MSC Explora Journeys

History, Review, Itineraries, Ships, Deck Plans, News

MSC Explora Journeys cruise line logo

MSC Explora Journeys fleet

Review of MSC Explora Journeys

Explora Journeys ( is a new cruise travel brand and company managed by MSC Cruises. Both companies (Explora Journeys Ltd and MSC Cruises Ltd) are fully owned subsidiaries of MSC Group/Mediterranean Shipping Company - currently the world's second-largest containership company (after Maersk).

Explora Journeys itineraries are designed for expedition-style travel. Its operational regions are worldwide and diverse, including Europe (Mediterranean, Baltic, UK, Iceland and Greenland), North America (USA and Canada, including Alaska and Hawaii), Central America (Caribbean), South America. Seasonally are offered discounted Transatlantic crossings (

Company History

In January 2018 started to circulate strong rumors about MSC considering the establishment of a new (all-inclusive luxury) cruise brand. There was also the possibility (instead of creating a new brand) MSC to just create a parallel "expedition" fleet, but in 2020 was confirmed that this would be a new "lifestyle hospitality" brand.

The rumors were officially confirmed in mid-March 2021 when was announced the new expedition cruise brand's senior management team.

  • Michael Ungerer (CEO), Chris Austin (CSO-Chief Sales Officer)
  • Sarah Doyle (CMO-Chief Marketing Officer)
  • Norbert Stiekema (CCO-Chief Commercial Officer) - in 2023 he was succeeded by Achille Staiano (with MSC Group since 1994, with MSC Cruises since 2004)
  • Vanessa Vollmann (Head of People/HR Operations Manager)
  • Thatcher Brown (Commercial and Strategic Advisor), John Stoll (Destination Experience Advisor)
  • Sacha Rougier (Itinerary Planning, Shore Experience)

The brand Explora Journeys was officially launched by MSC in June 2021. Its mandala-inspired logo was designed by Alexa Aponte-Vago (MSC Group's CFO, MSC Group founder Gianluigi Aponte's daughter, and Pierfrancesco Vago's wife).

MSC Explora Journeys logo (CruiseMapper)

In November 2021 MSC announced the new company's Commercial Team - Jason Gelineau (Head of Product), Helen Beck (Head of Global Sales), Saul Fonseca (Head of Sales for The Americas and USA East), Aimee Price (Head of Sales for Canada and USA West), Priti Mehta (Head of Sales for the UK and Ireland), Francisco Sanchez (Head of Sales for Germany, Austria, Switzerland), Leyre Torres Campo (Business Relationships Manager for Southern Europe/Spain, France, Italy).

EXPLORA JOURNEYS' main competitor in the European market (as fleet capacity, amenities, services, destinations/itineraries) is Viking OCEAN.


EXPLORA JOURNEYS has a separate (from MSC Cruises) fleet of smaller-sized luxury expedition ships. The fleet includes the same-designed sisterships Explora I (2023), Explora II (2024), Explora III (2026), Explora IV (2027), Explora V (2027) and Explora VI (2028).

MSC Explora-Class cruise ship (Explora Journeys)

All EXPLORA JOURNEYS ships were constructed by the Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri, with MSC Group's investment in this project being estimated at ~EUR 3,5 billion.

Each of the vessels (MSC EXPLORA-class) has max passenger capacity 1473 (922 lower berths) plus 640 staff/crew, 13 floors/decks, 461 staterooms, volume 63900 GT-tons.

The boats are all initially deployed in Europe for 7-night Mediterranean and Baltic and longer Iceland itineraries.

The six units are constructed at Fincantieri's Monfalcone yard (near Trieste) and have building cost EUR 495-600 million (USD 600-700 million) per unit.

In late-September 2020, Versonix Seaware announced that MSC's new brand will use the Versonix system for online booking. Annually, Versonix serves 20+ million passengers and 100+ ships. Versonix (1986-founded) is a Silicon Valley company (headquartered in San Jose CA USA) specializing in hotel and resort reservation technologies. The company is run by Victor Velton (President) and Yuri Polissky (CEO).

On June 10, 2021, was the steel-cutting of the first vessel (Explora 1) and the official launch of the brand.


Explora Journeys' commercial operations officially started on August 1st, 2023 (postponed from May and July), with MSC Explora 1's Maiden Voyage.

MSC Group's shipbuilding order with Fincantieri for units 5 and 6 was officially signed on September 21, 2023, by Pierfrancesco Vago (MSC Group's Executive Chairman) and Pierroberto Folgiero (Fincantieri's CEO). Unlike the sisterships, Explora 5 (2027) and Explora 6 (2028) are by design hydrogen-powered, being fitted with fuel cells (burning liquid hydrogen) to produce the electricity needed for the onboard operations while in-port docked. Their engines can also use as alternative fuels biogas (produced from organic waste), syngas (mixture of H/hydrogen and CO/carbon monoxide) as well as CH3OH/methanol.

