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Richard Branson launches luxe adults-only, carbon-neutral cruise line; says coronavirus fears won't impact business

Single-use plastics are banned, and it is shunning buffets, leading to less food wastage.

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Last Updated: Feb 24, 2020, 09.46 AM IST
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Branson's Voyages line will target younger tourists with spas, a gym, 20 restaurants, DJ sets, drag queens and a running track.
DOVER, ENGLAND: British entrepreneur Richard Branson heralded his first cruise ship 'Scarlet Lady' on Friday as targeting a younger generation of holidaymakers with a range of attractions that he believes will outweigh any fears around coronavirus.

Despite the unfortunate timing, with passengers on one ship quarantined in Japan after hundreds caught the virus and another turned away by five countries over fears someone on board may be ill, Branson sees cruises as a growth area.

In an event at Dover, southern England, to promote the first of a planned four-strong fleet, the 69-year-old said Virgin Voyages' ships would offer a boutique hotel-type design with a festival environment, complete with sundeck yoga, a tattoo studio and vinyl records store.

Branson told Reuters Scarlet Lady would be based in the United States and Caribbean, meaning he did not expect it to be hit by any fallout from the coronavirus crisis. The virus originated in mainland China and has killed more than 2,000 people.

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​The central atrium of the Scarlet Lady cruise liner at Dover Port in Dover.
The central atrium of the Scarlet Lady cruise liner at Dover Port in Dover.

"Obviously what happened in Japan was horrendously unfortunate," he said. "(But) I think the longer-term impact will be negligible. I think the fact that we're going out of America means that I don't think we'll suffer. People are booking as much as they've ever booked right now."

Branson, one of Britain's best-known businessmen, launched his career in the 1970s in records before expanding into airlines, banking, TV, healthclubs and space.

He has worked with Tom McAlpin, chief executive of Virgin Voyages and an industry veteran who previously ran the Disney Cruise Line, to develop a service he says will have a lower environmental impact than most.

Virgin Voyages says it is one of the first cruise lines to use Climeon, a technology that generates electricity from the heat of the ship's engine to reduce demand for fuel, and will also purchase carbon offsets.

Reuters
​The entrance of a night club on the Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady cruise liner.​
The entrance of a night club on the Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady cruise liner.

CARBON NEUTRAL
Single-use plastics are banned, and it is shunning buffets, leading to less food waste as well as avoiding the "staid" imagine of formal cruise dining. "We will be the first fleet that is going to be carbon-neutral from day one," McAlpin said.

He also believes the industry will bounce back.

"If you look at the industry and how resilient it has been in the past, when there's been challenges, it has come back quite rapidly," he said. "We're doing everything we can, taking precautions above and beyond."

Demand for cruising holidays has leapt over the past decade, with some 32 million passengers expected to set sail in 2020, a figure that has almost doubled since 2009.

Reuters
​The Mega Rockstar suite onboard the Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady cruise liner.​
The Mega Rockstar suite onboard the Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady cruise liner.

The United States is the biggest market for passengers, with the Caribbean and Mediterranean the most popular destinations for the leading 55 cruise lines that are led by Carnival , Royal Caribbean and Norwegian.

Like other Virgin brands, Branson's Voyages line will target younger tourists with spas, a gym, 20 restaurants, DJ sets, drag queens and a running track. Children are not allowed. He is starting with four ships but could expand further.

"We have one advantage which is that with Virgin we've got millions and millions of people who use our products," Branson said, adding he had never previously wanted to go on a cruise ship.

"I wanted to see if I could test our teams to create the kind of cruise ship that myself and my friends would like to come on. I think that they've pulled it off," he said.

Built at the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy, Scarlet Lady will host 2,770 passengers and 1,160 crew. She will sail to Liverpool and then to New York and Miami before her inaugural passenger voyage around the Caribbean in April.

Business As Usual: 5 Entrepreneurial Lessons To Learn From Richard Branson

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​The Cool Entrepreneur

18 Jul, 2019
Flamboyant and successful, British tycoon Richard Branson, has a net worth of US $410 crores. The business magnate, investor, author and philanthropist founded the Virgin Group in the 1970s. The parent company controls more than 400 companies the world over. He features on the Forbes rich-list as well as the Time 100 Most-Influential People in the World list. Breaking into the world of business at a tender age of 16, Branson who turns 69 today is an inspiration to many.Branson is the founder of Virgin Group, the conglomerate that owns Virgin America, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Galactic and Virgin Atlantic, just to name a few.If you are looking to become a sensation in the world of entrepreneurs, here are 5 business lessons from Branson himself that will help you fulfill your dreams.
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