Looking grand: One of the Steinway pianos overlooks the Lobby Bar (Picture: Dave Monk)
Forget crew, cabins and shore excursions – welcome to hosts, homes at sea and destination experiences.
New cruise line Explora Journeys is redefining the language of cruising with its first ship Explora I.
Swimmingly good: One of the outside pools (Picture: Dave Monk)
The latest entrant to the ultra-luxury market aims to be a refined travelling hotel rather than a cruise ship, taking guests on journeys off the beaten track rather than to overcrowded ports.
I spent a day on board as the 900-passenger ship made its maiden call to Southampton today and was impressed by the opulence, style and level of detail.
Under cover: The pool under a retractable roof (Picture: Dave Monk)
The Aponte family that owns the MSC Cruises parent group wanted to chart a new course in the upmarket sector. They’ve overseen every stage of its evolution.
Explora Journeys exceeds even the level of luxury in its sister brand’s Yacht Club enclave. Too suites – selling for up to £42,000 a person for a ten-night cruise – even have their own infinity whirlpool, with guests greeted on arrival with a bottle of Dom Pérignon.
Shelf service: The Lobby Bar (Picture: Dave Monk)
Back to that vocabulary – the theatre is called a lounge and ‘shows’ are replaced by ‘evening-long experiences’, meaning whatever time you have dinner you’ll still catch some of the performance.
There’s no buffet but a ‘marketplace’ of food stations serving a variety of freshly prepared dishes.
Don’t call it a buffet: Part of the Marketplace (Picture: Dave Monk)
In all, there are six restaurants as well as 12 bars and lounges.
Bread is made on board from specially milled flour. Three Steinway pianos and five pools (three outdoor, one covered and a hydrotherapy one) grace the 14 decks.
It’s not a theatre: The Journeys Lounge (Picture: Dave Monk)
Among its top-end shops, Explora I boasts the first Rolex store at sea.
The spa is designed as a key feature rather than an afterthought.
Definitely not a library: An art installation (Picture: Dave Monk)
Though small enough to sneak into smaller ports without tendering, the ship feels spacious and uncrowded.
As the first of a fleet of six planned over the next five years, Explora I is challenging not only other luxury cruise lines but top hotels on shore. It really is a new experience at sea.