|Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Voyages President and CEO Tom McAlpin at the Miami press event.|
Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson has announced more details on the company’s first cruise brand, Virgin Voyages. Joined by the company’s President and CEO Tom McAlpin, they announced the name, and shared that Virgin Voyages has officially signed a ship building contract for three vessels with Italian master shipbuilder Fincantieri, and that the company will be the first cruise line to adopt the clean energy system, Climeon Ocean.
The brand, which had been announced as Virgin Cruises toward the end of 2014, released this later series of updates at a press event Travel Agent attended at the Faena Hotel Miami Beach. The event also included a theatrical performance where Sir Richard appeared with two performers who danced on deck chairs in front of an audience of international news media, Miami politicos and business leaders.
McAlpin outlined a ship building schedule including steel cutting in early 2017, followed by the keel laying in Genoa in the fourth quarter of 2017.
Virgin Voyages is the first major cruise line to partner with Climeon, a provider of clean energy. Virgin will install Climeon Ocean, a system that will transform low-grade energy into clean electricity, on all three of its ships. The resulting environmental impact will be an estimated 5,400 tons of carbon dioxide savings annually per ship—an amount that would take 180,000 trees 30 years to absorb, Virgin said.
Virgin Voyages’ first ship will arrive at PortMiami in 2020, with more than 2,700 sailors and 1,150 crew members. For the first ship, Virgin Voyages will aim to offer a range of Caribbean itineraries to ports that deliver unique and very social experiences, officials said.
Virgin Voyages, backed by lead investors Bain Capital Private Equity and Virgin Group, said it expects the multi-billion dollar financing package for the purchase of its three ships to be finalized shortly. The lead lending partners will be Cassa depositi e prestiti (Cdp) and UniCredit, and the loan will be fully backed by Italian export credit agency SACE and supported by SIMEST, both subsidiaries of Cdp.