Cruise line offers first ships for adults only
By CHABELI HERRERA | Miami Herald | Published: November 9, 2017
After a month promising a "shiptease" of its upcoming vessels, Virgin Voyages finally stripped down Tuesday and, well, this one is not for the kids.
That's because when the new ships launch in 2020, they will be adults-only, for travelers ages 18 and up, making them the first truly adult-only cruise ships in the world. While other lines may cater primarily to adults, they don't outright ban children.
The reveal came during the Plantation, Fla.-based company's keel laying ceremony for the first of its three, 2,860-passenger vessels in Genoa, Italy. In Virgin's typically flashy style, Virgin Group founder and billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson and Tom McAlpin, president and CEO of Virgin Voyages, were lowered from a crane to deliver the news.
The adults-only decision was based on responses from a public input period in which Virgin reached out to travelers for tips on what to include in the new vessels.
"What we heard loud and clear was that people wanted to be able to set sail in an environment that felt more elevated," said McAlpin, who, ironically, spent four years as president of family focused Disney Cruise Line.
McAlpin said the line wanted to design something that was for "rejuvenation, reflection and transformation," but "without having to worry about the unpredictability of kids, whether they are your kids or someone else's."
That puts the new vessel in a completely different space from its competitors in the mid-size cruise ship market, including Carnival Corp.'s Holland America Line and Crystal Cruises, neither of which is exclusively for adults. Some other lines have adult-only areas or sail without children's areas or programs, but this will be the first strict no-child policy.
Whether the policy proves successful is yet to be seen.
"With ships of this size, it's going to be difficult to be successful without families," said cruise expert Stewart Chiron.
Until Tuesday, the cruise line had been very hush-hush about the features of its new vessels. Previously it had announced only that it was changing the name of the cruise line to Virgin Voyages and partnering with Climeon, technology that reduces carbon dioxide emissions by converting the heat generated by ship engines into electricity for onboard use.
The first renderings of the ships show a sleek, yacht-like exterior style, made to look like the vessels are "gliding" in the water, McAlpin said. Instead of the brand's signature red, Virgin opted for a silver-gray exterior, but with touches of red across the ship, particularly in a new mermaid logo on the hull.
They're also designed so that travelers have a connection with the ocean: 86 percent of cabins will feature sea terrace and 93 percent of cabins will have ocean views, McAlpin said.
The funnel has been designed to be incorporated into the shape of the ship, rather than to stick up from the top of the vessel. The back of the ship has a tower-like shape with an open terrace, reminiscent of MSC Cruises' Seaside, AIDAprima and Norwegian Cruise Line's upcoming Leonardo project.
On the environmental side, Virgin announced Tuesday it signed an agreement with Scanship, a company that provides advanced waste management systems, to explore a new technology that could significantly reduce ocean discharge by turning waste into energy.
Virgin has not yet revealed images of the cabins or interiors. The line has promised "no gimmicks," and "exciting ideas in entertainment and music ... with a strong variety of programming options."
The first Virgin Voyages ship, which is still unnamed, is set to sail from PortMiami in 2020. The line is taking suggestions for names for what it calls its "Lady Ships," as well as $500 fully refundable deposits for travelers who want a spot in the pre-sales for the first voyages.
"She will be the most recognizable ship no matter what port she is anywhere in the world," McAlpin promised. "We want people to get the sense immediately that we are doing something different here."