You can spend millions on a ground-breaking new ship – but nothing can beat the British weather.

High winds delayed boarding to Sir Richard Branson’s Scarlet Lady in Dover as the tycoon waited to show off the first in his Virgin Voyages fleet.

The 912ft long, 17-deck high vessel called in at the south coast port on the way from the shipyard where she was built in Italy to Miami, from where she will sail regularly to the Caribbean.

But please don’t mention the c-word – cruise. Sir Richard dropped it from the company name soon after announcing his project in 2015 and wants to get as far away from the stereotypical holiday at sea as he can.

That’s why cruises are called voyages, passengers are sailors and travel agents are first mates. And no children are allowed on board – all the 2,800 guests will have to be over 18.

The cabins have beds that can swing round into L-shaped sofas to turn sleeping areas into living rooms.


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Of the 78 so-called RockStar suites, the biggest has an outdoor shower, hot tub, hammocks and a table big enough to dance on. Plus its own music room with guitars and amps.

In a nod to Sir Richard’s first venture, there’s a vinyl record shop on board. DJs such as Mark Ronson will play sets on the ship and at a private beach resort in the Bahamas, which every Scarlet Lady voyage will visit.

And if you really want your cruise to leave a mark on you, the ship even has a tattoo parlour.

First look at new Virgin cruise ship Scarlet Lady including the lavish suites

Among more than 20 dining options on board are Razzle Dazzle, which will host drag brunches, and The Wake restaurant whose design was inspired by the Wolseley in London and The Grill in New York. Strictly no buffets, but you’ll be able to get a slice of pizza or a burger at the 24-hour diner.

And there’s the wonderfully named Lick Me Till Ice Cream dessert parlour.

Partygoers can end the evening in The Manor nightclub – named after Sir Richard’s first recording studio.

Outside, Scarlet Lady has catamaran rigging which passengers – sorry, sailors – can lie in high above the waves. There’s also an athletic club, jogging track and pool.

For Sir Richard, this day has been a long time coming. He said: “When I first had this idea of a cruise ship, I was 27 and wanted to have a cruise ship for under-30s but over 17s. I was single and it was going to be the coolest cruise ship in the world.

"I never managed to get the money together so every year it’s been under 31, under 32, under 34. Anyway, now it’s under 68! It’s definitely young-at-heart people who want a good time who will love this cruise ship.

"If you’re getting on and don’t want a good time, don’t come on our cruise ship. If you don’t think of yourself as old but your mind is 25, your body is 70, you’re very welcome."

After a visit to Liverpool this week, Scarlet Lady will head across the Atlantic to New York before sailing to Miami where the maiden voyage will depart on April 1. 

Sister ship Valiant Lady, which will be based in the Mediterranean, is already being built and two more ships are on order.

  • You can read more cruise news from Dave Monk on Shipmonk.co.uk .

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