Sir Richard Branson seems to have a hand in nearly every frontier of the travel industry: airlines, hotels and resorts, trains, tours, and even outer space. Yesterday, he announced his latest foray into the travel industry with the debut of Virgin Cruises
with backing from Bain Capital.
Virgin Cruises, which will be based out of the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area, is the newest major cruise line to debut since the formation of Disney Cruise Line in 1996. Virgin Group said on Thursday that its entry into the cruise market was motivated by a desire to stand out in an industry dominated by big lines offering similar experiences.
"We plan to shake up the cruise industry and deliver a holiday that customers will absolutely love," Virgin Group Founder Branson said in a statement. "They'll be sailing on the latest ships offering great quality, a real sense of fun, and many exciting activities all delivered with the famed Virgin service."
Currently, there are plans to design and construct two new cruise ships. Virgin Group has declined to divulge additional information regarding the line's dates of operation due to competitive reasons.
Branson's Virgin Group has appointed Tom McAlpin as CEO of Virgin Cruises. McAlpin most recently served as president and CEO of The World, Residences at Sea, and he previously served as Presdient of Disney Cruise Line and was a part of its founding management team.
McAlpin said, "Cruise guests deserve something better and different to what is being offered today, and Virgin Cruises is committed to creating breathtaking experiences for them and a new generation of guests. Opportunities like this do not come often, so I am very excited to lead this business and introduce the Virgin brand to the cruise industry, as it has always put customers at the heart of what it does."
Branson's proven track record in travel and hospitality bodes well for the new cruise line.
"From our earliest conversations with the Virgin team, we recognized there is a unique opportunity here to help build the next great cruise line serving travelers from around the world," added Stephen Pagliuca, a managing director with Bain Capital. "We know that thanks to the strategic vision laid out by our collective team -- and now under the guidance of Tom McAlpin -- Virgin Cruises will help reshape consumers' expectations of what a cruise experience can be."
Ryan Cotton, a principal with Bain Capital, added, "We are pleased to pursue this exciting opportunity with Virgin, one of the world's most respected and iconic brands. With a small number of global players, an experience in need of refreshing, and consumers ready for something new and exciting, the industry exhibits all the characteristics of one that is ripe for a new entrant."