The hottest new cruise line of the decade is shipwrecked until at least October

May 22, 2020

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You’ll now have to wait until at least October for a getaway on what some have called the hottest new cruise ship of the year.

Start-up cruise line Virgin Voyages on Wednesday pushed back the official debut of its first vessel, Scarlet Lady, by two more months, to 16 October.

The Richard Branson-backed cruise operator cited the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The delay isn’t the first for the ship. Scarlet Lady initially had been scheduled to sail its first “sneak-a-peek” voyages with paying passengers out of Miami in March of this year. But just days before the trips were set to begin, the line postponed the vessel’s maiden voyage until 7 August.

The initial postponement came as the new coronavirus was just beginning to spread widely around the world.

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All sailings on Scarlet Lady now have been cancelled through mid-October.

Virgin said customers with bookings on one of the cancelled sailings can choose between a full refund or a credit for a future cruise. If they choose the credit, they will get 200% of the amount they paid to apply to a future sailing. Passengers also can get up to $500 in onboard credit if they rebook a sailing before 30 June.

Those who choose a refund will get a 25% credit toward a future cruise in addition to all their money back.

Such refunds and credit terms, notably, are more generous than what we’ve seen in recent months from other cruise lines.

Virgin Voyages said its newly planned startup in October will be a “soft opening” during which onboard protocols on Scarlet Lady will be adjusted due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Among planned changes, the number of passengers (called “sailors” by the line) allowed to book cabins on the ship will be limited “to support social spacing,” the line said.

(Photo courtesy of Virgin Voyages)
Scarlet Lady, the first ship from start-up line Virgin Voyages, originally was scheduled to begin sailings out of Miami in March 2020. (Photo courtesy of Virgin Voyages)

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Virgin Voyages said the official naming ceremony and maiden voyage for Scarlet Lady will be postponed until early 2021.

“Virgin Voyages is looking forward to welcoming sailors aboard Scarlet Lady to experience sailing the Virgin way”, the line said in a statement. “From stunning, innovative design to world-class dining, entertainment and destinations done differently, Virgin Voyages will offer an exceptional sailing experience”.

Virgin Voyages said it soon would share more details on its plans to protect passengers and crew from illness when Scarlet Lady begins operations.

Virgin is among a growing number of cruise lines cancelling sailings as far out as October. Princess Cruises and Holland America have cancelled many of their sailings into the fall, and Windstar Cruises recently announced that three of its six ships wouldn’t resume sailing until 2021. Other lines, such as Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises, still are targeting an August comeback for at least some ships.

Related: Could cruising resume in August? That’s the plan at Carnival 

Virgin Voyages has been promising to shake things up in the cruise world with the arrival of Scarlet Lady. Able to carry 2,770 passengers at double occupancy and 17 decks high, the vessel is designed to cater to a hipster crowd with everything from a tattoo parlour to drag queen brunches and a colourful karaoke lounge. To ensure a proper party vibe, it’s also a kid-free travel zone, with a minimum age to sail of 18.

Virgin is going after travellers who might think themselves too cool to cruise. To that end, the ship has no buffets, no dress codes and no big Broadway-style theatre shows. For entertainment, expect interactive dance parties, DJ sets and “microplays” instead, plus late-night games of dodgeball. Suites have a rock-star theme.

Feature image courtesy of Virgin Voyages.

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