Virgin Voyages’ first ship, Scarlet Lady, is to debut in the UK with six scenic cruises beginning on August 6.
The adults-only line has abandoned plans to launch in Miami and will instead sail along the English south coast from Portsmouth, alternating between three-night ‘Long Weekender’ and four-night ‘Summer WeekDaze’ voyages.
Passengers – Virgin Voyages calls them ‘sailors’ – will have to be British residents and fully vaccinated against Covid.
‘Virgin Voyages has been looking forward to sailing, and we’re so excited to announce our plans to sail from the UK,’ said Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group. ‘Our team has curated such a fantastic experience for our sailors and know this is a holiday they will love.’
Scarlet Lady will sail the three-night cruises on the Fridays of August 6, August 13 and August 20 and the four-nighters on the Mondays of August 9, 16 and 23. Prices – which include all restaurants, wifi and tips – have not yet been released but bookings go on sale on Tuesday, April 13.
The Virgin Voyages ship, built in Genoa, Italy, called in to Dover and Liverpool in February 2020 on the way to Miami to begin sailing to the Caribbean, including a stop on every cruise at a private resort on Bimini island in the Bahamas. But the Covid pandemic put paid to those plans and Scarlet Lady has still not carried a paying passenger.
‘After more than a year of waiting and a major emphasis on a safe return, we’re ecstatic to announce these new sailings and bring sailors on board to experience what it’s like to set sail the Virgin way,’ said Tom McAlpin, CEO and president of Virgin Voyages. ‘We look at our UK summer voyages as a homecoming to pay homage to our British roots, and what an excellent way to kick off our sailing season before heading back to Miami.’
Guests on the limited-capacity voyages will be able to enjoy Michelin-inspired dining, spa treatments, fitness classes and entertainment featuring British talent. Scarlet Lady also boasts a lively nightclub, cool bars and a range of venues serving Italian, Korean barbecue, Mediterranean and vegetarian dishes, as well as a steak and seafood restaurant.
Cabins have a bed that can convert to a sofa during the day, while some of the larger ‘RockStar Quarters’ suites have music rooms with guitars, as well as outside tables you can dance on.
Virgin Voyages becomes the latest US-based line to homeport a ship abroad to avoid an effective ban on cruising by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency has imposed a conditional sailing order which lays down a series of measures before passenger voyages can resume from American ports.
As well as the vaccination requirements, Virgin Voyages says additional testing and protocols will be confirmed closer to sailing, in line with the latest requirements from the UK government.
More details will be made available on VirginVoyages.com.
As well as Scarlet Lady, the line is due to introduce its second ship, Valiant Lady, in Miami in November. A third ship, Resilient Lady, will sail around the Greek islands and Adriatic coast in 2022 and a fourth vessel is on order.
Dave Monk has been following the Virgin Voyages journey from the first announcement, has twice visited the shipyard where Scarlet Lady was built, and stayed on the ship when it visited Dover in 2020. Here are some of his reports over the years for the Daily Mirror and this blog…
October 18, 2016: Virgin Cruises is renamed Virgin Voyages
October 21, 2017: Virgin ships will be adults-only
July 21, 2018: Branson reveals name of first ship
July 21, 2018: Branson mulls UK debut for Scarlet Lady
September 2018: Virgin Voyages to offer child-friendly holidays
February 11, 2019: Sneak peek as Scarlet Lady floats out
February 14, 2019: Secret island resort revealed as the Beach Club in Bihimi
May 21, 2019: Scarlet Lady to visit Dover and Liverpool
November 19, 2019: Virgin’s second ship, Valiant Lady, to sail from Europe
December 5, 2019: Branson goes behind the scenes of Scarlet Lady
February 25, 2020: My verdict on Scarlet Lady
February 11, 2021: Virgin Voyages gives away 2,021 cruises to the world’s ‘unsung heroes’