Virgin Group plans cruise ship venture

Sir Richard Branson Sir Richard Branson

MARCH 26, 2014 — Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson is set to plunge into the cruise market. He told The National newspaper in Dubai that his Virgin Group has secured most of the $1.7 billion funding needed to launch Virgin Cruise.

"Most of the money is committed. We will start by building two large ships from scratch, we think the Virgin brand will work very well for cruises," he is quoted as saying. "We have airlines, holiday companies that send a lot of people on cruises, we have a concept which is very sexy and hopefully it will be the kind of cruise ship I'd like to go on and the type my children will go on."

According to reports, Virgin Group has enlisted boutique New York investment bank Allen & Company in its effort to raise the money for the cruise ship venture. The group sees the cruise market as having similarities to others it has successfully entered: big, dominated by a handful of major players and, in Virgin's view, offering a product that needs to be refreshed.

Virgin has already been talking to shipyards and has plans to base Virgin Cruise in Miami, initially targeting the Caribbean market.