We recently sailed on one of the inaugural voyages onboard the new Explora I. After an overnight flight to London, we boarded the ship in Southampton for the 9-night UK voyage, visiting ports of call in Scotland, England, and Ireland.
The ship was delivered to MSC Explora Journeys less than a month ago. This new division of MSC promises a “New Era of Luxury Ocean Travel.” With 461 luxury suites, double guest occupancy is 922. On our sailing there are about 450 guests, so things are fairly quiet and service is nearly flawless.
There are approximately 640 crew and staff onboard the ship. Much of the staff are first-timers in the cruise industry; however, Explora Journeys has done a great job of recruiting excellent talent from Thailand, Indonesia, India and the Philippines. Most crew members have been on board the ship since early June or July. They are anxious to serve, and from our experience, they are doing a great job.
The ship is beautiful. The modern clean style is carried through from the suites to the interior spaces as well as the outdoor pools and bars. While it isn’t exactly pool weather as we travel north, these spaces will be perfect in the Caribbean or Mediterranean.
The covered Conservatory Pool was the most popular along with two massive outward facing whirlpools. There are two of these same outward-facing whirlpools on deck 12 and a smaller, more intimate whirlpool next to the Sky Bar on deck 14. The Atoll Pool and Bar is on deck 10 and Astern Pool and Bar on deck 5.
Bars & Restaurants
Indoor spaces, starting with the impressive Lobby Bar are clean, intimate and comfortable. The Journey Lounge on deck 4 is the main presentation/theatre area. Forward on deck 11 is the Explora Lounge, including the Malt Whisky Bar, which was always quite popular on our cruise. Also on deck 11 is the impressive Chef’s Kitchen where cooking classes were offered throughout the cruise.
At the rear of deck 11 is the Emporium Marketplace, the buffet on most other cruise ships. Here, some dishes are offered buffet style, but much of the food is freshly made at custom stations offering salads, stir fry bowls, grilled burgers and fish sandwiches, a carvery station, pastas, salmon and sushi.
Other restaurants include the very upscale Anthology, where guest chefs join Explora’s team to create unique and always changing menus. With a surcharge of approximately $80 per person, this was an interesting experience, but offerings were a bit too unique for us and we’d probably not recommend or return.
We did enjoy Sakura, a fine dining experience offering Pan-Asian Cuisine. The more traditional Marble & Co. Grill is a beautiful steakhouse and garnered high praise from us and other passengers onboard. However, our favorite was the Med Yacht Club, a slightly more casual restaurant serving great dishes from the Mediterranean region.
From Southampton we had a day at sea, which is always a great way to start a trip, especially when you are exploring a new ship. The next two nights were in Edinburgh, Scotland, where we splurged on tickets for the final night of Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Staged on the grounds of the beautiful and inspiring Edinburgh Castle, the show highlights military marching bands from around the world.
This year we were fortunate to see the US Air Force marching band as well as performers from Norway, Australia, Trinidad & Tobago and Switzerland. The UK was represented by the Royal Air Force and, as always, the Massed Pipes and Drums with their beautiful bag pipes and drums.
The final performance of the evening was the lone piper, in a spotlight high on the castle walls followed by fireworks. We believe Military Tattoo should be on everyone’s bucket list!
From Edinburgh, we sailed to Newcastle upon Tyne, England; Invergordon, Scotland; Isle of Skye, Ireland; Greencastle, Ireland; Liverpool, England and then disembarked in Glasgow, Scotland.
Inaugural Season Itineraries
During Explora I’s inaugural season, the ship will cross the Atlantic arriving in New York City in late September 2023. Through October she’ll sail New England and Canadian itineraries before repositioning to Miami for a Caribbean season.
In late March 2024, Explora I will transit the Panama Canal for sailings along the U.S. West Coast. She’ll return to Europe in late May to begin Mediterranean sailings for the summer of 2024.
Explora II, the second ship from Explora Journeys, will launch in late August 2024, beginning with Mediterranean sailings, before transiting the Suez Canal for Eastern Arabia itineraries. The ship will then transit to Cape Town, South Africa, in early 2025.
Contact us if you’d like more information or to book your Explora Journeys vacation!