Virgin Voyages Promises a Memorable, Sustainable Luxury Incentive Experience
Looking for a different kind of venue for your incentive trip? Want an adult-only experience — no kids allowed? Sir Richard Branson’s latest venture, Virgin Voyages, offers ocean cruises that promise to reset expectations of what group experiences aboard ship should be like.
“Virgin aims to disrupt the traditional and reset to ultimately create a better experience or product for the consumer,” says Kayla Corbett, charters, incentives and future voyage sales manager for Virgin Voyages.
Scarlet Lady, the first of four vessels planned for the fleet, will set sail from Miami on April 1, 2020. Virgin Voyages is currently accepting group bookings for July 2020 through the end of 2021.
Curated Group Experiences
At full capacity, Scarlet Lady will hold 2,770 passengers. But Corbett says that groups of 150-250 are the ideal size for on-board incentive or meeting programs.
Being a little school of fish in a big ocean may be a concern for some. But Corbett assures me that small groups will still feel special — because that’s the Virgin way.
“Scarlet Lady is designed with many intimate venues to create curated experiences that never evoke a sense of ‘mass’,” she explains.
Virgin will work with planners to design the best program for each individual group.
The Red Room can be configured in four different ways: as a traditional theater, reverse theater, alley or concert-style (all seats removed). The maximum standing capacity is 900. Meanwhile, The Den will be slightly smaller and more appropriate for a more traditional style meeting.
For cocktail parties, Corbett says The Manor, the ship’s two-story nightclub named after Branson’s first recording studio, will be perfect. Seating in the nightclub can be adjusted as needed, and both the bar and sound equipment is built-in.
Unlike the majority of cruise lines, Virgin Voyages will include standard, unlimited Wi-Fi for every sailor, thus simplifying group communications.
Travel Like a Rock Star
First off are the cabins, which will feature mood-matching lights, technology for connecting your tablet or laptop to the TV, and a configurable “seabed” that can become a hat, a brooch, a pterodactyl1… (or at least a double bed, twin bed or L-shaped sofa). Guests can choose from insider, seaview and terrace cabin layouts, or upgrade to a RockStar suite for more space and extra amenities, including a private transfer to the ship, invitations to exclusive events and access to the exclusive Richard’s Rooftop deck lounge.
Rather than having the traditional cruise ship model of a main dining room with banquet-style meals at set times, Scarlet Lady will feature more than 20 smaller and more diverse eateries. Dining, along with “Basic Bevvies” (still and sparkling water, drip coffee, sachet teas and soft drinks), is included in Virgin Voyages’ pricing. ’Round-the-clock in-room dining is also an option for those who want a little r&r. In keeping with a personalized experience, Corbett says that Virgin Voyages plans to prepare all food to order, customized to each sailor’s wants and needs.
Virgin has a rich music-based history that will be showcased on board, from musical acts to DJs. For guests who want to get lost in the music, in addition to the usual shows and entertainment, Virgin Voyages will also feature “Voyage Vinyl,” a record store stocked with music magazines, headphones and record players.
And of course, there’s a gym, spa, jogging track, yoga…and as a unique part of Virgin’s emphasis on wellness and individuality, even a tattoo studio!
Best yet, all this is designed to be environmentally friendly. Virgin Voyages is pushing the boundaries in ocean conservation and aiming to set a new standard for cruise ships.
No single-use plastics. Repurposed ocean plastics and upcycled materials. State-of-the-art technology from Climeon and Scanship designed to reduce the ship’s environmental impact. Reef-safe sunscreen. Partnerships with organizations including Ocean Unite and suppliers including Emerald Brand. These are just a few of the ways Virgin is committing to minimize environmental impact.
Sharing the Same Dream (Caribbean Cruising)
With Miami as her home port, Scarlet Lady will set sail for the Bahamas, the Caribbean and Mexico on four- and five-night voyages. All itineraries will include a stop at Virgin Voyages’ private beach club on the Bahamian island of Bimini.
“Bimini has a great local culture,” says Corbett. “Also, our sailors seek authenticity, and because Bimini isn’t accessed by most major cruise lines, it gives us a unique opportunity to bring our sailors to a new destination.”
Corbett also explains that Virgin Voyages is offering extended stays in port to allow guests to really experience their destination. Unlike larger cruise ships, which often only stay in port for a few hours, the Bimini stop will last 14 full hours. On the “Fire Sunset & Soirees” four-night voyage, for example, Scarlet Lady will dock at 10 a.m. and not depart until 11:59 p.m. The docking also gives guests the flexibility to easily come and go rather than needing to build in extra time for a tender.
“Some guests may want to just hang out at Virgin’s exclusive beach club,” Corbett says. “Others may want to go on an excursion, see the town, try conch fritters or snorkel — this offers them the best of both worlds.”
Most five-night itineraries will feature one additional stop in either Mexico or the Dominican Republic. Depending on the dates, this may be Cozumel / Playa del Carmen, Costa Maya or Puerto Plata — another uncommon port for cruises that Corbett says was chosen for its local flair and ability to offer some authentic and exciting local activities. Two unique seven-night voyages are offered at the end of December.
“The person that's seeking Virgin Voyages is not looking to be in the mass market in any capacity,” Corbett explains. “They don't want generic. They want truly authentic, special experiences done in a unique Virgin way — so that's how we centered our destinations.
For more information on Virgin Voyages for meeting and incentive groups, go here.
1If this quote isn't familiar, watch the movie “Airplane".