Earlier this year around April, a lot of staycation cruises started to go on sale in the UK, and although we were initially curious, they didn’t really provoke too much interest from us. We felt that many were overpriced and the itineraries were not that inspiring, along with the fact we were just not that keen to get back on a ship with the prospect of having to take a ships tour to then get off the ship. However, when Virgin Voyages announced that Scarlet Lady would be returning to the UK and would be doing 6 short cruises to nowhere, we decided to check out the prices. Okay, not a great itinerary I hear you say but competitive prices, plus it was a chance to try a new cruise line. Since it was first announced in 2014 that Virgin would be building some new cruise ships, we were naturally very curious as to whether they might be something we would like, so with that in mind, we decided to make a few price enquiries. With two types of itineraries to choose from, Long Weekender (3 nights) or Summer Weekdaze (4 nights), we priced both up and eventually decided to book one of the 3 nighters, embarking on a Friday and disembarking on a Monday morning. It did feel really strange booking a cruise after the long layoff but by the end of the process, we felt totally invigorated and were raring to go.
You will understand when we say that the Covid-19 situation has always been one of our utmost considerations, and there have been many twists and turns around this subject since we booked. When we made the booking, it was stated that the ship would not sail with a maximum capacity, this was a UK government ruling which capped passenger capacity at 1,000 or half the maximum whichever was lower but the more recent relaxing of government guidelines in July has once again adjusted the number of passengers allowed to sail to 50% capacity and if my calculations are correct, the total passengers allowed onboard should be 1385.
Virgin Voyages booking terms state that there is a requirement for all guests needing to be fully vaccinated along with lots of other measures that have been put in place to ensure everyone’s safety and we have been more than happy with the steps they are taking.
Our cabin selection was relatively simple, we looked for somewhere mid-ship halfway between the upper and lower public decks and decided on a Central Sea Terrace on deck 10. Sea Terrace being the name Virgin Voyages call their balcony’s and they come complete with a hammock. The cabin also has a day set up and a night set up with the beds being dismantled in favour of an L-shaped sofa during the day to provide a bit more room in the cabin. Looks like a lot more work for the steward to me.
Here are a few other notable snippets of information about the ship and cruise line that played a part in our decision to book.
- All Virgin Voyages cruises are 18+
- There are 1330 cabins in total
- The ship aims to be as environmentally friendly as possible, all heat produced by the ship is converted back into electricity to help power it.
- No single-use plastic is used on the ship.
- No Buffets, this is to predominately eliminate food waste but in turn, has created incredible dining standards.
- Free WiFi
- All gratuities are included.
- Filtered still and sparkling water, non-pressed juices, sodas, teas, and coffees are all included in the cruise fare.
Portsmouth is also a new embarkation port for us, so that will provide a new experience too, we have been there several times before and it will make a nice change to sail out of a new port.
On the run-up to embarkation, we received an email encouraging us to check-in, this all has to be done via the Virgin Voyages App which I downloaded to my phone soon after we made the booking, however, the app has not performed as well as I would have anticipated and I have found the need to uninstall then reinstall it several times to get it working again. There is no option to check-in online via a browser which I found rather disappointing, everything concerning this cruise has had to be done via smartphone and I do struggle with finding my way around things when the screen is 135mm x 65mm so from that perspective its, not something I would endorse.
Restaurants and some entertainment can also be booked via the app and there is an inbuilt planner which then highlights anything you have managed to book. I can see a need to recharge my phone battery regularly during this cruise just to keep up with things.
So. all that remains to be done is to get a negative Covid test en route to the port and we are good to go, the following are the instructions we were guided to prior to embarking.
For Sailors arriving in their own car:
- Drive to the testing site at W4 Tipner Ln, Portsmouth PO2 8RD, UK
- Park your car (temporarily) at the site, and go inside to the testing marquee
- Once inside, you’ll get your COVID-19 antigen test, and be asked to show proof of your COVID-19 inoculation
- Once you’re cleared to sail (having passed the tests), you’ll be given your luggage tags, your Band (the wearable), and an additional band to indicate that you’ve been cleared
- Afterwards, you can return to your car and drive to the port terminal where you can park and leave your car for the duration of you voyage
The very last time we were on a ship was November 12, 2019, and the amount of time that has elapsed between then and to when we are next onboard which all being well is August 6, 2021, equals to:
- 633 days
- … or 90 weeks & 3 days
- … or 1 year, 8 months & 25 days
I think we can all agree it’s been far too long.
If you are reading this, it means good news in that we have tested negative and are on the way to the ship.