Richard Branson is officially taking his Virgin empire to the high seas.
The billionaire formally announced that his latest travel venture—Virgin Cruises—plans to launch in early 2020, with the first port-of-call based in Miami, reports the Sun Sentinel.
Tom McAlpin, Virgin Cruises CEO, said the company has signed a letter of intent to build three ships with the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy. Each vessel will have room for over 2,800 passengers with estimated delivery dates of 2020, 2021 and 2022.
The mid-sized ships go against the current cruise line trend of “bigger is better”—both Royal Caribbean and Carnival are building mega capacity ships that hold some 6,000 passengers each. The Virgin vessels will weigh in at a relatively modest 110,000 gross tons with 1,430 cabins.
Virgin Group first announced the launch of a cruise line last December. A few months later, former Norwegian cruise executive Colin Veitch filed a lawsuit seeking over $300 million in damages from Branson and his group, claiming that the concept for the stylish luxury cruise line was his idea.
A decision has not yet been reached on the veracity of those claims.