A trend is emerging here, as Virgin Voyages is the latest – and first major cruise brand – to announce that all passengers and crew members must be vaccinated before sailing when cruises resume from U.S. shores.
Royal Caribbean has announced a series of cruises departing from Haifa, Israel, beginning in May, requiring proof of vaccination for all guests and crew over the age of 16. Luxury cruise line Crystal Cruises will also have a vaccination requirement for its summer cruise program in the Bahamas, but these cruises will not call at U.S. ports.
Smaller cruise lines, including American Queen Steamboat Company, a subsidiary of Victory Cruises, British company Saga Cruises and river cruise lines Avalon Waterways and Crystal River Cruises, have announced that they will require their passengers to be vaccinated.
Our goal is to provide the safest travel experience possible, which means our crew and sailors are vaccinated, said Tom McAlpin, president and CEO of Virgin Voyages, in a statement. It is a step towards a safe return to sailing and the right decision for Virgin Voyages, he added.
The shutdown of the global cruise industry was particularly hard on Virgin Voyages, a young cruise line that was preparing for its first trip with paying passengers when the pandemic rocked the industry a year ago.
READ MORE: Two US river cruise lines demand KOVID-19 vaccination
We know vaccination is the future
The Scarlet Lady, the first ship in the line, is a 110,000 gross ton, 2,770 passenger vessel that will debut in Miami. Virgin Voyages has announced sailings through June 30. June was canceled because it – and other cruise lines whose ships depart from U.S. ports – are waiting for advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on next steps to resume operations.
Although vaccination on cruise ships is not yet mandatory, it is becoming increasingly likely as time goes on and a major global vaccination campaign is launched. In the United States, President Biden said that by May there will be enough vaccine for every adult American who wants it.
We are very encouraged by the new administration’s recent plans for an outreach in May and know that vaccination is the future, McAlpin said in a press release.
We are an adults-only cruise line, which allows us to provide a very controlled and safe environment for all passengers. Because of our profession, we are very familiar with testing and vaccination requirements. There is a high demand for travel and Virgin Voyages will soon be ready to welcome (guests) on board.
Virgin Voyages Third ship recently announced
Expectations are high for the launch of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group new line. The second ship, Valiant Lady, is scheduled to arrive in November, and the line recently announced that a third ship, Resilient Lady, will depart in the summer of 2022 for her first Mediterranean cruise.
Mercury Branson is known for his distinctive approach to industry disruption, and he says the company’s first foray into the cruise industry is no different.
I don’t ever want to do business again unless I radically change it and create something radical that everyone who works at Virgin and everyone who comes into contact with Virgin will be really proud of, Branson told Business Insider last year.
Radical approach to cruising
For Virgin Voyages, for example, this means jettisoning dinner rules. There will be no buffet or large dining room. Instead, a choice of 20 different restaurants is offered, all of which are included in the price of the cruise.
WiFi will be free for all, there will be no extra charge for refreshments (although alcoholic beverages will be available), and gratuities for crew members are not provided, which is often a point of contention with major cruise lines.
The entertainment promises to be more intense than on the other lines, with more emphasis on music and DJs and less on Broadway productions. The tattoo parlor will be equipped with a pitcher, and there will be a topless tanning bed.
Virgin Voyages will also spend more hours and some nights in port to allow customers to discover the new destinations they are visiting.
READ MORE: Two American river and coastal cruise lines are back on the road.
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