Virgin Voyages has further delayed the start of cruises until the autumn.

Sailings scheduled before October 16 will be cancelled.

The official naming ceremony and maiden voyage of first ship Scarlet Lady will now take place in early 2021, according to the start-up line.

The decision to extend the suspension of sailings was made after “a measured and thoughtful assessment of the current global health crisis and updated CDC [US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] policies”.

Sir Richard Branson’s new venture will start with a ‘soft opening’ period, which will include updates to onboard protocols, such as limiting the number of passengers to support social distancing.

The brand will soon share an update on “industry innovations” focused on protecting the well-being of passengers and crew.

The debut adults-only vessel was originally due to enter service from Miami to the Caribbean just as the coronavirus pandemic hit.

This caused departures to initially be postponed until July 15, with the maiden voyage rescheduled until August 7.

Passengers with bookings on the new raft of cancelled departures are being offered a 200% future cruise credit plus $500 onboard credit if they re-book before June 30.

Those wanting a full refund will receive one plus a 25% future cruise credit, according to the line.

Virgin Voyages also pledged to protect travel agent commissions to “thank them for their partnership and ongoing support of the brand”.