Virgin Voyages Valiant Lady - a Really Honest Review

Virgin Voyages Valiant Lady Review

Hey Owlets,

If you read my original Virgin Voyages review from my time on board Scarlet Lady then you’re probably shocked to see that I’ve been back on board a Virgin Voyages ship since. If I’m honest I wasn’t expecting it either, but when Virgin Voyages invited me for a whirlwind 12 hours on board their new ship, Valiant Lady, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I’m a firm believer in people (and cruise lines) learning from mistakes so I was keen to see if Virgin Voyages had listened to the criticisms they received from Scarlet Lady’s maiden season and used this to improve their second ship. I’m going to be referencing my Scarlet Lady review a lot in this article as I look to see if things have improved, so I suggest you read that before moving onto my Valiant Lady review.

Before we get into it there are a few things to note. Number one, we experienced issues with boarding AGAIN. This was down to an issue with the PR company, not Virgin Voyages themselves, but it meant that we missed most of the entertainment as the cruise line are very app-focused which didn’t work for us as we didn’t have a booking number. This means that I’m sadly not able to update you on the issues we had with the shows on board Scarlet Lady, but we did still experience entertainment around the ship so I’ll touch on that. Of course this also means that I can’t walk you through the app’s functionality (sorry!).

Secondly, I wanted to point out that Valiant Lady is the same class ship as Scarlet Lady and Virgin Voyages had already ordered Valiant Lady’s construction before Scarlet Lady’s maiden voyage. This means that for the most part the ship is identical (or at least very similar) to Scarlet Lady, and they weren’t able to make changes to some common criticisms like the tiny pool. Having said that, they’ve listened to feedback and implemented changes wherever possible so I’ll touch on that in my review.

Finally, they had a VIP guest on board and because of this they’d taken the decision to close all of the suites, so I’m unable to provide an update on the issues I had with Scarlet Lady’s suites.

After all of those caveats, lets (finally) jump into the review.

Virgin Voyages Valiant Lady Review


Embarkation was a huge bugbear of mine last time, and it’s good to see that they’ve ironed out some of the issues with Valiant Lady. On arrival to the terminal we were greeted with a glass of bubbly and directed to the check in desks where you hand over all of your documentation. As soon as that’s done you’re directed onto the next set of desks where you collect your sailor wristband (which is how you open your cabin door and pay for things) and then you’re free to board, via a photoshoot with the very on-brand (and glittery!) mermaids. Sadly I can’t comment on the efficiency of check-in process, as the aforementioned error left us sat in the terminal for almost 4 hours! What I will say is that when this issue was eventually ironed out, the crew were very apologetic and made sure we had everything we needed to enjoy what was left of the evening.

Obviously we’ve only been on board during media events so I can’t comment on the standard check-in, but it did felt much more like an occasion than the chaotic free-for-all that we experienced on Scarlet Lady, and I imagine they’d do something similar for paying guests.

Virgin Voyages Valiant Lady Balcony Sea Terrace Cabin

The Cabins (and the dreaded hammock…):

Being the same class as her sister, I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting much from Valiant Lady’s cabins but I was very impressed. The bathroom is still uncomfortably small, particularly for anyone a little more curvy - although even Jack who is blessed with the “eat whatever you want and never gain weight” gene commented on how snug the shower was. 

However, anything that Virgin Voyages could change in response to feedback has been acted upon. Several people complained that Scarlet Lady’s cabins felt cold and lacked personality - I personally didn’t agree with the feedback but remembered being underwhelmed. However, the second I saw the changes that had been made for Valiant Lady’s cabins, I couldn’t have agreed more.

First of all, Virgin Voyages have chosen to add a lot more wooden accents to soften the cabin and make it feel brighter, which really works. The soft furnishings have been switched from the jarring black and white chevrons to more touches of the soft blues and reds. The cruise line also addressed the pitiful storage in the cabins by adding LOADS of drawers (seriously, even I could unpack fully now and I am the worst over-packer). They also added a wooden door to cover the fridge - while the fridge door being visible isn’t a huge deal, it definitely made the cabin feel more finished.

