Sir Richard Branson is loving life. From a kid who dropped out of high school at age 15 to a determined self-made billionaire, the 68-year-old knows how to make the most out of life. “The key to life is having a sense of humour,” Branson told media at a press conference in Toronto this week. On the 43rd floor of the swishy Bisha Hotel, came the news that his latest endeavour, Virgin Voyages, will be ready to take to the open waters in April 2020. “Let’s make ship happen!”
Virgin Voyages, Branson explains is “adult by design.” He told reporters that he had always thought about creating a cruise line for 30, 40, 50 and then 60-year-olds, he jokes now that he’s older, that are fun and unique. You won’t find kids clubs, kiddie pools, or ridiculously long line up for buffets. Instead, each of the ships in the line will offer unforgettable experiences as well as 20 a la carte restaurants. There will be also “Rock Star” suites amongst the rooms available equipped with tables that you can dance on if you want to.
The first ship will depart from Miami, Florida and several itineraries are already in place. Ports of Calls will include Key West, Bimini Beach, Riviera Maya (Cozumel, Playa De Carmen), and San Juan (Puerto Rico). The cruise ships intend on staying at the port until late night so “sailors” have the opportunity to experience the nightlife in some of the hotspots and not have to worry about rushing back on board without enough time to visit the islands. Epic bonfires and sunsets at the Virgin properties, such as Bimini Beach, are planned — this “Fire and Sunset” experience that Branson tells us are unforgettable like those he’s loved at his own Necker Island.
But even more news is the appointment of Captain Wendy Williams who is not only Canadian (originally from Sept-Iles, Quebec and moved to Vancouver Island, British Columbia) but the first female in this role for any major cruise brand. She will take the helm as Master of Scarlet Lady in the spring. Apparently, only 2% of the nautical world’s leaders are female and Branson tells us Virgin Voyages will continue to strive for more balance. With over 28 years experience and 15 of the most recent years spend on the bridge of mega cruise ships, Williams is more than qualified and confident to take on the important role. She tells us that working with Virgin is a “dream job” working with like-minded people in a forward-thinking company that not only wants to take care of their passengers but also the crew.
Virgin Voyages also has the environment in mind and is already committed to sustainability from where they source their fish to eliminating single-use plastics on board. No massive spreads in buffets either but more interesting food options include a Vegan Forward restaurant, a Korean BBQ, “food truck” inspired Galley, Test Kitchen where you can experiment with flavours and cooking techniques, a thoughtfully sourced coffee, and healthy juice bar.
Branson himself will be celebrating his “big birthday” next year aboard the ship. Apparently, Boy George will be spinning the tunes and many surprises are being planned. BTW, we looked it up and he will be 70. We also looked up to see if we can join in the birthday bash and yes, the voyage dubbed “Epic Sea Change for the oceans” starts at $4050 per cabin (suitable for 2 people) happens July 14 to 19, 2020.
While in Toronto Sir Richard Branson attended game 5 of the Raptors NBA Finals game against the Warriors and had plans to visit the CN Tower to take on the Edge Walk.