(11:45 a.m. EDT) -- With free-flowing Champagne and mermen posing in the pools, Scarlet Lady left Miami Wednesday evening, marking Virgin Voyages' first revenue cruise in the United States.
It had been a long time coming. Promising something hip and different in the cruise space, new line Virgin Voyages had always set its sights on Miami for its first ship.
But the pandemic intervened, forcing the line to close shop after an original debut in the UK in February 2020. And the line had to wait till August this year to set sail on its first ever revenue cruises, which took place in the English Channel for U.K. passengers only.
So the significance of this "MerMaiden" (in Virgin-speak) from Scarlet Lady's homeport, almost 17 months after it was meant to debut here, cannot be underestimated.
Despite this, Virgin Voyages founder Richard Branson was not onboard for the sailing; crew onboard said he had attended a friends and family cruise over the weekend.
But it's not just clever word play, the line has also introduced a few tweaks on the traditional cruise experience.
Sailaway was not just in one area as on other cruises but more celebrated throughout the ship with free drinks. Mermen and drag queens flipped lazily in the pool, posing for photos.
While "sailors" -- Virgin parlance for passengers -- were encouraged to post a steady stream of selfies over the free Wi-Fi.
Embarkation was not without its hiccups. The line requires all passengers to be vaccinated and also take a COVID-19 antigen test before boarding. Rock music and free champagne placated guests during the terminal waits.
Once onboard, the atmosphere was decidedly upbeat, although not necessarily raucous. Passengers lined up for appointments at Squid Ink, the first tattoo parlor on a mainstream ship at sea. Our guess is that even with a $250 minimum, slots will sell out.
Masks are optional onboard and most passengers chose not to wear them.
The ship will continue its four-day cruise with stops at Nassau and Bimini, as well as a day at sea, before returning to Miami Sunday -- and we will be covering the whole experience right here.