Seven tips for selling Virgin Voyages
In a short period of time, Virgin Voyages has made a mark in the cruise industry by doing things differently. Like other Virgin companies, Virgin Voyages is fun, playful and even a little bit edgy.
“Virgin Voyages offers a unique blend of boutique hotel luxury, top-notch restaurant experiences, all with a touch of playful flair,” Sean Russo, sales manager, Canada, for Virgin Voyages tells Travel Courier.
For travel advisors who are new to selling the brand, here are some key takeaways.
At Virgin Voyages, travel advisors are First Mates
“In typical Virgin fashion, we have to have cheeky fun names for everything,” says John Diorio, vice president of North American sales for Virgin Voyages. “A First Mate is really the person we thought of when you think of the right hand person to a captain. Our belief is that on this journey for our brand to be successful, we need First Mates to help us.”
Sailors go all out for themed nights
While other cruise lines may have a themed night where a select portion of guests dress up, sailors on Virgin Voyages go all out to fit the theme. During a recent four-night Fire & Sunset Soirées itinerary from Miami with stops in Key West and Virgin’s Beach Club at Bimini, in the Bahamas, we witnessed this firsthand. At a PJ party held in the Manor, everyone dressed up in their finest sleepwear and some even donned slippers and sleep masks. The biggest party however was Scarlet night, where guests are encouraged to wear red. The crowd did not disappoint as a sea of red joined the festivities on the pool deck. After the entertainment team stepped out of the way, many spectators even jumped into the pool — fully clothed.
Virgin Voyages is playful but not as wild as some may think
Although Virgin Voyages pushes the envelope with cheeky wording, it’s not as wild or scandalous as one may think.
“My advice is to approach internet information with caution. Numerous comments label us as ‘risky,’ but when I inquire about specifics, the responses are often vague,” says Russo. “While I acknowledge that we may not appeal to everyone, I use a simple barometer check involving two questions: Would you be comfortable with a Drag Queen as part of our Entertainment team? Would you be comfortable with the Ice Cream shop being named Lick Me Till Ice Cream? If clients are uneasy with these aspects or fail to find humour in the Ice Cream Shop’s name, there might be a more suitable product for them elsewhere.”
That said, there is a fun vibe onboard from a music video style safety video and a tattoo parlour to stateroom mood lighting with settings like “hangover” or “get it on.”
“While we acknowledge that our offerings may not be suitable for everyone, we’re comfortable with that fact. Contrary to some initial perceptions, we cater to a broader audience and I highly recommend that you explore the distinctive aspects of our experience and gain insights on effectively presenting our voyages to your sailors,” adds Russo. “Our organization boasts an exceptional team dedicated to your success, including representatives whose primary focus is assisting you in securing your first booking… Enroll in our Seacademy training program and discover the empowerment that comes with knowledge.”
Virgin Voyages can appeal to clients who don’t like cruising
Matt Houtby, one of the top selling First Mates in Canada, says he’s been able to attract clients who aren’t fans of cruising into booking Virgin Voyages because of its adults-only nature and because clients can test the waters with shorter itineraries.
“I’ve had some that I’ve sold on this particular brand because with some of the other ones, it’s harder to find shorter itineraries, they’re always 7,10 to12 nights,” he explains. “With this one, there are a lot of great options that are four nights, five nights, six nights, so you can give them that sample size to try it out.
Houtby said it was successful as multiple clients locked in future trips while they were still on board.
“I get a notification that they bought themselves a Future Cruise voucher while they’re on there so they’re like yeah, we’re ready to do another one,” he says. “Even while I’ve been on this cruise, I’ve been getting notifications from clients who are on Valiant Lady, sailing at the same time as us, who have already purchased vouchers for their next one while they’re sailing right now on Valiant.”
There’s lots in it for agents
Along with earning 16% commission on the voyage fare, there are other perks for First Mates.
“We have no NCFs since day one and I think the key thing is we pay 10% on what we call pre-voyage sales so that could be buying bar tab, that could be buying Shore Things (shore excursions), anything that the advisor sells ahead of time, they’ll get paid,” Diorio says. “More importantly, if the sailor is sitting in the app 40 days out and they buy something, we still commission the adviser. It’s their customer, they should get paid for all the work they’re doing. Even if the sailor does it. They still have to service it.”
In addition to FAM trips, contests and exclusive rates, the top selling North American travel advisors get recognized on an annual basis. The next First Mate Spectacular Soiree is set to take place on Valiant Lady from Jan. 8-12, 2025.
Book in advance for clients who want the suite life
Although the booking window for shorter Caribbean itineraries is within 120 of the sailing, Diorio suggests locking in bookings in advance for those looking to stay in Mega RockStar Quarters.
“Those that plan ahead do really well,” he notes. “Our suites are selling very, very well. If you have customers that are really looking for that suite experience, you have to put that in well in advance because they go quickly.”
For the Canadian market, he says the shorter trips out of Miami are popular.
“Specifically, our Dominican Daze itinerary is probably one of our most popular of the five-nights. It goes to Puerto Plata and it goes to Bimini. In the international market, what we saw last year and we’re already seeing this year too, is the Greek Island Glow itinerary out of Athens has been really popular globally. We’ve seen it pickup for the Canadian market as well.”
Many perks are included in the voyage price
“We try to have a more inclusive fare and so that when advisors, sailors and customers come on board, they feel that they’ve got an experience that’s different, but more inclusive,” he says. “All the specialty dining is included, all the gratuities, your basic beverages are all included in the voyage fare, your WiFi.”