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With US$550 million in the bank for his new all-adults cruise line, Richard Branson has made a major announcement.
The cruise line, which will operate in Australia for the first time in December after launching two years ago, said on Friday that it will also return Down Under the following season with ten more ports.
The newest ship of the line, Resilient Lady, will be making stops in Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart, and Burnie this summer, in addition to ports in New Zealand.
Broome, Albany, Adelaide, Newcastle, Mooloolaba, Port Douglas, Willis Island, Brisbane, Eden, and Kangaroo Island will all be added to the list in the summer of 2024/25.
From today, 11 September, fifteen additional routes will be open for booking.
It was revealed on Friday that Virgin Voyages had successfully raised $US550 million ($861 million), with the Private Equity Group of Ares Management serving as the lead investor.
It was also announced that Nirmal Saverimuttu, presently president and chief experience officer, will succeed Tom McAlpin as CEO, with McAlpin assuming the post of chairman of the board.
Mr. Saverimuttu is originally from Sydney but resides near the company’s headquarters in Florida.
Having closed the initial funding round for Virgin Voyages in 2014, he quickly became a key figurehead and eventually took on the role of chief commercial officer.
There are now 27 new itineraries and 19 new ports of call available, thanks to the worldwide expansion announced on Friday.
However, it wasn’t all good news. Although Brilliant Lady was scheduled to sail from Miami in December, Virgin Voyages stated it had to make the “incredibly tough decision” to postpone the ship’s debut.
Construction delays, supply chain disruptions, and manpower shortages are just some of the issues the company has reported.
No new launch date was disclosed.
Friday’s announcement resulted in the scrapping of 31 voyages on the three ships, the Brilliant Lady, the Resilient Lady, and the Valiant Lady.
Anyone affected by the revised itinerary can rebook and get $US300-$US600 ($470-$9340) in Sailor Loot or receive a full refund from Virgin Voyages.
“You won’t find water slides, a buffet dining area, or children running around like on most cruise ships,” said Virgin Voyages’ chief brand officer, Nathan Rosenberg.
According to Mr. Rosenberg, who has worked with Branson on Virgin Voyages for the past decade, the British billionaire has his hands in every aspect of the company.
“He’s sailed with us about 10 or 11 times now, and it’s always a list of things he has whenever he leaves the ship, saying ‘we need more chessboards’ or ‘we need more of this.’”
When he leaves the ship, he always leaves notes, “Had a great time, here’s what I think we should do now.”
A hammock on the balcony was something that Branson insisted on for all of the staterooms on his cruise ships.
In addition to being sold on board, Mr. Rosenberg said they were produced as part of an initiative to increase women’s economic independence in the Philippines.
One feature that has been standard on cruise ships for decades but was not something Branson wanted was the buffet.
The main eating area is still designed like a food court, but all meals are prepared fresh upon request.
According to Mr. Rosenberg, “It’s a much better experience for your people and your sailors,” it’s also good for business since expenses can be controlled.
You’re saving money since the food is fresh and the serving sizes are measured out for you. Everything works out for the best.
As the Resilient Lady is expected to arrive in Australia by the end of the year, Branson plans to make a return trip there.
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