From a vinyl revival to food from around the world, Jane Archer gets the lowdown on Virgin Voyages’ adults-only cruise ship
Virgin Voyages always promised its cruise ships would be a bit different. Here are some of the fun things we discovered on one of Scarlet Lady’s scenic summer sailings along the UK’s south coast from Portsmouth.
You can eat your way around the world
Razzle Dazzle sounds like something from the musical Chicago, but it’s actually a restaurant. The name, and more importantly the design, was inspired by jumbled horizontal, vertical and angled stripes that were painted on ships’ hulls during the First World War to confuse the enemy.
It is big on vegetarian and vegan, and one of six restaurants on Scarlet Lady – Korean Gunbae cook-your-own diner, Italian Extra Virgin, Mexican Pink Agave, experimental Test Kitchen (corn custard and black bean salad anyone?) and The Wake, which is into steaks, round out the choice. They are all free, but you can only book each once.
Once you’ve exhausted them, it’s either the Galley food court, which has all-day breakfasts, burgers, noodles, sushi and more, or tapas-like snacks in the Dock House.
They’re replacing passengers with sailors
If sailors, as Virgin likes to call its passengers, can find their way to the Roundabout, a staircase in the middle of the ship that spirals down from deck seven to deck six, they will get their bearings, as a red mark in the ceiling always points north. There’s also a red thread around the inside of the ship – “to make sure everything hangs together”, laughs vice-president hotel operations Anders Karlson.
The ‘compass’ is a fun feature but won’t help sailors find their cabin – invariably a problem, even for regular cruisers – but the A and Z plastered in big letters either side of the ship on the accommodation decks surely will. Simply match the letter to the one at the end of your cabin number and hey presto. Smart sailors might also spot the colour-coded stairwells – purple for the front, red for the middle and blue for the back. A good idea; even better would be a Virgin-esque symbol in inside corridors – a V maybe? – pointing forward so they also know which way they are going.
Everyone can be a DJ
Virgin’s Sailors have music wherever they go on the ship – well, almost. There isn’t any in the cabins yet, but that is to come, according to Karlson. Suites are there already, with record players (they really work!) and beds angled towards the balcony so sailors wake with a view. Cabins look like they have been outfitted by Sweden’s favourite furniture company and are pretty minimalist, but they are clean and bright. All have sofa beds that can be folded up by day on request. The red hammock on the balcony is a neat touch but better suited to the Med or Caribbean than the UK’s unpredictable summers.
This a ship that rocks
There are 37 music zones on the ship and playlists that change depending on the time of day (we found most just disappear into the background so a blast of David Bowie and the Rolling Stones one morning was a real treat). The playlists will change every few weeks so the crew don’t get sick of hearing the same music. In their downtime, crew can take their pick from some 600 movies – twice as many as Virgin’s sailors. “We want to look after our crew,” says Karlson.
Virgin’s favourite colour might be red, but Scarlet Lady is very green. The line close to eliminating all single use plastic on board and the toilet paper is made from sugar cane.
As part of its eco stance, the line has also dumped the idea of a keycard ID and instead you get a wristband made from recycled ocean plastic. It’s not the fashion accessory Virgin would have you believe, but it easily fits in a pocket if you don’t want to wear it. This is your ticket to get on and off the ship, unlock your cabin door and pay for alcoholic drinks, spa treatments or anything on board that costs extra (soft drinks, dining and tips are included).
Find out more at Virgin Voyages