Virgin Voyages to name first ship Scarlet Lady

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Virgin Voyages will name its first ship Scarlet Lady as it plans to launch a programme to recruit more female crew members in male-dominated roles.

Sir Richard Branson revealed the name today at the Fincantieri shipyard in Genoa where it is being built.

The name, which also appeared on one of the earliest Virgin Atlantic planes, “reflects the brand’s iconic mermaid image”, according to the line, which will appear on the hull of the adult-only ship due to launch in 2020.

Virgin Voyages will launch a “Scarlet Squad” initiative aimed at recruiting and mentoring female crew in onboard areas such as marine, technical and hotel management, which statistically show low numbers of female staff and senior management.

Travel Weekly joined Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard and Virgin Voyages president and chief executive Tom McAlpin in Italy where the line was celebrating construction milestones, including the flooding of the ship’s drydock and a ceremony to cut the first pieces of steel for its second ship, due for delivery in 2021. Virgin Voyages will launch the third ship in 2022.

More details of the ship’s onboard features were also revealed.

“Across the maritime industry, we can do better in onboard recruiting and leadership representation for women,” McAlpin said. “I want all future crew to know that Virgin Voyages will create an onboard environment that is fair, inclusive and where everyone has an opportunity to reach their full potential.”

Sir Richard and McAlpin also announced the company will eliminate the use of passenger-facing single-use plastics, including straws, bottled water, other beverage bottles, condiment packets, shopping bags, food packaging, stirrers, and take-away coffee and tea cups.

The company will emphasize the use of recyclable and reusable materials across the ship.

Complimentary filtered still and sparkling water will be available at all bars and restaurants, as well as at Natura filtered water stations on the ship.

“Nothing makes me prouder than seeing companies like Virgin Voyages striving to make a positive impact on the world we live in,” Sir Richard said. “Business is a force for good and can and must be the catalyst for global change.”

“We believe that in order to fulfil our purpose of creating an ‘Epic Sea Change for All,’ we must make a commitment that is bigger than just eliminating straws,” added McAlpin. “We must make a commitment to building ships and experiences that do everything possible to look after the well-being of our precious oceans. We are delighted with what we’ve achieved so far and will continue to push ourselves to look for innovative ways to do things that will make a difference.”

Richard Branson’s cruise venture named Virgin Voyages

Richard Branson, accompanied by dancers, makes his entrance during Tuesday’s Virgin Voyages event. Photo Credit: Robert Silk

MIAMI BEACH — The Virgin Group cruise line will sail under the name Virgin Voyages, the company said Tuesday.

“I’ve never fancied going on a cruise ship but I do fancy going on a voyage,” said Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, shortly after making his characteristically flamboyant entrance to the press conference at the Faena Hotel Miami Beach.

The line had been going by the name Virgin Cruises since the venture was announced in the summer of 2015.

Virgin Voyages CEO Tom McAlpin said that the company remains on track to take delivery of the first of three 110,000-gross-ton ships that it has on order from Fincantieri in 2020, with the next two ships to follow in 2021 and 2022.

Fincantieri will begin cutting steel in February, he said, and keel laying will come toward the end of 2017.

Virgin didn’t reveal many details about the vessels, which are each slated to carry 2,700 guests and 1,150 crew members. But the company is promising a transformative product that will differentiate the Virgin Voyages experience from other cruise lines.

“It’s incredibly exciting. It’s under lock and key,” Branson said of the design specifics and ship offerings, noting that he didn’t want Virgin’s competitors to learn too much too soon.

One thing McAlpin did reveal is that Virgin Voyages is the first cruise line to enter into a partnership with Climeon, a Swedish green energy solutions company.

Together the companies will install a system on the Virgin vessels that will convert the heat the ships produce into clean energy. Each ship will have six Climeon engine units, which will save an estimated 5,400 tons of carbon dioxide annually per vessel.

“It would take 180,000 trees 30 years to absorb this much CO2,” McAlpin said.

He said that Virgin has all but completed a multibillion-dollar financing deal with lead lending partners CDP and UniCredit, backed by the Italian export agency SACE.

“We just need the final rubber stamp from the Italian government,” McAlpin said.