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Inside Richard Branson's New Cruise-Line Startup

The Florida headquarters has shuffleboard (of course) and a fresh new culture.

This story appears in the July 2018 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Voyages wants to make cruising cool. The new Richard Branson venture is aimed at travelers ages 18 and older -- "sailors," as the company calls them -- who would normally never set foot on a cruise ship. As Virgin Voyages builds its hip new ships, complete with a lounge called The Athletic Club that will be home to the largest daybed at sea, it's also building a -new culture at its headquarters in Plantation, Fla. The office, designed by IA Interior Architects, draws on Virgin tradition -- lots of purple and red accents, especially in the enormous glass "red room" where employees gather for company-wide meetings. Neon signs and a bathtub full of (plastic) flamingos keep the nautical-inspired space fresh and fun, and when the first ship sets sail in 2020, this crew will be ready to see it off.

Adam Friedberg

Related: Check Out TheSkimm's New Playful Headquarters, Designed By Its Employees

AJ Gutierrez

Senior manager, shipboard systems

"No matter what your rank is, you can talk to the highest-ranking person in here, and it's like you're talking to your neighbor. On one of my first days working here, I was encouraged to ask anything and ask anyone. And management is very true to their word."

Jose Ortiz

Senior manager, voyage services

"Prior to joining Virgin, I was with another cruise line for almost 19 years. In the year and two months I've been with Virgin Voyages, it's felt like, Where have you been all my life? We do business with integrity while keeping people in mind. And the group we've assembled so far? We're awesome. We get along and collaborate, which is what we need as a startup trying to put ships in the water."

Alison Wright

Business systems analyst

"We're a Richard Branson company, so we're all about the people. Just yesterday, we had a 100th-crew-member celebration. We gathered everyone in the café, and had 100 written out in strawberry-­frosted doughnuts and a big balloon to match. It was a great way for us to come together and welcome that new person."

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Nirmal Saverimuttu

Chief commercial officer

"We've done a nice job finding a great combination of people who have experience with the Virgin brand and who have experience with the travel and cruise industry. One of the foundations of our success moving forward will depend on how those groups collaborate and benefit from the diversity of thought they all have. We can create something that's greater than the sum of its parts."

Billy Bohan Chinique

Partner marketing and engagement manager

"Our mantra here is "Make ship happen.' I used to work at Uber, and it's interesting to see how we're thinking differently. We're really thinking about what we want to build for our sailors, and we're merging technology and travel, integrating that into the experience right from the beginning, rather than trying to fit it in as an afterthought."

Valerie Graves

Senior manager of brand partnerships

"With our sailors, we're looking to tap into these tribes that already exist shoreside. How do people like to socialize? How do they gather? We're trying to replicate those experiences onboard the ship and make sure we're luring new sailors to the seas. So we're thinking not just about how we're different from other cruise lines but how we can stand out as a lifestyle brand."

Tom McAlpin

President and CEO

"We wanted to create an environment that was open and airy and broke down traditional barriers. We don't have corner offices -- everything is open, so everyone can experience the beauty of the windows and south Florida and take it in as they collaborate. I'm partial to our shuffleboard table myself. Some had never played before, so we're all learning together."

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Farah Cadet

Design manager

"If I try to make a plan for my day, it never goes exactly that way -- no day resembles the next. There's definitely a sense of support from the company, a real caring about our well-being. It's not just about how many hours you put in or how much work you get done. It's about an overall approach to wellness and productivity. If you're at your best, you can do your best."

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Image Credit: Adam Friedberg

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