Cruise Travel-Adventures in Life At Sea
May 14, 2022
Carnival Horizon is one of many ships in the Carnival Cruise Lines Fleet. It is the second in the Vista Class of vessels. This ship has a passenger capacity of 3,960 passengers. I do not know what percentage of capacity our sailing was at but it seemed to be reasonably full. It was crowded in some venues but never felt over crowded to us.
We were in a Cove Balcony which is closer to the water than traditional balconies. It is built into the hull and therefore has a more limited view when sitting than you would find on balconies at higher levels. These balconies allow you to feel and hear the sea and still enjoy your views of the ocean itself. They can be closed off in the event of high seas and if there is reason to believe the weather conditions would be detrimental to having people outside on these balconies, crew members will come and close them off until conditions improve. We did not have this happen on our sailing.
As usual, there are plenty of places to find food that suits your interest. Some of these venues are included with your fare while others are extra charge. This is the norm on all main stream cruise lines. We had most of our breakfast and lunch meals at the Blue Iguana Cantina. They offer burritos and bowls. There is a large selection of vegetables for those who do not eat meat or eggs. We enjoyed dining in the main dining room many nights for dinner but we also tried Guy’s Pig and Anchor Smokehouse and Bonsai Teppanyaki. The last two were extra cost venues but both very reasonable. With the Teppanyaki restaurant, you will be seated with others. Please keep this in mind if you choose to book this venue.
Entertainment and activity options included standard cruise activities such as pool deck games, parties, ping pong and mini golf. There was also a ropes course and a Sky Ride for those who are not afraid of heights. Billiards fans could also play pool outside in the Sports Deck area. Tables were in use often throughout the cruise. The Sports Bar was crowded every night. It was a smaller sports bar than I have seen on other ships and was crowded due to being playoff time for both the Stanley Cup (NHL) and the NBA. The bartender there was kept very busy and due to staffing issues, he was often the only bartender there. He was great despite doing the job of several. The ship had an IMAX theater that was extra cost, an outdoor screen for free movies under the stars, and a Thrill Theater- 4D theater. The Thrill Theater was closed for COVID reasons and has not reopened. The IMAX pricing differed depending on the show you wanted to attend. Those over 55 were entitled to a slight rate decrease as it was labeled a senior rate.
Our ports included Aruba, Curacao, La Romana, and Amber Cove. Excursions were all booked through the cruise line and were hit and miss. The Jeep Excursion in Aruba was great for me as I rode with the guide. I could ask him questions throughout. The other guests were in their separate Jeeps and only got the presentation at each stop. I am not sure if they thought it was worth the price. For me, it was, but I had the benefit of non stop access to information from the guide, Victor. In Curacao, we took the Haito Cave and City Tour. Curacao has colorful buildings and is known for its floating/swinging bridge. La Romana was where the ship had to back into an area to dock. This took some time but was easily accomplished. An ATV excursion there was not as described and I was told it was not worth the money charged. If you are looking to shop, the port area here is very small. In Amber Cove, we rented an Ocean Cabana. This allows for up to 8 people in the standard cabana. There is a large cabana with capacity for 20 or 21 people. There are also Pool Cabanas and Hillside Cabanas. In this area, there is also a Zip Line available. Cabana rentals come with non motorized water sports use and have a staff member who will come by regularly for food and drink orders. It is a great place to relax. Note, the water in Amber Cove is not the clear water that you see in many Caribbean ports. You will not see into the water except very close to the surface.
If you bring children, there is also a Family Harbor area that has its own family harbor lounge so families can spend time together in a more limited area than the main areas. This can be beneficial to help with sensory overload that may be found on the pool deck, buffet area, etc. This family area is in addition to having the normal children’s club areas that are available based on the age groups of the children.
We had a good time on this cruise. Staffing shortages were evident, especially with bar and service staff, but, it was not a big problem. Our room attendant, Daniel, was amazing and a bright star daily. Being able to spend time with family on the cruise was great. There were plenty of options for everyone.
If you are interested in seeing the options available for you on an ocean cruise, please contact Team Dawson Travel for assistance. www.teamdawsontravel.com.
March 19, 2022
A review of this cruise was not done at the time of sailing. Overall, this is a beautiful ship. It has the signature crystal stairs in the atrium area that many MSC ships have. These are great visuals but a little challenging at night. The Seashore had several entertainment areas. Of those, my favorite is Le Cabaret Rouge. Music can be found here many nights during a standard cruise. Other areas of entertainment include the Madison Theater for theater shows, Dueling Pianos, and assorted entertainment in other lounges throughout the ship.
There are many food options available of which some are included in your fare and some are extra charge. The only extra charge venue we went to was Hola Tacos. This is a great spot to eat Mexican food. You can choose a la carte or an all you can eat option. Choices include the mainstays of burritos, enchiladas, tacos, chips and salsa, and more. Everything we had was consistently good and the pricing was reasonable. Best of all was our waiter, Jose. We stopped by early in the cruise and he assured us we would be back many times. This was definitely true. We went at lunch most days when it was not crowded. We also went to dinner one day as it was so good and, with all the choices, we didn’t have to have the same thing twice. As far as other extra charge options, some examples are: Butcher’s Cut, Ocean Cay, Kaito Sushi Bar, and Kaito Teppanyaki. Most of the specialty restaurants are located in the same area on Deck 8 which gives a great vibe like you might see on land.
To the left is the Kaito Sushi Venue and above are pictures from Hola Tacos.
Our trip also took us to Ocean Cay Marine Reserve. This is the private island of MSC Cruises. There is a small channel for them to go through to dock at the island. The ship has to back into the channel until it arrives at the docking area. Due to ever changing weather conditions, this can often be difficult or just impossible on any given day. It took many ours before we were able to dock here and many times it is cancelled all together.
It is a beautiful island and still pretty new so the vegetation is not at it’s peak yet. There are many beach areas as well as food and drink venues. A popular area is at the LIghthouse Bar which is next to the island’s lighthouse. You can sit alone or with friends and enjoy the day at this bar while watching the ocean and, perhaps, being sprayed by the water as a wave crashes into the shore. At night, if you are lucky enough to be there, there is a Junkanoo Parade and a light show from the lighthouse. This light show can be seen from some areas of the ship but, of course, the best visuals would be from the island away from the ship lights.
