Richard Branson’s Scarlet Lady Is The Coolest Cruise Ship on The Sea

by Abby Montanez
virgin voyages scarlet lady

Last week, I stepped onto a cruise ship for the very first time. Granted, it was docked on the Hudson River, but you never forget your first. Personally, I never considered myself to be an aspiring seafarer—something I soon learned Richard Branson and I had in common. Scarlet Lady, the first ship to debut from Branson’s Virgin Voyages cruise line, was just weeks away from her inaugural series of U.S. sailings. I got an exclusive tour of what it’s like to be on board. 

Before docking most recently in NYC, the ship had just completed its first sailings around the U.K., and Branson himself returned from a successful trip to space. The goal was to originally unveil the Scarlet Lady in New York in March 2020. The pandemic derailed those plans. A year and a half later, the Scarlet Lady is finally expected to make its first U.S. voyage out of Miami and around the Caribbean in October 2021. You can find more about the itineraries here.

Branson, along with Tom McAlpin, president and CEO of Virgin Voyages, took those 18 months to consider the ship’s health and safety protocols. As it stands, guests and crew members will be tested before boarding and everyone must be vaccinated. In addition, they’ve also installed state-of-the-art air purification technology and implemented advanced cleaning protocols. 

Richard Branson (right) with Virgin Voyages CEO Tom McAlpin (left) l Photo Courtesy of Virgin Voyages

So, what inspired Branson to create an adults-only cruise line? As previously mentioned, I learned that Branson himself had never actually been on a cruise. And to the end, had zero desire to do so. Naturally, this propelled him to launch Virgin Voyages—a fleet of “Lady Ships” that offer the kind of fun, immersive and luxurious experience he would want at sea.

Virgin Voyages markets itself as appealing to the “young at heart,” meaning the vessel is a perfect fit for inexperienced cruisers or veterans of the industry who haven’t had their needs met during previous at-sea experiences. To ensure guest satisfaction, the pricing model that they came up with incorporates gratuities, food, beverages and more. As for the clientele, Scarlet Lady can accommodate up to 2,770 “sailors” (ages 18 and up), which is exactly what guests will be referred to onboard. 

virgin voyages scarlet lady

The Net at the Athletic Club l Photo Courtesy of Virgin Voyages

The look of the ship, in addition to the variety of offerings onboard, is what truly makes it a standout. My tour, which was led by Dee Cooper, Senior VP of Design at Virgin Voyages, highlighted the incredible interior and exterior spaces of the Scarlet Lady. Cooper mentioned Virgin Voyages brought on creatives from all different fields (none from the actual cruise industry) to conceptualize the vessel’s innovative architecture. 

Overall, the ship takes inspiration from Retro-futurism and at times, can feel very much like being in a spaceship. (But in a good way.) Cooper said it was important for the design to be representative of both “the past and the future.” Mission accomplished. 

virgin voyages scarlet lady

The roundabout staircase inside the Scarlet Lady Virgin Voyages cruise ship l Photo Courtesy of Virgin Voyages

Where Scarlet Lady goes against the status quo is with its array of fun, eccentric and also glamorous spaces. For example, they brought on Roman and Williams to create what Cooper referred to as “the best f***ing nightclub at sea.” Here, guests are transported into what seems like another dimension via a mirrored, optical illusion corridor before accessing the club. Other Instagrammable locations onboard include the outdoor running track and a boldly-colored restaurant named Razzle Dazzle. 

To that point, there are over 20 different types of eateries on the ship from upscale Mexican cuisine to an experimental test kitchen and even Korean barbeque. Forgoing nearly all formalities, there are no traditional seating times for any of the restaurants or reserved tables. There’s definitely no buffet, either.

virgin voyages scarlet lady

The Manor – the signature nightclub designed by Roman and Williams l Photo Courtesy of Virgin Voyages

What would a Richard Branson-approved cruise line be without a few touches of luxury? Trust me, Scarlet Lady has plenty of them. Aside from its high-end, albeit relaxed interiors, Cooper says that it’s “all about attitude.” She was referring to Virgin Voyages’ “rebellious luxe” mantra, which defines luxury as “getting stuff when you want it, where you want it.” 

I was able to witness what was perhaps the best example of this, Virgin Voyages’ Shake for Champagne feature on their Sailor App. Guests simply shake their phone, press a button and a bottle of Möet Chandon Impérial® is delivered right to them, no matter where they are on the ship. In terms of guest cabins, think of tangible amenities such as private outdoor showers and woven hammocks on the terrace.

luxury cruise ship

Sea Terrace Cabin Interior l Photo Courtesy of Virgin Voyages

Does all of this combined make Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady officially the coolest cruise ship on the sea? Maybe. We’ll have to see what happens when the rest of Branson’s fleet is revealed.

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the ship on our TikTok:


Would you take a cruise on @Voyages newest ship? #scarletlady #virginvoyages #27photochallenge #cruiseship

♬ Swing Lynn – Harmless

Main image courtesy of Virgin Voyages

About the Author/s

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Abby is The Digest's Managing Editor. She spends her time looking at dogs on Instagram and eating her way around Jersey City.

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