Explora Journeys: First Impressions of  EXPLORA I and the Allure of Modern Voyaging

Estimated read time 18 min read

From the whispers of its conception, the Explora Journeys fleet, a novel venture by MSC, has been a siren call to my wanderlust spirit. The promise of a small ship boasting expansive spaces, echoing the grandeur of a luxurious all-inclusive resort, yet capable of navigating the secluded alcoves of our vast world, stirred an unquenchable curiosity within me. The allure of such intimate experiences in off-the-beaten-path locales was irresistible. As a seasoned MSC aficionado, I watched with bated breath as this ambitious vision took shape.

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So, when the coveted invitation to tour the flagship of this pioneering fleet – the  EXPLORA I – landed in my hands, I didn’t just accept; I leapt at the opportunity.

Unveiled in the summer of 2023, the  EXPLORA I heralds the dawn of an unprecedented era of oceanic exploration, setting the stage for its five forthcoming sister ships by 2028. Now, as it prepares for its Caribbean inauguration, the  EXPLORA I beckons adventurers with its array of unique itineraries ranging from 6 to 14 days. Each voyage is a mosaic of distinction; no two weeks mirror each other. Envision embarking in Miami and disembarking in the isthmian embrace of Panama, or charting a course from Panama to the vibrant shores of Los Angeles. The allure doesn’t cease with the itineraries; the on-board experience is a siren song of its own, promising an odyssey as captivating as the destinations it frequents.

In this post, we’ll embark on a virtual tour through the ship’s stunningly designed spaces, from the grand atrium to the intimate lounges and innovative dining venues. We’ll dive into the luxurious health and wellness amenities, explore the unique entertainment options, and discover the cutting-edge features that set this ship apart. I’ll also share insights into the ship’s commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. Whether you’re a seasoned cruiser or planning your first voyage, this post promises a glimpse into the future of luxury cruising with  EXPLORA I.

Explora I ship

Explora Journeys Embarkation and First Impressions

My initial encounter with  EXPLORA I began a whirl of unexpected activity. Due to a minor mix-up, I found myself entering through the standard guest entrance, only to be redirected through the crew’s portal. This slight detour, however, offered an authentic taste of the embarkation process that awaited future guests. To my relief, the experience was impressively streamlined: absent were the daunting crowds, and the security procedures, involving a swift check of identification and a cursory scan of bags, were concluded in mere minutes.

Stepping into the grand atrium, I was greeted by an ambiance that was both majestic and understated. The gentle melodies of a self-playing Steinway piano resonated from the upper deck, infusing the space with a sense of enchantment. The atrium unfolded into a tapestry of luxurious, intimate seating areas, each adorned in muted tones that invited relaxation and leisurely observation. My eyes were drawn to the bar, where a captivating ceiling-to-floor display beckoned guests to linger and indulge in the serene atmosphere. The European-inspired design harmonized with the overall luxurious essence, enveloping me in a sense of grandeur that was elegant, not overwhelming.

Explora I Grand Atrium seating

The warmth of  EXPLORA I was not confined to its décor; it radiated from its crew as well. From my initial moments on board, the staff extended a welcome that was both heartfelt and unassuming. Their smiles were genuine, their kindness palpable, and their presence was never intrusive. As I navigated through the ship’s corridors and open spaces, this consistent thread of sincere hospitality was a reassuring companion, subtly assuring me that on  EXPLORA I, the art of genuine service was not just practiced but perfected.

Exploring the Public Spaces

A. Grand Atrium

The Grand Atrium serves as the ship’s social heart, where guests can gather in a setting that’s both grandiose and inviting. Its architecture and design make a statement of refined luxury, creating an atmosphere that’s not just seen but felt.

B. Tapestry of Lounges and Bars

 EXPLORA I boasts an eclectic collection of 10 indoor and outdoor lounges and bars, each offering its own unique ambiance.

