I Spent 7 Days on My First Adults-Only Virgin Voyages Cruise

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I’ve sailed a variety of cruise lines throughout the years, beginning with my first voyage as an 18-year-old living in Fort Lauderdale when my mother took me on a nighttime sail. Back in those days (not to date myself), you could get on a ship out of Port Everglades and go into international waters to drink and gamble.

It took a decade to discover cruises were so much more than an evening of debauchery, and I’ve since taken my children on cruises, experienced romantic voyages, and gathered the girls for weekend getaways at sea, many in the name of an upcoming wedding.

When my best friend suggested we needed some one-on-one girl time, we knew we wanted to spend a week in the Caribbean sun and escape winter’s wrath. It just so happened that Virgin Voyages, which has only been in operation since the pandemic, had recently launched a 7-night itinerary from San Juan to island hop in Antigua, Barbados, the British Virgin Islands, Guadeloupe, and St. Lucia. Always one to enjoy Sir Richard Branson’s hotels and airlines, a trip aboard the Valiant Lady seemed like an ideal match. 

What Does Adults-Only Actually Entail?

If you Google Virgin Voyages, you may find earlier articles indicating that adults-only cruises are meant for raunchiness. My friend’s husband read too many comments about “swingers,” “in-cabin toy packages,” and other tales that made him wonder why we chose Virgin. We, and the people we met on board, laughed at those exaggerated stories. They simply are not true.

Valiant Lady's Diva, A Woman Named Carlos
Valiant Lady’s Diva, A Woman Named Carlos (Photo Credit: Lissa Poirot)

What does adults-only mean on Virgin? It means that kids are not splashing in the pool and running down the corridors. It means the entertainment will be of interest to those 21 and older, including the paint-and-sip arts and crafts program we enjoyed one afternoon, the boozy Bingo games, where mothers and daughters sat side by side with mimosas in hopes of winning a big prize, and several evening performances with The Diva.

Honestly, adults-only simply meant “adult time.” To us, that equated to a lot of relaxing, listening to live music, and reading on a lounge chair with a cocktail in hand. I didn’t even notice that children weren’t on board because it just didn’t occur to me that anything should be noticed.

More to Cabins Beside the Iconic Red Hammock

Sharing a room with a friend is always a tricky proposition, but even more so in the tight quarters of a cruise ship. My friend and I shared a 225-square-foot Sea Terrace suite and from the photos, it looked like we’d have some trouble squeezing in clothes for two. But we were pleasantly surprised upon arrival, as the suite was filled with plenty of space to accommodate all of our clothes and toiletries. 

Guests are given multiple configuration choices, including a double bed, and we requested our beds be configured in an L-shape. This way, we could each have a single bed at night and a couch during the day. But we were never in the cabin to even utilize the day couch!

Valiant Voyages red hammocks
The author in Valiant Voyages’ red hammock. (Photo Credit: Lissa Poirot)

Beneath one bed were two large drawers, and the closet/armoire featured another set of drawers so that everything had a place. We couldn’t fit our suitcases under the beds, but because of all the drawer space, we could fit them into the closet. While the vanity space in the bathroom was almost non-existent, we used two baskets from the closet to hold our toiletries on the shelf below the sink to keep things organized and within reach.

Where we weren’t impressed was the balcony. Sure, we had a balcony but space was tight. Virgin Voyages is pretty gung-ho about its scarlet red hammock on the balconies, but having the hammock hanging down made it feel even smaller for both of us to enjoy the space at the same time. It is a petty complaint, considering we were hardly ever in our suite, but the only time we would be in the hammock was when the other was in the shower.

Getting Healthy at Sea

We had decided to make our vacay a week of self-improvement, promising to partake in the ship’s more than 100 free exercise classes. We also swore we would utilize the open-air track on Deck 17 called The Runway, join the calming morning yoga sessions on The Perch, and visit the ship’s gym, B-Complex. 

A lofty undertaking on a cruise? Actually, it was super easy to maintain a healthy lifestyle aboard Valiant Lady. We couldn’t get enough of Rees and his high-energy Spin classes set to Beyonce, Rhianna, and Madonna. These classes rivaled any class I’ve ever taken in the city.

The ship’s gym was divided into two very large spaces: one offering cardio equipment that looked out from floor-to-ceiling windows so we could take in the views while running, and the other offering weights, Pilates, and other strength- and flex-training areas, also featuring the same windowed walls on the other side of the ship.

Spin Class at Sea, B-Complex, Valiant Lady
Spin Class at Sea, B-Complex, Valiant Lady (Photo Credit: Lissa Poirot)

The ship’s food court-styled dining, found on Deck 15, was nothing like a traditional food court. Instead of pizza, burgers, French fries, and chicken fingers, the Galley featured Bento Boxes at Bento Baby, made-to-order salads at Daily Mix, and açai bowls at The Sweet Side. We could even find freshly made juices at Juice Sea on Deck 7 and poke bowls at Sun Club Café on Deck 16.

Knowing we would be burning through workout clothes, we even took advantage of Valiant Lady’s laundry, which was just $30 for an entire bag!

Of course, a sea day wouldn’t be a sea day without a visit to the spa, and Valiant Lady offered an easy and inexpensive way to enjoy the spa with its Thermal Suite Pass. For two hours, we could take advantage of Redemption Spa’s steam room, sauna, salt therapy room, mud bath room, hot and cold plunge pools, and heated Turkish marble lounges. It was highly worth the $70 price tag.

How Is Virgin Elevating Cruise Dining?

