Virgin Voyages cancels second Australia season amid Red Sea transit safety concerns

A second season of sailings Down Under has been cancelled by Virgin Voyages due safety concerns over transits of the Red Sea where rebels have been targeting shipping.

The line has been “left with no choice” but to withdraw its 2024-25 Australia programme by Resilient Lady.

The ship will instead operate in the Caribbean next winter from San Juan in Puerto Rico.

The decision follows the diversion of the ship’s repositioning cruise from Australia to the Mediterranean away from the Red Sea and Suez Canal earlier this month due to attacks on shipping in the region.     

Virgin Voyages said: “On the heels of these recent changes and based on the regional and government advice we have received, we remain very concerned about potential escalations in the Red Sea over the next 12 months. 

“This significant and ongoing conflict puts unacceptable risks for safe passage through the region for our sailors [passengers], crew and vessel. 

“As a result, we have been left with no choice but to cancel our 2024-25 voyage season plans for Resilient Lady, impacting the late 2024 and early 2025 repositioning voyages between Europe and Australia  and a second sailing season in Australian waters.”

Resilient Lady will now complete its summer season in the Med on October 20 and sail to San Juan for the new Caribbean season.

The ship will run seven, eight, 10 and 11-night voyages visiting St Maarten, St Vincent, Colombia and Dominica. 

“We are currently reviewing Resilient Lady’s repositioning routes from Athens to San Juan, and we will share these as soon as they’re ready, but they will feature stunning ports including Catania, Casablanca, and Tenerife,” the company added.

“Virgin Voyages was embraced by the Australia and New Zealand markets with a warm welcome and celebrated an extremely successful inaugural season – the love was mutual.

“To say that we are disappointed to have come to this tough conclusion is an understatement. These adjustments are happening now in order to minimise potential future disruption to our passengers’ holiday plans knowing there is a high likelihood that changes would need to happen in the future. 

“Our customers and travel agent partners asked us to ensure we give them as much time as possible to make alternative plans. We appreciate the time and energy that goes into planning a holiday, and we are focused on your safety as well as giving you certainty.”

The line added that it was “working through options” to return to Australia and the Asia Pacific region once regional repositioning opportunities “become more tenable”.

Virgin Voyages said: “We will share updates on future itineraries across the fleet as soon as possible, and in the event that we return for the ’25 season, existing booked sailors will have priority to move onto these sailings. 

“In the meantime, we know how much Aussie and New Zealand tourists enjoy visiting Europe and with two ships taking in standout destinations from our home ports in Barcelona, Athens and Portsmouth we look forward to welcoming sailors to Europe so they can experience it the Virgin way.

“Impacted sailors will have the option to rebook another voyage or opt for a full refund given the change in plans.”

Attacks by Yemen-based Houthis on international shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden have taken place in support of Palestinians in Gaza.

This has resulted in Carnival Corporation rerouting 12 ships across seven brands to avoid transits through the Red Sea alongside other companies such as MSC Cruises.

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