I just realized I haven’t blogged since I went to Iceland in November 2019. That’s pretty much what the pandemic has done to me. I logged on and saw that I had some half done drafts from a cross country RV trip to 4 states in Summer 2020 and then a half-draft for my trip to Toronto in September 2021. But none of that made it to the final stage.
It is now December 19, 2021. I’m on Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady. I boarded this afternoon and it was already a full day of activities. I am going to pack everything in that I can so that if anyone asks me about this brand new ship I’ll be able to talk about like I’ve experienced it first hand. She’s a really cool ship!
I’ve been here about 5 hours and I’ve already met 2 people who are on this cruise for the second time. Note – this cruise just started sailing for the first time a few months ago. Really, it’s only been 4-5 months since the maiden voyage. So these people who said, “Covid be damned” and “I’m going on a cruise anyway,” had so much fun that they turned around and booked another cruise on the same ship only a few weeks or months later. I’ve only been on this cruise for a few hours and I might be ready to re-book, too! More explanation on the perfect Virgin Voyager later on.
My journey starts at LAX at 11:59pm on December 18, 2021. That’s when my flight from LAX to MIA was set to depart. I’m on an AA 777, in a middle seat, mask on the whole way. The seats on this new plane are not super comfortable and I was squirming and feeling claustrophobic the whole time. Oh and it was fuh-reeeezing on the plane. I’m sure I could have got some better sleep if I didn’t feel like an ice block in my cramped middle seat. I brought along a soft, furry sleep mask that my friend Rose gave me, and that helped. Note to future flying self: overdress, ask for a blanket, wear layers, pack gloves in my pocket, do not wear shoes without socks and a warm beanie might also be wise.
We landed at 7:45am and didn’t need to be at the Port of Miami until around 12:30pm. I had thought we might walk around South Beach for a few hours but the sky was dark and gray and it was drizzly wet. So we sat inside the airport and ate Cuban delicacies and wasted away the time with chit chat.
We took a $25 Uber from the airport to the port. A taxi driver told us it would be $27 by taxi. Competitively priced. We were greeted by a fleet of cruise ships. Carnival, Virgin and MSC were all sitting in a row in front of us.
First thing when we got out of the Uber, was a sign on the curb that said, Virgin Luggage Drop Off. Oh, this must be where we are supposed to drop off our luggage for delivery to our cabin. The porter who greeted us emphasized that he would be taking care of our luggage and if we wanted to tip him we should do so at that moment. I’m pretty sure he said this about 3 times. Emphasis on I will be taking care of your luggage. We got the hint. I got the feeling he would not be taking care with our luggage if we didn’t offer a little somethin’. As we walked away from the curb I noticed that plenty of people still had their bags with them. Turns out it is not obligatory to have your stuff delivered and so if you want to keep it with you, then don’t leave it at the curb with a porter who will gently but firmly shake you down for a tip.
Next step is getting a rapid Covid test. We had to use a QR code to get the online appointment form, so if you’re going, download a QR code reader beforehand so you won’t be dazed and confused by the technology requirements of state of the art techno advancements.
We stood in line for our test. The line went pretty fast. You are given a ship check-in time in advance so as not to jam the lines for the testing and check-in process. The lady who gave me my Covid test was very thorough about cleaning out my nose. Then we went to a check-in area to get our fancy arm bands and wait for our Covid results.
My friend got her test results within 5 minutes. But after nearly a half an hour my results still hadn’t arrived by e-mail. This happens apparently. If this happens to you, you need to go to a lady at a small desk near the glass door exit and give her your name and tell her your e-mail isn’t arriving. She will find your results and give you a print out. It was negative. Phew!
Time to get this Scarlet party started!
Immediately upon arrival you should find Sailor Services if you’ll need any help booking excursions, shows or making dinner reservations. First, and this is very important, get the update for the app. Even if, like me, you think you have the latest version because you only got it a few months ago. Check for an update anyway. This was a big mistake that I made and it wasted precious time while things were booking up by people who were getting into the app properly. You can do everything yourself from the VV app, but coordinating it all takes some time and some things sell out right away, especially now with very limited space for indoor activities due to Covid.
