Virgin Cruises will launch its first luxury liner in 2020 from Miami, British tycoon Richard Branson announced, placing his bets on medium-sized "boutique" ships.
The Virgin Group founder said he had signed a binding letter of intent with Italy
's Fincantieri to build three 110,000-ton ships, to debut in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Each ship would carry 2,860 passengers, based on double occupancy, and 1,150 crewmembers.
With characteristic flair, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, sporting a skipper's hat, arrived in downtown Miami's Museum Park via helicopter and a cloud of Virgin-red smoke.
Branson announced formation of the cruise line in December 2014. Bain Capital is the financing partner.
Virgin Cruises President and CEO Tom McAplin, who previously helped form and helm Disney Cruise Line, stated that Virgin Cruises would be a premium product. He said a high percentage of the ships' staterooms would have balconies. The ships would be differentiated from others in the industry by their "design, size and program onboard" and be targeted to the "young at heart," McAlpin added.
The proximity to the Caribbean and port infrastructure also made Miami the prime choice, he said.
The ships would sail seven-day Caribbean cruises
, Virgin said, but it did not detail specific itineraries.
Virgin Atlantic, an airline famous
for a fun atmosphere, innovation and included perks such as meals and entertainment, falls under the Virgin Group umbrella. Branson has said the company will bring the "Virgin touch" to cruising.
London-based Virgin Group, which also has included Virgin Mobile, Virgin Trains, Virgin Vodka, Virgin Records and others, is partnering with private investment firm Bain Capital on the cruise line venture.