Updated: Aug 20, 2018
VIRGIN DRAWS THE LINE
In an effort to stay current and up-to-speed with VIRGIN's rapidly evolving venture, I thought a consolidation of their releases would be valuable and appropriate.
In 2005, a new venture I was involved with proposed and speculated that among others, Virgin would make an ideal "FLAG" for a new project in the industry, named ODYSEAS. This would be a first-ever purpose-built ship as a crossover targeting the cruise and vacation ownership (timehare) sectors. Virgin explained at the time they weren't interested in ships. The timing was wrong. Additionally, a collapse in the global financial sectors in 2008 buried our venture. Perhaps in a different life.
I love VIRGIN's product. The uniqueness and innovation. The branding, and the core philosophy instilled by ownership as to "how-to be different." Branson makes life interesting. As a resident of Miami, I will have the first photos of the Virgin Lady sailing into Government cut, the Port of Miami - 2020.
LET'S START AT THE BEGINNING *:
VIRGIN GROUP announced the establishment of Virgin Cruises on December 4, 2014 with financial backing from Bain Capital. The cruise line would be led by CEO Tom McAlpin, would have two new large ships built and be based in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area. In March 2015, the company was sued by former NCl's CEO Colin Veitch over accusations of design theft for two 4,200-passenger “ultra ships.
On June 23, 2015, Richard Branson announced that three new ships were intended to be built by Fincantieri. The cruise line is scheduled to begin operations in 2020 out of Port of Miami with the delivery of its first ship. By July 3, 2015, the county commission was expected to vote on a five-year preferential berthing agreement with an optional five-year extension with the cruise line.
On October 18, 2016, Virgin Cruises was rebranded as Virgin Voyages as "cruises" seemed "pretty dull and boring" for Branson. A finalised contract was also recently signed for ship construct. On March 22, 2017, Fincantieri began construction on the company's first ship.
Virgin Voyages has commissioned three mid-sized cruise ship, with an expected capacity of approximately 2700 passengers each. The first ship is expected to debut in 2020, operating week-long cruises in the Caribbean (* wikipedia.)
Sailing should feel transformative. Yet after listening to some avid sailors, we wondered if things could be different. At Virgin Voyages we think the time to epicly change sea travel is upon us.
Welcome to our own, fresh take on cruising. Here, curiosity is more important than an itinerary. Interactions matter more than transactions. With us, you don’t ‘tourist’– you voyage.
We’ve assembled a ‘Creative Collective’ from some of the world’s leading design firms to help us redefine what people expect from a cruise ship. These creators are responsible for some of the most talked about travel spaces in the world, including Ace Hotels, The Standard High Line and Mondrian Hotels.
Equally important to the ship’s physical design is the desire to create a meaningful experience for guests. Virgin Voyages will feature exciting ideas in entertainment and music to provide our Sailors (not passengers or cruisers) with a strong variety of programming options.
In fact, it won’t be a cruise at all. It will be a voyage!
A widely celebrated leader in interior design, Tom Dixon is known for shaking things up when it comes to design. That’s why Virgin Voyages commissioned his design firm, Design Research Studio, with conceiving and creating multiple key premium spaces for their upcoming ship
“You're in a position where you’re encouraged very early on to be disruptive. That’s the whole idea right? "
says Tom Dixon, in talking about diving into his highly-anticipated work for Virgin Voyages' first ship. “It’s like OK, we don’t want to be like anybody else. We want to be completely different. That’s a great brief.”
As with all of the designers, Dixon was purposely chosen, in part, because he’s never worked on a ship before. “I quite like coming at something from a completely different angle and presumably there is a method to that madness,” added Dixon. “If you’re going to be disruptive then maybe you shouldn’t know that much about how a cruise line is currently operated.”
From the VIP Deck to the modern, elevated Mexican eatery, his approach to designing for ocean voyages was not only fresh but modern and charmingly eccentric.
“There’s no point asking [Tom Dixon] to do the more regular spaces because that’s not his style,” said Dee Cooper, Senior Vice President of Design for Virgin Voyages. “We knew we wanted to ask him to do more premium spaces that were glamorous and fun.”
