Virgin Voyages’ first cruises to Australia – the repositioning itineraries of Resilient Lady from Dubai to Singapore and Singapore to Sydney – are already over 90 % sold out, the line has revealed.
According to Vice President Sales Shane Riley, Australians are embracing the brand – so much so that he has confirmed Resilient Lady, the new 2,700-passenger liner that is the second in Sir Richard Branson’s fleet of four, has already booked the next Australian season from December, 2024 to April 2025.
He revealed that the Virgin Voyages brand is undergoing some repositioning itself, after its first “sailors” – Virgin’s name for its guests – maintained it was underselling its value for money and culinary offerings.
It will also be downplaying some of the activities that won it world-wide headlines – like the much-heralded first tattoo parlour at sea. Apparently, some sailors thought they had to have a tattoo to get on board.
“I have always maintained that Australia is prime market for Virgin Voyages. People get Virgin, they love great food and that casual environment. I believe it could be our number one source market.” he told a private dinner at Sails Restaurant on Sydney Habour.
Interest is already strong in the Resilient Lady’s eight cruises out of Melbourne from December to March, even though Virgin Voyages has yet to start advertising in earnest.
Mr Riley cited the high level of inclusions, from specialty dining to activities on board, as a main selling point. And the line was seeing enormous interest from those who had never cruised, which he attributed to the Virgin brand, the new ships and the very different style of cruising Virgin Voyages is offering, including more overnight or late night stays.
Shore excursions were a major point of difference where the virgin attitude was on show. In Barcelona, for instance, your walking tour could be guided by a former homeless person.
Those booking are average age 47 in the UK but 55 in Australia. They are tech savvy sailors seeking relaxed luxury.
Despite the “No kids” rule, multi generational families were a large market. I like the example of one family with two kids, 18, and 19, who sailed into Ibitha on a Friday night. The kids went off to see Calvin Harris while the parents went to have dinner in the Old Town, and they came together afterwards. It’s a great example of how families can travel together and still have their own interests.”
The brand is position between upper premium and luxury, with Celebrity Cruises a competitor.
But Mr Riley maintained hotels were the real competition, as only five per cent of the population cruises and so 95 per cent of travellers were potential sailors.
And in more news about Virgin Voyages, their two vessels swept the board, taking out all 5 awards in the large ship category for the Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Awards this year.
The line said: “We’re the first brand in history to do so. For those not familiar, this is like the Oscars for cruise vacations.”
They won best line overall, best service, best dining, best cabins and the best value for money.