Virgin Voyages is the latest cruise line moving sailings abroad as the timeline to resume cruising in U.S. waters remains unclear.
“Virgin Voyages has been looking forward to sailing, and we’re so excited to announce our plans to sail from the UK,” said Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, in a statement.
The cruise line had a slow start due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which squashed Virgin’s plans to launch in April 2020. But after multiple delays, its first ship, Scarlet Lady, will make its debut in August in the United Kingdom with a series of voyages open to residents of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Scarlet Lady will be departing from Portsmouth, England, with all passengers and crew required to be fully vaccinated.
“Additional testing and protocols will be confirmed closer to sailing, all in line with the most up-to-date recommendations from the UK government,” Virgin said in a statement. “We’re committed to a healthy and safe start at sea and would never set sail without the proper precautions and considerations in place. This includes capacity limitations for this initial phased restart.”
Dubbed “The Summer Soiree Series” there are two kinds of itineraries being offered from Portsmouth:
- The “Long Weekender” voyage:
- Aug. 6-9
- Aug. 13-16
- Aug. 20-23
- Aug. 9-13
- Aug. 16-20
- Aug. 23-27
The Scarlet Lady was meant to make its delayed launch in July but in scheduling sailings to the U.K., Virgin canceled its stateside summer cruises.
The ship is scheduled to return to the U.S. in the fall, for cruises departing from Miami starting Sept. 22. Virgin Voyages’ second ship, the Valiant Lady, is still scheduled to sail from Miami in November.
With Thursday’s announcement, Virgin joins a lineup of major cruise companies including Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises in moving some sailings to other parts of the world.
Norwegian announced Tuesday its official return to service would begin in July in Europe and the Caribbean. And last month, Royal Caribbean International announced that sailings in Israel, Bermuda and the Bahamas, and its sibling line, Celebrity Cruises, added itineraries for St. Maarten – all with specific vaccine requirements.
Carnival Cruise Line also threatened to do the same on Tuesday.
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