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. 

The line’s “Voyage Well” plan, a list of protocols it will implement throughout the ship, also includes virtual queues and other contactless technology, reduced ship capacity, virus testing for passengers and crew, and thermal monitoring cameras. 

Virgin Voyages CEO Tom McAlpin said such protocols 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 doing so will inspire consumer confidence, adding that the company’s research has shown that there are “a significant amount 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.

The line’s “bow-to-stern air purification system” was created in partnership with by AtmosAir Solutions and uses bipolar ionization technology shown to kill coronavirus. The technology will work in tandem with an HVAC system that pumps fresh air throughout the ship. 

Virgin also said it will reduce capacity onboard and in public spaces to allow for social distancing. The line plans to employ digital onboard technology to limit contact and crowding such as the use of “virtual queues” instead of physical lines and a wristband that enables 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 said it will test all passengers and crew for Covid-19 and implement preboarding health checks and screenings. The line plans to have thermal camera technology in both terminals and onboard its ship to monitor passenger and crew temperatures. The line will regularly test its crew for the virus.  Virgin’s ship was never going to have a buffet restaurant, a feature that is unlikely to be seen in hospitality for a while. 

Virgin took delivery of the Scarlet Lady in March and put introductory sailings on hold. Its first sailing is scheduled to depart Oct. 16 and visit the Dominican Republic and its private destination on Bimini.

“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 said its 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. Virgin said that it worked with experts to elevate its existing standards by creating an environment “built to tackle today’s global health crisis.”

Virgin passengers have up to 48 hours before departure to cancel and receive a 100% future cruise credit for sailings through Dec. 16. McAlpin said that most passengers have chosen to take a future cruise credit (FCC) over canceling. Virgin is offering customers that choose to do that one of the of the most generous deals in the industry: For anyone that paid in full, the line doubled their credit. 

“We provided some fantastic incentives,” McAlpin said. “That was to get people to really stick with us and have confidence in us and to rebook.”

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