To say Virgin Voyages is eager to introduce itself would be an understatement. The new cruise line was just about to launch its first ship — Scarlet Lady — in Miami when the COVID-19 pandemic brought the travel industry to a screeching halt in 2020.
Now, Virgin is looking to make a splash, not only with Scarlet Lady in the Caribbean, but also with her sister ship — Valiant Lady — coming to the Mediterranean. Two additional vessels are set to follow.
Each 110,000-gross-ton ship will carry 2,770 guests and feature amenities such as RockStar Quarters (aka suites), more than 20 dining options including The Galley food hall and an onboard record shop dubbed Voyage Vinyl for analog music enthusiasts.
Scarlet Lady will also be an adults-only ship, solely carrying passengers 18 and older.
Here, John Diorio, associate vice president of North American sales for the line, explains more about the Virgin Voyages brand and how it plans to approach “cruising” differently — such as by eschewing the traditional term altogether.
Diorio spoke about the company’s overall approach, upcoming health and safety measures, and its new online learning platform, Seacademy, which consists of four levels (ranging from violet to gold) that educate travel advisors on Virgin’s destinations, shoreside experiences, onboard events and much more.
What is the latest timeline for Virgin Voyages’ launch of Scarlet Lady and Valiant Lady?
We announced new sail dates in December for both Scarlet Lady and her sister ship, Valiant Lady. Scarlet Lady’s new sail date is now slated for May 9, 2021, with Valiant Lady to follow on Nov. 14, 2021.
Why does Virgin refer to its travel advisor partners as First Mates?
A First Mate is the right hand of the captain and his or her most trusted partner. We felt there was no better way to explain how much we rely on the strength of our partnership with travel advisors than to refer to them as our First Mates. We have done a lot of research with advisors and believe that we’re not only bringing an “epic sea change” [as Virgin refers to its mission] to our Sailors, but to our First Mates as well.
How will Seacademy help First Mates better sell the product to Virgin’s first and future guests?
We surveyed our First Mates last summer, and more than 96% shared with us that they wanted to see an e-learning platform from Virgin Voyages. The Seacademy platform allows First Mates to learn at their own pace, while helping to build their confidence in our products and experiences.
We’ve also added an incentive program. If travel advisors complete our first tier by Jan. 31, 2021, they will get to sail with us in 2021. This platform serves as another way to learn about the product and be able to sell it to future guests.
What is Virgin’s policy on commissions overall and non-commissionable fees (NCFs) specifically?
As part of the Virgin Voyages “Brilliant To Do Business With” campaign, we now pay 16% commission on the voyage fare, 10% commission on all pre-voyage sales and do not have NCFs that dilute an advisor’s earning potential. This isn’t a promotion; this is how we do business.
What other incentives are there for First Mates to learn more about Virgin Voyages?
With Seacademy, as we roll out new learning levels, our First Mates can earn some additional great perks, such as bonus commission, exclusive First Mates rates and onboard credit (aka Sailor Loot).
What kind of enhanced health and safety protocols are expected on Virgin Voyages?
We have put together what we refer to as our “Voyage Well” plan, which outlines all of our health and safety protocols that will inform the Sailor experience. These measures include testing, masks, physical distancing, ventilation, medical capabilities and shore excursions.
In addition, we’ve partnered with AtmosAir Solutions. This ventilation system is a proactive system that uses bipolar ionization technology to combat viruses before they reach surfaces.
We are, of course, always revisiting these safety measures based on new information and recommendations from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health officials.
How do recent vaccine developments affect the brand’s plans?
We’re very encouraged by the news of the vaccines and are happy to see the rollout in both the U.S. and abroad.
With that, we’re continuing to work closely with CDC and the industry to develop plans for the safest way to resume cruise travel. Keeping our crew and Sailors safe is the most important thing for us.