Joe and I got off our very first Virgin Voyages cruise not long ago. I already gave you an overall idea of what we thought about it. But over the coming weeks, we’ll post specifics about our voyage on the Scarlet Lady – the things we saw and did, the restaurants we ate in, etc.
But there were a few things we encountered that will probably never make it into a blog post or, for that matter, even the most well-researched Virgin Voyages (VV) website – including their own!
I mean, everyone will tell you that kids aren’t allowed on this cruise; it’s strictly 18+. And all will mention that basic Wi-Fi, as well as non-pressed juices, sodas, teas and drip coffee are free on the ship. But there are plenty of things that, I think, are important to know when planning a cruise on VV that might be a little bit more difficult to find out.
This list is made up of things Joe and I experienced, as well as what several people who were on the same sailing as us – the July 17-22 Richard’s Birthday Bash cruise – said they noticed.
Wristbands and luggage tags
Many cruise lines send you luggage tags ahead of time, so you can attach them to your bags and the porters know where to bring your stuff when you arrive. At VV, you drop your luggage off upon arrival, the porters ask you your cabin number, and they put it on a VV baggage tag, similar to the ones they use at the airport.
If you have a regular cabin, you’ll receive a wristband (used for checking in and out of the ship, charging for drinks and souvenirs, and opening your cabin door) when you check in at the kiosks on the 2nd floor of the terminal. If you have a Rock Star or Mega Rock Star cabin, you may or may not receive your personalized wristband in the mail, not long before the cruise (but if you don’t, no worries; you’ll get it at check in).
The app is buggy
Everything you do on VV – reservations for meals, activities and excursions, etc., are all done on the VV app. Heads up that the app is VERY buggy and it will crash as often as it works. Generally speaking, if you shut the app down and restart it, it will work again. Well, for a while, anyway. And when it crashes again, rinse and repeat. 😉
They only email 1 person
Maybe it’s because we were working with a travel agent who only put down Joe’s email. But any time there was something we needed to know – like a new form we had to fill out ahead of time – the email only went to him. The thing is, I’m the one who checks email on a regular basis, whereas Joe may only check his email every few days. So make sure that emails go to everyone involved – or at least to the person who actually, you know, reads their emails ;-).
Parking at the port?
If you’re driving to Terminal V, you can drop your luggage off first and then park at their parking garage across the street. I know you want to park as close to the ship as possible. Don’t. Park by the elevators, which are in the center of the garage. When you’ve disembarked and have to bring your luggage to your car on the 3rd floor, you’ll thank me if you’ve parked near the elevator, rather than 4 or 5 rows over.
Ride sharing to the port?
The Port of Miami is pretty big. Choose “Terminal V” as your destination when prompted.
There are 2 things that VV is VERY strict about:
- You must bring your passport. Your driver’s license, passport card, birth certificate, etc. won’t be good enough. If you don’t have your actual, physical, unexpired passport upon arrival, they won’t allow you to sail. Period.
- This one is a little iffier, but if you have been vaccinated against COVID, bring your vaccination card with you. Some people have said just a digital copy was good enough, but others mentioned they needed to show their actual, physical card. It doesn’t seem to be a hard and fast rule at this time, but if you have your physical card, bring it and save yourself the stress. And if you forgot to bring your card but got your vaccines at a nationwide chain, you may be in luck.
Meal, activity and excursion reservations
So let’s say you’re all ready for your cruise, you’ve downloaded the app, and filled out all the info it asks of you. You go to make some reservations and you notice that they only have a limited number of reservations available before your cruise. Maybe only 3 available times for The Wake, or only 9:15pm or later for The Test Kitchen. Don’t panic! They’ll open up more opportunities as your cruise gets closer; just keep checking the app. And they’ll open many more opportunities on the day you set sail. In fact, brunches at the Wake and Razzle Dazzle are only available when reservations are made on the ship’s Wi-Fi.
In fact, when you get to VV’s “Terminal V” in Miami, you can join their free Wi-Fi before you get on the ship. Just join the MERMAID4U Wi-Fi network and you’ll be able to start making reservations then and there. Make your reservations as soon as you’re able, especially for shows.
