My name is Sharon and I am not a cruise person.
I’ve been on about a half dozen cruises…4 Disney, 1 Holland America, and I think my last one was Royal Caribbean? But almost everything about that cruise was unpleasant and I think Joe hit the nail on the head when he said I’ve tried to block it out LOLOL!
I’ve tried to figure out what it was that I didn’t like about cruising, and I broke it down into several things:
- We don’t have kids, or even any nieces or nephews (only child married an only child; who woulda thunk?). Unless they’re very well behaved, we’re generally not super fond of children. Disney’s cruises are, of course, chock full of kids and even though there are plenty of activities for the under-18 demographic, you still see a lot of young ones – the ones not in the activities, at mealtimes (yep, even the late seating), etc.
- Holland America, on the other hand, was a cruise full of people 30 and 40 years older than us. That’s fine for small talk but there weren’t many people anywhere near our age who we could really relate to.
- With Disney, Holland America and (I think) Royal Caribbean under our belts, every cruise we’ve been on has been “squeaky clean.” And I don’t mean wiping and mopping – I mean it’s all been very family friendly. Although Joe and I keep our blog rated PG, we are NOT like that in real life. We appreciate raunchy humor, have no problems with adult language, etc.
- The whole “sitting with strangers and the whole table going from restaurant to restaurant each night” was always annoying to me; what if we didn’t like some of the other people at our table? Or had no interest in Italian night? It would mean making special arrangements, potentially having to pay an upcharge, etc.
- I can’t put my finger on why, but most of the Caribbean islands we’ve visited haven’t done it for me (2 of our cruises were to Alaska and those were admittedly better).
- I’ve generally not enjoyed the onboard activities cruise ships have. I don’t work out so I’m not interested in their fitness centers. I get bored with gambling or just sitting and drinking in a pool. I’ve already done enough wine tastings to last a lifetime. Napkin folding classes? Meeting Mickey Mouse? Jigsaw puzzles? Disney trivia? Meh. I would LOVE to do the FlowRiders on some of the Royal Caribbean ships but the one RC we went on didn’t have one.
So yeah…decidedly not a cruise person.
But in October 2018, Virgin Voyages (VV) announced their intentions to sail, and to port in Cuba, with overnight stays in Havana. Joe and I had been to Cuba a few years earlier, during that short time frame that President Obama had opened the doors. I loved our visit to the country (pretty much the one Caribbean country I haven’t disliked so far) and liked the idea of going back for a day or two. Plus VV said they were going to be strictly an 18+ cruise line? For the first time in almost a decade, I was actually interested in going on a cruise!
In mid-2019, the administration at the time banned ships from going to Cuba. So VV’s port changed from Havana to Key West. We’re big fans of Key West, so all good with us. We were still casually interested.
THEN we found out that VV was going to have a special cruise in July 2020 – it was going to be Richard Branson’s 70th birthday. AND Sir Richard was going to be in attendance. OMG, could you imagine if I added him to my list of people and places I’ve photobombed?
After some discussion, Joe and I decided to take the plunge and go on Richard’s Birthday Bash cruise. In November 2019, we used my “oldest friend” (Hiiiii Daaaaarrrrr!) as our travel agent, put our deposit down and waited.
And watched our cruise get switched from July 2020 to July 2021 as COVID took over the world. But we got a partial discount, which we used to upgrade from an inside cabin to an outside one with a terrace.
And then we waited some more.
An then, in November 2020, the citizens of Key West voted to not allow large cruise ships to port there anymore.
We kept waiting.
And we watched our port city turn into Cozumel. Less thrilled about this. We stopped there on a Disney Cruise once and…meh. But still….Richard’s Birthday Bash! 😉
And then our cruise got switched from 2021 to 2022. Disappointing but by that time, no big surprise there. #thanksCOVID
2022 has, so far, been the year of Omicron. Not as deadly, and people had to be tested to sail (they no longer do, but at the time they did)…so it was safe. And finally – FINALLY – after over 2.5 years, it was time for our cruise!
We just got back on Friday and don’t worry, we’ll write posts ALLLLLL about it. But overall? It’s a win!
The cruise line’s intended demographics were 20s and 30s but really, it was all over the spectrum, from very late teens to at least 80s. Just from eyeballing, Joe and I were probably just a couple of years older than the mid-range ages. So plenty of people we could enjoy talking with, relating to, etc.
It appears to be a VERY open-minded, inclusive cruise line. We saw people of every shape, size, color and ability having a blast, without being judged. There were SO MANY gay and lesbian couples, as well as a bunch of trans people, and no one seemed to care ([soap box] Which is the way it SHOULD be [/soap box]). There were pineapple people finding each other. There were thongs and pasties at the main pool and topless sunbathing on the top deck and again, no one cared what anyone wore (or didn’t wear), regardless of anything. The shows, some of which included a sex therapist and a drag queen, were decidedly more “adult” than I’ve ever seen on a cruise ship.
After that whole paragraph, you might be getting some preconceived notions about this cruise. I’m not saying it was all Sodom and Gomorrah, because it wasn’t. Far from it. But there was a definite “you do you” vibe. That being said, fair warning that it’s probably not always going to be comfortable for those who tend to be closed-minded or puritanical.
Some of the onboard activities were NOTHING like anything I ever seen on a cruise ship before. There were opportunities to make friendship bracelets (just like back when you were in summer camp!), drag queen BINGO, a grog tour, etc. And if you didn’t want to do any of that, you could just sit in the hammock on your terrace, stare out at the ocean, and contemplate life. Or strike a pose. Again, you do you.
(Note from Joe: I don’t think that picture is going to show up in any of their ad campaigns LOL)
The way they set up the restaurants is great – there’s no main dining room and no assigned tables. They had 5 full-service restaurants (steak & seafood, Korean, Italian, Mexican, Veggie-forward and an “experimental” eatery called the Test Kitchen) and there was no upcharge to attend any of them (there were a few courses at most eateries that were optional, but you could easily skip those as we did). You may be seated “family style” at a couple of them (i.e. the Korean place has seating for 6 at each BBQ station – so we were seated with 2 other couples), but you’re not expected to be attached at the hip during any other meals. And if you didn’t want a full-service experience, or just wanted to grab and go, there’s a large area called The Galley that worked in place of a typical cruise buffet.
One of the “big” shows was canceled due to “an incident,” but between the 2 of us, we saw 4 other shows and for us, they ran the gamut from “done well but not my taste” to “really enjoyable.”
Of course, it wasn’t all a bed of roses. The Cozumel area still has no allure for us, so after meeting up with a friend who was in port from another cruise ship, and having a beer or two with him, we went back to our ship. There were some times when there was not much going on and we were forced to hang out on our hammock. Pity LOLOL (seriously, I loved that hammock. They’re available online and I am SO getting one).
So yeah…we wanted to like Virgin Voyages, we really did! Overall, that mission was accomplished, at least to the point where we signed up for 2 more VV cruises (dates TBA). Hooray!
Feature Photo: Virgin Voyages/Facebook
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