Review of Virgin Voyages
Virgin Voyages (formerly named Virgin Cruises) is a cruise line headquartered in Plantation, Florida (USA). Virgin Voyages was created in a joint venture between Virgin Group and Bain Capital, with the latter having a majority shareholding. The establishment of Virgin Cruises was announced by Virgin Group on December 4, 2014. The new cruise line it is scheduled to start operations in 2020.
In 2020, Virgin Cruises officially starts operations from Miami Florida with a 2800-passenger vessel. Two additional sister-ships will follow in 2021 and 2022. The announcement was made in the end of June 2015 in Miami, during a press conference (media event "making waves") for the new cruise brand. Richard Branson - founder of Virgin Group, arrived on a helicopter landing near Miami's Museum Park. According to Mr Branson, the total building cost for the 3 vessels is less than USD 2 billion.
The President and CEO of the cruise company is Tom McAlpin. He is a founding member of Disney Cruise Line's launch team and later its president. Prior to heading Virgin Cruises, McAlpin has served as CEO of The World cruise ship.
Earlier in 2016, Virgin Cruises settled an USD 300 million lawsuit filed by former Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Colin Veitch, who claimed Virgin had stolen his ideas and moved on with the cruise line concept without him.
In the promo video for the new cruise line, Virgin Voyages promises a "holiday you can's predict" that will "celebrate your curiosity, not force you to follow one itinerary".
Tom McAlpin shared they did not see themselves as a big player in cuise industry, but as "a small boutique line that will offer different experiences.”
In October 2016, "Virgin Cruises" was rebranded as "Virgin Voyages". At the time it was first announced, the company's founder Branson said his goal was to create a brand cruising experience that is more likely to appeal to millennials and other people who don’t normally take cruise ship vacations.
McAlpin and Branson hinted that those experiences might take some cues from other successful Virgin ventures, like Virgin Hotels. The hotel chain is popular for offering free WiFi, minibar drinks at street prices, privacy doors allowing guests to go on about their business while room service brings requests, pet-friendly amenities with no weight or size restrictions.
Virgin cruise ships
On June 23, 2015, the cruise line announced it had signed a letter of Intent with Fincantieri (Italian shipbuilder based in Trieste), for the construction of 3 cruise ships scheduled for delivery in 2020, 2021 and 2022. The shipbuilding order was officially finalized on December 21, 2016. The cruise ships will be mid-sized, each with gross tonnage 110000 GT and capacity 2800 passengers (1430 cabins) and 1150 crew.
The shipbuilding contract was valued at approx EUR 2 billion. All the 3 vessels will be constructed at the Sestri Ponente shipyard (Genoa). The first ship's construction started with the steel-cutting ceremony held on March 21, 2017.
Each of the ships will have a high percentage of balcony staterooms. The new ships greatly differ from other cruise vessels (as design) and will target younger and more adventurous travelers.
One of the new ship features is already confirmed: new clean energy system via partnership with Swedish company Climeon Ocean. This way, Virgin Voyages will be the first major line to partner with Climeon, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by converting the generated by ship engines heat into electricity for onboard use. All Virgin newbuilds will have 6 Climeon units, each, creating a savings of 5,400t of carbon dioxide per ship, annually.
In July 2017, was announced that Wartsila (marine technologies Finnish corporation / former shipbuilder) was selected to provide the power plants for the 3 Virgin ships. Among Wartsila's core products are large diesel engines for cruise and ferry ships.
Each Virgin ship is powered by two 8-cylinder plus two 12-cylinder "Wartsila 46F" diesel engines. Wartsila's Hybrid Scrubber System operate in both open and closed loop and uses seawater to remove SOx from the ship's exhaust. It also significant reduces the NOx emissions.
The Virgin ships' navigation and automation control systems are also Wartsila-made (NACOS Platinum series).
Itinerary of Virgin Voyages
Details on Virgin cruise line's itinerary program have not yet been announced. However, Branson mentioned one destination that was on the list - the Caribbean. When asked about Cuba being a potential port, he immediately replied "Yes!". This also means roundtrip departures from Florida ports.
In 2017 was announced that the first-launched Virgin cruise ship will be initially homeported at Port Miami and will operate on 7-day Caribbean itineraries departing each Sunday.