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Sir Richard Branson Embarks on New Virgin Cruise Venture

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Virgin Group founder Richard Branson—the knight best known for his planes, trains, and spaceships—is turning his sights to the cruise industry.

Branson recently told The National he has been interested in launching his own cruise company since he was in his twenties. Now 63, he’s seeking $1.7 billion to finally develop a premier fleet of Virgin liners.

While it is unlikely that anyone will be cruising on a Virgin ship in the next few years, a spokesman for the company suggested that Branson's cruise line would “offer more entertainment and leisure opportunities” than traditional Caribbean and Mediterranean lines. It remains unclear how he would one-up Royal Caribbean's forthcoming Quantum of the Seas in terms of leisure and entertainment. But a Virgin cruise would undoubtably be aimed at a new generation of travelers—many of whom have not yet considered cruising. 

The announcement of the Miami-based cruise line comes just as Virgin prepares to introduce its first branded hotel group, starting with Chicago in the fall and New York City in 2016. 

“Virgin is exploring a number of opportunities within the leisure sector,” said a representative on Monday. “We believe both markets lend themselves [to] Virgin’s history of doing things differently.” 

Putting his unique Virgin flourish on the burgeoning cruise business would be a smart move by Branson. With cruises accruing more than $37 billion in annual revenue, and the number of cruisers increasing by the millions, one can only wonder why the billionaire opted for deep space before the deep blue sea. 

Melanie Lieberman is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Photo Credit: Retna Ltd./Corbis

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