When taking a cruise with Virgin Voyages, there are so many destinations that you can visit. Since their launch, I had been eyeing up the various locations around the world that you can travel to with Virgin Voyages throughout the year, so I was super excited when I was invited to be hosted aboard the Valiant Lady to take an epic Caribbean Cruise – the Virgin Voyages Caribbean Craze. The Caribbean is one of the top Virgin Voyages destinations that I have heard about since hearing about Virgin Voyages. The ship takes you to many locations around the Caribbean to stop, enjoy the culture, get a first hand view of the local history, and head out on some epic excursions.
Aboard the Valiant Lady for the Virgin Voyages Caribbean Craze Cruise, there is so much to do, but I’m not going to go into that fully on this post. Instead, you can check out my Virgin Voyages Cruise Review.
For this Caribbean cruise there was so much to do and each port allowed us to see the great Virgin Voyages destinations that are a part of the entire voyage. So in this post, I’m going to share with you my experience taking the Virgin Voyages Caribbean Craze and my recommendations for how to spend your time at the different ports throughout the six days / five nights cruise.
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REVIEW OF THE VIRGIN VOYAGES CARIBBEAN CRUISE
Like all cruise sailings, there are days where you’ll be at sea the entire day. For these days, Virgin Voyages has so much aboard the ship that you can do to pass the time. For the Caribbean Craze, you’ll spend your first day as a sailing day before heading to Costa Maya and Roatan, and then in between the two Caribbean Virgin Voyages destinations, you’ll have another sailing day prior to arriving at Bimini where you’ll have the option to spend the entire day relaxing at the Virgin Beach Club.
One way to take advantage of the Virgin Voyages cruise experience on sailing days is to make sure that you are kept connect with the app. Though it may seem super enticing just to hang out by the pool or in the hot tub, there are so many exciting and fun activities to do such as a Grog Walk, Risky Quizness, heading to one of the shows in the Red Room like Dual Reality, and so many other great experiences that you’ll have to take my word for that you won’t want to miss. Look over the event lineup days before you embark or even the morning of to start planning out you sailing days. Some of the events do require tickets and can sell out, while other non ticketed events are just to add to your itinerary so that you don’t forget. (Note: Some free activites such as fitness group classes don’t required a paid ticket, but if you do add it to your itinerary and don’t show up, you may be charged a no-show fee. So make sure you pay attention to what events you do have to cancel 24 hours beforehand if you aren’t planning to attend.)
For any port days, be prepared to arrive early in the morning. While it’s not expected for you to get of the ship at any port, you’ll want to at least head off for a few hours to see the location. At each port, Virgin Voyages offers excursions or Shore Things that you can book through the Virgin Voyages app. If you’re looking to book an excursion through Virgin Voyages, my recommendation is to make sure to book it as soon as it opens on the app or right upon getting on the ship as many excursions tend to fill up quickly. With us, our group of ten, almost had to cancel an excursion because it closed before two of our group members couldn’t get into the excursion as we were booking it the morning that we got onto the ship.
When getting off the ship, you’ll want to make sure that you have the smart bracelet that allows you navigate the ship because it’ll also be what will allow you to “check-out” of the ship and “check-in” when you’re ready to get back on. During port days, you’ll usually arrive early in the morning, but one thing that you’ll want to keep in mind is local time versus ship time. With Virgin Voyages, they kept one time the entire cruise. Meaning that when local time changed from where we had disembarked, the time on the ship did not change and they required us to stay on ship time which was the origin local time. The app keeps the ship time, so just make sure that you keep connected with the app. It doesn’t require that you stay within WiFi to see the time and it’ll send you reminders, if you have the notifications turned on, about when you should start heading back to the ship.
Also, if you are planning on buying anything during the cruise, make sure to look at the Virgin Voyages restrictions on what you can bring onto the ship. Virgin Voyages typically allows you to board the ship from the origin port with two bottles of wine that you can keep with you to enjoy during the entire cruise, but after that you won’t be able to board the ship with any other types of spirits or wine. If you do, it’ll be confiscated and they’ll give it back to you on the last night of the cruise. Also take note of the protocol for seashells. Though the location that you’re in may allow for you to take seashells, Virgin Voyages may not allow you to bring it on board.
COSTA MAYA, MEXICO
One of the Virgin Voyages destinations for the Caribbean Craze cruise is Costa Maya, Mexico. For our cruise experience, this was the first destination after a full sailing day where we ported on land for excursions and to experience the location. Arrival at Costa Maya is at 8AM EST, and you’re given a full day to explore until 6PM EST. For this port, the local time is the same time on the boat, so you’re able to keep track of time and make sure that you’re on the boat before it leaves. Costa Maya offers a variety of different excursions with man of them being culturally focused. The ruins tours were my favorite offerings, but you can also find snorkeling, bike riding tours, and other great offerings that will leave you not wanting to leave Costa Maya.
Upon getting of the ship, you’ll walk down the port which is quite long. So if you have any excursions or Shore Things planned, make sure to head out of your room at least 30 minutes prior to have enough time to get off the ship and then walk down the port to the excursion check in area. At the Costa Maya port, you’ll be welcomed right into the market / port area. There’s so much to do there if you’re not set on doing any excursions including shopping, swimming in the pool, experiencing the culture, eating, and more.
