Limitless possibilities for Virgin Voyages

Tom McAlpin shares more about new destinations and fourth ship

Limitless possibilities for Virgin Voyages

Virgin Voyages

Tom McAlpin became chairman of the board of directors at Virgin Voyages in September

By Rebecca Barnes |

Virgin Voyages has only been in business for two years but has already earned multi-award-winning status. It’s an impressive achievement and nobody can deny that the brand has worked relentlessly to bring energy and originality to the industry since launching in 2021. 

“It’s exciting when I think back to how we started, building this brand from the ground up, but it’s wonderful to realise that we still have so many incredible milestones ahead of us as well,” reflects Tom McAlpin, who retired as CEO of Virgin Voyages in September and became chairman of the board of directors. 

In August 2023, the brand sailed its first-ever ‘Virgin Celebration Voyage’, for which it took a page out of the traditional CEO sailings rule book and tossed the rest overboard. McAlpin hosted, alongside brand founder Sir Richard Branson and a few other members of the Virgin family. 

The line is then heading to Australia – once Resilient Lady’s season in Greece and the Adriatic concludes, it will embark on a 44-night repositioning voyage before docking in Sydney. 

“I can’t deny the excitement around Resilient Lady’s MerMaiden in Australia,” says McAlpin. “Our president and chief experience officer, Nirmal Saverimuttu, as well as our chief brand officer, Nathan Rosenberg, are both Australian, so our entire team is eagerly awaiting to see how the brand will be received by Australians, who have such an affinity for the brand. We’re also exploring possible collaborations with our sister companies like Virgin Money, Virgin Active and Virgin Australia.” 

Resilient Lady will be in the South Pacific until late March 2024 undertaking a series of shorter itineraries to places like Melbourne, Burnie and Hobart, sprinkled with a few longer-haul voyages to New Zealand. 

Also on the horizon is the second annual ‘Limitless Voyage’, curated by chief celebrations officer, actress and singer Jennifer Lopez. The 2024 ‘Limitless Voyage’ will coincide with International Women’s Day and feature a collection of female entrepreneurs who will share their stories to inspire and network with sailors (Virgin’s term for passengers). 

Activities ashore are continually evaluated, and McAlpin reveals there will be some new ‘Shore Things’ for guests to look forward to. “We’re not afraid to reassess excursions that aren’t performing as well and continuously hunt for other authentic experiences our sailors will love,” he says.  

“Similarly, we’d heard from our sailors and first mates (travel advisors) that they wanted shorter roundtrip itineraries while Resilient Lady is in Australia, so we swapped out a few of our longer voyages to accommodate more two- to five-night sailings.” 

Virgin is also focused on growing its fleet, with one additional ship slated for the brand.  

“We launched Resilient Lady in May, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” says McAlpin. “Our sailors are loving the seven-night routes through the Greek Isles and the Adriatic ports. Brilliant Lady will be the fourth and final ship in our current fleet. It is a special vessel, and we’ve been able to make small changes to this ship that will allow it to sail to new ports and regions we’ve never visited before.” 

According to McAlpin, sailors – of which 40 per cent are now repeat guests – are also onboard with the value for money brand proposition which includes open access to all speciality eateries at no extra cost, gratuities, free wifi, complimentary group fitness classes and entertainment, all incorporated into the fare.  

“One of the things we keep hearing is how our sailors appreciate that we don’t nickel and dime them. Instead of worrying about their wallet, they can fully embrace the experience and focus on the amazing destinations they’re visiting.” 

That experience is kept fresh and interesting with continual evaluation on what’s working and what could be improved. “To keep people coming back, we’ve introduced new entertainment across the fleet,” says McAlpin. “This includes several new shows debuting exclusively on Resilient Lady such as ‘Another Rose’, ‘Lola’s Library’ and ‘Persephone’.  

“The production value for ‘Persephone’ is astounding and our sailors are loving it, saying it captures the fun and free energy of ‘UntitledDanceShowPartyThing’ with the acrobatics and flare of our other show ‘Duel Reality’.” 

However, for McAlpin, a cruise is nothing without the people, and Virgin’s diverse crew are some of the most hardworking on the ocean.  

“I’m proud of our crew and the brand we’ve built, which is being recognised by sailors, travel editors and travel advisors alike,” he says. “We recently swept the Cruise Critic’s Cruisers’ Choice Awards and were named the number one mega-ship ocean cruise line in Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards. It’s a true testament to all the work, planning and incredible execution that our team continues to deliver.” 

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Review for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.

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