With hubs in New York, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles and Tokyo, he’s known for creating futuristic and forward-thinking interiors and exteriors of tomorrow.
“I think in general, big ships have got a romance about them and they are astonishing to see in so many ways. The scale of them as man-made objects is fascinating,” said Dixon.
“What appealed to me about the project was doing something I’ve never done before which is always more interesting than doing something you’ve already done. It’s quite a risky business, you know?”
Well said. We think Richard Branson would agree.
In yet another step towards truly changing sea vacations, Virgin Voyages has curated a creative collective featuring some of the world’s leading design firms to completely reimagine how sea travel looks and feels.
From Roman and Williams to Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio and Concrete Amsterdam, these interior design architects are responsible for some of the most talked about travel spaces in the world. With this dream team’s vision,
...sailors will be enchanted by a series of sleek yacht-like spaces, classic nautical accents, inventive surprises and nods to Virgin’s British heritage.
“We chose these three design firms because of work they had done that we loved,” said Dee Cooper, Senior Vice President of Design for Virgin Voyages. “They are all great at clever design and creating spaces we knew would resonate with sailors.”
The decision to use multiple architects was meant to highlight the brand vision of The Modern Romance of Sailing by tapping the strengths of each firm and demonstrating diversity throughout the ship.
Besides Concrete Amsterdam, Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio and Roman and Williams, some of the other design partners to contribute to the ship’s aesthetics included Softroom in London, Work Architecture Company in New York and Pearson Lloyd Design in London among others.
“At Virgin Voyages, we are committed to having one of the cleanest fleets at sea,” says Tom McAlpin, President and Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Voyages. “Which is why we are committed to creating the right partnerships to help make our ships as ocean-friendly as possible.”
One of those partnerships is with the Sweden based Climeon, with a goal to majorly reduce carbon dioxide emissions by converting the heat from the ship’s engines into electricity. Since one Climeon unit can produce enough electricity to power 250 normal households, and we have six on each ship, we have the potential to power about 1500 households. This would not only provide for the cabins and suites but also the restaurants, casino and other venues.
“This is the biggest energy innovation in the last 100 years,” according to the Swedish Energy Agency. This is not because the technology is so advanced, according to Christopher Engman CRO/CMO for Climeon, but because the potential for its use across all industries is so large."
We have also partnered with Scanship, a Norwegian company known for their leadership in purifying wastewater. Scanship uses game-changing technology called microwave assisted pyrolysis (MAP), to convert organic waste into clean energy.
As of July 2018, progress continues Fincantieri: Trieste- Italy, July 20, 2018
The steel cutting ceremony of the second of three cruise ships that Virgin Voyages (part of Virgin Group) ordered to Fincantieri took place today at the Sestri Ponente (Genoa) yard.
During the event, Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Voyages President and CEO Tom McAlpin, welcomed by Giampiero Massolo and Giuseppe Bono, Chairman and CEO of Fincantieri, also revealed the name of the first ship currently under construction at the yard: Scarlet Lady, inspired by the name of one of the first aircrafts to fly for the sister company Virgin Atlantic.
Virgin Voyages second ship, as its sister ships, will weigh about 110,000 gross tons, be 278 meters long and 38 wide, with delivery scheduled in 2021, while “Scarlet Lady” will set sail in 2020 and the third in 2022. They will feature over 1,400 guest cabins that can host more than 2,700 passengers, accompanied by 1,150 crew members on board to deliver the famed Virgin service.
The development of Virgin Voyages ships will stand out for their design as well as for their particular attention to energy recovery, featuring cutting-edge alternative technologies that reduce the ship’s overall environmental impact. For example, their ships will be equipped with an energy production system of approximately 1 MW, which uses the diesel engine’s waste heat. While at the shipyard, Virgin Voyages also announced that they are eliminating single-use plastics for their guests and replacing them with recyclable and reusable materials.
Fincantieri has built 85 cruise ships from 1990 to today (62 from 2002), while other 47 are currently being designed or built in the Group’s yards.