Virgin Voyages says it has seen bookings soar by 178 per cent in the last six months as it prepares to celebrate the arrival of second ship Valiant Lady in the UK.
Sir Richard Branson’s adults-only line has released a survey claiming an incredible 96 per cent of travellers want to try a cruise this year.
The news came as guests prepared to board Valiant Lady for a night of celebration in Tilbury, Essex, ahead of a series of cruises from Portsmouth, which was also the homeport for sister ship Scarlet Lady in 2021. Valiant Lady is expected to bring £1.5million to the city for every time it calls with close to 3,000 passengers.
The line’s CEO, Tom McAlpin, said: ‘It was incredible to launch Virgin Voyages last year, so welcoming our second ship, Valiant Lady, here in the UK less than a year later is a very special moment for the entire Virgin Voyages family. After a tough two years, people are excited to explore the world again. We know that now, more than ever, travellers want to invest in quality experiences. They’re seeking the best value for money, which is exactly what we offer.’
Virgin Voyages president Nirmal Saverimuttu said: ‘We’ve thrown out the rule book and said goodbye to bow ties and buffets. Instead, our ships are exclusively adult, have a no-tipping policy and boast some of the best dining experiences you’ll find at sea, or on land for that matter – including the world’s first Korean BBQ and the biggest collection of mezcal and tequila at sea. This is what it means to set sail the Virgin way, and we can’t wait to welcome Sailors – old and new – on board.’
Not everyone was joining in the party, though. Some Valiant Lady passengers complained on social media after three cruises in April – including two 11-day Med sailings – were cancelled at short notice because the ship had been chartered by a business customer. One rumour is that a series of The Bachelorette is being filmed on board.
The line has offered compensation of 150 per cent Future Voyage Credit if passengers have paid the full fare and wish to rebook, or FVC for double the amount paid to date if they haven’t settled the whole balance.
Passengers who decide to take a refund will get all their money back plus FVC of 25 per cent of the amount they’ve already paid.
Everyone affected by the cancellations will also be offered a free five-night voyage from Amsterdam plus a complimentary cruise from either the UK or Barcelona this year, as long as they cover taxes and fees on the second voyage.
A spokesperson told me: ‘Virgin Voyages apologises for the inconvenience caused and understands that impacted Sailors were caught off guard. To make up for this, Virgin Voyages is offering several options to Sailors to ensure they are still able to enjoy a sailing, including their choice of a complimentary voyage on Valiant Lady where Sailors can choose from any of the amazing itineraries from the UK or out of Barcelona.’
On Twitter last night, Shane Lewis-Riley, the Vice President of International Sales, wrote: ‘We pride ourselves on being the brand you come to and trust. And to that end, it’s our goal to make things right when we miss the mark. I hope we’ve done that with the offer [of] a complimentary voyage to any affected Sailor.’
From May, Valiant Lady will operate from her new home port in Barcelona offering late-night and overnight stays in destinations such as Málaga, Palma de Mallorca, the Canary Islands, Lisbon, Belgium and Ibiza.
The fleet’s third ship, Resilient Lady, begins voyages from Greece in August. A fourth ship is also on order.
The survey of 14,000 travellers found 96 per cent keen to cruise this year. Three in five said destinations were the key factor in picking a cruise.
Tonight’s launch of Valiant Lady at London International Cruise Terminal will feature performances by Brit Award nominee Tom Grennan and special guest Ella Henderson, and DJ sets by Grammy Award-winning DJ, Diplo, Mistajam, Camden Cox and James Hype. The acts will be streamed live through Global Radio here.
To see a selection of my stories on Virgin Voyages, please click here