Billionaire Richard Branson does not do anything "small" or "quietly." His move into the cruise line industry is sure to bring much needed competition and his signature "Virgin" quality and style. As a lawyer who represents people who have been injured during a cruise, I just hope he makes them safe.
Mr. Branson announced that in 2020, Virgin Cruises will set sail from the Port of Miami. The only details known so far are that their ships will depart from Miami on seven-day cruises. Most likely one of the ports will be in Cuba.
Virgin's first three ships are already on order from Fincantieri, one of the largest and most sophisticated ship builders in the world. Fincantieri headquarters are in Trieste, Italy, and the company has offices located around the world. Considered to be the leader in cruise ship construction, Fincantieri has nearly 22,000 employees, who design, build, and repair most of the cruise ships currently in production.
Virgin Cruises, with its partner the Bain Capital Group, have retained Fincantieri to build three luxury cruise ships, set to go into service in 2020, 2021, and 2022, each with a capacity of nearly 3000 passengers and over 1100 crew. The Virgin Cruises website is already soliciting input from passengers as to what they would like to see included in the buildout.
All this has Carnival scrambling to catch up with the competition, also provided by rival RCCL, which has already begun deploying its new mega ships to China to capture the growing Asian cruise market. According to a recent report in the Financial Times, Carnival's CEO David Dingle has said, "We're making up for lost time," by also negotiating with Fincantieri to build five new ships.
How Will Virgin Cruises Be Different?
If you have ever flown Virgin Airlines, taken a Virgin train, or stayed at a Virgin Hotel, you know that Mr. Branson likes to do things differently. At his press conference in Miami, Sir Richard claimed that his research has revealed that most people who have never taken a cruise before would consider taking their first cruise on a Virgin Cruises ship--simply because of their experience with his brand. One of his trademarks is to make things fun, and he promises to deliver a new and improved experience for cruise ship passengers, too. I imagine that one of his signatures will be to offer more entertainment and leisure options to passengers.
With Miami chosen to be its home port, I am eager to see if Virgin Cruises and its newly minted CEO Tom McAlpin will follow the forum-selection clause enforced by Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, MSC, and many other cruise lines, which forces injured passengers to file any potential claims for slip and falls or other onboard accidents in the Federal Court in Miami. I imagine Virgin will follow the others, in part because of the large number of already experienced and well supported cruise ship, maritime, and admiralty lawyers in Miami.
Since 1991 our law firm has successfully represented passengers who have been hurt on cruise ships around the world. If you have been injured, it is important to consult with an experienced lawyer quickly to investigate your potential claim.