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Cruise sceptic Branson asks Aussies aboard

Stuart Condie
Sir Richard Branson never wanted to go on a cruise, but now he wants Australians to do just that

Sir Richard Branson never wanted to go on a cruise - but now he wants Australians to do just that.

The billionaire serial entrepreneur says his soon-to-sail Virgin Voyages cruise line is designed for those keen on the nautical life, but less so on the prospect of buffet dinners and being confined with other people's children.

"I'd never really been interested in going on a cruise, so I decided to try to create the kind of cruise ship myself, my friends, and my adult children would love to go on," Sir Richard told AAP.

"We've got rid of all the horrible buffets that people have to put up with when they go on a cruise ship."

Virgin Voyages chief commercial officer Nirmal Saverimuttu confirmed "there'll be no chicken nuggets on board" when the over-18s Scarlet Lady sails in the Caribbean for the first time in April.

Mr Saverimuttu said 69-year-old Sir Richard - whose high-profile ventures have included a record label, financial products, gyms, space travel and Virgin Australia precursor Virgin Blue - had always wanted to own a cruise ship.

"Richard always tells the story about how when he was in his 20s he wanted to start a cruise line for people under 30, and then it became people under 40, and then under 50, and then under 60," Mr Saverimuttu said.

"And it just kept going and going."

Sir Richard, in Sydney on Tuesday to launch a partnership between Virgin Voyages and Virgin Australia, said the over-18s boutique-style cruises should appeal to Australian travellers.

But he acknowledged a 24-hour-plus flight to Miami via Los Angeles - necessary because "Australia has positioned itself in the most awkward place in the world" - could represent a hurdle.

"Which is why we're building a spaceship company," Sir Richard said, referring to the Virgin Galactic venture that listed on the New York Stock Exchange last month.

"But until we can get you here in an hour, getting on to a plane and watching four or five of your favourite movies and ending up on a beautiful cruise ship in the Caribbean is worth a go."

Virgin Australia, which lost $349.1 million in FY19, is selling what chief executive Paul Scurrah called 'Tail to Sail' packages in the hope Australians reach the same conclusion.

Scarlet Lady is the first of four ships planned by the Bain Capital-backed Virgin Voyages, in which Sir Richard's Virgin Group owns a minority stake.

The location of the second ship "somewhere in Europe" is scheduled for announcement next week.

Considering the venture's appeal to Australians, Sir Richard said people Down Under were fundamentally the same as those he met when he first visited as a teenager "all those years ago".

"The only thing I find slightly strange in Australia is that, whereas in Britain it's a real mixed country with incredible amounts of restaurants and so on, because you have such a strict policy of not letting people into your country you don't quite get that same buzz," Sir Richard said.

"It's easy for me to say because I don't live here, but I think to let a few more people in would help."