Making (a lot of) money by having (great) fun now also at sea
Tycoon Richard Branson glided down at Fincantieri’s Genoa shipyard and launched Virgin Voyages' first ship with a desecrating show-party, unprecedented for the pompous cruise sector
Genoa – Fincantieri and its customer Sir Richard Branson celebrated the keel laying of the first vessel (out of the 3 ordered to the Italian shipbuilder) for the British billionaire's latest venture with a definitely eccentric ceremony attended by British and American guests as well as by Fincantieri's managers and workers, with pop star singer Boy George as a surprise DJ.
The usually solemn and conventional ceremony this time turned into an unprecedented desecrating show-party for the pompous cruise sector, of the kind that in Florida, where the shipping company Virgin Voyages has its registered office – headed by experienced American manager Tom McAlpin (Disney Cruise Line's former manager) – they are used to.
The unusual banner on the steel work - “Hi, I’m the keel, ready for a little shiptease?” – suggested immediately that it would not have been an ‘ordinary’ party, even though many expected Branson to be dressed as a pumpkin, since it was Halloween.
Being the head of a group of around 400 companies and having made a fortune with records, air planes, credit cards, radios, car rentals, insurances and soon with space travels, Branson is seeking success also in the cruise sector; such a character definitely could not enter the Genoese shipyard in an ‘ordinary’ way.
After Fincantieri General Manager Alberto Maestrini's opening welcome, Virgin's tycoon glided down (with the company's CEO) from an aerial platforms used by workers supported by a big crane and asked wittily: "Have we arrived in Italy?". "Yes, Richard, and this is Genoa", Mc Alpin replied, playing the joke.
Consistent with his rockstar-like entrance at the shipyard, Sir Richard greeted all guests by sticking out his tongue like his peer Mick Jagger, before recalling briefly the stages of his new business mission at sea, then leaving the floor to the man who has the task to turn Virgin Voyages into a winning product.
"We will be completely different in the cruise market; our 110,000 GT and 2,700 passengers ship will stand out at a distance in any port of the world", promised the American manager, wearing a striped Venetian gondolier-like t-shirt under his jeans suit, before Branson's surprise was disclosed.
“During my flight to Genoa I met a famous pop star and I asked him to join us in our keel laying ceremony to help us celebrate”, the British billionaire joked, while suddenly Boy George appeared in the background with his peculiar brimmed hat.
Then, after a full hour of dancing with the Culture Club's leader as a DJ, the 400 guests – including main local institutions: President of the Liguria Region Giovanni Toti, Mayor of Genoa Marco Bucci, Confindustria Genoa President Giovanni Mondini – moved to Galata Museo del Mare, where the party went on with local libations and delicacies, as well as dancers and acrobats.
Virgin Voyages' first newbuilding (with its sister ships expected in 2021 and 2022), 278 meters long and 38 meters wide, with 1,400 cabins – 85% of which with balcony – will set sail in two years and a half, and will be equipped with a revolutionary green system. As a matter of fact, she will be equipped with highly innovative design solutions, energy recovery and a limited environmental impact thanks to its 1MW electricity production system using waste heat of diesel engines.