Virgin Voyages is coming. If you haven’t heard, that’s the new cruise line being launched by Richard Branson and his company the Virgin Group. It’s not surprising that Virgin Group would eventually come around and launch a cruise line. They don’t limit their ventures to travel, but they do have quite a few travel focused subsidiaries on the books: Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Australia, Virgin Galactic, Virgin Vacations, Virgin Hotels, and Virgin Rail Group. And that’s not all of them; but you can see why Virgin Voyages (originally Virgin Cruises) isn’t a surprise.
What may be a surprise is that Virgin Voyages is being launched as an adults only cruise line. The CEO of Virgin Voyages, Tom McAlpin, isn’t a stranger to launching a new cruise line, or pushing an idea that other cruise lines haven’t done to date. McAlpin has a long career in the cruise industry. When I knew him, he was President of Disney Cruise Line, the little upstart that introduced the concept of family-centric cruising to the industry. Prior to working for Disney, McAlpin worked for Royal Caribbean Cruises. After Disney, McAlpin went to work for ReisdenSea before joining Virgin Cruises (Voyages). So the guy that was involved with bring us family cruising, will now be focusing on adult-only cruising.
Before Disney came on the scene, cruising wasn’t adults-only, but adults were the focus of cruise line marketing. If kids came along with mom and dad it was okay, but it wasn’t in the marketing plan. Disney introduced the idea of having every stateroom accommodate a minimum of three passengers, whereas everyone else had double occupancy as their standard. Room occupancy hasn’t been announced by Virgin Voyages, but I imagine it’ll be primarily double occupancy.
Kid-focused activity centers won’t exist. Everything will be focused on the 18+ demographic. However, I question how much of the younger adult segment will actually sail on Virgin Voyages. The first ship will port out of Miami doing 7 night Caribbean itineraries. It will be a premium product targeted at the “young at heart.”
My interpretation of “premium product” is that it won’t be competing with Carnival, Royal Caribbean, etc; think of Disney Cruise Line pricing. I don’t imagine a lot of the younger adults (especially those 18-20 year olds that won’t be able to even drink alcohol) over running the ship. The target market will be those adults that want to vacation away from kids, especially the kids of other people. McAlpin touched on this ever so slightly with Disney Cruise Line and their adult only areas (lounges, the adult pool, the adults-only specialty restaurant, etc.). Now he’s helping expand that idea to a full ship (well, actually, three ships) starting in 2020.
Anyone interested in sailing on Virgin Voyages can now put down a fully refundable $500 deposit. This gets them on an “early access” list. Once they open bookings, the early access list gets first dibs. And yes, they do plan on working with travel agents when they’re ready to start accepting actual bookings (it does not sound like travel agents will be attached to any of the early access deposits however).
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.