When Explora I, the first of six Explora Journeys ships, sets sail from Southampton, England, on 17 July 2023, guests will be able to enjoy a unique food and beverage experience.
The ship will have 18 food and beverage venues, which will offer a range of signature dishes made with fresh ingredients, enabling guests to discover cuisines and flavours from around the world.
Explora Journeys’ head of culinary Franck Garanger and his team have put a lot of work into creating menus and recipes, and testing and refining the dishes until they are perfect. “My job is to create a culinary concept based on our owner’s vision of exploration,” he says. “Explora Journeys wants to take a different approach to others in the industry, so we’re focusing on sustainability and promoting European products.”
Garanger has travelled across Europe meeting suppliers of quality ingredients. “I selected a French company that produces organic chocolate that only comes from a cocoa bean farm in Cameroon – it’s amazing,” he says. “Our European travels even saw us select balsamic vinegar from a Swiss supplier.”
To combine with the top-quality ingredients, particularly those sourced from Europe, Explora Journeys’ culinary team has undertaken training from various institutions to ensure it produces special dishes. “We’re trying to bring a high-quality product to our guests so we can create a culinary world where they come in and learn something,” says Garanger. “It’s exploration and a unique way of approaching food. We’re not trying to be complicated, we’re keeping it very simple and focusing on the product.”
In the elegant food court Emporium Marketplace, for instance, guests will be able to choose from various destination-inspired dishes, such as sushi, pasta cooked to order, charcuterie and fromagerie boards, as well as fresh juices, smoothies and acai bowls.
Explora Journeys will be a cruise line for those that enjoy quality dishes. “Foodies will have a great time on this ship, discovering an ingredient or product that they may not have heard about,” says Garanger, highlighting that chefs will come to tables and answer questions about ingredients and dishes.
“We will also have a culinary school for guests,” adds Garanger. “A French master chef is going to run this programme and at a certain point, we will offer the chance for small groups to go with the chef to a market in a place like Sorrento, Italy, to buy ingredients that will be used in dishes they can enjoy once they’re back onboard the ship.”
It is not only food that is receiving this level of research. “We’re working with two talented wine consultants to bring wine onboard from small, exclusive producers,” says Garanger. “We are also developing a cocktail programme with mixologists that can only be described as ‘pure creation’.”
While food and drink form a vital part of Garanger’s role at Explora Journeys, he also considers the environment where guests will eat and staff will work. “It’s very important to consider the decoration, furniture and how we’re going to operate the restaurants,” he says. “I’ve been working with the architects to ensure that the décor of the dining venues matches the food and service on offer.”
An example of this is the Sakura restaurant, which has been inspired by the tea rooms of Kyoto, Japan, and will serve dishes made by chefs following traditional Japanese techniques and using meticulously sourced ingredients to create an authentic Pan-Asian experience. Menus will also feature Thai, Vietnamese and Malaysian cuisines.
“The Sakura restaurant will have some beautiful cherry blossom trees and dark reds so you can feel the strong Japanese influence straightaway,” says Garanger.
This sense of identity has been applied throughout all the restaurants, including Fil Rouge, which offers French-inspired cuisine. “When guests arrive, they feel like they are in France,” says Garanger. “There will be an intimate ambiance with white tablecloths, silver cutlery and nice wine. We’ve taken a similar approach in our Mediterranean restaurant, Med Yacht Club, where we want the food and the décor to make guests feel like they’re really in Italy, Spain, Greece or France!”
According to Garanger, Explora Journeys wants to become the reference for luxury cruise lines in Europe. “The vision is for a Michelin-style experience with a focus on delivering high-quality food and services,” he says.
This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 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 here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.