Virgin Voyages Valiant Lady Balcony Sea Terrace Cabin

One absolutely ridiculous design flaw that I remarked on last time were the hammocks on the balconies. They were a blatant safety issue, sitting ABOVE the safety rail, and on top of that they were near impossible to get into. Thankfully they’ve been lowered on Valiant Lady so they’re both safe and very comfortable - the problem is now getting out, rather than in, as you really won’t want to move! 

Virgin Voyages have also addressed the divisive bed/sofa situation. The default is now that it’s left as a bed at all times, unless you specifically ask for it to be made into a sofa during the day. This is great as there were so many mixed reviews about the sofa, but it does mean that even if you always have the bed set up you’re stuck with an awkward lump of sofa in your face at night. Wonderful. Additionally, after complaints about a lack of bedside table on the sofa-arm side they’ve added a wooden tray. It fits very snuggly, but I still think it’d be too easy to knock a glass of water off in the middle of the night. If you’ve read my Anthem of the Seas review you’ll know I’m not a fan of the tiny floating shelf in place of a bedside table situation, but it’s still preferable to waking up soaking wet after a half-asleep stretch gone wrong.

Ultimately, we had a comfortable night’s sleep (although fair warning, the bed is quite hard, as you’d expect when sleeping on a sofa) and I very much appreciated the updates they’d made to the original design - although I didn’t dislike the original version aside from the sofa anyway.

Virgin Voyages Valiant Lady Extra Virgin Italian Restaurant Food

The Food -

If you’ve read my original Virgin Voyages review then it’ll be of no surprise to you that Scarlet Lady is the reason that I now always travel with snacks. In fact, I actually packed some rice cakes and breakfast bars in my bag for our stay on Valiant Lady, but the food situation (particularly for allergy sufferers) is one of the biggest turnarounds of them all. For “normal people” the options were plentiful on board Scarlet Lady, but I can’t eat gluten and have a severe squid allergy. On Scarlet Lady I was left with the choice of two salads for dinner and literally just 5 prawns on a plate for breakfast, with the crew being totally unwilling to make small changes to any other menu options. 

Fast-forward to Valiant Lady and things were vastly improved. Thanks to the mix up, we couldn’t use the app to make dinner reservations, so we ended up traipsing around all of the restaurants asking if they had space for us. We went to the Mexican restaurant (Pink Agave) as this is usually the safest cuisine for me. The Maitre’d told us it was full, but she took the time to talk us through all of the other restaurants in order to find one that was safe for me. Sadly, allergy suffers are unwelcome in Gunbae (the Korean Barbecue restaurant), with the reason being that all of the food is cooked on a shared grill. It’s understandable if you’ve not sailed with other cruise lines, but Royal Caribbean have the exact same set up in their sushi restaurant and never have a problem catering for me, so I have to admit that I was a little disappointed.

Virgin Voyages Valiant Lady Extra Virgin Italian Restaurant Food

The remaining restaurants for us to pick from were The Wake (a steak restaurant) or Extra Virgin, the Italian. We went to ask the manager at Extra Virgin first as it was closest, and we found ourselves seated instantly with 0 fuss made over my allergies. The attitude was very much “of course we can cater for you, why do you even have to ask?”, rather than being made to feel like an inconvenience (sadly something that I have experienced on a few ships).

Despite my complex allergies, I have never felt so full in my life. Nothing was too much trouble, there was gluten free pasta, the best gluten free bread I’ve ever had, several of the dishes were already gluten free without needing any changes, and the waiter told me that the galley is set up so that all allergens are kept separate, meaning I could have whatever I wanted without fear of squid touching my food. I had the truffle carpaccio to start, which is genuinely one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. My main course was a sea bass, which if I’m honest was a little bland but it was beautifully cooked and my choice because I didn’t want something heavy with loads of sauce. The desserts, however, were thoroughly underwhelming. We skipped dessert and instead went to the ice cream parlour, although I was still only able to choose between two options. The ice cream was tasty though, and the flavours were very unique.

