The boss of Virgin Voyages’ has hinted that the currently adult-only line could introduce family-friendly ships in the future.

Chief executive Tom McAlpin said the decision to make its first ship, Scarlet Lady, adult-only “wasn’t an easy decision” but insisted that the line needed “to be bold” if it was to set itself apart.

He admitted the initial business plan for Virgin Voyages was to allow families onboard but still focus on an adult experience, however research among potential passengers led them to go adult-only.


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Speaking during the launch celebrations of 2,700-passenger Scarlet Lady in Dover on Friday, McAlpin said: “We did a lot of research and if you want to distinguish yourself and set yourself apart you have to be bold. We (the Virgin group) are a family brand and we love children, but we don’t think it’s right for our ship right now.

“That doesn’t mean we can’t change our mind as the fleet grows and as we build new ships.

“That might be something we do in the future – why not have ships that are for adults and ships that are for families. But right now [adult-only] is an important market we want to corner.”

McAlpin added that not having to dedicate space onboard to teen and kids’ clubs meant that the brand could have more fun in creating “elevated sophisticated” adult space.

Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson admitted that he had wanted to create the brand for many decades, adding that Virgin Voyages was a “culmination of 50 years of practising on other businesses”.

“I would have liked to have done this when I was under 30 – the dream started then. I thought what fun to be 26 and have a cruise line for under 30s. Then it was under 40s, and 50s as it took a few years to build enough resources to afford to do what isn’t a particularly cheap thing.

“We got people from all different Virgin companies, got out a big sheet of paper and fill that paper. We got to figure out all the things we don’t like about other people’s cruise ships and all the things we feel we should do. The wonderful thing is that the proof of the pudding is in the ship itself.”

Hundreds of agents spent a night onboard Scarlet Lady while it was in Dover, with the ship heading to Liverpool this week where hundreds more will get the opportunity to experience the new ship.