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HomeCruise NewsVirgin Voyages & ITTN in London - "Cruising for the Very First...

Virgin Voyages & ITTN in London – “Cruising for the Very First Time”

Virgin Voyages hosted a glamorous event in the Sea Containers Restaurant in London with top sellers and all the major media companies across the UK and Ireland. ITTN’s Shane Cullen reports on the event with SJ Walker (Director of Sales for the UK) and Matt Lebbern (Sales Manager – EU) and more from the Virgin Voyages team.

Set to make a splash in the Irish Market, Virgin Voyages is a new entrant to the cruise industry having launched the first ship in her fleet in late 2020. Now with a fleet of three ships, she is sailing the Caribbean and the Meditteranean this summer.

The Virgin Story

Virgin Voyages is part of the Virgin Group, the global conglomerate that founder, Sir Richard Branson, established in the 1970s. The name, Virgin, evolved because Brandson and his co-founder Powell were entirely new to business. 

Being new to an industry is not an obstacle and given the success and growth of the most synonymous Virgin brands within the travel industry, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Atlantic Holidays (celebrating their 40th and 39th anniversaries this year). Virgin Voyages is focused on becoming a leader in the cruise market. 

Clean Sweep of the Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Awards

The company has quickly earned her stripes with a clean sweep of the Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Awards in 2023, the first brand to ever do so. Virgin Voyages came away with:

  • Best Overall Cruise Line
  • Best Dining
  • Best Cabins
  • Best Service
  • Best Value-for-Money

The cruise company has also earned Best Cruise Line in the World (Large Ships) with Conde Nast Traveller Readers’ Choice Awards. They boast a 95% satisfaction score and 40% onboard rebooking rate*.

Now That’s Star Power

Forget the starry skies, Virgin Voyages has a whole other level of star power. In March 2022, Virgin announced global superstar, Jennifer Lopez, was an investor and the brand’s “chief entertainment and lifestyle officer”, thus making her the informal godmother to Scarlet Lady and her fleetmates.

Celebrating the Resilient Lady Sailing this Summer

Sir Richard Branson took to the streets of London in a roadworthy Virgin Cruise Ship-shaped coach ahead of an afternoon event in the plush Sea Containers hotel with the team from Virgin Voyages, top sellers and key media contacts.

Nirmal Saverimuttu, CEO of Virgin Voyages

Nirmal Saverimuttu, CEO of Virgin Voyages, thanked the audience for attending, “From all of us here at Virgin Voyages –  thank you so much for your partnership. We’ve had a wonderful day today. Having Richard going out on a bus around London… part of doing that is really making sure we’re investing in the market.”

He continued, “We needed more investment in the market to support our trade partners here. You’ve been brilliant support for all of us and I know we do more to be brilliant support for you going forward and we’ve heard a lot of things we can improve.”

Despite the company’s drive to continuously improve, Nirmal highlighted their significant success, “We were so proud to win every major consumer award last year. We won a lot of trade awards last year. We won our TTG and our Travel Weekly Best Premium Cruise Line award as well. We’re very, very proud of it and I know that’s because of all of you, particularly our trade partners because those awards don’t come lightly. They don’t just come from consumers but from trade partners really supporting the brands. And from everyone at Virgin Voyages, just thank you so much for all you do to support us.”

Sailings from the UK in 2024 – Portsmouth

Nirmal explained “We’re very excited about bringing a ship into the UK later this year. So obviously we’ve got two ships in the summer this year in the med. But I’m very excited to have a ship in the UK here and very excited to be able to bring Richard back to us here… He’s really a hoot actually. He’s very, very proud of the brand, very proud of the service on board, being part of the crew on board. It’s what makes Virgin Voyages just so special”

“We really, really value the partnership with the UK trade in particular. We want to be the most trade-friendly brand out there.”

