By Rebecca Gibson June 10, 2021

The MSC Group is to enter the luxury cruise market for the first time with new brand Explora Journeys, which will comprise four luxury ships built by Fincantieri and scheduled for delivery in 2023, 2024, 2025 and 2026.

Fincantieri cut the steel for the first ship Explora I at its yard in Monfalcone, Italy on 10 June during a ceremony attended by representatives from MSC Group, Explora Journeys and Fincantieri’s management team.

“Building a luxury brand that will redefine the cruise experience and create a category of its own has been a long-held vision of mine and my family,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Group’s cruise business and broader passenger division. “Inspired by our personal travel wishes, Explora Journeys will be an ocean escape like no other, allowing guests to relax, make memories, and cherish the time at sea with their loved ones. After all, time is the ultimate luxury.”

Created in partnership with renowned superyacht and luxury hospitality designers, Explora I will “blend elegant Swiss precision with modern European craftsmanship” and feature onboard spaces designed with water as a focal point to “put guests in an ocean state of mind”. The ship will span 14 decks and boast 461 oceanfront suites and residences with floor-to-ceiling windows and private terrace. The suites will start at 35 square metres, making them among the most spacious for the category in the industry.

Explora I will feature a promenade deck with indoor and outdoor whirlpool baths, a pool with a retractable glass roof and more than 2,500 square metres of outdoor decks with three outdoor pools and 64 private cabanas. Other onboard highlights will include nine distinct restaurants offering flexible dining times, several indoor and outdoor bars and lounges, and an indoor/outdoor spa and fitness area where guests will be able to enjoy group classes, personal training sessions and bespoke wellness experiences.

“Explora Journeys was designed for guests who want to stay longer, leave later, and travel deeper,” said Michael Ungerer, CEO of Explora Journeys. “Customer centricity is at the core of everything we do. We’ve commissioned research, organised focus groups, and hosted roundtable discussions with global specialists in luxury to design the perfect ship for our guests. Explora Journeys will bring a new perspective to the travel industry, reinventing the classic cruise experience for the next generation of luxury travellers.”

All four Explora Journeys vessels will be equipped with the latest green technologies and will be designed to adapt to alternative energy solutions as they become available. Initially, they will be powered by marine gas oil, but the design incorporates provision for battery storage, which will facilitate hybrid power generation in the future. They will also be built with ship-to-shore power capabilities to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions at berth, as well as selective catalytic reduction technology to decrease nitrogen oxide emissions by 90 per cent.

In addition, all four ships will be RINA Dolphin-certified for reduced underwater noise and single-use plastics will be banned – both on the ship and during land-based experiences.

“The MSC Family knows the sea like few others, and with that knowledge comes passion, love and most of all, a deep respect,” said Vago. “Our ships will utilise state of the art technology to ensure we are leading the movement towards a more sustainable future. Together with our partners, we’re currently developing groundbreaking technologies that will elevate the status quo, not just for this generation but also beyond.”

Explora Journeys will offer voyages starting at seven nights in length, which will include overnight stays, as well as non-conventional arrival and departure times. Destinations will include well-known destinations such as Reykjavik in Iceland, Saint Tropez and Bordeaux in France, and lesser-known ports such as Kastellorizo in Greece, Bozcaada in Turkey, and Norway’s Lofoten Islands. Bookings for inaugural cruises will open in autumn 2021.