CruiseBorn out of a family’s love for the ocean, Explora Journeys wants to share the love for cruising with travel agents.

This new €3.5 billion luxury cruise line is making waves

Explora Journeys is MSC Group's latest venture into the cruise industry.
Explora Journeys is MSC Group's latest venture into the cruise industry.

Nearly 300 years of maritime legacy surround the birth of an up-and-coming luxury cruise line — Explora Journeys — after the family behind MSC Group set out on a passion project to embody their affinity for seafaring adventures.

Explora Journeys is the personification of ‘a dream come true’, spearheaded by executive chairman of MSC Group’s cruise division Pierfrancesco Vago, his wife Alexa Aponte Vago and the Aponte family.

Not to be confused with MSC Cruises, which also belongs to the MSC Group, Chris Austin, chief sales officer of Explora Journeys explained that “MSC Cruises is a contemporary brand, while Explora Journeys is a luxury lifestyle brand, a family’s dream to launch something very differentiated and distinct.”

Luxuriating in an ocean state of mind

The Explora I will debut in May 2023, with its other five sister ships set to follow in 2024, 2026, and 2027 and 2028.
The Explora I will debut in May 2023, with its other five sister ships set to follow in 2024, 2026, and 2027 and 2028.

Two of Explora Journeys’ six-ship fleet are currently under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard, with the first due to debut its maiden voyage around the Mediterranean in May 2023, while the rest of the fleet is set to sail the seas in full force by 2028.

Measuring 248m long, the inaugural ship Explora I will be home to 461 ocean front suites, all equipped with private terraces touted as some of the industry’s largest. The five different types of suites are also amongst the largest in their categories, ranging from 35sqm to 280sqm.

The most luxurious suite encompasses 280sqm of space, featuring a lounge and dining area, a fireplace, a private steam room, an ocean-front terrace spanning the full width of the ship’s aft with a private whirlpool and dedicated butler services.

The lobby bar, designed to evoke the grandeur of stepping into a stately European hotel, symbolises Explora Journeys’ “inspiration of true hospitality”, which according to Austin extends to “our hosts onboard who are true, passionate hospitality experts delivering personalised intuitive service”. There will be at least one host serving every 1.25 guests on board.

Guests can expect to find 18 dining venues at their fingertips, comprising 11 culinary experiences (nine inclusive) including six restaurants, in-suite dining, 12 bars and lounges (eight indoors and four outdoors), and Chef’s Kitchen. The menus are crafted from ingredients procured from local, sustainable sources.

During the day, guests can get their wellness and fitness on at a thermal area, treatment rooms, beauty salon, fitness studio for group or personal training, panoramic running track, sports court for touch tennis and basketball. Those looking to unwind can head to the three heated outdoor pools, an indoor heated pool with a retractable glass roof or the 64 private cabanas.

Come evenings, passengers can be kept entertained with bar and lounge experiences that run late into the night, featuring performers and artistes from all corners of the globe.

Sailing the globe with cruise agents at the fore

Unlike other cruise lines, Explora Journeys deprioritises direct bookings, choosing instead to put the travel trade at the forefront of its business plans and uplifting the global travel advisor community. 

Travel agents can receive up to 18% of commission on the full fare, with non-commissionable fees (NFCs) removed.

“The travel advisor community has been at the core of every decision we’ve made,” Austin shared. “We asked ourselves how we can support their business health and longevity. We did a lot of surveys with travel advisors, knowledge exchanges, and we created a portfolio of many industry-first policies, programmes and tools.”

Explora Journeys has a by-appointment service for travel agents “where they can set the time and day where our ambassadors will call them, hence 100% removing on-hold time”.

This has been a hit amongst agents, Austin shared, but Explora Journeys did not just stop there. A new by-appointment-plus service allows agents to schedule a second call with Explora Journeys and dial their client in for the line's ambassador to “help them close the sale by answering all the clients’ questions”.

Going one step further in supporting travel agents, Explora Journeys has launched another industry first through its rolling payment commission programme that gives travel agents 100% of their commission 21 days following payment from the client. 

Additionally, if clients pay in full for an early booking, they’ll get to enjoy a "5% to 10% value savings against the journey fare, allowing agents to have money in the pockets much earlier than standard practices in the industry", Austin revealed.

“This has taken a lot of focus, dedication and commitment, but it’s very important for us to support the advisor community and do some things other brands aren’t doing to ensure that they know we’re a distinct and very financially stable brand, and we will be the best partner in the industry for our travel advisors,” Austin said confidently.

“We launched giving six months exclusivity only to travel advisors. To this day, 98% of our business comes from the travel advisor community.”

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