Billionaire Sir Richard Branson's cruise line Virgin Voyages has launched the second vessel in its adults-only fleet, the 2770-passenger Valiant Lady.
The so-called "anti-cruise ship" kicked off launch celebrations on Friday at London International Cruise Terminal, ahead of what Virgin is referring to as the ship's "limited bookable MerMaiden voyage".
Honouring its Virgin Records roots, Valiant Lady's March 11 launch event featured an all-star line-up of acts and DJs in the ship's nightclub, including Tom Grennan and international superstar Diplo.
The cruise line teamed up with UK radio station Capital for a launch competition to give away an all-inclusive one-night luxury stay aboard the brand-new vessel.
Virgin Voyages shared drone footage of the new vessel on Instagram as it departed for Liverpool, giving fans a glimpse of the sprawling outdoor deck spaces, where the Sun Club, VIP sundeck and private cabanas reside.
Speaking on the arrival of Valiant Lady in the UK, Virgin Voyages CEO Tom McAlpin said the company is seeing an uptick in bookings.
"The lifting of UK travel restrictions has already shown promising signs with 70 per cent uplift in bookings since December – and we can't wait to welcome sailors (passengers) on-board," he said.
"We'll be showcasing our newest lady in Tilbury and Liverpool, where fans are invited to wave her in before we kick off our bookable European sailings from Portsmouth in March and our new homeport in Barcelona in May."
Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson called the launch of the second ship "a momentous day", saying the cruise line has been a dream in the making since his 20s.
"It's exciting to be able to celebrate our continued growth as a brand that's on a mission to voyage like no other," he said.
"In our five decades in business, Virgin has always sought to offer our customers something extra special, and Virgin Voyages has worked tirelessly to do just that."
The 100,000-gross-tonne ship is set to take in such destinations as Palma de Mallorca, the Canary Islands, Lisbon, Belgium and Ibiza.
Australia is also reportedly in its sights, with Valiant Lady expected to kick off sailings Down Under later this year, assuming the country's cruise ban is lifted next month (the federal government is expected to make an announcement this week on whether cruising will resume after April 17).
Virgin Voyages president Nirmal Saverimuttu said the company has seen a surge in demand, as they enter into the northern hemisphere's summer season.
"After a tough two years, people are excited to explore the world again and it means a lot to us that we can help facilitate that," he told CNN.
Virgin Voyages' first ship, Scarlet Lady, launched from its Miami home base on October 6, almost 18 months behind schedule due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Like Scarlet Lady, the 278-metre-long Valiant Lady aims to disrupt the status quo with such unconventional features as a tattoo parlour, drag show brunches, rockstar-style "riders" for the top-tier suite guests (essentially a list of prearranged room requests, ranging from guitars to green M&Ms), and the largest daybed at sea.
Virgin Voyages' "sailors", the name given to passengers, can access a Sailors App, which allows them to request champagne anywhere onboard with the shake of a phone.
Another key feature of the fleet is a Vitamin Sea health program that prioritises wellness and partying in equal measure. This includes unlimited fitness classes, DJ-led flotilla parties and acoustic performances in front of a beach bonfire.
The second ship launch comes on the back of a new partnership with celebrity Jennifer Lopez, announced last week.
The singer and actress will work with the cruise line on developing wellness and fitness experiences, and "collaborations and entertainment co-creations," in the role of chief entertainment and lifestyle officer, according to the company. The cruise line will also be the first to stock her skincare line, JLo Beauty.
Despite pandemic-related delays, Virgin Voyages is set to launch two more ships, with Resilient Lady set to debut later this year, and a fourth liner due to launch in 2023.