Sir Richard Branson in Australia: Why Virgin Voyages cruise ships will be adults only

Sir Richard Branson has his reasons for making his first cruise ship, Virgin Voyages' Scarlet Lady, an adults-only experience.

"I love my grandkids, but just occasionally I wouldn't mind going off on a cruise and partying and having some fun away from them," he said.

We've got tables you can dance on.

In Sydney on Tuesday to promote the new cruise line to Australians, Sir Richard said he'd wanted to move into the industry ever since he was a 28-year-old, trying to get an under-30s cruise off the ground.

"I never got the money to do it," he said. "It's taken much of a lifetime to be where we are."

And while he admitted it would be a long way for Australians to travel to the Caribbean to be part of Virgin Voyages' first cruises, he promised it would be a worthwhile one.

"There are some people who just don't like certain aspects of cruise ships, but I think we've put that right," he said.

Scarlet Lady will make its maiden voyage in April 2020. It will feature 1330 cabins, 78 "RockStar" suites and 28 restaurants. Take a look at the designs in the gallery above.

Virgin Voyages' chief commercial officer Nirmal Saverimuttu said the decision to cater only to those over 18 was brave, but necessary to create something different.

"When we mentioned that [it was adults only] to people, their eyes just lit up," he said.


"Because you don't have to cater to everybody, you can use some spaces that would normally go to kids. We converted one space that would have been dedicated to kids into an outdoor fitness area."

Some of the adult features on board the ship including an app that will allow you to shake your phone anywhere on the boat to order champagne. Every cabin will come equipped with mood lighting and hammocks.

"We've got tables you can dance on, at Richard's request," Mr Saverimuttu said.

"It's really not about an age group, it's about a mindset. In today's world, we're all collectors of experiences.

"I think as a brand we have a real opportunity to come into the market and attract people who are already cruising, but also people who've never considered one before."

Virgin Australia will offer packages with flights from Australia's east coast capital cities, an overnight stay in a Miami hotel followed by a Carribean cruise for four-to-five days.

Mr Saverimuttu said that the combination of an affiliated airline and the cruise line gave the company a unique selling point.

"You get a seamless Virgin experience from door-to-door," Mr Saverimuttu said.

Sir Richard said in the future Virgin Voyages may aim to compete with the likes of Disney in the family cruise market, but that that would be "three-to-five" ships away.

He said there were already plans for a second route in Europe and, possibly, Australia.

"If you're living in Sydney it's certainly an easy place to jump on a cruise ship - and I hope that one day we'll have one down here, I'm pushing for it," he added.

That may prove difficult with one of the major issues facing the local cruise industry the lack of capacity available for ships in Sydney Harbour. As a result, more ships are opting to base themselves in other Australian cities during the summer cruising season.

There were 1240 cruise ship visits to Australia during the 2018/19 financial year, according to the Cruise Lines International Association, with a record 1.35 million Australians taking a cruise in 2018.

With concerns growing over the carbon footprint of the cruise industry, Sir Richard said that said that Virgin would do "everything possible, plus more".

"Staff are challenged to come up with ideas to make us [as environmentally] friendly as possible," he said.

"With brand new ships and brand new technology, we can lower our footprint," Mr Saverimuttu added.

"We've tried to incorporate green technologies into all of our ships. We're one of the first, if not the first to use a technology called Climeon, which takes the waste and energy from the engines and converts it into propulsion for the ships."

Virgin Voyages will also ban single-use plastics on board, with no straws, bottled water or other plastic bottles, condiment packets, shopping bags, food packaging, stirrers and coffee cups. Recycle and re-usable materials will be used instead.

See also: New cruise ships flock to Australia, but Sydney has a problem

See also: World's first 'X-bow' cruise ship sets sail on inaugural voyage