We had two favorite crew members this trip. One was Jose who worked at Hola Tacos. He was very attentive and friendly. We enjoyed our daily conversations with him. The other was Kent Domingo. He worked at the Cocktail Lounge in the “restaurant district” of specialty restaurants. If you go sail on MSC Seashore, look for them and find out how great they are for yourself.
It was a great trip and we would love to sail on this ship again in the future.
Virgin Voyages- Scarlet Lady
Sailing from PortMiami
Our second cruise on the Scarlet Lady was just as great as the first one. Some people said that there was not enough to do onboard when she first started sailing but Virgin Voyages has made some adjustments to increase entertainment without making it so full of entertainment that you have to rush back and forth to try to fit it all into one cruise. It allows for the laid back atmosphere to remain but gives a few more options to those who aren’t as good at relaxing.
We stayed in the same kind of room as the previous, the Sea Terrace. We were on the opposite side of the ship than we were before. As you might expect, it was essentially the same except for the changes to the room that Virgin had made in the meantime. Some people had said that the rooms were too modern or sleek and lacked warmth. While I never felt that to be the case, I was glad to see that the addition of some wood elements and a few more pictures did not ruin the clean feel that the room had on the previous sailing.
Despite the fact that we have been onboard recently, most of the things we did this time were different than what we did before. This included some of the food choices. Once again, the food was amazing. I love that there is no extra charge at the restaurants and the quality is great. We went to the salad bar for most lunches. This salad bar has so many options and everything is very fresh. This results in a great tasting salad. At the salad bar, you can also get a bowl of soup. The soup that I tried was also very good.
The two new restaurants we tried were Gunbae, a Korean BBQ, and The Wake, the steak and seafood restaurant. We did not try these last time since I try to avoid eating meat but we wanted to get the full experience so we added them on this trip. Gunbae was so much better than I expected and I had plenty of options without having to eat any meat. Seating is designed to be with a group and pre-dinner games are played. Because we were not yet comfortable eating with strangers, we asked to be seated alone. The staff was great about it and didn’t want us to miss out on the pre-dinner games. Therefore, several staff sat at the table, with their masks, and played the games with us. I am not much of a game person but did have fun. The food is cooked in the center of the table for you and served right in front of you. I had mainly vegetables and my husband, the meat eater, had the meat options. We will go back on another sailing.
The Wake had a beautiful location on the ship and big windows to the outside. As a result of our choice of time for dinner, we were at the restaurant at sail away. This was poor planning on my part as I love to watch sail away. However, with the big windows, we were able to enjoy dinner and still be a part of sail away. There were fewer options here to avoid meat but everything was still delicious and enjoyable. The only negative we had here was the seating. The tables were partial booths and partial chairs. The chairs in this restaurant were not made for larger people. I fit, barely, but anyone larger than me would not be able to sit in those chairs.
For those who don’t want to go to the restaurant to eat, maybe you are having too much fun in your hammock, there is always Ship Eats. Ship Eats is room service on Virgin Voyages. Orders are placed using the tablet in your room and food is delivered quickly and, more importantly, while it is still hot-as long as you ordered off the menu for hot foods, of course. Ship Eats are delivered in an insulated bag with great containers to hold the food you order. They also have a caddy for hot tea and accessories. It is a great option and the charge is only $5. The $5 is waived if you purchase something like specialty tea or one of the extra cost items. There are not a lot of extra cost items to choose from and since I love hot tea, I took advantage of trying some of the specialty teas.
On this sailing, we also checked out The Dock which is an area at the back of the ship. We had not made it there on the previous sailing but many people said it was definitely the place to be. It is a great area to relax during the day and comes complete with some food options as well as a bar staff eager to help you stay hydrated. You can find many types of seating including sun beds. There are also plenty of umbrellas to allow you to reduce the amount of rays you get directly onto your skin. This area has some great Sangria, even for those who are not always a fan of Sangria. You should give it a try and decide for yourself.
One of the times we were in this area, there was a renewal of vows being performed by the captain. The couple appeared to be crew and there were many crew members in attendance. They had champagne and cake which was offered to anyone who was in the area at the time. It was a really nice ceremony and I am glad we were there when the ceremony was happening.
Entertainment was similar to the previous trip but it was more plentiful. This time I came across a “Pop Up” entertainment situation. This one was basically a skit but it was interactive and it was fun. We also took time to listen to various musical entertainers including a band that played in different places depending on the day. This band was the “Of Good Nature” band. They played both in the “On the Rocks” lounge area and also in “The Manor” which allowed them to play on stage. We enjoyed the time we spent with the various musical entertainment.
We also took time to watch the “Horseplay” event. This is a version of a horse race but, as Virgin stated, they wanted “the real gamblers” for this game. Participants bid on a horse early in the cruise and then over a few days met to decorate the horse and also to see who won the race. This is an adult version of a game and bear in mind that you, as a participant, could be in a position to go out of your comfort zone. This, of course, is always up to you and you do have the right to decline. The “real gamblers” have a starting bid for the horses set at $250 per horse. By playing, you can win over $1000. It is a lot of fun to watch but I did not become a horse owner on this cruise.
There were also other games designed for participation and teamwork among those who joined in. Everyone appeared to be having a great time.
Final thoughts from this cruise: I LOVE Virgin Voyages and can’t wait to return. If you are looking for an adults only experience where you can let your hair down and have fun, this is a great place to be.
Virgin Voyages- Scarlet Lady
Sailing from PortMiami
Day 6- Debark Day- PortMiami
Virgin Voyages has you pick a debark time before or during the time you are cruising. They have you keep the luggage tag with which you boarded on your bag and DO NOT issue a new tag with a debark number. They expect you to go to the correct deck to leave the ship based on the time you selected. Your baggage is sorted in the terminal using your deck number. On this day, I feel an announcement would be useful. Customs are sometimes slow to clear a ship and, therefore, when there are no announcements, you are never quite sure if they are ready for you to leave at the time selected. As it turns out on our sailing, everything was on schedule and we were able to leave when expected. No lines or slowdowns occurred. We just went to the right deck, scanned our wristband upon leaving, and down the gangway we went. Easy and stress free. We had drove to the port but there were plenty of taxis awaiting for those who were in need.
In summary, we had a great time. Virgin succeeded with the idea of being different than the typical cruise ship. The vibe onboard was fun and relaxed. The crew were happy and very helpful when needed. The food was consistently the best I have had on a cruise ship. While the on deck seating was not always the most comfortable, there were plenty of options available to find somewhere that worked. I recommend giving this cruise line a try. We enjoyed it all.
