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Bucking a cruise industry trend, newcomer Virgin Voyages says it has no interest in catering to families with kids — at least for its first ship.
The operator, set to launch its first ship in 2020, announced the “Adult By Design” concept which will only allow passengers who are 18 and older. The announcement came this week during a ceremony marking the start of construction for the vessel, the first of three on order. The company also said 86 percent of cabins would have a balcony and 93 percent would have an ocean view.
“Virgin Voyages is creating a sophisticated ship and a transformational experience that offers our sailors a place where rejuvenating day-life meets exciting nightlife and everything in between,” president and CEO Tom McAlpin said in a statement.
In an online post, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson suggested that the adult-only policy would be in place across a board: “We’ve decided our ships should be ‘Adult by Design’ as we’re all about relaxation, rejuvenation and fun.”
A spokeswoman said no decision had been made about ages that would be allowed on the other ships yet.
At the time, executives promised to “make waves” and refresh what they saw as a vacation model ripe for an update.
When the company announced plans to order three new ships in 2015, president and CEO Tom McAlpin said input from the cruising public would be essential.
“How can we design your ideal ship, your most irresistible vacation ever?” he said. “We’re committed to taking people on that journey with us.”
That feedback from cruisers and travel agents “who are looking for a more elevated and premium experience” contributed to the decision to create a ship for adults, the company said.
While smaller ships in the high-end, luxury, and expedition spaces typically cater to adults without explicitly forbidding children, operators of larger ships with mass-market appeal have been seeking ways to attract more family groups. The Cruise Lines International Association has been promoting multigenerational cruising as a key growth area.
Virgin Voyages, with ships designed for about 2,700 passengers, falls between those small and large categories. Not much else is known about the onboard experience, but it seems unlikely the company will invest in the kind of activities that other cruise lines have introduced such as rock climbing walls and waterslides. Recently, Royal Caribbean International even announced that its newest ship would include an “ultimate family suite” with features including a slide connecting two floors, a popcorn machine, and air hockey table.
“The fastest growing part of our business is actually family travel,” Royal Caribbean Cruises CEO Richard Fain said at Skift Global Forum last month. “Once we get those children, we own the parents and the grandparents because they have such a good time on the cruise.”