Richard Branson unveils carbon-neutral cruise ship complete with tattoo parlour and yoga deck

Virgin Voyages is attempting to lure a younger crowd with the Scarlet Lady, but amid coronavirus fears, timing is ill-fated

Richard Branson has unveiled his much-hyped Scarlet Lady in the port of Dover in the United Kingdom.

The 600,000-tonne cruise liner is a dream come true for the British entrepreneur, he said in a statement. "I have dreamed of starting my own cruise line since I was in my 20s and I'm thrilled that moment has arrived. The Scarlet Lady is truly special and we've worked with some of the world's most sought-after designers, artists and architects to craft an extraordinary experience."

The adult-only ship comes complete with a tattoo studio, yoga deck and more than 20 restaurants, in a conscious attempt by Branson to lure a younger generation of cruise passengers. Operating under Virgin Voyages, a new travel and lifestyle brand under the Virgin Group banner, Scarlet Lady was nearly three years in the making and is the first of four ships ordered from master shipbuilder Fincantieri.

In an age when the cruise industry is under increasing scrutiny for its negative impact on the environment, Virgin Voyages has pledged to counter Scarlet Lady's indirect climate change emissions through the purchase of carbon offsets. It is also one of first cruise liners to employ Climeon, a technology that utilises heat from the ship's engines to generate electricity, decreasing the demand for fuel.

“I’m so proud that as we start this exciting journey, we also bring to life Virgin Voyages’ commitment to preserving the ocean and the first of many steps towards a net zero carbon future,” says Branson.

“The ocean is our home, and we are on a mission to protect it,” added Tom McAplin, chief executive and president of Virgin Voyages. “The single-biggest threat facing our ocean is climate change, and we want to be part of the solution. We are committed to pioneering new technologies onboard, and working with our industry peers to advance research and development for zero-carbon fuels.”

The Scarlet Lady is scheduled to set sail from Miami to the Caribbean in April, but the timing of the launch is unfortunate. This week, quarantined passengers on the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama with 600 confirmed cases of the coronavirus reported on board, started disembarking, with two elderly passengers subsequently dying from the virus. The epidemic has already taken its toll on cruise operators as travel restrictions and widespread fear have led to the cancellation of trips to the Far East.