SJ Walker, Director of Sales for the UK

SJ Walker, Director of Sales for the UK spoke, “So now we would like to touch on the fact that we are brilliant to do business with… We’ve got so many different initiatives in place at the moment”. She detailed several UK-dedicated campaigns such as free balcony upgrades, attractive monetary incentives for each booking made and highlighted the Mediterranean and UK sailings scheduled for 2024. So, not only do we have our very first, UK dedicated campaign with a free balcony upgrade.

Richard Branson – Someone Who Needs No Introduction

Fresh from launching his book “Loosing and Finding My Virginity, Sir Richard Branson took to the stage and addressed the audience.

He explained, “Virgin Voyages epitomises everything about a Virgin company. We took on an industry that none of us liked particularly. Those who’ve been on cruise ships didn’t enjoy them enormously. Those who hadn’t like myself just felt we’d love to create a ship that we’d enjoy to go on. And I remember walking on to our first ship, the first day it came out from Italy and just thinking – Wow – the team have got everything right.”

Instead of One Ship Every 18 Months – 3 Ships Over 18 Months

Despite the covid pandemic impacting the Spice Girls who had been earmarked to launch the brand, he shared “the team got through all that and then finally the ship, set sail, with real people on board. Instead of having one ship every 18 months as we planned, we had three ships over 18 months, and they’ve just done an extraordinary job.

He detailed how travel agents are First Mates with Virgin Voyages and how that strong relationship mirrors the relationship with the travel trade and Virgin Atlantic, launched 40 years ago.

He concluded, “We are incredibly grateful for all of your support: our first mate partners, our trade partners, every single person in this room and be prepared for a couple of surprise and delight moments and the rest of the evening.”

With Virgin Voyages and Virgin points dished out as spot prizes to many of the attendees along with signature Virgin cocktails, it highlighted that Virgin as a brand, knows how to throw a party. With cruise companies continually upping their game in terms of entertainment, service, food and stunning ships, it will be interesting to see Virgin Voyages enter the Irish market.

Relaxed Luxury – “No Stuffiness, Just Premium Service & Endless Options”

The mantra of the event was Relaxed Luxe, aligning to the ethos of their cruise brand. Virgin Voyages has dispensed with buffets and pre-set dining times to bring sailors (guests) fresh flavours and unexpected pairings with made-to-order food from more than twenty unique eateries, all of which are included in their cruise package. Sailors (guests) dine on churrasco steak and lemon cheesecake at The Wake, mezze-style bites and glasses of rosé in the open air of The Dock, or sample a lively Korean BBQ free-for-all at Gunba – all with views of the waves. Described as “no stuffiness, just premium service and endless options”.

I’ve done my fair share of cruise experiences and, as front counter staff, booked my fair share of cruises. I love when everything is just part of the package. It is easier to get that all important “first to cruise”, those holidaymakers tempted to try. No extras, where the initial price doesn’t double by the time you’ve added the essentials. 

Always Included Luxury

With luxurious inclusions on every one of the cruises, Virgin Voyages has their “Always Included Luxury” — which means that on every single cruise, Virgin Voyages includes dining at the 20+ eateries, entertainment, gratuities, wifi, unlimited fitness classes as well as still and sparkling water in the voyage fare.

Her fleet sets sail from homeports in Barcelona, Spain and Piraeus (Athens), Greece taking in the likes of the Isles of Portugal, the vivacious nightlife of Croatia or late-night stays and overnights in Ibiza or Mykonos. Across the pond, the Caribbean itineraries sail from Miami and San Juan to ports across the Caribbean. In addition, all the Miami voyages feature late-night stays at the Virgin Voyages very own Beach Club on the Caribbean Island of Bimini.

*Virginvoyages.com

Shane Cullen
Shane Cullen
Shane Cullen has been managing director of a media production studio for nearly 20 years working on projects for a global clientele. He has worked in the travel industry for over a decade and as a travel journalist since 2015. He is passionate about travel, film & photography. He also has a keen interest in emerging technology.
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