May 17, 2019
(4.30 p.m. GMT) -- Virgin Voyages' chief executive officer Tom McAlpin has revealed the line's first cruise ship Scarlet Lady will call into the UK next year.
The 2,700-passenger ship will call into the UK from Genoa -- where it is being built -- en route to Miami, where the ship will homeport, some time in March.
McAlpin revealed the news alongside Sir Richard Branson, who made a surprise appearance at the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Conference in Portsmouth, yesterday.
He would not say which UK port Scarlet Lady would call into but added an extra tease -- saying it might even be two ports.
He also revealed that the line's plan at this stage is for all its ships to be adults-only:
"Adults-only is the plan," he said. "Mums and dads need a vacation too. Feedback indicates that's what our target market wants. Of course, we have to be flexible so it might change."
He added: "We’re not about stuffy service or acres of marble" - and even questioned the age-old tradition of requiring passengers to have their bags out in the corridor the last night of the cruise and be off the ship early next day, although he didn’t elaborate on how that could be avoided.
"We are about quality and not giving sailors [Virgin's name for passengers] a big bill at the end.”
Virgin Voyages' prices include all dining (there is no buffet), Wi-Fi, group fitness classes, soft drinks, teas, coffee and still and sparkling water.
There will even be "reef-friendly" sun cream dispensers on the top deck for passengers to use.
Virgin Voyages has three more ships on order for delivery between 2021 and 2023.
Branson, dressed in a space suit and wearing a tee-shirt emblazoned with the words "My other ship is a spaceship", ran onto the stage and revealed he had never been on a cruise but had always wanted to own his own cruise line.
He told delegates: "I hate buffets – I want a very different type of cruise. I want to get people on a cruise who have never cruised before".
He also revealed that he had a godmother in mind for the ship, but was waiting for her to confirm.
Scarlet Lady will be sailing four and five-night cruises to the Caribbean from April next year. McAlpin said back-to-back bookings, creating a nine-night cruise have proved popular in the UK.
From the start, Virgin Voyages has been all about disrupting the cruise experience to attract people who have never set foot on a ship.
To that end, they refuse to use typical cruise terms such as "cruise" or "passenger", referring to the cruises as voyages and passengers as sailors.
Scarlet Lady will have no main dining room, no set dining times, no dress code and no buffet. It will also have an industry first -- the first tattoo parlour at sea.