What a First Week in Miami…

In Beats + Bytes by Nue Agency

After a few days settling into my new home and office, I hopped on the mer-maiden voyage of Virgin’s new cruise business, Virgin Voyages. It was a four-night excursion to the Caribbean and the first trip of its kind.

Look, I’m not a cruise person. The only cruise I’ve ever been on was Summit at Sea. When I think about cruises, I generally have a bad taste (more on that shortly). But I have to hand it to Virgin: they along side their partners at Bain Capital, diligently surveyed the cruise landscape and found the key pillars that people hate about the cruise experience, then counter-balanced them one by one.

  1. Cruises are bad for the environment. This cruise took active measures to reduce its environmental impact. The engine and mechanics are designed to be greener, plastic water bottles are banned, and the crew’s clothing is sustainable.
  2. Poor WiFi and work scenarios. They nailed this. My WiFi was perfect the whole way through, I had a great work station, and was tethered to my desk during office hours. It was awesome to work with an ocean view. I didn’t miss a beat.
  3. Cruise food is gross! Not on this trip. There were so many fun, delicious restaurants and no buffet vibes. There was an experimental test kitchen, a Korean bbq, an Italian spot, a vegan spot… and great snacks and treats along the way. On top of that, the dining wasn’t restricted to particular times. There were always food options ready to serve without formal attire required.
  4. Lack of nightlife. There were multiple bars and even a pub crawl the first night. There were great venues and stages. There were private karaoke rooms and, on the second night, the entire boat turned into a “Sleep No More” experiential theatre vibe based on the cruise’s name: The Scarlet Lady. I love experiential theatre. It brings new audiences to Broadway and definitely brought new energy to the cruise experience. Data shows that having kids on cruises is a turn off for many, so Virgin Voyages is 18+.
  5. Wellness Activities. The gym was awesome and there were plenty of classes and workout options, from bungee jumping to boxing, spin, and HIIT. There were also talks around nourishment and nutrition, posture, foot analysis, yoga, meditation and more.
  6. The staff is generally not treated well. All of the staff seemed very happy on this cruise and genuinely excited to be there, even after a long pandemic pause (fwiw, this business was slated to launch before Covid and everyone who was hired prior was brought back). Tipping can be awkward in these situations, so Virgin stepped up and included tips in the staff’s wages. Bonus: nobody had to carry their wallets!
  7. Safety. This was my biggest concern going in, and there were no issues at all. Everyone on board was vaxxed and tested before being allowed on the boat. The testing process took about 45 minutes. I still wore a mask but it was smooth sailing. I felt like I was in a Covid-free bubble.

The Virgin brand is phenomenal. It has an aesthetic and a fun, adventurous vibe. It’s sexy, with a culture rooted in music. Locally, Virgin even sponsored art in Bimini, one of the islands we stopped in.

There’s still room for growth, of course. The ambient music was a lot of fun and there was even a record display from the first Virgin Records shop back in the ‘70s. But with all of these stages and microphones, I would have loved to see a deeper connection to live music. I know Major Lazer performed at the New York media circuit, but the onboard musical experiences could get crazy. I’m sure that will be in the pipeline based on previous pre-Covid plans and rumors I’m hearing.

I also think there’s something interesting about the potential for a conference on a Virgin Voyages cruise. The attendees are out of their comfort zone and off native soil together. Different than a conference like Worldz or Advertising Week (roll call for both!), where people are dipping in and out as they see fit, a cruise conference would lock everyone into the same reality. Summit at Sea pulled it off and it was awesome. That was part of the magic of SXSW back in the day, too.

Overall, this was an experience like no other and a great example of what smart market research and a fantastic brand can do. Virgin is opening the door for new audiences to experience cruises. The Virgin Group has a reputation for innovative infusions and cultural enhancements in the markets they enter. In this case, I think Virgin’s new play will be the tide that lifts the entire cruise industry.

Click here to learn more or book your trip: www.virginvoyages.com or let me know if you need a direct connect.


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Also published on Medium.