Skip to content

First look: 10 things I love about Virgin Voyages' new Valiant Lady cruise ship

March 22, 2022
17 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor's Note

Virgin Voyages provided TPG complimentary access to Valiant Lady during the vessel's three-night inaugural sailing. The opinions expressed below are entirely from the author and weren't subject to review by Virgin Voyages or any external entity.

Editor's note: Virgin Voyages provided TPG complimentary access to Valiant Lady during the vessel's three-night inaugural sailing. The opinions expressed below are entirely from the author and weren't subject to review by Virgin Voyages or any external entity.


Merpeople, rousing games of Clue and exercise classes that will have you sweating to the oldies are just some of the bizarre but intriguing offerings on Virgin Voyages' Valiant Lady, the second vessel for the latest mega-ship line to enter the cruise market.

I'm just back from the three-night inaugural sailing, and I have so much to report that I honestly don't know where to begin.

Sign up for our daily newsletter
A mermaid and merman on Virgin Voyages' Valiant Lady. (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

I feel like I've just stepped out of a teenage boy's fever dream. He's a rockstar dressed in '80s neon one minute and a professional gamer stuffing his face with popcorn and gelato the next. All the while, he's making "that's what she said" jokes. It's a lot – both in terms of the chaos and the sexual innuendo – but I have a feeling that's exactly what founder Richard Branson intended.

From it all, I've gathered the most noteworthy bits and will try my very best to distill them – both pros and cons – for you here.

For more cruise guides, news and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter.

The vibe

Board game options on Virgin Voyages' Valiant Lady include classics like Chutes and Ladders, Mall Madness, Boggle, Clue and more. (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

Energetic, social and nostalgic with just the right amount of partying, Valiant Lady is a welcoming place for both young and young-at-heart adults. (Children aren't allowed.) Although I haven't sailed on Scarlet Lady yet, I'm told Valiant Lady is similar but with the raunch turned down a few notches, thanks to cruiser feedback.

It's an active ship, with groups of people constantly mingling at bars, at shows and in various areas for trivia, board games – think favorites like Mousetrap, Trouble, Mall Madness and Operation – casino play and a chance to relive their childhood with vintage video games in the arcade.

Activities you might find on other ships are on Valiant Lady too, but often with a twist. Take, for example, the Test Kitchen's Shot for Shot event, where you'll learn not only how to make shots but also how to photograph them properly for social media. You can also expect to see impromptu performances throughout the vessel. Don't be surprised if you have no idea what's going on. You'll be in good company.

The caveat here is that all the activity, which is usually paired with pulsating music, does make it difficult to find quiet spaces, especially if you don't have a balcony cabin. Richard's Rooftop is a great top-deck space, but you have to be booked in a suite to access it, and the weather has to be favorable.

Also note that most bars, lounges and social hubs are on the small side, so they feel crowded. It was true on my sailing, which was only at about 54% capacity. I can't imagine how difficult it will be to find a seat when the ship is full.

The inclusivity

Some bathrooms on Virgin Voyages' Valiant Lady are for all genders. (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

Part of what truly stands out to me about Virgin Voyages is its commitment to inclusivity – on many levels. At every show, you'll see performers of all shapes, sizes, colors and genders. The entertainment cast is a more accurate representation of both people and talent than I've seen on any other ship sailing with any other cruise line.

There are also welcome shoutouts to groups that are largely underrepresented in U.S. markets. The mermaid painted on the hull of Valiant Lady is Black and was designed by a Black woman, there's a restaurant onboard that caters largely to vegetarians, and if you don't see at least one person in drag on your cruise, you aren't paying attention.

Additionally, major kudos to the line for adding all-gender bathrooms among its restroom options. (There are separate male and female bathrooms also.)

Personally, I'm thrilled to see the ways in which Virgin has embraced an "everybody's welcome" attitude, but I acknowledge that some of it could be over the top or even uncomfortable for some passengers. For example, I'm all about sexual empowerment, but I left the "Never Sleep Alone" show after the host asked each member of the audience to find a stranger and tell them about their first sexual encounter. Nope. Pass.

