Boat travel has a romance to it that other forms of travel can’t match. This is why boat journeys, from ‘A Relaxing Night on an Alleppey Houseboat’ to multi-day journeys across the oceans, have long been one of the most popular forms of travel to see the world.
While ocean liners were once a luxury form of transport to get from one destination to another, today they are considered holidays in their own right, and many holidaymakers embark on cruise tours to visit different parts of the world and experience an all-inclusive accommodation while at sea.
Although many people have strong opinions on cruise ships, this form of travel is becoming increasingly popular. Southampton, which is Northern Europe’s leading cruise turnaround port, saw 1,899,654 cruise passengers pass through in 2022 and is expecting two million passengers this year. And some of those passengers will be departing on one of two maiden cruise voyages: the Silver Nova from Silversea Cruises and the MSC Explora 1 from Explora Journeys. The global journeys from Explora are set to change the luxury cruise industry and create a new form of luxury ocean travel.
Introducing Explora Journeys
As described on the Explora Journeys website, the company is “transforming luxury cruises into ocean journeys which inspire you to travel further, immerse deeper and linger a little longer.” This has been the dream of the Aponte Vago family, who have a nautical heritage of over 300 years and own the international shipping line Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC). They want to revamp the cruise industry by providing the ultimate luxury sea experience.
Michael Ungerer, Chief Executive Officer of Explora Journeys, explained how the customer experience was at the heart of the project, with the company asking 2,000 guests from the luxury cruise industry how they want the world of travel to shape up. He told Elite Traveler, “We asked them, ‘What did you always want to do, what isn’t out there today, what do you like, what don’t you like?’ A few themes emerged that were really common worldwide, so [we] put that all together, and that is how we built the product”. One of the most popular answers was time, private space, and a “craving or longing for authenticity and for learning something new.” Explora will redefine the cruise experience in how its guests travel and experience the world, as well as make ocean travel more sustainable.
As mentioned above, the Explora I, the flagship, will launch from Southampton. The launch date is the 17th July, and it will sail to Northern Europe and the Arctic Circle. The Explora I will be joined by its identical sistership the Explora II in 2023, with four more ships to follow in 2024, 2025, 2026, and 2028. Built by the MSC Group, both the Explora I and II will have “461 guest suites, all with private terraces; nine restaurants; a massive indoor-outdoor spa and fitness facility; four pools, including an indoor one with a retractable roof; and 64 private cabanas for day-long sunbathing sessions.” ‘Homes at Sea’ is the ethos of the ships, with guests given much more personal space than most commercial cruise liners.
The dining experience on the two ships is set to be a huge draw. Each ship will have 6restaurants alongside 12 bars and lounges. The restaurants will offer gastronomic experiences from around the world, with expert sommeliers on hand to guide guests through the wine selection that reflects the destinations they will visit. A particular highlight will be Anthology, a restaurant that will feature experiences from the world’s best chefs. Three Michelin Star Italian chef Mauro Uliassi will be the first chef in Explora 1’s Anthology restaurant. The famous chef said of his partnership. “It is a unique opportunity to showcase my interpretation of Italian cuisine and celebrate the beauty and sustainability of the sea. Inspired by the endless treasures of the ocean, I look forward to creating a truly multi-sensory experience for guests dining at Anthology.”
Other amenities include the Ocean Wellness experience, which includes a Spa, indoor and outdoor fitness spaces, and health and wellness programs. Specialised activities will be hosted by top professionals in their fields. These include photography and music lessons. The bars and lounges will also feature entertainment from a wide array of musicians, including a French jazz experience at Le Jazz. Art lovers can also visit the curated art galleries on the ships.
The itineraries of Explora will take passengers across the world, covering Asia, the Americas, Africa, and Europe. Explora I will visit 40 countries and 132 ports in her maiden season. The itineraries will range from a few days to over a month. At each destination there will be shuttle services from port to city centre.
Passengers will also have the opportunity to take part in unique luxury and tailored experiences. These range from bespoke wellness activities, such as yoga classes and lunch at Loppem Castle (Zedelgem, near Bruges) and beer spas in Iceland’s first microbrewery, to guided tours of UNESCO sites, including Hadrians Wall and the Jewel Vega Island in the Arctic Circle.
As part of their plan to transform ocean travel, Explora is putting an emphasis on sustainability. The company has pledged not to use single-use plastics on their ships and ashore. Last year, they also announced a partnership with Tavelife, a training, management and certification program for sustainability in tourism. Michael Ungerer said, “Working toward more sustainable travel experiences for our guests is an important part of our vision to become a truly defining and desired luxury lifestyle travel brand. Our deep respect for the ocean is the principal component of our journey, and out of deep respect for local communities, our destination experiences are being designed to leave a positive impression and footprint”. Future ships will also be emission-free while at port through the design of new liquefied natural gas engines. The MSC Group has committed to being 100% emission-free by 2050.
Cruises are becoming an increasingly popular way to see the world in comfort, and Explora is for those who want to take the experience to the next level. If you are interested in taking an ocean journey, do read the Cruise articles that cover everything from a typical day to port destinations.