Virgin Voyages Valiant Lady Razzle Dazzle Brunch Salmon Bowl

The next morning we headed for brunch at Razzle Dazzle (my original bad experience at breakfast was in The Wake and I wasn’t keen to go back). The gluten free options were a rice bowl with salmon, a gluten free muffin, a melon plate and a vegan breakfast. In The Wake the embarrassing 5 prawns dish has been removed from the breakfast menu and coeliacs now have the choice of an egg cracked into a bell pepper, or a salad for breakfast. 

I’ll be honest, I’m still disappointed. Dinner was incredible and left me thinking “great, they’ve fixed the gluten free menu!”, only to be bitterly disappointed at breakfast. In my Scarlet Lady review I mentioned that a study found that 57% of American millennials had at least one dietary restriction. If that restriction is meat then you’ll love Virgin Voyages - they have a plethora of great veggie and vegan options. If you’re gluten free, however, it still feels like they can’t be bothered with you. To be honest, I’ve never experienced a cruise ship breakfast where I’ve felt so un-catered for.

I ordered the salmon rice bowl, which is served chilled. It doesn’t say that anywhere on the menu so be warned. I definitely wouldn’t have ordered it had I known, and if I’m honest I picked at it for around 10 minutes before admitting defeat and ordering plain toast. The poached egg that attracted me to the dish in the first place was served almost raw, giving the entire dish a slimy texture. Apart from this, the dish wasn’t to my taste (it’s piled high with celery which is probably my least favourite food item in existence) but there was nothing wrong with it - it was just overwhelmingly average. Definitely not what I expected of Virgin Voyages when looking at their glossy Instagram feed.

Virgin Voyages Valiant Lady Top Pool Deck Deck 15

(Guest) Sailor Services did it again….

I know what you’re thinking - “she has the worst luck” and I’m sure I do. Yet again our cabin door didn’t lock so I had to go down to Sailor Services to ask them to fix it. I was spared the bitchy manager from Scarlet Lady, but the replacement wasn’t much better. Yet again, they were happy to leave my cabin unsecured with thousands of pounds worth of equipment and my passport just waiting for someone to help themselves to. Thankfully it wasn’t, but I shouldn’t have to be worried about that on a cruise. In the morning the cabin attendant wandered into our room while it was still occupied (thankfully I was already changed!), having been led to believe it was empty because the door was open. 

Outside of Sailor Services’ disinterest in helping their guests, I do have to say that the rest of the crew were brilliant, and a drastic change from what I experienced on Scarlet Lady. Our waiter at dinner was friendly, informative and went out of his way to ensure I enjoyed my meal and didn’t get sick. More generally around the ship, most of the crew that I bumped into were smiley, friendly and would go out of their way to ensure you’re having a great time on board.

Virgin Voyages Valiant Manor Nightclub Entrance Review

Facilities & Entertainment -

The facilities and entertainment are, as expected, very similar to Scarlet Lady. One thing I will say is that they’ve made an effort to give Valiant Lady her own personal flare with slightly different decor in key spaces like The Manor - I loved this attention to detail.

The pool is still absolutely ridiculous and makes especially little sense on Valiant Lady, but there’s nothing that they could do about this as the design was already in place and Valiant’s build was already underway. I can forgive the smaller pool in the context of spending long port days at beach resorts in the Bahamas, but Virgin Voyages built Valiant Lady for the European market where sea days are a lot more common. When the weather is nice everyone heads to the pool which is the size of a 10 person hot tub.

As with Scarlet Lady, I still love the outdoor gym and jogging track that’s built to capitalise on incredible sea views. As you would expect from a cruise line focused on wellness, the gym is well kitted out and I love the range of exercise classes that they offer, as even if you’re not hugely into fitness there’s bound to be an activity you’ll want to try.

