Virgin Voyages, whose entry into the cruise sector has been delayed by 19 months, has said that it intends to offer its first commercial cruises from August 2021 as part of a limited programme from the UK.
It said that it would be delaying until September its target date for starting its US cruises.
Virgin Voyages said that “as cruise operations in the US remain uncertain, before heading home to Port Miami, Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady is taking this opportunity to do a homecoming tour, heading back to where the Virgin brand began”.
The 110,000 gt Scarlet Lady, Virgin Voyages’ first cruise ship, will operate six three and four-night cruises from Portsmouth, England cruising along the southeast coast of the UK during August 2021.
The cruises will be only available for residents of the UK.
Passengers will also have to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Additional testing and protocols will be confirmed closer to sailing, in line with recommendations from the UK government, Virgin Voyages said.
Tom McAlpin, CEO and President of Virgin Voyages, said that “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 onboard to experience what it’s like to set sail the Virgin Way. 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 PortMiami.”
Virgin Voyages is building four cruise ships at Fincantieri, with the 2,770 passenger Scarlet Lady delivered in February 2020. The ship completed previews in the UK but by the time it reached the US it was decided to delay the previews and maiden voyage, which had been scheduled to leave Miami on April 1st 2020, due to the onset of Covid-19.
Scarlet Lady hung around for months in Miami and the Bahamas before returning to Italy later in 2020, where it currently remains in lay-up.
Virgin Group and Bain Capital (a major shareholder) are named investors in the venture. Sky has reported that at least one Middle East sovereign wealth fund and a number of family offices and high net worth individuals are also investors in the Virgin Voyages business, which is based in Plantation, Florida. The new line hopes to challenge the big players in the sector with more of a focus on a younger “free spirit” demographic.