After an uneventful trip back to the US from Rome, it was time to get the laundry done, and fly to Miami. Packing was simple – T shirts, shorts, swimsuit, sandals, sun dresses, sun hat, and sunscreen. However, with all the rain they are having in the Caribbean, and the risk of a tropical storm, maybe I’m being optimistic with the sunscreen. Rain jacket added to the suitcase.
We arrived in Miami yesterday in the middle of a thunderstorm. We went out to dinner, and I ordered red snapper. I have not had a meal looking like that since we were in China many years ago. I don’t know if this is a bad omen.
Today as we are about the leave our hotel and take a taxi to the port, it isn’t actually raining, but it is hot and humid, with threatening black clouds on the horizon. Yup, it looks like it will rain on our sail away. However, there is NOTHING that is going to dampen my spirits, I can’t wait to get to the terminal and finally board the Scarlet Lady. And I mean to take loads of photos this time.
We caught a glimpse of our lady from the taxi. She is an interesting looking ship, but at least she doesn’t look like a block of flats like some other cruise ships out there. I do like the red funnel.
Virgin Voyages have their own cruise terminal in Miami, Terminal V.
Our boarding time was 1:45 and sure enough we arrived at the terminal at 1:40. We had been concerned that we did not have luggage labels, but that was not an issue – the porters asked what our cabin number was, and whisked our suitcases away.
We headed to the entrance and there was a sign saying 1:45 so we headed over there and were directed to enter the building. We had a short wait to go up the escalator,
and were then directed to the check in queue. It was unbelievably noisy. Everyone seemed to already be having a good time, and they were happy and loud. They were clearly dressed for the Caribbean and most were rather scantily clad, exposing their much-tattooed bodies. No middle-aged gentlemen in blazers and panama hats in sight. I suddenly felt rather old and out of place.
The queue moved quickly, and we were soon at the check in deck. There they looked at our passports and vaccination cards, and we were directed to another escalator, and in no time were about to board the ship.
Boarding was on deck 7, the promenade deck. As you enter the ship the first thing you notice is the purple lighting and the very loud music. Not harps or string quartets, but thumping techno sounds. I must have looked a bit stunned, but a very nice man directed us to the lifts and gave us instructions as to how to find our cabin. Phew, we were soon in the lift and away from the noise.
Virgin Voyages don’t have room key cards, the have the Band, which you wear on your wrist and it gets you into your cabin. You also use it to pay for drinks and purchases. It actually seems like a very good system. Our bands were there waiting for us in our cabin.
We booked an XL Sea Terrace cabin, and were very happy with our choice. The room itself is quite large enough, with plenty of storage space, and a small desk and mini fridge. There is a strange platform next to the bed. This is because the bed can be converted into 2 sofas during the day, and then converted back to a bed at night. This is a fantastic idea if you want to host a soiree, but we don’t know anyone on board as yet, so that probably won’t happen on this cruise.
The bathroom is big enough, again with good storage space. The toilet and shower are separate spaces, and yes there is no plastic shower curtain. I am loving this already!
And there it was……..my hammock on the balcony. I couldn’t wait to try it out! The only problem is that we are close to the front of the ship, and the cabins forward of ours all have metal fronted balconies – and we have a half glad and half metal one. The disappointment is that the hammock is in front of the metal part so I can’t see out. I could try to swing more, but then I may go overboard. A bad design fault for short passengers, but then you can’t have everything.
I then realized that the balcony was painted grey. I suppose I am just so used to white balconies, that grey seemed a bit odd, but there you go. Change is good.
We met our excessively perky cabin attendant, Bernardeth, who gave us an exceptionally comprehensive tour of the cabin, including playing with the room darkening curtains which seem to automatically close if you aren’t in the room and it is hot outside, and left us to watch the very edgy safety video on the TV.
We hastily unpacked, and then went to the Galley to get a late lunch. The Galley is the equivalent of the buffet on other cruise ships, except it is not a self-serve affair – more like a mall food court. However you sit at your table and there is a coaster with the menu on a QR code thing that you have to use your phone to see. Luckily they do also have menus for the phone app impaired. As soon as you sit down, a waiter stops by to take your order. I asked for street tacos from Let’s Taco Bout It, and Brian ordered his pastrami on rye from Hot off the Press.
