When dreaming up our perfect honeymoon, my husband and I knew we wanted to incorporate cruising. It’s the method of travel that works best for us and we love being on the water so we came up with a wild and epic plan full of contrasts and quirk that would take us all over Europe in contrasting ways. The plan was to take Cunard’s oldschool ocean liner the Queen Mary 2 across to Southampton from New York then later hop on the ultra-modern Virgin Voyages for the trip around the Greek Islands I’d always dreamed of (which paired nicely with Phil’s must-see city Athens). Unfortunately, our Cunard was cancelled a week out (more on that in another article) but the boat we’d picked as its amusing antithesis did indeed sail. It sailed for the very first time in fact.


A lot of the appeal of Virgin Voyages’ Resilient Lady was that it was making its maiden voyage. Veteran cruisers often list the maiden voyage as a sailing to avoid but we liked the occasion of it all, plus with Virgin leaning so heavily into being the “cool, young’ brand at sea, the maiden voyage came with some fun semi-celebrity sightings if you’ve got a keen eye for reality stars (which we absolutely do. How were we the only people at the game show who realized the comedian had accidentally pulled a Big Brother winner up onstage for audience participation?? #TeamTaylor always). As far are we could tell, the ship (which had already been delayed a year from its planned original launch but I assume this was more to do with Covid timing than readiness) was running perfectly smoothly and any first sailing kinks were ironed out far out of view from the passengers.


Our Greek Islands itinerary took us to Santorini, Rhodes, Bodrum (a fun detour to Turkey), an overnight in Mykonos, and a return to our home port of Athens. It had a great balance of port time and sea time and the weather made sitting out on deck in one of Virgin’s fantastic covered chairs facing the ocean a real sea day treat. Plus the food on Virgin is the best of any cruise I’ve been on by a pretty large margin so sea days are an extra bonus. The ship stayed a little later than average in each port, which gave us extra flexibility to do activities that weren’t booked through the cruise line (we try to book excursions independently if possible to avoid extra fees) and it was nice to actually get to see a few places at night (I’m sure the Mykonos overnight stay was a lot of fun for people with very different personalities than ours).


Virgin being relatively new to cruising and determined to do things their own way resulted in a few innovations that were very welcome. Bracelets instead of sea cards, ipads to make requests to your room attendant, and an array of different included restaurants replacing traditional main dining are A+ new options. I also appreciated that soft drinks were included, their exclusion always striking me as cheap on other cruise lines. I don’t really drink but I also think the bar tab instead of unlimited packages concept is another winner. Not every restaurant is a home run but they’re all well above average and the ones that slap really slap (the carrots in Razzle Dazzle will change your life). I wasn’t crazy about The Galley- Virgin’s try-hard replacement for a traditional buffet that ends up just being a buffet with longer wait times, fewer options, and an air of superiority- but some of the other casual eateries on board ended up being my favourite. The pizza is particularly excellent, as are the small bites at The Dock, something we sadly discovered far too late otherwise would have made it a daily ritual. Treats like real ice cream (not just soft serve) and the candy bar all included in the fare contribute to the feeling that Virgin is truly all-inclusive and not constantly trying to upsell.


That annoying Galley thing where they’re a little too cool for school (or at least too cool for cruising) is a feeling that admittedly bugged me the whole trip and is very present in the over-thought approach to activities. Dividing up the cruise director role into a dozen specialty jobs exclusively employing hot extraverts actually had the opposite effect when it came to making me want to get involved. I kind of like how lame most cruise activities are- at sea, there’s no trivia I can’t win, no karaoke I can’t slay. But the cool kid factor at Virgin made me more hesitant to jump in. Karaoke quickly turned into a showcase for the host serenading themself with Lady Gaga as everyone else was too self-conscious to test the spotlight. I’m not saying Virgin needs to revert from their wild aerial ballets to a Royal Caribbean-style Broadway revue but, especially when it comes to interactive activities, relaxing a bit and embracing goofiness over glamour would go a long way to making it actually fun more than just instagram fun.


Virgin is expensive but you can see where your money goes; the value is there. For a special occasion, it truly is worth it for someone looking for a more elevated cruise experience with a slightly younger crowd.