By the way, even if you try to make a reservation (for dinner or a show) and there’s no availability, go anyway. There’s no guarantee they’ll be able to get you in, but restaurants will do what they can to make room for you. And each show has a “wait line” that starts about 30 minutes before showtime, in case there are “no shows.”
Have friends on board?
Most, if not all cabins only hold 2 sailors each. So if you’re with more than 1 other person, your party is going to have more than 1 cabin. Use the app to link with them before you get on the ship, so you can add to each other’s agendas for meals, shows, etc.
The pineapple people
Virgin Voyages is the most open, all-inclusive and accepting cruise I’ve ever been on. That being said, we saw a lot of pineapple people on our cruise. If you’re into that, no judgement here, and more power to you. But if you’re not, you may not want to wear anything with pineapples on it. Just sayin’ 😉
If you’re with a special someone and want to go, (ahem) “below deck,” they sell intimacy kits in the gift shop near Extra Virgin (the Italian restaurant) so you can have fun and stay safe (Note to those who may be interested: the jelly included in the kit is 100% vegan, and glycerin, glycol and paraben-free).
Food & beverage
You can buy growlers of beer and drink them all over the ship.
Heads up that the Italian and Mexican restaurants are “authentic” versions of each nationality, not Americanized versions. So don’t go to those restaurants expecting to see chicken parmesan or a Chimichanga on their respective menus, because you’ll be deeply disappointed.
None of the restaurants give really huge portions (although we practically rolled out the door of the Italian restaurant), but Test Kitchen in particular has 6 “tastings” on their menu, rather than full plates. Joe and I generally try to eat “right,” without overstuffing ourselves, and left Test Kitchen comfortably full. But we saw many people complain they didn’t get enough food there and that they left hungry. If you’re used to big servings, plan accordingly.
They don’t have “doggy bags” at any of the restaurants so if you don’t think you’ll be able to finish, BYOB (bring your own bag). And yes, each cabin has a small fridge so you can store food & beverages there.
Charging your devices
It goes without saying that you should bring chargers for your devices. But sometimes people forget. If you have an iPhone or iPad, you’re in luck – they sell Apple chargers on the ship. However they (Inexplicably? Stupidly?) don’t sell chargers for Android devices. You can ask your cabin attendant if they have any Android chargers others have left behind that you can borrow, but there’s no guarantee that they will.
That being said, there’s a Samsung tablet in each cabin – you can charge your Android devices on the tablet’s charger. It’ll also work for late model iPhones that are charging pad compatible.
Also, although the cabins have plenty of wall plugs and USB ports, if you sleep on the side of the bed closer to the window/terrace, the closest plug may be a good 6+ feet away (hello, design flaw!). Bring an extension cord or long charger cord (but not a long surge protector – they’re not allowed on ships; they’re considered a fire hazard).
VV has lots and LOTS of photo ops that are perfect for Insta, FB, etc. One thing they DON’T have on board is photographers. So there won’t be someone taking photos at the restaurants, pool, dance parties, etc., with the hopes that you’ll buy copies at the end of the cruise. If you want photos, take photos.
There is a hammock on the terrace of many cabins that have a terrace. There are also hammocks all over the Virgin Resort on Bimini. Y’all, these hammocks are AMAZING and, for me, were one of the best parts of our cruise.
The company that makes them, Yellow Leaf Hammocks, were featured on Shark Tank a couple of years ago. Anyway, VV sells the hammocks on the cruise ship, but it was my experience that they only had one style available, in only one color choice.
Yellow Leaf Hammocks has several color choices on their website, as well as 3 different styles of hammocks – the “Chair” style that’s on VV, their “Signature” hammock (that one is available in classic size and family size – those were the ones at the resort on Bimini), and a cotton rope one that looks like the signature hammock but is made with 100% natural cotton instead of acrylic.
Heads up that all 3 styles are also available, still from Yellow Leaf Hammocks, on Amazon.com. And as of this writing, they’re about $5 less than on Yellow Leaf’s main webpage. I ordered one on Amazon and was also offered a $20 coupon (the fine print on the coupon says it’s only good for a limited time, but I don’t know how long that “limited time” is).
