Start-up cruise line Virgin Voyages delays launch due to coronavirus

Mar 12, 2020

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Virgin Voyages is joining Princess Cruises and Viking in suspending operations due to the new coronavirus.

The Richard Branson-backed start-up cruise line on Thursday announced it would push back the maiden voyage of its first ship, Scarlet Lady, to Aug. 7.

Scarlet Lady had been scheduled to sail its first “sneak-a-peek” voyage with paying passengers out of Miami on March 26, just two weeks from today.

All sailings scheduled through early August have been canceled.

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“The current global health crisis is understandably making many people rethink upcoming travel plans,” the line said in a statement. “While timing isn’t right to launch our first ship right now, we look forward to welcoming everyone on Scarlet Lady later this year.”

Virgin noted there had been no health concerns on the vessel. The ship was completed at a shipyard in Italy several weeks ago and has been working its way to Miami.

Related: As coronavirus spreads, more ports turns away cruise ships

Virgin said pre-inaugural events to showcase the ship that had been scheduled for this month now will take place in July.

Virgin said passengers on one of the canceled sailings can choose between a full refund or a credit for a future cruise. If they choose the credit, they will get 200% of the amount they paid to apply to a future sailing. Passengers also can get up to $500 in onboard credit if they rebook a sailing before June 30.

Those who choose a refund will get a 25% credit toward a future cruise in addition to all their money back.

Related: The extreme measures cruise lines are taking as coronavirus spreads 

“We know many of you are very excited to sail on Scarlet Lady, and we can tell you after spending time on board, she has captured all of our hearts,” Richard Branson said in a joint statement with Virgin Voyages CEO Tom McAlpin. “But at this time, much of our attention is focused, rightly, on the current global health crisis.”

Visit TPG’s guide to all coronavirus news and updates

Branson and McAlpin apologized to those who were willing to go ahead with the line’s first sailings in the coming weeks.

“For those who would have sailed regardless of the global headlines, we appreciate this will be disappointing news,” they said in the statement. “We are so grateful for your belief in us, and we hope you will join us when the time is right.”

Virgin had been promising to shake things up in the cruise world this spring with the arrival of Scarlet Lady. Able to carry 2,770 passengers at double occupancy and 17 decks high, the vessel is designed to cater to a hipster crowd with everything from a tattoo parlor to drag-queen brunches and a colorful karaoke lounge. To ensure a proper party vibe, it’s also a kid-free travel zone, with a minimum age to sail of 18.

Virgin is going after travelers who might think themselves too cool to cruise. To that end, the ship has no buffets, no dress codes and no big Broadway-style theater shows. For entertainment, expect interactive dance parties, DJ sets and “microplays” instead, plus late-night games of dodgeball. Suites have a rock-star theme.

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Feature image by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.

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