This premium cruise line is for adults who want to be kids again. Spoiler alert: It’s not Disney

Editor’s note: TPG’s Ashley Kosciolek accepted a free trip from Virgin Voyages to attend the maiden voyage of Resilient Lady. The opinions expressed below are entirely hers and weren’t subject to review by the line.

If Virgin Voyages were a place, it would be Neverland. It is, without a doubt, the best cruise line for adults who like to have a great time.

Evoking a sense of nostalgia around every turn, it caters to a playfulness many adults feel they lost long ago when they entered a world of stress and responsibility. It’s not just about going on a cruise and trying something fun like a zip line or a surf simulator; it’s about doing something fun that brings back a fond memory or reconnects you with your younger self.

There are plenty of places deliberately set up for Instagram-worthy photos throughout Virgin Voyages’ fleet. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

The only time I’ve come close to this feeling on a cruise ship is on Disney Cruise Line. But with Disney, you’re limited to playing like a kid beside actual kids – Virgin has created an experience exclusively for adults that mixes youthful fun with grown-up themes.

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Here’s how this new cruise line creates a wonderland for adults not found anywhere else at sea.

Why Virgin Voyages is great for adults who are big kids

Unlimited complimentary candy is available nearly around the clock when you sail with Virgin Voyages. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

The thing about Virgin products is that they’ve always been about fun — but fun that’s luxurious, rather than tacky or largely meant for kids. The brand has extended this ethos to its cruise line by making its four nearly identical ships adults-only and outfitting them with a mix of youthful pleasures and high-quality, modern adult entertainment.

This approach takes away the stigma of being playful or silly and grants permission for grown-ups to find their inner children. After all, when a cruise line puts carousel-style sea creatures, free ice cream and candy, and dozens of children’s board games on ships that don’t allow kids, those things are clearly meant for adults.

The kid stuff

Virgin Voyages offers plenty of childlike diversions, such as Twister and giant chess, for the big kid in all of us. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

If you’re looking for simple fun, you’ll find it on a Virgin Voyages ship. There are seesaws and swings on the open decks, right next to a Twister board that’s painted onto the floor. You can snag ice cream and candy — Swedish fish, gummy bears, Red Vines and saltwater taffy — for free nearly 24 hours a day. You can stuff yourself silly with kid-favorite vacation food like pizza, hot dogs and soft pretzels.

Daily activities include dodgeball tournaments, ‘80s-themed workouts, ’90s boy band dance classes and summer camp arts and crafts. Cruisers can play dozens of kid-favorite board games like Candy Land, Mouse Trap and Hungry Hungry Hippos. There’s also a small arcade on board, along with dedicated karaoke rooms that you can reserve for free.

Want some “this brings back memories” fun outdoors? All balcony cabins are equipped with hammocks that remind passengers what it’s like to be rocked gently to sleep. Plus, at The Beach Club at Bimini, the line’s private beach club in the Bahamas, you can borrow pool floaties in the shapes of mythical creatures like unicorns and mermaid tails.

The right mix

Nothing shows the push and pull between acting like an adult and acting like a kid better than an ice cream shop with an innuendo for a name. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

In addition to allowing adults to act like kids, Virgin has harnessed the most playful aspects of adulthood and set them afloat — but with a twist.

Pile a waffle cone high with as much ice cream as you’d like, and then snap a selfie with your snack in front of the name of the venue, “Lick Me Till … Ice Cream” — a cheeky play on words that no child would understand. Or, grab a bucket of popcorn that’s actually an alcoholic beverage.

Want a late-night milkshake from the onboard diner, just like when you were on a date in high school? Done! Except this time, you can order it spiked. Or, visit Lola’s Library. It might sound studious, but what you’ll find is a cross between burlesque and S&M between the stacks after hours.

Grown-up fun

There are plenty of places on Virgin Voyages’ vessels for passengers to find adult beverages. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

Although you might enjoy returning to aspects of your childhood, there are times when you might prefer more adult fun. Check out the Grog Walk bar crawl, wear your skimpiest outfit for each sailing’s red-themed Scarlet Night pool party, or watch a metaphorical threesome during a dinner theater show.

Virgin Voyages’ entertainment includes rave-style pool parties, casino play, drag queen performances and shows that employ top-notch singing and dancing, flashy costumes and enough sexual innuendo to make a porn star blush. Bar options abound for those who require a big-kid drink (or several); you can even shake your phone to have Champagne delivered to wherever you are on the ship. For a lasting memory, head to the onboard tattoo parlor — just don’t drink and ink.

You can still eat yourself silly on a Virgin Voyages cruise, but instead of a main dining room and extra-charge dining venues, you’ll find five complimentary restaurants plus a pizza joint, mezze lounge, food court and dinner theater. Instead of tired old bingo, Virgin’s version is led by a drag queen. The atrium on every ship has a DJ booth to keep the party going.

