Last week I had the pleasure and honor to be included among only 200 travel agents from around the world to attend the Virgin Voyages “Set Sale” launch party in New York City. Virgin Voyages is the latest venture of famous entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group. If you know anything about Branson and his ventures, Virgin Voyages promises to defy the status-quo of the cruise industry.
Whether true or not, the cruise industry evokes images of old people, shuffleboard, buffet lines, cheesy entertainment, overly-sweetened daquiri drinks, gambling, and binge drinking. While some cruise experiences certainly live up to these stereotypes, there are many cruise experiences out there that offer the opposite and much varied experience. That being said, it is important to work with a travel advisor when planning a cruise for the first time, so that they can match you with the right cruise line, ship, itinerary, and sailing date – all factors that have major impacts on the overall cruise experience.
Regardless of the stereotypes, there are some common themes among the cruise industry (of course there are variances by cruise line, but these are generally true): buffets, lack of overnight stays at ports of call, gentle/ family-friendly entertainment, “nickel and diming”, a prevalence of retirees and/or families with children (few passengers are really in-between). Not that any of these things are bad! I just want to preface what I’m about to describe about the Virgin Voyages experience with what is typical, because Virgin Voyages will be anything, but typical.
Virgin Voyages seeks to completely change the cruising experience! Virgin wants to encourage those that never would have even considered a cruise before to give it a try. They want to bring people that may have had a less-than-desirable cruise experience onboard and set it right for them. They promise to provide an experience that brings all of the best elements of vacation onboard a cruise ship.
Among the many differentiating qualities of Virgin Voyages are:
- “Unexpected Entertainment”
- Current DJs (Mark Ronson will oversee the training of the Virgin Beach Club DJ rotation)
- Drag performances
- No Broadway revues
- The acrobatics of 7 Fingers
- The theatrics of PigPen Theatre Co. and Randy Weiner
- Participatory entertainment such as Confidential: The Game and participatory dance parties such as the Dance Cartel
- Virgin’s private 8-acre Beach Club in Bimini, Bahamas that they describe as, “It’s like if Mykonos had a love affair with St. Tropez – the energy intentionally amplifying as the day goes on.”
- Wide variety of made-to-order (all-included) dining options
- No extra surcharges for specialty dining
- Part cooking school, part restaurant at the Test Kitchen
- Veggie-focused menu and Drag queen brunch at Razzle Dazzle
- Korean BBQ at Gunbae
- Mezcal street food at Pink Agave
- Al fresco dining at The Dock
- Rather than a buffet, they will have a “floating market of food-truck inspired international vendors” at The Galley
- 24/7 in-room delivery
- Old-style seafood and steakhouse at the WAKE
- After you’ve indulged, you may want to work out or take care of yourself…
- Outdoor gym with boxing ring, cross-fit-style equipment, and more
- Hammam steam room treatments, thermal treatments, and mud and salt rooms at Redemption Spa
- Dedicated outdoor yoga and meditation space at the Crow’s Nest
- Other things you may not have even imagined…
- A tattoo parlor, Squid Ink
- Gratuities are includedin your cruise fare (This is actually a huge one – some cruise lines charge as much as $20 per person per day in gratuities. This means that Virgin is not depending on its guests to adequately compensate its crew. It is already taking care of them. And, you won’t have an astonishing line item on your bill at the end of the cruise!)
- Some overnights in port!This is almost unheard of in the cruise industry, because (SECRET TO BE REVEALED) cruises often can’t operate casinos until they are in international waters, so there is incentive for them to be away from the port as much as possible…READ: cruise lines’ top money makers onboard the ship are: (1) booze; and (2) casinos.
- Some itineraries include overnights in Havana, Cuba. At this point in time, cruising is the best way to see Cuba because of their limited lodging availability and because of the US Department of Treasury’s 12 categoriesof authorized travel to Cuba.
- Fan of Richard Branson? I am!You can celebrate Branson’s 70thbirthday with himon a 5-day cruise in 2020 Miami – Beach Club, Bimini – Cuba – Miami. Sign me up!
Now that you know how different a Virgin Voyages experience will be from other cruise experiences, here’s the five kinds of people that are perfect for a Virgin Voyages experience:
The Culturally-Curious –Does the combination of drag brunches, onboard tattoo parlors, veggie-forward dining facilities, overnight stops in Havana, hammam steam rooms, outdoor meditation/yoga spaces, and any of the other *different* aspects of the Virgin Voyages pique your interest? You should definitely check this out. If nothing else, you can say that you’ve tried it and you’re almost guaranteed to experience at least one thing that is more than *interesting* during this cruise.
Need to Steam it Up –This is an adults-only experience. As such, the entertainment will be sexy. There are reportedly “no limits”. Now I’m not saying this is going to be a Hedonism experience; however, all the senses will be engaged and if you are looking for a sexy way to get away with a loved-one, there are few more promising options than this.
Anti-Cruisers –Not to be confused with anti-vaxxers, this cruise is designed specifically with the best hospitality, tourism, dining, and entertainment experiences in mind, not with other cruise experiences in mind! The leadership group wants to prove that cruising doesn’t have to be what it currently is. Cruising can be all that you love about land-based travel, but on a ship.
Bachelor(ette)/ Girlcation/ Mancation Groups –There are so many room configurations on this ship – one inside room with 4 bunk beds, a couple of different solo-traveler rooms. This fact alone lends itself to being perfect for groups. However, add in the entertainment, the wellness opportunities, the itineraries, and the overall vibe, this is a perfect opportunity for group of women or men to celebrate together!
Rebels –Virgin Voyages even describes itself as “Rebellious Luxe” to indicated that they are offering a luxurious experience, without the pretense and a bit of rebellion/fun injected. Whether you think it’ll be *ironic* to go on a cruise, or you admire the rebellious spirit of Richard Branson, or maybe you want to throw off your daily/ humdrum business casual attire and put on our wildest ensemble and let your freak flag fly, you should definitely give Virgin Cruises a try!
Have I sufficiently inspired you to try this new “anti-cruise” experience out? Great! Get started planning your Virgin Voyages sailing for 2020 now! (These inaugural sailings will SELL OUT fast!)
Fill out our Virgin Voyages form here:
As an added bonus, we’re so excited and have so much faith in this new travel opportunity that we’re waiving our normal cruise planning fee of $200 per household*. Especially, for those cruise virgins out there, we want you to give this a try and feel like you have nothing to lose and so much to gain!
In the meantime…
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*In lieu of a cruise planning fee we will require a plan-to-go deposit in order to secure your booking (which will be applied to the cruise fare).