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Published on Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Virgin confirms launch of two-ship cruise line

Virgin boss Richard Branson has confirmed the launch of a cruise line after claiming in a newspaper interview that he has already secured most of the US$1.7 billion funding needed for two ships.

Speaking to The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, Branson said some of the investment has come from investors in the Arabian Gulf. Branson is believed to have hired Allen & Co, a small New York-based investment bank that specialises in media and leisure projects, to assist him in his search for partners.

He told the paper: "We will start by building two big ships from scratch and feel the Virgin brand will work very well in cruises."

Branson said Virgin Cruises will be headquartered in Miami and the ships will cruise in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean markets. His aim, he said, was to "create a very different kind of cruise company" to attract those who would not normally consider taking a cruise.

"We have airlines, holiday companies that send a lot of people on cruises, we have a concept which is very sexy and hopefully it will be the kind of cruise ship I'd like to go on and the type my children will go on," he added.

His comments were reported as CLIA UK & Ireland revealed that the British cruise market, which stagnated in 2012, grew just 1.5% last year.

Branson, who was in Dubai to speak at the du CEO Forum, said he was also seeking investment for Virgin Oceanic, a sister company to Virgin Galactic, to build submarines that can explore the depths of the ocean.

"The oceans are much less explored than space is explored. Only two people have been to the bottom of the ocean … there's no craft as yet to properly explore the ocean. We're looking to build vehicles to explore the oceans. This region has some beautiful seas well worth exploring."

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