Stray the course with Virgin Voyages Part 1

On the day of Virgin Voyages Scarlet Night in London this is the first in a series of posts looking at what we know so far about the company who plan to change the way we cruise.

image001 2.jpg

Things are changing in the cruise industry, the old clichés are being removed and cruising has never been so popular, in the UK alone 2018 saw a record 2 million British and Irish holidaymakers taking a cruise a number that the industry wasn’t expecting to reach until 2020.

Speaking just last week at what was a surprise visit to the CLIA Cruise conference in Portsmouth Sir Richard Branson revealed that he has wanted to set up a cruise line since the age of 27. Ever since he announced this new venture back in March 2014 the entire cruise and travel industry has been waiting to see just what he had in store.

Sir Richard Branson and CEO Tom McAlpin chatting to Lucy Huxley © Virgin Voyages

“Epic Sea Change for all”

As Virgin Atlantic previously vowed to change the way we fly, so Virgin Voyages has vowed to change the way we cruise, and from the very outset have looked to distance themselves from traditional cruise lines. According to the company this is an “Epic Sea Change” Throughout 2018, rather than revealing everything at once anyone following the story has been treated to regular updates, which the company has provocatively called a “shipTease” thus continuing the Virgin Groups cheeky marketing!

Ditch the jargon the buffet and formal wear!

One thing you are sure to notice when looking at Virgin Voyages website or through the marketing material is the lack of the usual cruise jargon, which has been ditched! And  this starts with the word “cruise” itself, which you will only see crossed through on the website! Virgin Voyages make it quite clear that you are not on a cruise but a voyage, and if you are sailing with them you are not a passenger you are a Sailor!

However its not just the jargon thats gone as things are different when your a sailor. Firstly the ships crew will be paid a salary and won’t have to depend on tips for income, according the the company “they’ve taken care (of taking care) of your servers, so tipping is on us”! A cruising basic the buffet restaurant has been ditched, together with supplements and other add-ons that are found on so many cruise lines. Instead sailors will be able to enjoy free food at over 20 eateries on board, what about a formal wear night? they’ve ditched that too! onboard sailors will enjoy free Wifi and free basic beverages including soda, still and sparkling water, teas and Virgin’s own special blend of Intelligentsi coffee.

Theses aren’t cruise ships they’re Ladyships!

Float Out.JPG
Scarlet Lady floating out from the shipyard © Virgin voyages

Virgin Voyages has a total of four identical ships or “Ladyships” as it likes to call them on order with the Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri. The order for the first three ships was announced in June 2015, with the fourth ship announced in October 2018 and with an estimated cost of $710 million each. The Italian shipbuilder is renowned for the construction of some of the world’s most beautiful cruise ships and by the time        Scarlet Lady is delivered in April 2020 the shipbuilder will have built 77 cruise ships for many of the worlds top cruise lines.

Main propulsion is provided by the Swedish company ABB, and consists of its latest Azipod XO Propulsion system. This system is installed on most of the worlds latest passenger vessels. These are (electric drive motors with off-hull submerged azimuth thrusters / 360-degree rotating propellers).The two separate units provide the best manoeuvrability (allowing in-port navigation without tug assistance) with minimal vibration/noise. By placing the propulsion unites outside the hull, the Azipod system frees up space for lower-deck staterooms.

ABB Azipod installed on MSC Bellissima © Andrew McAlpine

Main power onboard is installed by Finnish marine technology firm Wärtsilä, with Scarlet Lady being powered by two 8-cylinder plus two 12-cylinder “Wärtsilä 46F” marine diesel engines. A hybrid scrubber system also supplied by the Finnish company is installed in order to meet with new IMO emission regulation. The system operates in whats called a closed or open loop and uses seawater to remove SOx (Sulphur Oxides) from the vessel’s exhaust, this system also significantly reduces NOx (Nitrogen Oxides) emissions. Wärtsilä also supplied the navigation and automation control systems which are from is latest NACOS Platinum series.

Alternative power is provided by 4-stroke engines powering the 4 electricity generators, each equipped with TPL-C turbocharges (by ABB).

Scarlet Lady set to debut in April 2020, and will be followed by the other Ladyships in 2021, 2022 and 2023.

