When Explora 1 set sail on its maiden voyage from Denmark’s capital Copenhagen on 1 August 2023, it marked the start of full operation for new luxury cruise brand Explora Journeys. For the brand’s head of product Jason Gelineau, the departure also marked the end of a complex three-year journey to take the cruise line from inception to reality.
At the beginning of the project, the team explored various ideas inspired by the vision of the Aponte family, which owns Explora Journeys and its parent company MSC Group.
“We started with a blank piece of paper,” says Gelineau. “That gave us the opportunity to develop something truly unique and different to fill what the Aponte family saw as a gap in European luxury travel. Now, as I walk around the ship, I’m blown away by how beautiful it is. It’s like my baby has come to life!”
Explora Journeys aims to attract the next generation of luxury travellers by providing a new kind of luxury cruise experience inspired by the upscale resorts and hotels they might frequent on land.
“Our perfect guest is the discerning traveller who is attracted to a luxury brand,” says Gelineau. “There are already a lot of great luxury cruise brands that have done well in building a group of very loyal guests. I’ve been in the industry for 29 years and worked for some of those brands, and I’ve seen the fantastic work they do. But at the same time, they have not always changed their offering to meet the expectations of newer generations. Explora Journeys wants to build a brand for the future.”
To capture the attention of this type of traveller, Explora Journeys has formed multiple partnerships with other luxury brands to offer premium products and experiences onboard the ship.
“Our clients understand value and quality, so these partnerships are important,” says Gelineau. “Guests in our residences don’t just get the complimentary brand champagne in their room, they get Dom Perignon. We’ve got three Steinway pianos onboard, and Steinway musicians will come onboard as guest artistes during our cruises. And Swiss watch manufacturer Rolex has designed its first shop at sea specifically for Explora I, which is truly a game-changer.”
Explora Journeys’ crew members – which it refers to as hosts – will play a pivotal role in delivering a luxury experience. There are 642 hosts of more than 55 different nationalities onboard Explora 1, and they have been recruited from both the land-based hospitality and luxury cruise sectors.
“Our hosts will be the secret to our success,” says Gelineau. “We have recruited them from very diverse posts around the globe, and even while Explora 1 was in the shipyard, their energy and enthusiasm was unbelievable. Everyone had to apply face to face, and our first team members were personally handpicked by the senior executives of each department. The team we’ve put together has great knowledge and understanding of the luxury experience from their time with other brands, which gives me real confidence in our offering.”
In recognition of the hosts’ commitment to delivering the optimal guest experience, Explora Journeys provides a range of benefits to improve their time at sea too.
Hosts are able to participate in classes with onboard fitness and yoga instructors and enjoy entertainment from the resident artistes. Front-of-house team members will also only spend five months onboard, rather than six to eight months, allowing them to visit home more often.
“Being a host is a challenging lifestyle and people have to be away from home for long stretches of time,” says Gelineau. “That’s why we built our host lifestyle experience. We wanted to reward our outstanding crew for their efforts and ensure they can work at 100 per cent of their potential while onboard. It keeps our team fresh, both physically and mentally, and their families get to see them more often, which is something hosts really appreciated.”
This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Review for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.