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Thursday,  June 13, 2024 9:48 PM 

Virgin Voyages raises $550M in funding; CEO to retire; Brilliant Lady delayed

Virgin Voyages raises $550M in funding; CEO to retire; Brilliant Lady delayed
Virgin Voyages has raised $550 million (USD) in capital to accelerate its growth plans. (Virgin Voyages)

Virgin Voyages announced Thursday (Sept. 7) that it has raised $550 million (USD) in capital to accelerate its growth plans.

According to a press release, the funding round was led by funds managed by the Private Equity Group of Ares Management, a global alternative investment manager, and also includes additional capital from existing investors including Virgin Group and Bain Capital.

Virgin Voyages says the funding will “strengthen its financial position while supporting the brand's rapid expansion into international markets,” with a focus on creating an “outstanding and innovative customer experience.”

Founding CEO to retire

The cruise line further announced that founding CEO, Tom McAlpin, is retiring as CEO and transitioning to the role of chairman of the Board of Directors.

“He will continue to support the brand and team at an executive and industry level,” the brand said.

Nirmal Saverimuttu, who currently serves as president and chief experience officer, has been appointed the new chief executive officer.

"It is hard to express just how proud I am of all that the Virgin Voyages Crew has created and the strong endorsement we are receiving from Ares. We have won numerous industry awards and received many five-star reviews because of our passion for this brand," said McAlpin.

"While I will miss the day-to-day, I believe it is the right time to step aside as CEO. Nirmal is a great friend and experienced leader who lives and breathes the Virgin Voyages culture. I know he will help take this amazing brand and Crew to new heights, and I look forward to continuing to support the leadership team as Chairman."

Virgin Voyages’ second ship, Valiant Lady. (Diane Tierney)

Virgin Voyages launched in August 2021 and currently operates three ships, servicing the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and by the end of the year, Australia and New Zealand.

The success of the capital raise “shows how much Virgin Voyages has achieved and how much further it can go,” said Josh Bayliss, CEO of the Virgin Group.

“We are very proud of the experience that Virgin Voyages has created and continues to deliver every day across its fleet," Bayliss said. "At Virgin, we have always aimed to create extraordinary experiences and challenge the status quo while putting purpose at the core of everything we do.”

READ MORE: On Location: Virgin Voyages’ new Valiant Lady leaves a vivid, lasting impression

Saverimuttu was a founding leader of Virgin Voyages and joined the business as Chief Commercial Officer in 2014 from the Virgin Group after successfully closing the first investment round.

In early 2021, he took on the expanded role of president and chief experience officer.

"I want to send our deepest thanks, on behalf of all our Crew and the Board, to Tom for his leadership and passion for the business. We are so grateful for all he has done and are thrilled to continue to partner with him as our Chairman," said Saverimuttu.

"Virgin Voyages is a beloved brand because of our Crew's dedication and passion for delivering epic experiences for our guests. I am looking forward to working with the Ares team and our existing investors to deliver on our growth and expansion plans as we look ahead to our very bright future."

Earlier this month, Virgin Voyages, announced 19 new ports and 27 new itineraries available through April 2025. 

Brilliant Lady delayed

Meanwhile, Virgin Voyages will postpone the maiden voyage of its newest ship, Brilliant Lady, due to supply chain, construction and staffing issues, reports say. 

READ MORE: On Location - Hip, fun and a little naughty. What to expect from Virgin Voyages

"We know our First Mates & Sailors have high expectations for the award winning service and experience we deliver onboard and until we can meet those standards we won't deliver Brilliant Lady into service," reads a note sent to travel partners by Virgin Voyages.

"This change means that our three other gorgeous lady ships will also be shifting their schedules, resulting in some cancellations and revised sailings."

Brilliant Lady, which was supposed to launch later this year, will lead to other voyages being cancelled, including MerMaiden voyages on Dec. 24 and Dec. 30, 2023, and an 11-night transatlantic crossing on April 20, 2024.

Other affected sailings include:

  • Brilliant Lady’s 7-night Sunsets in the Lesser Antilles departures on January 6th, March 30th, and April 13th, 2024

  • Brilliant Lady’s 7-night Southeastern Caribbean Isles departures on March 23rd and April 6th, 2024.

Some winter 2024 voyages to the Caribbean scheduled to be operated by Brilliant Lady will now take place on Valiant Lady.

Other impacted voyages include sailings on Valiant Lady and Resilient Lady, which are being redeployed to fill the gap left by Brilliant Lady's delay.

Voyages that have been cancelled include:

  • Valiant Lady’s 6-night Western Caribbean Charm departures from January 7th, 2024, through March 17th, 2024

  • Valiant Lady’s 8-night Eastern Caribbean Antilles departures from January 13th, 2024, through March 23rd, 2024

  • Resilient Lady’s 7-night Adriatic Sea & Greek Gems departures from July 28th through September 29th, 2024

  • Resilient Lady’s 7-night Greek Island Glow departures from August 4th through October 13th, 2024

A new launch date for Brilliant Lady has not yet been announced. 

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