For as long as I can remember Richard Branson has been linked to starting a cruise line, to date this has not yet surfaced, and recently its been even more quiet…
The core aspects of the Virgin brand is to create a memorable experience, with flair and fun. Virgin Atlantic succeeds very well in doing so, and their advertising campaigns show this. Richard Branson has said that any Virgin Cruise Line would target a 30-55 age group, so would likely carry over these core aspects.
The reason that such an endeavour may not have happened is that starting a cruise line is expensive, and the market is growing mature in Virgins UK home. However I believe there is also the problem that people actually like their cruise lines, with Royal Caribbean basically offering what Virgin Cruise Line would offer. Virgin has done well by going into an industry which isn’t particularly customer friendly – airline, telecoms and banking, and providing excellent customer service, something which is a core aspect of the Virgin brand.
Unfortunately for Virgin no cruise line actively annoys and disrupts their customers to make such a strategy worthwhile in the cruise industry. In 2003 I wrote to Virgin Holidays suggesting they should start a cruise line, their response being that they will look into all markets.
It was back in 2005 when Branson made lots of noise about starting a cruise line, he even met Stelios who had just launched ‘easyCruise’ (covered here) It is even reported he met with executives from Royal Caribbean over plans for a joint venture. Although the UK market quickly boomed with Island Cruises, Thomson and Ocean Village all quickly adding capacity. Ocean Village was probably most like what the Virgin product would have been like. It was a real belief at the time that it was just a few months away til Virgin Launched a cruise line there was even reports in Lloyds List.
Back in 2009 CruiseCritic suggested that Richard Branson would start his proposed cruise line within the year. While this has not yet been the case rumors still persist about Virgins entry into the cruising arena.
However if such a project was launched between Virgin and Royal Caribbean, we expect it would take a similar form as TUI Cruises, with Celebrity Century starting off the venture, with perhaps a new ship like what has been just ordered at STX Turku. Any Virgin Cruise Line would benefit from Virgin’s international airline system and worldwide brand partners, for which cross promotion would be irresistable!
Now with the closure of Ocean Village and the merger of Island Cruises and Thomson Cruises, it would be my belief that Virgin do not have a cruise product planned, as people are happy with what the market provides, only when the market gets it wrong will Virgin be able to make a valid attempt, otherwise we have another Virgin Cola.
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