Scarlet Lady – Sir Richard Branson ’s first cruise ship – is shaping up to be a beauty when she makes her public debut next year.
But, as I discovered as one of the first people to tour the Virgin Voyages vessel at its Italian shipyard in Genoa, there’s still a lot of work to do before then.
Although the adults-only ship is now afloat, the interior is still a mass of wires, bare steel and scaffolding, with 2,600 people grafting away to get it finished.
One show cabin is nearly done, featuring a bed that turns into a lounger during the day, while the other 1,329 need to be completed.
But even without a single piece of furniture, it’s easy to see how luxurious the biggest cabin – the suitably named Massive Suite – will be.
Its terrace, which will include an outdoor shower, hot tub, hammocks and a table big enough to dance on, sprawls across the deck and gives an even better sea view than the captain’s bridge immediately below.
This cabin – the largest of 78 so-called RockStar suites – will have its own music room with guitars and amps.
At the other end of the ship will be the Athletic Club where what is now a gaping V-shaped hole will one day be filled with catamaran-style netting so guests with a head for heights can lie on it high above the waves.
Other areas of Scarlet Lady that I saw in their infancy include The Manor nightclub, the spa, pool deck and The Wake restaurant – naturally at the stern – whose design has been inspired by the Wolseley in London and The Grill in New York.
The 17-deck ship, able to carry 2,800 passengers – or ‘sailors’, as Branson prefers to call them – and 1,150 crew, will go on public sale on Valentines Day with prices starting at just over $1,000 (£770) a person for a four or five-day Caribbean cruise to Cuba, Mexico or the Dominican Republic.
A ‘mystery added destination’ to all the voyages is also set to be announced on February 14.
The ship is due to be handed over from the yard on the same date next year and undergo six weeks of sea trials and shakedown voyages to train the crew before a maiden voyage from Miami on April 1, 2020.
So confident is Branson of its success that a sister ship is already being built and two more are on the order books.
At the shipyard, I strapped on 3D goggles to see what some finished areas of Scarlet Lady will look like. Virgin Voyages now have just one year to make that vision a reality.
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