Sailing Ahead With Virgin Voyages CEO and President Tom McAlpin

In this exclusive interview with Virgin Voyages' CEO Tom McAlpin, the executive opens up about the past and future of this brand new cruise line.

Sailing Ahead With Virgin Voyages CEO and President Tom McAlpin

We just returned from Valiant Lady’s MerMaiden voyage from Miami, FL. During the sailing, we got some 1:1 time with Virgin Voyages’ CEO Tom McAlpin. During our exclusive interview, Mr. McAlpin opened up about Virgin Voyages’ future. As the company has plans to launch two more ships, he is counting on past cruisers to help spread the word about this new cruise line.

The Brand is Finally at Sea

Before this trip, Heidi and I first tested out Virgin Voyages back in October 2021. At that time, it was one of the line’s first sailings following the restart. Like Mr. McAlpin, we were glad to see the cruise line finally launch after it was first announced back in 2014.

Reminiscing about the last 7 or so years, McAlpin is just happy to see sailors getting to experience the ships. “To actually see the people in the space, using it as it was designed, is really rewarding”.

Sailing Ahead With Virgin Voyages CEO and President Tom McAlpin

Witnessing those experiences and hearing feedback from sailors is part of what keeps him moving forward with the brand. Not to mention, he is happy to tout the positive ratings. According to Virgin Voyages, Scarlet Lady has “the most 5-star ratings of any ship” on Tripadvisor.

McAlpin is hoping those glowing reviews spread the word about this young cruise line. While the Virgin brand is certainly globally recognized in travel and hospitality, the cruise line “is still a upstart”.

So, it is relying on past sailors like us to share their experiences and attract new cruisers.

Who is the Virgin Voyages’ Sailor?

When it comes to finding the right sailors to fill the Virgin Voyages’ fleet, it is all about mindset. The cruise line is trying to appeal to those that are “young at heart”. According to McAlpin, Virgin Voyages is right for those that “want to have fun, enjoy luxury in a sophisticated way”.

This version of “casual fun” is evident in public spaces as well as the daily activities. Sailors can challenge one another to classic board games or retro arcade games in the Social. There are also some traditional activities like trivia and karaoke, but with a unique Virgin Voyages twist.

Along the way, the engaging and diverse Happenings Cast are there to ensure sailors are having a memorable experience onboard Virgin Voyages.

This “premium plus” experience is also showcased in public spaces like the Dock, located aft on deck 7. With a yacht club feel, amazing tapas, and crisp cocktails, it is our favorite spot on the ship. It is exactly the vibe we would expect from a modern, chic upscale resort on land.

Virgin Voyages Valiant Lady Western Caribbean Charm Cruise Review

The outdoor spaces on Virgin Voyages include places to relax during a sea day, with a scattering of amusements like see-saws, hammocks, and foosball. While Virgin Voyages is strictly 18+, that doesn’t mean those onboard can’t tap into their inner child.

The brand also places an emphasis on well-being with several fitness offerings, free group fitness classes, and a spa and thermal suite.

Plus, with some of the best food at sea, all of which is included in the cruise fare, Virgin Voyages offers an upscale cruise experience without being pretentious.

With that said, this combination has attracted a diverse set of sailors to the brand.

According to McAlpin, about 30% of those sailing with Virgin Voyages have never cruised before. But, this is not to say the cruise line is not looking to entice more “traditional” cruisers like us. “We definitely want past cruisers and need past cruisers, and we need all of them onboard spreading the word about the experience”.

For us, the mix of excellent dining, the laid back atmosphere, as well as unique activities and entertainment has made us repeat sailors with the cruise line.

Making Virgin Voyages Global

With the Virgin fleet doubling in size in the next two years, Virgin Voyages is looking to broaden its audience even further.

As part of this plan, Virgin Voyages will begin to offer cruises in Australia and New Zealand next year. According to Mr. McAlpin, those are doing “extremely well”, especially some of the longer repositioning cruises. These longer cruises are in contrast to the shorter cruises offered on Scarlet Lady since her launch.

For us, these 4-night and 5-night itineraries were ideal. The ship offered just enough in terms of dining and activities to fill a few days in the Bahamas.

By giving new and past cruisers a taste of Virgin Voyages on these short trips, McAlpin and the Virgin Voyages team were hoping to leave sailors wanting to come back for more. And they succeeded!

Additionally, the cruise line is expanding beyond the current Bahamas/Caribbean and Mediterranean itineraries to offer a more global vacation experience.

Sailing Ahead With Virgin Voyages CEO and President Tom McAlpin

In fact, the friends we cruised with on Virgin Voyages this past summer in the Med actually booked a 20+ day repositioning cruise in the Pacific next year.

McAlpin is confident that with the brand’s strength, longer itineraries in various other global destinations could become more common.

When thinking of expanding the concept, the CEO and President was quick to rattle off several potential destinations. Among the regions, Alaska was at the top of his list. Additional spots could include the Baltics, Iceland, Asia, as well as expanding the line’s presence in Europe. 

“The best part about our ships is they are mobile”, so the cruise line has flexibility to bring its approach to cruising to almost any destination across the globe.

Enhancing the Onboard Experience

With longer voyages, there would need to be some modifications to the current onboard experience. Certainly, the restaurants would need to offer additional menu items or alternate menus. Plus, one would expect more and varied entertainment across the ship.

In fact, some of these changes are already in the works. During our cruise, there were “daily specials” in the Galley. The VP of Food and Beverage hinted that something similar would be rolling out to the restaurants soon as well.

Further, McAlpin envisions “special menus”. These new offerings would bring the ship’s destinations “to life” to provide a more authentic and cultural cruise experience.

In terms of entertainment, the cruise line is adding a number of “variety” acts to certain vessels. Currently, the Ship Show is exclusive to Valiant Lady, and the Red Room does feature more headliner acts like magicians and comedians.

Virgin Voyages Valiant Lady Western Caribbean Charm Cruise Review

Staples like Duel Reality will be showcased fleetwide. Though, individual ships may get their own productions. For instance, McAlpin did confirm that Resilient Lady will have at least one new signature production show debuting next year.

Similarly, Scarlet Lady currently has Ships in the Night in the main theater which is not available on Valiant Lady.

The Future of Virgin Voyages

Looking ahead, McAlpin envisions Virgin Voyages offering a more personal experience for each sailor. To make that future a reality, leading the way would be a 2.0 version of the Virgin Voyages app.

Admittedly, our experience with the app has been mixed at best. The app does crash often, and while some features are intuitive and work well, there is certainly room for improvement.

For McAlpin, the goal is to “curate experiences” specifically for each cruiser through technology or add-ons like the new “packages”.

Sailors should be happy to know that Virgin Voyages is committed to providing a unique and diverse means of travel. Further, they will continue to innovate as the cruise line matures over the next few years.

For us, that means we have more exciting Virgin Voyages cruises to look forward to in the future.


Did you find any of the tidbits in our interview with Virgin Voyages’ CEO interesting? Have you sailed with this new cruise line yet? Drop us an anchor below to share your experiences cruising with Virgin Voyages.

Don Bucolo, or “DB”, loves everything about cruising- the ocean, the food, and the atmosphere. While he may be obsessed with doing extensive amounts of research on ships and all elements of a cruise, Don enjoys sharing his new found knowledge with fellow cruisers. When he is not sailing the high seas, he does whatever his wife tells him to do-it only took 10 years to realize this.
Don Bucolo
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Sailing Ahead With Virgin Voyages CEO and President Tom McAlpin

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