Company changes 2023

In April was announced that Michael Horn (1966-born in Johannesburg South Africa) is employed as Explora Journeys' Brand Ambassador. Mike Horn is a professional explorer and adventurer famous for his solo expeditions in the Amazon (1997), Latitude Zero (1999-2000 /circled the equator on foot and by sailing), Arktos (2002-2004 /around the Arctic Circle on foot, without using any motorized transportation), North Pole by Night (2006/ 60 days on skis), Pangaea (2008-2012 /by his Young Explorers Program), Driven To Explore (2015 /Mercedes-Benz sponsored, drove through 13 countries), Pole2Pole (2016-2019 /globe circumnavigation), Antarctica Crossing (2016-2017 /57 days on skis) and Arctic Crossing (2019 /full Arctic Ocean crossing with the sailing ship Pangaea).

In May was introduced the shipboard program "Journey Together Gatherings". The program targets multi-generational families and features a dedicated children's lounge (Nautilus Club/ for both kids and teenagers), various destination-themed family experiences, complimentary land-to-ship transfers.

  • The Nautilus Club hosts age-appropriate supervised activities (for children aged 6-17) including interactive gaming (on PlayStation 5, PlayStation VR2, Nintendo Switch, Xbox), sports contests, fun workshops and games. Nautilus Club has its own heated swimming pools and a Sports Court.
  • Each Explora ship has a total of 78 interconnecting staterooms (for families with children). Family cabins are in three categories (Ocean Suite, Ocean Penthouse, Ocean Residence). In each of those suites, one minor passenger (under-18) cruises for free.

All infants and toddlers (6-23-month-old kids) sail free while 2-17 years-old kids sail at 50% off.

In June was signed an exclusive partnership deal with Rolex SA (1905-founded, Geneva-based watch designer and manufacturer). By the agreement, MSC Explora ships have the first at-sea Rolex Boutique. The Swiss brand-dedicated shop offers an extensive selection of models including from the renowned Rolex Oyster Perpetual series.

In late June was signed a partnership with EHL Hospitality Business School (management university in Lausanne, Switzerland, part of EHL Group/1893-founded as "Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne"/Hotel School) to provide Explora Journeys' shipboard staff with the “Guest Experience Foundations” training program. The deal was signed by Michael Ungerer and Markus Venzin (EHL Group's CEO)

On July 7th was launched Explora I's "Watch and Jewelry" retail store selling the Swiss ultra-premium watch brands Cartier, Panerai, and Piaget.

In October, the company's executive leadership team was expanded with two new appointments - Koray Savas (VP of Hotel Operations) and Alban Gjoka (VP of Food and Beverage).

Company changes 2022

In February 2022 Franck Garanger was appointed as Head of Culinary. He was previously employed by Silversea (as Line Chef, Executive Chef, Fleet Corporate Chef) and by Oceania (as Culinary Director).

In June 2022 the new brand's Senior Leaders joined Alban Gjoka (Culinary Operations), Julanda Marais (SPA Operations), Carmela Paval (Housekeeping Operations), Vitor Alves (Hotel Operations), Drew Gowland (Entertainment and Enrichment), Thibaut Briancon (Food and Beverage Services), Paolo Milordo (Travel Food and Beverages Services).

Previous to their MSC employments, Chris Austin worked for Seabourn (SVP Global Sales and Marketing), Sarah Doyle for Bacardi Europe (Vice President Marketing), Thatcher Brown for GHK Dream Cruises (President) and Crystal Cruises Asia (Managing Director), Sacha Rougier for Cruise Gate Hamburg/Center Steinwerder (Managing Director), John Stoll for Crystal and Silversea (as Director Land Programs).

In mid-March, MSC Group announced a partnership with Travelife Ltd for EXPLORA JOURNEYS' shore excursion program. "Travelife for Tour Operators" allows tour companies and travel agents access to the company's online management system (16x sustainability modules) with excursion checklists, planning tools, travel- and tourism industries' best sustainability practices examples.

On April 4, 2022, was announced Explora Journeys' partnership with Signature Travel Network (El Segundo, CA USA-based company specializing in technology solutions and brand promotion/advertising/marketing). As of 2022, Signature Travel Network had 1300+ preferred partners including cruise lines/brands, tour operators and travel agents, suppliers, flight consolidators/airline brokers, car rental companies, hoteliers.

In July 2022, MSC signed a contract with SES SA (Luxembourg-based owner and operator of medium Earth orbit/MEO satellites and terrestrial telecommunications networks) to provide "O3b mPower" (satellite connectivity) to Explora 1. SES' O3b mPower combines the company's second-generation MEO system (based on satellites positioned ~8000 km / ~5000 mi above the earth) and GEO satellites (geosynchronous equatorial orbit) positioned at altitude~35800 km / 22300 mi.

In July 2022, MSC announced that Explora Journeys will offer a newly-developed "Destination Experiences" (cruise+tour) program grouping 5x different leisure tours/land excursion types for tailored ashore experiences.

