Branson Unveils Virgin Voyages & Confirms Ship Order
Cruise Week by Art Sbarsky
Saying he hates the word `cruises,' Sir Richard Branson has rebranded the name for Bain Capital and Virgin Group’s new venture into the cruise business. Instead of Virgin Cruises, it will be Virgin Voyages.
Branson, who recently sold out of the airline business, also emphasized that he has never been on a cruise ship. “I never wanted to go on a cruise ship, but what I did feel was that we could create a cruise company with a difference.”
Virgin leaders predicted that they could shake up the industry by appealing to a "whole new demographic." Based on their comments, the focus will be millennials.
While execs did announce the new name of their cruise brand at a showy press event in Miami Beach, they shared little more specific news with the exception that they will adopt a clean energy initiative and even that came without many details. They provided 1 number about how advanced this is going to be: the 1st ship will save 5400 tons of CO2 per ship on an annual basis by transforming low grade energy into electricity. But, as of today, this is the most innovative energy program announced in the industry, described by Virgin Voyages CEO & President Tom McAlpin as being part of a huge financial investment.
In terms of dates and places, no changes from what was announced 16 months ago: 2020, 2021, 2022 for the launch of each of their 3 ships. The first ship, arriving in 2020, will be homeported in MIA and sail 7 day trips.
The company has moved forward from signing a letter of intent to officially signing a contract with Fincantieri in Italy to build the 110,000 ton ships. McAlpin said all the details are in place and they are merely waiting on the Italian government to approve the whole project.
McAlpin promised that the 2700 pax ships will be very different and very innovative. He said “2 milestones” are ahead. In February 2017, Fincantieri will be cutting steel for the 1st ship. The keel laying will be in Genoa toward the end of next year. But, that's an unusually long time between cutting the steel and the keel laying itself.
No renderings were released, but as per Virgin’s style, there was a lot of talk about positioning a 110,000 ton ship for more than 2700 pax and 1150 crew as “breaking new ground.” Those numbers translate to a 40 space ratio and 2.3 guest/crew ratio, which would put Virgin firmly into the premium category.