Virgin Voyages- Scarlet Lady
Sailing from PortMiami
Day 5- Bimini, Bahamas
Bimini Day was expected to be a great and relaxing day at Bimini Beach Club. It did not disappoint. Due to the distance from the port, there was a tram that took everyone to the beach club. It was fast and efficient. Along the way, we passed people who were out jogging and headed back to the ship. I don’t know how far they jogged but it was great to see people taking advantage of the great weather. On the way to the beach club, we passed the casino and a Hilton property.
Bimini Beach Club was a nice place to spend the day. There were enough boardwalks and paved areas to allow for those with disabilities to have easy access to enjoy their time too. Lunch was included and there seemed to be enough variety for everyone. I enjoyed my lunch which consisted of curry, some beans and rice, and other things. The property was well laid out and had a nice seating area for those who were having lunch. The tables were quickly cleaned up too allowing for other guests to sit down as soon as people left.
I saw two pools each with abundant seating nearby. There were also waterfront seating with umbrellas down on the sand. Cabanas were available to rent but, according to someone I know, they did not feel it was worth it. They, instead, sat by the pool to socialize. I guess the wait staff does not really go to the cabanas so you have to get up and go get your own anyway? Either way, I enjoyed my time and hope to return.
Dinner was at “Pink Agave”. This is the “elevated Mexican restaurant” onboard. The restaurant was not my favorite. The food was good enough but seats were much closer together and it felt a bit crowded to me. I am not sure if I would go back as I think I like the traditional Mexican fare better than what was offered. There are other restaurants to choose so I would probably check them out first. That being said, many others stated that Pink Agave was their favorite of the choices. Once again, we are all different.
Virgin Voyages- Scarlet Lady
Sailing from PortMiami
Day 4- Day at Sea
On this day at sea, we opted to check out the shops onboard. The one I was interested in was the Logo Shop. Here, I found a tee shirt and hat that I liked. Prices were a bit higher than I expected but the things I bought seemed to be of reasonable quality. The hat was purchased primarily because I forgot to bring a hat to use as a sun visor when on Bimini.
Everything at the shops seemed to be laid out well and in a classy way. What I mean is that the shops are visually appealing. Also, the sales people are there to help you with your purchase but, in the shops I went into, none of them were being pushy or even expecting you to buy. It was a nice shopping experience.
When I went up on deck later, I found that there was room in the basketball court and I decided to give shooting hoops a try. I have not done that in years and it took me a bit to get back into it. I didn’t stay too long but I did have a lot of fun while there. This ship was designed for adults to have fun and do things they may not do on a regular basis. This was one of those things.
After shooting hoops, I wandered to the back of the ship thinking I would sit on “The Net” for a while. However, when I got back there, I discovered they were in the middle of the “Horseplay” event. This was well attended and a lot of fun. Early in the cruise, people buy a “seahorse” to decorate and then they come to this event for the “seahorse race”. The horses are propelled forward based on the shake of dice. At times, there are options to hold steady or spin a wheel to get or lose position. The wheel gives you a task to do which will result in moving forward if you complete the task. Sometimes the wheel lands on a move backward area depending on where the wheel stops. It was so much fun both with the activities people had to do and with the involvement of both participants and staff. I highly recommend attending this event. On a future sailing, I may even purchase a seahorse. The winner won just over $1,000 and received a seahorse trophy.
After eating lunch, Ward and I went to the “Social Club” area of the ship. Here, there are arcade games, air hockey, foosball, board games, and card games. They have an entire cabinet of games you can choose from and, as long as you stay in the “Social Club” area, you can play the games until the closing time of the cabinet. The picture below only shows a small sample of the choices available. Many people were playing games. We decided to join in and selected Battleship. It was a good time and Ward was declared the winner. NOTE: All of the games are free, including the arcade games. These were the games from the 80’s like Centipede.
The Duel Reality show was on for the evening. Here guests were separated into red and blue side upon entering the venue. It was kind of like a West Side Story show with audience participation. I am not going to describe it but it was a fun thing to do and very much different than the show on a traditional cruise line.
Dinner was at Razzle Dazzle. This is a veggie forward restaurant with additional options for meat eaters. I had the squash ravioli which was good but not very filling. Therefore, I also had Loaded Tater Tots which were great. If ordering, the Tater Tots are large enough to share. Desserts include cookies and milk and some cakes. This was another good food option. As with all the onboard restaurants, it had its own personality. Virgin has done a great job of creating environments.
Virgin Voyages- Scarlet Lady
Sailing from PortMiami
Day 3- Costa Maya, Mexico
The stop on this day was Costa Maya. We had been here before and, for this cruise, elected to stay onboard the ship. Costa Maya, in the past, had a nice shopping area at the pier. There was a bird aviary and a large pool right there as well. I do not know if they are still there. What I do know is that the pier from the ship to land is very long. They have some transportation options available to save you some energy. There is also a place here that many people I know have gone to and highly recommend, Maya Chen. I have not gone there but it is something to keep in mind.
During these pandemic times, getting off the ship required wearing a mask, bringing your ID, and bringing your vaccination card. If these are things that would bother you, staying on the ship should be your option. We stayed onboard because we wanted even more time to enjoy what the ship has to offer.
Once again, we had breakfast in “The Galley”. This time, I opted for oatmeal. I am not sure how they mixed it but the oatmeal was outstanding. It was a rather large bowl but oh so good. On this day, the fruit they mix in were blueberries. Cinnamon was also involved.
After breakfast, Ward went to watch a movie and I went out by the pool. I sat in a shady spot and enjoyed the peace and quiet. The lounge chairs were comfortable in this area. As I sat there, I reflected on the experience so far. There were literally almost no announcements. There may have been one or two and, if I remembered correctly, they were about the required muster drill. It is amazing how this can make a difference in the onboard experience. More cruise lines need to take note. I know it is a constant issue with many cruisers who are trying to avoid unnecessary announcements. I feel that Virgin provided information about what activities were available and it was up to you, as an adult, to attend or not without the need to “remind” you about their existence.
We were told that there were just about 1,080 guests onboard. Regular capacity for this ship is listed at 2,770. It has been a great experience and I wonder how it would be if sailing at full capacity. Obviously, it would be different but to what extent? Right now, it seems that there are only a few wait staff from the bars asking if you want drinks. Mostly, it is a go to the bar situation, at least by the pool at this time. I assume with more passengers there may be more mobile waitstaff available. I will have to find out another time!
