Sir Richard Branson officially launched Virgin Cruises in Miami in June, revealing that the start-up cruise line would begin operations in 2020 with one cruise ship initially and two more by 2022.
It would be based in Miami, but will be British-owned, forming a subsidiary of the London-based Virgin Group, and will sail roundtrip in the Caribbean out of Miami, targeting the North American cruise market. This is what we knew at the time of writing, but what else can we expect to see aboard this new comer to the cruise industry, a new cruise line that Richard Branson has promised will “shake things up” and offer a “new cruise experience.”
Here are Cruise Arabia & Africa’s top 5 predictions:
One – Highly competitive fly-cruise packages
The most obvious advantage Virgin Cruises will have is the fact that its sister companies are also some of the most respected airlines in the world. Virgin Atlantic is one of the largest private airlines in Europe, while its subsidiary Virgin America is fast-becoming the go-to airline brand on several key routes in the United States. Virgin Cruises is likely to offer cruise and fly deals using its sister brands that even the market leader Carnival Corporation will be hard-pressed to beat. Virgin Cruises will also be able to respond quickly to changes in the market, re-structuring such fly-cruise deals rapidly, because of the fact that the airlines and cruise line are all owned by the same parent company.
Two – Cross-pollination of Virgin Group brands
Virgin Group owns Virgin Money, Virgin Holidays, Virgin Hotels, Virgin Vacations, Virgin Vouchers, and many other Virgin brands that are likely to make their cruise industry debut aboard Virgin Cruises, or in partnership with it at any rate. In addition to being able to offer highly competitive and responsive fly-cruise deals, the cruise line will also be able to provide hotel packages for before or after the cruise which the industry is likely to struggle to match because of its Virgin Hotels and Virgin Holidays brands. Virgin Money banking services will allow the cruise line to create a brand eco-system when it comes to payment and some or all on-board spending is likely to be integrated to Virgin Money customer’s accounts, creating both convenience and brand loyalty.
Three – Bringing more entertainment clout to cruising
Virgin Group is in an enviable position when it comes to entertainment. Not only does it own Virgin Megastores, the retail entertainment giant of the Middle East with 100 outlets across Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco, it also owns Virgin Radio, which broadcasts through local franchises in Canada, the United Arab Emirates, France, Italy, Lebanon, Thailand and Turkey. Virgin Cruises is therefore likely to leverage this leadership in the entertainment space to provide more innovative music at sea, as well as partnerships with high-profile celebrities and pop stars that other cruise lines have been unable to secure.
Four – Virgin branding from start to finish
The Virgin Group is one of the largest multinational conglomerates in the United Kingdom, with several dozen subsidiary brands that are leaders within their business sector, such as Virgin Radio, Virgin Active, Virgin Connect, Virgin Mobile and many others. Just as the cruise line is bound to partner with Virgin Atlantic to get passengers to its departure ports, Virgin Cruises are likely to leverage these brands aboard their fleet, offering a Virgin Active health and fitness range of amenities second to none in the industry, as well as wi-fi and interconnected communications on-board mirroring Virgin Connect and Virgin Mobile on land. The group already has the know-how and reputation for leadership in these fields and is likely to try to emulate that on the high seas with Virgin Cruises as well.
Five – Cuban cruises out of Miami
Little information has been released in the way of cruise itineraries for the three cruise ships. In a separate article we predicted that Asia and Australia may be options Virgin Cruises were considering for regional cruise ship deployment. However, in the Caribbean itself, where the first ship will be based, it is highly likely that Virgin Cruises will become one of the first Miami-based cruise lines sailing to Havana and other Cuban ports. Relations between the US and Cuba are improving daily, and it expect, and ardently hope, that by 2020 US authorities will allow US-based cruise ships to visit the communist island 90 nautical miles off Florida. Virgin Cruises, whose parent company has a long-standing appetite for new markets and calculated risk, is likely to be all over it, especially as Europe’s largest cruise line MSC Cruises is already offering roundtrip Cuban cruises from 2016.