We tried to set up the internet on our phones while we were eating, but I failed miserably, and with much regret as I have mastered the Cunard and Seabourn WIFI systems with absolutely no problem, I had to admit I had failed with Virgin Voyages.
A trip to the guest services people on deck 7 solved the problem luckily. The it was time to stop by our muster station. Luckily they have also done away with the awful lifeboat drill we used to encounter pre Covid, and all you have to do is watch the safety video on the TV, stop by the muster station to get your band scanned, and watch a crew member put on a life jacket. The latter is actually very useful. Having travelled on many ships over the past 68 years I have encountered many life jackets, all of which have the same basic design. Not so for Virgin. In their desire to be unique they have these very strange life jackets, so we actually did need a lesson on how to put one on. Of interest the light only goes on when you get into salt water (not so useful in the Great Lakes), and there is a long string that you need to use to tie yourself to anyone else floating around in the water with you. I thought that was actually a great idea unless you all want to swim off in opposite directions to avoid getting eaten by a shark or sucked into some kind of vortex.
Now we have fulfilled our muster obligations it was time to head out on deck for the sail away. There was free champagne on deck 7 and I went down there to get some before heading up to deck 16 for the sail away. There was quite the party going on on deck 7, with all sorts of strange dancing. I assume the party was indoors due to the rain, but that seemed to be stopping. It’s definitely better to be on an outside deck for sail away, so I headed up to the open deck, waiting for us to blow our whistle.
The captain, Giovanni (no idea what his surname is), made an announcement welcoming us on board, and letting us know that because of the risk of Tropical Storm Fiona hitting us when we are in the Dominican Republic, our itinerary had changed. No more Dominican Daze, we were going to Costa Maya in Mexico instead. Mexican Mayhem?
We watched our lines being let go, and then we blew our whistle! Yay! Now it’s not a great whistle, more like Queen Elizabeth than the QE2, but it was a whistle at last. The Seabourn Sojourn had been remarkably quiet for our 7 days, never a peep out of her, it was so good to be on a ship that was not afraid to blast out the neighborhood, and say, hey guys, we are on our way!
The weather held out until the lights of Miami faded into the distance. It was a good sail away.
We had booked dinner at Gumbae, the Korean barbecue restaurant. When we arrived at the restaurant it all sounded rather raucous – so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. As it turned out it was great fun. We were seated with 3 other folks – Cecelia, Dennis and Jessica, and after our server had us play a game which involved downing glasses of Soju, we were all very relaxed and enjoyed the food that she cooked at our table. We were definitely not on Seabourn anymore.
After dinner we went for a stroll around the promenade deck. It was one of those tropical evenings where you can almost taste the air. Even with us being at sea there was no breeze, it was hot, and the humidity made everything damp around us. My glasses were completely fogged up. At other times it may have felt oppressive, but it has been so long since we experienced this kind of weather, it felt good. Good to be back at sea in the Caribbean once more.
There is little that beats a romantic stroll around the promenade deck after a great meal. No one else was around, it was although we had the ship to ourselves. Yes, it was looking like this cruise was going to be something completely different, but so far, change is OK. I would not go as far as saying it is good.
I’m really looking forward to reading about your Virgin Voyage
Thanks! We really are having fun 🙂
Couldn’t be more different than Seabourn or even Cunard!
Disagree about the aesthetics of the ship – look at her from astern – not pretty!
Looking forward to further instalments
She is certainly not the QE2 or QM2 in terms of aesthetics, but she could be worse. Those RCL and MCS mega ships frighten me. I do have to agree with your concern about the view from astern. I will be posting a photo of just how bad it looks once you are on board.
Thanks for taking us along. Except for the loud music, so far it looks like we might enjoy the ship … especially that hammock on the veranda.
There really is a lot to like, but the load music really spoils it. I’m also not so good around really loud people! I must be getting old I fear 🙂