This Cruise Line Is Taking a Page From Southwest Airlines’ Playbook (And It’s Great for Customers)

Can studying the moves made by Southwest Airlines help grow a cruise line? One line certainly seems to be giving it a shot, and that’s good news for cruise passengers.

Stern of a Virgin Voyages ship
Virgin Voyages is positioning itself much like Southwest Airlines in that it offers a lot of value to customers without the extra fees.

Southwest Airlines’ story is well known. The small upstart airline grew from a tiny carrier focused on Texas to the second-largest carrier in the United States. It did so by offering a unique culture, but also something else that’s unique in air travel today: It has a reputation for putting customers first.

Many airlines have seemingly seen passengers as a piggy bank, charging for things like seat selection, changing your flight, and even checking luggage or in some cases a carry-on bag.

Southwest has avoided these charges. And while it might forego significant revenue, it’s also helped the airline grow its popularity among passengers. A recent airline index ranked Southwest second in the United States behind Delta, but well above large players like United and American.

A Cruise Line Following the Southwest Model?

A new campaign from Virgin Voyages, including this graphic from an email — highlights some of the perks that come with the cruise line, including the ability to move cruise dates and change passengers.

Now, a newer cruise line seems to be following that same playbook. And it’s making moves that cruise passengers should love.

Virgin Voyages made waves when it first launched a few years ago as it sought to be different from any other cruise line on the market. For one, it is adults only, meaning kids can’t sail. That allows the line to cater the entire cruise to adults, from making the entertainment more risque to not having to spend time or resources catering to children.

Virgin also transformed the onboard experience by doing things like getting rid of the buffet (there’s a food court instead), including gratuities in the cruise fare, offering wi-fi without an extra charge, having all food on the ship be free, and including non-alcoholic drinks.

In short, while most cruise lines have gone in the direction of the average airline and including more (and higher) charges across the ship to earn more revenue, Virgin has done the exact opposite.

It seems to be getting noticed. Virgin Voyages won “Best Cruise Line for the Money” from US News in 2023 and “Best Value for the Money” from Cruise Critic.

But there are other perks for passengers that sail, and in our eyes, they are right out of the Southwest Airlines playbook.

A new Virgin brand campaign touts what it calls “Fair and Flexible Fares.” The fair part of that equation relates to the inclusion of the items mentioned above. Instead of nickel-and-diming passengers, things like gratuities, all dining, and wi-fi are included in the cost of the cruise.

But the flexible portion is something less known, and it could be a difference maker for some passengers. With this perk, Virgin Voyages allows passengers to change voyage dates or change the name on the reservation and not pay extra fees or penalties. This is similar to Southwest Airlines, which famously does not charge fees for changing your reservation. You simply pay the difference in fare.

So if you have an upcoming cruise (it does have to be more than 45 days before sailing) and something comes up, you don’t have to cancel and be hit with a massive penalty. This penalty can be most or all of your cruise fare on some lines. Instead, with Virgin Voyages, you can just move the sail date to something else that works for you.

Or say you and a friend are traveling, but one of you can’t sail anymore. No problem, you can swap out a passenger on a reservation up to just 48 hours before sailing.

If you are a cruiser that wants to travel but aren’t sure of your schedule, then these people-friendly moves from Virgin Voyages may be exactly what you’re looking for.

More on Sailing Virgin Voyages:

Popular: 39 Useful Things to Pack (17 You Wouldn't Think Of)

Read Next: Park & Cruise Hotels for Every Port in America

Popular: 107 Best Cruise Tips, Secrets, Tricks, and Freebies


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here