Virgin Voyages worked with Cocktail Cartel to develop a menu of tasty and unique bar drinks. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

In addition to exuding a sense of playfulness, Virgin has sourced the best of everything, from food and entertainment to decor. Virgin Voyages doesn’t just deliver fun; its mission is to provide upscale fun.

That means partnerships with brands like Brooklyn-based House of Yes, known for its trendy nightclub and art spaces, and Emursive, which produces the New York rendition of the popular experiential performance “Sleep No More.” Its shows ooze with an air of New York City chic that’s worthy of a “Gossip Girl” cameo.

Unlike most other cruise lines, Virgin didn’t say, “Here’s a ship; let’s adapt our dining and entertainment to fit on board.” Instead, it ventured out to find the most delicious food, noteworthy drinks and amazing entertainment, and it built ships to house everything.

Savvy travelers appreciate that Virgin hasn’t cut corners. Brad Farmerie of the restaurant Public, Sohui Kim of Insa and The Good Fork, and Matt Lambert of The Musket Room, all in New York, are three well-known chefs, among a slew of others, who have joined Virgin Voyages to create menus for the ships’ onboard dining. Cuisines run the gamut from Italian and Mexican to Korean and veggie-forward new American.

The line has also partnered with famed production companies to custom-make shows that keep passengers’ attention. In fact, one of them — “Duel Reality,” a modern take on “Romeo and Juliet” featuring acrobatics and other jaw-dropping feats — is so amazing that it will be touring on land, starting in August.

How Virgin Voyages compares to Disney Cruise Line

Seesaws add to the sense of childlike wonder and fun on Virgin Voyages sailings. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

The cruise line that comes close to matching Virgin’s sense of fun, wonder and commitment to top-notch entertainment is Disney Cruise Line. When I first cruised with Disney as a child-free adult, I experienced a sense of wonder and pure glee that came with having Mickey waffles for breakfast and re-watching movies — “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid” — that I loved as a kid. I never felt that way on other cruise lines, even when zooming down waterslides or riding an onboard roller coaster.

However, grown-ups who aren’t die-hard Disney fans but are looking to recapture some of their youth without feeling immature, embarrassed or judged will find those voyages lacking.

After all, when you’re meeting princesses or wearing Minnie Mouse ears while standing next to a group of kids, you’re reminded that you are still an adult. Every “Disney adult” has felt resentment or ridicule from others who don’t understand why some grown-ups like Disney as much as they do.

Plus, many fun-loving grown-ups enjoy cutting loose, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to wear mouse ears, trade pins or pose for photos with Chip and Dale.

What’s key to Virgin Voyages’ success is that children aren’t allowed, meaning all the fun is meant just for adults.

Dozens of board games, both classic and contemporary, are available for passenger use on Virgin Voyages ships. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

“The biggest thing is that, because Virgin doesn’t [permit] kids, it allows … your inner child to play out,” said Michael Kuzma, an avid cruiser who, after nearly 20 sailings with Virgin, is likely to become the first to hit 100 days with the line. “When you’re vacationing with family, and you have your kids with you, at some point you have to return to being the adult. On Virgin, that all goes out the window. You can just come on and be yourself.”

Also a Disney Cruise Line regular, Kuzma has completed 68 sailings with The Mouse over a 25-year period. He told me during a chat on Resilient Lady that, although he still cruises with Disney, it’s definitely for a particular type of audience.

“There’s a time and a place,” Kuzma said. “They’re two totally different products, and you need each product for a different reason. A family cruise with Disney has that caliber of entertainment, but Virgin is offering the same thing to [cruisers] without children … and it’s a totally different experience.”

The math works out. For the same price you’d pay to dodge other people’s kids on a Disney ship for three days in the Bahamas, you could spend a week on a Virgin vessel sailing the Caribbean, Mediterranean or the Greek isles. Instead of standing in line for Donald Duck’s autograph or relegating yourself to the adults-only areas of ships largely geared toward families, you could be sipping cocktails from disco balls, munching on endless free pizza and candy, and partying with a giant inflatable octopus into the wee hours of the morning.

Bottom line

Basketball courts on Virgin’s ships host everything from pickleball games to dodgeball tournaments. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

A Virgin Voyages cruise is the perfect way to blend the carefree, mischievous fun of being a kid with the sense of freedom that comes with being an adult. It allows your inner voice a platform to say, “Yes, I like eating my weight in ice cream and staying up past my bedtime listening to off-color jokes. And I’m going to do both because I’m an adult, and I’m allowed.”

Ultimately, the line has found success by challenging norms and asking, “Why?” Why aren’t adults allowed to act like children when they’re on vacation? Why can’t something be both over the top and classy?

By offering a plethora of enticing onboard diversions, phenomenal food and drinks, edgy entertainment and an atmosphere of fun that makes you want to be a kid again, Virgin Voyages has firmly cemented itself as the best cruise line for fun-loving adults.

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