VV supplies you with towels for wherever you go – they’re by the pools, at the spa, and they even offer you towels as you disembark on port days. However inside the cabins, they give you bath towels, hand towels and makeup remover towels. But no washcloths. The makeup towels are the size, shape and texture of washcloths. But if you’re using one to remove makeup, you may not want to use it to wash yourself in the shower. So either bring your own washcloth(s), or ask your cabin attendant for extra makeup remover towels.
Heads up that there is no electric outlet in the bathroom. If you want to use an electric razor, charge your electric toothbrush or blow dry or curl your hair, you’ll have to do it outside the bathroom. And if you want to have a night light in your bathroom, you’re going to be out of luck (just like at this bizarre hotel). Fortunately, the cabin lights can be adjusted to 5%, which is enough light for most people to find their way to the toilet.
Also – both the shower and toilet rooms have doors that are made to stay closed unless you manually open them. If you have to use the toilet in the middle of the night, I discovered you can hang a towel over both the towel bar on the door and on the wall to prop the toilet door open. That way you don’t have to worry about finding the door handle in the dark.
VV offers room service for a $5 Ship Eats fee (the fee is waived if you purchase a premium drink). It’s available 24 hours a day (breakfast from 5am to 11am and other foods from 11am to 5am), but heads up that the service ends at 11pm on the day before you disembark the ship.
The Ship Eats service fee is waived for Rock Stars and Mega Rock Stars.
When in port
When you’re in port, you may or may not be in the same time zone as where you set sail. Miami, for example, is on Eastern Time, but Playa del Carmen/Cozumel is on Central Time. SOME (but not all) ship captains keep “ship time” the way it was when they left their original port – so it may be 3pm in Cozumel, but 4pm on the ship. Other captains switch to local time. They’ll announce this, but make sure you keep track, especially for excursions and whatever time you’re required to be back on board.
Also, depending on where you’re in port, bring bug spray. We had no problems at Bimini, but others on our ship got eaten up by bugs.
The 3-hour spa pass
The spa on VV has all sorts of treatments available for purchase. They also have a 3-hour spa package that allows you to experience their sauna, salt room, mud room, hot tub, cold tub, pool, etc. The package is available from 11am to 2pm or 2pm to 5pm and you can come and go as you please.
The 3-hour spa package has 2 different prices – it’s $39 per person for port days and $59 for at sea days. The price is mentioned on the app, but ONLY ON THE DAY OF. So you may be at Bimini, see that it’s $39, sign up for tomorrow (which is a sea day), and suddenly get a bill for $59. If you sign up in person, like we did, they don’t even mention the price.
As I said earlier, VV is a non-tipping cruise. Their crew is all paid well in comparison to the rest of the cruise industry and tips are not required or requested. That being said, if someone on the cruise was particularly helpful, you CAN tip them; you just don’t HAVE to.
Also keep in mind that people who are not VV employees – the porters at the terminal, as well as anyone involved in excursions – are not VV employees. Kindly tip them. Here’s an international tipping guide for who, what, why, where, when and how to tip.
Like many cruise lines, you can leave your luggage outside your cabin by a certain time on the evening before disembarkation. The cabin attendants will pick up your bags and you’ll find them as you leave the ship. You get to choose what time you’ll need to disembark and pick up your luggage, although you’re also welcome to bring your luggage yourself and disembark whenever you feel good and ready.
Heads up that the earlier you choose, the less crowded it is, although everyone needs to be off the ship by 10:45am. If you wait until around that later time, the queues are minimal.
Speaking of queues when disembarking, like any other U.S. cruise port (except one!) where you disembark, Terminal V does NOT offer Global Entry access; everyone needs to stand in the queue to be cleared by U.S. Customs.
As I said, some of these were things that Joe and I noticed while we were on our VV cruise. However other people noticed other things, as well. So a HUGE THANK-YOU to Marney B., Kay C., Suzanne E., Barbara H., Lin H., Nancee H., Paul H., Sue H., Richard P., Alexis R., Mark S., Shannanaghans S. and Amanda W. for their input for this post!
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