The Band

Everything about Virgin Voyages is technology driven, and all onboard experiences revolve around two things…The App and The Band. The App is a downloadable…well, app. It helps “sailors” navigate the sea of choices (ugh) Virgin offers in order to make the most of their cruise, even before they board.

If you read through Virgin’s FAQs you’ll see “Use The App” as a response to just about every question. Want a reservation for a show? Use the App. Want to get a tattoo? Use The App. Wait…what? Want a designer hot dog with boardwalk fries? Use The App. When you place a food or drink order using The App, a Virgin crew member will deliver it to you wherever you are or go on the ship, because of…you know, “The Band.”

I was a band geek in high school and when someone says “the band,” I think of lugging my trombone across the football field trying to march and play at the same time. In time. Right about now a dozen of my facebook friends from high school are thinking “Oh THAT’S who he is” because my facebook profile pic looks nothing like that guy from the class of whatever, but they friended me anyway. No, The Band is not a marching band on a football field, nor is it the 1960s and 70s rock group. The Band is another Virgin turn of phrase that refers to the wrist band they developed to serve as your key to everything on the cruise. It opens the door to your cabin, it serves as your debit card when you charge drinks to your bar tab, and it gets you checked on and off the ship when you do “Shore Things” (aka shore excursions).

Psst…The Band doubles as a secret tracking device that allows “them” to know where you are at all times. Creepy, but convenient. Especially when you use The App to order something to eat and want it delivered to you whether it be pool side or at Squid Ink as you get that new tattoo in the first ever tattoo parlor at sea. They jury is still out on whether or not THAT is a good idea.

Not to be a Debbie Downer (inside the family joke) but The App and The Band combo is something Virgin did not get right. Feedback from the Brits during their Summer Soiree sailings in August was pretty brutal and blamed most of the problems on The App. Older generations couldn’t figure out how to use it, probably a clue they should have picked a different boat. Younger generations found it too slow to be useful and that’s not good.

No worries. Virgin Voyages and Scarlet Lady might be newcomers to the cruise industry, but the technology behind The App and The Band is not. Disney pioneered it over a decade ago and had their share of problems when they first started using the Disney Magic Band and the My Disney Experience app in their theme parks and on their cruise ships. Disney figured it out, and I am sure Virgin will as well. In fact they probably already have. Last week I wasn’t able to make dining reservations for my cruise that leaves in about 2 weeks, even though I should have been able to make them at 45 days out. I was told that Virgin was working on an update for The App and that once it was deployed everything would work just fine. I installed the updated version of The App a couple of days ago and viola! It works. Sort of. Capability seems to be rolling in gradually. I’ve been able to make dinner reservations for three of the five nights of our cruise and I got my top three choices, so I’m happy.

There will be other glitches that don’t get fixed before I sail. I know that. I’ve done inaugural sailings before. It happens. But in exchange for putting up with the glitches, I get to experience something nobody else does. I get to discover Scarlet Lady and all she has to offer before reading about it in travel journals or on someone’s blog. No spoiler alerts necessary…it will all be fresh. The good, the bad, and the ugly, but mostly the good. I hope.

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