Virgin Group sets up Virgin Cruises, appoints ex Disney Cruise Line president McAlpin as CEO

Virgin Group, the London based company of the billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson, says it has established Virgin Cruises in Miami and that Tom McAlpin, formerly president of Disney Cruise Line has been appointed CEO of the new venture.

"The company will be based in the Miami area and plans to design and construct two new world class cruise ships. Virgin Cruises will offer guests an outstanding experience, although their launch date is strictly under wraps for the moment," Virgin Group said in a statement.

“We plan to shake up the cruise industry and deliver a holiday that customers will absolutely love,” Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder, said. “They’ll be sailing on the latest ships offering a great quality, a real sense of fun and many exciting activities all delivered with the famed Virgin service.”

Tom McAlpin joins the Virgin Cruise management team as CEO, fresh from his position as President and CEO of The World, Residences at Sea. Previously Tom was the president of Disney Cruise Line having joined as part of the founding management team.

“Cruise guests deserve something better and different to what is being offered today, and Virgin Cruises is committed to creating breathtaking experiences for them and a new generation of guests,” he said. “Opportunities like this do not come often, so I am very excited to lead this business and introduce the Virgin brand to the cruise industry, as it has always put customers at the heart of what it does.”

To work on this new venture, Virgin has teamed up with one of the world’s leading private investment firms, Bain Capital. “We are pleased to pursue this exciting opportunity with Virgin, one of the world’s most respected and iconic brands,” Ryan Cotton, a principal with Bain Capital said. “With a small number of global players, an experience in need of refreshing, and consumers ready for something new and exciting, the industry exhibits all the characteristics of one that is ripe for a new entrant.”

Jason Montague appointed President and COO for Prestige Cruise Holdings

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (Nasdaq: NCLH) announced today that Jason Montague has been named President and Chief Operating Officer of Prestige Cruise Holdings, Inc. effective today,  following the resignation of Kunal S. Kamlani.  Montague was instrumental in launching Oceania Cruises in 2002 and is widely regarded as one of the original co-founders of the company.

“As we continue to refine the future organization, Jason stands out as a leader who is knowledgeable about the brands and is so passionate about them,” said Kevin Sheehan, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. “Jason’s financial background also aligns well with our corporate culture and strong focus on financial discipline.”

Prestige Cruise Holdings, Inc. Chief Executive Officer Frank Del Rio noted that Montague had played a key part in creating the great brands that have been built at Prestige. “We are confident that both the Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands will continue to prosper and grow with Jason at the helm,” said Del Rio.

Most recently, Montague served as Executive Vice President and Chief Integration Officer for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.  Prior to the acquisition of Prestige, he served as Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of Prestige Cruise Holdings, Inc.  During his twelve year tenure, he helped Del Rio launch Oceania Cruises in 2002 and has seen the company through the purchase of its initial three R-class vessels, the equity investment by Apollo Management, the acquisition and integration of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, the financing and delivery of Oceania Cruises’ Marina and Riviera new builds and the recent acquisition by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.

“I am truly excited to take the helm of these two amazing brands which have had so much success and have such a bright future ahead,” said Montague. “I look forward to building  relationships with the travel agent community, delivering an exceptional product for our loyal guests, and engaging our hard-working team members.”

Prior to joining Oceania Cruises, Montague operated a successful consulting practice focused on strategic planning and development of small to medium-sized companies. Previously, he held the position of Vice President Finance for Alton Entertainment Corporation, a brand equity marketer who was majority owned by the Interpublic Group of Companies. Montague holds a BBA in Accounting from the University of Miami.

Seabourn takes up option for second newbuilding at Fincantieri

Seabourn Cruise Line, the luxury market operator in the Carnival Corp & plc group, said it has exercised its option for a second 40,350 gross ton cruise ship to be built by Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri S.p.A. It will be a sister ship to the newbuild announced earlier this year and it will be delivered in 2018.

“Hospitality design icon Adam D. Tihany will also design the second new ship in its entirety, creating all indoor and outdoor guest areas, including multiple dining venues; the Spa at Seabourn; showrooms; casino and lounges; outdoor deck areas; and the innovative and popular Seabourn Square, the social hub of the ship with a club-like ambiance,” the company said.

"There has been an incredible amount of excitement and interest since we announced the order for the first ship, and we're very pleased that the demand for our brand has allowed us to add a second new ultra-luxury ship to our expanding fleet," said Richard D. Meadows, Seabourn's president. "These two new ships will offer the understated elegance we are known for, as well as new amenities, innovations and modern design features that embody the hallmarks of Seabourn."

