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  • Writer's pictureJulie Prusak

Cruise Ship Review: First Look at Explora Journeys While Cruising the Caribbean Sea

Setting Sail on Uncharted Luxury: Aboard the New Explora I


A quick trip to the Caribbean was an indulgent luxury, especially during this busy holiday season. The main attraction of this trip was sailing onboard the stunning Explora I, the inaugural vessel from the Explora Journeys fleet, charting a course for extravagance on the seven seas like never before. Perfect for the seasoned cruiser eager to set foot on fresh decks as well as the maiden voyageur looking to dip into the world of high-seas adventure, Explora I promises an unrivaled experience.


photo: Explora I in St. Kitts


First Impression: Elegance Embarked


From the moment you step aboard the Explora I, as we did recently in Barbados, the ship asserts itself as a paragon of contemporary design intertwined with classical elegance. An atrium bathed in natural light welcomes you and a glass of Moet & Chandon champagne is offered, setting the tone for what is to be an enchanting journey. It's less of a ship and more of a floating boutique hotel, with each corner promising personalized luxury that nods to the grand era of ocean travel while firmly stepping into the future. Aiming for high touch and high tech, the ambition is to ensure that cutting edge technology creates a smooth and easy flowing environment, freeing up staff to offer the kind of attentive, unobtrusive, and highly personalized service that will make your stay on board uniquely special.


photo: Stingray City


Staterooms: Your Private Sea Haven


With every suite offering ocean views and balconies, the outside wonders never cease to wow. Ranging from cozy to palatial, these abodes at sea are crafted with the finest materials and are teeming with amenities - from walk-in wardrobes to marble bathrooms. The furnishings are tasteful and plush, ensuring your comfort is paramount, while the balconies invite you to enjoy a morning espresso or an evening aperitif with the waves as your backdrop.


Our Ocean Grand Terrace Suite was spacious, refined, and elegant: a walk-in wardrobe with lots of storage, a spacious bathroom, walk-in shower with heated floors and a state-of-the-art Dyson supersonic hairdryer. Frette bath towels, linens, and comfy robes complete the home-away-from-home vibe.


To top it off, a chilled bottle of Veuve Clicquot was waiting to welcome us along with a well-stocked mini bar, an espresso machine, and a tea kettle. Throughout our journey, our suite host kept our accommodations impeccable and even cleaned our muddy shoes after we returned from an excursion.


photos: Explora I suite features


The incredible range of suites onboard Explora have been thoughtfully designed with a focus on natural light, space, and views of the ocean. All feature floor to ceiling windows and private terraces and have an elegant and contemporary décor.


Owner's Residence

With only one onboard and a generous 1664 square feet of indoor space plus a panoramic terrace covering the full ship's width, this is the ultimate home away from home featuring dedicated butler services and a large private outdoor whirlpool.


Cocoon Residence

An expansive wraparound terrace and large separate living and dining area make this the perfect space for entertaining or relaxing in style, plus enjoy private butler services.


Serenity Residence

Enjoy the generous terrace complete with outdoor dining table, sun loungers and whirlpool bath to truly make the most of the serene ocean views.


Retreat Residence

With up to 872 square feet of space including the terrace, these residences feature a spacious lounge, private butler service and separate bathtub and walk-in shower.


Cove Residence

A generous living area with floor to ceiling windows means this is a light and airy option and features a private outdoor whirlpool and loungers, plus butler services.


Grand Penthouse

Enjoy an expansive penthouse featuring a walk-in wardrobe with seated vanity, spacious work desk area and up to 732 square feet of space including terrace.


Premier Penthouse

Occupying premium mid-ship locations, this penthouse enjoys separate living, dining and sleeping areas with a private mini-bar and personal refillable water bottles.


Deluxe Penthouse

A spacious dining and living area make this a comfortable option with up to 657 square feet of space including the terrace plus a seated vanity area.


Penthouse

Make the most of the private terrace in this penthouse with sun loungers and binoculars for use during your voyage, plus Technogym fitness equipment.


Ocean Grand Terrace Suite

Enjoy 420 square feet of space including the terrace and make use of an espresso machine, walk-in shower, and spacious wardrobe with vanity.


Ocean Terrace Suite

This comfortable suite boasts 377 square feet of space including terrace and features a walk-in wardrobe, lounge area and an outside daybed for relaxation.


All suites include:

  • Floor-to-ceiling windows with private terrace

  • Bespoke king-sized bed sleep system (some suites with twin beds)

  • Extensive pillow selection

  • Lounge area with coffee/dining table

  • Private refrigerated mini-bar, replenished according to guests' preferences

  • Walk-in wardrobe with seated vanity area

  • Complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi for unlimited devices

  • 24-hour in-suite dining

  • Twice-daily housekeeping services, including evening turndown service


Onboard Experiences: Activities for All Ages and Interests


The Explora's ethos of 'Ocean State of Mind' was represented everywhere on this ship. With programs designed to connect like-minded guests through shared passions as well as providing immersive and specially curated entertainment, there are many options to satisfy all tastes and offer an enriching and memorable voyage.



