In a niche of the travel industry dominated by Carnival and Royal Caribbean, billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson is attempting to appeal to a different consumer. Branson’s Virgin Group founded Virgin Voyages, which had its first U.K. sailing this summer and will soon embark on its first voyage from the U.S. So, who owns Virgin Voyages?
The Virgin cruise line, Virgin Voyages, is owned by parent company Virgin Group and its top investor, Bain Capital. Branson, though most consider him synonymous with the Virgin brand, doesn’t own all of the Virgin companies outright. He licenses out the name to subsidiaries, so his actual assets are considerably less than most people assume.
Bain Capital is Virgin Voyages’ majority investor.
The private equity firm Bain Capital is the largest investor in Virgin Voyages. According to CNBC, total investments in the cruise line (not all from Bain) were about $3 billion as of September 2021. Each ship cost about $800 million.
Virgin Voyages raised $550 million in August 2022.
The company closed on an additional $550 million in capital as of August 16, 2022. Bain Capital Private Equity and Virgin Group participated, along with new investor BlackRock Global Credit leading the raise.
Brendan Galloway, director at BlackRock, said “the industry is exhibiting a powerful rebound” from the past few years’ challenges.
Richard Branson said he started Virgin Voyages to change the cruise industry.
Branson told CNBC that he was inspired to start a cruise line because cruising as it was didn’t appeal to him. He said, “Do you know I was never interested in going on cruise ships, and I suspect there’s something like 90 percent of people who are listening are not that interested in going on cruise ships.”
Virgin Voyages’ no-kid policy is part of the company strategy to attract a different clientele than the typical cruise customer. Morgan Stanley estimates the average age of cruise passengers in the U.S. to be 49. Trade organization Cruise Lines International Association estimates it to be 47.
Branson hopes that the policy of adults-only cruising may attract younger cruise customers such as millennials. “It’s just going to be a fun ship for adults.” The first U.S. voyage is set to depart from Miami on Oct. 6 after numerous pandemic-caused delays.
Cruise line competitors say Virgin Voyages could ultimately be good for the industry.
According to CNBC, Royal Caribbean’s CEO Richard Fain believes the new Virgin Voyages cruise line could be beneficial to their business. New cruise lines could draw attention to the industry and help other cruise lines rather than taking away customers.
Fain said that Disney’s cruise lines ultimately helped their business by increasing supply by 2 percent and adding 10 percent to the demand for cruises. Therefore, he isn't concerned about Virgin Voyages harming Royal Caribbean revenues.