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He’s conquered the skies. He’s working on space. And now, Richard Branson has set his sights on the seas.
Branson’s Virgin Group announced today they’re starting a new cruise line, Virgin Cruises. And like his game-changing Virgin Airlines, Branson is hoping to make a splash in a travel industry he thinks has gotten stale.
“We plan to shake up the cruise industry and deliver a holiday that customers will absolutely love,” Branson said in a statement. “They’ll be sailing on the latest ships offering a great quality, a real sense of fun and many exciting activities all delivered with the famed Virgin service.”
Richard Branson’s getting into the cruising business. (Thinkstock)
This new cruise line will be based in Miami. Virgin did not announce a date, but it’s believed the first cruise won’t be until 2019 at the earliest.
Today’s announcement confirms what has been a badly kept secret; Branson’s been speaking for months about how he wants to launch a cruise line. He recently told the Financial Times that he’s building two large ships (at a cost of $2 billion) “to see whether we can attract people like myself who’ve never been on a cruise ship.”
Related: Five New Cruise Ships For 2015
We all know Sir Richard likes to talk a big game. But Davy Jones’ Locker is filled with the shipwrecks of big-talking moguls who tried to conquer the cruising game. Will Branson’s grandiose vision and knack for publicity be enough to crack an industry where nearly 80 percent of the market is controlled by only three cruise companies (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian)?
Better save the champagne, Sir Richard. You’re going to need it to christen your new cruise ship (Photo: AP)
“There’s room for other cruise lines to join the fray,” says cruising expert Stewart Chriron, aka the Cruise Guy. In an industry that already features ships of all sizes, celebrity chefs, water slides, rock climbing walls, and zip lines, Chiron questions what Branson could add to the cruising mix.
“Of course they’ll bring fine dining, welcoming service, and a good environment; we’ve heard this so many times,” Chiron says. “It’s just a question of what [Virgin] is going to do differently?”
If Branson’s past ventures are any indication, doing things differently will be a big part of the business plan for his new cruise line. As a frequent cruiser, I’m offering Sir Richard some free advice on how he could trick out his new cruise line to make it stand out.
Branson, Branson Everywhere
Branson has worn a dress to promote his Virgin airlines. He should go the extra mile for his cruise line too. (Photo: AP)
He’d instantly become the industry’s most visible cruise executive. So we’d want to see him as much as possible, at least during the first few cruises. We want to see him greeting passengers, mixing drinks, steering the ship, performing during the shows, leading limbo contests… If Branson wants to make this work he’s going to have to sell this thing.
This lighting scheme would look great on a cruise ship! (Photo: Virgin America)
It’s the most distinctive feature of Virgin’s airlines: the mood lighting in the cabins. No reason they can’t bring that to the new cruise line. Imagine a well-decorated cabin, bathed in a lavender-colored lighting scheme — that would definitely set Virgin cruises apart.
Muster Drill Becomes a Singing, Dancing Extravaganza
This is a no-brainer. Virgin America’s award-winning pre-flight instruction video has passengers breaking into applause (and they darn sure know how to work the oxygen masks where it’s over). Imagine how awesome it would be if Virgin turned the pre-cruise evacuation drills into a similar song-and-dance blowout, with live singers and dancers showing you where the lifeboats are? My toes are tapping just thinking about it.
Virgin Cruise Ship Transforms Into a Virgin Flight, “Avengers”-Style
Imagine a cruise ship doing this. I’d buy a ticket today! (Photo: Marvel/Disney)
Branson’s all about air travel. Maybe he can combine his cruise ships and his airplanes to form one ginormous flying ship. THAT would get you some first-time cruisers.
Branson Takes a Cue From “The Love Boat” and Calls His Ship “The Virgin Boat”
On second thought that may not be the way to attract fun-seeking passengers.