Virgin Voyages, the new cruise line established by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, revealed it would be cruising to Cuba from Miami on its Caribbean itineraries, and at the same time announced an order for a fourth cruise ship.
“We’re delighted to confirm that we’ve entered into a contract with Fincantieri to build the fourth ship in our fleet, and we will be sharing additional details soon,” a spokesperson for Virgin Voyages told Cruise Critic.
The fourth cruise ship will be identical to the three already on order. The contract was signed by Virgin Voyages at the Fincantieri shipyard where Scarlet Lady, the first of Virgin’s ships, is being built. Steel for the second ship has already been cut, and the first delivery is scheduled for 2020, followed by a ship a year until 2023.
Each ship will carry 2,770 passengers, with an adults-only focused cruise experience, and will cost roughly US $790-million to build.
Virgin Voyages also announced this week that Havana, Cuba will be one of the destinations it cruises to on its roundtrip Caribbean itineraries from Miami. The announcement was made by Sir Richard Branson via Instagram, who said it was one of his favourite cities in the world.
“Virgin Atlantic has been visiting Cuba for 13 years, and I cannot wait to see our iconic Scarlet Lady gleaming in the Havana Harbour,” Branson said in a follow-up media statement. “Havana is the perfect place for our sailors to go and experience a city that exudes an irresistible energy and passion.”
“We are thrilled to share the news about our partnership with Cuba and can’t wait to take our sailors to Havana, which is without doubt, one of the Caribbean’s most authentic and enriching destinations,” added Virgin Voyages’ president and CEO Tom McAlpin.
Virgin Voyages’ first ship Scarlet Lady will be adults-only with a focus on wellness and relaxation.
“This fantastic place offers the chance for our sailors to create their own unique stories as they uncover cultural treasures, meet the locals and just soak up the atmosphere,” he said.
All Virgin Voyages’ Cuba sailings from Miami will feature an overnight stay in Havana, while OFAC-compliant shore experiences are in development. Once those regulatory hurdles have been ironed out, the cruise line will reveal further details in 2019.
Virgin Voyages said the decision to sail to Cuba was influenced by customer and travel partner research conducted in North America and the United Kingdom, the cruise line’s two primary target markets.
The entry of Virgin Voyages to the Cuba cruise scene comes following an explosion of interest in travel to the country following former US President Barack Obama’s ‘Cuban thaw’.
Since then, MSC Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and several dozen others have added the city to Caribbean cruise itineraries for 2019 onwards.