Virgin Voyages Cracks Down on Questionable Reservation Tactics

by SharonKurheg

If you’ve read our blog with any regularity, you may know that Joe (hubby) and I are big fans of Virgin Voyages. The food is great, we enjoy the cheeky-but-sophisticated atmosphere, and we LOVE that they don’t allow kids.

Virgin Voyages has become more and more popular since its first sailings in 2021. Here are some of the awards and accolades they received last year alone:
a group of logos and textThey may not win “Best Value for the Money” this year, as their prices have gone up QUITE a bit since they started. In fact, some people are noticing 30% increases in the past year alone. Other than that, we still love them. 😉

Anyway, any time you book a cruise, there are two ways to do it – use a travel agent or do it yourself. Travel geeks, of course, LOVE to plan trips. And if/when hotel and/or flights are involved in the planning of our cruise, they’ll still do that. But when it comes to booking the actual cruise, though, many tend to use a travel agent – they invariably know more about the ins/outs/deals than the points/miles travel geeks do since it’s a different area of expertise. Here’s how you can decide if you should use a travel agent or not.

The travel agent industry is VERY competitive. That’s because there are so many travel agents out there nowadays (they kind of proliferated thanks to the MLM [Multilevel Marketing] travel agency model) and they generally get paid “per reservation” (either pure commission or a mixture of a small fee + commission). So any little thing a TA sees as a potential opportunity to give them an “edge,” they may try to take part. Unfortunately, some of those “edges” are against the terms and conditions of their being allowed to be a Virgin Voyages First Mate (Virgin Voyages’ word for Travel Agent. TAs are First Mates, passengers are Sailors, Customer Service is Sailor Services, etc.).

a large cruise ship with many windowsTrouble brewing

With that, the cruise line sent an email to all its First Mates last week, warning them about some quasi-nefarious business dealings they’ve become aware of and want to be stopped.

“I want to discuss an important and serious topic that continues to be brought to our attention by Sailors, First Mates, and Crew regarding solicitation and rebating,” wrote John Diorio, vice president of North American sales. He went on to explain these actions weren’t in the spirit of partnership that Virgin wished to engage in.

No solicitation

Apparently, some First Mates have been discovered leaving flyers, business cards and branded items on ship terminals and on the ships themselves promoting their respective travel agencies.

Other First Mates have apparently offered to “help” Sailors with their next booking, while they’re on their cruise and when waiting to purchase My Next Virgin Voyage placeholders (the MNVV placeholders cost $300 but give you up to $900 in benefits. They’re a decent deal if you plan to sail on VV again in the not-too-distant future). These TAs are trying to get unsuspecting Sailors to put their respective name/agency down as their First Mate when they buy the MNVV placeholder.

The email reminded First Mates that solicitation while on a Virgin Voyages ship is 100% prohibited. Virgin Voyages also said that it reserves the right to cancel First Mates’ accounts and, in extreme cases, ban them from sailing on its ships.

Some First Mates were also on social media, such as the Virgin Voyages or cruise-themed message groups, trying to get Sailors to switch their bookings to them (from DIY or another travel agent/agency). The cruise line reminded First Mates this was also prohibited.

Buying MNVV for them

Going back to MNVV for a moment – the placeholders can be transferred from one person to another. So First Mates would buy the maximum they were allowed, and then “sell” them to their clients.

This tactic was (and is) perfectly legal and OK. However, Virgin Voyages’ limit on purchasing these placeholders had been 10 per person, per cruise. A couple of weeks ago, they decreased that amount to 4 per person, per cruise. Either way, some unscrupulous TAs were asking people to buy MNVVs for them while they were on board, which would, in turn, give them more than they were allowed.

Offering commission back to clients

Still other First Mates were offering their clients a cut of the commission they would get from booking them on a Virgin Voyages cruise. i.e. “If you book with me, I can give you an extra $100 off.” That’s also very much against the rules because it gives that TA an edge over booking with another TA (or even directly through Virgin Voyages).

a room with a couch and a mirrorNot everyone’s guilty

Of course, not every travel agent was involved in shady dealings, and Diorio said as much in the email.

“We are also aware that the vast majority of our First Mates are not engaging in any unhelpful practices and want you to know we take the concerns you’ve shared seriously and will work with you to stop them.”

But for those whose bookings have been, shall we say, questionable, he wanted these First Mates to be aware that the cruise line was, well, aware.

“As a reminder, when you sail with Virgin Voyages, you are agreeing to our Ticket Contract, which covers onboard solicitation and expressly prohibits the activity above in our terms and conditions to do business with us,” Diorio wrote.

He also reminded these travel agents that Virgin reserves the right, “…to cancel your First Mate account and, in extreme cases, limit or cancel your ability to sail. We do not think the above actions are in the spirit of a good partnership or fair to your industry colleagues and we just can’t allow them to continue.”

Diorio also urged first mates to report any further instances of terms and conditions infractions. “If you see any examples of the above, please share them with the Sales Team who will sort them out as quickly as possible.”

I guess it takes all kinds, huh?

All photos: PC: Virgin Voyages

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1 comment

Christian May 27, 2024 - 9:24 pm

It certainly sounds like unethical behavior but Virgin jacking up prices by 50% in one year just because they feel they can soak passengers for more money doesn’t seem very ethical to me either.


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