Move over Oprah! Sir Richard Branson surprises plane load of Virgin Airlines passengers with $1 million worth of free cruises

Virgin Australia Cruises announcement at Melbourne Airport. Picture: Alex Coppel
Edited by Travel Weekly

    More than 150 passengers onboard a Virgin Australia flight from Melbourne to Hobart received the surprise of a lifetime this morning when Sir Richard Branson gifted them a free Virgin Voyages’ sailing to celebrate the cruise line’s arrival in Australia next month.

    It was the surprise Facetime call from the Founder of Virgin over the plane’s PA system that left passengers stunned with the free holiday worth up to $7,000 each. The flight was chosen to represent the same route Resilient Lady (Virgin Voyages’ Australian ship) will sail on her Mermaiden Voyage, leaving her homeport, Melbourne’s Station Pier, on 11 December 2023.

    Virgin Australia Cruises announcement at Melbourne Airport. Picture: Alex Coppel

    Prior to the flight boarding, the departure gate at Melbourne Airport was transformed into Sir Richard Branson’s RockStar Quarters – a luxury cabin onboard the ship, featuring a hot tub, hammock and a sea view vista, unseen before at Tullamarine.

    In an unexpected twist, just before the door was closed on the plane, Sir Richard Branson also surprised the cabin crew, ground crew, baggage handlers and pilots on the flight by gifting them a free cruise for their efforts in bringing joy to the loyal Virgin Australia passengers.

    For those who were not lucky enough to score a free holiday, Virgin Voyages has given the entire country a reason to celebrate by announcing exclusive new rates to mark the inaugural sailing season.

    • Sir Richard Branson has delighted guests onboard a Virgin Australia flight from Melbourne to Hobart (VA1316) surprising passengers with a FREE cruise to celebrate Virgin Voyages’ arrival in Australia next month.
    • Each lucky winner will enjoy a FREE cruise on Sir Richard Branson’s award-winning, exclusively-adults cruise ship Resilient Lady during her summer sailings in Australia – the first new Virgin travel product to arrive down under since the launch of Virgin Australia in the Year 2000.
    • A boarding gate at Melbourne Airport was transformed into a Virgin Voyages’ RockStar Quarters, inspired by the ship’s superyacht level of luxury, complete with hot tub, balcony and trademark hammock, before sailors and cabin crew entered the gate dancing.
    • Virgin Voyages has also announced new pricing for the inaugural sailing season in Australia with cabins starting from $149 per person, per night and up to $1000 in inclusions.

    Cabins will go on sale from today starting from $149 per person / per night and a bonus $1000 of inclusions including entertainment, fitness classes, wifi, tips and essential drinks – making it cheaper than ever to hit the high seas on Resilient Lady.


    Virgin Group Founder, Sir Richard Branson said “We’re counting down to Virgin Voyages’ arrival Downunder – setting sail the Virgin way with adults-only itineraries across Australia and New Zealand. Sorry kids, you’ll have to sit this one out…,” Sir Richard Branson announced over the plane’s PA system.

    “Well, today, you happen to be travelling on the same route as our Aussie MerMaiden Voyage! To celebrate this milestone, I’m pleased to gift each adult onboard a FREE Virgin Voyages cruise,” he said to the excited passengers.

    “The foundations of Virgin Australia were about keeping the air fair and we’re proud to be taking that same mantra to the sea with Virgin Voyages.”

    “We want to give Aussies the opportunity to have an affordable, stress-free holiday where they can take a well-earned break, have fun and get a dose of vitamin sea,” he said.

    Virgin Australia Chief Marketing Officer, Libby Minogue said the airline was delighted to create a wonderful experience for guests to celebrate Virgin Voyages’ arrival.

    “We are laser focused on creating wonderful experiences for our guests and today is a great example of the Virgin brands joining forces to deliver Australians new experiences in the air or at sea,” said Ms Minogue.

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    “The feeling in the gate lounge and onboard the flight was electric and we look forward to welcoming Virgin Voyages down under,” she said.

    Virgin Voyages CEO, Nirmal Saverimuttu said excitement was building for the arrival of Resilient Lady, who’s currently sailing from Athens to Australia.

    “There will never, ever be better prices to experience our award-winning dining, entertainment and wellness onboard the luxurious Resilient Lady. This is a new way of cruising Down Under and we can’t wait for Aussies to sail with us,” said Mr Saverimuttu

    “If you haven’t booked your Summer holiday, these new prices will give you a good excuse to book a trip of a lifetime,” he said.

    Resilient Lady will dock in Australia for the first time on 4 December in Sydney, before heading to Melbourne for the Mermaiden Voyage on 11 December 2023. Sir Richard Branson will be coming to Australia to celebrate the historic voyage.

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