Sir Richard Branson, a man who transforms virtually every media and travel market he focuses on, is ready to shake up the entire world of cruises. On October 18th, he held a press conference in Miami, FL to announce the launch of Virgin Voyages. This will be an evolution of his current cruise company, Virgin Cruises, moving them away from simply reselling trips on popular cruise lines like Norwegian Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity under the Virgin branding.
The name change is very deliberate. Branson believes that “cruises” evoke images of senior citizens, Disney-dominated families and over-the-top partiers. Virgin Voyages seeks to elevate the experience to the kind of bespoke quality and service his other travel brands, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Hotels and his game preserve in Africa are known for. He also believes that the entire Millenial market is underserved, with cruises being very low on their list of priorities.
Ships To Be Built by FINCANTIERI
Branson also announced that he has commissioned FINCANTIERI S.p.A., a world leader in cruise ship construction, to build 3 ships for his new venture. The new ships will weigh 110,000 gross tons each and will feature 1430 guest cabins to host more than 2800 passengers on board, assisted by 1150 crew members. The delivery is scheduled respectively in 2020, 2021 and 2022. FINCANTIERI also provides vessels for Norwegian, Celebrity and other major cruise lines.
Always at the forefront of innovation, Virgins ships will utilize clean energy generation provided by Climeon AB. This technology only requires hot water produced by the engines to create enough power for the entire ship. (Take that Elon Musk!)
Virgin will use Miami as their base of operations and plans to include Cuba on their list of destinations, a market already being serviced by Branson’s other ventures.
An interesting sidenote is that earlier this year Virgin Cruises settled a $300 Million lawsuit with the ex-CEO of Norwegian. The suit claimed he had brought the idea for a line of high-end, ultra cruise ships to Branson in 2015. After considerable effort designing the ships and securing financing, the lawsuit says Virgin Cruises co-opted his ideas and moved forward with a venture of their own. Terms of the settlement were not made public.
In any event, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed every travel product Richard Branson has brought to market. We expect that Virgin Voyages will be a wonderful experience. Start counting the days until the first cruise slated for 2020.