This trip was one of many firsts. Not only was it my first time exploring the Mediterranean, it was also my first time cruising and my first time experiencing entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin brand. Prior to this trip, cruising was never something I felt I absolutely had to do, but after a seven-night stint on the Valiant Lady, I can say with confidence that I’ll definitely be traveling the Virgin way again.
With its inaugural sailing in August 2021, Virgin Voyages is still pretty fresh to the scene. Valiant Lady is the line’s second of four currently in the fleet. Boasting a yacht-like exterior and interiors crafted by some of the world’s most renowned architects and designers, the ships rival top boutique hotels. Public spaces like lounges and restaurants are sleek and luxurious, each with a different vibe and aesthetic. The 1,408 cabins and suites feature thoughtful elements like state-of-the-art technology and spacious balconies with hammocks.
Debunking the myth that all cruises have buffets, these ships actually have zero. In an effort to reduce food waste and elevate the overall experience, Virgin offers made-to-order fare at all of its 20+ eateries. You really can’t go wrong at any of the onboard restaurants, which feature menus crafted by Michelin-starred chefs. Extra Virgin, an Italian-inspired concept, offers dishes like bucatini carbonara with housemade pasta and affogato prepared tableside. Razzle Dazzle, a veggie-centric spot, serves up mushroom “tartare” and whole roasted heirloom cauliflower. You can top it off with a craft cocktail from some of the industry’s best mixologists or pop some bubbles in honor of the brand’s partnership with Moët & Chandon.
On board, there’s no shortage of activities to enjoy. The Virgin brand is synonymous with entertainment, which definitely shines through in the programming. In the evening, travelers can enjoy countless acts that aren’t your typical cruise line fodder — think drag shows, jaw-dropping cirque and immersive dance performances. During the day, you can relax at the soothing Redemption Spa (salt room, please), take a seaside sunrise yoga class or even get a tattoo at onboard parlor Squid Ink. Oh and did I mention the ship is kid-free?
Valiant Lady currently offers two themed Mediterranean itineraries. Ours, the Irresistible Med, departs from Barcelona, Spain, with stops in Toulon, France; Marina di Carrara, Italy; Ajaccio, Corsica; Cagliari, Sardinia; and Ibiza — six different destinations with no extra flights or hotel changes necessary. Enticing shore excursions are available at each stop. With one peek of the itinerary, I quickly realized the appeal of cruising. Our days were filled with shopping in St. Tropez, savoring gelato in Florence, wine tasting in Ajaccio and exploring in Ibiza’s Old Town.
The big question is, as someone who had never cruised or experienced the Virgin brand before, would I book another trip on Virgin Voyages? The answer is undoubtedly yes. What was previously a travel excursion I had no real burning desire to try ultimately turned into the trip of a lifetime. In fact, I’ve already started looking into upcoming itineraries — Dubai and Cairo, anyone?