Cruise & Ferry Review - Spring/Summer 2023

69 A rendering of Explora I, which will be christened in Civitavecchia near Rome, Italy, on 8 July before heading to Southampton, UK, to embark on its maiden voyage engines, which will also create space for additional suites and larger public areas. They are set to debut in 2026 and 2027, respectively. “When we ordered the first set of four ships, LNG fuel was not available at scale for worldwide deployment, but we had time to rethink during the pandemic,” says Ungerer. “We decided to halt the planning for Explora III and Explora IV so we could come up with a more sustainable solution. At the same time, the group was in discussion with Shell about our global LNG supply. Consequently, we added 19 metres to both ships to accommodate LNG and improve their sustainability performance.” Explora V and Explora VI will also feature a new generation of LNG engines that will tackle the issue of methane slip, as well as host of other industryfirst environmental solutions. They will include a containment system for liquid hydrogen that will enable the cruise line to use the fuel in future. If hydrogen is available, it will be used to power a six-megawatt fuel cell that will run hotel operations while the vessels are in port, allowing them to switch off their engines and eliminate emissions. “We’re working on plans to install a hydrogen proton-exchange membrane fuel cell and we’re aiming to fit the latest main engines to resolve the methane slip issue,” says Ungerer. Given that Explora Journeys has such a polished identity, outside observers would assume that the project to launch the brand and build the first ships has been smooth sailing throughout. And they would be largely correct. “Fortunately, we haven’t had many challenges to overcome, largely because we have found the right people,” says Ungerer. “We’ve hand-picked the very best team and everyone has found it appealing to launch the new brand of a respected family-owned and operated business. “This has been a passion project from the outset, one that will tick every box for discerning next-generation luxury travellers. Explora Journeys was born in Switzerland, the epicentre of luxury hospitality.” Explora Journeys is launching its first vessel at a time when demand for luxury cruises on small ships is high and the number of competitors entering the market is growing. While some operators may be phased by the thought of an increasingly saturated market, Ungerer is confident that every brand will find its own nuanced niche. “Even with all the new brands entering the market, there’s room for everyone and together we’ll make it better,” he says. INTRODUCING CAPTAIN SERENA MELANI Explora Journeys has appointed Captain Serena Melani as master of Explora I. Melani, who previously worked as bridge officer onboard several cargo ships before joining a luxury cruise line in 2010, became the first Italian female cruise ship captain in 2016. She was also the world’s first female captain to bring a cruise ship out of a shipyard in 2020. “It’s a great privilege for me to be the first captain for Explora Journeys and to be involved in this newbuild from the beginning, to lift my personal bar and to challenge myself,” she says. “This role is the cherry on the cake; it offers me the opportunity to give something of myself to the soul of the ship.”