Virgin Voyages

Dining with Virgin Voyages: It’s SeaLicious!

Oh yeah. Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady is about to blow your notion of a traditional cruise right out of the water.

Last night, at an event at The Altman Building in New York City, a few of us got a taste (literally and figuratively) of the Virgin Voyages experience (not to mention a performance by rock legend Joan Jett to end the evening) and let me assure you, folks, it rocks.

Sure, we’ve already heard about Squid Ink, the industry’s first tattoo parlor at sea and how Cuba will be among the ports Scarlet Lady will visit during her inaugural season but last night, Tom McAlpin, president and CEO of Virgin Voyages had this group of jaded travel professionals cheering—no lie—as he announced the “rebellious twists” that will make Virgin Voyages “different by design.”

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Virgin Voyages

SeaLicious Menu | Photo: Judy Cuervo

“No nickel and diming!”  That triggered the first cheer…and the happy roars increased in excitement and intensity as McAlpin revealed that Scarlet Lady will shatter the typical on board experience in some pretty significant ways.  Sodas and waters will be complimentary.  Fitness classes will be complimentary.  No assigned seatings.  No fancy dress.  No main dining room and no wasteful buffets!

That’s right!  No main dining room or buffet!  Instead, there will be 20 diverse eating establishments on board, some operating 24 hours a day and each with a bar located within the establishment.  The restaurants will include The Wake, a nautical spot at the stern of the ship featuring floor to ceiling windows, the “elevated Mexican” Pink Agave, The Pizza Place, the Italian Extra Virgin, the outdoor 24-hour Dock, The Test Kitchen, The Galley, the wildly wonderful, Razzle Dazzle (wait until you see the “hallucinogenic” design!) and many more.

And—get this—NONE of them will carry a pesky surcharge!

Virgin Voyages Hospitality

From the moment guests arrived at The Altman Building, it was obvious this was no staid little press event.  Strobe lights flashed.  Music pounded.  Artistically created hors d’oeuvres were offered and an open bar supplemented the champagne and wines being passed.  A scantily-clad young man lounged in a giant martini glass and, in the corner, a trio of mimes sporting bold black and white stripes posed with guests who wanted an op art commemorative of the evening.

Even the press conference that preceded dinner wasn’t the typical quiet affair.  Or maybe it was until the announcement of the Korean restaurant planned for Scarlet Lady brought McAlpin’s talk to a screeching halt as a gang of waiters appeared from nowhere bearing shots of a popular Korean drink.

Virgin Voyages

Fried Chicken Sandwich | Photo: Judi Cuervo

If you’re a cruise veteran like me, you’ve been called to dinner by cruise director announcements, chiming bells and xylophones but I’m willing to bet you’ve never been called to dinner by a troop of drag performers who, through the evening would entertain us with slightly naughty music and humor.   Last night’s dinner—a tasting menu of the treats in store for guests at the flamboyant Razzle Dazzle—was a visual explosion of creatively styled dishes, drinks, desserts and, certainly, entertainment.  From the coconut milk infused rainbow sprinkled Fairy Bread to the crazy cobb salad intense with bacon and blue cheese, the whimsical chick-pea-za in its own little pizza box and the succulent fried chicken sandwich (or egg on English, a vegan selection) dishes were dazzling and delicious.  And the drinks…did I mention the drinks?  After the Filthy Bloody Harry, Yaaaasss Queen and the lovely wines served, it’s not surprising that I can’t remember.

And don’t get me started on dessert.  Pluck a rainbow churro from one of the umbrellas placed around the room, pick up a boozy chocolate cookie, or a tart ube (purple yam) ice cream cone!  Razzle Dazzle might be a healthy dining choice aboard Scarlet Lady (that can be made naughty with the addition of stuff like meats) …but based on the dishes I tried last night, you’d never know it!

Virgin Voyages promises to shake things up and break rules in cruise ship dining and last night they proved that not only will they do it, but they’ll do it in a very delicious way!

-Judi Cuervo 

Judi Cuervo is a New York City native who fell in love with cruising in 1976 during her first sailing aboard Carnival Cruises’ Mardi Gras. Twenty years later, she began her freelance cruise writing gig and, since that time, has covered mass market, ultra-premium, riverboat and expedition ships for regional, national and international publications as well as cruise websites.