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A sleek new cruise line from Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, Virgin Voyages, will hit waters in 2020 with no kiddos aboard. In an announcement this week, the company called the concept “adult by design,” citing the strong desire among many travelers for smooth sailings without the disruptions of children.
Virgin Voyages President and CEO Tom McAlpin joined Sir Richard Branson in offering a “Ship Tease” from a shipyard in Genoa, Italy, where the first vessel is being built. They revealed glossy images of its design, and McAlpin described their goal: to create “a sophisticated ship and a transformational experience that offers our sailors a place where rejuvenating day life meets exciting nightlife and everything in between.”
The strict adults-only rule made waves in the industry because “it’s not a common approach, that’s for certain,” says Colleen McDaniel, senior executive editor of Cruise Critic. She adds that some luxury linesdiscourage people from bringing kids simply by not marketing to or offering any amenities for them. Viking, for example, says on its site that it “does not maintain facilities or services” for children and “reserve(s) the right to limit the number of minors under the age of 18 years.”
In the past several years, many big cruise lines, such as Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and even Disney, have catered to adults who may at least want a break from children by setting aside enclaves on their ships for passengers 18 and older. Carnival’s cruises now have a Serenity deck for passengers 21 and older, which the company bills as oases with “complete peace, sea breezes, swaying hammocks and, of course, a nearby bar.”
Azamara Club Cruises, the luxury line owned by Royal Caribbean, offers high-end dining, casinos and spas on its two stylish, midsize ships (it’s just acquired a third for 2018 sailings), and the company notes on its website that while children are welcome, it does not offer organized activities for them. “Azamara attracts a baby-boomer customer, who is active and well traveled looking for port-intensive itineraries that include marquee cities and offbeat places.”
Cruise lines seem especially eager to lure millennials these days by offering them “a cool adult experience” with interesting shore excursions and stylish amenities, says McDaniel. “But there are a lot of older people who are really interested in some of the same things.”