Virgin Voyages’ three-week ‘Summer Soiree Series’ of three and four-night sailings from Portsmouth, have gone on sale today (Tuesday April 13).

The line’s associate vice president of international sales, Shane Riley, said the UK-based cruises on board first ship Scarlet Lady offer agents the “perfect opportunity to get money in their pockets and help keep their businesses thriving”.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast filmed ahead of the on sale date, Riley said: “This really comes at the right time because we know our First Mates’ [travel agents’] earnings have been hard-hit. I hate that phrase, but this is some low-hanging fruit to get their customers on a holiday and know that they’re going to be able to get their commission earnings quickly into their pockets and to help keep their businesses thriving.”

He said the three and four-night sailings, “out of the English Channel and down towards the English Riviera”, which take place between August 6 and August 27, had been well-received by agents so far.

“The trade reaction has been absolutely incredible – the noise and excitement we have seen has been really favourable and some of our First Mates have been working practically all weekend with many having bookings lined up and ready to go,” said Riley.

He said his team had worked hard over the last 12 months to keep engaged with agents, ensuring they are as well-trained and informed as possible about the new line which saw it’s launch postponed due to Covid-19.

“We’ve worked very, very hard,” said Riley. “We’ve talked with our First Mates throughout the last 12 months, more than ever before. We’ve grown our First Mate database in the UK by more than 40% over the last year and we’ve just given away 11,000 free cruises on the E-learning platform that’s allowed everybody to be in a position to capitalize on these voyages because when they’ve done the training they know all about the experiences, they understand who our sailors are, and they’re ready to go ahead and make these bookings.”

He said he was delighted to be bringing Scarlet Lady back to the UK after she was showcased in Dover in February last year, just before Covid-19 was declared a pandemic.

“I’m super-excited,” he added. “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to bring her back so quickly, but it’s exciting that we’re able to bring her back and offer this unique set of voyages.

“She has been a lady-in-waiting for quite some time, desperate to show herself off. She went across the Atlantic; she was en route to New York then deviated to Miami as the pandemic really started to get hold. We brought her back to Italy so we could repatriate many of our crew and she’s been hanging around in Italy waiting for us to raise the curtain. So we’re going to bring her to the UK and she will make Portsmouth her home for three weeks.”

Riley said the Summer Soiree Series would give guests the opportunity to experience everything that Virgin Voyages has to offer, including more than 20 on board eateries.

“We’re really excited and our crew on board have been waiting for quite some time to be able to show off their skills,” he said. “They just can’t wait to get people on board.”

Anyone booking a Virgin Voyages sailing from Portsmouth will need to have had both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine at least two weeks before the departure date. The ship will sail at reduced capacity to allow for social distancing and health and safety protocols will be in place.

Lead-in rates for Sea Terrace cabins on the UK voyages are £499 for three-night itineraries, and £599 for four-night itineraries.

Riley added: “If people do need to change the voyage, for whatever reason, and as long as they booked before June 30, they can change the voyage and receive the 100% future cruise credit for the amount that they paid.”