A New Cruise Ship for Non-Cruisers

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Cruise deckThere are several types of cruisers in the world. There are those who seek adventure and the thrill of the unknown ,venturing toward remote and exotic locations. Then there are those who seek relaxation and to bask in the bliss of the warm Caribbean sun. But now, a whole new generation of cruisers is about to get recognized – those who really don’t cruise at all.

If that sounds strange, don’t worry, the maritime lawyers at our firm were just as baffled when we learned the news of this new, glorious cruise line that would be catering to the non-cruiser. So what exactly is the idea behind this odd traveling concept?

Richard Branson, owner of the UK mega corporation, Virgin Group, has decided to expand his company to include a fleet of cruise ships. After already creating a fleet of airplanes and trains, it seemed only logical for Branson to set his sights on the open waters. And after experiencing monumental success with his other brands, it’s only natural that the Virgin boss has plans for some pretty large cruise ships.

Allegedly, the big plans are already underway, with Branson reportedly in talks with “Abu Dhabi entities” on the future fleet of Virgin cruise ships, which he says will appeal to a crowd that’s never really expressed an affinity for cruising.

“We are looking at a very different kind of cruise company. We’re trying to create the kind of cruise ship that would be attractive to the kind of people who would never consider a cruise at the moment,” said Branson to Abu Dhabi’s The National.

It will be interesting to see what Branson has in store for the cruise industry, and if he’s trying to cater to non-cruisers, he certainly has his work cut out for him.

The past few years have been wrought with severe cruise ship accidents, outbreaks and crimes, including collisions, fires, overboard accidents, sexual assaults, and dozens of Norovirus outbreaks. The appeal of cruising has drastically diminished since the Costa Concordia capsized in January 2012, and even more so after last year’s fire on the Carnival Triumph. But while cruise line popularity declined, millions of people continue to book cruise vacations, though at a much lower pace than during the same time period five years ago.

If loyal cruisers are becoming skeptical about sailing on the high seas, it’s only natural that non-cruisers will be much more inclined to stay away from cruise travel altogether, especially after seeing all the latest tragic accidents and crimes.

Still, Branson is not discouraged. He intends to raise nearly $2 billion for the venture, which would begin with the construction of two ships. The vessels will be sailing the Caribbean and Mediterranean, the two most popular cruise itineraries. As for the new cruise line’s head quarters? It will be based right here in Miami, the cruising capital of the world.

If all goes well, Branson expects the line to start operating in 2019. But considering how maritime laws are shifting, allowing the U.S. to have greater control over what happens in the cruising industry, Branson may face difficulty getting his company up and running.

The cruise industry has already been criticized for its lack of safety policies, including the lack of emergency training as well as a lack of lifeguards on the world’s most popular lines. Branson’s line will most likely face greater scrutiny from U.S. authorities, which will, hopefully, lead his ships to feature the latest safety equipment to reduce the likelihood of an accident or crime on the high seas.

In the meantime, what can we expect from the Virgin cruise ships that will make them more appealing than traditional cruise ships?

“We would offer more entertainment and leisure opportunities on board the ships, making them attractive to a younger market. We believe we can supply the Virgin ‘touch’ on cabins, leisure and dining facilities,” said a spokesman for Branson.

More entertainment and leisure opportunities? It’s hard to imagine what more can be done for fun onboard a cruise ship. With Royal’s mega ships, Oasis and Allure of the Seas, Norwegian’s Breakaway ship, and dozens more on the docks getting ready to be introduced, we don’t know how Branson can possibly top the features on these lines. You’ve got mobile casino gambling, giant water slides, dozens of specialty restaurants to choose from, making ships these days more like theme parks than cruise vacations.

We’re excited to see how Branson’s vision will develop and wish him all the best with his endeavors. Hopefully he will take the time to concentrate on safety protocols and feature as much as he will spend time on entertainment venues.