Virgin Cruises - What Will They Bring To Cruising

November 17, 2014

A private equity group has become the latest stakeholder in Virgin Cruises, one of Sir Richard Branson’s upcoming transport initiatives.

Bain Capital, one of the world’s largest buyout funds will financially back this venture that could see its maiden voyage to Miami as soon as 2019, Sky News reports.

But the question we ask is: What can Virgin Cruises bring to the cruise market? Is there a need for new liners – is there even room for it?

Considering 80 per cent of the industry is dominated by Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines, Sir Richard and his team have quite the battle on their hands to force their way into a congested industry.

Speaking to the Financial Times recently, Virgin’s founder said the ambition of this initiative was “to see whether we can attract people like myself who’ve never been on a cruise ship”.

Trying to target a new people group is arguably a good business strategy but only time will tell if it reaps the financial dividends that Sir Richard is hoping for.

Indeed, Cruise Market Watch believes the industry will grow in the next year to 22.2 million passengers worldwide, up from 2014’s 21.5 million.

A source told Sky News earlier this year that the company believes the cruise industry is a “classic Virgin market” and, while a couple of companies currently command the lion’s share of it, “the product needs to be refreshed” in its eyes. Could this mean Virgin’s offering will be very different to the likes of Carnival and Royal Caribbean?

Sir Richard and chief executive of Virgin Management Josh Bayliss reportedly believe the global cruises market is a gold mine, as it has many of the features that has enabled the company to thrive in other sectors, like aviation, mobile telecoms and rail.

In terms of financial support, Bain Capital is not the only stakeholder to be injecting funds. As well as Virgin inputting $100 million (£63.7 million), there’s thought to be at least one Middle East sovereign wealth fund, a number of family offices and wealthy individuals contributing towards the venture, if private equity sources are to be believed.

When it comes into being, Virgin Cruises will be based in the US, as this mirrors the fact that North America is the biggest cruise market throughout the globe. At the moment, two vessels are being commissioned and built. Details are still in the planning, but it’s thought to be around five years until the first ship sets sail.


But do you think there’s room? Would you go on a Virgin Cruise? What do you think Mr Branson can bring that will be ‘different’ to the cruise market?

Have your say on our forum discussion here