Explora Journeys Aims to Reshape the Luxury Cruise Industry
The Aponte family has saltwater in its blood, with more than 300 years of seafaring to its name. Current patriarch Gianluigi Aponte even found love on the water, meeting wife Rafaela, the daughter of a Swiss banker, when she was a passenger on a boat he was captaining. Together, they founded MSC, which their children now run. So perhaps creating a luxury brand that redefines ocean travel was a natural next step.
“More and more travelers are craving authentic experiences, and they are willing to splurge on luxurious amenities and personalized service with a European touch,” Explora Journeys CEO Michael Ungerer told BOSS.
“We aim to immerse our guests into the ‘Ocean State of Mind’ through truly connecting them to the sea, themselves, and other travelers.”
The Ocean State of Mind extends to land, where Explora Journeys aims to distinguish itself with excursions that get right to the heart of a place and its culture. A hike to the “floating lake” known as Sørvágsvatn or Leitisvatn perched on a cliff 130 feet above the sea in the Faroe Islands is one such experience. Another is delving into the wilds of Greenland with Mike Horn, a renowned explorer and Explora Journeys’ first brand ambassador.
“Mike is a dedicated environmentalist whose work with communities and conservation organizations around the world has helped to promote sustainable living and protect the planet’s delicate ecosystems,” Ungerer said.
Eastern Canada & New England journeys will blend historic cities with outdoor adventures including opportunities to hike Quebec’s Forillon National Park or experience the rich indigenous culture of Cape Breton Island’s Mi’kmaq community with a Membertou Medicine Walk to learn how the community makes powerful medicines derived from nature.
On European journeys, guests can enjoy VIP access to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, enjoy a private yoga class in a castle in Bruges, and cook with local seafood in Lerwick in the Shetland Islands. In the Caribbean, guests can sail and snorkel in Point de Colombier Cove in St. Barth’s and enjoy lunch at the legendary Rum Vault in Barbados.
“When designing our destination experiences, we wanted to provide our guests with opportunities that leave them in awe long after disembarking,” Ungerer said. “Additionally, each will be executed with minimal impact on the natural environment and on local communities at each destination in accordance with our sustainability standards.”
Those sustainability standards have been built into EXPLORA I, the first of up to six ships Explora Journeys will debut through 2028. The line will continue incorporating the latest environmentally supportive technologies as new ships are built. EXPLORA I has a selective catalytic reduction system, a Baltic standard advanced wastewater treatment system, shore-to-ship power and an innovative hull design. EXPLORA III, IV, V and VI will be LNG-powered, with EXPLORA V and VI also being hydrogen-powered.
“Our very ethos is centered around the ocean, and we hold it and our planet in the highest regard,” Ungerer said.
All ships will be RINA Dolphin-certified with hull and engine room designs that minimize acoustic sound impact, reducing potential effects on marine fauna and mammals in the surrounding waters. Ungerer hopes that sense of calm will pervade above the water line as well.
“The ocean provides a relaxing energy that inspires discovery, broadens horizons, and cultivates new connections, and that is what we want each of our guests to experience when they are sailing with Explora Journeys.”
Heart of Luxury
The immersive experiences and sustainability measures befit new attitudes toward what luxury means. Ungerer wants guests to rest assured that Explora Journeys, “created at the heart of Swiss Hospitality and luxury in Geneva,” will also fit more traditional definitions.
“I like to say that our ships rival the world’s most sophisticated boutique hotels, rather than your typical cruise ship. Our dining options will offer diverse cuisine, showcasing flavors from the variety of destinations we visit. Our Ocean Wellness program will provide guests with a series of experiences to enrich physical, spiritual, and emotional health.”
Onboard shopping will include certified B Corp or The Butterfly Mark brands, as well as iconic luxury boutiques from Cartier, Panerai, Piaget, and Rolex. Suites, penthouses, and residences feature walk-in-closets, heated bathroom floors, 24-hour guest services, and high-end furniture from Molteni&C.
“Our vibrant and cosmopolitan European sense of luxury sets us apart, and guests will experience that throughout their journey,” Ungerer said.
Explora Journeys is investing more than $3.5 billion into its announced ships in an effort to meet the ever-evolving needs of discerning travelers. With more than 300 years of maritime heritage, the Aponte family is banking on its ability to raise the bar for ocean travel.