Start-up cruise line Virgin Voyages delays launch due to coronavirus

Mar 12, 2020

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Virgin Voyages is joining Princess Cruises and Viking in suspending operations due to the new coronavirus.

The Richard Branson-backed start-up cruise line on Thursday announced it would push back the maiden voyage of its first ship, Scarlet Lady, to 7 August.

Scarlet Lady had been scheduled to sail its first “sneak-a-peek” voyage with paying passengers out of Miami on 26 March, just two weeks from today.

All sailings scheduled through early August have been cancelled.

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“The current global health crisis is understandably making many people rethink upcoming travel plans”, the line said in a statement. “While timing isn’t right to launch our first ship right now, we look forward to welcoming everyone on Scarlet Lady later this year”.

Virgin noted there had been no health concerns on the vessel. The ship was completed at a shipyard in Italy several weeks ago and has been working its way to Miami.

Related: As coronavirus spreads, more ports turns away cruise ships

Virgin said pre-inaugural events to showcase the ship that had been scheduled for this month now will take place in July.

Virgin said passengers 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.

“We know many of you are very excited to sail on Scarlet Lady, and we can tell you after spending time on board, she has captured all of our hearts”, Richard Branson said in a joint statement with Virgin Voyages CEO Tom McAlpin. “But at this time, much of our attention is focused, rightly, on the current global health crisis”.

Branson and McAlpin apologized to those who were willing to go ahead with the line’s first sailings in the coming weeks.

“For those who would have sailed regardless of the global headlines, we appreciate this will be disappointing news”, they said in the statement. “We are so grateful for your belief in us, and we hope you will join us when the time is right”.

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Feature image by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.

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