Traveller films her trip on Virgin Voyages’ new adult-only cruise ship Valiant Lady

Travel writer Jo Kessel filmed her cruise on Virgin Voyages’ brand new ship Valiant Lady. It’s the second ship to join Richard Branson’s fleet – the first was Scarlet Lady a year ago – and the footage shows how the liner dares to be different, with a tattoo parlour, immersive entertainment and design features (think seesaws and swings) aimed at the young at heart. Plus, Jo gives the inside scoop on where to eat and drink, including trying the ship’s signature cocktail – ‘Richard’s Ginger Beer’.

The Virgin logo is one of the most instantly recognisable in the world and when music and transport mogul Richard Branson launched his own cruise line he set about redefining cruising as well as making sure his ships were very obviously Virgin branded. 

And so it was that when I hopped on board the £700million ($925million) adults-only Valiant Lady for its maiden voyage from Portsmouth to Zeebrugge in Belgium, I was instantly struck by its bold, red hues. Remember, this is a ship like no other, something I hoped to capture on film.

Jo Kessel films her cruise on Virgin Voyages' brand new ship, Valiant Lady

Jo Kessel films her cruise on Virgin Voyages’ brand new ship, Valiant Lady

'The 2,700-passenger ship¿s exterior resembles a sleek, giant superyacht, with a glamorous mermaid gracing the liner¿s bow,' says Jo

‘The 2,700-passenger ship’s exterior resembles a sleek, giant superyacht, with a glamorous mermaid gracing the liner’s bow,’ says Jo

On Valiant Lady guests (referred to as Sailors by the line) can roam 17 decks that accommodate 2,700 passengers in 1,408 cabins. Pictured here is the ship's pool

On Valiant Lady guests (referred to as Sailors by the line) can roam 17 decks that accommodate 2,700 passengers in 1,408 cabins. Pictured here is the ship’s pool

In truth, Valiant Lady’s distinctiveness is impossible to miss. In a bid to be ‘different’ and break the conventions of cruising, Virgin used designers who had never worked on cruise ships before. The 2,700-passenger ship’s exterior resembles a sleek, giant superyacht, with a glamorous mermaid gracing the liner’s bow.

My mission was to get stuck in and embrace the ship’s innovativeness and the video starts by exploring the top deck, stepping onto the particularly red jogging track before trying out the seesaw and swings. 

Yes, it did make me feel like a kid again and yes, it was fun. 

Beware what’s called ‘The Net’ though. It’s a giant trampoline whose red mesh is the only thing that separates you from the sea, 16 decks below. Vertigo sufferers shouldn’t even think about stepping onto it, let alone jumping.

The video starts with Jo exploring the top deck, stepping onto the 'particularly red' jogging track

The video starts with Jo exploring the top deck, stepping onto the ‘particularly red’ jogging track

'This is a ship like no other, something I hoped to capture on film,' says Jo. Above is a hot tub on board

‘This is a ship like no other, something I hoped to capture on film,’ says Jo. Above is a hot tub on board 

Jo tries out the swings. 'Yes, it did make me feel like a kid again and yes, it was fun,' she says

Jo tries out the swings. ‘Yes, it did make me feel like a kid again and yes, it was fun,’ she says

Jo says 'beware' of 'The Net' - a giant trampoline whose red mesh is the only thing that separates you from the sea, 16 decks below

Jo says ‘beware’ of ‘The Net’ – a giant trampoline whose red mesh is the only thing that separates you from the sea, 16 decks below

'Vertigo sufferers shouldn¿t even think about stepping onto it, let alone jumping,' says Jo of 'The Net' trampoline (pictured)

‘Vertigo sufferers shouldn’t even think about stepping onto it, let alone jumping,’ says Jo of ‘The Net’ trampoline (pictured)

In a bid to be ¿different¿ and break the conventions of cruising, Virgin used designers who had never worked on cruise ships before, Jo reveals

In a bid to be ‘different’ and break the conventions of cruising, Virgin used designers who had never worked on cruise ships before, Jo reveals

Next up are the cabins. They’re high-tech and modern, with beds that can convert into an L-shaped sofa by day (to create more space) and a personal tablet that controls lighting, music and the TV. 

