How will Virgin Voyages navigate adults-only cruising?

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Built to carry more than 2,700 passengers at double occupancy, Virgin Voyages ships will be the largest that won’t cater to families.

The line said last week that it won’t book passengers under age 18. Virgin Voyages is due to launch its first ship in 2020.

“We have seen it work successfully with Viking Ocean’s 18-plus policy,” said Vicky Garcia, COO of Cruise Planners. “Also, on the land side, there are many adults-only resort models that work well when targeted so that the clients know what to expect.”

Most cruise lines that sail with children have an area of the ship that is adults-only, such as the Solarium on Royal Caribbean International’s largest ships, the Sanctuary on Princess Cruises and the Serenity areas on Carnival Cruise Line.

“Virgin Voyages is looking to attract those who probably are averse to cruising because of their impression that cruising is too focused on kids and families, with water slides, rock climbing and such,” Garcia said.

While Virgin could be going after a “party-hearty” demographic, several mainstream cruise lines fill that niche already, especially in the short-cruise segment.

Virgin’s plan calls for seven-day Caribbean cruises from Miami on its first ship.

Some expect Virgin to be aimed at the more sophisticated and lucrative end of the singles/couples continuum.

“I’m foreseeing a very South Beach-style vibe that will attract new-to-cruise passengers,” Garcia said. “It’s hard to know exactly what other vacations their target is currently aimed at, but the brand’s focus on the yacht-like design is unique and super sexy.”

The first renderings of the Virgin ships’ exterior design demonstrated some of Branson’s typical flair.

The ship’s colours will be silver-grey with red accents, including a red funnel. The aft below the promenade deck will be red with the familiar Virgin logo in large white letters centred in the middle.

Virgin also unveiled an image specific to Virgin Voyages: a sexy mermaid with blonde hair and a red tail trailing a flowing Virgin banner in one hand. The mermaid will appear at a modest size on the side of the ship’s bow in line with the bridge.

Virgin said the mermaid was inspired by figureheads on historical vessels and was designed by the London-based artist Toby Tinsley.

The overall shape of the vessel shares some angles and features with recent Fincantieri designs, such as MSC Cruises’ upcoming MSC Seaside and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Project Leonardo ships.

Renderings show a broad promenade at the aft contrasting with a slim tower of upper decks and a bow with a strong vertical aspect. Virgin said that 86% of all cabins will feature a balcony, and 93% will offer an ocean view.

Virgin has begun accepting $500 refundable deposits that will enrol prospective passengers in a presale that takes place before Virgin Voyages goes on sale to the public.

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