Like many, I’ve felt robbed of life’s little moments these past 18 months. So when I had the chance to preview Virgin Voyages‘ new ship, the Scarlet Lady — before its debut sailing to the Caribbean from Miami this October — I was three sheets to the wind with excitement.
On the evening of Sept. 14, a friend and I headed to Pier 88 in Manhattan. Getting dressed felt great, as did the nasal swab for the COVID-19 test I took upon arrival. Coupled with mandatory proof of vaccination, I almost felt too safe before boarding this adults-only cruiser.
After walking through the Social Club Diner — with a retro design and shuffleboard tables — we hit the Dock House, which served melt-in-your-mouth appetizers: otherworldly Spanish octopus with sunchokes and muhammara, hanger steak with mint and anchovies, goat cheese polenta with fancy stuff.
With a Michelin-starred chef collective and interiors designed by Roman and Williams and other buzzy names, you know you’re in for a treat at any of the 20-plus specialty eateries aboard the floating hotel with 1,330 cabins (including 78 “RockStar Quarters”).
But why use forks and knives when you can drink champagne and sling back blinis caving under the weight of caviar with a view of the aircraft on the deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum? (Much to my dismay, this ship was not whisking us away to VV’s exclusive Beach Club at Bimini in the Bahamas for the evening, but docked.)
So, champagne we did, at Sip Lounge, where the effervescent soul-stirrer runs from $9 a glass to $1,000 for a vintage bottle. Sure, you could order the old-fashioned way, but you’ll have more fun using the Sailor app’s “Shake for Champagne” feature, where a quick rattle of your phone summons a bottle delivery anywhere on the ship. Standing in a venue rich with velvet, brass embellishments and mid-century modern flair, I’d imagine Ernest Hemingway would feel quite at home here.
As would Richard Branson, who, coincidentally, while I was busy waving my hands over the nearest faucet sensor, snaked his way through our plebeian corridor with his minions. I hear Paris Hilton was aboard, too.
After seeing the Red Room (“This looks like a ’50 Shades of Grey’ theater!” quipped my ever-sagacious companion), the casino and a space I can only describe as a Gatsby Nouveau hall of mirrors and twinkling lights, we landed at High Street, a drag of upscale shopping.
Thankfully, I did not make any regrettable decisions at Squid Ink, the first tattoo studio on a cruise ship, but were I not pressed for time before dinner at the Test Kitchen — a lair for forward-thinking gastronomy with dishes like a fraudulent fungus actually composed of 17 types of different pickled, emulsified and roasted ‘shrooms — I might have perused records at Voyage Vinyl or treated myself to a blowout and mani/pedi.
Though, perhaps such pampering is best saved for Redemption Spa. As we walked around the elegant space, complete with a hydrotherapy pool and a DJ table, the spa director informed us media members she’d be happy to give us a pile of mud to use on ourselves, our partners or a stranger — wherever the champagne takes you, I suppose. I think I’ll stick to the sound therapy and quartz bed treatments.
As we headed up to the pool bar for a sundowner, the city’s twinkling skyline seemed bewitched with sherbet orange secrets. First, I should probably hit the 225-meter track or boxing ring to work off all this iniquity. Second, I’ve got to stop washing my hands a dozen times a day, lest I snooze and lose again.
But isn’t that the beauty of New York right now? We’re all emerging from our COVID cocoons feeling like we could very well bump into Branson and Hilton clinking glasses, and though we may miss them by 20 paces, we still float home high on those little moments, more grateful than before for some new wind in our sails and stories in our pockets.
VirginVoyages.com; From $725 per person. All food at 20-plus eateries, group workouts, basic beverages and other amenities (Wi-Fi, gratuities, etc.) are included in base fares.