How Explora Journeys is designing for the discerning traveller

Michael Ungerer reveals the role that interior design will play in delivering a luxurious guest experience 

How Explora Journeys is designing for the discerning traveller
Explora 1’s Ocean Residences have been furnished with luxury products from European companies, including chandeliers from Astep

By Alex Smith |

When Explora Journeys enters the world of luxury travel in July 2023 with the debut of Explora I, it will be the realisation of a long-held ambition for the owners of its parent company, the MSC Group. Led by the Aponte family, the group is aiming to fill what it sees as a gap in the luxury cruise market by delivering a unique new experience for discerning travellers that evokes an ‘ocean state of mind’. 

It’s a vision that will be reflected in all aspects of the cruise line’s operations, including the design of its interior spaces. 

“Our aspiration is to create a unique ‘ocean state of mind’ by connecting guests with the sea, with themselves and other like-minded individuals, while offering remarkable itineraries that will blend renowned destinations with lesser-travelled ports for a journey that inspires discovery in all its forms,” says Michael Ungerer, CEO of Explora Journeys. “Our fleet of up to six luxury ships will be launched between 2023 and 2028 and will be exquisitely designed to stimulate the senses and enhance the guests’ connection with the ocean. The interior design has been developed in collaboration with both De Jorio Luxury & Yachts and London-based architectural and interior design studio NenMar.” 

The first of these six ships, Explora I, has been designed with a luxurious European style that recalls not only the standards of luxury ocean travel brands but also luxury resorts and retreats on land. Ungerer believes that this unique offering will place Explora in a category of its own, bridging the gap between the onboard and onshore luxury experience. 

“We recognise that there is an opportunity for a luxury lifestyle travel brand to capture the essence and flair of European luxury and bring it to the oceans of the world,” he says. “Within the sleek and distinctively modern interiors in the ship’s exquisite lobby, 12 bars and lounges, and six signature restaurants, guests can experience a vibrant, cosmopolitan atmosphere that is more often associated with some of the world’s finest luxury hotels, restaurants and bars.” 

Explora I’s interiors are intended to provide guests with a sense of spaciousness both in public areas and in their rooms, with an average of 18.4 square metres of space for every guest onboard. Suites offer an average of 42 square metres of space, while each of the 461 oceanfront suites, penthouses and residences include a private terrace. 

“Our ships offer unrivalled space and privacy,” says Ungerer. “Fourteen decks will provide ample indoor public space, maximising guest choice and create areas of quiet seclusion and privacy.” 

Another influence upon the design of Explora I has been Explora’s ‘ocean state of mind’ philosophy, which will be reflected in the use of specific elements and features throughout the ship. 

“Explora I has been designed with water as a real focal point of the onboard experience to help guests discover their own ‘ocean state of mind’,” explains Ungerer. “Generous outdoor decks will boast more than 2,500 square metres of space and deliver stunning views of the sea, with 64 private cabanas across three outdoor pools. A fourth pool with a retractable glass roof will allow guests to swim and relax poolside in any weather.” 

To help create the elegant environment it envisaged, Explora has designed its public spaces to allow for a smooth guest flow, creating a sense of freedom throughout the ship. The brand has worked in partnership with leading luxury interior design brands to complement the carefully designed architecture of these spaces with materials, products and colours that evoke a harmonious and peaceful atmosphere. 

“Our suites have been furnished with some of the best of Italian and European furniture,” says Ungerer. “These include products from Molteni&C, part of the Molteni Group, the leading independent industrial group in the high-end furniture sector with 100 per cent Italian production. The identity of Molteni&C lives in all the Explora suites through high-quality products and iconic pieces by Gio Ponti, all marked by the core values of Molteni such as tradition, quality, durability and reliability, supported by research and innovation. 

“Further enhancing the magnificent outdoor spaces, suite terraces have been furnished with exquisite pieces by Manutti, one of the world’s leading luxury outdoor furniture brands. Luxury bed and bath linens are from Frette, who use the most skilled Italian artisans to craft products that embody luxury, comfort and creativity. Meanwhile, future-thinking design and lighting brand Astep has provided bedside sconce lights and elegant chandeliers for the Ocean Residences. In our lobby, statement chandeliers from Preciosa create an intimate, elegant atmosphere.” 

Alongside its commitment to delivering the highest standards of luxury, Explora has prioritised sustainability throughout its designs. Ungerer explains that the line isn’t just looking to avoid creating a negative environmental impact, but to deliver benefits to both its guests and the destinations it visits. 

“One of our brand pillars is ‘Respect’ and this applies to everything we do, as well as the planet and the people we interact with,” he says. “It is no longer enough to avoid making a negative impact on the environment and we are focused on effective sustainability planning, maximising social and economic benefits for the local communities our ships will visit, enhancing cultural heritage, beyond just reducing any negative impact. Conscious luxury is reflected in the choice of materials, and our commitment to sustainability is demonstrated in our dedication to responsible sourcing of materials and the inclusion of eco-friendly details such as refillable bathroom amenities and no single-use plastic onboard.” 

When guests embark on Explora I for its maiden voyage from the UK port of Southampton, the brand will finally see their reactions to its efforts to create a unique and luxurious experience for them to enjoy. Ungerer measures the success of an interior design by its ability to provide an environment in which guests can best embrace that experience. 

“To define a successful interior design, the primary focus should be on creating a welcoming atmosphere that makes guests feel comfortable and at ease,” he says. “A successful interior design should prioritise functionality, aesthetic appeal, and comfort, while incorporating the vibrant spirit of Explora Journeys.” 

This article was first published in the 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Interiors for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door. 

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