Virgin Voyages's Valiant Lady assessment: On board the adults-only ship with Richard Branson


Sir Richard Branson, in typical model, is holding court docket in a nook of The Dock, an expansive open-deck space on the stern of the Valiant Lady, the second ship in his spankingly new Virgin Voyages cruise line fleet.

At one level he asks whether or not anybody is aware of what the deepest harbour on the earth is. There are clean appears to be like all spherical till Branson proclaims: “It’s Pearl Harbour.”

It is not, although. It’s really Sydney Harbour and it is maybe one thing the ebullient billionaire can take a look at for himself when Virgin Voyages – within the form of the 2770-passenger Resilient Lady – arrives in Australia in late 2023 for its maiden cruise Down Under.

That ship will finally make Melbourne its dwelling and cruise the east coast of Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. It can be based mostly on the historic Station Pier in Port Melbourne from the 2023-24 summer time (Station Pier has lengthy been the house of the Spirit of Tasmania Bass Strait ferry, nevertheless it strikes to Geelong in October). The 2023-24 summer time “wave” season would be the second full seasonal outing for the cruise business since its comeback following a disastrous pandemic-induced becalming.

Virgin Voyages’ arrival is one thing of a cruise coup for Australia and an excellent larger one for the Victorian capital which has been historically the poor relation of the Down Under cruising growth, ceding a lot of the profitable market to Sydney and Brisbane. Before the pandemic, cruising was estimated to contribute $5.2 billion to the Australian financial system.

The Resilient Lady is the third (after the Scarlet Lady and the Valiant Lady) of what’s anticipated to be a fleet of 4 (Brilliant Lady remains to be being constructed). Or perhaps 5 – even Branson is not certain at this second: “I said the same thing about Virgin Atlantic and look what happened there.”

Not that it issues, as all of the ships are similar. Imagine a kind of funky fashionable childcare centres stuffed with toys, playground tools and furnishings bursting with shiny, major colors. Now think about giving the children a shedload of sweets and sugary drinks, sitting again, and watching the present. Now ship the ankle-biters packing and change them with grown-ups.

That’s just about the vibe on board the $1 billion Valiant Lady as we be a part of it for its maiden, week-long, adults-only voyage from Barcelona, across the Mediterranean and again. Care to come back alongside for the wild trip?


Sir Richard and Virgin Voyages chief government Tom McAlpin are on board for just a few days to mark the second and in each instances, bounce into the swimming pool absolutely clothed. It’s that kind of cruise. Which is to say it is not like some other cruise.

This entry into the world of cruising is in line with “Branson the Great Disruptor”. Music, airways, outer house – he is stirred all of them up at one time or one other – and now appears to be like like throwing a critical curve ball into the usually placid ocean-going world.

One skilled American passenger (identified on this ship as “sailors”) describes different cruises as “ordinary” in comparison with this one. True, It’s an attractive, unique, wild trip which does not take itself too critically however nonetheless manages to get the meals and booze and the on-board leisure oh so proper.

This is a ship for the younger, the young-at-heart, and the Instagram era. It’s the kind of whimsy Willy Wonka would have give you given a spare billion {dollars} and fashionable know-how – a rampant rock-n-roll beast the place you’ll be able to relaxation assured you will not get one other present tune from Les Mis or Oklahoma.

However, chances are you’ll end up stomach laughing at drag queen Miss Titty Kaka or watching a risqué present that’ll by no means allow you to take a look at a watermelon in the identical approach once more. And what number of cruise ships sport a vinyl information retailer (starring the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks album, produced in 1977 by Virgin Records), a hipster barber, an enormous spa-cum-hammam, and a tattoo parlour?


Painted a startling silver-grey with the standard shiny scarlet Virgin livery, the ships can accommodate 2700 passengers and 1160 crew, who gad about in a striped uniform that pays homage to conventional Breton sailors’ shirts whereas incorporating the Virgin “V”.

It actually is a classy creche for adults, awash with a myriad shiny shiny issues to eat and drink and see and do, from a nook that includes outdated video video games (Space Invaders, anybody?) to the old school swings, see-saws and roundabouts that pepper the higher decks.

There’s a shiny crimson jogging circuit up high, quirky, cartoonish artworks framing the steps all the way down to the swimming pool and a line-up of nightly leisure that ranges from dangerously cutting-edge dance exhibits to multimedia membership nights and blues musicians in one of many many bars.

There are loads of eating choices, too, with 20 eateries on board at no additional cost and which supply all the pieces from Korean BBQ to sizzling canine, ramen and posh Mexican.

The core eating places embody The Wake (high-end steak and seafood), Extra Virgin (Italian), Pink Agave (Mexican), Gunbae (Korean), the Test Kitchen (experimental delicacies), Razzle Dazzle (vegetarian with a twist), and The Pizza Place.

Each restaurant is a feast for the eyes and the abdomen. As testomony to the requirements, I’ll confess that as an unrepentant carnivore and a serial hater of pizza (sorry Italy) two of my favorite meals have been a white truffle and egg pizza, and the totally-vegetarian-but-you-wouldn’t-know-it Impossible Burger in Razzle Dazzle.

Gunbae, the communal Korean barbecue eatery, has superb meals and high-energy employees who know easy methods to make an evening of it. The ingesting sport alone is well worth the go to. There’s additionally a meals court docket – The Galley – with greater than eight locations to eat (together with a bakery, a espresso store, an all-day breakfast bar and retailers to get ramen, contemporary bento packing containers and burgers).


