Virgin Voyages Aims to Quell Dreaded Cruise Queues

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Richard Branson’s adults-only cruise offering uses staggered event programming and digital reservations to cut lines, though its app got off to a shaky start

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“What people told us they hated about the cruise was the queues,” said Dee Cooper, senior vice president of design and customer experience at Virgin Voyage.

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However, reviews from early users of the Navigator app, including those who took part in short test trips to the south of England ahead of this week’s official launch, suggest that physical lines were replaced by equally frustrating digital experiences Was. The app has received a rating of 1.7 out of five stars on Google’s Play Store, with some users complaining about the system failing repeatedly while at sea.

“We are learning with technology how to bed it and keep it strong,” said Ms. Cooper. The company said that it is fixing bugs and continuously improving the app. It added that guests can still check-in at the terminal and ask crew members to book reservations.

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Part of Richard Branson’s Bain Capital-backed venture into the cruise industry, the ship is designed as an adults-only playground, with six restaurants including dining halls from various vendors; a tattoo studio; Nightclub; karaoke lounge; immersive modern dance show; And six additional times.

The Navigator app also activates the mandatory wristband that serves as their digital cabin, wallet and bar tab, offers 24/7 customer support via chat, and lets guests order food and drinks at their location. , as well as make reservations, thus avoiding queues. Opposite the restaurant and fitness center.

Queues have become a major problem for cruise lines to solve as ships get bigger and have more passengers to manage, said Bill Panoff, a former cruise ship director and editor-in-chief of Porthole Cruises Magazine, an industry publication. said.

Many cruise lines still administer service by giving guests set slots in large dining halls, the timing of which can be requested, but is not always guaranteed. Some offer passes that allow for a skipping line and reservation option for added value. CARNIVAL of the corporation

The Faster to Fun Pass, for example, unlocks perks including priority check-in and disembarkation lanes as well as a dedicated phone extension to access guest services for a cost of at least $49.99 per cabin. The company said the pass was suspended this year to accommodate additional COVID-19 protocols, but plans to bring it back in 2022.

Mr Panoff said cruises have become more dependent on technology to manage passengers over the years because of the pandemic. Many now offer apps that allow guests to reserve dinner tables and check-in slots to reduce crowds, but still give customers a sense of control, he said.

Meanwhile, The Walt Disney Company’s Disney Cruise Line added a “virtual queue” to its onboard Navigator app this year. To maintain social distancing at ports, guests must join a digital line when they are ready to disembark.

Virgin is also employing more tailored crowd-control measures to reduce lines. Take the restaurant, bar and nightlife setup. This ticks the box of providing guests with a wide selection of dishes and entertainment, but allows ship managers to schedule events at different times, without stipulating seating times or making reservations within limited windows. To drop off passengers naturally stuns the dinner service. , Ms Cooper said.

“We know that some people will go and eat early, but there are others who will go to the bar and listen to a jazz band play, or attend an Ibiza-style sundown party,” she said.

British test trips also let Virgin try out other systems, such as the Covid-19 testing stations that Scarlet Lady guests must go through before boarding. A visit to the south coast of England in August prompted Ms Cooper to add more stations than previously planned, and move them closer to the terminal, after some guests reported waiting five hours to board the boat. Gaya. The company said it has since made major improvements to the climbing experience.

As with the major fights, Scarlett Lady’s design team will now look on-deck to see how customers navigate the ship and its locations in real-world conditions, said Ms. Cooper.

“Now we need to ask, do we need to open this entrance more because it’s a barrier? Or do we need to create some more comfortable nooks for people to hide in?” he said. “How people naturally perceive a space, and feel comfortable and confident within it, is something we’ve tried to put into the design, but we’ll still learn.”

[email protected] . on Katie Deighton

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