I thought I would hate it.
I associate all-inclusive cruises with fluorescent lighting and basic menus (is that mean of me?), but that was not the case aboard the Valiant Lady. All of their restaurants and accompanying menus are thoughtfully curated to rival, well, a restaurant that you would want to visit on land.
My favorite spots were Pink Agave (for tacos and an impressive mezcal selection) and The Wake (fancy schmancy with lobster, steak, and crab on the menu). I also *loved* Razzle Dazzle, a veggie-forward spot with inventive selections: Think a banana blossom "fish" dish and green tea cheesecake for desert. The cocktails were also unique — I drank bourbon from a popcorn box, for reference.
Reservations can be made on the Virgin Voyages app. You can start booking once your cruise departs; you won't have trouble getting reservations per se, but if you want primetime dinner (7:30 p.m., etc.), then definitely make them in advance!
If you're not in the mood for fancy sit-down grub, there's a food hall on the upper deck that's opened 24/7 and is packed with options from pho and sushi to burgers and pizza. You can come here for breakfast, too.
I have a phantom headache from the mere thought of all-inclusive drinks. Diluted alcohol packed with sugar, sugar, and more sugar, swirled together in a pitcher that is then served to me with a paper straw in a semi-fancy glass. I don’t mean to sound like a snob (I swear, I’m not, okay?), but there is nothing worse than a bad cocktail. I’ve come to a point in my life where I’d much rather pay for a solid beverage than drink the $2 Applebee’s special. Sorry, Applebee’s.
So, while you’ll have to pay per drink aboard the Valiant Lady, it’s evident that a lot of tender love and care has been put into menus, ingredients, and bartender training. Drink prices vary based on where you are on the cruise ship — I paid $16 for two glasses of champagne in The Manor club and $13 for a frozen watermelon cocktail at the pool on Richard's Rooftop.
The Virgin Voyages app makes researching and scheduling your off-boat excursions a breeze. I took a bus tour through Prunelli and ate cheese in the French countryside for one excursion; I also booked a private tour in a red Fiat and toured Tuscany, sampled red and white in an old wine cellar, and then walked around Florence to end my afternoon.
One caveat with Shore Things: They’re pricey. The Prunelli tour was $90 per person, and the private Fiat tour was nearly $290 per person. Gratuity is baked into that price as well as transportation — after docking, there's an organized system that gets all sailors to the proper bus. The buses take you to and from each excursion, which can be an hour and a half away depending on which one you've chosen.
Are they expensive? Yes. But they're super fun, very well organized, and worth the money if you can swing it.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that there is endless entertainment.
I attended a sex comedy show called Never Sleep Alone, a popular NYC-based performance that had me doubled over in laughter. There was an impressive acrobatic performance inspired by Romeo & Juliet. I nearly jumped out of my seat multiple times because of how intricate the stunts were (think Cirque du Soleil vibes), and the man next to me cried because of how beautiful it was.
In additional to scheduled performances, there was constantly live music, and it felt like every corridor you walked through had something fun to offer. All performances are included in your price, and you can make reservations for each show in the app.
What is Scarlet Night, you ask? It's a rooftop pool party that's held at least once during every Valiant Lady cruise — and it's iconic. There are performers on each other's shoulders, everyone is encouraged to jump into the pool, costumes and accessories are handed out. It's like Project X (does anyone remember that movie?), except you're on a moving boat.
We kept the party going by moving to The Manor, the on-site club. Important note: The Scarlet Night party was cleverly scheduled for when we wouldn't dock until the following evening, aka you could give yourself permission to really rest up the morning after.
I was nervous that we wouldn't have ample time in each location...but that was not the case. Each city had a ton to see but remained small enough that you could cover it in a day. The exception would have been Ibiza...but we actually docked there by 7 p.m. and had until 6 p.m. the following day, aka the itinerary was cleverly designed to give us additional time in a more sprawling city (with incredible nightlife).
Pictured above is the gorgeous coastal town of Toulon, France.
Every inch of this ship is jam-packed with something to do. Highlights include:
- a pizza parlor
- an ice cream shop
- a tattoo parlor (I chickened out)
- a million and one lounge areas and cozy corners
- an old time-y dinner serving up hot dogs and boozy milkshakes
- a salon for manicures, pedicures, and blowouts
- a casino
- a nightclub with a cool Instagram-ready entrance (see sparkly gif above)
- a rooftop pool
- a vintage arcade room
- cool art murals galore
- outdoor workout areas and a rooftop running track (NOTE: I did not partake)
- multiple shops with boutique-y clothing, toiletries, designer handbags, etc.
BuzzFeed was provided this ticket free of charge; however, we were under no obligation to give a positive review.