On The Dock, Branson says he first thought of coming into the cruising business when he was about 27 however “never managed to get the money together”.

“I thought it would be a good idea to have a cruise line for under 30-year-olds,” he laughs. “Then it was under 40-year-olds, then under 50-year-olds … today, it’s the young at heart.”

Now an lively 71 years younger, he is lastly bought spherical to it, bringing his trademark mixture of chutzpah, wide-eyed delight and enterprise savvy to an business dominated by a handful of cruise strains.

In doing so, he is shaking up an business lengthy seen because the bailiwick of older individuals who want an evening of ballroom dancing or an ABBA tribute present to chucking themselves right into a pool absolutely clothed or taking part in Donkey Kong. One of the main points of interest, says Branson, is the adults-only rule.

“Because we don’t have children on board, we can do things that other cruise ships can’t. All the space that’s normally put aside for entertaining kids has been given over to running tracks, to the larger workout areas, and much better spaces for the restaurants. We got rid of the buffet, too, which was another thing people said they didn’t like.

“We’ve additionally bought unimaginable employees. There are 82 totally different nationalities working throughout the 2 ships to this point. What we search for is identical factor we seemed for all these years in the past after we began [the Virgin Atlantic airline] – individuals who genuinely care about different individuals, individuals who will not name somebody sir or madam however could have a little bit of banter.

“They’re not Stepford Wives – they’re willing to interact with the passengers, have a joke, have a laugh and just be natural.”


One of the large adjustments has been to separate the cruise director function throughout a minimum of 13 totally different individuals and whacky classes.

The Valiant Lady’s leisure director, Meg Monhollen, explains: “I’ve been in the cruise industry for years so I know the stereotypical cruise director role; it’s that one person that’s trying to appeal to 600 or 4000 guests and it can become that cheesy, schticky, tell-all-the-same jokes sort of thing.

“Around right here we use the time period constructive disruption, and I believe that is a fairly good description. I discover that extra individuals can relate to 13 personalities higher than 2000 individuals attempting to narrate to simply the one cookie-cutter man.”

Among the 13 “personalities” that roam the ship there are seven who have more specific roles. These include the Artist, the Diva, the Gamer, the Hostess, the Balancer (health and wellness), the Foodie and the Charmer (up-close magic).

In keeping Virgin Voyages’ “Epic Sea Change For All” philosophy, even the traditional role of a “Godmother for the fleet” has been transformed. The role has gone to singer Jennifer Lopez but her title is “Investor and Chief Entertainment and Lifestyle Officer”. J.Lo as IceLo? Well, even Sir Richard Branson’s bought to drop the disco ball someday.



Virgin Voyages’ seven-day Irresistible Med cruise begins in Barcelona and visits Toulon, Marina di Carrara, Ajaccio, Cagliari, and Ibiza (two nights) earlier than returning to Barcelona.


Prices begin from $US3003 ($4180) for a Sea Terrace cabin, twin share. Basic Wi-Fi, tender drinks, and all meals are included within the value (unique of taxes). Other varieties of lodging embody the Seriously Suite ($US4466 per cabin), the Posh Suite ($US11,358) and the Massive Suite ($US16,748). Australasian cruises from 2023-24 begin from $US262.50 per particular person for a two-night Melbourne-Hobart-Burnie-Melbourne voyage to a $US1592.50 per particular person Auckland-Wellington-Christchurch-Dunedin-Hobart-Melbourne-Sydney itinerary. See


Keith Austin travelled as a visitor of Virgin Voyages.



Open your cabin door and have the lights activate and the curtains open robotically? It by no means will get outdated. Nor does the little pill on the desk which controls the brightness of these lights, works the TV, and principally does all the pieces however tuck you in at evening. There’s even an “activate cinema mode” button which turns the lights down and closes the curtains while you settle in to observe your favorite film.


The Virgin Voyages app allows you to e-book tables on the eating places, e-book shore excursions, lets you understand what’s taking place on the ship, and exhibits how a lot you have bought left in your digital “wallet”. After a day or two it turns into indispensable. As does the little bracelet doohickie (100 per cent ecycled supplies) you get on boarding. This opens your cabin door, checks you on and off the boat and is the way you pay to your booze.


The ship’s design is state-of-the-art, enabling it to make use of much less gas whereas sliding by the water. It has LED lighting all through, your cabin shuts itself down while you’re not in it, there isn’t a single-use plastic on the ship, and the kitchen stoves do not activate till you place a pan on them. “It’s part of our DNA,” says chief government McAlpin, “to focus on the environment, to reduce waste, reduce packaging, to make sure everything is more reusable.”


On every voyage there’s the soon-to-be-famous (or notorious) Scarlet Night the place individuals are inspired to put on crimson and head to the pool deck. It’s a night that begins off with the crew and entertainers placing on a excessive depth present across the pool and finally ends up with everybody within the pool. Make certain your cell is waterproof, is my recommendation, or go away it again in your suite..


There isn’t any scarcity of issues to do off the ship. At Toulon, a port metropolis on southern France’s Mediterranean coast, there have been a minimum of 13 excursions to select from, and an enormous 23 choices at Marina di Carrara in Italy. These can vary from easy metropolis strolling excursions to kayaking, biking, helicopter flights and truffle searching. On our maiden voyage they have been removed from good and wanted extra bedding in so maybe, on this case, much less may be extra. But you’ll be able to at all times simply stroll into city and discover.