Virgin Voyages is throwing down an anchor down in Plantation, where the cruise company will open its new headquarters and create hundreds of jobs.
The joint venture, owned by Sir Richard Branson‘s London-based Virgin Group and Boston-based Bain Capital, is expected to invest $15.9 million locally as it expands in a 60,000-square-foot space at 1000 South Pine Island Road.
There are 76 people currently employed at the headquarters, and the company plans to add between 45 and 130 positions annually. By 2021, Virgin Voyages expects to have 300 employees in Plantation.
Virgin Voyages‘ first ship is expected to sail in 2020 from PortMiami with 2,700 passengers and 1,150 crew members. It will be one of the few cruise lines for adults only.
The headquarters-expansion deal was made possible through partnerships between the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance and officials with the city of Plantation, Broward County and the state of Florida. JLL Managing Director Alan Kleber and vice president Cameron Tallon represented Virgin Voyages in the lease negotiations for the headquarters.
“We are thrilled to welcome Virgin to our ecosystem of industry disruptors and look forward to its significant capital investment and the creation of 300 new high-paying jobs in Plantation,” said Bob Swindell, CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance.
Virgin Voyages will compete with South Florida-based cruise giants including Carnival Corp. & plc, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. and Royal Caribbean Cruises International at a time when the industry is steadily adding ships and passengers. In 2018, about 27.2 million people are expected to cruise, according to the Cruise Lines International Association Inc. (CLIA). That’s up 5 percent from 2017 and 52.8 percent from 2009.
“Virgin brands have a long history of raising the bar in every industry we enter,” said Virgin Voyages CEO Tom McAlpin. “We are proud to bring that mindset to the South Florida community and introduce new jobs and business opportunities to the area.”
McAlpin said an array of jobs, from senior positions, to IT, to customer service personnel will be placed at the headquarters. The former Disney executive said opening a call center outside of South Florida may have been cheaper for the company, but he wanted enough room for all positions. Once fully staffed, Virgin Voyages will take up two and a half floors at its headquarters building.
“It would have been easy to justify putting [a call center] in Des Moines where you have low-cost operations, but we wanted a facility where people could feel the culture and pride because they are the ones who are selling the cruises to individuals,” McAlpin said.
When the Virgin Voyages brand was announced (formerly Virgin Cruises) the company was expected to be based in Miami. McAlpin, who is a Parkland resident, said Plantation was a better pick because of its access to workers across the tri-county area. Ultimately, many more desks at the Virgin Voyages headquarters are expected to be filled as the company adds ships.
“I don’t think we’ll be a 30-ship fleet because we’re appealing to a unique customer base, but we have a lot of room for growth beyond three ships,” McAlpin said.
Beyond its initial ship sailing from Miami, Virgin Voyages has not announced where its next ships will sail from.