MIAMI (AFP) - Virgin Cruises will launch its first luxury liner in 2020 from Miami, British tycoon Richard Branson announced Tuesday, placing his bets on medium size "boutique" ships.
True to his flamboyant style, Branson arrived amid fireworks at the Perez Art Museum in Miami, descending from a helicopter dressed in a captain's uniform and short pants.
"Virgin Cruises plans to make some waves with an original and intimate experience," he said at a news conference.
He promised "a world-class cruise line that will redefine the cruising experience for good. The Virgin Cruises approach will appeal to cruisers and non-cruisers alike."
A joint venture with Bain Capital, the cruise line will be the latest addition to the 62-year-old Branson's Virgin Group, which includes an airline, railroad, bank and cable operator among its more than 400 holdings.
The amount invested in Virgin Cruises was not disclosed.
Branson said he has ordered the line's first three ships from Italy's Fincantieri, which will deliver them in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
"We made the decision to sail against the current trend of building these big megaships," Virgin Cruises president and CEO Tom McAlpin said.
"We are going to be constructing smaller, more boutique vessels."
"We have deliberately chosen a size of ship that allows us to offer an excellent variety of experiences but in a more intimate environment," he said.
He said the ships will weigh about 110,000 tonnes each, and have capacity to carry some 2,800 passengers and a crew of 1,150.
"These are highly technological machines," said Vincenzo Petrone, the president of Fincantieri.
"The level of the entertainment... envisioned is extremely complex with technological challenges. But we are sure we can together develop a very special type of platform."