  • Program of destination-inspired talks by guest Luminaries

  • Talks from experts in the field of creative arts and science

  • Intimate musical performances and themed immersive musical events

  • Photography classes

  • Whisky tastings and mixology sessions

  • Barista-led coffee tastings relevant to your journey

  • A state-of-the-art Children’s Center, the Nautilus Club

  • Chef’s Kitchen for culinary classes at sea

  • Guided meditations and wellness rituals

 

Sticking to the philosophy of Ocean Wellness a visit to the spa was a must - and provided the best treatments I have ever experienced at sea. The aroma of peppermint lingered in the air, whilst the mood was inviting and relaxed.


You will be spoilt for choice with a steam room, a sauna, a saltwater hydrotherapy pool, a salt cave, an experience shower, and a relaxation room with heated marble loungers. An assortment of treatments are also available and if you're planning to book a treatment on a sea day, do it well in advance to avoid disappointment. With over 7,5000 sq ft of indoor and outdoor wellness facilities and over 2,900 sq ft of fitness facilities, Explora has made a significant investment in wellness.


photos: Astern Pool, Fitness Centre, Open Air Fitness on Explora I

 

One of our favorite experiences at sea was taking a hands-on pasta making class taught by an award-winning chef. Our intimate group of 5 crafted exquisite ravioli stuffed with mozzarella served with tomato sauce and delicate tortelloni filled with delectable spinach and cheese stuffing and smothered in brown butter and sage sauce. After our class, we devoured our creations with paired Italian wines and lively conversation. What a wonderful way to make new friends while learning new skills.


photo: Chef's Kitchen pasta making class


Amenities: More than a Dash of Splendor


What's a luxury cruise without sumptuous amenities? Explora I answers with an array of services that go above and beyond. Rejuvenate at the spa, a sanctuary where wellness is whispered in every treatment and echoed in the tranquil ambience. Those seeking to uphold or improve their fitness routine even at sea will find solace in the state-of-the-art gym, featuring classes and personal trainers. Technogym equipment and the Technogym App allows anyone to create and follow a precision fitness program.


Explora offers a great mixture of indoor and outdoor venues, so whether its leisure, fitness, rejuvenation, or enrichment you're sure to find elegant surroundings and state of the art facilities.

  • A spacious spa with a multitude of treatment rooms and an outdoor relaxation area

  • Beauty studio for bespoke treatments

  • Well-equipped gym and fitness studio

  • Open-air fitness deck overlooking the ocean

  • 360-degree running track

  • Dedicated sports courts for pickleball and basketball

  • The Conservatory featuring a weather-protected swimming pool

  • Two outdoor swimming pools and several whirlpools

  • Casino, art gallery and curated shopping

  • Numerous indoor and outdoor bars and lounges

The pool decks are nothing short of an oasis, designed for those moments when all you desire is to bask in the sun with a good book or sip on a craft cocktail crafted by mixologists who know their art inside and out. Each evening, entertainment ranges from high-energy shows to sophisticated lounges where the clink of a glass underscores the hum of conversation.


Culinary Expeditions: A Feast for the Senses

The dining experiences on Explora I rival some of the best restaurants on land. Offering a collection of eateries catering to eclectic palates, every meal becomes a culinary expedition. Whether you’re sampling the haute cuisine at the Emporium Marketplace or surrendering to the sweet allure of the intricate pastries at the Crema Café, freshness and quality shine through. For those who appreciate an intimate dining affair, 24/7 private dining services complement the restaurants.


photos: menu items from Marble & Co Grill and Fil Rouge on Explora I


At every venue, the food was the best I’ve experienced at sea. Every dietary restriction can be accommodated. The quality of the ingredients shines through the expert preparations.

At each meal, we were greeted by an entourage of happy chefs and waiters. With their beaming smiles, it felt like returning to your favorite local restaurant.


Anthology

Curated menus crafted by Michelin-starred guest chefs showcasing global cuisines, combined with unique wine pairings, create a one-of-a-kind chef experience. Open exclusively for dinner with seating for 48 guests indoors and 22 guests outdoors; reservations required and surcharge applicable per person.

Chef's Kitchen

Immersive ocean-front private kitchen experience open for cooking classes and dinner only for 12 guests, changing menu dependent on the cruise region and created from ingredients from local markets and producers ashore.

Emporium Marketplace

All day dining for 270 guests indoor and 70 guests outdoor, with global cuisines offered from 18 separate cooking stations, including daily rotisserie, sushi and ceviche stations, pasta made to order, patisserie, fromagerie and fresh juice bar.

Fil Rouge

Seating 220 for breakfast and dinner, serving elegant French-inspired cuisine complemented with New and Old-World wines and a dessert cart with tempting creations served tableside.

Marble & Co. Grill

Refined European steakhouse for 80 guests, with handpicked cuts from sustainable sources, complete with in-house dry-ager and spectacular wine cellar.

Med Yacht Club

Regional Mediterranean cuisines, tastes and textures from Italy, Spain, Greece, France and North Africa for 130 guests at lunch and dinner, including plant-based and vegetarian options.

