Sir Richard Branson has launched his new Australia-based cruise liner with a splash – plunging into the ship’s pool surrounded by dancers and champagne.
The British business tycoon showed off an app feature that allows cruisers to shake their phone to have champagne delivered, before flutes on trays were carted out and the billionaire did some shaking of his own.
Before ending up in the pool, Sir Richard told reporters why the new Virgin Voyages cruise ship would be calling Melbourne home despite its Sydney launch.
“It’s easier to go into space than find space in Sydney at the moment,” he said on Tuesday, referring to the NSW capital’s shortage of cruise ship berths.
Instead, the 110,000-tonne Resilient Lady will be heading to its Victorian base from where it will start regular trips around the Australia-New Zealand region.
During the on-board launch, Sir Richard was grilled about comments he made years ago saying he wasn’t a fan of cruises.
He told reporters it was the things he found irritating about most cruise ships that inspired the creation of the four Virgin Voyages vessels.
“You just look at some of these cruise ships and they look tarred and very unappetising and unexciting to go on,” he said.
As part of the design process, Sir Richard assembled a team to ask regular cruisers all the things they disliked about the ships.
“You know, buffets, queues … anyway, there was a lot,” he said.
“Then we listed all the things that could put that right.”
The end result, he claimed, was a “masterpiece” that was “similar to the best private yacht anywhere in the world”.
Features on the ship include a restaurant with an experimental single ingredient menu, a day-spa with steam rooms, saunas and salt rooms, stages with shows every night and a secret burger in the space farer’s name.
The 912ft ship docked in Sydney following a 44-day voyage from Athens, unloading hundreds of passengers who had joined the trip at various locations along the way.
Earlier, the billionaire watched the adults-only liner sail into the city from the top of the Harbour Bridge before getting a closer look from a speedboat.
The Resilient Lady is the third of four Virgin Voyages liners built in Italy. The final vessel was recently delayed indefinitely.
(Australian Associated Press)