Kenneth Williams’ well-known phrase was frequently used by the crew on board Virgin Voyages’ first cruise ship Scarlet Lady. I suppose you have to expect that a ship claiming the only tattoo parlour at sea is going to be different, and Scarlet Lady doesn’t disappoint.
Apparently, none of the ten-person design team had ever worked on a cruise ship before, so things just feel different from the start. Nowhere is this more evident than in the cabins. The beds can be adjusted, not only from twin to double but also one can be turned sideways to make an L-shaped sofa, converting the cabin into a sitting room during the day. It certainly makes better use of the small cabins but there is a downside. As cruisers know (but perhaps not the designers), you store your suitcases under the beds, which is not so practical if one of them is moved around every day.
My balcony cabin had the smallest bathroom I have ever seen, and no toiletries were provided apart from a bar of black soap which left sooty marks on the wash-basin. However it did have twelve spare toilet rolls! Outside there was a scarlet hammock for those adventurous enough to try climbing into it over the balcony.
Lighting can be changed to suit your mood. This function, and some others, are controlled by a tablet in the room, but I struggled to get it to do anything. Then the cabin steward arrived and I asked her how it all worked. She prodded and swiped but to no avail – then apologised and said she had not been on the training course yet. Well, if the crew need a training course then what chance do the passengers have?
The public areas also look and feel a little different. As well as the tattoo parlour there is a spa and the usual selection of shops, plus a stall selling vinyl LPs. Furnishings tend to be minimalist and some seating resembles striped mattresses, complete with white fluffy buttons. There is an IKEA feel to the place. The ship’s superstructure appears quite slim and many of the bars, lounges and recreation areas feel more like wide corridors than spacious rooms. This was brought home to me when visiting the gym and the separate spinning room, both long and narrow with equipment crammed into the available space.
There are twenty places to eat, including an always-open diner, and all are included in the price. Gone is the buffet, the foodie backstop on most cruise ships, replaced by the Galley, a food market with different stalls, which probably makes up some of the twenty.
Those craving Mexican can visit Pink Agave whilst the Tests Kitchen is part cookery school, part restaurant. Gunbae, the Korean for “cheers”, is a Korean BBQ where food is cooked on a hot plate in the centre of your table, a sort of dry versions of a fondue, whilst veggies and vegans can head for Razzle Dazzle, which also has some ‘naughty’ options such as chicken. The Wake, the nearest Scarlet Lady has to a main restaurant, offers steak and seafood whilst on deck The Dock delivers Mediterranean-style mezze. Extra Virgin is an Italian restaurant and the Pizza Place does what it says on the tin.
As for entertainment, Scarlet Lady bucks the trend for full-scale Broadway productions of well-loved shows and instead provides a number of specially-made productions. Drag items are also a feature. There is no traditional theatre, instead a long and not too wide performing space with banks of seating either side, again underlining the corridor feeling.
After-hours activities focus on The Manor, a two-tiered nightclub with DJs pumping up the volume until the early hours. For suite passengers, Richard’s Rooftop offers a lounge and bar area with unusual furnishings.
Scarlet Lady is adults-only (18+) and prices include gratuities, soft drinks and internet access. There is no dress code and no set dining. Passengers can choose from inside, ocean view and balcony cabins, plus ‘rock star’ suites; over ninety percent of the 1400 cabins have a view of the ocean. The ship holds a total of 2,770 passengers.
If you want to sample Scarlet Lady then you’ll need to head out to Miami and sail on one of the four, five or seven night cruises. However in 2021 her sister ship Valiant Lady will be offering seven night Mediterranean itineraries between May and October from her European home port of Barcelona. Some itineraries are extended to nine nights with the addition of a two-night pre-cruise stay in Barcelona. Third and fourth ships are scheduled for 2022 and 2023.
For more information contact your cruise agent or go to www.virginvoyages.com