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It’s new and it’s very different, red and grey exterior, bright and ultra modern interior designed to carry 2,770 ‘Sailors’ and 1,160 crew. Sir Richard Branson chose Dover to launch his latest venture, Virgin Voyages, and their new cruise ship, Scarlet Lady the first of 4 ‘Lady’ ships where you are a “Sailor’ not a passenger. The outer design is distinctive, unraked bow incorporating wave breaker surmounted by a partly covered and inclined tiered main structure whilst the stern appears wide compared with the main squared superstructure topped by a bright red streamlined funnel.


Step aboard into a world designed by people who have started with a clean drawing board and have never designed a cruise ship before resulting in something very different to traditional cruise ships. Virgin Voyages set out to create a ship that allows sailors to travel in style, large open areas varying from pastel shades to contrasting colours and in this they have succeeded. Sailors enjoy being entertained and the Red Room is a first, the first transformational multi form theatre at sea, an area which can be a traditional theatre or transformed to a centre performance area where acrobats performed to the delights of the mainly young audience. Virgin say “entertainment and shows on board feature gigs, DJ sets, drag artists and more all of which are unlike anything you will find at sea”.


People who cruise enjoy food and on this ship the choice is endless, over 22 eateries. Gone are the main dining rooms, the familiar buffet replaced by The Galley, an area of manned serveries delivering a variety of dishes. Gunbae, a Korean BBQ experience, cook your own food on a centre table hot plate be it meat or fish. The Wake, steak and seafood restaurant, so named after its location at the ship’s stern. For something different try the Test Kitchen, a cooking school with restaurant or Razzle Dazzle the vegetarian restaurant and many more offering different experiences.


To lose those gained kilo’s take advantage of the ‘B-Complex’ gym programs to balance, build, burn and bike, as well as ‘The Perch’, designed for outdoor yoga, The Athletic Club, Gym and Tonic, or if you just want to relax visit ‘Redemption’ the onboard spa, yes, keeping fit is a big feature.


For that late night drink and boogie there’s The Manor named after Sir Richards first recording studio set over two decks, enter the lower level through a maze of mirrored light, it’s amazing.


Cabins are mainly located on decks 8-14 and come as inside, sea view, balcony and suite categories. Mine was a balcony, 121902Z, the number represented deck 12 cabin 1902 in zone Z.  On entering I wondered where the bed was as it was laid out with settees in an ‘L’ configuration. My cabin attendant informed me that each evening cabin attendants transform the settees into beds of either twin single, double of single ‘L’ shape configurations. For those who like an afternoon nap you will need to speak with your cabin attendant and ask them to leave the bed in ‘night’ configuration. There are USB ports to enable phone/tablet and computer charging so you can leave chargers at home, electrical sockets are US and European style. Flat screen TV and hairdryer are standard but there is no telephone, no bedside cabinets, reading lights etc. just 3 ‘bulk head’ lights above the headboard. Whilst hanging space is adequate many will struggle with limited shelf and drawer space plus the ability to find a suitable place to stow suit cases. The good sized balcony is home to the ‘Scarlet Hammock’, yes a hammock and that certainly is a first, but are you agile enough to climb in it. The bathroom whilst adequate is very small, no shelf or cabinet to store personal toiletries, no face cloths, but the shower spoils you with 2 separate heads, ceiling ‘Rain Forest’ and hand held jet both supplying a powerful stream plus containers of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and a tablet of dark grey soap.


Virgin Voyages take protecting the ocean very seriously:

“Virgin Voyages are one of first cruise lines to use Climeon, a technology that utilizes heat generated from the ship’s engines to generate electricity, thereby decreasing the demand for fuel. While the industry continues to improve on the journey for readily available and commercially-viable solutions, purchasing high-quality carbon offsets allows us to take immediate action, while also supporting a long-term strategy that secures a net-zero future for the cruise industry”.


So, who is this ship aimed at, first impressions are the young, 20-35 year old, gone is traditional style cruising with set dining times, and formal nights, in comes informal dining, fitness venues and different styles of entertainment. All dining venues, wi-fi, group work out classes, basic beverages (soft drinks, coffee and water) and gratuities are included in the base fare and how many other ships have a tattoo parlour on board, ‘Squid Ink’.


There is much to see and do on this ship and unfortunately one night on board is not long enough to sample it all, certainly not to try out all the eateries and bars.


Richard Branson, Virgin Group founder, commented: “I have dreamed of starting my own cruise line since I was in my 20s and I’m thrilled that moment has arrived. The Scarlet Lady is truly special and we’ve worked with some of the world’s most sought-after designers, artists and architects to craft an extraordinary experience. The benefit of our five decades in business in so many industries is that we can offer a voyage like no other.”


Scarlet Lady will sail on cruises taking in Costa Maya in Mexico, Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, Key West and The Bahamas.

May 2021 will see Scarlet Lady joined by the 2nd ‘Lady’ ship, Valiant Lady which will feature 7 night cruises of the Mediterranean with Barcelona as her home port.



Alan Fairfax -




Alan also writes for

Atlantic Print Media with regional papers across Kent with high circulations and regular holiday & travel sections

in all editions


and is Assistant Editor for

 Your Holiday & Cruise Magazine

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Published March 2020

Scarlet Lady