitness class to reserve, as only six spots are available in the handful of classes. If interested, book immediately when you connect to the ship’s wifi. Do note that Virgin Voyages will charge a small fee for those who book group fitness classes and do not show up to participate. However, if you do not manage to secure a reservation, head to the studio 15-20 minutes prior to the class to wait in line in case one of the booked participants does not attend (which is often, as many overindulge the night before and a bungee class is the last thing they want to do the next morning).

Bingo with the Diva is not your average cruise ship bingo. If you enjoy drag queens or bingo, it is worth the cost of tickets for the entertainment value alone (but maybe you will even win)!

The Redemption thermal spa onboard Virgin Voyages’ ships is a nice experience. However, perhaps only visit once during the voyage (or book the Splash of Romance package, where one visit is included). The spa requires advance reservations for a three-hour window, so book a timeslot as soon as you board if you are interested in going (sea days will fill up fast).

Scarlet Night almost needs its own guide entirely. When packing for your voyage, make sure to pack something scarlet red to wear for this themed night. Stop by one of the many various “storytellings” about Scarlet Night held during the afternoon and evening leading up to the kickoff in the Roundabout at 9:00 pm, where you will likely be given some insider tips about surprises going on and where to be to see them or participate. The big finale is on the pool deck at 10:45 pm, which should not be missed. Consider leaving anything behind in the room that might not withstand complete submersion in the pool, including your scarlet attire.

The Squid Ink is the tattoo parlor on each Virgin Voyages ship. Whether excited, brave, or inebriated enough to make a reservation, Squid Ink is very professional, with incredibly talented artists who rotate out for various contract lengths (anywhere from two weeks to multiple months). For those who know they want to get a tattoo before boarding the ship, consider going to Squid Ink’s Instagram page to see who the artists will be on your sailing and look at their work. You can even contact one you like and discuss possible designs (though they cannot schedule your appointment until onboard the ship). Regarding appointments for tattoos, you must secure a reservation very early on in the voyage, as walk-ins are almost never available. For those looking to get their tattoo on the last couple days of the voyage (to ensure it does not interfere with sun and water activities), grab a fresh drink and line up outside Squid Ink around 30 minutes prior to their opening on Day 1 (their opening time usually coincides with when the ship reaches international waters, but will be posted on the app and outside the shop). Being one of the first individuals in line when they open gives you the most flexibility in terms of scheduling your appointment for the day and time that best works for your schedule.

Disembarkation & Packing: Those requiring assistance with their checked luggage must have everything packed and in the hallway with the initial boarding luggage tags attached no later than 10:00 pm the night before disembarking. Make sure to keep important items like clothes for disembarkation day, medicines or anything you might need overnight, as you will not have access to your checked bags again until you are off the ship the next day.

Self-disembarkation is an option if you want or need to be off the ship as early as possible (as this will be the first group allowed to disembark). However, note that you will have to carry your luggage off the ship that morning. Oftentimes, elevators are difficult to come by, so carrying bags downstairs might be required.

Bon Voyage!

Places to eat & drink on Virgin Voyages

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Dining on the Ship:

Pink Agave: The Mexican dining location on Virgin Voyages. This is hands-down one of the best restaurants on the ship. However, do not expect Tex-Mex options such as fajitas and quesadillas, as this authentic Mexican menu revolves around dishes such as cochinita, pibil, aguachile, elotes, etc. (yes, you can still get guacamole). The bar at the front of the restaurant is available to enjoy regardless of whether you are eating at the restaurant and has the largest tequila and mezcal selection at sea.

Extra Virgin: Virgin Voyages’ Italian enoteca-style restaurant with fabulous ship-made pasta. Dessert includes a gelato trolly, so consider an affogato to keep yourself going through all the excitement of the evening.

Razzle Dazzle: After receiving a menu update in mid-2023, Razzle Dazzle is now one of the top restaurant recommendations on Virgin Voyages for dinner. While much of the menu is vegetarian, they have integrated their former “naughty” menu into the offerings, which is a real win. Brunch at Razzle Dazzle is still the top option for sea days, so make sure to book brunch reservations when dining opens for booking 45 days in advance.

Gunbae: The first of its kind at sea, Gunbae is a Korean BBQ restaurant where sailors are seated at communal tables of up to six persons. This is another great way to meet other sailors early in the voyage, so consider reserving for the first night. Also, perhaps research the drinking game so you can show up at your table mates by practicing beforehand.

