Interior view: Explora Journeys’ Explora II

Explora Journeys’ Antonio di Nenno explains to Rebecca Gibson how the brand is working with partners to deliver an effortlessly luxurious cruise experience onboard its latest vessel

Interior view: Explora Journeys’ Explora II

Explora Journeys

AD Associates has designed the interiors of pan-Asian restaurant Sakura to reflect the ancient tea rooms of Kyoto in Japan

By Rebecca Gibson |

Guests will be able to “immerse themselves in effortless luxury” and experience an “ocean state of mind” onboard new luxury cruise ship Explora II when it debuts in August 2024, according to operator Explora Journeys. It will be the second ship for the brand, which is part of family-owned shipping business MSC Group and debuted its first vessel, Explora I, in August 2023.  

Following positive feedback from guests and the wider cruise industry that it successfully achieved its goal of delivering a superyacht-style experience onboard Explora I, the brand has opted not to make significant design changes to Explora II. Consequently, the newbuild will offer the same elegant interiors, upscale amenities, fine dining and personalised hospitality services. 

“Explora II’s design mirrors that of Explora I, which is the epitome of European luxury at sea,” says Antonio di Nenno, director of architecture and design for both Explora Journeys and MSC Cruises. “To ensure the design reflects our ‘ocean state of mind’ philosophy, we’ve incorporated the use of light, colour, space, privacy and maximised the connection to the sea.” 

Spanning 14 decks, Explora II will boast more than 2,500 square metres of outdoor public spaces, which will include three pools surrounded by a total of 64 private cabanas, a promenade deck with whirlpools, and poolside dining venues and bars. Other highlights will include a pool with a retractable roof, an art gallery, a casino, a boutique retail space, a 1,000-square-metre Ocean Wellness and fitness complex, six restaurants and 12 bars and lounges.  

In addition, the ship will have 461 expansive ocean-front suites, penthouses and residences, all with floor-to-ceiling windows and private sun terraces. Decorated with serene colour palettes and luxurious furnishings, the suites will offer a “real home at sea” for guests and range from 35 to 250 square metres in size.  

Explora Journeys has collaborated with renowned superyacht and luxury hospitality designers, outfitters and product suppliers to create Explora II. Several, including AD Associates, previously worked on the brand’s first ship.  

“AD Associates has developed Sakura, a Pan-Asian restaurant inspired by the ancient tea rooms of Kyoto in Japan, as well as the Marble & Co. Grill European steakhouse, and Anthology, our culinary stage for illustrious chefs,” says Di Nenno, noting that all dining spaces will retain the same signature designs as on Explora I. 

Similarly, Italian firm Studio DAZ has once again designed the retail area. “Together we’ve maximised natural and house lighting to create an elegant yet bright space,” says Di Nenno. “SMC Design developed the stunning aft terrace on Deck 5. Here, the infinity Astern Pool & Bar offers a seaside escape, further emphasising that water is a real focus for Explora Journeys.  

“Meanwhile, the suites were assigned to a specific and entrusted contractor, and we’ve worked with Astep within the Ocean Residences to showcase its elegant chandeliers and bedside sconce lighting. We know our guests will enjoy being in their suites as they feature the luxury design brands most likely found within their own homes.” 

Explora Journeys has focused on several design elements throughout the ship. “A successful interior design will make guests feel welcome and relaxed,” says Di Nenno. “We prioritise functionality, comfort and aesthetic appeal so our ships feel like a home at sea. Space is also key.” 

While Explora II will be largely the same as its sister ship, there will be some “understated differences” between the vessels. “We’ve increased our usage of Flos lighting solutions,” says Di Nenno. “These timeless lights, which will include both base and table lamps, will help define the soul of spaces and create harmony within all our suites.” 

MSC Seascape

Explora Journeys

Italian designer Matteo Nunziati has created bespoke outdoor furniture with a modular structure inspired by the architecture in the Swiss town of Davos for the Helios Pool & Bar

In addition, Explora II will feature new bespoke outdoor furniture crafted by interior designer Matteo Nunziati and Italian manufacturer Unopiù in the adults-only Helios Pool & Bar area at the front of Deck 12.  

Described as a “triumph of modular design”, Nunziati’s Davos collection features armchairs, chaises longues, sofas and coffee tables with right-angled, lightweight aluminium structures inspired by the architecture in Davos, Switzerland. The customised colour palette matches Explora Journeys’ signature blue branding and evokes ocean waves and azure skies. “The Helios Pool will be in the sunniest part of the ship and the furniture’s design effortlessly bridges the gap between indoor and outdoor lounging,” says Di Nenno. 

Explora II will also boast an extensive art collection curated by the Aponte Vago family, which owns MSC Group. “Each suite will feature a master artwork in the living room and there will be selected pieces by Swiss-Egyptian sculptor Yves Dana across the ship,” says Di Nenno. “We’re also working with other artists to deliver one-off masterpieces. In fact, 30 per cent of the artists who were commissioned for Explora II are new to Explora Journeys.”  

When the ship embarks on its inaugural sailing on 11 August 2024, guests will see for themselves that Explora II will uphold the “same exemplary standards of elegance and sophistication” as Explora I, says Di Nenno. “Every aspect of the design of our ships has a common purpose: to make guests feel as though they are at home.”   

This article was first published in the 2024 issue of  Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe  for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.  

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