Sakura

Serving 90 guests indoors and 25 guests outdoors for lunch and dinner, offering Pan-Asian cuisines with inspiration from Japanese heritage and traditions, Asian influenced beverages and a Sake sommelier.


Whether it's a pre-dinner glass of wine or a poolside cocktail, you will find an abundance of lounge choices on Explora. The sleek and central Lobby Bar is perfect for meeting friends before dinner, the Explorer Lounge is the place to be for 270-degree views and piano music performed by Steinway artists in residence, and one can sample whisky from around the world at Malt Whisky Bar. For making the most of the sunshine, visit the Astern Pool & Bar for relaxed beach club ambience or the Sky Bar for infinite ocean views. With 12 bars and lounges, there is one to suit every taste.


For those guests who avoid alcohol, there are a large variety of mocktails and non-alcoholic wines and beers available. Guests can opt to wear a pin signaling to the servers to only offer non-alcoholic beverages.


Service: Attentive, Personal, Unobtrusive


Service aboard the Explora I is intuitive. Crew members (referred to as “hosts”) seem to anticipate your needs before even you do. The guest-to-staff ratio is impressive, culminating in an atmosphere of attentive yet unobtrusive service that adheres to the highest standards of seafaring hospitality.


Excursions: Discovering the World in Style


One of the most enchanting aspects of cruising is the opportunity to explore diverse destinations, and Explora I rises to the occasion with an impressive selection of shore excursions. Every outing is curated to ensure an immersive experience, whether that's through a guided tour of historical landmarks, a private cooking class featuring local cuisine, or a wildlife encounter tailored for those who yearn for the natural world.


While on our itinerary from Barbados to Miami, the ship was my favorite destination, we did enjoy our shore excursions. In Antigua, we ventured by luxury van to a small boat which whisked us to Stingray City, a shallow lagoon where we could touch, feed, and interact with gentle Southern stingrays. Our guides were as gentle as the stingrays and very patient as we fed the eager stingrays all the squid in the bucket.


photo: Julie & Conrad Prusak at Stingray City


After our snorkeling experience, we hopped back on the boat and visited Laviscount Island, a small private island used as a nature sanctuary for Aldabra giant tortoises and rescued exotic birds. These ancient tortoises grow up to 600 lbs and live up to 200 years. They eagerly consumed the carrots we offered. After feeding the tortoises and taking a short nature walk, we were served a lovely Caribbean barbecue and drinks from the open bar before returning to our waiting ship.


photos: Aldabra giant tortoise, red turtle, and parrot on Laviscount Island


Every Caribbean itinerary includes a stop at Ocean Cay, MSC’s private island in the Bahamas. Unfortunately for us, rough seas prevented us from docking, so we missed the many water activities offered. According to our captain, the sea conditions prevent docking as much as half the time.


Shore excursions are not included in the cruise fare and are priced in Euros. I found the pricing to be higher than similar excursions offered on other cruise lines or through independent vendors. Shore excursions can be booked in advance or while onboard subject to availability. All three of the excursions that I pre-booked were cancelled so we needed to reselect excursions once onboard.


Additionally, Explora I's smaller size compared to some behemoths of the seas means she can slip into ports larger vessels must wistfully sail past, offering a peek into hidden gems and less-traveled waterways.


Sustainability: Sailing with a Conscience


In today's world, luxury isn't just about grandeur; it's about sustainability and responsible travel. Explora I admirably addresses this with an array of eco-friendly initiatives. From advanced waste management systems to energy-efficient design, this ship sets a course for responsible cruising without sacrificing comfort.


Safety and Navigation: Peace of Mind on Every Deck


For first-time cruisers in particular, safety is a paramount concern. Explora I is a vessel built not only with luxury in mind but with the latest advancements in maritime technology. With a highly trained crew adept at navigating the seas under all manner of conditions and state-of-the-art safety features, you can enjoy peace of mind from embarkation to the moment you step back on terra firma.


Farewell to Land: Your Bon Voyage Awaits


As the sun sets on your final evening aboard the Explora I, you're likely to find yourself on your balcony, recounting the many memories crafted over the span of your journey. The exploration, the luxury, the serenity, and the exhilaration coalesce into a heartfelt farewell to a ship that is more than just a means of travel – it is a vessel of dreams.


For luxury seekers, Explora I represents the potential to redefine what a cruise can offer. Expansive in its offerings yet intimate in its approach, each voyage is a testament to the belief that the journey should be just as precious as the destination.


So, whether it is your first rendezvous with the sea or you're a seasoned sailor of the globe's oceanic highways, the Explora I waits to welcome you aboard for an ultra-luxe experience. Prepare for an odyssey of comfort and discovery, where you’ll not only visit destinations but truly experience them. Begin a new chapter in your travel story with Explora I, and let luxury be your compass on the ever-enticing waters of the world.


Contact me for exclusive, limited time offers on Explora Journeys.

                                                                                                  

Let's get started planning your luxury vacation! Reserve your complimentary consultation call with me to begin!


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