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Virgin Cruises have announced that they have signed a Letter of Intent with Fincantieri to build three new ships. and the intention on both sides is to sign contracts before the end of this year. The ships will be delivered in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Details are still scant, of course, but we do know that they will each be 110,000 gross tons and will have 1,430 cabins and thus around 2,800 passengers, dual-occupancy. This will make them about the same size as the final set of Grand Princess ships – Ventura, for example, is 116,000 gt, has 1,553 cabins and about 3,100 passengers. Despite this, they are being described as ’boutique’ ships. Tom McAlpin, Virgin Cruises CEO, said “We’re going to sail against the trend and build smaller, boutique vessels. Megaships didn’t make sense to us, based on our customers’ desires and the managing director of Virgin Cruises’ leading shareholder, Bain Capital, said “We believe there is a large, underserved market and strong growth prospects for a cruise line that delivers a superior experience for young-at-heart customers“.

Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that a ship of over 100,000 gt was considered a mega-ship, but I suppose that in the context of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis and Quantum classes, NCL’s Breakaway and Breakaway+ ships and the recently-announced Carnival Corporation mega-ships, a 110,000 gt new build does look quite small. But I wonder if the Virgin ships will fall between two stools – they could end up looking oversized for those seeking genuine luxury and/or intimacy, and undersized for those who enjoy all the bells and whistles. And we’ll have to see what’s meant by “…a superior experience for young-at-heart customers”. One thing we do know is that the line will be informal – apparently Richard Branson cut off the ties of various dignitaries to emphasise the Virgin Cruises way of doing business.

It’s been announced that the first of these ships will be based in Port Miami, but there’s no word on where the later ships will be based. Wherever is chosen, I think we can assume that there will be strong links between Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Cruises. In fact, now I come to think about it, I believe that’s a unique relationship in the cruise industry – no other cruise line has an airline under the same brand (but see Malcolm Oliver’s comment re. Thomson below). But in any case we must wait until 2020 before we see even the first of these ships. I imagine this means that the marketing push will start in mid-2019, i.e. about four years from now.

6 Responses to “Virgin Cruises to build three ships”

  1. Malcolm Oliver says:

    Thomson own an Airline and own (or charter) ships. They offer some very good value fly-cruise deals at times.

    The reason that they have not been cruising from the UK for a few years is to take advantage of their Airline ‘synergy’. (How’s that for management speak).


    • Tom Burke says:

      Malcolm – thanks for that; I’d forgotten about Thomson.

      • Malcolm Oliver says:

        Tom, you are right that no other cruise line owns a transatlantic airline. Branson will obviously capitalise on this to attract Brits to the Caribbean.

  2. Mike says:

    Ummmm I wonder if they will be using the union flag on their ships as they do on the tails of their aircraft. Maybe by then P&O will have gone back to the traditional hull and funnel colours .. fingers crossed.


  3. Mike says:

    Errrr just realised that they moved away from the union flag in favour of the flying virgin .. nuf said


  4. Malcolm Oliver says:

    Mike, there are a couple of ‘renderings’ of a Art Deco style Virgin ships on my blog. However I suspect the actual ships will look NOTHING like the renderings, they are too radical.

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