Updated: Aug 27
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel on the Valiant Lady thanks to Virgin Voyages*, and in this post, I want to share with you 5 things I loved about it.
Without a doubt, if there's something that makes Virgin special, it's their approach to cruising. Overall, it's a unique experience and one that I find much more contemporary than what other cruise lines offer. Here you have a video about my experience (for now, only in Spanish):
1. Vacations without constraints
One of the aspects I would highlight the most is the freedom to do what you want, when you want. On board a Virgin cruise, the traditional concept of schedules disappears to make way for a personalized and unrestricted experience. The ability to book dinners at your convenience is something I love. Imagine starting your day on your own time, without having to worry about the breakfast closing time, or watching the sunset in a relaxed manner without being concerned about your dinner reservation time.
This is something uncommon, though not new. Other cruise lines already offer similar options, but something that has delighted me is that, despite having flexible scheduling, you can book the times that suit you for each day, even plan the entire week in advance (which I partly recommend to ensure you get to try everything you want). This prevents you from arriving and having to wait in line at the restaurants, and I think it's wonderful.
In addition to the specialty restaurants, there are many spots on the ship that offer food and drinks without reservations or set schedules, such as The Galley, a kind of on-demand food market with a variety of options (sushi, burgers, or American breakfasts available 24 hours); the Pizza Place, with pizzas to enjoy there or for takeout, and the sweets from the cafés or ice cream.
2. Food enthusiasts: this is your place.
The gastronomic experience on this cruise goes beyond satisfying hunger. The inclusion of all the onboard restaurants in the price removes barriers between passengers and the delicious culinary options typically found on ships.
It's common to come across cruise proposals that revolve around a main dining room and a buffet, with the rest of the options reserved for passengers who want to purchase them, usually at a relatively high price. In Virgin, there is neither a main dining room nor a buffet. Instead, you have this market-style area, which differs from a buffet in that it offers table service and cooks everything on-demand to avoid waste or reheated food in large trays.
The true gem of the ship is the specialty restaurants, among which we find:
1. Razzle Dazzle: A creative restaurant primarily focused on vegetarian cuisine.
2. Extra Virgin: An Italian restaurant with fresh pasta made onboard daily.
3. Pink Agave: A contemporary interpretation of Mexican cuisine.
4. The Wake: Specialists in seafood and steak cuts.
5. Gunbae: An original and fun interactive experience centered around Korean barbecue.
6. The Test Kitchen: Offering a 6-course tasting menu based on modern cuisine and ingredients.
All of these options are included in the price of the trip and add to the areas where more food is served, such as the aforementioned pizzeria, ice cream shop, or places like The Dock (with small plates inspired by Greek cuisine) or the Social Club (offering bites to enjoy while playing board games or arcade games).
3. The best is included
Related to the previous point, let's talk about what's included in the price of the trip. In addition to all the dining options, the Virgin cruise includes basic beverages like water, soft drinks, or filtered coffee, as well as Wi-Fi, and there are no tips to worry about, they're not even expected. I want to focus on these last two points because I find them particularly interesting.
Firstly, if you've traveled on cruises before, you'll know that Wi-Fi is usually available at a sky-high price. This, combined with the lack of normal mobile data at sea, can make staying connected from the ship a costly option. While it's clear that during our vacations, we might want to disconnect, many still wish to stay in touch with their family, travel companions, or simply use their social media or handle some work matters. That's why having free Wi-Fi on Virgin's ships seems like a significant achievement. Granted, it's not the fastest internet in the world, and there's a premium paid option for that, but it's sufficient to keep you connected and use email or social media.
Tipping is also a recurring issue on any cruise. In fact, it's often an unexpected cost that passengers encounter at the end of their journey. Tipping is quite common in countries like the United States, where it's considered a way to compensate for service on a product. Virgin has chosen to eliminate tipping and instead provide higher salaries compared to the competition. This way, the staff is taken care of without the need for an additional expense for passengers. I find this very interesting because I highly value cruise lines that give you an upfront, all-inclusive price, and when you factor in all these initiatives, I believe that traveling with Virgin will have you paying what you were initially quoted, except for alcoholic beverages, expenses in the casino, or excursions.
