Even as it grows its footprint in the US market, MSC is making a $3.75 billion investment in the luxury cruise segment with its new Explora Journeys line, focused on exclusive access for small, intimate groups, from two to 25 guests, and a slower pace of travel.
The first of six Explora ships is ready prime time, and this week announced the first eight itineraries in its Northern European Inaugural Journeys Collection.
It’s the right product for the right time, Explora Journeys chief sales officer Chris Austin told TRO.
“We have seen an increased demand for personalized luxury travel experiences, and Explora Journeys meets the desire for this type of travel,” he said. “Explora Journeys’ all-inclusive experiences are the ultimate way to indulge in luxury travel,” offering off-the-beaten-path and immersive experiences, intuitive service, wellbeing programs, 11 distinct culinary experiences and a bottle of champagne in every suite.
January was the line’s largest booking month so far—and while the six Northern European itineraries are proving popular, so too are the US and the Caribbean. And “several six-night Caribbean journeys, designed to attract a younger demographic, are as well doing well,“ Austin said.
As for the travel advisor channel, he noted, «Explora Journeys created a brand that fully embraces and supports the Travel Advisor community for the long-term and they are at the core of our go-to-market strategy. We have huge respect for their expertise, from which we listen and learn.”
To address their “most preferred status,” Explora has developed “innovative, industry-first platforms and bold commercial terms,” including an industry-first “By Appointment” service in which travel advisors can set up an appointment with an Explora Journeys customer experience representative, removing any on-hold time.
“Travel advisors can then discuss and place a hold or make a reservation on a specific suite for one or more or eight inaugural journeys during EXPLORA I`s first year, including the maiden journey in July 2023,” he promised. “Or they can invite their clients to join a call during which an Explora Journeys Ambassador can answer any questions and assist with finalizing their reservations.”
First destinations roll out
The first destinations were chosen to enable guests “to immerse themselves into the local culture, taste authentic food and discover truly hidden gems,” Sacha Rougier, Explora Journeys’ head of itinerary planning and destination experiences, said in a press release.
Highlights of the itineraries include:
Norway: Across the Norwegian fjords and the Arctic Circle, to the Leknes on the Lofoten Islands. From the port of Molde, a Viking ship ride to an 18th century fishing village.
Denmark: A kayak tour of Copenhagen, Skagen, the Faroe Islands, and a hike to the floating lake in Leitisvatn.
Iceland: Reykjavik, including a helicopter flight over volcanic craters; whale watching in Ísafjörður; remote Grimsey Island; an Icelandic horse experience in Akureyri.
Sweden: An ancient nature reserve in Goteborg, Hamneskar Island.
Netherlands: A private after-hours visit to the Mauritshuis in Rotterdam.
United Kingdom: VIP access to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo; a private visit to a premier Scottish Whisky distillery; a cooking class in the Shetland Islands; a private visit to Strawberry Field in Liverpool, John Lennon’s childhood playground.
Greenland: Qaqortoq; a traditional Kaffemik gathering in Nuuk; a trip to the Uunartoq Hot Springs; a round of golf on the world’s only arctic grass course.
EXPLORA I will be officially named on July 8, 2023, in Civitavecchia (near Rome) before heading to Southampton, UK, for her maiden journey on July 17, 2023.
A second and sister ship, Explora II, will enter service in August 2024 and sail the Mediterranean, the Middle East, the Indian Ocean, and Africa, stopping at 82 ports in 26 countries.
Travel advisors can book Explora Journeys via: www.explorajourneys.com/traveladvisors