Virgin Voyages, the cruise line infused with the DNA of Richard Branson and the Virgin brand, had its difficulties getting started. While there was plenty of buzz about the Virgin ships, which were unlike any other cruise line, their planned launch date turned out to be the worst one imaginable.
Virgin Voyages couldn’t have ever dreamed that their inaugural cruise on the Scarlet Lady, initially planned for April 2020, would happen just as cruise lines, and the rest of the leisure travel industry, would come to a screeching halt. The inaugural cruise was postponed several times until the US Government put guidelines into place so cruise ships could operate as safely as possible, given the specific risks of having so many people in an enclosed space while on the sea.
Fast forward a year and a half or so. Virgin has been sailing the Scarlet Lady out of the Port of Miami since October 2021. While many passengers have become Virgin loyalists, taking multiple trips with the cruise line, there hasn’t been a loyalty program to award the best customers.
This is a huge hole in Virgin’s marketing, as every other major cruise line has a loyalty program that provides onboard perks to the best customers. Who knows if the pandemic had something to do with the delay or maybe it had to do with integrating the Virgin Voyages program with the larger Virgin universe.
With no inside knowledge, I had to wonder if the launch of the Virgin Red program had anything to do with the delay. That newer program, wherein you earn Virgin Points, has been integrated into Virgin Atlantic. Could we new see a program where you can earn and spend points between Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Voyages and Virgin Hotels??
While nothing of the sort has been confirmed, Virgin Voyages just announced the Virgin Voyages Sailing Club (in which they hint the partnership with airlines and hotels.)
We’re getting ready to roll out the most rewarding love and loyalty program at sea (or land! or air!) in 2023 — Virgin Voyages Sailing Club. But you don’t need to wait, because we’re kicking things off right now; making sure you get rewarded for all you’ve done so far, and ensuring that the more you book and sail in 2022, the more epic rewards you’ll get next year.
While the program isn’t live yet, Virgin Voyages offers perks to passengers who have sailed with them already. The most common perk is called “Deep Blue Extras” which includes:
Our first perk is access to our Deep Blue Extras; a collection of unrivaled luxuries that elevate you to VIP treatment including (but not limited to) perks like an exclusive cocktail event, access to RockStar agents, and a bottle of Moët & Chandon on us.
If you sailed with Virgin Voyages in 2021, you’ll get lifetime perks.
Pioneers who took to the high seas in 2021 are dubbed Sea-Blazers as they trail-blazed with us in our first year of operation. Access to Deep Blue Extras and Red Hot Booking Bonus Months come automatically for these Sailors, with additional perks including a $125 Bar Tab Bonus for life.
If you weren’t as adventurous in 2021 but sailed with Virgin Voyages more than once in 2022, you’ll get your own set of perks on your third voyage.
We’re coining anyone who has sailed with us twice in 2022 as a Sea-Rover, and on your third voyage, Deep Blue Extras will be added automatically, plus access to Red Hot Booking Bonus Months. On top of that, they’ll get a $100 Bar Tab Bonus through 2024.
While these perks are great for those who have already sailed with Virgin Voyages in 2021 or 2022, it doesn’t give any incentive for people who cruise with a competitor to try Virgin.
That’s why Virgin Voyages is also launching a status match program. It’s called Match and Sea More and if you’re already in a rewards program with another cruise line (or even select airlines), Virgin Voyages will match whatever you’re offered and give you (much) more the minute you book a voyage.
If you have status with another cruise line, you’ll automatically become a Sea-Rover, get Deep Blue Extras on your very first voyage, and get access to Red Hot Booking Bonus Months.
According to the website, you can submit your proof here, book a voyage, and your VIP status is automatically unlocked.
I checked out the site and it does ask for a booking reference number, which would indicate that you’ll need to book a trip before applying for a status match for a single cruise. Since the website just launched and the loyalty program doesn’t start until 2023, I’m giving them a pass. It looks like Virgin Voyages is manually attaching the benefits to your cruise once you submit your credentials.
Here are the programs that Virgin Voyages is currently matching status from:
- Azamara – Circle
- Carnival – VIFP Club
- Celebrity Cruises – Captain’s Club
- Disney – Castaway Club
- Holland America – Mariner Society
- MSC – Voyagers Club
- Norwegian Cruise Line – Latitudes
- Oceania – Oceania Club
- P&O – Peninsular Club
- Royal Caribbean – Crown & Anchor Club
- Virgin Atlantic – Flying Club
- Virgin Australia – Velocity Frequent Flyer
- Windstar – Yacht Club
Back in another lifetime, I organically earned Gold Status with Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Club. I even paid for a cruise with a Disney Visa card.
According to Virgin’s website, I should be able to get Sea-Rover benefits on our next cruise, which should be happening next year, since we put a $300 deposit on another cruise while onboard to save $300 and get an additional $600 onboard credit.
I’m going to leave it to the others who know way more about hotel and cruise line loyalty programs to figure out if there’s a way to turn your status with one program into perks on Virgin Voyages (but I’m sure there’s a way you can do it).
It will be interesting to see if Virgin can create an integrated loyalty program between an airline, cruise line and hotels. It will be unlike anything in the travel loyalty universe if they do.
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