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Virgin Cruise Line Plans to Disrupt Industry

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Starting from scratch and entering the cruise industry. That is an ambitious project and a very expensive one. Especially entering a cruise market that has a great diversity of ships and lines to choose from. Disney, Royal Caribbean and Carnival are the big 3 that meets the demands of your average cruiser. Then you have more upscale and specialized like Norwegian, Princess and Celebrity. Then very specialized luxury lines like Regent Seven Seas or Seabourn. Not to mention the plethora of other lines that have an established market share and customer base.

Should be interesting, good luck Sir Branson

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Not to mention Viking River Cruises, which, up to this point, have focused only on Euro river cruises, has 2 ships in production set to launch next year which will be the line's first seagoing ones. Branson has managed to do quite well with Virgin Airways, so if anyone can succeed in a crowded market, he certainly can.

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Starting from scratch and entering the cruise industry. That is an ambitious project and a very expensive one.

Ambitious? Expensive? This is from someone who entered the space tourism industry.

That is more of hobby than industry currently. While expensive there is not much competition. The cruise industry on the other hand is costly to enter, very competitive and has an established clientele.

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SeaWorld is in disruption. Who would have thunk?

News since December 4th has been interesting:

Royal Caribbean rushed to secure, and announced purchasing, the keel rights for two new large ships from French yard STX France--taking two Russian warship keel times. RCL no doubt wished to keep these earlier keel times from market due to the announcement of Virgin Cruises plans. Had Virgin snagged these keel rights they could conceivably go to sea earlier than the "end of the decade" they projected. The entry to two additional mega-liners to the market (the ships are announced as joining the RCL Celebrity brand) may be intended to erect barriers to Virgin Groups plans. Please see:


Sea World is in turmoil. The removal of the CEO and announced layoffs suggest finances at Seas are more dire than originally projected. Speculation concerning the sale of particular SeaWorld assets has already been raised. Please see:


SeaWorld's largest parks are located near cruise ports and this reality should not be overlooked by the intrepid observer.

Sir Branson announcement for Virgin Cruises is clear: “We think we can program the ship in ways that is different than what is being done today.” Additionally NY Times quotes Evan Lovell, a partner at Virgin Management Limited, “The whole point of being on a cruise ship is to be connected to the ocean, to be connected to the sun and the wind,” while giving passengers more opportunity to experience life at sea.

Branson has an admired track record in entering established industries with high capital costs and loyal customer bases. He does so by imagining not what is, but what can profitably be. Massages on his Virgin Atlantic flights and at airports, limo service for fliers, showers on arrival, superior airline food quality and service, to name a few. His ideas reformed British Airways which attempted, sadly, to use regulations to restrict and limit his efforts.

Virgin tends to view the product not as an airline seat (for example) but rather the total travel experience encompassing port experience, transportation, purchase ease, superior service, meaningful product additions, all delivered in a fun environment programed to appeal to profitable customers. This history makes one wonder, how could Virgin view the cruise cabin?

Now Branson seeks to change and disrupt the cruise industry. It would not be wise to bet against him. Reviewing cruise industry history one can see how disruptive the "Free Style Cruising" of Norwegian Cruise Lines was. Carnival went haywire. The design of ships across the industry was immediately impacted--recently completed ships of competitors had to go into dry dock for extensive renovations to add amenities such as restaurants and flexible dining options. Ships under construction were delayed whilst significant and unexpected design changes were incorporated.

Disney also disrupted the cruise industry when they entered the market. Water slides, costuming, shore and shipboard activities all had innovative aspects. Tom McAlpin, former presedent of Disney Cruise Lines, is on board with Virgin Cruises as chief executive.

Branson seeks to offer new services and connection to the sea and to sea life in the cruise industry. SeaWorld went quickly from troubled to in full crisis mode. Make no mistake, Virgin plans accelerated the crisis.

Goddess knows what Branson has up the sleeve. I am guessing "disruptive" would be, at the minimum, a good starting characterization.

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To attribute any part of SeaWorld's current problems to Virgin entering the cruise market is reaching far beyond logic's end.

To say that SEAS' current financial position and outlook may give Virgin some opportunities (a completely different position than saying that Virgin's entry to the cruise industry is disruptive to SEAS-what was disruptive to SEAS came before--almost entirely the result of its own actions and inactions) is somewhat plausible.

Yes, Virgin may take advantage as SEAS sheds people and assets. No, Virgin's entry didn't even remotely contribute to SEAS' current predicament.

The old chronology does not equate to causation maxim (after this, because of this) comes to mind. Just because B follows A does not mean A caused B. Likewise, just because B came before decision A does not necessarily mean B was a factor in the decision.

How much of a factor was Virgin in SeaWorld's current crisis? Perhaps a 0.0000000009 percent one. If that much. Had the Virgin cruise decision not been made, the SEAS CEO "departure" (which it isn't) and restructuring (too little, too late) may have been delayed. By a second or too.


But probably not.

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