4. The cabin
Another of the highlights of the cruise is the cabin. In my case, I had a balcony cabin located in the central part of the ship. At first glance, the cabin has a very contemporary design and offers what you would expect from this category. However, there are many details that I found very noteworthy.
One of the most important aspects is undoubtedly the bed, and in this case, we have a double bed that is actually a sofa. Don't be misled by this; it's one of the most comfortable beds I've ever tried on a cruise ship, and since it doesn't separate, you don't experience those terrible gaps in the middle that you find with other beds when they are two singles pushed together. Originally, Virgin presented the cabin with a sofa during the day and a bed at night, but now you'll always have a bed unless you request otherwise. Since there isn't another separate sofa, the cabin feels very spacious, which is great for getting dressed in front of the mirror. The bathroom is a bit small, so having that extra space in the room is appreciated. Another standout feature is the red hammock on the balcony. It's simply wonderful, and my only complaint is that there isn't a second one because you'll want to spend hours admiring the sea from there.
Lastly, something worth mentioning is the technology present in the cabin, just as it is throughout the entire onboard experience. To start, the lights and curtains are automated and can be controlled through a tablet. This is especially convenient because, in addition to having preset lighting for various occasions with colored lights, you can control them from anywhere and open the curtains from your bed in the morning or turn off a light you forgot before going to sleep without having to get up to find the switch. Furthermore, from the tablet, you can make requests to the room service, such as asking for towel changes, refilling water (as the room comes with two water jugs that are regularly replenished), or ordering some snacks like popcorn or gummy bears at no extra cost. The cabin also features a doorbell and lights indicating "do not disturb" or "room ready for cleaning" modes. This eliminates the need to deal with a door hanger that often falls off the door handle. Lastly, I want to mention the topic of outlets. They are all American-style, with only one European plug available. However, this shouldn't be an issue if you travel with adapters or consider that the room has plenty of USB ports for charging your devices.
5. A close and 21st-century experience
In my final point, I want to talk about how Virgin is attracting a new audience through its experience and its crew. The general perception of cruises is often that they are very formal places where you'll find an older crowd. In recent years, this has been changing with many cruise lines modernizing and introducing programs for all ages, but Virgin takes it a step further. To start, the crew feels very approachable, thanks to their departure from excessive formality or uncomfortable and outdated uniforms in favor of a much more casual style. It's common to come across crew members living onboard and interacting with guests, and I like this, just as I enjoy seeing the bridge crew in polo shirts and shorts. Why not? This gives the ship a much younger atmosphere, and I'm not referring to age itself, but rather to the more relaxed and informal spirit without sacrificing elegance or good taste.
Another aspect closely related to all this and to previous points is the implementation of technology onboard, specifically Virgin's app on your phone. Almost all cruise lines have apps to manage the onboard experience, but there were several things about Virgin's app that I particularly liked. On one hand, it's very convenient to use the app for room service, especially for its 24-hour chat with reception, which saves you from having to go in person and allows you to get answers to your questions anytime, anywhere. Furthermore, the app incorporates some very interesting features such as a free internal chat and even a function to order a bottle of champagne at any point on the ship. It's all very Virgin-style.
In conclusion, if you want to experience a cruise line with a youthful vibe without sacrificing luxury and explore some more unique ports, Virgin is undoubtedly the choice for you.
Travel with a gift
If after reading this post you're eager to travel with Virgin, I want to take this opportunity to provide you with a discount code** that will give you $200 onboard credit to spend on drinks, excursions, or anything else: OGGIABORDO. It is applicable to most departures in 2023.
Lastly, don't forget to follow me on Instagram so you don't miss out on my adventures and the best tips for your vacations!
*This post is part of a sponsored trip by Virgin Voyages, but the content and experience are based on first-hand experiences and are not affiliated with the company.
** The discount code has been provided by Virgin Voyages for the Oggi A Bordo community. Booking cruises through it does not generate any financial benefit for Oggi A Bordo. The conditions of use and eligibility for the discount are solely subject to Virgin Voyages.