A full plane of airline passengers got an unexpected bonus to their travels when they were the winners of a free Virgin Voyages cruise aboard Resilient Lady.

The lucky travelers were aboard a Virgin Australia flight following the same route the ship will make when she debuts Down Under on December 11, 2023.

More than 150 travelers aboard Virgin Australia flight 1316 from Melbourne, Australia to Hobart, Tasmania got the ultimate surprise on Thursday, November 16, 2023.

Partway through the flight, Sir Richard Branson phoned in via FaceTime to make a very special announcement over the plane’s speakers, gifting all adults aboard the flight a free Virgin Voyages cruise.

“We’re counting down to Virgin Voyages’ arrival Down Under – setting sail the Virgin way with adults-only itineraries across Australia and New Zealand. Today, you happen to be travelling on the same route as our Aussie MerMaiden Voyage,” Branson explained. “To celebrate this milestone, I’m pleased to gift each adult on-board a free Virgin Voyages cruise.”

You can watch Sir Richard Branson surprising passengers with a free cruises and all the festivities in the video below:

Cheers erupted throughout the aircraft as the cabin crew handed out free cruise vouchers. The cabin crew, baggage handlers, and pilots associated with the flight also received a free cruise. In total, the prizes add up to more than $1 million (USD).

That specific flight was selected to win the unprecedented giveaway because it was following the same route that Resilient Lady will take for her MerMaiden voyage on December 11, 2023. The ship will leave Melbourne that day, visiting Hobart as her first port of call from an Australian homeport on December 13. The sailing will also visit Burnie, Tasmania before returning to Melbourne on December 16.

To further celebrate the occasion, the flight’s departure gate at Melbourne Airport was decorated as Branson’s “RockStar Quarters” – an exclusive suite onboard the ship – with a scenic ocean backdrop, a “hot tub” with scarlet confetti water, and one of the signature hammocks found on Virgin Voyages’ distinctive ladyship.

Richard Branson Gives Free Cruises (Credit: Virgin Australia)

Resilient Lady is currently making her way toward Australia with a repositioning cruise that departed Dubai on Sunday, November 5. The ship is enjoying calls in India, Thailand, and Malaysia before arriving in Singapore on Monday, November 20. The second leg of the repositioning to Australia will visit top destinations in Indonesia and northern and eastern Australia.

The third of the adults-only cruise line’s “ladyships” Resilient Lady joined the cruise line earlier this year and officially debuted in Greece on May 14, 2023. The ship spent the summer offering Greek Isles cruises.

Resilient Lady will spend several months in Australia, offering a selection of diverse itineraries. Depending on the sailing date, the ship’s homeport will shift between Melbourne, Sydney, and Auckland to bring the cruise line’s unique experiences to more travelers.

Cruise lengths range from a quick 2-night getaway to 14-night adventures. Ports of call include Burnie, Hobart, Picton, Napier, Tauranga, Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch, and more, depending on the exact cruise and sailing route.

Virgin Voyages Resilient Lady (Photo Credit: Stefano Tammaro / Shutterstock)

Read Also: Virgin Voyages Announces 27 New Itineraries

In March 2024, the 110,000-gross-ton ship will depart Australia on her way back to the eastern Mediterranean via Indonesia, India, and Dubai.

Resilient Lady can welcome 2,700 guests onboard each sailing, and features unique amenities such as an onboard tattoo parlor, more than 20 restaurants and bars, five production shows, and much more to enjoy. Also onboard are more than 1,100 international crew members to ensure that every passenger gets truly exceptional service on every sailing.

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