Tabletop dancing. Champagne shake offs. No minors. Reading headlines like ‘Branson Spills Secrets Of Adults-Only Cruise’ and ‘Adults Only Cruise Comes To Australia’ (ok, we added the italics), both of which appeared online today, and you are left to think that either old mate Richard is hankering for a different kind of knighthood or some kind of X-rated attraction will soon be available to Australian travellers.
Sadly (or not, depending on which way you swing), neither one of these things is true. What is happening is Virgin Voyages’ first-ever trip is set to take place next year in the form of an adults-only cruise that will go from Miami to the Caribbean. The problem is that – contrary to how it is being marketed – it will likely be full of middle-aged people trying to re-live their youth; not young people broadening their bedroom horizons.
To that end: Branson today dropped into Sydney to promote the venture, claiming that Australians will make up much of this market (as we – apparently – love to party, and hate rules) and predicting Virgin Voyages will disrupt the cruise ship industry, making it less about retirees drinking their inheritance, and more about young people ruining their chances of ever owning a home.
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Speaking to News.com.au, Branson hyped the ‘rock star’ vibes of the cruise: “She is very ‘Virgin’,” he said. “She’s going to be a fun cruise for people to go on. If they want to dance, there’s plenty of dancing. If they want to chill, there’s plenty of chilling.”
“I think there are some people who would never dream of going on cruises and all our research suggests people are willing to give Virgin a try when we launch a new business and generally they’re happy with the results,” Branson added.
Meanwhile, Virgin Voyages chief commercial officer Nirmal Saverimuttu told News.com.au, Virgin Voyages’ debut vessel, Scarlet Lady, would be mid-sized to allow for intimacy, and designed to cater to young’uns’ penchant for eating in bars.
“Virgin is a mindset, it’s for people seeking that cooler, hipper, younger-feeling experience… A lot of people afraid of ‘mass’. We’ve seen a trend in the industry towards bigger and bigger ships, so we built mid-size ships so we can offer more intimate spaces.”
In any case, the 110,000 gross tonne, Italian-built Scarlet Lady — the first of four ships on order by Virgin Voyages — will set off on her maiden voyage to the Caribbean from Miami in April 2020.
“Accommodating 2770 passengers… the ship is designed to look more like a sleek, luxurious yacht than a mega-cruise ship,” News.com.au reports. It will also feature 1330 stylish cabins with mood lighting, 78 ‘Rock Star’ suites and four ‘Mega Star’ suites that come with standing hot tubs and guitar-lined music rooms.
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The countdown has begun ⏳ Scarlet Lady will launch for Sea Trials in less than 2 weeks — making her way from Italy to France for the very first time. Which has us reminiscing about her February float-out 😭Imagine what she’ll look like out on the open water this time around!
There is a tattoo parlour on board, as well as a vinyl record store, and – according to Sir Branson – much on-board revelry: “I’m a great believer that every table should be made to dance on and in our Rock Star suites we even have stairs going up to the table so people can get up there and dance.”
There is one awkward problem, however, which Virgin Voyages chief commercial officer Nirmal Saverimuttu hinted at when he told News.com.au that The Scarlet Lady was “a ship for people who would not typically consider a cruise holiday.”
A lofty aim – and one we doubt a company that uses the word ‘hip’ non-ironically will ever achieve.
And it’s not just our speculation: while Virgin Voyages is not yet operational, a report by journalist Stephen Brook for travel publication Escape revealed earlier this year that just because a cruise is marketed as young and self-indulgent, that won’t necessarily be the case.
In a piece entitled, “Six Pairs Of Bathers & Unicorn Pants: A 10 Day All-Gay Cruise From Hong Kong To Japan,” Stephen Brook wrote about how his holiday of hedonism – the 2019 Atlantis Events Asia 10-day all-gay charter cruise – turned out to be quite a refined and classy affair.
In fact, to Stephens horror, when Atlantis Events’ age-defying US founder Rich Campbell welcomed guests “from the ’60s’, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s”, he wasn’t referring to gents in their 50s down to 20-somethings.
“Hold my mai tai. In a depressing moment of clarity, I realised that I had misheard. Campbell was actually welcoming guests not from the 1960s, but aged in their 60s, as well as in their 70s, 80s and 90s. I had been hoping for a cruise just like Sex in the City, but was this going to be more like The Golden Girls.”
Not only that but, “on the voyage’s informal Facebook group,” Stephen writes, “ordinary Joes were much more interested in posting photos of their business class airline berths and flutes of champagne than their torsos.”
“But both the gym junkies and elder statesmen, found funds for one essential budget line item … the amazingly regenerative powers of Botox.”
So: though we lack a crystal ball, as D’Marge sees it, this will prove the case with Virgin Voyages too. But who knows: maybe they will start a trend and in 100 years our grandkids will be dropping their inheritance on the trip of a lifetime.
In any case, if your interest has been piqued, from today, Australian travellers can book through Virgin Australia Holidays to experience the Scarlet Lady for themselves.
These packages include return flights with Virgin Australia from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Miami, a night’s accommodation in Miami, and the cruise, with prices starting at $3420 per person twin share, departing Sydney for a four-night cruise voyage.