Explora Journeys: Exploring an Ocean State of Mind
By Doug Wallace | 10-25-2023 |
New cruise line Explora Journeys delivers a fresh take on slow travel with a new concept in mindful luxury – and Tully Luxury Travel is gearing up to get you on board.
So, we gathered some of the top travel professionals out there to give us some of their best advice for the upcoming end-of-year holidays. Because, while travel is back for many Americans, so are the stresses of travel no thanks to rising costs and lowering customer service within the sector.
“[Of 2,000 participants in a survey of Americans], 68 percent of respondents say they plan to travel for the holiday season– Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve,” says Elad Schaffer, Co-Founder & CEO of Faye Travel Insurance, “with 50 percent of them intending to travel to international destinations. And these aren’t going to be short stays. The majority (53 percent) said they plan to make these holiday getaways around seven days.”
In other words: A lot of Americans are traveling this holiday season — and airports will be packed. So, let’s look at some of the best ways you can make your 2024 holiday travel experience less stressful and expensive.
Imagine a ship that feels more like a yacht, offering ocean voyages that manage to break the “cruise” barrier. Such is the case with new luxury vessel EXPLORA I by Explora Journeys. Launched in late summer 2023, it is the first in a series of six ships from Geneva-based MSC Group, a global shipping operation and the world’s largest privately owned cruise company, which is moving into the luxury ocean category for the first time.
“We think of ourselves as providing journeys that are far deeper and more broad than just a cruise,” says Chris Austin, the Chief Sales Officer of Explora Journeys. “We are the vision, the passion project of the Aponte family, who drew their inspiration from the ocean and their own holidays to really deliver a transformative experience.”
The brand philosophy, which is anchored to an “ocean state of mind,” was developed with the Aponte family’s inspiration and the help of a guest-centric survey of 20,000 affluent travelers from around the world – some seasoned cruisers and others not. This resulted in balanced feedback that has helped drive multiple points of differentiation, including everything from ship design and wellness facilities to artisan shopping and entertainment.
“One of the first things they asked for was a yacht-inspired ship,” Austin says. “They didn't say, ‘Give me a yacht,’ they wanted a ship, because they also wanted the space, the choice, the privacy that a larger ship delivers. They also wanted elegant design, and to holiday at a slower pace. Many actually used the words: ‘I want to be exhilarated.’ And some also said: ‘I don’t want to be exhausted.’ So we put the two together with all this feedback and started to design the brand.”
Renowned British yacht designer and architect Martin Francis was tapped to collaborate with Italian luxury shipbuilders Fincantieri to deliver EXPLORA I. A stunner at 63,000 gross tons, with 461 all-balcony suites and carrying up to 922 guests, the ship has an extremely high 1.25 to 1 guest-to-host ratio and striking good looks.
“The interior design is very cosmopolitan,” Austin says. “It actually has the feel of a luxury boutique hotel. But we clearly have yacht inspiration, especially when you look at the aft. I think many of our future guests will lounge by one of the half-pools, looking out to sea in their own little world, feeling like they are on a private yacht, yet having a whole ship to enjoy.”
If you have airline miles, hotel points, or credit card rewards you’ve been holding on to, now could be the time Tastefully appointed with a lot of natural light, EXPLORA I suites are all ocean-facing with larger-than-usual terraces and ample space – even the smallest suite is a substantial 35 square metres. Guests will also sink deep into the luxury amenities, which include Frette linens, heated bathroom floors, custom-stocked mini bars, Illy coffee machines, and Dyson hairdryers.
Design is also a sustainable and environmental focus for the Explora-class ships, with ship-to-shore hydropower becoming increasingly available in ports around the world. And by the time the fifth and sixth ships have launched, Austin says that the entire hotel operations will be running on battery power the whole time the ships are in port.
“We believe that we have to protect the oceans of the world for the next generation,” Austin says. “Travel is a force for good. We really do take that on as part of our responsibility – it's just not something we say.” The group’s non-profit MSC Foundation is a leader in the industry, developed to help restore the balance between people and nature, and to protect and nurture the planet.
Explora Journeys guests are spoiled for choice.
EXPLORA I has the tables set at six full restaurants with five additional culinary options in the lounges. Signature restaurant Anthology highlights the talents of some of the world’s most celebrated guest chefs. Renowned chef Mauro Uliassi, whose restaurant in the coastal Italian town of Senigallia has earned three Michelin stars, leads off this culinary journey with cuisine inspired by the Adriatic coast, with many more noted guest chefs to follow later on.
The French-influenced Fil Rouge is named after the red line that goes around the waterline of the ship. Signature steaks come courtesy of Marble & Co. Grill steakhouse, and the menus at the pan-Asian Sakura restaurant feature dishes from Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. All-day live cooking stations in the Emporium Marketplace showcase things like sushi, pasta dishes and pizza, while Med Yacht Club draws on Explora Journeys’ Mediterranean heritage, offering small plates found in France, Spain, Italy, Greece and North Africa.
Twelve lounges – eight inside the ship and four outside – will allow guests to find a bit of peace and quiet – or they could find incredible music. “We have a very unique portfolio of entertainment,” Austin says. “We’ll have resident artists and visiting guest artists, who will lend a cultural feel to the guest experience.” A partnership with Steinway & Sons of New York brings the world’s finest handcrafted grand pianos onboard. Both acclaimed and rising stars of the music world will captivate guests with live performances tailored to parallel the ship’s destination. And as there is no big theatre, all live performances are kept intimate and appear as if almost spontaneous.
Shopping experiences on board deliver a collection of more than 30 niche, artisanal brands specially curated to offer gifts and goods, fashion and accessories that you won’t find anywhere else.
Wellness on the EXPLORA I is covered off in abundance, thanks to an indoor fitness centre loaded with Technogym equipment, classes in a fitness studio, an open-air fitness deck overlooking the ocean, a running track and a sports court dedicated to things like touch tennis and half-court basketball. The spa is designed to embrace the calming influence of the sea, further maintaining that “ocean state of mind” through 11 treatment rooms. Facilities also include a steam room and sauna, a hydrotherapy pool, a salt cave and an ice fall.
As for shore excursions, local tour companies at the ports of call will unlock the destination culturally, introducing guests to the people and the heritage. And following the advice of the pre-launch survey data, excursions are extra and not priced into the fare, so guests don’t feel compelled to participate in them if they would rather spend the day by the pool.
It’s time to start planning your Explora journey.
The maiden year of EXPLORA I will see her land on a variety of shores, from Britain to Northern Europe, then from Miami to the Caribbean. “We're going to have a fantastic journey through the Panama Canal,” Austin says, “and finish our year with journeys from Vancouver to Hawaii and back. You get the opportunity to really discover your ocean state of mind with those sea days.”
And while the itineraries tumble out one after the other, the pace remains the same – slow, smooth sailing, with rather unconventional arrival and departure times. Austin says the ship may reach port at 8 a.m., but not leave until 10 p.m., “giving you almost two experiences. You could be in Saint-Tropez enjoying Nikki Beach in the daytime, but then chilling out in the evening in a beautiful restaurant or on a terrace back on the ship looking out at Saint-Tropez.”
Are you ready to experience the Ocean State of Mind? Contact Tully Luxury Travel for more information and to take advantage of special booking incentives aboard Explora Journeys. Visit TullyLuxuryTravel.com for details or call 1-855-360-7618 to book your dream luxury travel experience.