MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Sir Richard Branson’s Scarlet Lady is getting ready to set sail on its maiden voyage from PortMiami promising an adults-only adventure at sea.
CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo joined Branson this week on board the Scarlet Lady ahead of its inaugural Caribbean voyage on Oct. 6.
“Hello Madame, here you are,” said the Virgin Voyages founder as he greeted Petrillo a glass of champagne.
The Scarlet Lady is the British billionaire’s first venture into the cruise business. Something he says he’s never understood.
“I’ve never been interested in going on a cruise and then I thought I wonder if we could create a cruise ship where myself, my friends and all those millions of people who are not that interested going on cruise ships, would like to go on,” Branson explained.
So, they went to work, building the mid-size ship, designed to feel like a big yacht.
“What we’ve tried to do is create the best yacht in the world but make it affordable for quite a few people to come on board,” Branson said.
Scarlet Lady has 20 restaurants and unlike all the others, you won’t find a buffet here.
“We try to take a different approach. For us, everything is made to order,” said Chief Experience Officer Nirmal Saverimuttu. “Everything is small with intimate eateries.”
Chef Levi Mezick oversees all 20 restaurants onboard from the fancy and decadent food to casual.
“We want to make quality food as freshly as we can so that each passenger can enjoy something that’s made ‘a la minute’, just for them,” said Mezick.
The Scarlet Lady was supposed to sail last year but COVID shutdowns hit just before their maiden voyage. Now with just days before its first passenger sail, strict science-based safety protocols are in place.
“Everyone on board has to be fully vaccinated. Both our crew and our sailors (passengers). We also have a testing regime on board. The crew has to be tested and we test every sailor before they come on board here at the terminal,” Saverimuttu explained.
The ‘adult only’ part makes for larger outdoor play and lounge areas for grown-ups. Branson had some outside dining tables converted to step-up dance floors.
As for the 1,400 state rooms and suites, each has a balcony and hammock outside.
Petrillo toured one called The Rock Star Suite, which comes complete with an electric guitar.
“It’s designed by Tom Dickson out of the UK, channeling his inner Grace Jones. So, they all come with guitars, turntables, and fully stocked bars,” said Saverimuttu.
But that nod to towards fun and frivolity also turns to a serious side when it comes to onboard sustainability, starting with no plastic bottles of any kind onboard. The engine also converts heat waste into electricity.
“Our industry has to set an example and I think we’re in the forefront of doing that with Virgin Voyages,” Branson explained.
Always with an eye for adventure and fun, Sir Richard jumps in firsthand wiping up the mess he spilled earlier while popping open that champagne bottle. “Hang on I did it your honor,” he said gesturing to Petrillo, You got to get down on your knees too!”
So, as they both kneeled to tidy up a bit, Petrillo asked the 71-year-old forever young explorer if he might go back into space again one day.
“I have booked it for my 90th birthday which is a long time away and I’m an optimist, so I’ve also booked it for my hundredth birthday as well,” Branson said.
“I have a funny feeling he’s going to get there,” said Petrillo.
Scarlet Lady makes her first voyage out of PortMiami on October 6th bound for the Bahamas with four- and five-day cruises from now on.
For more info www.virginvoyages.com