Virgin Cruises became the newest cruise line in the world on December 4, 2014, when the company officially announced their start up. Since March it had been assumed that something would be materializing when Virgin Group founder, Sir Richard Branson was quoted in an Abu Dhabi newspaper as saying that he was interested in creating a cruise line that could be in service by 2019, building new ships that would appeal to a segment of the travel market that currently does not consider cruising. Presumably this would mean younger, upscale professionals that have been largely underserved by the cruise industry. The company promises that the new ships will be different from others in the industry, offering the “Virgin Touch”.
In the statement announcing the new line Branson said, “We plan to shake up the cruise industry and deliver a holiday that customers will absolutely love.” Virgin Cruises will be headquartered in the South Florida area and plans to design and construct two new cruise ships. Tom McAlpin has been hired as Virgin Cruises CEO following previous duties as president and CEO of The World Of ResidenSea and as a member of the start-up team and later president of Disney Cruise Line. The Virgin Group already includes airlines, railroads and is pioneering space tourism with Virgin Galactic. The Abu Dhabi government-backed investment group Aabar is a backer of the space tourism company and was initially believed to be a possible source of funding for the cruise venture. Earlier in the year, Sir Richard Branson claimed that most of the $1.7 billion for the planned startup had already been raised and he was negotiating with shipyards in Germany and Italy to build the first ships. In the latest statement Bain Capital Partners is identified as the main source of backing for the cruise line. The Virgin Group did not disclose the how much the investment was, nor did they confirm when the new cruise line will begin operations, citing “competitive reasons.” The company that has already made their mark on land, air and potentially space, hopes to soon conquer the seas as well with two newly built ships.
Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years. A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary. A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs. Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America. With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
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