Home » Virgin Voyages Australian cruise giveaway ‘unredeemable’ due to Red Sea conflict

Virgin Voyages Australian cruise giveaway ‘unredeemable’ due to Red Sea conflict

Virgin Voyages has been criticised for leaving Australian cruise winners with expensive itinerary changes after Oceania departures were cancelled following Red Sea attacks on ships.

Last November, Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson facetimed over 150 passengers onboard a Virgin Australia flight to Tasmania to gift each of them a free Virgin Voyages cruise.

Three months later, Virgin Voyages announced that Resilient Lady itineraries via the Suez Canal were cancelled following attacks on shipping, and sailings in Australia and New Zealand would not go ahead for the 2024–25 cruising season – only the second departing Virgin’s Pacific ports.

In a statement in February, Virgin Voyages said: “As the safety of our passengers and crew is our number one priority, Virgin Voyages recently shared a change of course for our early 2024 repositioning voyage from Australia to the Med. On the heels of these recent changes and based on the regional and government advice we have received, we remain very concerned about potential escalations in the Red Sea over the next 12 months.

“We are currently working through options to return to Australia and the Asia Pacific region once regional repositioning opportunities become more tenable.”

To honour the promotional promise, prize winners were offered a complimentary European or Caribbean cruise valued up to $10,500 (£5,530) with the line – but this has come at a cost to some customers.

One winner told ABC News that the prize will now cost her $8,000 (£4,214) in flights due to itinerary changes that require Australian winners to embark at an international port.

The anonymous passenger, who originally booked a cruise out of Brisbane, said: “We were genuinely shocked, we thought Virgin would provide us with an alternative prize like a flight credit … or they would allow us to rebook on a later season.

“They sort of gave up on us … like ‘you’re a bit of a problem now’.”

A spokesperson for Virgin Australia Group said: “We apologise to our winners who can no longer redeem their prize due to the cancellation of Virgin Voyages’ Australian and New Zealand cruises amid the conflict in the Red Sea.

“Like Virgin Voyages, safety is always our number one priority, and we are grateful that Virgin Voyages have offered all impacted guests the opportunity to take complimentary cruises on its other international sailings, including in Europe and the Caribbean.”

Virgin Australia added: “This is certainly not the outcome of the giveaway we set out to achieve for our wonderful guests, however, this significant and ongoing conflict puts unacceptable risks for the safe passage from Europe to Australia for Virgin Voyages’ crew and vessel.”