Virgin under fire for cruise ‘giveaway’ made near impossible

Virgin under fire for cruise ‘giveaway’ made near impossible
Edited by Travel Weekly

    Virgin Voyages has been urged to honour promises made to winners of a free cruise after the cruise line scrapped sailings out of Australia and New Zealand.

    In November last year, more than 150 lucky passengers onboard a Virgin Australia flight were gifted a free Virgin Voyages cruise via Facetime from Sir Richard Branson.

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

    Three months after the flight, the cruise line announced it would be pulling out of Australia and New Zealand for the 2024/25 season citing ongoing conflict around the Red Sea as reason.

    Virgin made the most of media coverage at the time of the giveaway.

    Reports this weekend surfaced around the finer details associated with the prize, leaving some winners feeling used for PR.

    Speaking anonymously to the ABC, one winner said, “They had a lot of cameras around, there was dancing … they asked everybody to wear sailor hats when we boarded our flight.”

    “Virgin got precisely what they wanted; a massive amount of media coverage.

    “We know this because people sent us messages from all over Australia saying they saw me on the news winning a cruise.

    “It feels like they got all the benefits and we got nothing but cancellation fees.”

    With no cruises in Australia left as options to redeem the prize, Virgin’s public relations team told the winner that they could redeem the cruise on itineraries out of Europe or the Caribbean.

    Virgin Voyages axes 2024/25 Australia sailings

    Experts say company should honour promotion promises 

    Dr Balkrushna Potdar, a lecturer in marketing at the University of Tasmania told the ABC that Virgin,” relies on winners to become brand ambassadors by sharing their stories with friends, family and social media followers.”

    He continued that Virgin should provide a replacement prize or compensation to avoid damage to brand image.

    “This could include covering the cost of flights to Europe or the Caribbean, offering a free cruise credit, providing additional perks and benefits,” Dr Potdar said.

    “The winner’s negative experience may become a cautionary tale dissuading potential customers from engaging with the brand.”

    Virgin says safety first 

    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.”

    “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.”


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