While in port, I noticed a lot of routine cleaning and maintenance happening. This is common for a ship to take advantage of the time when more passengers are ashore. It helps to keep things in the state that is most desired. As you probably know, things can rust quickly on a ship so constant upkeep is essential.
Because we enjoyed the dinner experience at “Extra Virgin” so much last time, we opted to go there again. The app is set up so that you can only reserve once per trip to allow for everyone to go to that venue that wants to. We decided to walk up this time and if there was room, they would let us eat there again. We were happy to find that there was space available and we, once again, enjoyed the delicious food served at this restaurant. Our server, this time, was Sebastian. He was fun and full of energy.
The show we attended on this night was called “Never Sleep Alone”. It is very adult oriented and made possible by the exclusion of children on this cruise line. Let’s just say that we had a good time but anyone who is easily offended might not think this was a good way to spend time. This show uses audience participation. You take the chance of being selected to go on stage but they did make it clear that if you said no, they would move on to a willing participant. You do not have to avoid attending the show to make sure you are not pulled up onstage.
After the show, I wandered to the Draught Haus and had a beer. I then wandered more around the ship and found karaoke going on. As in most places, most participants have, at least, a reasonable singing voice. There are some though that are just there to have fun, and, isn’t that really what it is all about? That being said, I have no intention of ever singing on a cruise ship.
To finish up the day, I spent more time in our wonderful hammock. What a great addition to a balcony!
Virgin Voyages- Scarlet Lady
Sailing from PortMiami
Day 2- Day At Sea
Well, we found a negative to Scarlett Lady overnight. For us, the bed was very uncomfortable and much harder than we are used to. This made sleeping very difficult and, in the morning, we had to figure out what to do. If it remained this way, our trip would be a miserable one even if the ship was fantastic over the long haul. As you may know, if you can’t get quality sleep, it sets up the next day as difficult. After having some discussions amongst ourselves, we decided to see if the crew had any additional cushion they could add to the bed. So, we contacted our room attendant and told her about our troubles. To be honest, we didn’t expect much of anything to happen but we had to give it a try.
To our surprise, she was concerned about our issue and was able to suggest adding some additional duvets below us to add some cushion. We were unsure if this would be a good solution but we were willing to try it because we could not see any other option. We would find out, after sleeping that night, if it worked. Not wanting to jump ahead but I feel it is important to say that, yes, this did the trick. We were able to sleep the rest of the cruise in comfort. I am thankful and surprised that they took the matter seriously and were immediately able to come up with a solution without seeming to be inconvenienced.
After getting the bed situation figured out, we went to eat breakfast. We ate each day in “The Galley”. While the options throughout the week did not change, there were enough options to have a decent meal each day. We got some fruit bento boxes for the room for a snack later as wanted. They came in choices of fruit with granola, just fruit, and fruit with yogurt and were available throughout the week. I enjoyed blueberry pancakes for breakfast and Ward had the French Toast Burger. He preferred to eat the parts of the French Toast Burger separately but said that it was good. The blueberry pancakes were also good.
This eating area had self service beverage areas for things like coffee and hot tea (Tap It Hot) or for sodas and water (Tap It Cold). If you want to order beer or a beverage that is not included above, you can do that through the waitstaff that, as you may remember from Day 1, brings your food to your table even in “The Galley.”
NOTE: Breakfast at “The Galley” closed at 1030am daily and the next meal was not for at least an hour. Therefore, if you are like us and get up and moving between 10am and 1030am, adjust your schedule accordingly.
Today, I met with a travel advisor that I had met online. She and her husband were from the Orlando area. It was nice to chat with someone new and to get her perspective on the ship and other travel related topics. We met at the “Sip Lounge” which was an area of the ship I didn’t spend a lot of time in otherwise. I am not sure why I didn’t spend more time there but on a short sailing there is only so much time to spread around to all the areas available.
One thing about Scarlett Lady is that your room is convertible. This means that you can set it up as a living room with a couch area during the day and then move things around to make it a bedroom at night. I am not sure many people took that option as the room staff were only cleaning once a day. We, however, do use our room a lot so we asked them to make it into a living room each day. It didn’t take them long but it made things much more comfortable for the times we were in the room. Ward watched some movies on this day and I spend more time on the balcony in the hammock. It was great listening to the sounds of the ocean. There were also some times when, in the background, I could hear music from around the ship.
We wandered around the ship a lot on this day but didn’t join in with any of the offered activities. Daily there were many fitness options, karaoke. games, and other activities throughout. We talked to many crew members and found a universal theme of happiness to be working for Mr. Branson and Virgin Cruise Lines. They were very happy about the conditions on board for both guests and the crew. They consensus seems to be that their working hours are far superior to what they have had on other lines. The pay appears to be better too based on their statements and they are not expecting tips to make a decent wage. In fact, on Virgin, tipping is not expected and the crew are told not to ask for any. They crew members who spoke to talked about feeling valued and having less stress due to being able to be themselves and to have fun. They do not have to all have similar hairstyles and are able to display their tattoos without issue. One crew member mentioned that they also get free internet so that they can keep in contact with their families. This helps a lot with combating homesickness and keeps their spirits up. Crew members we spoke with had come from Disney Cruise LInes, Seabourn, Viking, and Royal Caribbean. There may have been others but those are the ones I noted. The happiness and lack of stress the crew felt carried over into the vibe on the ship. As passengers, we could feel the difference and it was great.
We played a bit in the casino. The casino was small compared to some others we have seen but there were table games and slot machines available. It was never crowded when we went through. We ended up wining only a small amount over what we put in but we had fun doing it. After playing in the casino, Ward went back to the room to watch a movie while I wandered around some more.
I went up on deck to the area with “The Net”. I went out and relaxed on it while looking down at the water. I found it to be comfortable enough but not like a net on a catamaran which is soft. This one was bumpy but if you sat the right way, it worked out. It is not a net to be laying on as I expected upon boarding. As with anything else, people don’t follow the rules as posted. It is clearly posted that shoes should not be worn on “The Net”. Of course, some people wore them anyway as they said, “It is not comfortable to walk on it without shoes.”. The simple solution would have been to walk around the edge and then step down onto it to sit where you wanted to sit but some people don’t think rules apply to them. One person came out onto it and was very uneasy. She wondered how I could sit them so calmly. Another example of how different we can all be.
