How Virgin Voyages is developing innovative itineraries

Juan Trescastro explains to Rebecca Gibson how Virgin Voyages is putting sailors at the heart of the itinerary planning process to create compelling cruises

How Virgin Voyages is developing innovative itineraries
The Beach Club at Bimini will provide sailors with the chance to relax on private beaches
p>“We’ve got a path, and a port, for any kind of wanderlust.” It’s a bold promise, but it’s one that Virgin Voyages is striving to deliver as it develops itineraries and shore excursions (which the brand terms Shore Things) for its first-ever cruise ship, which will debut in 2020.

“Virgin Voyages’ goal is to deliberately stray away from the traditional cruising course – our market research told us that our sailors [Virgin Voyages’ name for its guests] wanted us to do things differently, so that’s exactly what we’re doing,” says Juan Trescastro, the brand’s senior director of itineraries, destinations and government relations. “We’ve searched for destinations that are slightly off the beaten path, rather than places that are over saturated and over-commercialised.”

Sailing from PortMiami in Florida’s ‘Magic City’, Virgin Voyages’ four- and five-night itineraries will take guests to destinations such as Key West in Florida, Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico, and Bimini in The Bahamas.

“We’ve chosen destinations that our potential sailors indicated as appealing during market research,” explains Trescastro. “Many people who had never cruised before said they would be worried that short port calls wouldn’t give them sufficient time to see everything, so we’ve included late or overnight stays on all voyages.”

Virgin Voyages’ guests also had very specific demands.

“Our sailors told us that although they loved the idea of spending a day at a beautiful beach, they didn’t want to be secluded on a man-made private island,” says Trescastro.

Drawing inspiration from founder Sir Richard Branson’s personal private island, the company came up with the ideal solution: The Beach Club at Bimini. Located in The Bahamas, the exclusive venue has been designed by Miami-based architects EOA and will offer a lagoon-style pool, hammock groves, beaches with sun loungers, private cabanas, bars and restaurants, and facilities for beach sports and water-based activities. Here, guests will be able to relax, snorkel and dive with diverse marine life or enjoy morning yoga and meditation, live musical performances, DJ-led pool parties and late-night beach bonfires.

“The Beach Club at Bimini will give sailors the best of both worlds – they can explore a real Caribbean island, but retreat to their own private place to lay in the sand,” says Trescastro. “Every Virgin Voyages sailing will feature a call to Bimini.”

Trescastro’s team is also striving to deliver shore excursions with an authentic twist.

“Our sailors told us that they want to get to the very heart of destinations and that they don’t like the idea of sitting on a coach with 50 people or going on stock tours, so we’re keeping this top of mind as we’re developing our Shore Things programme,” he says. “We want each sailor to feel like a rock star from the very moment they book their voyage on our ship and our Shore Things will play a pivotal role in creating that experience, so we’ll use their feedback (and insights from our crew) to refine our offerings to create cruises that leave guests with great memories to last a lifetime.”

This article was first published in the 2019 issue of Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson
27 February 2020

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