I love the concept of the Red Room being such an adaptable space. When we went in there was a confused half-rave, half-gig thing happening which wasn’t for us and was kind of awkward in the context of a mostly-empty ship that’s full of people who needed to work the next day. But if that’s your kind of thing then I could imagine it being a great atmosphere during a standard cruise.

Virgin Voyages Valiant Review The Loose Canon

One thing I have to comment on is the entertainment. One of my biggest criticisms on board Scarlet Lady was that there was techno music playing EVERYWHERE. Valiant Lady was massively toned down in this respect, and the range of entertainment was great - dare I say it, I was reminded of more traditional cruise experiences (sorry, Mr Branson). Instead of thumping beats around every corner each bar had it’s own vibe - you could still find thumping beats in the Red Room, but you could also find chilled singers performing by The Roundabout, classes on meditation and *GASP* even a space for the cheesy 80s music you pretend not to like. Don’t get me wrong, techno music has its place even if it’s not my kinda thing but it gets old very quickly. Having these separate areas with a more relaxed atmosphere gave you chance to decompress if you needed it and caters for a much wider audience - because millennials (of which I am one) don’t all listen to techno 24/7, go to raves then do yoga at sunrise.

If you’re in search of a more relaxed atmosphere then The Loose Cannon and The Social Club will become your regular haunts. There are plenty of games like Air Hockey to challenge your friends to, and while on board I also found an extra little secret! Cruise ship arcades are usually the place to avoid because they’re so expensive - not on Virgin Voyages. Someone tipped us off that every single game in the arcade was free to play, and on top of that it was a haven of cheesy 80s pop - in all honesty we spent more time dancing than playing the arcade games.

Virgin Voyages Valiant Review Outdoor Gym Adult Playground Top Deck

Final Thoughts -

I’ll be honest with you, I’m conflicted. Scarlet Lady’s launch was a bit of a messy affair and I really respect Virgin Voyages for listening to feedback, accepting that they’d perhaps tried a little too hard to be edgy and different and using it to improve. Despite being almost identical, Valiant Lady felt like somewhere you could actually relax, in between partying hard of course. The entire atmosphere was less intense, subtle changes to the design made a big difference and the range of entertainment made the ship a lot more inclusive. After Scarlet’s launch I was left feeling confused because it felt like they’d missed their target audience, and they definitely seem to have widened their focus a little which works well. As a millennial myself I felt excluded on Scarlet Lady, despite being the target audience. The difference on board Valiant Lady was night and day, and I felt much more welcomed. Yes they’ve had two years to bed-in and work out the kinks, but I’d also say that the changes reflect the management clearly listening to their guests.

Having said this, I still can’t believe that in 2022 I’m being offered a salad for breakfast because Virgin Voyages can’t (or let’s be honest, won’t) cater to coeliacs. There are so many almost gluten free items on the menu - with small tweaks they could be offered as options and people with dietary issues wouldn’t be left feeling unwelcome. I’m also still surprised at how unhelpful Sailor Services are, even for the most simple of issues like not knowing where we’re allowed to go for dinner. After two years I honestly expected better by now.

For the most part I had a good time, and I definitely feel more positive about Virgin Voyages after Valiant Lady’s launch. The one thing that I keep coming back to is that while part of me would love to experience a full cruise, I genuinely can’t imagine booking Virgin Voyages over other cruise lines - although I will freely admit that this is because of my poor experience on Scarlet Lady. In all honesty, if Valiant Lady was my first experience of Virgin Voyages then if I found a good deal I would be tempted to give it a go. With this in mind, if you hate the stuffy atmosphere of the more service-oriented cruise lines and you want to experience something fresh and unique, you don’t have any dietary restrictions or allergies, and you have an interest in wellness (even if you’re not mad-keen on fitness) then keep an eye out for a good deal and make your own mind up. I can’t promise it’ll be a 10/10, but it’s probably a 7 or 8 for me now, which is a huge improvement from where we were before.

Have you cruised on Valiant Lady, or Virgin Voyages in general, yet? If so I’d love to know what you thought!


Love and Feathers, 
 The Owlet 💜 

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks Bex I really enjoyed your review xxx


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