Virgin Voyages delays next cruise ship launch by nearly a year

Jun 8, 2022

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Virgin Voyages will be a two-ship cruise line for nearly a year longer than expected.

The start-up cruise brand backed by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group said on Wednesday it was pushing back the debut of its next ship, Resilient Lady, from mid-August of this year to May 2023.

The Florida-based line cited a mix of challenges affecting its business for the decision, including supply chain and staffing issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also hinted at demand issues related to the war in Ukraine.

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“Despite making tremendous strides alongside the cruise industry as a whole, the brand is not immune to the global challenges the world is facing,” the line said in a statement sent to TPG. “This includes supply chain obstacles, a level of regional uncertainty for international travelers in countries in East Europe, crewing challenges based on government regulations and restrictive [COVID-19] entry requirements back into the U.S.”

Virgin Voyages debuted in late 2021 with a single ship, Scarlet Lady, and added a second ship, Valient Lady, in March of this year. The two vessels currently sail in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, respectively.

Resilient Lady was scheduled to join Valiant Lady in the Mediterranean in August with sailings out of Athens.

All three ships are sister vessels that can carry 2,770 passengers at double occupancy.

Scarlet Lady began sailing out of Miami in October. (Photo courtesy of Virgin Voyages)

The debut of Virgin Voyages in 2021 was one of the most anticipated cruise industry events of the past decade. Since plans for Virgin Voyages (initially called Virgin Cruises) were first announced in 2014, the brand had promised to shake things up in the cruise world with a lively, adult-focused onboard experience it said would be unlike anything else in cruising.

Related: Why you’ve got it wrong if you think Virgin Voyages is just for millennials

But the line’s arrival came at a tough time for cruising and the travel businesses in general. Originally scheduled for early 2020, the initial debut of the line was pushed back by more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced all major cruise lines to shut down operations for months. Like many lines, Virgin Voyages has struggled to build demand over the past year as cruise lines and cruisers have only slowly returned to the high seas.

Still, in a statement accompanying Wednesday’s announcement, Virgin Voyages president Tom McAlpin suggested things were looking up for the new line.

“We’ve accomplished so much this past year, and the future for us is exciting,” he said. “The momentum that we’re seeing with Scarlet and Valiant Lady is incredible.”

McAlpin suggested bookings had been strong of late, a good sign for the line and the cruise industry in general.

“The travel industry is recovering well, and this month, we’ve seen record bookings, a significant increase in onboard spend, and we’re currently seeking to close out our next round of funding, which sets us up for continued growth,” he said.

Virgin Voyages was just one of two cruise lines to push back the debut of a new ship on Wednesday. Luxury line Seabourn on Wednesday also announced that it had delayed the unveiling of a new ship, the 264-passenger Seabourn Venture — albeit by just a few days. Seabourn said Seabourn Venture will now debut on July 27 — 13 days later than planned. It’s the third delay for Seabourn Venture, which originally was scheduled to begin sailing in 2021.

Several other lines have also postponed the debuts of new ships in recent months. Startup luxury cruise operator The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection recently delayed the unveiling of its much-awaited first vessel, the 298-passenger Evrima, from May to August (the sixth delay for the ship over the past two years). Another relative newcomer to cruising, “luxe adventure” brand Atlas Ocean Voyages, recently pushed back the debut of a new vessel from July to October.

This summer’s unveiling of the first new Disney Cruise Line vessel in a decade, Disney Wish, has also been delayed slightly.

The brands cited a mix of issues including shipyard delays.

Virgin Voyages on Wednesday said Resilient Lady would remain at the Fincantieri shipyard in Genoa, Italy, where it had been under construction over the past year.

A fourth ship for Virgin Voyages on order from Fincantieri, Brilliant Lady, still is scheduled to debut soon after the arrival of Resilient Lady, the line said.

As a result of the delay, all Resilient Lady voyages scheduled between mid-August and early May 2023 have been canceled.

Virgin Voyages said passengers booked on the canceled sailings could choose between a full refund plus a future cruise credit in the amount of 25% of what they had paid, or a bigger future cruise credit in the amount of 200% of what they had paid.

Passengers who choose the 200% credit option and rebook in 2022 will also be offered a second, complimentary voyage (excluding taxes and fees).

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Featured photo of courtesy of Virgin Voyages. 

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