|Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Cruises President and CEO Tom McAlpin raise the Virgin flag in Miami. // Photo by World Red Eye|
Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has announced that Virgin Cruises has selected PortMiami as the home port for its first cruise ship that will set sail in 2020.
Branson also said that Virgin Cruises has signed a binding Letter of Intent (LOI) with Italian shipbuilding company Fincantieri for three new mid-size ships.
"We now have the right partners in place to build a world-class cruise line that will redefine the cruising experience for good," Branson said at a media event in Miami's Museum Park. "The Virgin Cruises approach will appeal to cruisers and non-cruisers alike, and we look forward to being in Miami and delivering an experience for people who want a new way to cruise."
Virgin Cruises' three new mid-size ships, of about 110,000 gross tons each, are slated for delivery in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Each ship will have 1,430 guest cabins to host more than 2,800 guests. There also will be 1,150 crew on board. Embarking from PortMiami, Virgin Cruises plans to offer a range of seven-day Caribbean itineraries, with a Sunday sail date.
Virgin Cruises' binding LOI with Fincantieri is the first part of a two-step process with both companies committed to signing a contract in Q4 of 2015. The PortMiami agreement will be presented to the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners for their consideration and approval on June 30, 2015.
Virgin Group announced the formation of Virgin Cruises in a venture with Bain Capital in December 2014.
Ryan Cotton, a managing director of Bain Capital, and Virgin Cruises board member, 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."