  • Crema Café (Deck 5): An epitome of European charm, this café offers a casual respite with sweeping sea views. It’s where coffee artistry meets relaxation, indoors or al fresco.
  • Lobby Bar (Grand Atrium, Deck 4): Nestled in the Grand Atrium, this bar is a symphony of refined tastes and subtle conversations.
  • Explora Lounge (Deck 11): Bathed in natural light, this panoramic oasis transforms from a daytime haven of tranquility to a nocturnal jazz and piano bar, complete with smoothies, pressed juices, and tempting light fares including traditional afternoon tea.
  • The Malt Whiskey Bar (Deck 11): A connoisseur’s delight featuring a walk-in humidor, a dedicated cigar terrace, and an array of signature whiskey-based concoctions alongside some of the world’s rarest whiskies.
  • Journeys Lounge (Deck 4): Here, mixology is an art and cabaret-style entertainment brings each evening to life amidst a backdrop of daily activities.
  • Astern Lounge (Deck 5): A chameleon of venues, this lounge metamorphoses from a live entertainment hub by day to a pulsating DJ session by night.
  • Astern Pool & Bar (Deck 5): A beach club at sea, complete with chilled vibes and plush lounge beds perfect for soaking up the sun.
  • Atoll Pool & Bar (Deck 10): An intimate aquatic escape adorned with loungers for leisurely days.
  • Helios Pool & Bar (Deck 12): An adults-only sanctuary offering panoramic serenity and an escape from the everyday.
  • Sky Bar (Deck 14): Perched at the ship’s zenith, this bar offers unmatched views and an atmosphere that touches the sky.
  • Conservatory Pool & Bar (Deck 11): Under a retractable dome, this venue promises poolside lounging regardless of the weather, ensuring every moment is a splash.
  • Gelateria & Creperie (Conservatory, Deck 11): A sweet retreat where indulgence is crafted to your desires, be it a Nutella and strawberry-topped waffle or an imaginative crepe creation.

C. Restaurants

Anthology
Perched elegantly on Deck 5, Anthology is not just a restaurant, it’s a voyage into culinary excellence. This venue, available for an additional fee, is envisioned as a temple of gastronomy where global culinary artistry takes center stage, complemented by an exquisite selection of wines curated by the most revered winemakers. Embark on a sensorial journey from October 2023 to April 2024 with Chef Emma Bengtsson at the helm, transporting diners through her Nordic roots infused with the pulsating energy of New York. The 7-course Tasting Menu is a symphony of flavors, meticulously curated by Chef Bengtsson, promising an unparalleled dining escapade aboard  EXPLORA I.

Anthology

Sakura
Sakura, nestled on Deck 5, is a window to the East with its expansive ocean views and an ambiance steeped in modern Asian flair. Here, a Sake Sommelier guides guests through a meticulously curated selection of sakes and shōchū. Signature dishes, like the exquisitely torched Wagyu Beef Tataki, blend authenticity with modernity, while the Makrut Lime Pavlova is a sweet crescendo to the culinary harmony. Lunch and dinner at Sakura are not mere meals; they’re vibrant narratives of Asia’s culinary heritage.

Marble & Co. Grill
Marble & Co. Grill reimagines the European steakhouse experience with its chic, minimalist design and soft, inviting lighting. Here, the dry-aging process is not hidden but celebrated, adding an interactive layer to the gastronomic journey. Each dish, from the 30-day aged Grilled Prime Rib to the elegantly simple Crushed Fingerling Potatoes, is a testament to culinary excellence, making every bite an affair to remember.

Med Yacht Club
On Deck 4, Med Yacht Club is a sun-drenched haven, where the essence of Mediterranean gastronomy is celebrated in every dish. Signature offerings like the Grilled Octopus and Sweet Caprese showcase the freshest ingredients, each with a story to tell, marrying tradition with innovation in a relaxed yet refined setting.

Emporium Marketplace
Deck 11 is home to Emporium Marketplace, a tribute to global flavors and culinary craftsmanship. Here, every dish, from the handmade Tortellini to the Plant-Based Chia Yoghurt, is a testament to the chefs’ expertise, marrying time-honored techniques with modern sensibilities in an ambiance of effortless elegance.

In-Suite Dining
The luxury of choice extends to the sanctuary of your suite with In-Suite Dining. Here, indulge in a diverse menu that encapsulates the essence of the ship’s dining venues, available round the clock for a personalized gastronomic experience with a view.

Fil Rouge
On Deck 4, Fil Rouge takes guests on a gastronomic tour with a French twist, showcasing international cuisine through a sophisticated lens. The Tuna Tataki is a standout, embodying the venue’s commitment to sustainable sourcing and culinary excellence.

