After a two-week handover delay, Explora Journeys has taken delivery of its first ship, Explora I, a luxury cruise ship built by the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy.
The 64,000-gross ton vessel is the first of four sister ships that will be operated by Explora Journeys, a brand of MSC Group, which also owns MSC Cruises.
Handover Followed a Two-Week Postponement
Explora Journeys, the new luxury lifestyle brand of MSC Group, celebrated the July 20, 2023 handover of its first cruise ship, Explora I, at a ceremony held at the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy, where the vessel has been under construction since 2021.
The delivery came roughly two weeks after the ship’s originally planned handover date of July 6, 2023. Explora Journeys announced on July 5 that the ship’s debut would be postponed due to supply chain issues and the need for enhancements to the vessel. At the same time, the ship’s naming ceremony, planned for July 8 in Rome, also was canceled.
Top executives from the cruise line and the shipyard were in attendance as the luxury brand marked the handover milestone.
“Today is a historic day, and represents a decisive step in our growth path, because it marks the entry of the MSC Group into the luxury travel sector,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of the Cruise Division at MSC Group.
Vago said that the luxury travel segment has strong growth prospects, and Explora Journeys will redefine existing luxury standards.
Michael Ungerer, CEO of Explora Journeys, said, “We have pushed the boundaries of innovation and design to create a ship that embodies our commitment to excellence. With the delivery of Explora I our vision to provide unparalleled luxury experiences has become an incredible reality.”
The 922- guest ship was constructed with state-of-the-art environmental and marine technologies, and was designed with the line’s “Homes at Sea” theme, which promises a residential-style quality to accommodations and services.
The ship, built at a cost of about $600 million, has 461 oceanfront suites and penthouses, all with private terraces, and features six restaurants, a dozen bars and lounges, four pools, 64 private cabanas, and a wide range of spa and wellness facilities.
The ship will depart on her maiden voyage on August 1, 2023 from Copenhagen, and operate a 7-night sailing to Reykjavik, Iceland, with port calls to Lerwick, Shetland Islands, and Kirkwall, Orkney.
Explora I’s Christening Date Remains Unknown
Had the ship been delivered on schedule, Explora I was scheduled to sail her maiden cruise on July 17 from Southampton, UK. The 15-night itinerary was to include the Norwegian Fjords and the Arctic Circle, with debarkation in Copenhagen.
Also postponed was the ship’s christening ceremony. The cruise line had announced that the ship’s godmother was to be Dr. Sylvia Earle, the renowned American oceanographer, explorer, biologist, and conservationist. A new christening date has not been announced.
While Explora Journeys did not specify the cause of the ship’s launch delay, its postponement coincided with industry reports that a manufacturer of fire-safe insulation panels used in cruise ships had failed safety certification testing of its product.
Some cruise watchers had posited that the ship could have been constructed with those panels, which needed immediate replacement. However, there is no confirmation that was the case.
Ship to Sail Northern Europe, Then the Caribbean
Following her maiden voyage, Explora I is scheduled to spend the remainder of the summer season sailing a series of Northern Europe cruises. Starting in November 2023, she will reposition to the Caribbean and offer cruises between Miami, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Bridgetown, Barbados.
The ship will sail 7- to 14-night cruises on itineraries that vary by departure date. All itineraries include a call to MSC Cruises’ private island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, a 95-acre destination in the Bahamas.
Explora Journeys’ second ship, Explora II, is under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Genoa, Italy, and is due to enter service in August 2024. Two more ships, Explora III and Explora IV, will be delivered in 2026 and 2027, respectively. Both of those ships will be powered by liquified nitrogen gas (LNG).