When Virgin Voyages, the new Richard Branson–backed cruise line, launches next year, not only will the cruise ship itself be forward-thinking but the entire inaugural season also will be defined by the kind of progressive ideals that have become synonymous with the Virgin brand.
The 2,770-passenger Scarlet Lady sets sail from Miami in spring 2020 and will be piloted by Captain Wendy Williams, the first Canadian woman to be a captain for a major cruise line.
Tapping Williams to steer the ship is part of Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Squad program, an initiative dedicated to bridging the gender gap in the maritime industry. According to Virgin, women represent less than 3 percent of the workforce in the maritime business. The Scarlet Squad program aims to change that by creating opportunities for women in leadership roles in marine, technical, and hotel management positions on board.
In addition to Captain Williams, the company has recruited nearly a dozen other female officers, including Jill Anderson as hotel director, Christin Wenge as safety officer, and Lindsay Kerber as environmental officer.
Further embracing diversity and inclusion, Virgin Voyages has also partnered with Atlantis Events, which will charter the Scarlet Lady for a LGBTQ voyage during the vessel’s inaugural season.
The LGBTQ cruise, a custom seven-night sailing, will depart from Miami on May 31, 2020, and will include port calls in Key West, Florida; in Cozumel, Playa Del Carmen, and Costa Maya in Mexico; and in Bimini, Bahamas.
To promote the partnership, Branson will be touring through New York on Saturday, June 29, on a Virgin Voyages Pride bus alongside drag performer Ginger Minj. The LGBTQ cruise will be available for bookings starting in early July through Atlantis Events.
Where the Scarlet Lady will cruise
Virgin Voyages recently announced an updated lineup of cruises in the aftermath of the U.S. government announcing new restrictions on travel to Cuba from the United States—the company had originally included Cuba in some of its sailings. It has replaced its “Havana After Dark” sailings with a new cruise called “Fire and Sunset Soirees.” The four-night itineraries will include a sunset departure from Key West and a midnight departure from Bimini following a late-night beach bonfire.
Virgin Voyages has also developed some new seven-night sailings for the 2020 holiday season. The seven-night “Holidaze and Nights” and “New Year’s Ahoy” voyages will feature stops in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic; Bimini, Bahamas; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The cruises allow for not only daytime explorations in port but also for “epic nighttime experiences,” according to Virgin. Thus, the new itineraries will feature multiple late-night sail-aways, including midnight departures.
All sailings will include a stop in Bimini, Bahamas, home to a private beach club that Virgin Voyages passengers will have exclusive access to while the Scarlet Lady is docked there. (Added bonus: DJ Mark Ronson has committed to four performances at the beach club.)
A vessel fit for rock stars
The Scarlet Lady will be the first of Virgin Voyages’ three planned cruise ships, and its features are shaking up the traditional notion of cruising. There will be a tattoo parlor onboard, a drag queen brunch, and Mega Rockstar Suites complete with outdoor showers and a dedicated hair and makeup crew.
The company has partnered with Intelligentsia Coffee to serve the brew onboard, has tapped design team Roman and Williams to create the upscale steak and seafood restaurant Wake (complete with table-side cocktail cart), and recently announced that there will be an onboard record store (called Voyage Vinyl) and karaoke studio (called The Groupie).
Virgin Voyages will be an adults-only cruise line and will sail to the Caribbean from Miami for the 2020 season.