The film Jaws 2 said it best: Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…
Or, in our case, just when we thought it was safe to have a second glance at this ‘Virgin Voyages’ caper that is due to set sail next year, along comes another bloody great assault on the English language that makes us cringe more than a gaggle of boisterous teenagers in shark-infested waters.
They’re calling it ‘Rebellious Luxe’ and it makes us want to scream from the rooftops, “There is no such bloody thing and stop making up stupid bloody slogans!”
In this desperate attempt to be different – “the cruise line for those who don’t like cruises” – Virgin have come up with the most cringe-worthy phrase of them all, something straight out of the David Brent catalogue of wince-inducing sayings.
Rebellious Luxe? Isn’t that one of the villains from Game Of Thrones? Or a character name that Star Wars rejected? Rebellious bloody Luxe? What is it supposed to mean – white-glove service with a snarl? Punk music at sea? Basil Fawlty at Claridge’s?
Here’s the official explanation, courtesy of CEO Tom McAlpin: “We have combined brilliant design and Virgin Voyages’ epic Sailor experience vision to create a completely new version of luxury, Rebellious Luxe, which is at the intersection of luxury and a rebellious attitude that makes everything we do different, indulgent and meaningfully relevant to our Sailors.”
Now, regular readers will know we have already railed against Virgin’s ghastly use of the term ‘Sailors’ instead of passengers, along with ‘Sea terraces’ instead of balconies and a ‘Beach club’ instead of a private island.
We have raised several eyebrows at the idea of “celebrity DJs” on board and the first tattoo parlour at sea (Tattoos at sea? Really? How good will they look when the ship’s on the move? You can hear it already – “Sorry Wendy, I meant to get your name, but there was a bit of a swell at the time and you came out as Windy”).
But this latest nonsense about some new kind of deluxe experience on a 110,000-ton ship carrying almost 3,000 passengers (there we said it – passengers. Not bloody ‘sailors’ or ‘seamen’ or ‘Jack-flaming-tars’) is just so much highfalutin double-speak that you wonder if Richard Branson and his team have taken permanent leave of their senses.
There is a reason that none of the genuine ultra-luxe cruise lines have ships larger than 68,000 tons, catering for less than 1,000 passengers. It’s because any bigger than that and you just can’t deliver the level of service required to be a true luxury product.
And no matter how you try to dress it up in fancy circumlocution and add words like ‘rebellious’ (why not ‘mischievous’ or even ‘a-little-bit-naughteous’?), you are still only ever what you are – a big ship with a lot of people in the same space, where the actual space ratio is around 40, which is on a par with Princess Cruises and Celebrity but far short of the 67 of Seabourn, 68 on Silversea, 69 on Crystal Cruises and 72 on industry-leading Regent Seven Seas.
We do salute Virgin for some of their innovation, especially in doing away completely with any kind of buffet. Any ship that prevents the possible spread of germs by that potentially noxious route gets our wholehearted seal of approval.
We also like the idea of it being an adults-only environment, plus breaking away from traditional Broadway-style shows (although what “interactive dance parties and off-the-wall participatory acts” are supposed to be we can only guess, having run out of eyebrows). Like the deluxe lines, there will also be no charge for any of the alternative dining, while soft drinks, water and even WiFi will all be free.
Even better, Virgin insists there will be no gratuities of any kind, with the price reflecting both the “premium” nature of the experience as well as going to pay a full working wage for all the crew.
But then they go and spoil it all again by insisting they will attract the party-minded crowd, ready to be “rock stars” and enjoy things like a (god help us) drag brunch. The spa’s thermal suite will become a nightclub after dark, complete with its own DJ. Why? Just why? Why not have a nightclub that is, actually, a nightclub, and free from any massage oil residue?
At the bottom of all this is what seems increasingly like a frantic effort to reinvent the wheel, to dress the ship up as anything but a ship and, in keeping with so many of the monstrous mega-vessels now prowling the congested corridors of the Caribbean and Mediterranean, make it more like Las Vegas-at-sea. Las Vegas on land is bad enough. Why make it mobile and inflict it on poor, unsuspecting ports around the world?
No, we just don’t see the inherent value or requisite relaxing experience that goes with a maritime jaunt in most of this Virgin verbiage.
And yet the media is totally in love with the idea. They can’t wait to praise Branson and his team for being “innovators” and “disruptors,” as if they are giving us something we have been desperately waiting for all these years and never even knew it.
Yes, it could be a nice product for those who want Norwegian Cruise Line without any children on board, or an upmarket version of Ibiza at sea. But please don’t tell us it’s going to be “luxury” or “deluxe” in any way. Or we will truly be rebellious.
Love, Treadwell & Tenny
So, want do you think of Virgin Voyages? Is it something you’d be keen to try and, if so, what attracts you? Give us your thoughts in the Comments section below.