Ahoy Australia! Launching Virgin Voyages Down Under, in true Virgin style
What a week! It has been four years since I’ve been in Australia, so it felt amazing to be back for Virgin Voyages’ launch Down Under!
In true Virgin style, Virgin Voyages made a show-stopping entrance which I was all too happy to be a part of. As Resilient Lady made its way towards Sydney Harbour, I jumped in an Italian-style speedboat and went out to say hello to everyone aboard. Some of the sailors had been on the ship for 44-days, as the ship relocated from Athens to Australia. The feedback from everyone on-board was incredible. In fact, one couple I met said they were spending a week on land and then jumping back on the ship for another voyage.
As the ship made its way into the harbour, we quickly sped back to land and climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge as the ship docked in front of the Opera House. To stand at the summit of such a notable landmark and see our ship make its way into one of the most iconic harbours in the world was one of the most exciting moments in Virgin’s history.
Like all Virgin companies, we launched Virgin Voyages because the cruise industry was ripe for disruption – and has been for many years! Indeed, I had first thought about launching the company when I was 27. I could never quite shake the dream, so when we the opportunity came about to create the company in 2014, we jumped at it.
We started with a huge blank sheet of paper and wrote down all our ideas. We wrote what we love about sailing, what we disliked about cruising, what we could do differently, and what we wouldn’t do at all. We ended up with a ship that was designed like a superyacht with a rooftop running track and no buffets or single-use plastic in sight. We designed a ship where you could party all night, and then recover with a yoga class and a healthy breakfast and a spa treatment. We introduced workplace policies that put our crew first, and ensure they feel valued. The result is three incredible ships (with a fourth on the way) sailing all around the world from Miami to Melbourne, sweeping up almost every industry award as they go. What a team. I couldn’t be prouder.
The next few days in Sydney involved running around the ship for interviews and celebrating with the teams from Virgin Voyages, Virgin Australia, Virgin Wines Australia and Virgin Money Australia. It was so kind of Virgin Voyages to host everyone for a party aboard the ship for Virgin people from all over the country, and it was lovely to meet so many of you.
During dinner one night, I had a clear view of the Sydney Opera House and could see hundreds of people gathering for an outdoor event. I quickly thought, ‘we should light up the ship with a message that everybody gathered could see’. I was sitting with a group of old friends from Virgin Galactic, and Virgin Australia so we quickly started brainstorming messages we could share, on the back of my menu card. We wanted to say something cheeky like: “The party’s over here!” or “The headline act is on-board” but they were over the character limit. We ended up with “Ship Hot” and “Virgin House” (a cheeky nod to the Opera House), which was still fun! It reminded me of the old days at Virgin Atlantic when we had a blimp and would quickly paint it with cheeky messages like “BA can’t get it up” when the British Airways-sponsored London Eye was stuck on its side during construction. Once, we also hovered the blimp over the Super Bowl and wrote “Fly Virgin” to get some free advertising. We knew the Super Bowl coordinators wouldn't let the NBC camera operators pan up to the balloon, so we wrote "NBC cameramen are the sexiest men alive", which did the trick! The best brainstorms are often the most spontaneous ones.
We’re now in Melbourne, ahead of Resilient Lady’s Aussie MerMaiden sail to Tasmania, and I’m so excited for what the next few days will bring. This feels like the beginning of something great.