Taking a Virgin Voyages cruise is safer than going to a restaurant in your hometown or to a theatre, a theme park or a casino, according to the line’s chief executive Tom McAlpin.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast from on board first ship Scarlet Lady ahead of six ‘Summer Soiree’ sailings from Portsmouth, McAlpin said Virgin Voyages had used the delay to its launch wisely.
The line had been due to begin operations in spring 2020 and was in the middle of showcasing Scarlet Lady to travel agents before its inaugural cruise when the pandemic hit and all cruise operations were paused.
McAlpin said: “We’ve taken the last 18 months and we’ve learned. We’ve looked for ways of enhancing our programmes. As we’ve said many times before, safety and security of our sailors [guests] and our crew is our number one priority. We want to create an environment that is the safest possible way to travel and so we’ve used the time to develop protocols and processes in order to do that.
“So the good news is that we have this very much controlled environment where we can do things to protect us. So obviously, we are requiring all of our sailors to be double jabbed, we’re requiring all of our crew to be vaccinated. We’re having our sailors do a 15-minute antigen test to get on board.
“And we’ve also taken time, during the 18 months, to invest in the ship. We put a new air purification system onboard called ‘Atmosphere’. It kills 99.9% of all bacteria, and viruses that are in the air – it’s similar to systems that are used in hospitals.”
He added: “We never had buffets, so we didn’t need to eliminate those types of things”.
“Through the combination of all these measures, we’ve created really the safest possible way to travel,” McAplin said.
“If you think about it, this is safer than going to a restaurant in your hometown. It’s safer than going to a theatre, to a theme park or to a casino because we can control the experience. So we’re pretty excited about that. And it comes at a good time as we’re starting to relax the travel standards and people are excited to travel again.”
McAlpin said the UK sailings were selling “quite well” but said there was still availability for those Brits still keen to get away.
And he pointed out there would be lots of space on board as the ship would not be sailing at full capacity.
“They [the government] have increased the caps but we’ll hold the capacity down below 65%. It’s a fantastic way for Brits to get out of the house. In the last 18 months, parents have been parents, guardians, supervisors, counsellors, teachers, athletic coaches and kind of everything in between. So what better way to get out and do a little celebration?
“You know, we call it a staycation where they can get out on a three and four night voyage and just enjoy the ship. There’s so much to do on board ship, there’s more than you could possibly do in three or four days. So a great way for us to get away. And this is a this is an experience, as you know, that’s created for this adult market.”
McAlpin also revealed that 85% of the line’s crew had returned after the shutdown.
“They went through a tough time like we all did,” he said. “We all had to have shared sacrifice and we had pay cuts. A lot of people were furloughed for an extended period of time.
“The good news is that 85% of our crew have come back, which is a staggering number. You know, if you think about it, the fact that these young men and ladies had to go out and find other sources of income, and yet they’ve come back to us. It’s great to see.”