Virgin Voyages' first ship, the Scarlet Lady, will be retrofitted with an air purification system that kills 99.9% of all viruses, the new cruise brand said.

Virgin on June 18 released its Voyage Well plan, a list of protocols it will implement throughout the ship. Those protocols include a "bow-to-stern air purification system" created by AtmosAir Solutions that uses bipolar ionization technology shown to kill coronavirus. 

The system will work in tandem with an HVAC system that pumps fresh air throughout the ship. 

Virgin Voyages CEO Tom McAlpin said such technology will help reassure potential cruisers. 

"They need to have confidence that they can come on and are not going to contract the virus," he said. "It's never 100%, but it's all about reducing risk."

Virgin released its protocols before most major cruise lines, even though its current schedule to launch service, in October, is well after that of most lines. 

McAlpin said such protocols inspire consumer confidence, adding that the company's research has shown that there are "a significant number of people who would sail right now without any changes."

"That number jumps even more once you start to implement certain procedures and precautions onboard," he said.

Virgin said it will reduce capacity onboard and in public spaces to allow for social distancing. The line will also employ technology to reduce onboard crowding, such as the use of "virtual queues" instead of physical lines and a wristband that will enable passengers to open their cabin doors and pay for onboard purchases. 

"We are trying to find ways to reduce the amount of contact," McAlpin said. "If you want to go to the front desk, you just send a text and you'll go into a queue, and they'll contact you when you're ready to be served." 

McAlpin said that sort of technology will be used throughout the onboard experience. 

"It's a whole process about making people feel comfortable about getting onboard the ship," he said. 

Prior to embarkation, Virgin will test all passengers and crew for Covid-19, will implement preboarding health checks and screenings and will have thermal camera technology in terminals and onboard to monitor passenger and crew temperatures. The line will regularly test its crew for the virus. 

Virgin took delivery of the Scarlet Lady in March and had to put all of its introductory sailings on hold. Its first sailings are scheduled to resume in October. 

"It's not what we planned, let's put it that way," McAlpin said. "We thought if we timed it poorly there would be a recession — nobody thought it would be a recession like this. The good news is, you learn to be resilient in launching a new business. You learn to be nimble and flexible. That's part of what success looks like."

Virgin's protocols were developed by a Voyage Well Expert Advisory Group, composed of partners at AtmosAir Solutions, EcoLab and in close collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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