We had dinner at “The Test Kitchen”. This was where food is an adventure and they have creative ways to combine things as an experience. It may not fill you up but it is fun to go and see what they come up with. You can also purchase drink pairings to go with this as you wish. They offer pairings of beer selections, cocktail selections, and wine selections. I got the cocktail pairings. I think they were hit or miss. I also thought the food was hit or miss but mostly because I am too picky. As the guest, you can pick the regular food options or the vegetarian food options.
This experience was great even if we did not like everything. However, we learned that when you book “The Test Kitchen” you are seated with others who may be a bit “fussier” than you are. One person at our table group literally complained about everything. This was not the experience for her. We could have let her poor attitude ruin it for us but we just started to ignore her and tried to enjoy the experience even with her rants. Our server and the other staff tried to accommodate her, which of course, was impossible. They did a great job of explaining everything even with her constant distractions.
Virgin Voyages- Scarlet Lady
Sailing from PortMiami
Day 1- Departure Day from PortMiami
The day had finally arrived. We were trying out the new ship Scarlett Lady in the Virgin Voyages Fleet. Sailings on this ship were greatly delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and while we were not the first sailors to be sailing on her, it was our first time sailing on her and we were excited. Unlike many of the cruise lines, Virgin Voyages does COVID testing at the pier so sailors do not have to rush about getting tested before arrival. This greatly reduces the stress some travelers feel due to having to fly in and make other arrangements. We were lucky because our trip to the port was minimal and didn’t include any special arrangements other than boarding the dog.
The process was easy. We got to the terminal and showed our paperwork to enter the terminal. There was only a little paperwork needed since Virgin Voyages uses a wrist band for tracking and payment purposes. Most things are no touch which is a great option in the times of a pandemic. After that, we checked in and were directed to the testing area. After being tested, were we forwarded to a “holding area” while we waited for our test results. Once our negative test results arrived we were able to move to the next area to wait until boarding time. We had no idea how long we might need to wait but expected boarding to start relatively soon as boarding on other cruises we have been on had always started between 11am and Noon. Well, we were surprised to find out that boarding would not start until 2PM. I later heard that this is the case for all Scarlett Lady sailings as they want to be sure that the ship and the staterooms are cleaned and totally ready for the new guests upon boarding. This is actually a nice policy as you can go directly to your “home for the sailing” once you board and get your vacation started. This can be a negative though for those who have to leave their hotels early. Other than finding a restaurant to go to before going to the port, it would be more difficult to find somewhere to go with all of your luggage. I guess, it would be an option to taxi to the port, drop luggage, and have a taxi take you somewhere in the city for a few hours but I am not sure people would like the additional costs involved with multiple taxi trips. That being said, waiting in the terminal was not an uncomfortable experience. Bathrooms were nearby. There were also vending machines if people wanted to get a snack.
Unfortunately, as we were walking across the terminal to board the ship, one woman fell with a loud thud to the floor. It seemed as though she must have tripped. Staff in the terminal rushed quickly to her and rendered assistance while checking to see if there were any serious injuries. After a while of assessing the situation, they were able to get her up into a chair to regroup. She appeared to have hit her nose but other than that she seemed visually okay. They moved the line forward and cleared out that part of the terminal before allowing the next group through. I am not sure what happened with her after that but it was great to see the staff take quick and seemingly appropriate action.
NOTE: Masks are required in the terminal at this time. Once you were onboard, no masks were needed unless you chose to leave it on. This cruise was a fully vaccinated cruise and all of the Virgin Voyages are adults only.
We boarded the ship and were immediately greeted by a line up of crew who were waving and enthusiastically welcoming us onboard. It was a great first impression and I immediately felt a vibe of fun and togetherness. We were directed to the elevators so that we could go check out our staterooms and get settled in for a great vacation adventure.
We had a “Sea Terrace Stateroom”. It was 12-102Z. Virgin uses a number system with Z on one side and A on the other. We were actually led to our room by our room steward, Oksana. She was very pleasant and made sure that there was nothing we needed right away. After we scanned our wrist band on the room plaque, we were able to enter our room to see what the Virgin Voyages Scarlett Lady stateroom had in store for us. First impression was that it was modern and obviously very new. It also seemed bigger than the typical balcony stateroom on a ship. I don’t know if it actually was bigger but it did feel like it. Of course, I took pictures and then headed straight out to the balcony.
What a great balcony it was! We had an angled balcony that I, when looking at deck plans, was not thrilled about, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Having this balcony gave us a much larger balcony with lots of room to move about. On the balcony were two chairs and a small table AND a hammock. Many of the balconies have these but, apparently, not all. Because it was a larger balcony, relaxing on the hammock still left a lot of room on the balcony. NOTE: The chairs on the balcony were regular chairs to sit upright. They were not lounge chairs.
Of course, we checked out the storage in the room. There was a hanging clothes area, a closet of shelves, a mini fridge, and a couple of small shelves that fit under a desk area. There was also a side table that was one that would allow you to eat in bed. The safe was on one of the shelves and the life jackets and pool towels were also located there. The hanging area had a curtain to separate it from the room. For the two of us, the storage was adequate. I don’t know how it would work with more than two in the stateroom.
The bathroom was also very functional but I can say it was quite small. We had enough space overall but it sounded like many others thought there was not enough room. Larger people will have to be aware of the limited space. Dressing in the bathroom for pretty much anyone would be impossible. The shower was also small but a good enough size for most people. Shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner were included. The show had both a shower wand and a rain shower head and it was good pressure for a nice shower.
Most of the controls in the room were by tablet. A tablet and charging station were included. I hope that people don’t ruin this part of the experience. The tablet controlled the TV, lighting, and the curtains. It was easy and convenient.
The muster drill information was done on the television and was very different than most. As you might expect with a Virgin Voyage, the muster drill was done in a musical fashion and made for a fun way to get the information to the guest. After we watched the muster info, we had a certain time frame in which to go to the muster station and check in. Upon check in, they gave a quick review about how to use the life jackets and then you were on your way.
