Virgin’s new cruise changes everything
When Virgin Voyages much-anticipated first ship, Scarlet Lady sets sail in April next year she'll be an absolute game-changer in cruising.
And according to Chief Commercial Officer of Virgin Voyages Nirmal Saverimuttu, who is in Australia right now with Sir Richard Branson to launch ticket sales for Tail to Sail packages (a partnership flying Virgin Australia to the US and then jumping on-board the new ship for a voyage from Miami), Australians will likely lead the way in being Virgin Voyages top market.
"I think Australians love to travel, and Australians particularly love luxury experiences without stuffiness and formality and that's all the things that we're very focused on delivering,' says Saverimuttu, who once lived and studied in Sydney.
Aussies also like all-inclusive experiences.
"On-board we don't go ahead and charge people for lots of extra things, included in our fares are all of your restaurant eating (at 20+ dining outlets), all of your basic drinks - everything except alcohol is included, there's free Wi-Fi, and you don't have to pay for tips and gratuities because let's face it you don't want to have to pay for tips when you've paid for the experience already," says Saverimuttu.
So what else sets Virgin Voyages apart from the cruise competition? The 2770-guest adult-only Scarlet Lady is not only designed like a sleek yacht, it features a tattoo parlour (with tattoos created with vegan ink), a vinyl record store with personal listening booths, and Rockstar Suites.
"All our Rockstar Suites (there are 78) come with all sorts of amenities you'd expect for a rockstar including a wardrobe team to help unpack, a mini bar, and a peekaboo shower where you can view the ocean from the shower," says Saverimuttu.
And if you prefer to be in the nuddy outdoors, you're in luck.
"Some of our higher end Mega Rockstar suites - there's 15 of them on-board - actually have outdoor peekaboo showers where you can take a shower outside and see the ocean around you," he says.
Other exclusive highlights include music curated by Virgin Voyages 'Minister of Music', Mark Ronson. The Grammy Award-winning producer will also be the founding DJ at The Beach Club at Bimini, a stop on Virgin's sailings.
But the highlight according to Nirmal Saverimuttu?
"One of the things I really love is our 'Shake for Champagne' service via our app, so anywhere on-board our ship you can actually shake your phone and we'll have a bottle of Champagne delivered to you within minutes - everyone deserves to be treated like a rockstar," he says.
With all this Champagne, plus the opportunity to dine at 20 restaurants on-board there has to be a bit of balance, luckily wellbeing is a big focus of Virgin Voyages, they like to call it 'Vitamin Sea'.
"We have outdoor workout areas, we have outdoor yoga decks where you can have sunrise and sunset yoga, we've got juice bars," says Saverimuttu.
"One of the things about the ship being adults only that's so interesting is you can actually take space on-board the ship that might have catered to kids and convert them into adult experiences such as an indoor/outdoor workout area including an outdoor boxing ring and free fitness classes."
The Athletic Club includes a boxing ring, gym equipment and oversized gaming for outdoor adult play including seesaws, swings and a life-size chess board. There's also cabanas, including the largest daybed at sea and a bar for post workout hydration and relaxation. If that not enough, you can head to the ship's spa, Redemption to explore the hydrotherapy pool, mud room, salt room, cold plunge pools, quartz beds, and partake in rejuvenating spa treatments. There's even evening spa parties where the thermal suite is transformed into a restorative rave.
The overall aim is to make the ship look and feel like a boutique resort. One big name to add their creativity to a cruise line is British designer, Tom Dixon, OBE. He has been tasked with reimagining the modern cruise experience in some spaces including the VIP rooftop - an outdoor private club with sunken conversation pits and elevated pools. A striking pendant light installation adorns the entryway to Pink Agave, a modern Mexican restaurant Dixon is also designing on-board. Natural materials feature, an elongated curved lounger centres the room with round tables for two offering an intimate dining experience.
"We think people are going to be really blown away by it, " says Saverimuttu.
"At the end of the day, what I like to say is that we're trying to bring the glamour of the radical boutique hotel to the ocean, and hopefully when people get on-board and experience it they'll feel the same way."
Scarlet Lady will commence sea trials next week from Marseilles ahead of her first voyage.
Virgin Voyages currently has four ships on order with master shipbuilder Fincantieri.
Tail to Sail Packages are available through Virgin Australia Holidays now, virginaustralia.com/tailstosails
For more on Virgin Voyages, virginvoyages.com