By Dana Niland
Richard Branson’s new cruise line, Virgin Voyages, has unveiled the first look at its culinary offerings — and its plans to change the on-board dining experience.
With a total of over 20 food choices onboard Virgin Voyages’ first ship, Scarlet Lady, the company released new designs for their restaurants, seaside lounges and casual eateries.
“We want our eateries to delight and ignite serendipitous experiences for our sailors, so have set out on a mission to capture the spirit of dining in the best cities of the world and bring it to sea,” said Tom McAlpin, president and chief executive officer for Virgin Voyages. “Because food is the fuel for our bodies and souls, and we’re Virgin Voyages, naturally it all had to be included within your ticket price.”
The brand “does not believe in paying more for great food” and ditched the traditional upcharges levied when dining in speciality restaurants at sea.
That’s a departure from much of the industry, where some fine-dining eateries require an extra charge.
Virgin Voyages has designed all eateries on board to offer made to order eats and opted to include all restaurant food in the voyage fare, the company said.
The Virgin Voyages “Rebellious Luxe” experience is rooted in the modern romance of sailing: a new take on the ocean liner heyday when ships were at the forefront of both technology and luxury.
The Scarlet Lady will set sail from PortMiami for the 2020 season with 2,770 sailors and 1,160 crew on a journey to the Caribbean, which will include stops in Havana on select voyages.
“There’s a Virgin twist on everything you’ll see aboard the Scarlet Lady, which means there will be no stuffy formalities, boring buffets and no main dining rooms. Sailors are not going to want to leave our ship after they experience how we’ve designed our restaurants and tasted the dishes we are going to be serving up in 2020,” Branson said.
Virgin Voyages aims to bring “city-like eatin’g to sea and throw out the traditional cruise dining rule book, with no buffets, no main dining room, no forced formal wear, no assigned seating, no assigned dining times and, perhaps most importantly, keeping restaurant doors open until well into the night, and, in some cases, the early hours of the morning.
Virgin Voyages has expanded its Creative Collective to include the world class AvroKO Hospitality Group, AvroKO’s strategy arm, Brand Bureau, and their very own Michelin-starred chef Brad Farmerie.
Farmerie of AvroKO Hospitality Group came in to help develop the overall culinary programming strategy and identify culinary experts in the various cuisine types to execute each of the menus.
AvroKO Hospitality Group’s portfolio includes Saxon + Parole, Genuine Liquorette, and Ghost Donkey.
“When working with the Virgin Voyages team, we were inspired by some of the best dining spots around the world but also had to gaze into what the future of dining would look like to bring the most alluring restaurant concepts to sea,” said Farmerie said. “Each restaurant will not only serve delicious food, they will also have a unique vibe and energy to them to satiate sailor’s hunger for excitement and restoration while on vacation.”
From experimental and haute cuisine to healthy quick bite options, the onboard eateries are tailored for sailors to realize new experiences that are grounded in values of discovery, transformation, intimate connections and Vitamin Sea – the brand’s approach to well-being for people and the planet.
Sailors can dine at a table or opt to enjoy their meal at the bar, which nearly all restaurants on board feature, another refreshing change.
Each restaurant will be helmed by a leading chef who “leads their kitchen with passion and artfulness,” the company said.