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We plan to shake up the cruise industry….. (Sir Richard Branson)

Sir Richard Branson has announced his next venture – a cruise line. It’s been rumoured for quite a while that this was on his agenda, I gather, so it’s probably not a great shock. Today’s announcement also included the information that the line will be run by Tom McAlpin, who has previously worked at Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruises (as President) and The World (as CEO), thus bringing a wealth of experience to it.

The new line will be based in Miami and will therefore offer cruises in the Caribbean.

After that factual stuff it all starts to go a bit wobbly. Sir Richard is quoted as saying “We plan to shake up the cruise industry and deliver a holiday that customers will absolutely love“; and Tom 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“. Given the array of lines competing in the Caribbean, from bargain-basement lines using old ships to the latest mega-liners via luxury operators running high-quality operations where personal service is the watchword, the Caribbean is where the competition is toughest and the range of offerings is already the widest. It will be interesting to see how Virgin Cruises intend to make a mark in that environment.

And we’ll have to wait a while before we see the answer. The announcement goes on to say that Virgin Cruises will design and build two ships. That process will take some time; I can’t see them being ready until mid-2016 at the earliest, and that would be with small ships. If they’re going to go down the big-ship route it will take even longer.

The announcement is covered on a number of news sites, but here’s a link to one of them.

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