Exclusive Interview: Shane Lewis-Riley, Director of UK Sales, Virgin Voyages

With its launch set for April 2020, Cruises Waves grills Virgin Voyages boss, Shane Lewis-Riley who is leading the sales effort in the UK.

In this exclusive interview Shane shares an insight to why Virgin Voyages will be different to the traditional cruise lines, highlights destinations for Scarlet Lady – the first Virgin Voyages ship, and reveals his favourite cruise experiences.

Why will cruising with Virgin Voyages be different to traditional cruise lines?

Virgin Voyages has set out to create a completely new kind of holiday at sea. We didn’t look to the cruise industry for inspiration but instead used extensive customer and partner research, to understand what people (who wouldn’t consider taking a traditional type of cruise) were looking for.

We started by creating a more inclusive value proposition aimed at eliminating nickel & diming. Our guests (Sailors) won’t have to think about paying extra gratuities for Rock Star service, additional charges for better quality restaurants, fees for fitness classes or basic beverages. And because Wi-Fi is almost seen as a basic human right these days, we’ve included that too.

Our eateries have been inspired by great restaurants in the best cities. There’s no dining hall or buffet; everything is made fresh to order. You won’t find traditional formalities like assigned dining times, formal nights or stuffy dress codes either.

Our experience is based on a Vitamin Sea ideology inspired by the oceans and their importance in the health and well-being of the planet and our daily lives. This will be activated through a mix of high-energy moments coupled with relaxation and rejuvenation. It’s so wide ranging from an outdoor training zone, on-demand fitness, an adult playground, wellness pool, cold pressed juices, mud rooms, salt rooms, cold plunge pools and more.

There’s a lot of other uniquely Virgin things layered into the experience like an onboard vinyl shop, a tattoo studio, our transformational sea bed and drag brunch. And much more still to come as we prepare for Scarlet Lady’s arrival in April 2020.

What kind of passenger is booking a Virgin Voyage, and are you seeing UK travellers book with you?

We have a wide range of Sailors booking with us, from people who have already cruised but are looking for something a different to those who wouldn’t have considered cruising before. We don’t tend to think about them in terms of age or demographic. The thing that unites them is their outlook on life and their yearning for the authentic. They crave the best that life has to offer.

Will Cuba and the Caribbean be your only destinations?

Scarlet Lady will be home ported in Miami year round and offers four unique itineraries including Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and our Beach Club in Bimini, Bahamas. Our Sailors told us that they were interested in combining a 4 or 5 night voyage with a few days in Miami so that’s what we’ve started with.

There’s a natural affection for the Virgin brand in the UK but the excitement from Sailors and our First Mates in the UK has exceeded our expectations. We built the itineraries so that they can be combined, so some of our UK Sailors are opting to create a 9 or 10 night holiday and some are packaging a shorter voyage up with a land stay.

Our second ship, arriving in 2021, will sail seasonally from Miami but you’ll have to stay tuned for specific details of the itinerary as well as the rest of her deployment.

Will you be launching more ships? and will Virgin we ever see Virgin Voyages in Europe?

Our third and fourth ships will arrive in 2022 and 2023. We haven’t made any decisions on itineraries for those just yet. We did recently announce that Scarlet Lady will stop in Dover and Liverpool on her way to Miami next year.

What’s your favourite cruise destination?

Tough one! I have so many favourite destinations, however, there’s something special that I’m saving for Scarlet Lady. I’ve haven’t yet visited Havana and I’m holding out so I sail into Havana for the first time onboard our beautiful first ship.

What’s the first thing you do when you step on-board a cruise ship?

For me, it’s all about exploring so I just have to see every corner of the ship before I can relax. Once I’ve explored (and booked a few spa treatments) I generally find a spot on top deck with a glass of bubbles and watch the land disappear into the distance.

Cruise Waves thanks Shane for taking the time to chat with us. We wish VirginVoyages every success in their upcoming launch, and look forward to experiencing Scarlet Lady when she is launched.

For more information about Virgin Voyages, visit: https://www.virginvoyages.com

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