(5:45 a.m. EST) -- Sir Richard Branson has revealed he is planning to launch his own cruise line by 2019.
In an interview with Abu Dhabi-based newspaper, The National, Sir Richard said he would start the $1.7 billion project with two new-build ships, operating in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean initially. The line would be based in Miami.
The ships would be aimed at a younger market, offering more entertainment and leisure, according to a spokeswoman for the Virgin Group.
"We believe we can supply the Virgin ‘touch' on cabins, leisure and dining facilities. Virgin is exploring a number of opportunities within the leisure sector including hotels and cruises. We believe both markets lend themselves to creating a new proposition based on Virgin's history of doing things differently," she added.
Branson told the newspaper: "When I was in my 20s I thought about a cruise ship for the under 20s, when I was 30 I thought about one for under 30s."
Branson uses an Abu Dhabi investment vehicle for its space project Virgin Galactic. He is believed to be looking to raise $1.7 billion in a mix of debt and equity for the venture and has hired a New York-based investment bank that specialises in media and leisure projects to help him search for partners.
Virgin's current involvement in the cruise industry extends to Virgin Holiday's Cruises, a cruise specialist travel agent.
Branson's move -- if it happens -- would be in keeping with his typical strategy of entering a market dominated by a handful of major players, whether it be aviation, energy, media or banking. The cruise industry is 80 per cent controlled by three lines -- Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line.
However, the last line which tried to shake up the sector was launched by another serial entrepreneur -- Stelios Haji-Iaonnou -- who launched easyCruise in 2005, aimed at a younger market. It was sold four years later after failing to attract a market.