Explora Journeys is preparing its inaugural voyage and they don’t want to be called a cruise line – this is the ship for people who don’t like to cruise.
A Six-Star Luxury Hotel At Sea
The scions of the MSC Group have built a luxury cruise line that doesn’t want to become another luxury cruise line – in fact, they don’t even call themselves a cruise line. They aimed to build a luxury six-star hotel at sea. By all accounts, it appears as though they have achieved this.
Every suite (no cabins or berths) has a walk-out balcony and a walk-in closet, there are no interior rooms. At levels such as the Ocean Residence, Ocean Penthouse, or Owner’s Suite, there’s an outdoor hot tub and even plunge pools on wrap-around balconies.
Explora has even gone so far as to include onboard shops for Cartier, Panerai, and Piaget to give you an idea of the kind of luxury the ship offers.
None Of The Things Travelers Hate About Cruising
Crowded pools filled with other people’s children, attended or otherwise, empty deck chairs reserved by a brave early-rising dad that has a family spot spoken for before reasonable people have stirred from bed. Buffets with mid-grade food or planned seating times for dinner at the banquet-style dining room don’t add much to the experience for travelers who have tried other cruise lines.
That’s not what Explora has built. There are no buffets onboard, rather eight restaurants and lounges plus 24-hour room service instead. Each item is plated, there are no set dining times, and every restaurant serves high-quality food and service. Staff is matched nearly 1:1 and while there are enough beds on the ship to allow more travelers, Explora caps its guest count at 920. Ingredients are locally sourced as the ship travels. It offers a chef’s kitchen with cooking classes and private dining.
Excursions are different too. These aren’t the Caribbean pitstops in a company-owned Bahamian island where the goal is to sell premium beach chairs. Rather, it’s snorkeling, and shopping trips, and historical tours.
With the exception of just a few journeys, Explora predominately offers one-way trips. That’s because it’s not about going out to cruise the water and head back, it’s about traveling and the experience of being in those destinations. For example, there are a few trips that will return to Miami, but generally speaking journeys tend to be Montreal to New York, Reykjavik, Iceland to Greenland, Miami to Bridgetown, Barbados or Cartagena, Colombia.
Explora doesn’t discount their itineraries but qualified luxury agencies may have preferential pricing, upgrades, or access. My own agency isn’t even allowed to post pricing it has access to.
Comparing To All-Inclusives
My agency has booked all-inclusive trips for couples and families that want to get away to places like Nobu (Cabo San Lucas, Mexico) or Secrets Impressions Moxche and resorts like these can run several hundred to more than $1,000/night per person. When comparing many of these journeys, the costs are comparable if not even less expensive while providing more restaurants, more flexibility, and more destinations.
Explora certainly has luxury competitors, but their biggest challenge is communicating to a new audience this product is different. Most travelers who have avoided cruising (for all the reasons I mentioned) will find it tough to see that there’s an option for them. Explora has to explain to a market that has never cruised before or cruised before and didn’t like the experience, that its product is different.
For some of those same objections to cruises, I personally have long prioritized luxury hotels over a cruise experience. They just didn’t fit what I was looking for. Explora seems to have overcome that, but their messaging has to escape the vortex of consistent cruisers and find travelers that have sworn off cruising because it didn’t fit their lifestyle.
Communicating to a younger demographic, and those who consider themselves explorers will be key to turning the vision the brand has established into reality. Younger travelers who are looking for a premium experience, and the ability to react, to really step into an environment might have not considered cruising before, but this is the exact experience that it creates.
Explora Journeys is trying to reach a new audience with a unique approach to travel, and not just cruising. It’s more or less the cruise for those who loathe cruises, at least as they’ve known them before. Explora offers a high level of luxury at competitive prices for an journey that is culinary, and experiential in nature. I’m personally targeting a November sailing to try the product for myself.
What do you think? Would you try Explora Journeys?