Virgin Voyages Walks Back Unpopular Decision to Skip French Ports

Last Updated on April 8, 2024

Virgin Voyages gave many passengers whiplash yesterday as they made a very unpopular decision and walked it back nearly immediately. The original plan was to remove all French ports for this summer’s sailings. After an avalanche of negative feedback from customers, Virgin Voyages promptly reversed course in a rare move for cruise lines. 

Marseille and Toulon ports were canceled

In an email sent to guests booked on board Mediterranean sailings this summer, Virgin Voyages indicated that they’d be canceling stops in France. For guests booked upon “French Days & Ibiza Nights” sailings, that meant they’d be removing Marseille. Guests sailing on “The Irresistible Med” sailings would miss Toulon, France. 

virgin voyages sailing map

Instead of these ports, the guests would get an additional sea day. Guests would receive port fees of $11 – $21 back as onboard credit; otherwise, no compensation would be offered. 

In the email, Virgin Voyages listed the reason for this change as being “inspired by recent Sailor feedback and to make sure you have the best possible experience with us.” 

virgin voyages cancellation email

Outrage among booked guests

Guests who booked these itineraries were up in arms. Social media was abuzz with negative comments and many wrote directly to Virgin Voyages staff. 

Many Virgin Voyages sailors are not traditional cruisers and aren’t used to port changes like this one. (As a reminder, every cruise contract says the cruise line reserves the right to cancel or alter any ports/destinations with no compensation.)

Others were upset that this change was made after the final payment was due, so guests could not cancel the cruise without penalty. Many started to question when Virgin Voyages knew about this change. 

 On top of that, many people picked these sailings specifically to have the chance to visit several European countries at once with very few sea days at all. For those on “The Irresistible Med” sailings, it cut out a whole country from an itinerary which was unacceptable to many, especially in the name of “guest satisfaction.” 

Virgin Voyages hears guests and reverses its decision

Not even a day later, impacted guests received a notification email backtracking on this decision. All cruises will visit the French ports that were initially planned. 

We’re writing about the update we recently sent you regarding the port change for your upcoming voyage. We understand that this change was unexpected, and we’re very sorry for the disappointment this created around your future vacation plans.

We value both you and your feedback — so after listening to your concerns, we’re reinstating the stop in Marseille. You can now continue to look forward to experiencing the vibrant culture and stunning views in Marseille as you originally had planned.

We understand how much goes into planning travel, and definitely didn’t intend to create any undue stress or inconvenience. We’re humans (behind these ships and emails!) and while we don’t always get it right, we care about you and are never above admitting when we get it wrong. And fixing it when we do.

We’re grateful you’re joining us to see this gorgeous part of the Mediterranean, and we promise you’ll have an exceptional experience with us this summer. Over the next 48 hours, you may see your itinerary change and return to the corrected itinerary — so not to worry, the changes will be reflected shortly.

We can’t wait to welcome you on board for an unforgettable voyage. Thank you again for choosing us.

Michelle Bentubo Chief Operating Officer, Virgin Voyages
virgin voyages customer email

Other cruise lines need to take note of Virgin Voyages’ response

Virgin Voyage’s response was swift and honest, and it was not full of flowery but ultimately meaningless language. It’s very unusual for a cruise line to walk back a decision like this. One reason can be that Virgin Voyages only has three ships currently sailing, so this change affected 1/3 of its guests. When other cruise lines make a change, it’s for one out of 15 or more ships, so it has less overall impact. 

Other cruise lines need to take notice. With certain cruise lines selling sailings specifically based on destinations, it’s much more problematic when a port is cancelled. Canceling due to weather conditions, port problems, or civil unrest is one thing, but when ports are canceled on nebulous things like “guest feedback” or Norwegian’s new favorite line, “fuel efficiency,” passengers start to question the motive.  

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Randy Young

Randy Young is the founder and editor-in-chief at Cruise Spotlight. He has been in marketing for 19 years and has been cruising for just as long. Over the years, he's worked with products like TVs, copiers, light bulbs, and EV chargers, but cruising has always been his passion. There's nothing Randy likes more than the first couple of hours on a ship, exploring every nook and cranny and seeing how it's different from everything else out there. He's known for providing detailed and analytical coverage of cruising to help cruisers get a comprehensive picture of a ship's offerings.