Chef’s Kitchen
For those with a penchant for culinary arts, Chef’s Kitchen offers an intimate private dining experience and doubles as a culinary school where the secrets of gourmet cuisine are unveiled. Please note that a fee applies for this exclusive experience.

Culinary Inclusivity and Indulgence
Every journey aboard the Explora Journeys is graced with a welcome bottle of champagne, a spirit of your choice, and an array of culinary venues:

  • Emporium Marketplace
  • Sakura
  • Marble & Co. Grill
  • Med Yacht Club
  • Fil Rouge
  • Crema Café
  • Gelateria & Creperie at The Conservatory
  • Explora Lounge
  • In-Suite Dining

For the epicureans seeking an exceptional dining experience, Anthology awaits with its award-winning menus and pairings. A journey through Anthology is a sensory indulgence, an opportunity for discovery and enrichment that stands apart from the inclusive offerings. Tasting menu is priced at EUR 190 per person, with wine pairing available at EUR 75 per person. Reservations for this unique experience can be made 60 days before departure.

In partnership with Moet Hennessy, the flow of Moet is uninterrupted, ensuring that the spirit of celebration is ever-present aboard the Explora Journeys.

D. Entertainment

Imagine an ocean journey where the usual Broadway spectacles take a bow to give way to more soul-stirring experiences. This isn’t your standard cruise entertainment—it’s a journey through immersive events and activities that beckon your inner artist and historian, and awaken your senses.

Events:

Captain’s Log: Secrets of the Sail Join the Captain or Bridge Officers as they guide you through the vessel’s heartbeat. Marvel at the seamless blend of ancient seafaring methods and cutting-edge technology, and meet the valiant team that charts our course across the globe.

Bal Mythos As midnight chimes, transform into local deities with handcrafted masks and plunge into a mythical club atmosphere. Dance to the rhythm of the resident artists, and let your spirit soar.

Midnight Wayfinder Under the celestial canopy, surrender to the lullabies of guitars and tales of the sea. Learn about the age-old relationship sailors share with the stars and how they’ve guided voyages since time immemorial.

Inferno Step into a world reminiscent of the illustrious Studio 54, Soul Train, and the vibrant discos of 1970s Europe. Unwind and sway to the beats with era-specific cocktails in hand.

Activities:

Ombré Sunsets In the Explora Lounge, refine your photography skills. Capture the sun’s fiery descent into the ocean or the subtle art of an elegant selfie. Learn to illuminate art in a whole new light.

Melodic Master Class Foster a deeper connection with our resident artists. Dive into the creative processes of songwriting, improvisation, and composition, and maybe compose a tune of your own.

The Spirit of Whisky Immerse yourself in the Malt Whisky Bar’s mixology arts. Journey through time with this venerable spirit and craft four signature concoctions.

Decadence Transition from one lounge to another in an ever-evolving indulgent affair. Revel in live performances and an opulence that makes The Great Gatsby seem modest.

An Evening by Candlelight Savour intimate performances in candlelit lounges. Let the night serenade you with a range from classical to cinematic melodies.

Le Jazz Embrace the spirit of France with a Parisian jazz club experience. Let loose with French martinis and canapés as the night swings by.

Let the Good Times Roll Experience the vibrancy of New Orleans jazz cabaret. Indulge in Creole cuisine, sip absinthe cocktails, and be dazzled by exceptional musicianship.

Rituals:

Sundial Salutation Engage in a wellness ritual that energizes each morning and ushers in tranquility as dusk falls, marking the passage of time with mindful movement.

Ocean Meditation Start your day with tranquility as you meditate against the horizon. Immerse in stories and practices that connect you to our destinations’ cultural heartbeat.

Sunset Aperitivo Sample signature beverages and appetizers in our bars and lounges. Each offering is a tasteful tribute to our ports of call.

Moonrise Every full moon is a cause for celebration. Join us in a bewitching soirée under the moonlit sky, complete with signature cocktails and live music.

Midday Melodies As morning gives way to afternoon, the Lobby resonates with live acoustic melodies, marking the transition of time and the unfolding of another delightful day onboard.


