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Virgin Voyages reveals all-star design team at steel-cutting

(Photo: Luca Peruzzi)
Tom McAlpin, second right, shows off Virgin Voyages logo in steel with Bain Capital managing director Stephen Pagliuca, left, and Sestri Ponente yard director Paola Capobianca, right
Sir Richard Branson led the countdown (by video) for the first piece of steel to be cut for Virgin Voyages' newbuild in festivities at Fincantieri's Sestri Ponente yard Wednesday.

At the event, where beefcake models in red hard hats and coveralls added eye candy, Virgin Voyages president and ceo Tom McAlpin introduced the company's world-class design collective for its 110,000gt ships.

'Today is the moment when our intrepid, romantic and irresistible vision for Virgin Voyages starts to become tangible,' McAlpin said, adding that he's been inspired by the passion from all those involved as they work together to bring 'true sea change to the cruise industry.'

McAlpin hoisted a steel cutout of the Virgin Voyages icon together with Stephen Pagliuca, managing director, Bain Capital, and Paolo Capobianca, Sestri Ponente yard director.

Ten international companies have been engaged to handle different aspects of the ship’s public and private spaces.

Giacomo Mortola, architect/founder of Gem SRL, a veteran cruise ship architect who's created designs for lines including Silversea, Princess, Cunard and P&O, will be the coordinating architect.

The other firms include Roman and Williams (co-founders Stephen Alesch and Robin Standefer), Concrete Amsterdam (Rob Wagemans, architect/creative director/founder, and Kasia Hiejerman, architect), Design Research Studio (Tom Dixon, creative director; Gareth Payne, head of interior design; Helen Arvanitakis, managing director) and Softroom (Chris Bagot, director and co-founder, and Oliver Salway, co-founder).

Further designers are WORKac (Dan Wood, co-founder), Knibb (Sean Knibb, founder), HL Studios (Patrick Hegarty, owner, and Emil Leon, creative director), HKS inc. (Olga Acosta, associate principal, interior, and Adele Cuartelon, designer) and Pearson Lloyd (Luke Pearson, co-founder).

'The design collective includes some of the world’s most stylish firms who are creators of design trends, not followers,' McAlpin said. 'Together they are imagining a vessel unlike anything sailors have experienced before that will be a complete departure from the ordinary.

'With this group,' he added, 'we have a depth in creativity that brings a different perspective to space design at sea that will change cruising for good. Irresistible style will finally find its sea legs.'

Bain's Pagliuca told Seatrade Cruise News the total cost of the three-ship order is $2.55bn.

To build the first ship will require 15 months of dock work and 12.5 months alongside at the outfitting pier. The second and third vessels will need one less month in the dock and the same 12.5 months of outfitting.

The first ship is due to arrive at PortMiami in early 2020. It will carry 2,800 passengers—or 'sailors,' as Virgin calls them—double occupancy, and 1,150 crew.

Two itineraries will be offered, with Sunday departures.

Branson is scheduled to be present in person at November's keel-laying.