Our Valentine's Day last week was spent in New York City at the invitation of Virgin Voyages, Sir Richard Branson's new Adults-Only cruise venture. Now, we are very lucky in this industry to be entertained, wined and dined fairly regularly and it's often hard to know whether I should write about such events or not. We are truly independent in our choice of suppliers, cruise lines, hotels and so on, and proudly can't be bought.
Except, Virgin Voyages just sort of did.
This event was so grand in scope, luxury and entertainment value that I would be doing you all a disservice if I didn't report on our quick trip and the opportunities now ahead to experience a cruise line like no other, that is going to severely disrupt the industry.
From the High Tea with Sir Richard on the 102nd Floor of One World Observatory, to the the Valentine's Night party at the Playstation Theater, our whirlwind escapade has us feeling a few years younger than we are, and absolutely ready to enjoy Virgin Voyages for real.
Like a Virgin, the TOP 5
Before I talk about Virgin Voyages, I need to brag on the family we have gained with our host agency, Gifted Travel Network. As clients you don't need to know anything about them. However, we would like you to know that, just as Virgin have disrupted many of the industries they have entered, GTN are disrupting the travel industry, producing amazing travel advisors such as ourselves (I warned you I would brag) who are collaborative, heart centered and here to truly inspire our respective clientele. GTN had more advisors at this event than any other host agency which is remarkable in itself. Then the photo below tells you everything, with the Top 10 GTN producers of 2018 (we're hiding in there somewhere), GTN senior management (the two super-smiley powerhouses in the middle), Matthew Upchurch, the CEO of Virtuoso and we're being photobombed by Tom McAlpin, the CEO of Virgin Voyages.
This was a real "pinch-me" moment, but I think it means we've made it.
2. Let's Make Ship Happen
Virgin Voyages first liner, the Scarlet Lady will hold just over 2,000 Sailors (not passengers) but is designed with a modern, yacht-inspired aesthetic and clever cabin technology that will make them much more than just a space to live (or dance). Rockstar Suites (above & below) will come in various shapes and sizes but will be imbibed with the Virgin cheeky touch. They will completely personalize your in-cabin bar for you, seriously asking - tell us what you want, what you really, really want.
3. The Beach Club (above)
They’ve got parties, shows, music, happenings, and it’s all beachy. They promise. Virgin Voyages have been working on a new private Beach Club concept, set for the gorgeous beaches of Bimini, in the Bahamas. Ocean based activities including historic shipwreck diving are possible or just relax at the Beach Club where the energy levels will gradually be amped up all day culminating with a main DJ set. Then as that winds down, be prepared for a signature "fireball" ritual performance, before Sailors retire back to the ship.
The Valentine's Scarlet Night party we attended highlighted the lively and groundbreaking entertainment Virgin Voyages intend to bring to cruising. Apart from this being one of the most epic nights of our lives, including a real after-party, I made a new friend (below).
Paige Turner aka The Diva will be starring in an audacious drag show with some friends.
Just to clarify, Paige is the one in the red, fluffy thing and I am the one with the very surprised look on my face.
Mark Ronson (above), producer and songwriter to Gaga and Adele, amongst others, performed a 75 minute set for us and I believe I found rhythm for the first time in my life. Mr Ronson is charged with masterminding the DJ offerings of which there will be many. He will perform himself at the Bimini Beach Club 4 times a year. If you need to learn to dance like me, this could be worth the cruise fare alone.
5. Eat and Drink
If anything is going to make the cut as a J5Travel recommendation then food and drink have to more than pass muster. No buffets...anywhere...none...really. Virgin Voyages is for foodies. There will be over 20 eateries and bars, and for just a hint of what to expect you could try The Wake (above), an old fashioned steakhouse and full raw bar entered via a grand staircase at the rear of the ship. Alternatively, how about Korean BBQ and some soju sampling at Gunbae (below).
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