Scarlet Lady set to shake up the cruise world with floating boutique hotel experience
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has expanded his travel empire with the launch of his first cruise ship, the 2,770-passenger Scarlet Lady.
Branson unveiled the €700 million vessel in Dover over the weekend (February 21st to 23rd) and told invited media and travel trade representatives that it was the realisation of a dream and he aimed to redefine and reinvigorate the cruise industry with Virgin Voyages in the same way Virgin Atlantic Upper Class did for aviation.
The adults-only ship, the first of four on order, arrived in the UK fresh out of Italy’s Fincantieri shipyard. Conceived by a team of designers, artists and architects – including British designer Tom Dixon and New York-based Roman and Williams – Scarlet Lady has been created to resemble a boutique hotel with a yacht-style nautical theme and unconventional features including Mega RockStar Suites complete with electric guitars, vinyl record players and a table to dance on, standard cabins with beds that are sofas by day, a tattoo parlour, boxing ring, guest drag artists, an app where you can shake your phone to have Champagne delivered and cutting-edge shows unlike anything else at sea.
Branson told guests: “I have dreamed of starting my own cruise line since I was in my 20s, but it took quite a few years to build enough resources to bring it about and be able to do it as it’s not a particularly cheap thing!
“I’m thrilled that moment has arrived. The Scarlet Lady is truly special, and we’ve worked with some of the world’s most sought-after designers, artists and architects to craft an extraordinary experience. The benefit of our five decades in business in so many industries is that we can offer a voyage like no other.
“We began with a big blank sheet of paper and sat down to go through all the things we didn’t like on other cruise ships and all the things we wanted to do. The proof of the pudding is with the ship itself. We want it to stand out from the crowd.”
Virgin Voyages CEO and President Tom McAlpin added: “Part of our DNA is our brand purpose and we want to create an epic sea of change and be the ship that everyone wants to see coming into port. We have set out to provide a sophisticated, elegant experience for adults to provide the modern romance of sailing. We have tried to make the experience sexy, but not too sexy.
In a break from cruise ship traditions, Scarlet Lady does not have a buffet restaurant – a mainstay on all ships – but a food court with street food-style dining. Elsewhere, there are no assigned seating or dining times in the 20 eateries, which include a Korean barbecue, vegetarian focused restaurant, pizzeria and Mexican eatery complete with a tequila bar. To reduce food waste, all meals are prepared to order.
Virgin Voyages is one of first cruise lines to use Climeon, a technology that utilizes heat generated from the ship’s engines to generate electricity, thereby decreasing the demand for fuel.
After visiting the UK, Scarlet Lady will head to Miami where it will be officially christened on March 19th before sailing in the Caribbean. Virgin Voyages’ second ship, Valiant Lady, is currently being built and will be launched in 2021, and two more ships, as yet unnamed, will debut in 2022 and 2023.
Unashamedly bold in style, Scarlet Lady’s look is not for everyone – in turn a huge part of the appeal for anyone that doesn’t like the idea of traditional cruise ships, loyal fans of the Virgin brand or those who are looking for something very different. However, once again Richard Branson is shaking up the way people travel and giving passengers – on Scarlet Lady they are called sailors – more choice.
Known as the ‘River Cruise Queen’, Jeannine Williamson is an award-winning travel writer, cruise expert and our cruise correspondent, who has clocked up thousands of nautical miles.
Photographs courtesy of Virgin Voyages