Perched atop the bridge of Virgin Voyages’ first-ever cruise ship are two ‘Massive Suites’, each with a king-sized bed, large seating area, a full bar, a vinyl turntable, a music room with guitars and an amplifier, and a wraparound marble bathroom with a dressing room, bath and a Peek-a-Boo shower with dichroic glass windows. Outside, each suite has an expansive terrace with a shower, hot tub, a conversation pit, hammocks and a table for dining and dancing.
Created by Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio, the suites are inspired by Virgin Group’s rock and roll heritage and provide a glimpse into the “rebellious luxe” sailors can expect to find onboard Scarlet Lady. The adults-only vessel has been designed to introduce an “epic sea change for all” and bring the “modern romance of sailing” to life via a collection of innovative onboard spaces that are akin to some of the boutique hotels and hospitality venues found in cosmopolitan cities.
These spaces have been designed by a Creative Collective of 10 design and architecture firms from around the world, which was put together by Dee Cooper, Virgin Voyages’ senior vice president of product design.
“I purposely chose designers who had never worked on a ship before because I knew they wouldn’t be constrained by traditional views of ship design or afraid to experiment,” she said. “Although we wanted each space to have its own distinct vibe, we also needed to ensure a flow and consistency throughout the ship, so we brought all of the agencies together in Miami. This enabled us to define a common interpretation of the ‘modern romance of sailing’ and develop a palette of colours and materials that could be used across the entire ship.”
According to Cooper, Scarlet Lady has been designed for a specific attitudinal demographic. “We’ve created onboard spaces and experiences for adults who are young at heart and appreciate great food, great design and the opportunity to have fun and set their inner child free,” she explained. “Modern sailors like variety – one day they want to party and the next they want to chill by the pool with a book. Our Creative Collective has worked hard to create an amazing range of spaces to provide a wide choice of activities, dining venues and entertainment options.”
Eschewing tradition, Virgin Voyages has replaced the standard cruise ship buffet with an upmarket food market-style venue named The Galley and opted for multiple smaller à la carte restaurants rather than one main dining room.
Notable à la carte eateries include Gunbae, the first Korean barbecue restaurant at sea, which was created by Softroom, as well as Wake, a steak and seafood restaurant designed by Roman and Williams with decor inspired by The Wolseley in London and The Grill in New York. In addition, Roman and Williams has produced its own version of an upscale Mediterranean beach club eatery in The Dock House by using light woods, white furnishings, soft lighting and plants. Meanwhile, Tom Dixon has used immersive void lighting and a blue and pink colour scheme to transport guests to Mexico City in the Pink Agave restaurant. Elsewhere, Concrete Amsterdam has taken inspiration from the black and white camouflage patterns used on World War I ships to create the vibrant Razzle Dazzle restaurant, which offers vegan and vegetarian cuisine. The company also developed The Test Kitchen, a laboratory-style eatery which was heavily influenced by chef Auguste Escoffier’s cookbook Ma Cuisine and functions as both a restaurant and a cookery school.
“When people dine in a city, they can choose from a myriad of different cuisines and we wanted to replicate that experience at sea,” says Cooper. “The ship has more than 20 restaurants, casual eateries and lounge bars, and all of them offer delicious made-to-order dishes and stay open late. Having such a wide array of options means that sailors can dress up for a sophisticated meal at a speciality restaurant one night and then kick back and enjoy a less formal meal or snack at casual venues such as the beach club-inspired Pizza Place or The Social Club Diner.”
Nightlife and immersive entertainment are at the core of the Scarlet Lady experience. The ship offers various bars, including Sip champagne lounge, the Draught Haus taproom, On the Rocks cocktail bar, and The Manor, a two-storey nightclub with a “moody and sexy 1970s punk vibe” that is named after Virgin Group founder Richard Branson’s first recording studio. Several spaces, such as the pool deck and the spa, have also been designed to host live DJ sets and parties after nightfall. Other key entertainment spaces include a casino; The Social Club with arcade games and classic pub favourites like foosball, air hockey and shuffleboard; and The Red Room, which is billed as the first multi-form theatre at sea and hosts both immersive performances and late-night dance parties.
However, there are options for those wanting a break from the partying – the ship also boasts nine wellness spaces. Fitness fanatics can join yoga sessions on The Perch sundeck, enjoy workouts and classes at the B-Complex gym and studios, run along the elevated jogging track on the top deck, take a dip in the Aquatic Club or well-being pools, or visit The Athletic Club outdoor training zone to try out the boxing ring, oversized playground equipment, and strength and gymnastics apparatus inspired by the sports clubs of 1920s New York.
Meanwhile, sailors in search of more restful activities can head to the Dry Dock hair salon and beauty parlour, the Stubble & Groom barber shop, The Tune Up medi-spa venue, or the Redemption spa. Reminiscent of an underwater cave, the spa was designed by HKS and has an expansive thermal suite with a hydrotherapy pool, mud room, salt room, cold plunge pools, quartz beds and private treatment rooms.
“Modern life is hectic and people are always rushing about or answering phone calls and emails, so they have very little time to fully relax and rejuvenate,” said Cooper. “There’s nothing like taking a giant breath of fresh sea air to make you feel re-energised and reinvigorated, so we’ve created plenty of opportunities for sailors to get a good dose of ‘Vitamin Sea’ while they’re onboard Scarlet Lady. We’ve intertwined a mixture of fitness and relaxation spaces to ensure we can cater for every type of sailor – from those who want to do intense workouts, to those who want to treat themselves to spa days and those who want to enjoy a bit of both.”
Reminders for sailors to connect to the sea are integrated throughout Scarlet Lady. “We’ve riffed off the nautical vernacular and incorporated materials such as brass, steel, copper, wood and rope to evoke the feeling of a bespoke yacht,” said Cooper. “However, we’ve combined these traditional ‘shippy’ elements with contemporary materials and clean, simple architectural lines to deliver an authentic nod to nostalgia rather than creating overly stylised spaces that would feel false to sailors. To further immerse sailors in the adventure of being on holiday at sea, we’ve also integrated ocean-inspired artwork, expansive porthole-style windows and beautiful dichroic elements to reflect the ever-changing colours of the ocean. We’ve even brought the time-honoured maritime tattooing tradition to the cruise industry for the first time at the Squid Ink tattoo parlour.”
Many of Cooper’s favourite spaces onboard the vessel are those that incorporate the sea, such as outdoor lounge The Dock on deck seven. “Sailors will be able to feel the Caribbean sun on their faces, the sea breeze in their hair and the salt on their skin while they’re lounging in The Dock, which will help them top up their Vitamin Sea and remind them exactly why they chose a cruise holiday,” she said. “Another awesome feature is the triple-layer net in The Athletic Club on deck 16, which partially hangs over the sea. Just as on a catamaran, guests will be able to enjoy the thrill of gazing at the water down below. Exciting elements like this have enabled our Creative Collective to set the scene for sailors to have an amazing time with friends and family, and we hope that they enjoy exploring the spaces just as much we’ve enjoyed creating them!”
This article was first published in the 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
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