Courtesy of Virgin Voyages
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Courtesy of Virgin Voyages
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Courtesy of Virgin Voyages
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Courtesy of Virgin Voyages
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Courtesy of Virgin Voyages
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Resilient Lady

Our Ship Review
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger

When Resilient Lady, the third Virgin Voyages ship to debut in as many years, set sail in Europe in May 2023, it was physically indistinguishable from its siblings, Scarlet Lady and Valiant Lady. And yet this 2,770-guest ship, with its signature mermaid-embellished gray hull and vivid red lettering and smokestack, revealed some personality quirks all its own. 

Most notably, there were changes to the entertainment lineup, designed to reflect the ship’s inaugural season itineraries in Greece and Croatia. These destinations attract a somewhat more mature passenger mix than the party-centric sailings from Miami to the Caribbean on Scarlet Lady and from Barcelona to buzzy Mediterranean hotspots like Ibiza and Cannes on Valiant Lady. For those planning a vacation Down Under, Resilient Lady will also cruise Australia from December through March 2024.

What should you expect while onboard? Sailors, as Virgin calls its passengers, can anticipate a cheeky, freewheeling cruise experience unlike anything else at sea — just the way Virgin owner Sir Richard Branson envisioned it. Most Sailors book a contemporary-style Sea Terrace (185 square feet) with its red-hammock-strung balcony. Those with a bigger budget can reserve (or place a bid to upgrade to) RockStar Quarters, as the ship’s suites are known. These more spacious and more exclusive digs come with added amenities such as early boarding, a stocked minibar, and access to the Richard’s Rooftop sundeck. There, they’ll find shaded sun loungers, two hot tubs, and endless complimentary pours of Moet & Chandon bubbly ($21 a glass on the standard bar menu) every evening from 5-6 p.m. There’s no nightlife on the Rooftop, but it’s a chic spot to escape the daytime party scene on the often crowded pool deck below.

Virgin’s ships are distinct from its competitors in a number of ways — although to be honest there isn’t really an equivalent cruise experience. Resilient Lady’s fares are priced similarly to Celebrity’s, but Virgin offers excellent value with its free wifi and complimentary dining program. Virgin ships also don’t have a cruise director, but they do feature an onboard drag queen (the Diva) and nine other Happenings cast members to entertain you. There’s no buffet restaurant, but the 20-plus food concepts are ingenious. And the entertainment? It’s undeniably edgy with plenty of laughter, shouting, and audience participation. Perhaps most importantly, all Virgin ships are adults-only (age 18 plus), one of the biggest draws for cruisers who’ve become loyal Sailors. 

What We Love

An Onboard Vibe That Rocks the Boat: If you’re seeking a mellow cruise experience with mostly Boomers and older Gen Xers, with traditional production shows and predictable activities, Resilient Lady (or any Virgin ship) isn’t for you. But if you’re open to something campy, clever, and irreverent — that still delivers a high-quality if novel cruising experience — it’s worth giving Virgin a try. Resilient Lady’s Greece and Croatia itineraries offer a great intro to the brand since there’s definitely less of a party mindset and a higher maturity level. Sailors tend to range from late 30s to early 60s on these sailings.

Culinary Creativity: You won’t miss the buffet. Okay, that’s not entirely true because nothing beats the breakfast buffet when you’re rushing to get off the ship for a shore excursion. That said, everything else about the culinary program onboard Resilient Lady is out-of-this-world, Michelin-starred-chef-inspired fantastic. Better still, it’s all included in your cruise fare.

Adventurous eaters who love modern gastronomy with unexpected flavor pairings should book Test Kitchen, which features two different six-course menus highlighting a series of specific ingredients. I tried both and they’re incredible, but I preferred the original menu (mushroom, egg, scallops, beef, blue cheese, and chocolate). Vegetarian options are also available.

Other equally impressive dining venues are Extra Virgin for classic Italian (you’ll want to order everything but don’t miss the calamari and gnocchi), The Wake for excellent steakhouse fare in a sophisticated setting with a terrific view, Pink Agave for modern Mexican (I loved the Esquitas grilled corn and the Pato roasted duck with mole), Razzle Dazzle for a fabulous brunch and a vegetarian-friendly dinner (the food is much more elevated than the black-and-white-striped décor implies), and Gunbae for lively Korean barbecue with drinking games (you’ll share a table for six people so be sure to gather some fun Sailors). 

Casual breakfast and lunch are served in The Galley, an airy food court with waiter service that features a feast of tasty options. You can enjoy all-day breakfast and burgers at Diner & Dash, zesty tacos and burritos at Let’s Taco Bout It, healthy salads at The Daily Mix, sushi at Bento Baby, and Asian bowls at Noodle Around. 

Later in the afternoon at The Dock, you can sample tapas-style appetizers or join Opa Hour in the adjacent alfresco The Dock House from 4:30-6:30 p.m. The special menu features lamb sausage skewers, pita bread with zesty dips, and specialty cocktails. Don’t miss the sushi and Five-Spice Chicken Bowl at Sun Club Café or the individual-size pies at The Pizza Place. Need to satisfy your sweet tooth? Order a double cone at Lick Me Till…Ice Cream — and try not to giggle. Honestly, every bite onboard was uniquely yummy.