For lunch, we went to “The Galley”. This is the Virgin Voyage version of the buffet that you find on other ships. However, it is not actually a buffet but, instead, essentially a collection of “food trucks” or “food stands”. Uniquely, you do not self serve at these stations. For the salad station, dessert area, and the “Well Bread” stations, you can go up and request what you would like. For all of the others, you just find a comfortable seat and wait staff would come to you and take your order. How did we know what to order, you ask? Well, they had drink coasters with QR codes on them. When you scan them with your phone, the menu pops up and you can make your selections and relay them to the wait staff. They gather everything you request, from any of the stations, and bring them to your table. What a great experience this made. They avoid the repeat touching of serving spoons and the aggravation of waiting in line using this method. It made for a restaurant like experience in a fast and convenient way. Some of the stations included burgers, tacos, sandwiches, and more. There were both regular and vegetarian/vegan options in many areas.
Exploring parts of the ship was the plan throughout the week. One of the first areas we found was the “On The Rocks” bar. This one was on deck 6 and had a large amount of seating areas in different configurations to accommodate different needs. There was also a small band area set up. There was not a live band there when we first sat down in this area. One of our favorite staff during the week was working in this area. Her name was Eloney. I tried a drink called “The Entertainer” here. This was not my favorite. NOTE: All drinks are not sold in all bars. Each bar has it’s own menu and it’s own prices.
After relaxing in this area, we decided to go on deck and explore the outside areas. Without a guarantee of beautiful weather all week, it made sense to explore outside areas while it was sunny. As advertised, Virgin Voyages is not your typical cruise line and it was very evident with the use of the outside deck space. We found a see saw, other playground type equipment, lots of fitness areas, such as boxing, and more. Tire swing seating, basketball court, and many usual seating arrangements. The day beds and regular seats were comfortable but some of the others were much more about looks than function. It really is a try it and see sort of thing as everyone’s idea about what is comfortable is different. That being said, around the pool areas are the typical lounge chairs that you find on other lines. This ship also has cabanas for rent if you want your own space on deck.
Another unique thing about Virgin Voyages is the lack of a traditional main dining room. They have opted, instead, to have many smaller restaurants all of which are included at no extra charge. Now, these restaurants are not just smaller versions of a main dining room. They are actually a collection of small specialty restaurants and the food was very good! We made reservations for several of the restaurants at the start and then could change them as desired. Therefore, if the first chosen time no longer worked for you, you could change the time to another that worked better. NOTE: Changes are based on availability so no guarantee that you can get the perfect dining time for you.
For the first night, we went to “Extra Virgin” which is the Italian inspired venue. We loved it. Ward said that the steak was the best he has had in a long time. I had the Pappardella Al Ragu which was also very tasty. We also had a cheese plate and some meatballs. It was a low key atmosphere and felt like we were visiting a family member’s house and sharing dinner. We loved the atmosphere. It was not overstated and, therefore, the food did the talking. Dessert was also available. I was not a fan of mine but it had a wonderful presentation!
We watched sail away from the balcony. The sail away was at night and, therefore, the city of Miami was shining in all her glory. After that, we checked out other areas of the ship. The Dock House was a nice area but, beware, some of the seats are low and can be difficult to get up from. The Draught Haus was also open but did not have any guests while we were there. I expected it to be in an enclosed area but, instead, it had some decorative dividers to separate itself from the rest of the deck. It is hard to describe and would be best seen in person. (Team Dawson Travel can help with that.) www.teamdawsontravel.com
Other places on the ship include the Ice Cream Shop, which is included in the fare. “Lick Me Til Ice Cream”. (Being an adults only ship, there are a lot of tongue in cheek things with frequent inuendo. This is hard packed ice cream that can be dished into bowls or cones. The Loose Cannon is another of the bars on board. This one is enclosed and is typical of what you would think of as a comfortable sit down bar area. This was the home base for the seemingly popular “Grog Walk”. The Red Room was the location for the “Untitled Dance Party Thing” which was a strange but interesting show. The negative to this show was the lack of chairs so it was standing room only. Due to bad feet, I left early so I am not sure how that actually went but I expect that they intended for people to be dancing as well as watching the show.
That night I spent time in the hammock on the balcony. It was a great place to relax and unwind. The staterooms were comfortable places to just hang out in between other activities. In the room, they gave you carafes of water- your choice of still and sparkling or both. You did not need to buy bottled water and as an environmental initiative, they didn’t want you to have them either. The water could be refilled whenever you wanted simply by tapping a couple of buttons on the in-room tablet which let the room attendant know that you requested a refill.
The first day on board was a great success. We were looking forward to seeing what the other days would bring. Initial impressions were that it was a relaxed but fun vibe. Casual dress was welcome and there was no formal dress code. Wear what makes you comfortable. Staff were all very friendly and seemed genuinely happy. We had no problems with anything and the food, even in the “Galley”, was much better than a lot of food on other lines we have sailed.
Sailing from PortMiami
The newest MSC ship is the MSC Seashore. She has just had her naming ceremony at Ocean Cay Marine Reserve, the MSC private island in the Bahamas. She is now sailing with passengers out of Miami, Florida and visiting ports in the Caribbean. I was recently onboard and am sharing my experience.
Due to the pandemic, the sailing capacity is still reduced making for a great experience onboard. No lines, no issues finding seats, etc. Of course, the trade off is a change in the atmosphere or energy of the ship. For me, a reduced amount of energy on the ship was perfect and it did not appear that anyone else was worried about it either.
Getting dropped off at the port was easy. No traffic issues with people trying to get in and out quickly. The security process also went quickly, for most of us. There was someone in line in front of me who had an issue. It sounded like the name on his passport and the name on the passenger list did not match. I am not sure if he ever made it on board. Let this be a warning! Always check the name on your booking to be sure it matches your passport or other traveling documents. You don’t want to be left behind when the ship sails.
Upon entering the ship, the view was great! Everything, as you would expect from a new ship, was shiny and bright. The staff was so welcoming. They were obviously happy to be welcoming guests to the ship. Having been on MSC ships in the past, it felt a bit like coming home. While the ship was different than the others I was on before, it still had the familiar feel with the darker tones mixed with the energetic brightness of the neon lights used in the atrium “party” area and the Swarovski crystal stairs.
Since our rooms were not yet ready for us to make ourselves at home, I decided to focus on viewing some of the various room categories offered onboard. It is a good thing that my backpack was not heavy although, even for someone who does not get overly hot, it was pretty hot carrying a backpack around for a few hours. I also remembered how I am not in the best shape and sure felt it after walking all day and climbing stairs often.
