Start-up cruise line Virgin Voyages gives up on a summer debut in Miami

Apr 7, 2021

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It hasn’t been a good month for new cruise lines hoping to start up operations.

Just days after start-up brand The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection announced another lengthy delay for its first sailings, cruise newcomer Virgin Voyages also has pushed back its official debut in a significant way.

Virgin Voyages on Wednesday said it had canceled all the initial sailings of its first vessel, Scarlet Lady, out of Miami, through Sept. 17. Like The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, Virgin Voyages cited the ongoing coronavirus pandemic for its latest delay.

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Until Wednesday, the ship had been scheduled to debut in Miami in July.

Virgin Voyages has now delayed its official debut five times. Scarlet Lady initially was scheduled to sail its first “sneak-a-peek” voyages with paying passengers out of Miami in March of 2020. 

All of Scarlet Lady’s delays have been blamed on COVID-19, which has shut down most cruising around the world for the past 13 months.

In addition to delaying Scarlet Lady’s debut five times over the past year, Virgin Voyages has pushed back the unveiling of its second vessel, Valiant Lady, by six months, to Nov. 14.

The new Virgin Voyages ship Scarlet Lady. (Photo courtesy of Virgin Voyages)

Currently under construction at a shipyard in Italy, Valiant Lady will be similar in size and layout to Scarlet Lady. It originally had been scheduled to begin sailing in Europe in May before moving to the Caribbean in November. It’s now scheduled to skip the European deployment and head straight to the Caribbean after its construction is completed.

Virgin Voyages has been offering customers with bookings on canceled sailings a choice of a full refund or a credit for a future cruise. Those who choose the credit have been getting 200% of the amount they paid to apply to a future sailing. Those who choose a refund have been getting a 25% credit toward a future cruise in addition to all their money back.

Such refunds and credit terms, notably, are more generous than what we’ve seen over the past year from other cruise lines.

The latest delay from Virgin Voyages comes as a growing number of cruise lines begin announcing definitive restart plans for summer cruises in North America and Europe — albeit with very few ships. But many lines including Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line and Oceania Cruises also have canceled a large number of cruises into the summer and beyond.

The debut of Virgin Voyages was one of the most anticipated cruise industry events of 2020. The line had been promising to shake things up in the cruise world with the arrival of Scarlet Lady.

Able to carry 2,770 passengers at double occupancy and 17 decks high, Scarlet Lady was designed to cater to a hipster crowd with everything from a tattoo parlor and drag queen brunches to a colorful karaoke lounge. To ensure a proper party vibe, it also was designed a kid-free travel zone, with no passengers under the age of 18.

Virgin Voyages is going after travelers who might think themselves too cool to cruise. To that end, Scarlet Lady has no buffets, no dress codes and no big Broadway-style theater shows. For entertainment, travelers will instead find interactive dance parties, DJ sets and “microplays,” plus late-night games of dodgeball.

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Featured image of courtesy of Virgin Voyages

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