The best restaurants aboard Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady

What's worth eating aboard Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady? I tried all 20 restaurants on the ship. (Photo: Josie Maida)

What’s worth eating aboard Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady? I tried all 20 restaurants on the ship. (Photo: Josie Maida)

Cruise food has rarely been thought of as the main selling point of an all-inclusive cruise experience. In fact, cruise food horror stories I’d heard in the past made me shy away from a vacation at sea. But as I prepped for a cruise aboard Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady, known for its adults-only amenities, I wondered if the cruise line could accommodate more grown up taste buds.

Embarking on the Richard Branson-owned line, I had only one mission in mind: to taste and try food from all 20 dining locations onboard throughout my five-day stay. What are the must-eat items when sailing on Scarlet Lady? That was the question.

Aboard Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady, there are three main types of dining, all of which are included in the price of your sailing. There are six table-service restaurants on Scarlet Lady, where guests sit down for a dining room experience. Reservations are highly recommended, and each of these restaurants can only be visited once per guest, per sailing. But fear not, reservations can be made directly on the Virgin Voyages app, which makes it super simple to schedule — and swap — breakfast, lunch and dinner plans.

The best table-service restaurants aboard the Scarlet Lady

Pink Agave serves a contemporary take on Mexican food, The Wake is a steak and seafood restaurant and Gunbae allows you to play games and make new friends at the dinner table over Korean barbecue. Razzle Dazzle is a vegetarian-forward eatery, Extra Virgin serves home-made pasta and Italian favorites and The Test Kitchen is part cooking school, part restaurant. While all six had something delicious to offer, two stood apart from the rest.

The aguachile served aboard Scarlet Lady at the Pink Agave sit-down restaurant. (Photo: Josie Maida)

The aguachile served aboard Scarlet Lady at the Pink Agave sit-down restaurant. (Photo: Josie Maida)

From mole (a popular savory chile sauce) to mariscos (the Spanish word for seafood or shellfish), Pink Agave served a fun variety of dishes that allowed me to try new foods and old favorites. With dishes even my Mexican mother-in-law would approve of, this location brought more to the table than the standard Mexican-American restaurant.

The aguachile (raw seafood tossed in chile water and served immediately) made with fresh ahi tuna was a dish so beloved by my party that we’re on a mission to recreate it at home. With bright acidity from citrus fruits that partially cook the fish, creamy avocado and bite from a bit of red onion, it all comes together atop a crisp corn tostada.

The Test Kitchen was an cannot-miss event for fellow curious eaters, like myself. In the center of the dining area, there’s a large open kitchen where chefs create playful and inventive meals you can’t find anywhere else — and don’t even think of asking for a menu.

In this epicurean adventure, there are six courses, each based around an ingredient, but the dish itself is a complete surprise. This dinner was so much fun to share with my shipmates – each course had us talking as we dove into something completely different and new.

The Test Kitchen's blue cheese mousse. (Photo: Josie Maida)

The Test Kitchen’s blue cheese mousse. (Photo: Josie Maida)

Our courses featured mushrooms, eggs, scallops, venison, blue cheese and chocolate. As an avid blue cheese hater, I was shocked that I even enjoyed the blue cheese mousse, served with expertly-diced pears and candied walnuts.

The best quick-service restaurants aboard Scarlet Lady

In addition to formal sit-down restaurants, there are quick-service spots and of course, the all-important cruise line room service. For the more casual dining aboard Scarlet Lady, reservations are neither needed nor accepted, and for room service, all food, drinks and snacks are included for a $5 delivery fee.

The Galley, a high-class food court surrounded by large glass windows can leave sailors overwhelmed with options. Counters are piled with treats and meals as far as the eye can see. From Let’s Taco Bout It to Noodle Around, a ramen bar, the ship covers any type of nosh a guest may crave.

My go-to breakfast each morning aboard Scarlet Lady. (Photo: Josie Maida)

My go-to breakfast each morning aboard Scarlet Lady. (Photo: Josie Maida)

In the morning, my go-to sip was a caramel iced coffee from the Grounds Club, coffee bars located around the ship. Specialty coffees (and alcoholic beverages) were among the only additional charges for food or drink and were worth the price. Alongside my coffee, I typically enjoy the daily quiche from Well Bread, a savory bakery, and a fruit and yogurt bento box from Bento Baby.

In the afternoon, we’d grab sushi from Bento Baby, or thick burgers and fries from Diner and Dash when we returned from excursions, or to snack on while lounging around the pool.

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This “brunch burger” from Diner and Dash was a favorite for snacking on after long days of excursions. (Photo: Josie Maida)

The Pizza Place offered my favorite late-night snack with a make-your-own pizza set up, and for something sweet, a cone from Lick Me Till … Ice Cream. The onboard ice cream parlor features creative titles and unique flavors for each ice cream with selections like green machine, malted strawberry milkshake and brown butter financier.

The best thing to eat aboard Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady

With so many options, it’s difficult to select a favorite bite, but weeks later, I still can’t stop thinking about an easily-missed hidden gem on Scarlet Lady: The homemade cookies offered at the Grounds Club location on deck six of the ship .

The cookies from the Grounds Club on deck six of the ship made each day aboard Scarlet Lady a bit sweeter. (Photo: Josie Maida)

The cookies from the Grounds Club on deck six of the ship made each day aboard Scarlet Lady a bit sweeter. (Photo: Josie Maida)

With flavors like classic chocolate chip, double chocolate, peanut butter and s’mores, this restaurant has our party returning daily to stock our cabins with cookie goodness. Though I never thought I would enjoy eating on the high seas, Scarlet Lady kept my tastebuds entertained from the time we set sail until the moment the boat anchored at the dock.

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