You also have the option to leave the port area if you wish, but be mindful of where you are going. Once you exit, you’ll find that there are a lot of individuals hoping to assist you with rides and other experiences but I would recommend either staying in the area or having an outside experience arranged ahead of time before embarking on the cruise.
COSTA MAYA RUIN TOURS
One of the tours or Shore Things that are offered at Costa Maya is the Mayan Ruin tours. You have the option of picking a tour that goes to one of the ruins or others that go to multiple ruins. It all depends on what you want to do and how long you would like your tours to be. For the ruins tour that goes to multiple ruins, plan for it to be a full 8 hour day, while the one ruin tour is about 4 hours. From the port, you’ll check in and board a bus that will take you the ruins of your choice. You’ll take a guided tour through the ruins with the tour guide that you meet at the port where they will teach you not only about the Mayan history but about the culture of the area. I loved this tour so much because it was so amazing to see the culture and history of Costa Maya. It’s no wonder that this is one of Virgin Voyages destinations on their Caribbean cruise.
COSTA MAYA PORT MARKET
If you’re not heading out on any excursions while at the Costa Maya port, then make sure to still head off the boat to enjoy the local port market. It’s not as cultural as you would hope it to be, but it does still give you an essence of the area with touches of the culture seen in the various performances, vendors, restaurants, and aesthetic. When you enter the market from the port, you’ll walk right into the front area where you’ll see many of the shops and a large pool with sand that you can hang out and swim in. There’s little access to the beach from the port, but there is some access depending on how far you head down the market area.
Along with shopping and the pool, there are also mini experiences that you can have such as animal encounters and a walk through atrium. These are all paid experiences, so make sure that you’re interested, you get off the boat with cash or a credit card. Additionally, I recommend trying the food in the local area whether it’s a the market or if you decide to leave the port area which is an option when you arrive. We stopped by the La Fruteria while in the port market for a fresh coconut spiked with rum and enjoyed swinging on the swings and listening to the music and vibrance of the area until we were ready to get back on the boat.
During our cruise, the second of the Caribbean Craze Virgin Voyages destinations was Roatan, Honduras. At this port, we were in a different time zone, so this is where we had to manage the local time versus the ship time. Like the port in Costa Maya, I recommend getting off at least 30 minutes earlier than your excursion time in order to navigate down the port and head into port area. The walk isn’t as long as in Costa Maya, but the excursion meeting location isn’t right at the port entrance like in Costa Maya.
The port location at Roatan has a market area, restaurants, bars, and entertainment but it isn’t quite as large and expansive as it is in Costa Maya. One thing that Roatan has at their port is a lot of locations for food and drinks which makes it a great place for heading off the boat for a little bit to enjoy the local food and cocktails if you don’t want to stay on the boat and if you’re not heading for an excursion.
Roatan’s Shore Things offerings aren’t quite as expansive as in Costa Maya but there are still great offerings such as ATV tour, beach visits, horseback riding, and snorkeling. You can book your Shore Thing through the app as usual, just make sure to show your wristband when checking in for the excursions because different excursions are offered for different cruise lines.
JUNGLE ATV TOUR
THE BEACH CLUB AT BIMINI
The last port location is Bimini, Bahamas. This is one of the main Virgin Voyages destinations during the Caribbean cruise since it’s the location where you’ll head to Virgin’s exclusive beach club. This is the port where you won’t have to worry too much about getting off quickly to walk down the port because it is not as long as the others. But do be aware that when you are walking down the port, you aren’t walking right into a market area. Instead, you’ll board a trolley that will take you to the excursion check-in area if you are doing an excursion at this port or to the Beach Club. There are a few excursions at the Bimini port, but not as many as the other locations. Here, you’ll find snorkeling, swimming with stingrays and the ability to purchase cabana rentals for the beach club through the app.
The trolley ride is pretty short. It takes about 15 minutes to get to the excursion check-in location and about 20 minutes to get to the beach club upon boarding the trolley. The trolleys run on about 10-20 minute intervals, so keep that in mind for your scheduling as you get off the boat and meet for any excursions.
the beach club at bimini
The Beach Club at Bimini is a Virgin Voyages exclusive beach club that is quite expansive. You’ll spend a longer day here compared to the other ports since the ship can leave at a later time to arrive back in Miami since it is the last full day of the cruise.
At the beach club, you’ll find a large pool and many locations to sit and relax. The lounge chairs, as with many places, are first-come, first-serve, and cabanas are open for rental which you can book through the Virgin Voyages app. You’ll find bars with swinging pool chairs, hammocks, and so many options for you sit, relax, enjoy the beach and party during your last day with Virgin. Since the beach club is through Virgin, many of the events are hosted at the beach club instead of on the ship, so also make sure to check the app for events happening as they have lots of fun things happening at the beach club.
And if you are a Rockstar, you have access to Richard’s Retreat – an exclusive area along the beach with a private bar for Rockstar members.