The Scarlet Lady name may sound familiar, as it pays homage to sister brand Virgin Atlantic with the name appearing on one of the earliest airliner’s to fly for the company. With a length of 278 m and at 110,000GT, Scarlet Lady will have room for 2,750 sailors  together with 1,150 crew, and once delivered she will certainly stand out. Her ultra-modern design is more akin to a concept ship of the future, gone is the sweeping bow seen on so many cruise ships, instead she has a modern vertical “axe bow” shape, a design that is becoming increasingly popular and has most recently been seen on Celebrity Edge. Also gone is the popular white hull, seen on so many of the world’s cruise ships. Instead, Scarlet Lady features a two-tone light over dark grey colour scheme (no official name for it as yet!), while the the lower part of her stern is Virgin’s signature red with the Virgin logo emblazoned across it.

© Henry Veringa


Her distinctive modern hull livery is broken up slightly near the bow which is adorned on both sides with the “Scarlet Lady” logo. The company approached award winning designer Toby Tinsley to design the logo. which is said to represent the ship’s ‘feminine spirits’ and reflects the brand’s mermaid image. Toby Tinsley had previously worked with Virgin Group in 2007 to design the Virgin Galactic logo.

© Virgin Voyages

Sustainable at Sea

One thing that excites me about Virgin Voyages is their commitment to the environment and I love the fact Sir Richard Branson has stated that “Success needn’t compromise sustainability” which is surely more important now than ever. From the very start Sir Richard and Virgin Voyages President and CEO, Tom McAlpin announced that the company is committed to having one of the cleanest fleets at sea. One of the biggest initiatives includes is being single-use plastic free and banning the use of all single-use plastics both on shore and on board the ships. The ban includes items such as plastic straws, tea & coffee cups, stirrers, bottled water and other beverage bottles, condiment packets, food packaging and shopping bags. Instead, the company will emphasise the use of recyclable and reusable materials with bottled water replaced by complimentary filtered still and sparkling water available in the bars and restaurants, together with specially designed Natura filtered water stations throughout the ship. Food and all other onboard items will be sourced from sustainable suppliers. All materials and products onboard are to be sourced with sustainability in mind. Skin care products and most importantly sun screen will be reef safe.

© Virgin Voyages


Virgin Voyages is has collaborated with two Scandinavian companies to reduce Scarlet Lady’s environmental footprint; the first is with Sweden’s Climeon, a world-renowned clean energy innovator. Virgin Voyages will be the first major cruise line to install Climeon Ocean system on board its ladyships.

Here’s the technical bit..

The system reduces carbon dioxide emissions by converting waste heat generated by the ships engine into clean electricity. One Climeon unit can produce enough energy to power 250 normal households and each Virgin Voyages ship will have six units, giving it the potential to power about 1,500 households. This will provide not only power for the cabins and suites but also the on board restaurants, casino and other venues.

Simplified cycle of the Climeon heat power module © Climeon

The second is with Scanship a Norwegian company specializing in waste management and wastewater purification. Scanship uses game-changing technology called microwave-assisted pyrolysis (MAP) to convert organic waste into clean energy.

All these initiatives give Scarlet Lady smaller carbon footprint which is estimated will eliminate 5,400 tons of carbon dioxide waste per year.

Want some Scarlet Lady facts and figures ?

IMO: 9804801

Shipyard: Fincantieri Sestri Ponente, Italy

Cost: US $710 million

Registered: Nassau, Bahamas

Steel Cutting: March 2017

Keel Laid: October 2017

Float Out: February 2019

Launch: April 2020

Length: 277 m

Beam: 38 m

Design Draught: 8.05 m

Service Speed: 20 knots

Sailor Cabins: 1,408

Max Capacity: 2,750

Crew: 1,150

Crew cabins: 813

Decks: 17

Cabin Decks: 9

Bookings on Scarlet Lady opened on 5th February this year (for customers with pre-sale deposits) and on 14th February (for the general public)

When she launches in April next year Scarlet Lady will head to her home port of Miami, however before she heads across the Atlantic she will, as revealed by Tom McAlpin at last weeks CLIA conference in Portsmouth, visit at least one port in the UK. I don’t know about you but my fingers are already crossed Southampton is one of those ports.

In my next post I will be looking at what Scarlet Lady will have to offer on board, and her itinerary.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post and would love to here your comments

You can check out Virgin Voyages here