Giuseppe Bono, Fincantieri Chief Executive Officer, stated: "When dealing with such important investments, exercising an option should never be taken for granted. We are very glad that Seabourn decided to 'double' its trust in us, especially considering that our partnership is very young and getting stronger quickly. I believe that this clearly demonstrates that new clients as well as old, such as Seabourn's parent company Carnival Corporation, and the market as a whole, consider Fincantieri as the world leader in the cutting-edge cruise line sector including the ultra-luxury segment where our partner for this project operates."

The new ships' configuration will be based on the highly popular Seabourn Odyssey-class ships, with one additional deck and new expanded public areas. Each ship will carry just 604 guests based on double occupancy in luxurious all-suite, veranda accommodations. The interior design will maintain Seabourn's high ratio of space per guest and enable highly personalized service by nearly one staff member per guest on board.

Both of the new ships will continue the fleet modernization that the line began in 2009 with the launch of Seabourn Odyssey. This award-winning new class of ship, which includes Seabourn Sojourn (2010) and Seabourn Quest (2011), has won acclaim from luxury cruisers, travel agents and journalists alike, one of whom proclaimed the design "a game-changer for the ultra-luxury cruise segment."  With the addition of these two new vessels, Seabourn will have the most modern, ultra-luxury fleet in the industry.

New online cruise travel platform will be launched in China, an online travel platform aiming specifically at selling global cruise products to the Chinese market, has been founded. Alan Lam reports.


The website is currently undergoing trial and will be officially launched during the second quarter of 2015. It will become the first and the only platform of its kind in China, serving Chinese travel agents. 


Once up and running, the travel agents will be issued usernames to enable them to log on to the website and search for global cruise products and reserve excursions on behalf of their customers according to live prices quoted and availabilities.


The agents will also be able to use the website to create their own cruise packages and offer them to their clients. This service is the first of its kind in the country, a brainchild of a group of international entrepreneurs, among them Dwain Wall whose departure from CLIA was recently announced.


The cruise charter market is vibrant in China. This website is also designed to allowtravel agents to charter cruise ships, either intheir entirety or in parts, for groups or other agents.


In return will offerits clientsonline cruise sales training, helping them develop business strategies, which is badly needed among the three million travel agents in China.


All the main features of this platform can already be found on

CBR Odo Commentary: Revival of second hand market good news

Recent revival of the second hand market for cruise ships is good news for the industry – and more so for the smaller players than the bigger ones.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holding group’s acquisition of Ocean Princess from Princess Cruises, the sale of Costa Celebration to an undisclosed buyer – perhaps HNA in China that acquired its sister ship some years ago – and Cruise & Maritime Voyage (CMV)’s acquisition of Grand Holiday from Costa Crociere have all taken place in a scope of a few weeks. Finally, Celestyal Cruises, part of the Cyprus based Louis Group, has acquired the 2002 built Ocean Explorer of 24,308 gross tons.

While CMV has not said whether it has actually bought or just chartered the 1985 built Grand Holiday that it will introduce as Magellan in March, the legal form of the deal is not the most important aspect here. That is the fact that this company is growing – it will also introduce the 550 passenger Azores in January – and that with Magellan it is ready to move to bigger tonnage than what it so far employs.

Companies like CMV and Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines prefer to use smaller ships. However, now CMV has accepted that there is virtually nothing available on the second hand market in the 600 to 1,000 passenger capacity range that it has preferred so far. Nothing remotely modern, that is, apart from luxury grade vessels that do not fit in its portfolio.

Magellan, of 46,502 gross tons, will offer 1,250 lower berths. Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines made the same move with Balmoral, of some 45,000 gross tons and 1,350 lower berths, way back in 2008.

New life on the second hand market means that downward pressure on asset prices that plagued the sector earlier this year will probably ease. It was felt in the first and second generation category in particular, embracing ships built in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the recent sale for scrap of the 1971 built Discovery by the UK based All Leisure group indicates that these first generation cruise ships only attract demolition buyers.

As the average size of cruise ships continues to grow, we think that companies like CMV, Thomson Cruises and Fred. Olsen in the UK plus Phoenix Seereisen in Germany will have to accept that renewal of their fleets will have to mean bigger ships than so far.

Tonnage will really start to become abundant in the third generation, early 1990s built sector, with the 2,000 passenger capacity, 70,000 gross ton Fantasy class of Carnival Cruise Lines as the most numerous class. We think second tier operators in the UK and in Germany should not shun ships of this size. Fleet renewal will have to be their primary interest in the not too distant future.

Viking Star