Above: Explora Journeys' new ship, Explora I

Explora I Launches a New Luxury Cruise Brand

<i>Explora I</i>, Explora Journeys

The MSC Group ventured into new waters last August with the much-anticipated first ship from Explora Journeys, its new luxury brand. Brimming with curiosity about the Geneva-based company’s take on high-end cruising, I boarded the Explora I last October for a quick four-day sail from New York City to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Astern heated pool, Explora I

The company touts this Italian-built vessel with 461 ocean-facing suites as an all-inclusive boutique luxury resort at sea rather than a traditional cruise ship. And indeed, walking into the lobby’s bar feels like stepping into a chic Four Seasons or Belmond hotel. It projects refined elegance with its neutral color palette, high ceilings, Italian-designer furnishings and marble coffee tables. Cartier, Panerai, Piaget and Rolex shops flank the bar on one side, and a charming boutique with mostly European artisan brands is on the other.

Our entry-level Ocean Terrace Suite — spacious by ship standards at 377 square feet — further reinforced the luxe hotel sensibility. Again, neutral colors and Italian furnishings gave the suite an elevated look. I also appreciated the balcony that accommodated a dinette and a couple’s daybed, the heated floors in the bath, the Frette bed and bath linens and touches like the Dyson Supersonic hair-dryer and Swarovski binoculars. Inconveniently for this writer, it didn’t have a desk. Neither do the 422-square-foot Ocean Grand Terrace Suites, but desks do come with the ship’s three other accommodation categories, which range from 463-square-foot Ocean Penthouses to the 3,014-square-foot Owner’s Residence, with an enviable terrace extending the full width of the ship.

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Above: Explora Journeys' new ship, Explora I