Virgin Voyages released their first ship in 2020 and has since made a name for itself as a cruise line with a younger, more modern audience in mind.
And, that’s definitely what I experienced when I spent a week on the Valiant Lady – their second ever cruise ship which docks and travels around Europe. The older ship, Scarlet Lady, docks at home in Miami and takes trips around the Caribbean and Mexico.
But, whether it’s revamping the classic cruise bingo to include a drag queen who makes you dance like a chicken when you call out bingo incorrectly (yes and she’ll make you make sex noises too) or a live sex-comedy show in the evening there’s lots that’s strange about this ship.
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There are restaurants that play drinking games and let you cook your own meat on the table, or meals where you have no idea what you’re served. You can get things delivered to your room at any time, make kids crafts even though no children are allowed on the ship and even tuck into noodles for breakfast.
There’s no denying that Valiant Lady is different – and that’s summed up by the one night of partying like no other – Scarlet Night. Every part of the ship is transformed into an octopus-laden, bright red wonderland with acrobats, singers, secret parties and 6am afterparties.
There’s even a place to get an IV when you’re too hungover… so here are some hidden extras I discovered while sailing.
On the cruise, all the lights turn bright red to welcome in Scarlet Night – a wild party with entertainment, a pool party, drinks and a 6am finish.
But, while your itinerary will show when the main events, after-party and pyjama party begin there are apparently secret miniature soirees being thrown around the enormous ship.
According to one member of staff, wearing a fabulous outfit with lots of red is a great way to get noticed.
Oh, and you'll want to hang around the spiral staircase at the beginning of Scarlet Night – that’s around 9pm.
Earlier in the day, there’s a small chat with the staff called the Myth of Scarlet Night where the entertainers tell you about the story behind the evening’s theatrics and if you’re there the crew may give you more tips…
Razzle Dazzle is the vegetarian-focused diner on board the ship and also where the resident drag queen – Martina when I boarded – throws her cheeky brunch.
It can be a bit annoying for meat eaters to join their vegetarian friends and family when there’s nothing on the menu they would like, but at Razzle Dazzle there’s a trick.
Simply ask for the secret menu and you can order one of two meat dishes – when I ate there it was steak or butter chicken.
You’re welcome carnivores!
If you’re lucky enough to stay in a Rockstar or Mega Rockstar room then you’ll get access to Richard’s Rooftop.
This luxurious bar has comfy seating and hot tubs, but also gives out free Moet et Chandon champagne between 4.30pm and 5.30pm. You can have as many glasses as you like free of charge within that time.
Don’t have access to Richard’s? Simply make friends with someone who does (excursions and the hot tubs are great for making friends).
If you’re excited for the experimental flavours of The Test Kitchen – Valiant Lady’s molecular gastronomy restaurant where you don't get to choose what you eat– then don’t limit yourself to going once.
The menu changes in the middle of the week – so even if you hated it on Monday you may love what’s served on Sunday. Give it a chance, you can always head for pizza afterwards (get the pepperoni, it's to die for).
Free the nipple
This is less of a secret and more of a rule. You’re able to take your top off freely at the top of the ship at an area called the Perch.
Whether you’re avoiding tan lines or like to feel free it’s totally OK – especially as kids aren’t allowed on board – just chuck a bikini top back on before you go to dinner!
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This may not work for everyone, but one member of staff told me that pizza is the only dish the crew cannot order for themselves above deck.
So, if you make friends with a barman and give them a pizza, you might get a free shot or two, but this is not guaranteed. Don’t blame me if they look confused… I got free shots.
Book a cruise
Virgin Voyages offer a seven night Irresistible Med sailing on Valiant Lady departing from her home port in Barcelona on September 4 calling at Toulon, Marina Di Carrara, Ajaccio and Cagliari, with an overnight stay in Ibiza. Now from £921 per person, cruise only. Find out more at virginvoyages.com.
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