Virgin unveils cruise ship plans

Virgin Cruises, the new cruise ship company by billionaire Sir Richard Branson, will build three cruise ships at Fincantieri and the first vessel is scheduled to set sail from Port Miami in 2020, the company revealed Tuesday.

The new plans were unveiled Tuesday in a press statement posted to the Virgin Group website. The company said it has signed a binding letter of intent with Italian shipbuilding company Fincantieri for three new mid-size ships. The first cruise ship is expected in 2020 and will be homeported in Miami, the company said.

Virgin Cruises was launched in December 2014, revealing only that it would be based in the Miami area and was planning to design and construct two new ships. At the time, Virgin did not disclose when or where the cruise ships would begin operating, or who would build them.

Virgin Cruises says the three new mid-size ships – about 110,000 gross tons each – are slated for delivery in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Each ship will feature 1,430 guest cabins to host more than 2,800 guests and employ about 1,150 crew. The company plans to offer a range of seven-day Caribbean itineraries from PortMiami with a Sunday sail date.

“This is a very exciting day for Virgin and travelers around the globe,” Richard Branson said. “We now have the right partners in place to build a world-class cruise line that will redefine the cruising experience for good. 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’ says its binding letter of intent with Fincantieri is the first part of a two-step process with both companies committed to signing a contract at the end of 2015. The PortMiami agreement will be present at the Miami-Dad County Board of Commissioners meeting on June 30th, 2015.

“We are committed to making waves in the cruise industry, and partnering with Fincantieri and PortMiami sets Virgin Cruises up to do just that,” said Virgin Cruises CEO Tom McAlpine. “Today’s announcement brings together important ingredients in our future success – Miami’s vibrant culture paired with the excellent Port infrastructure and Port team; and Fincantieri’s expertise in prototyping, their creativity and understanding of our vision.”

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