And people aren't the only way Virgin is inclusive. Its fares include basic Wi-Fi, crew gratuities, fitness classes, all restaurants, soft drinks and nearly 70 free on-demand movies.

A waiter prepares dinner right at our table at Gunbae, Valiant Lady's Korean restaurant. (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

It's nice to be able to dine at a different restaurant each night without worrying about running up a huge onboard bill, and it leaves more money to be spent on other extras like alcohol, spa treatments or shore excursions.

The selections are surprisingly robust, too – Mexican, Korean, diner fare, sushi, seafood, Mediterranean tapas, pizza, burgers, Italian, molecular gastronomy, ice cream and popsicles, candy and popcorn, and a variety of healthy grab-and-go options like salad, charcuterie, fruit, and meat and cheese. There's also a cafe that serves free pastries and cookies (but the coffee costs extra).

The downside here is that the included Wi-Fi is horrible on voyages out of Portsmouth, and the usual premium extra-fee option isn't available yet. Additionally, just about anything worth doing on board – including the free stuff – requires a reservation, which is a pain. My advice? Book everything that looks interesting to you on the first day, or you might miss out. You can always cancel later. This is especially true for certain exercise classes, which have small class sizes and are only offered once or twice per sailing.

The crew

The somewhat chaotic "Sailor Services" desks on Virgin Voyages' Valiant Lady. (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

I struck up conversations with several crew members on Valiant Lady, and one thing is clear: they're happy. Most of the ones I spoke with worked for other cruise lines previously, and the common refrain is that Virgin treats its employees well. There's less of a social hierarchy; in many ways, it seems like the caste system so common in other fleets has largely been torched.

Mingling is encouraged between not only crew from different departments but also between crew and passengers. It's not unusual to see a crew member snagging a seat at a table full of guests to chat or sipping an alcoholic drink while hosting an onboard event.

Happier crew members generally mean happier passengers, and it creates a sense of community that I haven't felt when sailing with most other lines.

Another marked difference I noticed is that both officers and crew wear uniforms that could pass as street clothes in other environments. They dress for comfort, rather than for propriety – except for the times (and there are many) when they're in lavish costumes.

I do think it's wonderful that the dress codes have been relaxed for the crew – if passengers can wear jeans on formal night, why shouldn't the crew be allowed to wear T-shirts to work? – but I did miss seeing officers walking around the ship in their crisp, white uniforms. I often found myself wondering "Is that person crew or a guest?" when I had a question. Hint: Look for a nametag. If they're wearing one, they're crew.

When I did need help, I was usually pointed in the right direction. However, some crew seemed like they were still getting their feet wet. (These sorts of issues are expected on an inaugural sailing and will likely improve with time.)

I won't go so far as to say it's a problem yet, but there were a couple of times when I was waiting to be helped, and crew members didn't see me because they were on their phones. Freedom and familiarity are great, but not at the expense of customer service. (Note: The devices crew use to scan passengers' "The Band" bracelets look a bit like mobile phones, so it's possible that's what I saw them using. Either way, it was a distraction.)

The entertainment

The Red Room convertible theater space on Virgin Voyages' Valiant Lady. (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

Whether it's "Never Sleep Alone," a risque share-your-deepest-desires after-hours show starring a "sex therapist"; "Duel Reality," an acrobatic dance battle between two families a la "Romeo and Juliet"; or "Scarlet Night," which celebrates the fictional love story between a daring sailor and an octopus goddess (don't ask), the shows are like nothing you've seen on any other ship, and they ooze with audience participation.

One of the best spaces on the vessel to catch a show is The Red Room. You might expect whips and handcuffs, but instead, you'll find a rarity at sea – a theater that can be arranged in several configurations depending on the show. The seats extend and contract like bleachers, allowing for stadium seating on both sides or, when a stage is involved, just one.

