Started from a houseboat now we're here

Virgin Voyages' in London with Richard Branson on a double decker ship
Virgin Voyages
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 19 April 2024

Brilliant to be in London for the launch of my audiobook, and the start of Virgin Voyages’ Mediterranean sailing season!

Richard Branson on a Virgin Voyages double decker ship in London
Virgin Voyages

To start the season in style, Virgin Voyages created a roadworthy version of our first ship, Scarlet Lady. The team also brought the sunshine with them, and we spent the morning cruising around London and handing out hundreds of free sailings. I loved seeing everyone’s faces light up when they saw the ship on their morning commute! Businesses and business leaders should never underestimate their ability to make someone’s day.

It's incredible to see all the wonderful new adventures Virgin Voyages will embark upon this Summer, with new itineraries from Portsmouth, Barcelona, and Athens. They now have more than 45 different routes through the Med with beautiful names like ‘Starry Nights in Greece & Croatia’ and ‘French Daze & Ibiza Nights’.

Richard Branson wiht Virgin Voyages in London
Virgin Voyages

As I stood on the bus, waving our way from Big Ben to Oxford Street – I felt a pang of nostalgia about the early days at Virgin, which was also built on a boat.

The first property I ever bought was a houseboat in West London, which I called Duende. It went on to become our makeshift Virgin office for many years, and it has a very special place in my heart. It was on this houseboat that my cousin Simon Draper and I decided to start a record company – Virgin Records – along with my childhood friend Nik Powell. It was also the place we signed Mike Oldfield as our very first artist.

Richard Branson sitting with Al Clark on his old houseboat
Al Clark

It was also where I learnt Joan was pregnant with Holly, which changed our lives forever. The kids grew up on the houseboat, playing in the corner as we held meetings with anyone from Mick Jagger to serious solicitors. Some of my happiest family moments, and our greatest business deals were signed on Duende. I’ve shared many of these stories in my two memoirs, which I’ve now combined into an audiobook called Losing and Finding My Virginity.

Richard and Holly Branson as a child at a desk on a houseboat
Image from the Branson family

It was the first time I’ve ever narrated a book, and I underestimated how tough it would be! Particularly as a dyslexic. To record it, we created a makeshift studio on Necker, which was soundproofed by pillows, mattresses, and anything we could find. The sweat and stumbles will all be worth it, if it encourages even just one person to pursue their dreams and say: “screw it, let’s do it” like I have so many times in my life. This is how we build the stories of our lives.

After disembarking the bus-boat, I headed off to a houseboat near Duende to meet a bunch of people working across our UK Virgin companies. There was so much excitement in the room, and it reminded me how it is our people that make Virgin the brand it is today. One very bubbly woman I met was called Olga, and she works with us at Virgin Hotels Edinburgh. I was so inspired by her enthusiasm, and it was only later that I learnt how she fled Ukraine when the war broke out. It turns out she has wanted to work for Virgin from a young age after her father read her one of my books. When she received her visa for the UK, she spotted the Virgin Hotels role and couldn’t be a more perfect fit!

Richard Branson with a group of Virgin employees in London
Kami White

Next up was an on-air interview with The Ryan Tubridy show on Virgin Radio where we talked about everything from the Sex Pistols, to dyslexia, why I try to live with no regrets, and how this creates enough content for an audiobook! Unfortunately, Ryan was wearing a tie, so I had to cut it off as part of my no ties policy!

Richard Branson on air with Virgin Radio UK
Kami White

Thanks for a wonderful couple of days, London! Here’s more about Virgin Voyages’ beautiful Mediterranean itineraries, and here’s more details on my audiobook.