My family took a cruise over the Thanksgiving holiday and it really was a resort at sea. It helped us visit places we’d never been before. This is an introduction to our cruise on Explora Journeys.
We Don’t Really Cruise; It’s Not Really A Cruise
My family doesn’t really cruise, though we have another pair planned in the coming months. To this point, my nine-year-old daughter, for example, has been to 32 countries and UN territories but this was her first cruise. As many destinations in the Caribbean would require individual trips, we haven’t seen a ton of the islands and wanted to branch out.
In order to try cruises, it would have to be unique and different from the idea of what cruising was in our minds. We aren’t interested in small, crowded pools, thousands of passengers, buffets, casinos, and the nickel and diming that has become part and parcel to many of the brands.
Explora Journeys won’t even call themselves a cruise. They are all-balcony suites with walk-in closets, normal shower facilities, a low passenger count (maximum of 900 but about 400 were onboard with us), a high-level of service, and everything is included. It was more like a five-star all-inclusive resort at sea and that suited us well.
Trip Report Table Of Contents
- Miami: Kimpton Epic
- Explora Journeys
- Key West, Florida
- Sea Days
- Spanish Town, British Virgin Islands (Virgin Gorda)
- St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda
- Deshaies, Guadeloupe
- Gustavia, St Barth’s
- Basseterre, St. Kitt’s and Nevis
- Castries, St. Lucia
- Bridgetown, Barbados
I’ll dig into the above sections (they won’t all warrant separate report segments) but as an overview, I wanted to provide a little look into our impressions of the journey, the hard product, soft product, and perks of the trip.
Grand Penthouse Suite
While even the lead-in suites are sufficient, we stayed in a Grand Penthouse with a separate living room, dining room, heated marble floor bathroom, bedroom, and massive balcony deck. It exceeded our expectations. Our room host, Purna, serviced the room twice daily, and he was amazing.
Unlike some all-inclusive resorts and almost every other cruise line, Explora doesn’t charge for its restaurants, room service, food, or alcoholic beverages. The only restaurant with a charge was created by a two Michelin-star chef who joins most sailings and that service paired with wine is €85/per person. Because my travel agency is a Preferred Partner, we had a credit of €150/per person so we could have dined there twice for just €20 total.
The restaurants were amazing, our favorite was Sakura (pan-Asian) and Med Yacht Club (Mediterranean), though even the marketplace upstairs features a seafood bar with mussels, oysters, shrimp, crab, and lobster to our heart’s content.
There are a number of pools and hot tubs around the ship including an infinity pool. But our favorite was on deck 11 next to the gelateria. It featured a retractable roof and tons of loungers. There were never more than four people in that pool when we were onboard.
We’re generally not fans of sending our daughter off to the kids club, but in this case, we had trouble keeping her away. The staff was great, Elsa and Fatima in particular, and made us feel ok with our daughter being there with about 20 other kids on the ship during our journey. The Nautilus Club had a ton of activities my daughter loved including karaoke, a PS5, a pool table (the adult version is self-leveling) and a number of activities like basketball and pickleball on the 14th deck outdoors.
We haven’t seen as much of the Caribbean as we lived in Europe and Asia for the first third of our marriage. Island hopper flights can be booked of course, but it’s a different notion than traveling from Paris to Brussels to Amsterdam over a six-day period. A cruise offers a little slice of each of those destinations and helps us highlight places we may want to return with a dedicated trip.
Antigua and Barbuda wouldn’t have been on our list, but we loved the beaches on the island. St. Bart’s was great for shopping and a taste of French culture, but if you’re not looking for Prada and Dior, it might not be for you.
We don’t review cruises generally on Live And Let’s Fly but as outlined this year by both Matthew and I, we are spending this year branching out a bit further and being open to new experiences. Explora gave us an “ocean state of mind” and showed us that cruises don’t have to be mass-market and loud. They can be refined, limited, and luxurious and we loved our experience. I can’t wait to share more of our experiences on this trip.