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Virgin Voyages splashes out with innovative groups program

Article-Virgin Voyages splashes out with innovative groups program

Tom Mc Alpin
Tom McAlpin said Virgin listened to travel advisors who were looking for a simple, consistent and rewarding program for their clients PHOTO: Michel Verdure for Seatrade
Virgin Voyages is introducing Circles, a fresh approach to group travel designed to bring together and reward sailors (passengers) and their first mates (travel advisors).

Not a point-based amenity program

‘We refer to groups of sailors as Circles because we love the idea of celebrating togetherness and human connection at sea,’ said Tom McAlpin, president and CEO, Virgin Voyages. ‘Our first mates told us they were looking for something simple, consistent and rewarding for their clients who sail together. We listened to them and threw out the rule book again by eliminating complex point-based amenity programs that apply only to select sail dates, to create something flexible and enticing.’

McAlpin added that Virgin’s Circles approach also ensures the experience remains intimate for all passengers and ‘never feels overrun by mass.’

A Circle for Virgin Voyages is defined as 10 cabins or more, including solo cabins, and can be as large as 150 sailors. Circle size and the number of Circles sailing at one time are limited to ensure those traveling in Circles have opportunity for exclusivity while the dynamic for passengers outside of the Circle isn’t negatively impacted by large groups.

Circle Bounty

Circles on all voyage dates will be eligible for Circle Bounty, which includes an on-board credit for sailors known as Sailor Loot. Sailor Loot can be spent during the voyage however a passenger wishes and is determined based on the level of cabin they choose. Inside and sea-view cabins receive $50 per cabin, sea terraces receive $100 per cabin and mega rockstar and rockstar suites receive $200 per cabin.

Plus, Circle Chest, controlled by first mates

In addition, for every 10 cabins sold, the Circle will earn a 10% voyage credit known as the Circle Chest, based on the highest voyage fares. Circles can earn credit towards their Circle Chest in increments of 10 cabins. For example, when 15 cabins have been sold, the credit will be based on the highest valued 10 cabins within the group, and if 20 cabins are sold, credits will be awarded based on all 20 cabins, continuing based on blocks of 10 cabins.

The Circle Chest puts the control of the benefit in the hands of the travel advisor and can be applied in a number of ways. These include being spent in part or in total toward new cabins on the Circle voyage date that can be used by first mates or sailors. Or, the benefit can be applied prior to final payment as a reduction of voyage fare across any of the purchased cabins on the Circle voyage, in which case commission for the first mate will be protected and based on the full voyage fare.

Yet another option for the Circle Chest is setting it up as a pre-funded master account that can be used on board during the Circle voyage to surprise and delight sailors with extras including on-board credits, visits to the spa, shore things or cocktail parties.

Introductory promotion

To kick off the Circles program, Virgin Voyages is offering a special promotion for new 2020 Circles booked now through Dec. 31.

Circles will receive double the standard Sailor Loot amount per cabin, which means inside and sea-view cabins receive $100 per cabin, sea terraces receive $200 per cabin and mega rockstar and rockstar suites receive $400 per cabin.

And bonus commission

To sweeten the deal, first mates will also receive a 5% bonus commission on voyage fare for new 2020 Circles. This special offer is valid on all 2020 sailings except the maiden voyage on April 1 and Sir Richard Branson’s Birthday Bash on July 15.