Gay Friendly Cruises: Virgin Voyages Experience

After our very first cruise we immediately fell in love with this alternative holiday style. Over the last few years, we have continued to travel on both gay and gay friendly cruises, exploring a number of different cruise lines and operators.

When we saw the launch of Virgin Voyages – a new cruise line under the Virgin Group – our attention was immediately grabbed!

From what we could see from their marketing, everything we knew about cruising from past experiences seemed to be done differently onboard Virgin Voyages.

Dining, entertainment, onboard activities – Virgin Voyages seemed to put their own spin on everything and we couldn’t wait to get onboard to experience for ourselves just how unique and niche this cruise line was.  

Luckily we didn’t have long to wait, and this year we embarked onboard a 7 night Mediterranean sailing ‘French Daze and Ibiza Nights’ – and quite simply, our cruise with Virgin Voyages took any pre-conception we had of traditional cruises and threw them away.   

Every second onboard was incredible, and whilst we would be hard-pressed to choose what we enjoyed the most, we wanted to share our top reasons as to what makes Virgin Voyages different from other cruise lines we have travelled with.

We were also especially keen to see how Virgin Voyages compared as a gay-friendly cruise to other companies we have sailed with.

Are Virgin Voyages gay-friendly?

Gay friendly virgin voyages

In a nutshell, ABSOLUTELY!

During our sailing we had many people message us to ask if we were on a gay cruise with Virgin Voyages – clearly what we had been posting gave that impression.

The answer in this case was no, we were not on an all gay cruise. However we loved that we were asked this question because it speaks volumes about how Virgin Voyages was not just ‘gay friendly’ per se, but truly gave us a sense of belonging and inclusion.

The things that stood out to us that made us feel inherently welcome as LGBTQ travellers include:

  • Gender neutral toilets available all around the ship – a simple signal that everybody is welcome here.
  • The entertainment including some incredible drag artists.
  • Not one member of staff ever asked ‘are you brothers’, we did not give ‘being a couple’ a second thought which we only realised on reflection.
  • The staff onboard were able to dress and express themselves and their gender identity as they like – the diversity of staff was beautiful to see.
  • Equally we felt confident to dress how we wanted to without second guessing ourselves as we have done in the past. The environment onboard allowed us to feel this way.
  • Our final point is nuanced, but there were many many more gay travellers on board Virgin Voyages compared to other cruises we have been on (with the exception of the all gay cruises). Thinking about the marketing and reputation of the Virgin brand combined with the adults only aspect perhaps this should not have been a surprise! Either way we made a great group of friends (pictures above).

What makes Virgin Voyages different?

Gay friendly virgin voyages

Virgin Voyages ships are sleek, modern and have some incredibly well thought out finishing touches to show that they are currently market leaders when it comes to cruising.

It’s almost not a case of what can they do to be better, but what can they do to be different and better. Here are 3 things that stood out to us.  

1. Virgin Voyages are Adult Only!

Without a doubt, (and no offence to kids – we have plenty within our families!) this is one of the things we loved the most about our time onboard Virgin Voyages.

All their cruises are exclusively adult-only, with a minimum age to travel of 18 years.

This does make a huge difference to your time on holiday – and makes for a truly relaxing getaway at sea.

But not only are the sailings adult-only, the ships themselves are adult-only by design.

Whilst other cruise lines may offer adult-only sailings, space onboard is still taken up by the family friendly facilities – kids pool, playground areas etc.

Virgin Voyages do not have any of these spaces – the entire design is for adults, meaning more space onboard for restaurants, bars and modern lounge areas.

2. The Dining

Gay friendly virgin voyages
The entrance to Pink Agave.

Make no mistake, we are total foodies.

We love eating out, experiencing new restaurants and different cuisines, especially when we’re on holiday!

This is no different when we’re on a cruise, and one of the things we look forward to the most is the sheer choice of eateries. 

So you can imagine how excited we were to hear that Virgin Voyages has opted for multiple dining venues in place of the standard main dining room.

Each ship within their fleet offers over 20+ eateries, with a huge variety of different cuisines.

We’re talking Italian, Korean BBQ, steak and seafood, Mexican…there is literally something to suit everyone.