Sold out immediately: bungee workout class, SUP yoga at Bimini, vinyasa flow, cleansing breathing & meditation classes… pretty much anything that looked like a rejuvenating and meditative experience was gone immediately. We were left with HIIT, something called “MyBeast Fitness,“ probably as scary as it sounds, and spin class choices. We talked to a fitness instructor who told us that for $105 we could book a private class with up to 6 people together. Okay, we need to make 4 new friends to do the bungee class and SUP yoga privately. We’re signed on for MyBeast Fitness and an after workout “Roll-Out and Recover” class. Review coming later.
A very helpful Sailor services woman helped me rearrange my schedule so that I could squeeze in all shows and dinner reservations that we wanted. The app did not show availability for all things that we wanted, and especially for prime dinner reservations, but she took notes on what we wanted and said she’d work on it. In a few hours our schedule looked perfect. If you have any trouble getting what you want, I highly recommend tracking someone down for help.
We missed lunch and I was starving so we sought out The Galley for a snack and then The Dock House for more snacks from a grill. YUM. We ordered grilled shrimp and octopus with delicious sauces and they were divine. My friend ordered a fancy drink with gin and elderflower potion, and I got a pear cider in a tall glass. It hit the spot. Then a PA announcement that the ship would be leaving port soon and everyone should head to the pool deck on level 16 to get a free glass of bon voyage champagne. We got on that mission asap.
Tonight our dinner reservations are for the highly acclaimed, yet mixed reviewed, Test Kitchen. More on that later in a longer food post.
After we were done at Test Kitchen, I had made reservations for us to check out the cabaret singer for a “Cocktails with the Hostess” performance in a place called The Manor. She was a beautiful singer but a little flat. We stayed for about 5 songs.
As we were leaving The Manor we stumbled on the Red Room. A performance was just starting so we figured we should check it out. Rest and sleep could wait till later. The Red Room was throbbing with a big bass beat and techno sounds. A huge, inflatable, pink whale was sitting on a rectangular stage. 3 large screens around the room announced amusing thoughts. Two smaller, circular, side stages were in the corners.
The percolator was percolating. A countdown started from 10… 9… 8… 3… 2… 1…
About 8 dancers hit the stage and dance floor. They were high energy. We had just entered the “Untitled Dance Party Thingy” and I loved this the most of everything on the ship.
Heading back to the cabin around 10:30pm. It’s been a very long day. We never really slept since we took the red eye and just kept going like an Energizer bunny. The Untitled Dance Party Thingy was a fun show. I LOVED it. I’m going to try to go back when they do it one more time on the last night. I want to post some videos.
In the end, we accidentally missed tonight’s PJ dance party at the pool. It started at 11pm but I forgot to add it to my schedule so it didn’t show up as part of my agenda! Dang it. And we had bought matching red striped PJs and everything! There’s so much to do. Be sure to add everything to your schedule in the app so you won’t miss a thing.
Besides making a complete schedule, another best tip for success is: don’t mess around and get on the ship at the earliest possible time. Get to the port early to get the Covid test done so you can get the test results back. Once onboard, get right on the business of picking your shows, reservations, fitness classes, Shore Things, anything that needs reservations in advance. Don’t mess around with this or you might not get to do what you want.
More on the ship and my cabin in the next post.
And if you think this sounds like a lot of fun, IT IS. But it’s not for every type of cruiser. If you enjoy a traditional cruise where the ship staff is hoovering over you every 30 minutes this one may not fit into pre-conceived expectations. I will say there was every single age demographic and type of person on board so the ONLY requirement has nothing to do with the number of years since you were born. The only requirement is that you are YOUNG AT HEART.
Contact me to discuss if you are right for this cruise. Right now it’s Wave Season – which is when the cruise lines offer up their best deals for the year. For Scarlet Lady, it’s extra 20% off, extra bar tab credit, bonus this and that. Do not delay. My next blog posts will showcase more of the fun that Scarlet Lady has to offer!