The first ship by Explora Journeys sets a high benchmark, says Sarah Hedley Hymers
Key selling points for travel agents:
- Perfect wifi connectivity for up to three devices per person
- Dyson hairdryers in suites
- Heated floors in en suite bathrooms
- An abundance of whirlpools, loungers and pools
- State-of-the-art spa
- Complimentary fitness classes
- Superb dining options including Anthology with a menu curated by guest chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants
Overview: The eagerly anticipated Explora I by Explora Journeys is a good-looking ship. Sea days are an absolute treat, giving guests a chance to luxuriate in the facilities. This is a ship that’s hard to leave. After a nine-day itinerary, I wanted to stow away and do it all again.
From the plush cabins to the attentive service, I couldn’t have been made to feel any more comfortable
The first in the Explora Journeys fleet, 922-passenger Explora I is crowned with the brand’s looping gold motif displayed atop a regal navy façade, a challenging colour to maintain at sea but done so flawlessly, hinting at the standard of hospitality inside.
Cabins: The ship’s Ocean Suites raise the bar on high-end accommodation at sea with no expense spared on mod cons from Dyson hairdryers concealed in dressing tables to smartphone charging docks seamlessly built into bedside cabinets.
The heated bathroom floors are the epitome of subtle luxury. En-suites also feature combined tubs and showers with twin showerheads for added power. Toiletries are by Mandala Blue.
Signature Italian design prowess is evident in cabin interiors. The underfoot decadence continues in plush grey carpets. Matching sofas and wool throws add to the home comforts, while display shelves and dividers decorated with coffee table books and statuettes add character.
A large TV loaded with movies and satellite channels can be angled towards the sofa or the bed, while the dividing shelving units help give the bedroom and lounge area a separate identity.
Kettles as well as coffee machines are supplied, ensuring a proper brew at any hour. Drinking water is replenished daily free-of-charge and water bottles are provided, with filling stations dotted around the ship. Guests’ choice of wine, spirits and mixers are also topped up regularly, allowing for impromptu cocktails on the balcony. With well-padded armchairs and a daybed, the balcony is a popular spot to enjoy the ever-changing views.
F&B: For a relatively small ship, there’s a glut of dining options to choose between. Breakfast is served a la carte on white tablecloths in Fil Rouge where the signature dish is a caviar-topped eggs Florentine.
At Emporium Marketplace, the ship’s all-day diner, a bountiful morning buffet awaits, loaded with platters of strawberries, blueberries, chia puddings, yoghurts, cereals, cold cuts, bacon, artisan breads, pancakes, crepes and a rotation of hot dishes, such as poached haddock, and eggs made to order.
Make the fresh juice station your first stop at the breakfast buffet for a healthy hit of green juice loaded with spinach, apple, celery and ginger
Elegant lunches are served at the Med-inspired Yacht Club and Japanese restaurant Sakura. Both also serve dinner alongside Fil Rouge, Marble & Co Grill and speciality dining venue Anthology. At a supplementary fee of US$190 excluding drinks, guests can sample a menu curated by Emma Bengtsson, the chef behind New York’s two-Michelin-starred Aquavit restaurant.
Private dining is available at the 12-seat Chef’s Kitchen table, which is also where participants of cookery classes – charged at US$165 – tuck into the fruits of their labours.
Between mealtimes, Crema Café is the place to pick up ciabattas, cookies and cakes, while afternoon tea is served in Explora Lounge, and there’s the tempting Gelataria & Crêperie by the main pool. Room service is available around the clock.
Besides the restaurants and cafes, there are more than 10 bars on board, with designated spots for smokers.
Facilities: It’s worth allocating 30 minutes a day to spa time. Sessions in the spa’s steam room, salt room, sauna and whirlpool with its powerful back-massaging jets, make for an invigorating start to the day. Spa treatments include muscle-melting massages from US$245, as well as facials, while manicures, pedicures, haircuts and hairstyling are offered in the salon.
There are indoor and outdoor gyms offering a programme of fitness classes, a sports court, three glamorous pools surrounded by plush sun loungers and cabanas, and an abundance of whirlpools so you don’t need to hover around the edges waiting for your turn like you do on most ships.
Elsewhere on the ship, you’ll find an art gallery, a casino and a selection of boutiques, including designer watch and jewellery shops and a fabulous fragrance store delivering a daily dose of retail aromatherapy.
Entertainment, activities and excursions: The daily programme of activities is packed. Complimentary undertakings range from wine-tasting to seminars on ‘The Secrets to a Flatter Stomach’ and lessons in how to create your own podcast, while chargeable options include cookery classes.
Ahead of each port stop, ‘Luminaries’ present talks about the upcoming destination, and excursions therein are varied. Kayaking, diving and snorkelling, lazy beach days sampling the local punch, nature trails, culinary explorations and one-off experiences – such as listening to a Martinique-born opera singer performing in the ruins of the island’s theatre – are among the options.
By night, the low-key entertainment typically takes the form of pianists and singers.
Become an Explora Journeys Expert
Located within the Explora Travel Advisor Centre, the Knowledge Suite provides an opportunity to discover more about Explora Journeys and consists of three levels, called ‘milestones’: Foundations, Experiences and Certified Expert. Agents can follow a self-directed path, which takes them through core brand attributes, journeys and experiences. On completion of each milestone, agents will be awarded a downloadable certificate and a badge that they can add to their email signature.
To find out more, visit the Explora Journeys Knowledge Suite at explorajourneys.com/int/en/travel-advisors/login