Ninety-three per cent of the ship’s 1,408 cabins have a sea view and 87 per cent have balconies that come with a hammock. The ship is proud of its eco credentials and hammocks are made from sustainable materials handwoven in rural Thailand. 

Each one bears a label saying who made it. Yua made mine (she belongs to a socially responsible women’s collective), which was super comfy, super sturdy and a great way to take in the sea view.

According to Jo, the ship's cabins are high-tech and modern, with beds that can convert into an L-shaped sofa by day

According to Jo, the ship’s cabins are high-tech and modern, with beds that can convert into an L-shaped sofa by day 

The hammock on Jo’s balcony was ‘super comfy, super sturdy and a great way to take in the sea view’

The film takes a sneak peek at one of the posh Mega Rockstar suites (pictured), which costs £20,000 ($26,000) a week

The film takes a sneak peek at one of the posh Mega Rockstar suites (pictured), which costs £20,000 ($26,000) a week

The Mega Rockstar suites come with perks such as unlimited alcohol, a vinyl turntable and a guitar

The Mega Rockstar suites come with perks such as unlimited alcohol, a vinyl turntable and a guitar

On Richard¿s Rooftop sundeck, Jo samples the ship¿s signature cocktail, ¿Richard¿s Ginger Beer¿

On Richard’s Rooftop sundeck, Jo samples the ship’s signature cocktail, ‘Richard’s Ginger Beer’

The film then takes a sneak peek at one of the posh Mega Rockstar suites that sleeps four, costs £20,000 ($26,000) a week and comes with perks such as unlimited alcohol (great for entertaining), a vinyl turntable and a guitar.

Suite guests also have access to the exclusive – and very cool – Richard’s Rooftop sundeck, which has its own hot tubs as well as a signature cocktail: ‘Richard’s Ginger Beer’. I order one – watch the video to see what I thought of it.

This being Virgin means that ship terminology is different. Balconies are called terraces, guests are called Sailors and the crew greets you with an ‘Ahoy’ instead of ‘hello’. There’s a record shop on board (a nod to Virgin’s roots) and a tattoo parlour called Squid Ink. To my surprise, this was heaving with ‘Sailors’ keen to take home a permanent, inky memento of their voyage. The cheapest, simplest designs cost £115 ($150), but bigger, more detailed artistry could run up a bill of thousands.

Jo pays a visit to the record shop on board - which she says is a nod to Virgin¿s music-industry roots

Jo pays a visit to the record shop on board – which she says is a nod to Virgin’s music-industry roots

Above is the ship's Squid Ink tattoo parlour. 'To my surprise, this was heaving with "Sailors" keen to take home a permanent, inky memento of their voyage,' says Jo

Above is the ship’s Squid Ink tattoo parlour. ‘To my surprise, this was heaving with “Sailors” keen to take home a permanent, inky memento of their voyage,’ says Jo 

Jo glides through the ship's sparkly nightclub entrance - an 'Instagrammer's dream'

Jo glides through the ship’s sparkly nightclub entrance – an ‘Instagrammer’s dream’

Jo enjoys a 'gritty, acrobatic take on Romeo and Juliet' in the Red Room theatre

Jo enjoys a ‘gritty, acrobatic take on Romeo and Juliet’ in the Red Room theatre

'A Virgin cruise is all about doing it your way. Want to dance? Do it,' says Jo

‘A Virgin cruise is all about doing it your way. Want to dance? Do it,’ says Jo

Afterwards, the spotlight turns to the ship’s entertainment, from the sparkly nightclub whose entrance is an Instagrammer’s dream to the theatre whose saucy name is ‘Red Room’. Here I enjoyed the most jaw-dropping immersive show I have ever witnessed – a gritty, acrobatic take on Romeo and Juliet that required communal audience participation.

A Virgin cruise is all about doing it your way. Want to dance? Do it. Prefer to watch? That’s fine. Wear red or not for the ship’s once-a-voyage Scarlet night – incidentally, even the ship and its lighting turn red for this event. Party till dawn or tuck in early. Everything goes.

Valiant Lady’s Redemption Spa is a glorious space to nurse a hangover. It’s got heated marble slabs to laze on as well as a sauna with a view and a mudroom. The video shows me caking myself in muddy gloop. Once washed off my skin felt smooth and soft.

