Exclusive: Virgin Voyages cancels cruises on its first ship into May, more than a year past launch date

Virgin Voyages has moved the launch of its first ship, the Scarlet Lady, to May 9, 2021 – more than a year after the vessel’s launch was originally scheduled the line announced Wednesday.

“It’s heartbreaking; this is our baby,” Tom McAlpin, CEO of Virgin Voyages, told USA TODAY in an interview, noting that he has worked on building Virgin Voyages for more than seven years.

This year was expected to be an exciting one for the cruise line backed by Richard Branson.

The company had planned to debut its first ship, the Scarlet Lady, with a passenger cruise scheduled to depart on April 1 from Miami. But the launch date was eclipsed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put the cruise industry on hold in the United States until Jan. 1 – though several cruise lines have canceled cruises beyond that date with several planning to resume operations in March.

“Of course, we never really had the opportunity to launch this business, we were just getting ready to get to New York and launch … when COVID broke,” McAlpin said, adding that it was the “toughest decision” of his career to cancel the Scarlet Lady’s launch and turn the ship to sail south as coronavirus began to spread.

Virgin Voyages canceled sailings on March 12, two days before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a “no-sail” order on March 14.

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