British entrepreneur Richard Branson will reveal the “Scarlet Lady” Friday, a 60,000-tonne cruise liner complete with a tattoo studio and yoga room aimed toward drawing in a young generation of holiday-makers.
Regardless of the unfortunate timing, with passengers on one ship isolated after hundreds caught the coronavirus and another turned away by five nations over fears somebody on board may be sick, Branson sees cruises as a growth field.
With Virgin already providing everything from airlines to banking, healthclubs and travel, he has set his eyes on a boutique hotel-style pitch.
The coronavirus pandemic, which originated in mainland China and has killed more than 2,200 people, has taken a toll on cruise operators as travel curbs and the worry of it spreading have led to suspensions of trips in the Far East.
Virgin Voyages will launch the first of four ships in Dover on the south coast of England before she sails on to the U.S. for a maiden voyage around the Caribbean in April.
Demand for cruising holidays has leaped over the last decade, with some 32 million passengers expected to set sail in 2020, a determine that has virtually doubled since 2009.
The U.S. is the largest marketplace for passengers, with the Caribbean and Mediterranean the most popular locations for the main cruise lines, including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian.
Like other Virgin manufacturers, Branson’s Voyages line will target younger vacationers with spas, a gym, 20 restaurants, DJ sets, drag queens, and a vinyl retailer.
Apart from the coronavirus, the cruise industry has been compelled to address its environmental impact and enhance its cooperation with ports to prevent several ships from flooding thousands of tourists into tiny coastal communities at once, damaging their lifestyle.