A rendering of Virgin Voyages' 'Lady Ships' (Image: Virgin Voyages)
Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri laid the keel for Virgin Voyages’ first-ever cruise ship in a ceremony at its yard in Genoa on 31 October.
Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Voyages president and CEO Tom McAlpin arrived on stage at the ceremony via a 200-foot crane drop. They were joined by Bain Capital chairman Stephen Pagliuca and Fincantieri’s Alberto Maestrini to weld ceremonial coins into the keel to bring good luck to all who sail on the 110,000gt, 2,700-guest vessel when she debuts in 2020.
Grammy Award-winning artist Boy George then closed the ceremony with a DJ set.
“This is a very big day for Virgin Voyages, as an exciting new holiday option for travellers starts to get shipshape,” said Branson. “She will be the most recognisable ship sailing the seven seas, delivering an irresistible sailor experience. We’re also committed to making sure our crew are the happiest at sea and will be proud to sail with us.”
Virgin Voyages’ first vessels will be known as ‘Lady Ships’ – a nod to Virgin’s British heritage via a play on the term ‘your ladyship’ – and the first ship’s experience will be ‘Adult By Design’. This decision was driven by feedback from future sailors and travel professionals, who are looking for an adults-only, premium experience.
Renderings show that the ships will also feature a red funnel created by British yacht designers RWD, and a silver-grey hull with smoked glass and flashes of red, which was conceptualised by London’s Magpie Studio. Inspired by traditional female figureheads on historic vessels, the ships’ bows will feature a mermaid motif designed by London-based artist Toby Tinsley, who also created Virgin Galactic’s nose cone artwork.
The newbuild’s public areas and the crew’s private spaces are being developed by a ‘Creative Collective’ of 10 international design companies. These firms include Roman and Williams, Concrete Amsterdam, Design Research Studio, Softroom, WORKac, Knibb, HL Studios, HKS and Pearson Lloyd. The project will be coordinated by Giacomo Mortola, architect/founder of Gem SRL. To ensure guests feel more connected to the ocean, 93% of cabins will have an ocean view and 86% will have a sea terrace.
“The entire ship will be built with an attention to detail, reflecting the craftsmanship and materiality inspired by super yachts,” said McAlpin. “Virgin Voyages is creating a sophisticated ship and a transformational experience that offers our sailors a place where rejuvenating day-life meets exciting nightlife and everything in between.”
All three ships will be powered by engines, hybrid exhaust gas cleaning systems (scrubbers), selective catalytic reduction systems and integrated navigation systems from Wärtsilä. Virgin Voyages has also agreed to work with advanced waste management systems provider Scanship to develop technology that could significantly reduce ocean discharge by turning waste into energy.
The first vessel, which will be named via a public contest, will homeport at PortMiami in Miami, Florida from 2020, offering two different seven-day Caribbean itineraries. Her sister ships will be delivered in 2021 and 2022.