In typical Branson style, he hosted a series of events to welcome his new pride and joy to Australia.
Onboard on his first day in Sydney, not only did he talked about his new lady, but the troubles he has with trying to get the ship a berth in the Emerald City.
When asked about the decision to homeport in Melbourne over Sydney, both Branson and Saverimuttu said, “It’s easier to go into space than find a berth in Sydney at the moment”.
“We value the relationship we have with Melbourne and it would be lovely to be able to operate a ship out of both Sydney and Melbourne.
“Maybe one day, there will be room for us in both ports. We are here for this season and the next, and we’re going to see how things go to see if we can continue to invest in the market.”
But regardless, Branson says he is determined to get Virgin Voyages’ Resilient Lady into Sydney for more slots.
Over the last week, he held multiple parties celebrating her arrival.
He hosted his famous Scarlet Night where Natalie Imbruglia, The Veronicas and Natalie Bassingthwaite will be joining the festivities.
Just a few weeks back, he had given every passenger flying between Melbourne and Hobart a free cruise on his ship.
With parties, sailings and a few bottles of champagne scheduled, it’s Branson’s flamboyant way of showcasing Virgin’s Resilient Lady to the Australian public.
A little party never hurt anybody.
But Branson’s love for Australia is deep-rooted after launching Virgin Blue (now Virgin Australia) over 20 years ago. The airline is now a staple for the Australian traveller, considering it started with two aircrafts on a single route.
Thus, his love for the Land Down Under spurred the decision to bring a Virgin Voyages ship here.
And he says the ship was made for the Australian market.
“Virgin has a long history in Australia, going right back to when I was a teenager. So I think the Virgin brand resonates well with Australians as they trust it. They know the quality of any Virgin company is going to be different and more special,” said Branson.
“I love coming to Australia. I prodded our team and said we should get down to Australia after Covid. We think the market is big enough and so far, we’ve had good bookings.”
Branson said with the dining, entertainment and accommodation options, Virgin Voyages is well suited for the Australian market.
And even those looking for love.
“I think there are a lot of people who have children that might want a fun break. And there are a lot of people who don’t have children who might want to cruise. And there are also a lot of people who are looking for partners to have children,” he said.
“We even have a dating service on our ships. We believe the Australian cruiser serves a better cruising experience.”
Virgin Voyages CEO Nirmal Nirmal Saverimuttu said Virgin Voyages was born to be the antithesis of everything Branson hates about cruising.
“A ship like this coming to Australia can shape perception about what cruising is and what travelling should be.
“It will also really attract people who cruised but also attract people who haven’t cruised before. I think they are going to love this product.
“When we designed this, we talked about what the modern traveller is looking for. We don’t want buffets and we don’t want to dress up for dinner in a tuxedo. We look at the rise of boutique hotels or gym chains which look cool and funky. Cruising is very much late to that.”
But the myth the brand wants to dispel is that Virgin Voyages is just for the millennial market.
“A lot of people think about Virgin Voyages and they think it’s just for millennials that want to party,” said Saverimuttu.
“But actually, the result of Virgin Voyages is very different. Our core age group is for people from their forties and even to their sixties. We even had Richard celebrate his 70th birthday with us.”
But for someone who had once declared cruising was not for him, he said, “Well I’m definitely a Virgin cruise convert.”