What is a cruise without an array of food options? Virgin wanted to take the dining experience up a notch. You won’t find a main dining room with set seated times. You won’t find a main dining room, period. The restaurants aboard Valiant Lady are restaurants, where a reservation is recommended and the service will be like any you’d find onshore. You just won’t pay to dine in them. (But you will pay for drinks.)

Read Also: Virgin Voyages Announces the Return of Onboard Festival

We didn’t feel like we had to dress to the nines or that meals were completely over the top when dining every evening. The restaurants are very hip, exciting, and social environments. Our favorite was Extra Virgin, “Elevated Italian,” on Deck 6. From crispy artichokes with caper aioli and charred lemon aperitivo to the secondo porcini-rubbed New York Strip with Calabrian chili butter, farro and sauteed escarole, we raved about every bite. We weren’t the only ones who loved this spot; every passenger we spoke to said it was their favorite, and we failed to secure a second reservation due to its popularity.

Our second favorite was The Wake, located Deck 6 aft. Not only did we have amazing views from our perch as we sailed by Richard Branson’s private Necker Island, but we caught Sir Richard aboard his catamaran, waving to the ship as it passed while his staff on the island lit a bonfire to guide our way. We were told he always greets his ships when he’s on the island, sometimes with fireworks.

The Wake is also the place to be for a boozy brunch. Or, so we were told. We were too busy with our morning workouts and excursions to make it to brunch!

Virgin Voyages Test Kitchen Test
Virgin Voyages Test Kitchen Test (Photo Credit: Lissa Poirot)

Of the ship’s additional restaurants, we loved Pink Agave’s taste of Mexico through tlayudsmemelassopestortasesquites, and tamales, but were less impressed by Test Kitchen. The latter is Virgin’s Michelin-inspired lab-like eatery.

Although the menu was experiential, the dishes delivered didn’t wow us, especially when multiple servers lifted individual smoke-filled glass tops to be what seemed like a side dish of fresh peas and egg yolk. Our style was definitely the more lively, shared plates scenes.

Is It Worth It to Be a RockStar?

Although we didn’t stay in a RockStar suite, which are at least double in size, feature a bottomless in-room bar, and have marble bathrooms with Peek-a-Boo showers (and sometimes a bathtub), we did get RockStar VIP access.

RockStars get the first access to book restaurants and experiences and are moved to the front of the line for any shows that do not require reservations. Considering the booking window opens 45 days before the sailing date, and that passengers in the know set their alarms to begin booking as soon as the app launches, this first access alone can be worth its weight. 

Richard's Rooftop, Valiant Lady
Richard’s Rooftop, Valiant Lady (Photo Credit: Lissa Poirot)

The real perks for RockStars, however, are the in-room stocked bar, complimentary drinks offered around the ship, daily spa access for complimentary Thermal Suite visits, a dedicated RockStar Agent at your service 24/7, and, our personal heaven, access to Richard’s Rooftop.

The rooftop lounge in the forward ship was dotted with shaded loungers and multiple hot tubs with a private bar, panoramic views, and nightly happy hour. We spent every afternoon lounging on the rooftop between excursions and watched the sunset during happy hour with an intimate group of cruisers we befriended. On our sea day, when the pool was most packed, the lounge remained an empty reprieve, and we certainly felt like RockStars with our whims catered to at every turn.

Is It Fun Going Ashore?

I can’t believe I am going to say this after years of giving my mother grief for not getting off cruise ships and exploring, but my friend and I loved Valiant Lady so much that we wished we spent more time onboard! Seven days felt too short to enjoy every bit of space.

Still, we took advantage of the Experiences offered by Virgin. By far, our best Experience was a day sailing to the Pitons in Saint Lucia, where we stopped to snorkel and dropped anchor in a quiet yet colorful bay for local eats and Piton beer.

We tried a similar excursion in Barbados but were disappointed when the catamaran took us in view of the ship, deposited us on a crowded beach, and then sailed us back after a quick swim, claiming the waves were too rough. We later discovered others who took the same excursion and sailed further afield through the same company. We think our detour was due to being the last excursion of the day.

Colorful St. Lucian lunch spot during an excursion
Colorful St. Lucian lunch spot during an excursion (Photo Credit: Lissa Poirot)

One word of caution is that many of the excursions are extremely large and crowded. One passenger complained of having 40 people on his sailing excursion, while a kayaking trip in Antigua had more than 60 guests. We wished we had known how many people were booked on each excursion before selecting, as we would have chosen smaller Experiences.

What Is It Like on a Virgin Voyage?

The sold-out cruise featuring 1,400 cabins across 16 decks of Valiant Lady could have turned our vacation into a nightmare – trapped on a smaller cruise ship than, say, Oasis of the Seas, at full capacity worried us. But our fears were for naught because even during our one at-sea day, Valiant Lady never felt crowded.

The ship was filled with hangout areas, from lounging on a day bed in the Mediterranean-inspired Dock House and its utterly fabulous and very secluded outdoor area in the ship’s aft to the wonderful Sip Lounge, where afternoon tea and champagne were a constant.

The only areas that ever felt crowded were the pools at the Aquatic Club and Gym and Tonic, which is pretty typical of any cruise ship, especially on sea days. But besides feeling like we had the ship to ourselves, there was the feeling of inclusion aboard Valiant Lady.

The diversity was evident with and felt by the passengers and crew, and it seemed everyone was simply happy to be together at sea. I miss Valiant Lady and her crew and hope to sail with Virgin Voyages again soon.

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