Happy to be back on a ship after all this time. I found it ironic that the last ship I was on, as the world shut down, was the MSC Meraviglia. Now, my first ship back is MSC Seashore.
My tour of rooms and areas of the ship started with the Yacht Club area. This is a “ship within a ship” area where you can literally stay in the Yacht Club for your whole cruise if you would like. This is an “Experience” on the ship where your room is in a special area of the ship. In this area is also the Yacht Club Lounge, Yacht Club Restaurant, and a Yacht Club outdoor area with a bar, pool, lounge chairs etc. This area of the ship is exclusively for Yacht Club guests and allows for a lot more space during things like busy sea days which, in other areas of the ship, can make it difficult to find, for instance, a chair by the pool.
There are many categories of rooms in the Yacht Club such as interior (regular and accessible), Deluxe Suite, Owners Suite, Grand Suite, and the Royal Suite. Each of these rooms has a luxurious feel and the suites, in particular, have a lot of seating room. As you will see from some of the pictures, the view from these suites is also something spectacular. I loved the views while in port. The views while at sea would be that much better. These rooms might be a good choice for you if you are traveling with a group of people. The choices allow for only some of you to stay in the Yacht Club and others to stay in less expensive areas of the ship or maybe you would prefer to share a room and enjoy the experience together. Many of the suites have sofa beds that will allow for this type of room sharing.
The Yacht Club Lounge, Restaurant, and pool deck area are in the following pictures. I don’t know about you but I could be comfortable in the Yacht Club.
By the time I got done touring the Yacht Club area, my own room was ready. So, off I went to drop my backpack in my room and check out my lodging on the Seashore. I had the “Bella Experience” balcony. It is typical of the other rooms in the non-Yacht Club areas of the ship.
My stateroom was 15052. This room is similar to most of the rooms on the ship. The closet is half shelves (and the safe) and the other half, if you slide the doors over, is the hanging clothes area. It is a small closet but should be sufficient for most couples or friends traveling together. I am not sure how comfortable it would be with more than two in the room but I am sure it can work just fine. There is also a USB port next to the bed. It is only on one side so if this is important to you, you will have to decide who gets the USB and who has to plug in on the desk across the room. Another great feature on the Seashore is the wireless charging station on the desk. It is built in and allows you to charge your phone wirelessly while you are doing other things. This charger does not go off when you leave the room and remove the card from the card reader. (A card reader is by the door and when you are in the room, you place your card there and it powers on the lights and electric in the room. The outlets do not work when they card is removed and this was a point of irritation on other ships since you could not charge your electronics when you were not in the room.) There are also reading lights by the bed if you are someone who likes to read in bed. The couch, depending on the room, can become a sofa bed/bunk bed when needed. This is one reason it is important to pay attention to the capacity of a room when you are deciding to book your future cruise.
After all of the room viewing, I was hungry and decided to go to the Marketplace Buffet for lunch. Things have definitely changed in the buffet world onboard due to COVID-19. For this cruise anyway, the staff handed you the tray and your utensils and directed you to one of the food areas. The staff fills the plates for you as you tell them which items you would like. When the plate is full, they hand it to you under the sneeze guard and you go on your way. As with the other MSC ships I have been on, there are many food stations depending on which kind of food you are looking for. For instance, one station does hot food, one bread, one fruits and similar, one desserts, etc. For the fruit station, they had cut up fruit into little bowls and you could take the bowl you wanted while the staff moved product forward so that it is was easy for the next person to pick up. It was a nice experience and all of the food I ate there tasted good to me.
After lunch, I wandered around the ship and, ironically, went to the specialty restaurant area where they were doing “bite tasting”. This gave us an idea about what the food is like in each restaurant and will make it easier to describe if a client would like more information. I did not try food in many places as there is a lot of meat involved and I no longer eat much of that. However, I could see the restaurants and understand what they were going for.
On the Seashore, most of the specialty restaurants are in the same area of the ship giving a great social vibe. I loved the energy that I felt in that area. Butcher’s Cut is the Steakhouse. Other restaurants in that area were Kaito Teppanyaki, Kaito Sushi, and Ocean Cay Restaurant, which is the seafood venue. People were happily tasting the food and I didn’t hear any complaints. You may have seen this before but I have never seen it on a ship. The Sushi bar had the conveyor belt system where the choices go by on a conveyor belt and you take the ones you want. Don’t worry, the options are covered with a clear cover so you can see what it is without it being exposed. Charges are based on the color of the plate it is on. I am not sure how the payment for this worked but it was cool to see on the ship.
In the middle of all the restaurants you can find a cocktail bar and also the Uptown Lounge. The cocktail bar was an open area to sit and have a drink while waiting for your reserved dining time or even to have a drink after dinner. The Uptown Lounge is a large lounge with a full bar, a stage, and a dance floor. It was mildly busy when I was there but I expect on a traditional sailing, this will be a hot spot for entertainment. It was nice to see people out and dancing, including the waitstaff as they were serving guests. The area of specialty restaurants also housed “The Wine Cellar”. This looked like a great place for some wine tasting and from the looks of it, there were plenty of wines to choose from.
HOLA Tacos is another of the specialty restaurants. This was a bit further away than the others and was an open air area with a bar. The quesadillas and nachos here were great. I will definitely stop here when I am on a longer sailing. I heard a lot of others saying how much they enjoyed it too.
The overall theme for this ship is New York City. Therefore, the decor was about the skyline, the statue of liberty, times square etc. If you take time to look you can see the details that are oriented that way especially in particular areas. When onboard, don’t forget to take time for just appreciating how things tie together and the thought that was put into the design aspects.
It was raining most of the day so I didn’t see much about the pool deck or other outside areas. Luckily when I boarded, it was sunny so I could see the pool area of Yacht Club but the for the rest, I was out of luck. While wandering the interior of the ship, I went through the enclosed Jungle Pool Lounge area. Here you will find an indoor pool, whirlpool, bar, seating area, as well as ping pong and foosball. This will be a good place for bringing the kids when you want to get out of the direct sun.
For the billiards lover, there is a “Pool Room” where you can keep up with your game. This room also had a pinball game and I expect it to be a well used space. I would have loved to have seen two pool tables there but, at least, there is one. The sports bar is in the same area as the Pool Room. The sports bar is, of course, decorated with sports related things from bicycles to baseballs and many things in between. Along the base of the bar are panels highlighting different sports legends of many different sports. It was fun to look at them to see who made the cut. I expect this to be a busy place on most sailings. There is ample seating room and many screens showing different sports games.
