The UK Port of Southampton welcomed the maiden port call by Explora I, the first cruise ship in a planned four-vessel fleet operated by Explora Journeys, a newly launched luxury brand of MSC Group, which owns MSC Cruises.
The ship had been scheduled to embark on her inaugural voyage from Southampton, but plans changed when the vessel’s delivery from the shipyard was delayed earlier this summer.
EXPLORA I Maiden Call at Southampton
Explora Journeys’ first cruise ship to enter service, Explora I, called at Southampton, UK, on August 29, 2023, and was welcomed with fanfare by port officials and cruise line executives.
A crest exchange, a maritime tradition, between ship’s Captain Serena Melani and Rebekah Keeler of Associated British Ports Southampton, celebrated the ship’s first visit to the port.
“We were delighted to welcome Explora I to Southampton, which reflects the continued growth of our partnership with the MSC Group. Working with partners who share in our drive for a sustainable future, such as Explora Journeys, will make the ambition a reality and we look forward to welcoming Explora I when she has the opportunity to return,” said Rebekah Keeler, Operations and Security Manager of Associated British Ports.
The ship is operating a 12-day cruise from Hamburg, Germany, to Greenock, the port for Glasgow, Scotland. Other port calls on the itinerary include Edinburgh, Invergordon, and Isle of Skye, Scotland; Greencastle, Northern Ireland; and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and Liverpool, England.
Explora I originally was to sail her maiden voyage from Southampton on July 17, but a delay in the ship’s delivery forced the line to alter plans. Citing supply chain issues and the need for further enhancements, delivery from Fincantieri’s Monfalcone, Italy, shipyard was pushed back from July 5 to July 20.
The 922-guest ship set sail on her maiden voyage on August 1, from Copenhagen rather than Southampton. However, cruise line officials who attended the crest exchange ceremony noted the UK port’s vibrant cruise operations.
“Southampton is one of the UK’s major ports and one of the most significant within Europe, and it was a great pleasure and honor to present our highly anticipated and brand-new ship, Explora I,” said Michael Ungerer, CEO of Explora Journeys.
Explora Journeys aims to attract guests with itineraries that feature lesser-known ports, an abundance of overnight stays in port, authentic shore excursions, a wide variety of accommodations options, and its luxury shipboard experience the line promotes as an “Ocean State of Mind.”
Suite Options Aim to Encourage Family Groups
Explora I offers several suite choices, including 1 owner’s residence, 22 ocean residences, 67 ocean penthouses, and 371 ocean terrace and ocean grand terrace suites.
In a bid to lure multi-generational family groups, the line in May 2023 rolled out its Journey Together Gathering program, featuring activities for youngsters, amenities, and special deals.
Families can take advantage of the ship’s 78 interconnecting suites in the categories of ocean suites, ocean penthouses, and ocean residences to create a suite configuration that best accommodates the group. Families who book a minimum of three suites will receive one free cruise fare for a guest under the age of 18 in each suite.
Explora I Will Sail Caribbean in Winter 2023-24
Explora I will continue to sail her series of Northern Europe cruises through October. In November, she will reposition to the Caribbean and offer winter season voyages 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, are slated for delivery in 2026 and 2027, respectively.