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Richard Branson thrills Delta fliers to San Juan with free Virgin cruises

Richard Branson boarded a Delta flight to San Juan to give away free cruises on Brilliant Lady from Puerto Rico. He's joined by Delta's Tim Mapes, upper right
Sir Richard Branson surprised 160 customers on a Delta flight to San Juan Thursday with a free cruise aboard Virgin Voyages.

The Virgin Group founder boarded the flight from Atlanta to personally gift cruises aboard Resilient Lady for the ship's inaugural season in San Juan later this year.

Whoops of joy and tears

'There were whoops of joy and tears,' Branson told Seatrade Cruise News by phone shortly after his appearance at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. 'It's always fun giving things away ... and this was a good way of getting people to know we'll be offering cruises out of Puerto Rico starting in December.


'It's always fun giving things away,' Richard Branson said

Branson noted Puerto Rico's on his doorstep. With a home in the British Virgin Islands, he has taken 'great pleasure' whenever a Virgin ship sails past, going out to wave at the 2,500 passengers or even set off fireworks.

San Juan cruises just announced

The Resilent Lady cruises from San Juan are new, springing from the recent cancellation of the 2025/26 Australia season due to concerns about repositioning through the Red Sea. From San Juan, Resilient Lady will be charting seven-, eight-, 10- and 11-night itineraries to destinations including St. Maarten, St. Vincent, Colombia and Dominica.

Why do Puerto Rico with Virgin?

Branson said Virgin Voyages offers cruise unlike any other. He wants people to experience the vast dining choices, many entertainment options and 'delightful crew from 75 nations.' He went on to extol the Caribbean's 'wonderful weather, sparking seas and breathtaking views.'

Also, San Juan is easy to reach, he said. Delta, a longtime partner of Virgin Atlantic, serves Puerto Rico from five hubs.

Departure gate takeover

Prior to boarding for this morning's Atlanta-San Juan flight, Virgin voyages hosted a full departure gate takeover, bringing to life elements of the ship's on-board experience. Fliers were treated to original choreography from the Virgin entertainment team along with Instagrammable photo moments and vignettes at the gate, specialty drinks and music.

Roulette for more prizes

In addition, Branson was joined by Delta’s Tim Mapes, SVP and chief communications officer, for a generous game of roulette with customers and passersby invited to spin the wheel of prizes, which included Delta and Virgin Atlantic flights, Virgin Hotel stays, a Virgin Voyages cruise, Delta Vacation package, gift cards and high-end swag.

'Delta is thrilled to have partnered with Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Voyages for this special surprise-and-delight for our SkyMiles members on the flight,' Mapes said. 'This is one more way in which we’re adding value to the program and unlocking exclusive experiences for our members.

'Stay tuned for more with Virgin Voyages.'