McAlpin: Virgin Targets Transformational Experience

The success of Virgin Voyages may come down to the massive amount of research the company has done to target its cruise passengers (known as sailors to the brand).

Expectations are extremely high for the company to deliver a new experience.

“It’s about listening to the guest,” said Tom McAlpin, president and CEO, who also revealed that the first ship of three will join the fleet in early 2020.

By 2023, with three ships in year-round service, Virgin will have a 1.2 percent market share in the industry, according to the 2018-2019 Cruise Industry News Annual Report.

He said creating the culture for the organization’s base in Florida was the base for creating the experience aboard the line’s trio of 2,800-guest adults-only ships.

With 85 employees now, Virgin plans to add 125 more before the end of the year. It will also base its call center at its cruise headquarters in Plantation, Florida.

Virgin Voyages Ship Rendering

 “What Virgin brings is a brand that is well trusted,” McAlpin said, speaking at an industry event in Florida on Tuesday. “People know what Virgin stands for, it’s fun and hip. It’s a bit witty. They know they can trust it because they are going to have a great experience.”

McAlpin said they had dissected the complete customer experience and looked at how to create a different experience.

“We want it to be a transformational experience,” he said. “We want people to come away and say it wasn’t the best week of the year, it was the best week of their life.”

While the original business plan called for two large, 4,500-passenger ships, it has since been down-sized for a trio of smaller ships, able to get into more ports.

He also teased a new cabin design, with news to come soon.

“We think of the ship as a platform. We’re not going to have gimmicky stuff,” he added. “But it’s a platform to deliver amazing experiences onboard.”

Despite that, he wants guests to get off the ship in ports of call.

“If they get immersed they come back with a better experience … everyone wins and everyone goes away happy.”

With the first ship joining the company in 2020, the second and third ships will follow on 15-month intervals, McAlpin said.

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