MSC tries to keep an intimate atmosphere in many of the venues. This also goes for the included main dining rooms. To keep it a more intimate experience, they have several main dining rooms available. For those who are unaware, the main dining rooms are included in your fare while the specialty dining restaurants are extra cost. MSC assigns everyone to a main dining room so, even though there are several, you don’t choose which one to go to each night. The one I was assigned to was the Central Park Restaurant. We had four people at our table. Now, many times I read complaints about the food onboard MSC ships. I think food is very subjective and what one person loves, another does not. However, I can see that MSC has been working on what they offer. I was very happy with my dinner and would order it again. Of the four of us, only one was unhappy with her dinner but she did say that she ate a lot earlier in the day and was not especially hungry. As stated before, I do think that MSC has been aiming to improve it’s food offerings to appeal more to the American guests that sail from the Florida ports. Service was efficient and friendly. No complaints about the dining room.
That evening was the “White Night” party. The idea is that everyone wears white for the party but, as you might expect, not everyone does. I found that I do not wear white often and had no white outfit to bring with me on the sailing. The party was well attended considering the amount of people on board. The picture on the left below was at the very beginning when only staff was on the dance floor. It was designed to be outside on the pool deck but due to rain, it was moved to the atrium area. I found it a great place to hold the party. Because of the ship design, many of us could be on upper floors but still be part of the party. The event did not start until 1130pm and after that, a band played in the same area which kept people entertained until about 130am. A lot of happy and smiling faces were seen during this time. I think everyone was beyond happy to be onboard a ship again after so long a break.
Before long, it was morning and time to debark the ship. It never fails to be a sad time when I have to leave a ship. However, it is a must. Before leaving my room, I went out onto the balcony to see the view at port. The picture on the right above shows the taxi waiting area. If you are concerned about being able to get a taxi to take you back to the airport or another south Florida location, this picture should ease your mind. As you can see, there were many waiting for customers to serve.
As always, there was much more I could say about this ship and the experience. I hope that you will be able to enjoy it yourself one day. Team Dawson Travel is here to help you with your booking.
1. My Wifi kept dropping and it was a bit hard to get it reconnected.
2. For the typical rooms, non suites and non yacht club, the in room storage could be a challenge for those who bring a lot of clothes or who have more than two people in a room.
Positives: (top three)
1. There is a great vibe on the ship which should lead to everyone having a great time without an obnoxious party presence.
2. Staff was friendly and so happy to help you with anything you need.
3. All of the bars and lounges have their own feel and there should be a comfortable place for people of all tastes to enjoy.
We took a short two day cruise to the Bahamas on the Celebrity Equinox. We wanted to find out first hand how the atmosphere felt onboard and how at least one of the Celebrity ships felt. Two days went by very quickly but did allow us a bit of perspective. The thought was that it was designed to be a classy ship and on a longer cruise would probably be filled with people in nice casual clothes during the day and trending toward more formal in the evening.
We enjoyed our time onboard and will likely give them another try later for a week long cruise. Since the main goal of the ship was to learn more, we spent a lot of time exploring the ship while onboard. We found a nice library area with plenty of books available to read. There were also places outside like the Lawn Club and, of course, multiple bars and restaurants available. We choose to eat in the main dining room to get a feel for what the free dining offerings included. The food was quite good but the dining room we were in did not feel fancy to us. It maybe just was not our style of decor. We did like that the tables had table clothes which is something some of the other lines have removed.
Many people were enjoying the Ice Bar and the Martini Bar but the place we found that we liked best was the Craft Social Club. This was a nice quiet bar area with craft beers and more. The seating was comfortable and the noise level was quiet which allowed for great conversation with those you were with or with new people you met on board. The beer menu was extensive although some items were quite pricey. It is all in what you are comfortable with and what you enjoy. To us, the Ice Bar and the Martini Bar were very loud and while this is a great social atmosphere for some, it was just not our thing. Hooray for finding the Craft Social Club.
Our two day trip took us to the Bahamas. It was very windy out that day and the ship had to move fast to turn around and get out of port without incident. It was interesting and fun to be a part of the fast retreat.
The main showroom was nice and, for a short cruise, turnout was higher than I expected. Because I waited so long to write this review, I can’t remember what the show was or even what I thought about it. Walking around at night on deck was nice, as always. The colors you can see from the pool deck are always nice at night. As you can see from the picture, there were partitions between seating areas. This allowed some privacy and, until it got really windy, it was a nice wind and sun block for those who did not want the additional exposure. However, once it got very windy, the fabric partitions had a tendency to blow around a lot and had to be rolled up and secured.
So, this review has jumbled around a lot. Let me tell you about the stateroom. We had one of the cheaper rooms since we knew we were not planning on being in it at all except to sleep. It was an interior and was room 10041. The room was small but functional. I would choose it again if I wanted an interior. Upon walking into the room, the bathroom was on the right. After that was the closet and then the bed. Past the bed and furthest into the room was a small sofa and a counter area with some drawers available. Celebrity did good things with random storage in order to use space as efficiently as possible. I am not sure, obviously, how it would work out on a longer cruise. Now, for the bathroom, WOW! It was small but the amount of cabinets and shelves was unlike other rooms I have had on a cruise ship. I was very impressed with how much bathroom storage there was in such a small space. Other friends who were on the same sailing agreed about the great use of space in the bathroom. You can see a little in the picture but there was more space on the side of the sink that you cannot see here.
Odds and ends:
A 2 day water package was $32. If you bought the water separately, each bottle would be $4.50 each for basic spring water. The package was a great deal for us as one of us drinks excessive amounts of water. In addition, if you have the water package, you can get basic spring water or upgrade to water like Evian.
We enjoyed spending time in the Sky Lounge. It has great views due to the large floor to ceiling windows. We sat here many times with one of them being sailaway. It was a great location for that. This is also where the silent disco was held. We did not remember to attend but our friends said it was a great time but very crowded due to its popularity.
Pictures: an 8 x 10 was sold for $20 with no backdrop. This would be like the ones taken in the dining room. With a backdrop, these photos were priced at $25 each.
Final thoughts: We want to take Celebrity for a longer trip in the future. There appeared to be a lot of value presented.
Cheers and thanks for reading!