And the best part is, whereas on a regular cruise, your speciality restaurants may come at a surcharge, onboard Virgin Voyages, every single one of these speciality restaurants are included in your cruise fare!

Some of our favourites:

  • Gunbae – Gunbae is the Korean BBQ restaurant and operates on a social dining basis, you share your table with upto 8 guests with your meal cooked on a hot plate in the centre of the table. It is a lively, social experience – expect drinking games involving shots!
  • Pink Agave – Mexican cuisine doesn’t usually invoke images of fine dining, but Pink Agave is absolutely that! We went three times in total for that very reason.
  • Extra Virgin – We LOVE Italian food and some of the best we have had is onboard at Extra Virgin. It’s always a good sign when the pasta is fresh and homemade.

 

3. Shows, Entertainment and Activities

Gay friendly virgin voyages

There is never a dull moment onboard a cruise and life onboard Virgin Voyages is no different!

Of course, most days you have a port of call where you can choose to disembark and spend a day ashore exploring, but for the days at sea you can easily fill every minute should you wish, and there is always something happening on an evening for entertainment.

The entertainment onboard has definitely been developed and produced with the ‘adult-only’ concept in mind, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

You won’t find any classic Broadway style theatre productions onboard, but instead choose from modern, immersive entertainment, drag shows, death-defying acrobatic acts, as well as shows and performances developed by some of the worlds most talked about directors and choreographers.

Each ship in the Virgin Voyages fleet has it’s own ‘Happenings Cast’ – think entertainment/animation team on a package holiday, but each member of the cast focuses on a topic, or a theme that they are experts in, or passionate about.

What we particularly loved to see, and what reinforced to us the nature of Virgin Voyages being a gay friendly cruise, was that one of the members of the Happenings Cast is ‘The Diva’ – the ships resident drag queen!

This is a huge step forward in terms of onboard diversity and is very rare to see. We attended The Divas evening drag show, and honestly laughed so much. We also played ‘Bingo with The Diva’ – definitely not the sort of bingo you would play with your nan on a Saturday lunchtime!

Another of our favourite shows was ‘Never Sleep Alone’ – hosted by ‘The Doctor’, another of the Happenings Cast. This is an interactive, audience participation cabaret/seminar centred around embracing and owning your $exual destiny. Not for the faint of heart – but definitely not one to miss!

The final unique point to mention is The Manor (the entrance is pictured above). Virgin Voyages has its own multi-level nightclub on board so expect some good parties into the early hours.

Which Virgin Voyage ship did we sail on?

We spent 7 days onboard the beautiful Valiant Lady.

Valiant Lady is the second ship in Virgin Voyages fleet, and at the time of our sailing was still almost brand new, with her maiden voyage only having sailed in March 2022.

Valiant Lady has capacity for 2770 passengers.

Other Key Points

Gay friendly virgin voyages
Richards Rooftop

Whilst the above were the main, key differences between other cruises lines that we have sailed with and Virgin Voyages, there were other notable differences too that we wanted to highlight:

  • Wi-Fi Included – Wi-Fi is usually an added extra on a cruise and is not cheap! However, all Virgin Voyages sailings include Wi-Fi in with the fare. This is a great little add-on, especially considering how Instagrammable the ship is!
  • Overnight Stops – We loved the fact that the sailings include overnight stops in some iconic destinations! During our Mediterranean sailing, we docked overnight in Ibiza, but not just on any night, on a Friday night! Perfect for both making the most of this destination aswell as painting the town red!
  • RockStar Treatment – This absolutely made us feel like VIPs! Any guest booking a suite automatically receives RockStar treatment onboard, which includes some amazing perks such as daily spa access, access to Richard’s Rooftop (members only sundeck pictured above), a dedicated Rockstar Agent (concierge), aswell as early boarding and priority check-in

 

It really was a week of pure luxury and relaxation from start to finish. Cruising remains one of our favourite ways to travel, and our week onboard Virgin Voyages Valiant Lady has only solidified that even more.

We can’t wait to get back onboard again soon!

This trip was gifted by Virgin Voyages, all opinions remain our own.

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