Other entertainment consists of mixology classes, bar crawls, trivia, board game play, themed parties and quirky workouts. Take, for instance, the "VHS (Videos, Headbands, Simmons)" class, where crew lead a 50-minute aerobic workout set to '80s music while wearing fluorescent tank tops, short shorts and sweatbands. (Yes, cruisers are also encouraged to dress up. And, yes, Shake Weights are involved.)

A mask and condoms adorn a table at the risque "Never Sleep Alone" show on Virgin Voyages' Valiant Lady. (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

As is the style for Virgin brands, a lot of the fun is accompanied by sexual references. Normally I love a clever-but-racy joke, but there are so many on Virgin Voyages' ships that it sometimes feels like the brand is trying a little too hard to be edgy.

To be fair, lewdness is employed in varying degrees, and it isn't always so intolerable. While I found the outright vulgarity at "Never Sleep Alone" to be off-putting, the VHS workout was replete with double entendres -- balls, thrusting and working up a sweat -- that just made me chuckle.

Also, you'll want to avoid the health and wellness seminars. (They're sales pitches.)

The app

The Virgin Voyages mobile app allows passengers to shake their phones and have Champagne delivered wherever they are on the ship. (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

As far as cruise line apps go, Virgin's is one of the best I've seen. It's got tons of functionality, allowing passengers to complete pre-cruise check-in electronically, watch the muster drill video, and view and book daily activities.

It also lets cruisers make shore excursion and dining reservations, see what they've signed up for, view their onboard accounts, request room service or Champagne deliveries, summon their room stewards and jump in a virtual queue for guest services inquiries. Yet, it still manages to offer a simple user experience.

However, there are still some glitches. I was logged out several times throughout the course of my sailing, and it was a pain to look up my password and sign in again every time. Pages within the app would also refresh several times before finally remaining static enough for me to scroll to where I needed to be.

Some functions -- such as one that allows food to be delivered to you anywhere onboard via Bluetooth -- also weren't yet up and running, and when I jumped in the virtual queue for guest services, I waited more than an hour with no response before finally giving up.

The onboard Wi-Fi was also a severe pain point, which might have contributed to some of the app issues. (I'm told it will improve when the ship repositions to its Barcelona homeport.)

The Seabeds

Virgin Voyages' Seabeds make excellent workspaces when in their couch configuration. (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

Some people dislike Virgin Voyages' Seabeds – beds that convert into sofas during the day to allow for more cabin space. I think the concept is clever.

In bed configuration, the mattress is actually comfortable. In couch configuration, there's much more space if you plan to be in your room during the day. Plus, the bedside tables make for a great setup if you're working remotely like I was.

But you have to remember to ask for the configurations to be switched. If you forget, you could return from a late night of partying to discover your bed is still a sofa. (The incredibly useful in-cabin tablet will allow you to request the swap. Less than 60 seconds after asking to have my couch turned back into a bed, my room attendant was at my door.)

The cabins

A balcony cabin on Virgin Voyages' Valiant Lady (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

Speaking of accommodations, I'm obsessed with the simple but quirky cabin designs, which are mostly white with light woods and fun color pops – a striped throw pillow here, a color-changing mirror accent there and, of course, pinkish-purple accent lights.

I also adore the high-tech aspects, which allow you to push a button for "please make up my room" or "do not disturb." You can request everything from room service and on-demand films to fresh towels via a tablet on the vanity.

The hammocks found on all balconies are also a genius touch; frankly, all cruise lines should have them. (Sadly it was a bit too cold for me to enjoy mine for more than a few minutes.)

I do like that the bathrooms offer shampoo, conditioner and shower gel (Red Flower brand) instead of all-in-one, and there's a shower door instead of a curtain.

Although storage has improved on Virgin Voyages' ships, it's still in short supply. (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

What I didn't love was the storage. Cabins on sister ship Scarlet Lady were recently redone to incorporate more shelves and drawer space, and Valiant Lady was constructed with them to begin with. However, I sailed alone in a room meant for two, I brought only a carry-on for my three-night voyage, and I still used up all of the available drawers.

