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Billionaire and adventurer Sir Richard Branson is known for pushing the travel envelope both personally and professionally. The mogul has launched successful hotel and airline businesses and said he would venture to space by July. So, it only makes sense that the daring entrepreneur would also look to conquer the sea. That’s why he was excited to announce that Virgin Voyages is officially open for business, with the company’s first ship, Scarlet Lady, now open for bookings for her inaugural season.
“I’ve dreamed of starting my own cruise line since I was in my 20’s, and now the launch is finally getting close,” Branson said in a statement at the launch. “We have taken the time to think about every detail and craft an experience that brings the Virgin brand to life and disrupts the travel industry.”
The new ship will follow the same “cheeky and cheerful approach to service” we’ve come to expect from the Virgin brand. What does that mean exactly? Well, instead of Broadway shows, there will be completely original entertainment developed by some of the world’s most-talked-about producers, directors, and artists like PigPen Theatre Co. and The 7 Fingers. Food will be served at off hours—think 2 a.m. munchies and boozy brunches—and they’re doing away with pesky add-ons. Yes, food at the 20+ eateries onboard, group fitness classes, gratuities, service charges, and basic beverages are all included. And, of course, there will be free Wifi to properly Instagram the journey.
And Branson is convinced their launch will raise the bar for other cruise lines. “The good thing about competition is that every aspect of the travel industry is getting better,” Branson told Departures. “There are one or two airlines that are still stuck in the past. But, I think the fact that Virgin America was in America sharpened the pencil of other airlines. And the very fact that Virgin Voyages is going to come into the marketplace, some of our ideas will start to show up on other ships. But, we’ll have a few years where we can be completely unique.”
They will also simultaneously launch The Beach Club at Bimini where guests can relax on a white sand beach in the Bahamas and party at a club that rivals ones in Ibiza and Saint-Tropez. That shouldn’t be too hard considering Mark Ronson will be among the first talents to grace the turntables as part of the DJ of The Beach Club resident-Sea program.
But, with so much happening, we were curious what Branson was most excited about. The answer? His birthday. “I get to bring 250 people who meant a lot to me over my life on the ship for my 70th birthday next year in July,” he told Departures at the February 14 launch. “What’s so much more fun is that I’ll get to be sharing it with 1,700 other people.”
Yes, the business magnate will celebrate his birthday among celebrity friends and regular guests aboard a four-night Havana After Dark voyage departing July 15, 2020. People can book their passage aboard this one-of-a-kind trip, although Branson will take over the RockStar Suite that comes complete with a table with stairs to make it easier to dance on.
Branson concluded, “I can’t wait to show off our new toy.”
The Scarlet Lady will sail from Miami to the Caribbean in 2020 and voyages departing from April 1 through October 21, 2020, now on sale.