Every moment aboard is a celebration of the senses and a toast to adventure. Each event, activity, and ritual is thoughtfully crafted to offer an enriching, vibrant, and unforgettable experience, far from the everyday.

Health and Wellness Amenities

Welcome to Ocean Wellness, where your voyage transforms into an enriching journey for your physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being.

Your Spa Sanctuary

Step into your haven of tranquility, where the ocean’s soothing whispers inspire our treatments. Here’s what awaits you:

  • Indulge in signature rituals, revitalizing facials, and body treatments.
  • Experience Medi Luxe Treatments by Dr. Levy Switzerland, ashore wellness adventures, and in-suite personalized pampering.

Explore the Ocean Wellness Menu

Ocean Wellness Offerings:

  • Steam and Experience Showers, with a Private Spa Suite option.
  • Hydrotherapy Pool and Ice Fall, Finnish Sauna, and Salt Cave.
  • Heated Marble Loungers and a Relaxation Room, just for you.

Destination Days: Unlimited access from 8:00 to 20:00.

Sea Days: Revel in our facilities from 8:00 to 10:00 and 18:30 to 20:00 without a treatment reservation.

Fitness Fusion:

In collaboration with Technogym, enjoy:

  • Functional, Strength, and Cardio Training.
  • Pilates, bespoke classes, and body assessments.
  • Immersive outdoor exercises and cycling classes.
  • Personalized and group training sessions.

Partnership with TechnoGYm to provide: Functional training Strength training Cardio Pilates Technogym bespoke classes Body assessment Immersive experiences Outdoor exercise Cycling classes Personal and group training.

Beauty Studio:

  • Expert hair care, along with a dedicated barber corner.
  • Manicure and pedicure treatments for your comfort.
  • In-suite beauty services, bringing elegance directly to you.

Your Holistic Well-Being:

  • Sleep Retreat: Embrace tailored sleep programs, informative workshops, and serene in-suite meditation.
  • Mindful Nutrition and Yoga: Nourish your body and soul.
  • Immune Boosting Retreat: Engaging workshops and practices designed to fortify your body and mind.

Innovative Features and Technologies

Explora Journeys sets a new standard in maritime travel, embedding sustainability at the core of its operations. Their forward-thinking approach ensures that the majestic destinations they visit can be appreciated for generations to come.

Voyaging Towards a Greener Tomorrow:

  • The fleet’s design is future-ready, equipped with provisions for battery storage that pave the way for hybrid power generation.
  • Embracing advanced Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology, Explora Journeys achieves a remarkable 90% reduction in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, marking a significant stride in reducing its ecological footprint.

Safety and Accessibility

Explora Journeys prioritizes the well-being of its guests through comprehensive safety measures:

  • Vaccinated Crew: All hosts are fully vaccinated, ensuring a layer of safety for guests.
  • Onboard Medical Services: A 24/7 Medical Centre staffed with qualified professionals, supported by an onshore team, is ready to handle any health concerns. Guests showing symptoms receive complimentary treatment and, if necessary, isolation and assistance for further care.
  • Intensive Sanitation: High cleanliness standards are maintained with regular disinfection of public areas and suites, supplemented by accessible hand sanitizers.
  • Spacious Design: The ship’s design allows guests to enjoy the amenities without overcrowding, adhering to any local regulations.
  • Guided Destination Experiences: Guests are advised to book Explora Journeys’ Destination Experiences for a safe and enriching ashore experience.
  • Enhanced Air Filtration: Upgraded systems ensure a continuous supply of fresh and filtered air throughout the ship.

Sustainability and Environmental Commitment

Explora Journeys champions sustainability and environmental respect as a cornerstone of its voyages. Their approach is harmonious and non-intrusive, aiming to enrich rather than exploit the destinations and communities they visit. Through contributions to the MSC Foundation, they support vital environmental initiatives. Their destination experiences are crafted to celebrate and uplift local cultures, crafts, cuisine, and traditions, ensuring that each journey leaves a positive and lasting impact on the places and people they touch.

Final Thoughts

  • Recap your first impressions and the standout features.
  • Anticipate the journey ahead and what you’re most looking forward to experiencing in detail.

