Virgin Voyages to feature Key West instead of Havana

With Cuba cruises from the U.S. no longer permitted, Virgin Voyages’ four-day “Havana After Dark” cruises will be replaced with a four-day cruise featuring Key West.

The new itinerary will be called “Fire and Sunset Soirees” and will include a sunset departure from Key West and a midnight departure from Bimini.

All Virgin cruises will visit the line’s Bimini Beach Club but only the Key West itinerary will offer a “late-night beach bonfire soiree” in Bimini.

Virgin said the evening will feature artistic fire installations that draw their inspiration from the fireball sculptures on Necker Island, home to Virgin founder Richard Branson.

Virgin also detailed two seven-day holiday sailings. “Holidaze and Nights” and “New Year’s Ahoy” will call in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, and feature late-night sailaways in Bimini and San Juan.

Wendy Williams was named captain of the Scarlet Lady, Virgin Voyages' first ship.

Wendy Williams was named the captain of the Scarlet Lady, Virgin Voyages’ first ship.

Virgin also said it has appointed a captain for its first ship, the Scarlet Lady. It said that Wendy Williams will become the first Canadian woman to be captain of a ship for a major cruise brand. Virgin said the appointment is in keeping with its Scarlet Squad program, an initiative dedicated to bridging the gender gap in leadership roles across the maritime industry.

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Virgin and Emerald To Bring Sustainability to the Seas

Virgin Voyages Ship

Virgin Voyages and Emerald Brand have announced a sustainability partnership to deliver a tree-free and plastic-free experience on board the Virgin ships. The partnership begins on the Scarlet Lady, setting sail in 2020.

Virgin Voyages said it is among the first of major cruise lines to ban single-use plastic. Their goal is to fully embed sustainability into their business model through their operations and the sailor (guest) experience itself.

In addition to replacing single-use plastics with reusable items, Virgin and Emerald will deliver a so-called tree-free experience through the ship’s disposable paper products. Bath tissue, facial tissue, hot cups, paper towels, and napkins will be made from 60% to 100% tree-free material.  According to a prepared statement, these products are made with unique technology that uses the by-product of agricultural crops that are typically burned or wasted, in place of trees.

The partnership underscores the level of impact both companies are seeking to make. Jill Stoneberg, director of sustainability and social impact at Virgin, stated: “We have really ambitious goals here so no decision is taken lightly. Everything down to seemingly simple changes in our supply chain is made with the intention of giving sailors the absolute best experience while continuing to change business for good.”

“Driving change to solve the issue of plastic waste and deforestation has been embedded in our company’s ethos since my father founded our group over twenty years ago,” added Ralph Bianculli Jr., managing director of Emerald.

Emerald’s team of environmental experts, said to be known as the Eco-Squad, will help Virgin measure and communicate the environmental footprint reduction that has resulted from the switch to Emerald’s products. The Eco-Squad will also provide solutions for continuous improvement throughout the supply chain.

Scarlet Lady Floats Out, Second Virgin Ship Construction Well Underway

Scarlet Lady

The Scarlet Lady touched the water for the first time for Virgin Voyages on Friday at Fincantieri. The first ship from the new cruise brand starts revenue service from the Port of Miami in April 2020.

Tom McAlpin, president and CEO, Virgin Voyages, was on hand for the ceremony along with Luigi Matarazzo, director of the Merchant Ships Division at Fincantieri and Paolo Capobianco, director of the plant at the shipyard.

Giuliana Rindone, an employee of the Sestri shipyard, was the godmother for the float out ceremony, cutting the ribbon that triggered a champagne bottle to crash against the hull of the ship at Fincantieri’s Sestri facility.

Scarlet Lady

With the ship now in the water and steel work on the hull complete, attention will turn to interior outfitting on the 110,000-ton, 2,770-guest ship.

With the Scarlet Lady nearing completion, Fincantieri and Virgin also celebration the coin ceremony for Virgin’s second ship, which is scheduled to be delivered in the second quarter of 2021.