Virgin Voyages announced that in the wake of last week’s new ban on U.S. cruises to Cuba, they will replace their scheduled Havana cruises with voyages to Cozumel and Key West instead.
In addition, it appears that the cruise line has drastically cut some fares on its trips.
Havana Out, Mexico & Key West In
Virgin Voyages made a big splash by announcing a lineup of cruise itineraries that was heavily dominated with stops in Havana. While other cruise lines had included routes with the port of call, none had featured the port as heavily as Virgin.
In the wake of the ban on cruises to Cuba, that left the new cruise line scrambling for a replacement.
Virgin has revised its four- and five-night voyages that previously offered Havana as a port of call. Four-night cruises aboard the Scarlet Lady, re-named Fire and Sunset Soirees, now feature a sunset departure from Key West plus a midnight sail-away from “The Beach Club at Bimini,” following a late-night beach bonfire. Virgin’s five-night sailings, now billed as Riviera Maya voyages, will call on Cozumel/Playa Del Carmen, Mexico in addition the The Beach Club.
For passengers who previously reserved a place aboard one of Virgin’s Cuba voyages who aren’t interested in the replacement itineraries, the cruise line offers a few options.
First, the cruise line has a flexible date change policy, so passengers can apply their booking toward another Virgin cruise of their choosing or get a credit toward a future Virgin Voyage sailing.
In addition, for those who booked trips to Havana, they can cancel within 30 days of the June 11 itinerary change date to receive a full refund if they desire.
Lowering Prices Across the Board
Although most cruise lines have scrambled to change itineraries and offer options to customers after last week’s government policy change, Sir Richard Branson’s cruise line might turn out to be the hardest hit by the Cuba ban.
In fact, a look at Virgin’s bookings page reveals some less upbeat news for the cruise line (although good for passengers) — an unannounced lowering of their prices. These lower prices even affect cruises unchanged by the Cuban ban.
In late May, we compared the cruise line’s prices against a screenshot of their offerings back in February. We were interested at that time to note that prices had remained relatively constant over the company’s first three months.
With the itinerary change, however, there have been drastic price cuts. Compare the lowest prices for the cruises below (on a per cabin basis) to what they were back in February:
As you can see, prices for the first two months of sailings have dropped dramatically. Those sailings with Havana ports of call have plummeted in price by up to $900 per cabin. Even those without Havana have had prices slashed up to $400.
Sailing Into New Territory
The new cruise line has borrowed the fame and reputation of the Virgin Group and its flamboyant founder, Richard Branson, to build brand awareness and anticipation before its first cruise. But with the launch of its first vessel coming next year, Virgin Voyages itself remains an unknown commodity. That said, there is a lot to like about how the new cruise line is changing cruising. This includes being adult-only, having longer stays in ports of call, and axing the ship’s buffet.
It will be interesting to see how Virgin Voyages weathers the Cuba storm currently affecting the cruise industry. In the meantime, if you’ve been curious about Virgin Voyages but thought their prices were too high, this might be a good time to book one of their cruises.