In 2014, Sir Richard Branson announced the debut of Virgin’s new cruise line, Virgin Voyages. The first ship, Scarlet Lady, which recently completed a trial run between Italy and France in November 2019, will grace the Caribbean Sea on March 26, 2020, departing from Miami for three- and five-night Caribbean itineraries.
Also in November, Virgin introduced its fleet’s second ship, Valiant Lady, which will set sail beginning May 2021 on Mediterranean journeys from Spain to Italy (you can book incredible hotels here).
The new Samsonite luggage, btw, is easy to travel with on cruises, and great for travelers over 40. Check out the collection on Amazon.
Onboard the 17-deck, eco-friendly ships, you can expect an intimate, guest-to-staff ratio (2,770 cruisers to 1,160 crew), 1,330 stylish cabins, 20 food and beverage outlets, outdoor pool, an incredible wellness program and unique amenities not found on any other cruise ship.
In travel, Virgin has made waves with an airline, hotel chain, trains and even space travel with Virgin Galactic. Virgin is a game changer and risk taker, and the company sets out to break the travel industry—and Virgin Voyages is no exception. In fact, Virgin Group is breaking industry expectations aboard the ship, but its most daring concept is the intended demographic: it’s specifically targeting millennials (age 24 to 39).
This may or may not work but, in my opinion, it could be the best thing to happen in the cruise industry.
First, let’s talk about the disadvantage of targeting millennials. Not only is the cruise limited to passengers (or, oops, “sailors” as Virgin has coined) to 18 years and older, most of the amenities appeal to those under 40, so sailors in the age bracket from Gen-X and above could feel… old. It’s sort of like when a Boomer goes to a trendy nightclub and feels like the oldest person there, so he slams 20 tequila shots to feel better about himself, but then becomes “that guy.” Only here, aboard Virgin Voyages, you can’t sneak out the back door unless you have really strong arms to swim back to shore.
The good news for non-millennials is that this is Virgin’s first voyage, and things change after trial and error. I remember the first few times I flew Virgin Atlantic Upper Class, there was a masseuse and facialilst on board. You would put your names in a lottery, and those who got picked had the luxury of choosing a massage or facial during the flight. This feature no longer exists on their cabins. So while I appreciate Virgin’s ability to think outside the box with a truly forward-thinking approach, sometimes things don’t work out the way they intended.
The great thing about Virgin Voyages targeting millennials? They typically hate cruises, but Virgin could make it cool for 20-somethings. The amenities are pretty awesome.
Will the adults-only concept stick? Who knows. Ask us after the first sail. For now, here are 5 things millennials will love about Virgin Voyages, and older generations may learn to love if they book, too.
1. It’s an adults-only cruise, meaning NO KIDS.
To reiterate, Virgin Voyages is limited to 18 years old and older. Sorry, millennial parents. You have to leave your kids at home. But, obviously, this works in your favor. You can now enjoy a vacation without having to tote your kids and finding ways to entertain their busy brains all day. There is no kid’s clubs, employees dressed in animals giving hugs and no slides aboard Virgin Voyages, meaning it is definitely not kid-friendly.
Side note: While young millennials may love the fact the cruise is adults only, this might eat up Virgin’s profits considering many cruise lines make their money catering to families. More people are cruising every year, and the demand is increasing, but according to a 2018 Cruise Industry Overview by the FCAA, cruises are a “preferred vacation choice for families, especially those with children under 18.” In a survey, 76 percent of participants said cruises were a “good vacation for the entire family.”
There are only a handful of small cruise lines that are adults only, including P&O Cruises, and Viking Cruises is the only large cruise ship company. The fact adults-only cruises virtually do not exist means that nobody really cares about kids onboard, and many cruise lines won’t sacrifice profit.
If you’re older than 40 like me, Virgin Voyages might feel too hip, and onboard, you’ll definitely feel your age around 20 and 30 somethings. The plus side is that you could feel young at heart or whatever.
2. There’s an on-demand champagne delivery service and caviar lounge.
Kids hate champagne. Kids hate caviar. This is another way Virgin is pandering to adults who crave bubbly and fine delicious things.
In October, Virgin Voyages announced a cool feature with its Virgin Voyages Sailor App. Once you shake it, a Virgin Voyages Champagne button is revealed, and you can press it to get a bottle of Moet & Chandon Imperial delivered straight away. This is great if you’re celebrating an event, like if your dude gets on one knee and proposes (and you say yes), or you see a UFO in the sky. Or, it’s just a great way to celebrate the fact there are no kids.
Moet & Chandon is $50 retail, btw.
If you want to hang with the cool kids, there’s SIP, a champagne lounge serving $9 glasses and caviar.
Now, if you’re a Gen-X’er or Boomer, the champers and caviar might be in your wheelhouse. Sip is super adult, so you could rule this area, and in fact, this is where the older generation might hold fort.
