Cruise Critic is recently back from the inaugural Limitless Voyage sailing aboard Scarlet Lady, the first itinerary to come from the partnership between Virgin Voyages and music superstar Jennifer Lopez, who serves as the chief entertainment and lifestyle officer of the brand's fleet of ships.
Since Lopez's role was created last year, there's been excitement and speculation as to how it would play out. The position represents a break in tradition from the typical godmother role that cruise lines dedicate for their ships.
Lopez's first effort, the Limitless Voyage, was a workshop for women entrepreneurs that doubled as a wellness retreat at sea. Focusing on women of color, the sailing could also provide a blueprint for one cruise line to influence how diverse, like-minded women want to travel with its brand.
We sailed this particularly special itinerary as part of Virgin's existing Dominican Daze itinerary, a five-night sailing roundtrip from Miami that visits Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic and, of course, Bimini, where you'll find the Virgin-owned Beach Club.
Here's what the sailing was all about.
Specifically created with women entrepreneurs in mind, the Limitless Voyage itinerary aboard Scarlet Lady focused on empowering and inspiring women business owners through daily educational, wellness and fitness programs.
There were four TED Talk-style panels and two sessions of intimate fireside chats, all of which were led by a diverse all-women team of influential CEOs, entrepreneurs and executives each morning. While Lopez herself was not onboard, the lineup was powerful: Speakers included FabFitFun founder Katie Rosen, Expectful CEO Nathalie Walton, Spartina Productions president Carrie Byalick, Rei of Light and The Feast founder Rei Chou, and a host of others, somewhere north of 12 total.
The speakers shared stories of how they have struggled with imposter syndrome, and still do occasionally, and spoke of how they banish those feelings through action, simply telling those inner doubts they have no home here within them.
Building your personal brand and following your passions -- one of the fireside chat topics -- garnered questions from some of the 250 women who had signed up for Limitless, asking where does one start upon realizing what they want their path to be.
"Let the work change you," Chou said during the third day of panel sessions that focused on the social impact the speakers had set out to make with their businesses and organizations and the support they were eager to provide their communities.
It was the most powerful thing I heard Chou say, outside of Walton's story of how she, a Black woman, took the biggest risk of her life at one point before eventually finding success: she bet on herself. And she was right. They were all right.
I was starting to understand the work that was happening here and how it was even starting to change me, just by being open and willing to receive new information that I might not have already thought of myself.
I started out as a spectator of the sessions, a fly on the wall, whose purpose was to observe and report. But instead I felt penetrated and deeply moved by the honesty the speakers offered about their own journeys and what was shared by the women in the audience as well. If it was community these Limitless women were looking for, then they had found it on this cruise itinerary.
If you've never been on a wellness retreat cruise, you are among friends because neither had I. I had never been on a wellness retreat, least of all one that's a cruise and has the backing of a celebrity (like the 2019 Oprah cruise on Holland America Line or Gwyneth Paltrow's 2021 Goop at Sea cruise with Celebrity Cruises). I didn't even realize how much the Limitless Voyage turned out to be a wellness retreat until about three days into the sailing.
At first I didn’t get it. Why would you want to wake up early (before 9 a.m.) to go to classes when you're on vacation? Wouldn't it be better to do these classes later in the day after you've had a chance to saunter into the afternoon, as one normally does on vacation?
The answer, Virgin Voyages said, was two-fold.
"There's 200-plus of us sailing the Limitless package, but then there’s another 1,800 people sailing. So we wanted to offer this unique experience as a layer on top of the itinerary without detracting (from the cruise),” said Isis Ruiz, chief growth officer for Virgin Voyages, mentioning that in addition to operational logistics, another benefit to hosting the main events earlier in the morning sprouted almost seamlessly.
"Imagine if you went on any other trip, and you carved out time in the morning to meditate to reflect on self growth -- that's what we're doing here," Ruiz continued. "The first day was the most full agenda, but to carve out an hour or two to expand your mind, to focus on your self growth, your personal development, to meditate, to move mindfully -- it changes the course of the how the rest of your day will go."
And it certainly did for the majority of the 200-plus Limitless guests.
"It's like no other cruise I've ever been on, and I've been probably been on eight to 10 cruises over the years," said Kathy Warner, an insurance business owner in Medina, Ohio, who came on the cruise with her friend. "She told me about it. I think for us what we were looking for was empowerment, leadership and owning our own lives."
Tami Glover, Warner's friend and fellow insurance business owner in Medina said the Limitless Voyage was her first cruise.
"It's certainly not what I would have expected in a cruise," Glover said, adding that she enjoyed every aspect. "We're very busy every single day going from panel to event, and it's been wonderful because that's really what we want to do is immerse ourselves with women in business and to grow -- and we still have time to sit by the pool and go on excursions. You're running into your sisters in spirit that we've met here throughout the day and we’re able to form bonds just by looking at their bracelets. We know what they went through today."
One of my favorites among the immersive wellness and mediative classes was a healing sound bath that was hosted at the Perch, an outdoor lounge area located on the top of Deck 17 at the back of the ship. It ended up being the perfect setting for such an activity as you could hear the hum of ocean waves mixing softly with the sea air while your body sank deeper into the rhythm of the sounds reverberating from the instruments.
At this point you might be wondering, "So when can I sign up for a Limitless Voyage?" Well, right now, you can't. Not because they're sold out but because the Limitless Voyage itself was intended to be a special one-time itinerary. But that’s not to say there isn’t more to expect from the Lopez-Virgin partnership.
Ruiz said there will be more cruise itineraries from Lopez similar to this one on Virgin’s other ships down the road, focusing on women and still incorporating elements from the megastar’s Limitless Labs, but those will have different names, themes and will sail in different locations. It’s potentially possible that with enough demand from guests, Ruiz said, that the actual Limitless Voyage itinerary could come back down the road as another itinerary offering.
"If we never do it again, then I feel incredibly proud of this work -- but I have a feeling that we’re going to get a few calls to do more of this kind of work," Ruiz said. “This is a bit of a proof of concept and the feedback has been strong. Now, it's a matter of 'Can we pull this type of programming together on a frequent basis?' So we're going to go back to and look at it and see how to create more of these special experiences for more people to take advantage of."