Cool New Itineraries: After offering two 7-night itineraries from Athens — Greek Island Glow, visiting Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, and Bodrum (Turkey); and Adriatic Sea & Greek Gems, calling on Dubrovnik and Split (Croatia), Kotor (Montenegro) and the island of Corfu — Resilient Lady will reposition to Australia & New Zealand in late 2023 for the winter (summer in the Southern Hemisphere). The ship will sail 3-to-11-night cruises to a number of ports in both countries from Melbourne, Sydney, and Auckland. Then in Spring/Summer 2024, she’s back to Europe for both 7-night Greece and Croatia itineraries, along with 10-night Starry Nights in Greece & Croatia sailings that visit a combination of ports from the shorter itineraries.

Best Known For

Edgy Entertainment: Drag show? Check! Resilient Lady’s resident Diva helms several spectacles, including the raucous “The Miss Behave Show” and the lighthearted but double-entendre-heavy “Around the World with the Diva.” During the ship’s inaugural season, the Diva (aka Miss Titty Kaka) won over Sailors with her snappy humor and powerful singing voice. Multimedia spectacles featuring daring acrobatics are another Virgin staple; on Resilient Lady, don’t miss “Persephone,” an ancient tale of forbidden love. Tip: Wear comfy shoes because you’ll be on your feet for the rapid-fire theatrics that take place above and around you in the multipurpose Red Room. 

The other, more intimate performance space is called The Manor, whose glittery entryway is the backdrop for countless selfies. Another Virgin spectacle is Scarlet Night, when all Sailors are invited to wear a dash of scarlet and gather on the pool deck for a splashy (literally) extravaganza.

The “Bar Tab”: Virgin’s way of handling bar purchases is unique. Rather than offer a beverage package for unlimited imbibing, it offers a “Bar Tab.” Before boarding, you purchase a $300 Bar Tab, basically an onboard credit, and Virgin throws in another $50 for free. With the good-time vibe onboard and most wines priced from $8 to $12 per glass and cocktails from $10 to $14, that $350 (or $50 per day) can quickly dwindle. Will it last the entire cruise? Probably not, but then your cocktail orders just get added to your Wallet in the Sailor app, which you can check daily to avoid bar-bill shock at the end of your voyage.

Playful Activities: Virgin envisions its ships as adult playgrounds, and the fun truly is everywhere — from ‘90s Boy Band Dance Class and On the Upswing Bungee Class to Summer Camp Arts & Crafts. There’s Bingo with the Diva, Salty Trivia, a PJ Party, and piles of nostalgic board games in The Social Club. Adjust your mindset to kid-again mode and you’ll have a blast. 

Back in adult mode, you can frequent 10 bars, from the chic Sip Lounge (a Champagne bar) to the bro-friendly Draught House and The Loose Cannon. Centrally located On the Rocks is a venue for nightly gigs by classic rock bands and indie solo performers, which are a nice alternative to the more boisterous theatrical shows.

If playful body art is your thing, you can even memorialize your voyage by getting a tat or piercing in Squid Ink, Virgin’s onboard tattoo emporium.

Who It's Best For

Open-Minded Travelers Who Think Traditional Cruises Are Boring: Virgin is all about being open to diverse lifestyles. Sailors represent a broad cross-section, but are predominantly Brits, Americans, Australians, Canadians, and Europeans. The ship is very LGBTQ-friendly, but not overwhelmingly so, with a mix of singles and couples, everyday folks and others giving off definite influencer vibes. And while there’s a youthful onboard energy, generated by the mostly twentysomething Happenings staff who lead activities and perform, the average age of Virgin Sailors is mid-to-late 40s. 

The Non-Tech-Phobic: Before you even board a Virgin Voyages ship, you need to download the Sailor app and use it to upload passport details, check in, and reserve dining. Once onboard, the app lets you book entertainment reservations and see the daily event line-up. Everyone wears The Band on their wrist (red for regular Sailors and black for RockStars), which opens your stateroom door and lets you charge drinks and other onboard expenses. It doesn’t control everything in the room, however. That job belongs to a tablet, which requires a bit of a learning curve for anyone used to simply flipping switches or grabbing a remote.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

The Pool Areas are Disappointing: On our mid-July Greek Isles sailing, Resilient Lady was half full and yet the ship’s two adjacent pool areas were often packed with sun worshippers and revelers. And yes, the music was loud, with a DJ often at the helm. Bottom line: The pools are too small for a ship this size and their semi-enclosed design and sadistic decking material (sandals are needed at all times to avoid scorched soles) create a heat bowl effect that can be unpleasant in the sunbaked regions it sails. 

Cabin Bathrooms are on the Small Side: Virgin apparently didn’t get the memo that new cruise ships are supposed to have roomier bathrooms. While the rainforest shower is terrific, the tight floor space right outside it, the shallow sink and low mirror that make face-washing difficult, and the paltry storage space earn it a barely passing grade. But the rest of Resilient Lady gets an A+ for innovation.

Donna Heiderstadt
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger
Cruise Expert