Luxury cruising has always been my preferred way to travel. The impeccable service and value provided by six-star cruise lines surpass that of any five-star hotel. So, when I heard about MSC Cruises launching a new luxury brand, Explora Journeys, I knew I had to experience it for myself. Despite initial skepticism about MSC’s luxury capabilities, I recognised that being owned by a family with the world’s largest shipping company could translate into something extraordinary. Fast forward to the summer of 2023, when I find myself on a plane to Iceland with my partner, embarking on an unforgettable journey aboard the inaugural ship, EXPLORA I.
Discovering the Elegance Upon Embarkation
As we boarded EXPLORA I, the ship’s elegant design immediately caught my attention. Every detail exuded luxury, from the sleek interiors to the impressive central bar. Our Premier Penthouse exceeded expectations, offering spaciousness, a dining area, living space, and a self-contained bedroom. The heated floors in the bathroom were a delightful surprise, and the separate dressing area with a Dyson hairdryer and leather-lined clothing rails added a thoughtful touch. But what truly sets the suite apart is the overall design, which fosters relaxation and indulgence. It truly felt like home.
While I’ve encountered exceptional crews on previous luxury cruises, the crew on EXPLORA I surpassed all expectations. Despite only being on the ship for a few weeks, the team operated like a well-oiled machine, brimming with excitement and a shared commitment to excellence. This exceptional crew made such an impression on me that I initially started taking mental notes of their names for my cruise review, but quickly realised there were too many to mention individually. From Hala, the maître d’ who went above and beyond to protect our eyes from the setting sun while enjoying sushi, to Bertie with his flavourful hot sauce, the crew’s dedication to personalisation was evident. Explora Journeys’ deliberate hiring decisions and early bonding activities among the crew truly paid off, resulting in an unforgettable experience filled with personalised service and genuine conversations.
One aspect of EXPLORA I that left a lasting impression on me is the exceptional food. Whether it was the Marketplace buffet concept, which transformed the ordinary cruise buffet into a luxurious restaurant experience, or the two speciality restaurants, Marble and Co. and Sakura, the culinary offerings were outstanding. Sakura, in particular, surpassed expectations with its sensational sushi (in my opinion the best at sea). Although we were initially told we could only visit the speciality restaurants once per sailing, the accommodating staff allowed us additional visits without any issue. The main dining rooms, such as Med Yacht Club and Fil Rouge, also delivered outstanding quality. I must emphasise the variety and flexibility in the dining options, making Explora Journeys a perfect choice even for picky eaters.
The Pools that Stand Out
One design feature that captivated me on EXPLORA I was the innovative pool design. Unfortunately, due to the cool weather in this region, I didn’t have the opportunity to fully appreciate the ship’s outdoor spaces. However, I couldn’t help but admire the contemporary, almost hotel-like design of the pools. Surrounded by large daybeds and strategically positioned to maximise the breathtaking views, these pools create a perfect ambience for relaxation and indulgence. I could only imagine the unparalleled experience of lounging around these elegant pools in the Greek Isles or the French Riviera.
If you’re wondering where Explora Journeys sits in the luxury cruise market, rest assured it holds its own against other industry favourites. Exceptional service, culinary offerings, and innovative designs make it a fit for existing clients of those luxury brands. However, I believe that Explora Journeys would also be particularly appealing to those who enjoy staying in luxury hotels. With its emphasis on design, comfort, and personalised service, Explora Journeys offers a more intimate and unique way to experience the world that is sure to captivate even those who are new to cruising.
My experience on EXPLORA I with Explora Journeys was nothing short of extraordinary. The ship’s elegant design, impeccable service, culinary delights, and thoughtful touches have left an indelible mark. If you are seeking a luxury cruise experience that exceeds all expectations, I wholeheartedly recommend Explora Journeys. Embark on EXPLORA I and embark on a journey of discovery that will transport you to new heights of luxury and indulgence.