The much-hyped and long-planned inaugural season of Virgin Voyages has been suspended until 15 August 2020, as the new cruise company becomes the latest to shutter its operation due to the coronavirus situation. In the past 20 hours, both Viking and Princess Cruises have also paused their entire fleets for 50 and 60 days respectively in response to COVID-19.
The move comes after Virgin Voyages’ maiden ship, Scarlet Lady, bypassed an originally scheduled showcase tour in New York City last week ahead of a series of pre-inaugural cruises – dubbed Sneak-a-Peek sailings – from Miami that were to begin on 26 March. Scarlet Lady’s inaugural cruise was to depart on 1 April, 2020.
Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Voyages’ CEO Tom McAlpin said in a joint message that the “current global health crisis” has seen many people “rethink upcoming cruise plans”.
“We have spent time talking to our team, future sailors and travel partners as we navigate this challenging moment.
“As a brand, Virgin has always championed our customers, and, most importantly, listened to them. With those principles in mind and based on your feedback, our team has made the very difficult decision to postpone the Showcase Tour launch and inaugural sailing season for Scarlet Lady until 15 July 2020, with our Maiden Voyage taking place 7 August 2020,” Branson and McAlpin said.
For those who would have sailed regardless of the global headlines, we appreciate this will be disappointing news. We are so grateful for your belief in us, and we hope you will join us when the time is right.
The strategy will see Virgin Voyages offers booked guests options including a full refund and a voyage credit to “extra special bonuses” to those who rebook.
The message emphasised again that the cruise line has “absolutely no health issues” on board Scarlet Lady, and that elevated protocols have been adopted to ensure passenger wellbeing comes first.
“Despite what we are facing, travel will always be a way for us to connect with one another and open ourselves up to new ideas and ways of thinking. So while this isn’t the time for us to meet on the spectacular Scarlet Lady, it will be soon,” the Virgin Voyages executives said.