Embarking on an Explora Journey feels like a dream tailored for diverse wanderers, myself included. The ship radiates a blend of laid-back luxury and sophistication. Each Ocean Suite, from the entry-level to the Owner’s Residence, exudes a sense of grandeur, boasting expansive spaces that invite the world in. The thoughtful design of the private suites strikes a perfect balance between elegance and comfort, complete with expansive balconies featuring plush loungers, inviting one to bask in the tranquility of the open seas. A distinct dining area solves the common conundrum of room dining, separating it from the sleeping quarters—a detail I particularly appreciate.

The bathrooms redefine maritime luxury, challenging preconceived notions with their spaciousness, and the vanity stands out as a highlight. Thoughtful inclusions like binoculars, fitness gear, coffee makers, bathrobes, slippers, and even a valet for valuables make these suites a home away from home.

Value meets luxury here, with an inclusive pricing model that covers a vast array of experiences, from gourmet dining (with one exception for an extraordinary culinary journey) to both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, barring a few premium options. The open access to the spa’s hydrotherapy areas and high-speed Wi-Fi even in the midst of the ocean ensures a stay both indulgent and connected.

However, there’s room for technological integration, especially in dining. The ease of ordering food through an app or directly from the table, as experienced on Virgin Voyages, is a feature I find particularly convenient. While the Emporium offers a similar ambiance, it lacks this modern touch. It’s a minor detail, though, and the attentive staff often bridges this gap by offering tableside service. This isn’t a dealbreaker, but merely a suggestion that could elevate an already exceptional experience. Yet, this might be a deliberate choice, reflecting the preferences of the clientele Explora Journeys caters to.

In essence, Explora Journeys crafts an extraordinary voyage that seamlessly blends opulence with comfort, leaving wanderers like myself enchanted and eager to set sail.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Handy Tips

Absolutely. All guests must possess a valid passport and, where necessary, a visa that meets the requirements of the destinations visited.

Indeed, Explora 1 epitomizes luxury with its all-inclusive offerings:

  • A welcoming toast with champagne upon arrival
  • Gourmet experiences in nine distinctive restaurants
  • An unlimited selection of fine wines, premium spirits, teas, coffees, and soft drinks
  • Limitless WIFI connectivity throughout the vessel
  • Complimentary access to the spa’s thermal area
  • A diverse range of wellness and fitness activities
  • All gratuities included for a seamless experience

Explora Journeys offers a spectrum of curated itineraries, with prices beginning at around $3,300+ per person. The final cost varies depending on the journey selected.

Shore excursions are available at an additional cost. You can choose from an array of excursions or even design a personalized shore experience to make your journey truly unique.

How many passengers can   EXPLORA I accommodate? 

EXPLORA I provides an intimate and luxurious setting for 922 passengers, housing them in 461 suites. These range in size from a spacious 377 sq. ft to an expansive 3013 sq. ft for the Owner’s Residence, ensuring a private and serene experience for all.

Is there anything on board for Families?

Certainly! The Nautilus Club aboard Explora Journeys is a dynamic sanctuary crafted for our younger guests, welcoming those between the ages of 6 and 17 into a world of state-of-the-art amusement and developmental activities. The space is also open to children aged 3 to 5 during certain times, provided they’re accompanied by an adult.

From 9 AM until the stroke of midnight, the Nautilus Club sparks the imaginations of its visitors with the newest generation of gaming — think PlayStation 5, PlayStation VR2, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and Oculus Pro — alongside iPads brimming with interactive adventures.

Beyond digital delights, the Nautilus Club boasts tactile pleasures like a foosball and multi-game table, an Italian-crafted pool table, and a contemporary jukebox tablet with access to streaming giants like Spotify and Apple. Board game aficionados and bookworms aren’t forgotten, with a plethora of board games and a digital library that caters to diverse linguistic preferences.

Physical activities and creative pursuits like sports sessions, technology tournaments, painting, and arts and crafts keep the young guests engaged, while spaces to relax and bond with new friends are plentiful. Certified hosts, adhering to CLIA standards, ensure the safety and well-being of children.

Moreover, the club’s young guests are granted special access to the ship’s Sports Court, heated pools, and selected areas, amplifying the family-friendly ambiance. The Nautilus Club isn’t just a place for kids to pass the time; it’s a microcosm of discovery and joy, a special retreat within the grandeur of Explora Journeys.

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