After initially being scheduled to sail in 2020, Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady is finally ready to hit the water. The ship will set off on its maiden voyage from Miami to the Caribbean on October 6, and Robb Report got a sneak peak at all the top-notch amenities on board Richard Branson’s adults-only cruiser while it was docked in New York this week.
As might be expected from something under the Virgin label, the 2,770-passenger Scarlet Lady–whose name is inspired by an early Virgin Atlantic plane–takes luxury to a cheeky new level, the way only Branson can. This is in part thanks to the brand teaming up with a roster of impressive designers for an approach that’s different from how most other ships are developed.
Instead of a more holistic strategy, “each space was designed to stand alone. Each space has its own background music, lighting, and design,” says Frank Weber, Virgin’s senior vice president of hotel operations. This translates into striking spaces that could just as easily be at home on land as as at sea. The roster of enlisted interior designers includes such noted names as Roman + Williams, Concrete Amsterdam, Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio, Knibb Design and Softroom of London. The crew’s sleek uniforms were crafted by British designer Gareth Pugh.
Scarlet Lady’s diverse spaces also ensure that there are separate areas for fun, relaxation and entertainment—and plenty of places made with adults in mind, as everyone on board must be at least 18-years-old. “Adult-by-design is really something that was needed in the industry,” says Weber.
So on board you’ll find the first-ever tattoo parlor at sea; a record shop; a luxury shopping arcade with rotating partners like Bulgari and Gucci; and a one-of-a-kind convertible theater offering three unique shows (no Broadway revues here). The swanky night club was designed by Roman + Williams, while the two pool decks have plenty of hot tubs, loungers and swings, plus 10 private cabanas.
In the spacious spa there’s a large thermal area, various treatment rooms (including one with a quartz massage bed) and three different fitness centers. A bright red running track encircles the top of the ship, and there’s a separate studio hosting free classes in yoga, barre, boxing and spinning.
Food is another major focus on the ship, and instead of one main dining room, there are six different restaurants—none of which have a buffet. These are not your typical cruise ship dining experiences, either, as each restaurant sports a distinctive design and concept.
“Main dining rooms on ships have always been a thorn in my side,” says Weber, who worked in the cruise industry for decades before joining Virgin Voyages. “The main dining room on a ship takes up so much real estate and it’s only really used for dinner. Breaking these spaces down into smaller spaces allows better utilization of space. Here, every restaurant has its own style with its own kitchen, executive chef, manager and staff. They really operate like a restaurant on land.”
The Wake is the classy and sophisticated steakhouse, complete with an Art Deco-inspired design, decadent seafood towers and tableside cocktail service, while Razzle Dazzle is a modern vegetable-forward restaurant that you can easily imagine in Los Angeles or Miami. Extra Virgin is an Italian aperitivo-inspired concept with terrazzo tabletops, and Pink Agave is a Mexico City-style spot with what Virgin claims to be the largest collection of rare tequila and mezcal at sea.
Two of the most unusual offerings for a cruise ship are Test Kitchen, which serves a tasting menu from its open kitchen and hosts cooking classes; and Gunbae, a trendy Korean BBQ joint with custom-made tabletop grills and free welcome pours of Soju.
In addition to those sit-down restaurants, there are plenty more places in which to fill up, including an all-day food hall space, ice cream parlor, craft beer bar, pizza place, Mediterranean lounge and a stunning Champagne bar in partnership with Moët & Chandon that’s got a number of vintage bottles on the menu. All reservations on the ship are accessible via an app, which also offers an especially fun feature: Shake for Champagne. Any passenger can shake their phone and a bubbly interface will appear, allowing you to order a glass of Champagne to be delivered to you anywhere on the ship.
There are 1,400 cabins on board, and while some of the standard rooms are on the small side (although 80 percent have balconies with cute red hammocks), there are 78 spacious suites, all designed by Tom Dixon. The largest are the two 2,147-square-foot Massive Suites, which include a guitar room with an extra sofa bed, a roomy living room with a bar, turntable and record collection, a plush master bedroom with mood lighting, and a sizeable marble bathroom with soaking tub and peek-a-boo shower.
There’s also a large outdoor deck complete with Jacuzzi, dining table, loungers and hammocks, and–for the ultimate VIP experience suite guests also have access to Richard’s Rooftop, a private area near the main pool with its own bar and plenty of cushy seating. Scarlet Lady will be based in Miami and San Juan and will primarily sail in the Caribbean. Five-night cruises start at $1,925 per per person for a Sweet Aft Suite, the entry-level suite category.