The Wake: Virgin Voyages’ seafood and steakhouse onboard, with gorgeous views of the ship’s wake. The menu is solid, albeit expected for a steakhouse (though their Parker House rolls are phenomenal). Definitely make a dinner reservation, but perhaps do not reserve it for your most anticipated evening. The Wake also offers brunch, which is worth booking if you have at least two sea days on your itinerary. If only one sea day brunch is available, book Razzle Dazzle.

Test Kitchen: Virgin Voyages included a molecular gastronomy restaurant on its ships called Test Kitchen. The menu will generally shift halfway through the voyage, so keep that in mind if there is a menu you find yourself leaning more toward. There are some interesting choices on the menu, so if anything falls outside your comfort zone, let the server know, and they can easily swap it out for something else.

The Pizza Place: Hands down, the best pizza spot on any cruise line. Virgin Voyages makes individual pizzas to order and provides a buzzer to let you know when your order is ready. Pro-tip: send one person in your group to put the order in when you know the party is winding down to beat the rush of people (particularly on Scarlet Night). The buzzer will work a few decks away, though not all the way to the other end of the ship.

Lick Me Til Ice Cream: Here’s Virgin Voyages’ level up from cruise ship froyo. This location on all ships offers great quality gelato (including vegan and dairy-free options).

The Galley: Virgin Voyages does not have a buffet onboard and instead has The Galley, which consists of quick-service food stalls that can be ordered from your table through a server. Food comes fairly quickly (though it comes as it is ready, so you may have toast long before your partner receives their eggs). The made-to-order element of the Galley does add a bit of extra time when planning morning excursions and disembarkation times, so do take that into consideration.

The Dock House: While not a full restaurant, the Dock House does have snacks during the day and early evening, so you can enjoy the gorgeous views from the back of the ship without having to go up to deck 15 for snacks from the Galley.

Bars on Virgin Voyages:

On the Rocks: Arguably the best bar on the ship with the largest selection, this is where you will find yourself stopping in between activities and when you need your favorite go-to cocktail that is not on the menu at other ship bars. Live music and performances are often here to sit down and enjoy throughout the voyage.

Richard’s Rooftop: For Rockstar and Mega Rockstar sailors only, this private bar and sundeck has a limited bar menu throughout the day, but most importantly, Moët Champagne happy hour each afternoon for sailors in suites.

The Dock House: Be sure to head to the Dock House early on sea days to snag one of the prime daybeds. The Dock House has a great cocktail selection (both at its location inside and outside on the deck) and is the perfect location to relax once you have orientated yourself to the ship on boarding day.

Grounds Club: While not technically a bar (though you can add a shot of Kahlua or Bailey’s to your order), the Grounds Club on deck 7 (and Grounds Club Too in the Galley) are the full-service barista coffee bars on the ship, which do come at an added cost. However, the snacks available at the locations are included in your voyage fare.

Gym & Tonic Bar: Another dual-purpose location where you can find fresh juices and smoothies during the day (including the free juice offered in the Splash of Romance package). However, in the evenings, this will transition to yet another pool bar with shorter lines on nights like Scarlet Night.

Loose Cannon: Good luck finding this bar the first time around! Hidden all the way in the back corner of the Social Club (across from the arcade), the Loose Cannon has a cool, calm vibe with a menu more skewed toward beer and basic wine (though it does have a cocktail or two on offer).

Aquatic Club Bar & Sun Club Bar: Do not be confused when you see a bar charge on your account for the Aquatic Club (Virgin Voyages speak for pool bar). The Sun Club is the bar directly above it on deck 16, overlooking the pool.

Draught Haus: Also tucked away and often missed, this is the full-scale beer haunt on the ship with many drafts and bottled/canned options. Consider buying a refillable (and returnable) growler here for use throughout your voyage for those looking to go the beer route.

The Athletic Club: This bar’s name is a bit of a misnomer, as the Athletic Club is all the way aft on deck 16 and a bit difficult to get to. You do indeed have to walk past much of the athletic equipment, like the boxing ring, sports court, etc., to reach this bar, but once there, it is more about lounging near the overhanging net (that is too uncomfortable to walk or sit on)

Advisor - Kelsey Parry

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Kelsey Parry

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