The bathroom is also painfully small – about the size of an airplane bathroom – and there's nowhere to put toiletries unless you leave them on the sink. The showerhead options are rainfall or wand. I found the wand to be problematic; if you aim it at yourself, it also sprays the door, creating potential leaks. I'm not a fan of rainfall heads, either, as they make it difficult to avoid getting my hair wet when I don't want to wash it.

Also, it's minor but worth mentioning that the hangers look like a slightly more expensive version of the wire ones you'd get at the dry-cleaners, and they left bumps in the shoulders of some of my tops.

The (not so secret) secrets

The "secret steak" at Razzle Dazzle, the vegetarian-forward restaurant on Valiant Lady's sister ship, Scarlet Lady. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

If you're someone who craves exclusivity, Valiant Lady is the ship for you. You can always find limited-capacity events, including mixology seminars, fitness classes and – my favorite – a VIP experience on the ship's "Scarlet Night."

You can be selected as a VIP by joining in certain activities throughout the ship. After winning trivia two days in a row, my teammates and I were invited to participate in what amounted to a pirate-themed scavenger hunt below deck, complete with drinks and magic tricks in a hidden bar.

If that sounds fun to you, be sure to participate when you hear calls for free Champagne, trivia and other daily pursuits that could score you an invite.

Want more insider info? Ask for the "secret" menu at vegetarian-forward restaurant Razzle Dazzle. Oddly, it includes non-veggie items like steak or buttered chicken, depending on the region where the ship is sailing.

Spoiler: You'll hear lots of people mentioning said menu, so it's not really "secret" anymore. It's also not a physical menu, so don't expect a piece of paper to be handed to you when you inquire about it. TPG Principal Writer Gene Sloan tried the secret steak and said he wouldn't recommend it, so I steered clear.

The homage to shipbuilding

Frame markers on Virgin Voyages' Valiant Lady show where the ship was framed out during construction. They also inform the numbering of the vessel's cabins. (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

Throughout the vessel, you'll see nods to the ship's construction. I think the most fun are the metallic bars you might see on some of the walls, including the ones just outside of the Test Kitchen. They bear numbers, which indicate the ship's structural frame lines.

The vessel's cabin numbers are also linked to the frame lines, which is why they seem so random. For example, my cabin was 10314A, which means I was on Deck 10, my room was located at frame line 314, and I was on side A, which is port. (Z is starboard.)

There's no drawback to the frame line displays. But, with regard to the cabin numbering, since the same frame lines appear on both sides of the ship, that means cabin numbers are repeated -- one on either side -- making it crucial for cruisers to pay attention to the A or Z in their room assignments.

The Band

Instead of the usual cruise keycards, Virgin Voyages uses "The Band" – bracelets made from recycled ocean plastic. Although the cause is noble, the look isn't great. (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

In keeping with its music industry roots, Virgin Voyages uses something called "The Band" instead of traditional cruise keycards. They look a bit like '80s friendship bracelets, and they're made from plastic that was fished from the ocean and recycled.

They're convenient and fairly unobtrusive. You also don't have to remember to take your card with you when you leave your room. Plus, since there are no cards, you aren't required to insert one when you enter your cabin in order to get the lights to work. (If you're concerned about saving energy, fear not. There are motion sensors that turn off the lights and close the curtains when no movement is detected after a certain period of time.)

The bracelets are a solid idea overall, but they're not the most attractive. They've got a hideous gray plastic bit attached, which serves as the mechanism that unlocks your cabin door and allows you to charge onboard purchases to your account.

They're also incredibly difficult to put on yourself if you aren't sailing with anyone, and they're not great mementos from the trip, as they don't include your name, the ship's name or the sailing date like a keycard would.

Featured image by The Virgin sign lit up at night on Virgin Voyages' Valiant Lady (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases