Virgin Voyages – The Most Irresistible Vessel on Earth?




Modern, Cutting Edge 18 and Over Sanctuary at Sea

It’s what all cruise lines are trying to do but will Virgin Voyages lead the way in persuading people to take their first voyage on a cruise ship? I’ve compiled the renderings in this short video, to try and capture the essence of the first Lady Ship.

In true Virgin style, the company has approached the creation of a cruise ship in a very different and risky way. No surprises there! The decision for the first ship’s experience to be “Adult By Design” (minimum sailing age is 18), was made after feedback received from future sailors and travel professionals who are looking for a more premium experience with some Virgin style surprises thrown in.

Tom McAlpin, CEO and President of Virgin Voyages announced at the latest ship design reveal in New York, “Adult by Design, means we are designing a modern, cutting edge 18 and over sanctuary at sea”.  Virgin Voyages also promises to be one of the cleanest fleets at sea.

Tom McAlpin President and CEO of Virgin Voyages speaking in New York at the latest ship design reveal.
Tom McAlpin President and CEO of Virgin Voyages speaking in New York at the latest ship design reveal.

The design team, otherwise known as the Creative Collective, are respected visionaries known for their forward thinking designs. Tom McAlpin credited them by saying “Our Creative Collective have contributed tremendously towards ensuring that we will become the most irresistible, alluring and recognisable vessel anywhere on earth”.

Part of Virgin Voyages Creative Collective Design Team talking at the design reveal in New York.
Part of Virgin Voyages Creative Collective Design Team talking at the design reveal in New York.

More Than A Cruise

McAlpin continued “At Virgin Voyages we pride ourselves on being more than just another cruise line, which is why in everything we do and every decision we make, we are always working to redefine how the world views sea travel.”

“It’s why we named the company Virgin Voyages, because we see this as more than a cruise. This is a journey. It’s why we designed our ships to be smaller than most, to provide a more personal and intimate experience for our sailors. and its why with each step we take we are working to change the way this kind of vacation not only looks, feels but most importantly how it is experienced.”

Virgin Voyages SVP Product Design, Dee Cooper, who was responsible for leading the design and experience work at Virgin Atlantic, had never been on a cruise ship before this project. Talking about her approach to this project in New York,  she said “We wanted to give our Sailors lots of  choice, and if you think about this amazing city that we are in at the moment, you choose to go uptown and glam it up and be refined and glamorous, and you chose to go downtown to the West Village and be a bit more relaxed. And we wanted to give our Sailors diversity across the ship.”

It’s Very Risky To Do What Virgin Voyages Have Done

Virgin Voyages Richard's Rooftop, VIP Space
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages Richard’s Rooftop, VIP Space – located right at the front at the top of the ship celebrating the ocean

Tom Dixon of the Design Research Studio in London, responsible for Richard’s Rooftop and the upscale Mexican restaurant, Pink Agave said,  “It’s very risky to do what Virgin Voyages have done here. To get a load of people that have never been on a ship before. But there’s a logic to that madness. Which is if you are going to encourage people to go on cruises of a new demographic, then why not use designers that have not been on a cruise and say ‘what would it be to entice you to go on a cruise?’ maybe.”

Richard's Rooftop VIP Lounge area on Virgin Voyages first cruise ship
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages Retrofuturism – The Romance of Sailing, where the glamour of the past meets the glamour of the future.
Virgin Voyages Richard's Rooftop
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – Richard’s Rooftop designed by Tom Dixon

Tom says he has been influenced by the glamorous age and romance of cruising “which has partially vanished and been replaced by synthetic glamour in a lot of cases. Somewhere between the glamour of the 20’s and 30’s and the glamour of the future, which is something that doesn’t seem to happen anymore.” According to Dee Cooper, Tom fondly refers to this approach as Retrofuturism.

Virgin Voyages - Richard's Rooftop
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – Richard’s Rooftop

Designers Thrive On Restrictions

Pink Agave – Upscale Mexican Restaurant

Virgin Voyages - Pink Agave Mexican Restaurant designed by Tom Dixon
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – Pink Agave Mexican Restaurant designed by Tom Dixon

When asked what was different about working in a cruise ship environment, Tom replied “The idea of diversity in a controlled environment was interesting and unique.  The challenges included technical, low ceilings, steel construction, vast amounts of restrictions in terms of  materials the flammability and wear and tear, but restrictions are what designers thrive on. Battling but being inspired by them equally.”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - Pink Agave Mexican Restaurant designed by Tom Dixon
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – Pink Agave Mexican Restaurant designed by Tom Dixon

Virgin Always Challenge the Cliché

Rob Wagemans – Concrete Founder Creative Director, responsible for The Test Kitchen and The Athletic Club said “Virgin is Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll.” Rob is from Amsterdam with offices in the Red Light District and says that teaming up with Virgin Voyages “Could not be a better match. Virgin always challenge the cliche and they look at the world in a different way than the majority of the world does and they see that the modern society has a different behaviour than the past.”

“They really know how to treat me well on an airplane and no other airline can do it like Virgin does. So if they come to me and say – What I’ve done with the air industry I want to do again on the sea, can you help me? –  I say Hell Yes! As long as I don’t have to go on a Disney Cruise.”

Don’t Let A Cruise Line Dictate Your Lifestyle

Rob continued “What I like is that the ship is full of contrast. There are a lot of places that are calm and a lot of places that are extremely crazy, and luckily we have a lot of crazy spaces. So we really used this philosophy of being disruptive and trying to really change the perspective of what the audience wants. Do they want to have a 7 day calm experience that is different everyday? Or do they want to have fifteen different experiences throughout the day or throughout half a day? And I think the last thing is what people really like. They zap from one world to the other world and from sophistication into casual and that could happen in an hour and this ship will provide all these different worlds by different designers and they are all in contrast and you can live the lifestyle you like and not the lifestyle that the brand of the ship dictates.”

The Test Kitchen – A Restaurant and A Laboratory

You can visit The Test Kitchen many times and have a completely different experience. Concrete Amsterdam’s Head of Interior Design, Lisa Hassanzadeh explains “In the first place its not only a restaurant, its a laboratory and that’s very distinguishable from other restaurants we have done before. So it has a double function you can of course have dinner there, but during the day it’s a cooking school, but not only that it’s also a laboratory for being the best barista or becoming an expert in beer and wine. So you can get really your hands dirty there as well . But there is a great dining and drinking experience there in the evening.”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Test Kitchen designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Test Kitchen designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Test Kitchen designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Test Kitchen designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Test Kitchen designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Test Kitchen designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Test Kitchen designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Test Kitchen designed by Concrete Amsterdam

The Athletic Club

Rob refers to this as “A contrast within spaces. Its a huge space on the top. We were inspired by the downtown Athletic Club in New York not just about sporting but the social life that happens in the dressing rooms where the muscled men would socialise and eat oysters. In the end, sports is about two things, being active, being sweaty, creating a better shape for your body and the second part is that you look at them, you look at the bodies, look at the winners, so we decided to combine these two spaces.”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Athletic Club designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Athletic Club designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Athletic Club designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Athletic Club designed by Concrete Amsterdam

“We have huge sunbathing beds where you can look at people jogging on the jogging track. The bar below with trophies dressed in gold as you are a winner. There is a boxing ring, basketball court, outdoor and indoor gym, cabana for a nap and privacy, brain training games, all kinds of things, interesting food to feed your body with healthiness, so everything is in harmony. We challenge every aspect of the concept. Total harmony within spaces.”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Athletic Club designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Athletic Club designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Athletic Club designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Athletic Club designed by Concrete Amsterdam

The Dock

Located at the aft (back) of the ship on deck 7, The Dock has been designed by Roman and Williams. Co-Founders, Stephen Alesch and Robin Standefer wanted to capture the essence of what they love about the sea.

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Dock designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Dock designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Dock designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Dock designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Dock designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Dock designed by Roman and Williams

When looking for inspiration, Robin Standefer says they “were thinking about a dock with an incredible restaurant, Morocco very salty, chilled.”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Dock designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Dock designed by Roman and Williams

Robin Standefer explains the vision for The Dock. “The design is understated, its beautiful but its more about the food and the people in the space.”

