’Shiptease’: Richard Branson launches Virgin Voyages cruise line

Richard Branson turned travel on its ear. Now he’s planning on doing the same with the cruise line industry.

The founder and chairman of Virgin Group has started construction of Virgin VoyagesCondé Nast Traveler reported.

The keel of the first ship of the line was laid Tuesday, with Branson making a show of the milestone, dropping 200 feet from a crane to the shipyard. Tom McAlpin, the CEO of Virgin Voyages, welded a ceremonial coin into the base of the ship.

The ships are being built by Fincantieri in Genoa, Italy and will come at a cost of nearly $3 billion for three vessels.

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Each ship will be constructed in 399 sections, but the laying of the backbone of the ship was the first step.

Branson also gave a sneak peek of the ships, calling the debut a “shiptease.”

The ship will have a red-tailed mermaid that hearkens back to the figurehead of classic ships and is touted as “the feminine spirit of the ship.”

The cruise line will do what many businesses haven’t in the past: be child-free.

Sailors, as the company is calling those who sail on the ships, will have an adults-only, 18 and older, experience, but not with a feeling of “a spring break crowd,” McAlpin said.

Eventually, though, they will have ships that welcome children. 

“We’ll have to -- I have grandchildren,” McAlpin told the Telegraph.

What else will be missing from the cruise experience? Virgin will not offer what company officials call gimmicks and tricks that other lines offer. It will also not have Vegas-style entertainment.

“We don’t need them. Our focus is the software. We’re creating a platform for a phenomenal experience on board,” McAlpin told the Telegraph.

And while they didn’t go into detail, voyagers will find out what that means in three years when the first ship is launched.

But if you want to get in on the ground level, pre-sale, fully refundable deposits of $500 are currently being accepted.

The ships will carry 2,800 guests and 1,150 crew members, Condé Nast Traveler reported.

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