Jo unwinds on the heated marble slabs in Valiant Lady¿s 'glorious' Redemption Spa

Jo unwinds on the heated marble slabs in Valiant Lady’s ‘glorious’ Redemption Spa

The video shows Jo caking herself in 'muddy gloop' in the spa's mudroom. 'Once washed off, my skin felt smooth and soft,' she says

The video shows Jo caking herself in ‘muddy gloop’ in the spa’s mudroom. ‘Once washed off, my skin felt smooth and soft,’ she says

Food is the film’s fitting finale, because this is the biggest way in which Virgin Voyages differs from other liners. 

Gone is the buffet – Valiant Lady has a Food Court. And there’s no main dining room either. 

Instead, there are 20, including speciality restaurants that cater for all tastes. 

Top pick for lunch is the Dock House, which is laid back with beach club vibes and serves Mediterranean meze. Its grilled shrimp with garlic yoghurt is a must.

Valiant Lady has done away with the buffet concept, and instead has a food court (pictured)

Valiant Lady has done away with the buffet concept, and instead has a food court (pictured) 

The Test Kitchen restaurant (pictured) serves an experimental six-course tasting menu created by internationally acclaimed Michelin-star chef Matt Lambert

The Test Kitchen restaurant (pictured) serves an experimental six-course tasting menu created by internationally acclaimed Michelin-star chef Matt Lambert

Impressed by her meal at Test Kitchen, Jo says: 'It¿s a quality, innovative night out and hard to believe it¿s included in the fare'

Impressed by her meal at Test Kitchen, Jo says: ‘It’s a quality, innovative night out and hard to believe it’s included in the fare’

TRAVEL FACTS

Valiant Lady will start sailing four different seven-night Mediterranean and French Riviera voyages from Barcelona in May 2022, including overnight stays in Ibiza. In November Valiant Lady will relocate to Miami and the Caribbean for winter. For more information, visit www.virginvoyages.com.

And for dinner with a difference Test Kitchen can’t be beaten. 

It resembles a lab and serves an experimental six-course tasting menu created by internationally acclaimed Michelin-star chef Matt Lambert. 

It’s a quality, innovative night out and hard to believe it’s included in the fare.

Stop press, Test Kitchen first opened on sister ship Scarlet Lady and was so well received that one is soon to open in New York, the first restaurant to ever transfer from a ship to land. 

And that sums up Virgin Voyages – achieving what’s never been done before.

Valiant Lady might not appeal to conventional cruisers, but dare to embrace the difference and you’ll be pleased you did.

For more videos from Jo, visit her YouTube channel – Go with Jo 

'Valiant Lady might not appeal to conventional cruisers, but dare to embrace the difference and you¿ll be pleased you did,' says Jo

‘Valiant Lady might not appeal to conventional cruisers, but dare to embrace the difference and you’ll be pleased you did,’ says Jo

When music and transport mogul Richard Branson launched his own cruise line he set about redefining cruising, Jo reveals. Above is Valiant Lady's stylish Redemption Spa

When music and transport mogul Richard Branson launched his own cruise line he set about redefining cruising, Jo reveals. Above is Valiant Lady’s stylish Redemption Spa 

There are 1,150 international crew members on board and 40 per cent of Virgin¿s passengers are new to cruising. Pictured is the living room in one of Valiant Lady's Mega Rockstar suites

There are 1,150 international crew members on board and 40 per cent of Virgin’s passengers are new to cruising. Pictured is the living room in one of Valiant Lady’s Mega Rockstar suites

VALIANT LADY BY THE NUMBERS

  • Valiant Lady is Virgin Voyages’ second cruise ship, built in Genoa, Italy. 
  • She measures 38m (125ft) wide and 278ft (912ft) long – and weighs 110,000 gross tonnes. 
  • Guests (referred to as Sailors by the line) can roam 17 decks which accommodate 2,700 passengers in its 1,408 cabins. 
  • Ninety-three per cent of staterooms have an ocean view and 87 per cent have balconies with hammocks. 
  • There are 1,150 international crew members on board and 40 per cent of Virgin’s passengers are new to cruising. 
  • The average age of a Virgin cruiser is 45 years.

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