Virgin Voyages’ CEO McAlpin hands over the reins

Nirmal Saverimuttu tapped to succeed cruise line's founding leader

Nirmal Saverimuttu, Virgin Voyages new CEO

Virgin Voyages has closed on a US$550 million capital raise to accelerate its growth plans. The new funding raise will enable Virgin Voyages to strengthen its financial position while supporting the brand’s rapid expansion into international markets.

As Virgin Voyages looks ahead to its next phase of growth, the Company announced founding Chief Executive Officer, Tom McAlpin, is retiring as CEO and transitioning to the role of Chairman of the Board of Directors. He will continue to support the brand and team at an executive and industry level. Nirmal Saverimuttu, who currently serves as President and Chief Experience Officer, has been appointed the new Chief Executive Officer.

McAlpin said he was proud of all the achievements of the Virgin Voyages Crew, and believes “it is the right time to step aside as CEO.

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“Nirmal is a great friend and experienced leader who lives and breathes the Virgin Voyages culture. I know he will help take this amazing brand and Crew to new heights, and I look forward to continuing to support the leadership team as Chairman,” McAlpin said.

Virgin Voyages officially launched in August 2021 and currently operates three ships, servicing the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and by the end of the year, Australia and New Zealand. The brand was named No. 1 in the mega-ship category in the 2023 Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards and a recent clean-sweep of the five cruise categories in the 2023 Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Awards.

“With this new investment alongside our partners at Virgin Group and Bain Capital, we believe the Company is on strong footing to capitalise on its differentiated product and value proposition in the growing cruise industry,” said Aaron Rosen, Partner and Co-Portfolio Manager of Special Opportunities in the Ares Private Equity Group.

“We believe that Virgin Voyages continues to be at the forefront of industry growth, and we look forward to working with Tom, Nirmal and the entire management team on this next chapter,” added Jordan Smith, Partner in the Ares Private Equity Group.

“The success of this capital raise shows how much Virgin Voyages has achieved and how much further it can go. We are very proud of the experience that Virgin Voyages has created and continues to deliver every day across its fleet,” said Josh Bayliss, CEO of the Virgin Group.

Saverimuttu was a founding leader of Virgin Voyages and joined the business as Chief Commercial Officer in 2014 from the Virgin Group after successfully closing the first investment round. In early 2021, he took on the expanded role of President and Chief Experience Officer.

“I want to send our deepest thanks, on behalf of all our Crew and the Board, to Tom for his leadership and passion for the business. We are so grateful for all he has done and are thrilled to continue to partner with him as our Chairman,” said Saverimuttu.

“Virgin Voyages is a beloved brand because of our Crew’s dedication and passion for delivering epic experiences for our guests. I am looking forward to working with the Ares team and our existing investors to deliver on our growth and expansion plans as we look ahead to our very bright future,” he added.

Brilliant Lady launch delay

Due to unexpected construction, supply chain and staffing challenges, Virgin Voyages has delayed the introduction into service of its fourth ship, Brilliant Lady. The cruise line is evaluating new possible launch dates when it is able to deliver the standards the brand’s Sailors have come to expect.

Meanwhile, Virgin Voyages has introduced 19 new ports and 27 new itineraries available through April 2025. The new offerings feature nine new ports of call in Australia, new seaside gems in the Caribbean and a return to the UK.

“Over the past year, our repeat Sailor rates have tripled and our loyal travellers have been asking for more destinations to visit. We have listened to their calls and delivered in a big way with new ports, fresh itineraries and more amazing experiences,” said Shane Riley, Vice President, International Sales and Marketing, Virgin Voyages.

“For Aussie sailors, we are excited to add nine new ports to our cruises down under. From the end of 2024, Sailors can choose from 15 new itineraries and now visit some of Australia’s most stunning destinations including Port Douglas, Kangaroo Island and Broome.”

The Virgin Voyages’ fleet will offer 63 itineraries globally, among the new options are a so called “Seachange Series.” These reimagined repositioning voyages offer more opportunities for travellers to extend their holidays and explore the world at large.

After returning from her inaugural season in Australia, Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady will sail three itineraries from her homeport in Athens from May through July 2024.

On the agenda will be a “Greek Island Glow” to the islands of Santorini and Mykonos; “Adriatic Sea and Greek Gems,” sailing along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast before stopping in Kotor and Corfu; and “Starry Nights in Greece & Croatia,” which offers a mix of the other two seven-night itineraries.

Back by popular demand, Virgin Voyages will also return to its British brand roots with a series of three-to-six-night sailings aboard Resilient Lady. Kicking off in mid-August 2024 and running through September, highlights include “English Sights and European Delights,” which docks in Le Verdon (Bordeaux), La Coruna and Bilbao. The cities of Amsterdam and Bruges are also in the mix.

Resilient Lady’s European schedule also includes two repositioning voyages from Portsmouth to Barcelona, adding Morocco to the brand’s roster of new destinations. On the heels of this voyage, Resilient Lady closes her Med season with a Barcelona to Athens voyage, merging the best of the brand’s signature “Irresistible Med” and “Greek Island Glow” itineraries and introducing Catania, Sicily as well.

Resilient Lady will thenset off on a 44-night repositioning from Athens to Australia in October 2024 for a second season, revealed first by LATTE in January and confirmed first by LATTE in March. Once Down Under, Sailors have the option of 15 new itineraries and 10 new ports including Broome, Albany, Adelaide, Newcastle, Mooloolaba, Port Douglas, Willis Island, Brisbane, Eden and Kangaroo Island.

Starting Monday, the new itineraries will be available to view and book.

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