The Manor

Roman and Williams are well known for their incredible designs is New York’s top nightclubs The Boom Boom Room and The Guilded Lily. You can clearly see their design style in the elaborate and beautiful lighting throughout the venue.

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Manor - nightclub designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Manor – nightclub designed by Roman and Williams

Robin Standefer says “We wanted to create a myth. Together we really helped to create a certain drama with the lighting. It’s got a Mezzanine and balcony and amazing lights, like mirrored ball, chandeliers that almost breathe like a jellyfish, as they curl up and down. We want to melt their inhibitions and then allow them to have a powerful and memorable experience.”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Manor - nightclub designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Manor – nightclub designed by Roman and Williams

When talking about the nightclub, Dee Cooper declared “If Virgin can’t do the best nightclub at sea, no-one can. It’s in our DNA!”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Manor - nightclub designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Manor – nightclub designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Manor - nightclub designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Manor – nightclub designed by Roman and Williams

“We needed to do more on this ship.” said Dee Cooper,  “We needed to think about the lifestyles all of us lead in these amazing cities we live in around the world. Whether it’s New York or London, or it’s holiday destinations like Ibiza or Miami, we know that we all have amazing vacation and holiday experiences and our sailors expect the same, and these guys (Creative Collective) really created quintessential holiday romance for everybody.”

Cruise Cynics

But is the design of a cruise ship enough to encourage people to try out their sea legs? I talked to someone who has vowed cruising is not for her, to see if these renderings would give her second thoughts.

Image Credit : thelondoner.me Valentina needs a bit more convincing before stepping onboard a cruise ship.

Valentina De Pertis – Cyber Security CMO (and sister-in-law)  Instagram: @vdepertis

“It love the renderings, it looks absolutely stunning, the deck looks wonderful. It’s a good idea for Virgin to do something like this. However moving it to a completely different target audience, for example people who don’t like cruising, or people who wouldn’t normally go cruising, young adults or something, I think a nice deck and a beautiful ship isn’t enough.”

“There are already nice decks and beautiful ships and presidential suits on other boats. There are lovely areas that already exist. So it’s not enough to get the people who are stereotypically and unfairly biased against it.”

“You would really have to change the people. So having more young adults in the same industry, maybe young influencers, getting people blogging from a certain age interested in it.”

“Also, changing up the food, because the food is already really good quality, but just modernising it, and onboard entertainment.”

“So really the whole experience would have to change, apart from the destinations because going to multiple destinations is already beautiful.”

“You’re stuck on this boat, and if you’re stuck with people who might not be your type of people, or with food that’s absolutely gorgeous, but maybe not something that you would search out if you were on land. If they get all of that sorted out then I actually would book a trip I think and we (the family) all would.”

How A Cruise Ship Is Made

Although everyone was excited to hear about and see the renderings of the cruise lines first ship, Tom McAlpin gave an interesting summary as to the ship building process. He said “It starts with one year of designing followed by another full year of engineering before any construction even begins. Then they start construction by cutting a load of steel followed by the laying of the keel which is the first section of the ship. This is a big block and they place it into the dry dock. They include a lucky keel coin which is a maritime tradition for blessing the vessel for good fortune.” You can read more about this in my post  Getting Laid In Genoa with Boy George. 

Here is the video I took in Genoa of Richard Branson welding the lucky coin into the keel.

First main engine being installed into Virgin Voyages first ship - Chief Engineer Nikola Petrovic
Image Credit: Nikola Petrovic – Virgin Voyages Chief Engineer – “Proud moment to see the first main engine being installed in the engine room for our first ship.”

Virgin Voyages first Ladyship will be constructed of 108  blocks in total.  48 blocks weighing up to 6,000 tons each have been built so far and they are up to deck 16. The ship is being built in three different shipyards. Romania, Palermo and Genoa and will all come together in Genoa in July for the ‘Hook Up’ Event. She will sail 7 night Caribbean itineraries from Miami, Florida.



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