3. Onboard karaoke and tattoos
The amenities on Virgin Voyages are definitely geared toward millennials, especially with an onboard tattoo parlor, Squid Ink, which will have 2 resident artists who will give sailors a permanent souvenir. From what I know and researched, this is the first tattoo parlor aboard a permanent cruise line (no special event cruises).
Music is also a huge theme, and there’s an amazing record shop and Japanese-style karaoke rooms. Also, don’t expect typical cruise ship entertainment, like Grease. Virgin promises a hip residency program for musicians, and Mark Ronson and MK have already committed.
So will passengers over 40 appreciate amenities like a tattoo parlor and record shop? Maybe not as much as millennials. In the record shop, boomers aboard could teach millennials about Nick Cave, so they won’t feel totally useless, and if you’re a boomer and still haven’t gotten a tattoo, you can go wild here. Just don’t get anything weird, like Virgin’s logo on your forearm, because millennials don’t play.
4. There’s a private beach club in Bimini.
Speaking of Mark Ronson, he’s booked for four performances at The Beach Club in Bimini, Virgin’s super-exclusive private beach club in Bimini, Bahamas, the most underrated island where the real fountain of youth exists. It’s also said that the actual “road to Atlantis” is here. I’ve been to Bimini three times, and it’s definitely a sleepy island primarily known for fishing with not much to do.
Anyway, back to The Beach Club. Expect typical day beds, hammocks, tons of booze and live DJs right on the white-sand beach. Billy McFarland is not involved, so guys, The Beach Club will definitely happen.
People over 40 might love The Beach Club to read a book rather than party, so it could be a good thing if you are just now reading Memoirs of a Geisha, but remember, this beach club will be lively and wild with 20-somethings doing shots and getting whatever pot they can find. So, actually, if you end up here, you can learn how to do that hair braid thing to do on your own kid when you get home. Gotta get something out of it!
Also, just so you know, a cruise line having a private beach or island in the Caribbean for passengers is not new. Many cruislines offer this, like Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean. However, The Beach Club is super intimate, and remember, it’s adults only, so there won’t be little buggers (British word?) running around.
5. Virgin Voyages is going all in.
Virgin has spent a reported $1.7 billion for Virgin Voyages, and the cruise line is very serious about sailors having a memorable cruise. Millennials and older generations alike will definitely appreciate this, actually.
Like some luxury hotel brands, Scarlet Lady will have its own scent, and sailors can buy the scent, No. 1 Ship, bottled up in a 100ml bottle (sea lavender and sun-kissed wood from a fig tree is a great room spray!).
Distingushing Virgin from literally every cruise in the world is the fact there will be no buffet. You can expect a variety of cuisines (from all over the world), including upscale Mexican, steak and seafood, vegetarian restaurant, etc. There’s no assigned seating, no formal dining and no weird dining times. Also, there’s no upcharge for some fancy restaurant, which a lot of cruises offer. Don’t forget, all restaurants are all-inclusive, and they’re all slated to be elevated.
The design of the ships resemble a yacht, so you also physically don’t feel like you’re hoarded on a massive ocean liner.
Because millennials care about health and wellness, Virgin Voyages offers a larger-than-life wellness program, Vitamin Sea, with advanced fitness technology and impressive amenities. The spa is insane. It’s huge with a hydrotherapy pool, mud room, salt room, cold plunge pools, quartz beds and of course spa treatments (because it’s Virgin, there will also be spa parties with DJs).
There is a massive fitness center with direct ocean views, group fitness classes, training zone with boxing gym, outdoor yoga studio, even a track around deck for jogging. You can also expect a barbershop, salon and mani-pedi spa.
Also, regarding the entertainment, it’s not cheap booking the likes of Mark Ronson, but Virgin has also partnered with many famous theater companies and artists. Virgin seriously went over the top.
Again, if you’re part of the older generation, you will definitely appreciate these amenities, perhaps even more than millennials!
6. The cabins are definitely adult-friendly.
Aboard Virgin Voyages, sailors can expect typical interior, oceanview and balcony cabins (86 percent of the cabins have balconies, according to Virgin), as well as 78 amazing suites. All of the cabins will have room service and be furnished with typical Virgin fashion: lots of sleek and sexy red interior, large mirrors, rain showers, mood lighting, basically a design that will put you in a romantic mood. There’s also free wifi, and the option to upgrade to stream your own devices.
MegaRockstar suite, the largest suite at 2,147 square feet, has a full-on terrace, hot tub, two outdoor hammocks, outdoor shower (yep, not a typo), as well as a luxury-hotel suite-sized bathroom. If you’ve been on a cruise ship, you know even the bathrooms in suites are typically small, so this is definitely a nice feature.
If you’re part of the older generation, you might prefer less theatrical and design-driven rooms, but just gaze out the window into the sea, because that sunset will be a great post on your Facebook.
Sails start at $775 per person; $3,350 per person for the suite.
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