Virgin Voyages’ second ship, Valiant Lady, continues the line’s unique cruise experience that leaves a lasting, vivid impression ranging from superb food to powerful entertainment.
Valiant hosted the brand’s first North American First Mates and Golden Ink Awards during a Caribbean voyage from Jan. 4-8 to honour its top 100 North American travel advisors.
While there were no Canadian winners this year, in December 2022, Sean Russo was hired as sales manager for Canada to oversee the Canadian sales territory, working with John Diorio, vice-president of North American sales.
"Virgin Voyages offers one of the most inclusive experiences out there,” Russo told PAX. “We want Canadians to feel free to be themselves and ‘come as they are’ as we like to say to celebrate their uniqueness as individuals. It’s more than selling a cruise when you trust your travellers with our team. You are helping them reimagine what a holiday on the water can truly be – a premium rockstar experience without stuffiness and formalities.”
Russo suggested advisors highlight the line’s adults-only (18+), relaxed, luxurious environment, which also offers great value.
“More than $600 USD in value is built into our voyage fare. Every sailing includes all gratuities, basic Wi-Fi, group fitness classes, entertainment, essential drinks and dining at 20+ eateries, including six signature restaurants with menus designed by Michelin-star chefs. There are no buffets or large main dining rooms. These are perks that put your Sailors at the helm of VIP treatment.”
For training, “Our Canadian First Mates are absolutely loving our Seacademy program,” he said.
“The program includes four tiers broken down into digestible 10 to 15-minute modules that allow advisors to easily complete them at their own pace. Each module helps reinforce key messaging so First Mates can walk away feeling well-versed in the brand. Our data indicates that First Mates who complete Seacademy are 15 times more likely to make a reservation.”
“We’re also proud that Seacademy has been recognized as one of the leading cruise marketing education programs.”
The new Let’s Go Book platform allows First Mates to utilize Virgin’s consumer website and easily complete client bookings.
This technology also lets Sailors make their own booking at a time that is convenient for them, and First Mates receive the commissions.
Some First Mates have already implemented this technology on their websites, social media posts and advertising with dedicated URLs and QR codes.
Virgin reports that up to 40 per cent of customers rebook a voyage or create a placeholder.
“When Sailors book with one of our First Mates, they receive a notification to follow up with that advisor and plan their next getaway,” he said.
Virgin gets five-star reviews on TripAdvisor and an overall customer satisfaction rate of 95 per cent. “Cruise Critic also awarded us the best cruise line for Best Dining, Best Nightlife and Best for LGBTQ+ travellers,” noted Russo. The average age of a Virgin passenger is 47 years old.
Doin' it for the 'gram
The 2,700-passenger Valiant Lady has two pools, several hot tubs and a large variety of unique seating such as open and private cabanas, low-slung curved sofas, sunbeds, swinging chairs, hammocks and traditional loungers – in bright colours of red, purple and blue.
Since music is a big part of Virgin’s history, a DJ is usually playing at the main pool and it can get loud and create a party atmosphere, so the secondary pool is a quieter option.
The line encourages fitness on board, but the iconic red running track seems to command more visual attention than actual activity. As an onboard comedian jokingly said, “It’s really just for Instagram.”
Below the track is a boxing ring, punching bag, basketball court, teeter-totter and equipment for calisthenics. And when your clients get hot from working out, they can stand under one of three outdoor drenching buckets.
Another Instagram-worthy feature is the gigantic catamaran-style net at the aft outdoor lounge area on Deck 16.
Your clients can walk (or crawl) across it for spectacular views of the ocean below – and get photos to prove their bravery.
Another favourite aft area is the Dock on Deck 7 with its bar, sunbeds and loungers set in a relaxing atmosphere with panoramic views.
RockStar and Mega RockStar suite clients have access to a private, top-deck area at the bow that has premium sunbeds, cabanas, bar and lounge for an upscale experience.
Satisfy any craving
With more than 20 eateries on board, there’s plenty of places to satisfy any craving. The food is superb thanks to a collective of Michelin-starred chefs. Artistic food presentation is equally impressive.
There’s no main dining room or buffet. The Galley serves food quickest with about eight eateries such as Let’s Taco About It tacos, as well as dedicated eateries for burgers, sushi, noodles, soup, salads, sandwiches, all-day breakfast and more. Clients order from a menu for most options and are served their meal, but there are a few grab-and-go choices such as sushi.
For finer dining there’s the Wake (steakhouse), Razzle Dazzle (signature restaurant with many vegetarian options), Pink Agave (Mexican), the Test Kitchen (experimental), Gunbae (Korean barbecue), Dock House (Mediterranean), Extra Virgin (Italian) and Sun Club Café (Hawaiian).
More casual options are at the Pizza Place, Social Club Diner and sweet treats are popular at Lick Me Till Ice Cream and the Sweet Side.
Room service is available for $5 and arrives in canvas tote bags with picnic-like dishes and carafes. The casual style particularly suits a picnic on a cabin balcony while swinging in one of the iconic red hammocks.
Virgin doesn’t have traditional drinks packages for alcohol but does offer fair USD pricing such as $5 beers, $9 cocktails and $10 wines (tip included).
Your client can purchase a pre-paid $300 Bar Tab to get an extra $50 bonus (limited time offer).
This onboard credit must be purchased pre-cruise and is not available on board. Beverages such as water, juice, soda, drip coffee and tea are free.
Beautiful bars include the Sip Lounge (champagne), the Draught Haus (on tap), On the Rocks (martinis and cocktails), the Loose Cannon, Dock House bar, Aquatic Club bar, Gym & Tonic (bar and healthy juices), Sun Club (bar and frozen drinks) and the Red Bar.
"Daring acrobatic theatre"
Virgin showcases unique entertainment and theatre venues as well as performers such as amazing acrobats.
The show “Duel Reality” is a high-energy “Romeo and Juliet” type show with elaborate death-defying circus acts such as climbing and swinging from poles, swings and flips from a giant teeter-totter.
It’s possibly one of the most daring acrobatic theatre acts at sea of those not performed on a skating rink or aqua-theatre.
The “Untitled Danceshow Partything” is a club scene dance party in a theatre setting with no seats. The audience stands around the stage watching the dancers and singers who perform both on and off the stage. The style blurs the line between audience and performers.
Virgin’s newest performance is “It’s a Ship Show” which is a combination dinner and variety show with acrobats, jugglers, roller skaters and singers, hosted by a comedian. The show is featured at The Manor, a two-storey bar space named after Richard Branson’s first recording studio.
Pop-up entertainment occurs throughout the ship indoors and out. “Scarlet Night” is special and features a variety of entertainment from performers to DJs throughout the ship and clients are encouraged to wear red.
There are inside, ocean view and balcony cabins from 105 to 225 square feet. RockStar and Mega RockStar suites range from 352 to 2,167 square feet and include many extra perks.
Cabins showcase the ship’s bright colour palette and furnishings lean toward comfortable minimalism.
Storage space is limited in smaller cabins so prepare clients by providing photos or descriptions so they can pack appropriately. Packing cubes might help them stay organized.
Also point out that cabin configurations have a chair rather than a traditional couch. Twin beds are placed in a L shape which could make one bed do double-duty as a couch.
Valiant Lady cruises from Miami this winter and returns to the Mediterranean for summer.
Complementing Valiant and Scarlet, Virgin plans to launch two more ships this year – Resilient Lady and Brilliant Lady – creating an exciting, unforgettable Fab Four.
Diane Tierney has been on 84 cruises to 47 countries and has 118,000 followers on Instagram. Follow her at @Cruiseguru!