Richard Branson says the new Virgin Voyages will attract “more first-timers.”

By Sherri Eisenberg
July 23, 2018
Vincenzo Lombardo/Getty Images

Amid crowd of press and industry executives gathered at Italy’s Fincantieri shipyard, Sir Richard Branson announced on Friday that Virgin Voyages’ first vessel — set to launch in Miami in spring 2020 — will be called Scarlet Lady.

The name and design is an homage to one of the billionaire’s first Virgin Atlantic planes, and the iconic lady herself — a mermaid with a red tail and long Titian blonde hair — will decorate the hull of this 2,700-passenger, adults-only vessel.

To say that all eyes are on Branson’s new Virgin Voyages is not an understatement. Any debut cruise line is big news in a field dominated by established, super-sized players, but one from a company that is known for innovations, risk-taking (hello, Virgin Galactic), and outstanding customer service is especially exciting. A cruise ship can easily be a billion-dollar-plus investment, and new builds are often more likely to emulate past successes than they are to break the mold.

“Competition is always good for any industry,” Branson said at Friday's announcement. “It takes years to build new cruise ships so we’ll have five or six years when our ships will be unique and then people will start copying things. And by then we’ll have reinvented ourselves.”

This news is the latest in a string of reveals for Virgin Voyages, a process the line has called their “Ship Tease,” for those who are anxious to see how this sexy, youthful brand will shake up cruising.

“I never wanted to go on a cruise,” Branson said. “But I want to go on this one. We love to create quality products that are fun, fun, fun — and we’re planning to create tables onboard that are strong enough to dance on.”

In May, the line revealed renderings of several public spaces, which have been designed by seven different firms in an effort to create the diverse-feeling of a city, as opposed to the sameness of a hotel. Many of them take inspiration from the golden age of cruising and attempt to interpret that glamour for today, including the daybed–filled VIP Lounge (called Richard’s Rooftop) and The Manor, a glitzy emerald-hued jewel box of a nightclub designed by Roman and Williams, the firm responsible for ground-breaking hotels such as New York’s Standard High Line and San Antonio’s Hotel Emma.

The outdoor part of the Athletic Club will have cabanas, a catamaran-style bowsprit net, and a cocktail lounge that’s home to the largest daybed at sea — from which you can admire the joggers circling around the top-deck running track. Today, Virgin Voyages also announced that the Athletic Club will have a top-deck outdoor space on the Crow’s Nest dedicated to sunrise and sunset yoga, as well as a basketball court, outdoor gym equipment, and an outdoor boxing arena that will host a variety of complimentary classes.

Though the ship does not accommodate children, there will also be an outdoor playground designed for grown-ups who appreciate whimsical touches, complete with seesaws and swings as well as a life-size chess board. Inside, the gym will have floor-to-ceiling views of the sea as well as one of several juice bars on the vessel, part of the line’s initiative to work wellness into every aspect of the ship.

The major food announcements won’t come until later this year but the line has already revealed two culinary spaces: Pink Agave, an upscale Mexican restaurant, and the Test Kitchen, a lab-inspired space that executives announced today will have barista and cocktail classes as well as cooking school-style experiences and creative meals that feature beakers and test tubes. Food throughout the ship is being lightened up, as well, as part of an integrated wellness initiative that carries healthy living throughout the ship.

In addition to sleek and sexy design, Virgin Voyages is working on attracting travelers who may not have considered cruising.

“These ships are for young at heart people who just want to have a good time,” Branson said. “You’re not going to get massive buffets where people stand in long queues. We will attract more first-timers, and that’s what this industry needs.”

Branson has always been an advocate for eco-minded travel, and to that end, Virgin Voyages has banned disposable plastic items — from straws to water bottles, shopping bags, and to-go coffee cups. And, in the era of the “#metoo” movement, the ship’s name is also inspiring the “Scarlet Squad” program aimed at recruiting and mentoring female officers and crew members. Caribbean cruises out of Miami on Scarlet Lady are scheduled to go on sale at the end of the year and Virgin Voyages has two additional ships on order due for delivery in 2021 and 2022.

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