Richard Branson’s latest high seas venture – Virgin Voyages – recently launched a new ‘adults only’ cruise ship. The ship, which is called Valiant Lady, houses 2,770 passengers.
It’s a luxurious concept, with the idea behind it being “less about retirees drinking their inheritance, and more about young people ruining their chances of ever owning a home” (as we put it last year).
Branson has hyped the ‘rock star’ vibes of the venture. Speaking about the original ‘adults only’ vessel (Scarlet Lady), which launched in 2021, he told media: “She is very ‘Virgin.’ 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 told news.com.au.
Virgin Voyages’ latest vessel – the Valiant Lady – held launch celebrations on Friday at the London International Cruise Terminal, in anticipation of its “limited bookable MerMaiden voyage.”
The launch event featured a line up full of big names like Tom Grennan and Diplo. Virgin Voyages also got UK radio station Capital on board to help promote a launch competition to give away an all-inclusive one-night luxury stay on The Valiant Lady.
Virgin Voyages shared footage of the new ‘adults only’ ship as it left for Liverpool, showing off features like the spacious decks, the Sun Club, the VIP sundeck and the private cabanas.
So far so good.
There has been a fly in the ointment, however, with various customers taking to Twitter to complain about cancelled bookings.
One Twitter user even claimed it was “for some rich guy.”
Too bad you canceled our 20th anniversary cruise last minute for some rich guy. #Virginvoyages— stblood (@SenseiBane) March 9, 2022
Another said: “We’re in the same boat, or rather not, very short notice and not for a good reason.”
Money talks🤑. At least you know what their values are and what they think of their customers. (not a lot)— James Roberts (@JamesHabit) March 9, 2022
Another even suggested it could have something to do with the filming of The Bachelorette.
Well looks like @ABCNetwork made them a better offer for the Filming of the Bachelorette— James Stewart (@jamesastewart80) March 9, 2022
This rumour was also raging on Reddit. One thread claimed “passengers are rightfully outraged” and said “twelve days notice for one of the cancelled cruises (late March and most of April, this is on the Valiant Lady).”
“Thousands of people with booked flights, hotels, having already taken the time off work, limited availability with school holidays, booked non-Virgin excursions, pet boarding, etc. Honeymoons, Easter family vacations, etc all canceled.”u/Never-On-Reddit
Another Reddit user commented: “If that happened to me, I’d be in a rage just so they can accommodate a garbage reality show.”
Virgin Voyages said the following of the cancellations: “We understand planning a holiday isn’t easy. We missed the mark when it came to providing initial options for our April cancellations, and that’s on us. We’ll be offering every affected itinerary a complimentary sailing on board Valiant Lady + original offers.”
Ahoy Sailors,— Virgin Voyages ⚓️ (@VirginVoyages) March 15, 2022
We understand planning a holiday isn’t easy. We missed the mark when it came to providing initial options for our April cancellations, and that’s on us.
We’ll be offering every affected itinerary a complimentary sailing on board Valiant Lady + original offers 🧵
Virgin Voyages offered affected customers two options. The first option was: “150% Future Voyage Credit (FVC)” where “Sailors will automatically receive a Future Voyage Credit for 150% of the voyage fare amount paid to date.”
Option 2:— Virgin Voyages ⚓️ (@VirginVoyages) March 15, 2022
Refund + 25% Future Voyage Credit (FVC)
Sailors who prefer a refund may call or email to receive a full refund for the amount paid to date + FVC for 25% of the voyage fare amount paid ⚓️
The second option? A “refund + 25% Future Voyage Credit (FVC).” Virgin Voyages also said that “Sailors who prefer a refund may call or email to receive a full refund for the amount paid to date + FVC for 25% of the voyage fare amount paid.”
Complimentary Sailing:— Virgin Voyages ⚓️ (@VirginVoyages) March 15, 2022
In addition to Option 1 or 2, all affected Sailors will receive a complimentary sailing aboard our Valiant Lady. This includes all Valiant Lady sailings available from March 18, 2022, through October 16, 2022 🚢
“In addition to Option 1 or 2,” Virgin Voyages have said, “all affected Sailors will receive a complimentary sailing aboard our Valiant Lady. This includes all Valiant Lady sailings available from March 18, 2022, through October 16, 2022.”
This comes after Virgin Voyages cancelled three sailings on Valiant Lady after agreeing a deal to charter the ship in April, Travel Weekly reports.
“The line confirmed departures on April 4, April 15 and April 18 have been cancelled, but would not say how many passengers had been affected by the decision,” (Travel Weekly).
The cancelled trips are an 11-day Coast The Canary Islands, Spain, Portugal sailing; a three-day Long Weekender In Zeebrugge cruise; and another 11-day Coast The Canary Islands, Spain, Portugal voyage, according to Travel Weekly.
A Virgin Voyages spokesperson said of the cancellations: “Virgin Voyages understands that impacted Sailors [passengers] were caught off guard and apologise for any inconvenience that this has caused.”
“To make up for this, they have offered several options to Sailors to make sure that they are able to enjoy a sailing at a later date.”Virgin Voyages
In more positive news, talking about Valiant Lady’s launch, Virgin Voyages CEO Tom McAlpin said the company is seeing an increase in bookings.
“The lifting of UK travel restrictions has already shown promising signs with 70 per cent uplift in bookings since December – and we can’t wait to welcome sailors (passengers) on-board,” he said.
“We’ll be showcasing our newest lady in Tilbury and Liverpool, where fans are invited to wave her in before we kick off our bookable European sailings from Portsmouth in March and our new homeport in Barcelona in May.”
According to Traveller, “The 100,000-gross-tonne ship is set to take in such destinations as Palma de Mallorca, the Canary Islands, Lisbon, Belgium and Ibiza.”
Traveller also reports that the vessel is eying off “sailings” to Australia later this year, assuming our cruise ship ban is lifted next month.
I loved the scarlet lady, I got engaged on it on the dock on Jan 5th 2022 pic.twitter.com/qHXFRXasGU— Supermangt94 (@Supermangt941) March 4, 2022
Further posts on Twitter suggest that when the trips actually go ahead, many passengers have loved the Virgin Voyages experience.