I recently set sail on Virgin Voyages 5 night Dominican Daze sailing onboard the Scarlet Lady. Let me take you along and give you a small glimpse of what you may experience on your own and with a small group.
My personal preference is to fly in on the day before my cruise sets sail. This is recommended for several reasons, but the biggest one being… It greatly reduces the risk of missing the ship. For this particular trip we stayed at the EVEN Hotel Miami Airport close to the airport. The EVEN hotel offers complimentary airport shuttle making transportation easy. Rooms were nice and each room even had workout equipment. There is a restaurant on site and an outdoor pool.
Upon arrival I did spend a little time at the pool just relaxing and catching up with Journey Planner Karen. If you are a light sleeper or bothered by noise please note that this hotel is very close to the airport and there is constant noise from the planes.
Once some of the other sailors arrived it was time to get dinner. There were not any options within a walkable distance so we ended up going with the recommendation of our shuttle driver. He took us to La Rosa Fine Cuban Cuisine in Miami. WOW! What a gem! Two thumbs up from me. I had a chicken dish that was similar to a chicken parmesan and a mango margarita. Good portions at good prices and very filling.
HOT TIP: It always pays to get the recommendations from locals who know the area.
Morning of Embarkment
I was up and ready to go to the restaurant when they opened for breakfast at 6:00 am. Yes, I am an early riser. It was the perfect spot to get a little work done and eat. For breakfast I had a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit and coffee. It was way more costly than I would have expected. Over $20! The coffee itself was $4.00, for just regular hotel coffee, nothing fancy. I would probably Doordash breakfast if I stayed here again.
Everyone was ready to go by check out at 11:00am. For transportation to the cruise port we used Uber. It was cost effective and really the only option. For our group we needed two Uber XLs. Cost was about $25 each car, appx $5 per person and the drive was about 15 minutes.
We all had staggered port arrival times and lots of time to spare. Virgin Voyages does allow you to drop your luggage off as early as 9:00 am. It is not recommended to wait around the port area as there is not much seating outside.
There is a complimentary shuttle that takes guests to and from the Bayside Pier. It runs every 15 minutes and the last pickup time at Bayside is 2:30 pm. We all decided to go to Bayside for a while and look around. Great place for a pre-cruise snack, lunch or shopping.
Getting Ready to Board
Back at the port there will be queue lines outside with boarding times listed. You will be able to get in your specific line to wait. My boarding time was set for 2:15. I got in line around 1:15 anticipating about an hour wait. It was only about 15 minutes before they let our line into the terminal.
I did have Deep Blue Extras but there was no clear direction on how to utilize this for priority boarding. Once past security I did ask a few crew members and they directed me to the correct line to receive my Sea Band and DBE bracelet. Virgin Voyages cruise terminal is finished and it was a smooth check in experience with nice, comfortable seating in the waiting area.
Boarding officially begins at 1:30 with those with Rockstar status. Rockstars are any quests staying in the suites. Followed by guests with the Splash of Romance Package then the Deep Blue Extras guests.
Regular boarding starts around 2:00-2:30. With a boarding time of 2:15 and Deep Blue Extra priority boarding I was onboard around 1:45 which was great! Journey Planner Karen was onboard before I was since she had a Rockstar suite (Lucky Duck!). She was able to get our evening shows scheduled with no problem.
HOT TIP: Schedule your port arrival time as soon as you are able. The earlier boarding times do fill up quickly. The sooner you board the ship the sooner you are able to connect to wifi and book shows and activities.
After a quick trip to find my stateroom, it was time to wonder a bit and get a pizza at the Pizza Place. The pool bar had just opened and had no wait. Got some photos of the pool without any people around, got something to drink and headed down to the Pizza Place. I had been waiting all day for this! Best cruise ship pizza that is freshly prepared while you wait. Most guests are headed to The Galley or Dockside. Pizza Place is kind of hidden and often overlooked on boarding day. Little to no wait to order and easily found seating for several of us. Pizza and ice cream was a daily thing 🙂
We had some time before dinner to take room photos and videos. Check them out on our Embrace the Journey Travel YouTube page. Luggage took a long time to get to my room. I was walking down the hall to dinner when the room attendant was bringing it to me. Made a quick change to freshen up for dinner at Pink Agave.
Pink Agave is Mexican themed. The first two courses are served family style. Everyone got the opportunity to try all of the small dishes and medium dishes. The guacamole, corn and shrimp were favorites. Main dishes were served individually. I ordered the steak. It was good, but after sampling the pork I had a new favorite. Most agreed that the pork was the best dish of the night. Desserts were served family style with the top favorite being the chocolate tacos.
Tonight’s show was Ships in the Night. A combination of music and dance. It was okay. I made it through the whole show without falling asleep. If you know me, you know my body is usually in bed by 9:30 so staying up past 10:00 was a miracle. The show was interesting but did not have the WOW factor of other shows. Still worth seeing.
Next week on Trip Report Part 2: Our first day at sea and Puerta Plata day.
Did you miss Mary K’s blog about Virgin Voyages? Check it out here.
To learn more about Virgin Voyages or to book your next cruise contact your journey planner.
A big thank you to Embrace the Journey Travel Planner Mary K Allen for writing this blog and sharing her experience. Learn more about Mary K here.