Next are listed the cruisetours scheduled for the brand's maiden season (2023).

  • Beyond Boundaries (guided tour to Bordeaux' Chateau Margaux/Premier Grand Cru Classe)
  • Tailored Experiences (helicopter tour over Medoc Peninsula, sailboat tour around Malta, tuk-tuk tour in Lisbon)
  • Enchanting Explorations (forest bathing near Porto City, Portugal)
  • Boundless Discoveries (flamenco masterclass in Cadiz, photography class on Mykonos Island)
  • In-Country Immersions (history- and culture-themed activities in the visited destinations)

On July 20, 2022, was signed the partnership with Amadeus (online travel booking platform).

In November 2022, to the management team were added 7 new positions - Heike Berdos (General Manager), Simone Canessa (Staff Captain), Antonio Iaccarino (Chief Engineer), Franck Garanger (Head of Culinary), Jerome Toumelin (Corporate Executive Chef), Frederic Godineau (Senior Executive Chef), Christophe Sapy (Corporate Executive Pastry Chef).

Itinerary of MSC Explora Journeys

In 2023 was inaugurated MSC's ultra-premium expedition travel brand "Explora Journeys". This is also an MSC Group-owned subsidiary company that manages a separate fleet of 6x newbuild ships.

Explora Journeys operates global voyages including in Europe (Mediterranean, Baltic, UK, Iceland-Greenland), New England USA and Canada, Alaska and Hawaii, Central America (Caribbean), South America.

While sailing in the Caribbean, MSC ships visit the company's private Bahamian island Ocean Cay.

Next is the concise review of Explora 1's 2023-2024 program as regions/destinations and signature port cities.

For May-June 2023 (Mediterranean) were planned visits to ports in Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Portugal, France. However, this program was canceled due to delayed delivery of the ship.

August 2023 (Northern Europe) visits to ports in England UK, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Poland, Germany, Holland, Belgium

August 2023 (the UK) visits to ports in England and Scotland

September 2023 (Iceland and Greenland) also visits to ports in Canada and the USA

September-October 2023 (USA East Coast and Canada) visits NYC New York, Newport, Boston, Saint John, Quebec City, Baie-Comeau, Havre-Saint Pierre, Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island), Halifax NS

November 2023-March 2024 (Caribbean) visits ports in Florida (also Florida Keys), Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St Kitts, Bahamas, Dominicana, Antigua, Barbados, Turks and Caicos, Colombia, Panama, Aruba, Panama Canal crossing

January-February 2024 (South America, USA West Coast and Hawaii) visits French Guiana, Barbados, Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Canada and the USA (California, Hawaii).

Destination Experiences

Destination Experiences are small-capacity shore excursions/land tours designed for groups of 2 to 25 tourists. The Destination Experiences for North America (USA and Canada) scheduled for the brand's inaugural season (2023) included

  • New York City (Museum of Modern Art private tour, an exclusive meet with a Broadway star)
  • Boston (Fenway Park, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, traditional Afternoon Tea)
  • Baie-Comeau (sea kayaking excursion for viewing whales and sea birds)
  • Charlottetown/Prince Edward Island (Falconry Tour/hunting of wild animals with a trained falcon, Fair Isle Food Tour)
  • Havre-Saint-Pierre (90-min nature walk tour)
  • Quebec City (fjord kayaking excursion, sugar shack tour, maple museum)
  • Halifax (Shore Club in Hubbards NS/lobster dinner, playing golf at The Links at Brunello).

Explora 1's inaugural itinerary program (2023) is based on deployments in Europe (Mediterranean, Baltic, UK, Iceland, Greenland), North America (Canada, East Coast USA, Hawaii), Caribbean, and South America. Itineraries vary between 6-night and 44-night (Grand Voyage), visiting 132 ports/islands in 40 countries.


MEDITERRANEAN (May-June 2023), call ports Barcelona, St Tropez, Calvi-Corsica, Civitavecchia-Rome, Fiskardo (Kefalonia Island), Istanbul, Piraeus-Athens, Patmos Island, Bodrum, Kastellorizo, Santorini Island, Mykonos Island, Gozo-Malta, Ibiza, Malaga, Cadiz-Sevilla, Portimao, Lisbon, Oporto, St Jean-de-Luz, Bordeaux, Saint-Malo, Honfleur


NORTHERN EUROPE/BALTIC (August 2023), call ports Southampton, Lofoten Islands and Norwegian Fjords (Kristiansand, Hellesylt, Alesund, Molde, Trondheim, Narvik, Honningsvag, Tromso, Leknes-Gravdal, Bronnoysund, Flam, Bergen, Stavanger), Skagen, Copenhagen, Ronne, Helsinki, Sankt-Petersburg, Stockholm, Visby, Riga, Klaipeda, Gdansk, Copenhagen, Goteborg, Oslo, Hamburg, Rotterdam, Zeebrugge-Bruges

UK-ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND (August 2023), call ports Southampton, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Invergordon, Stornoway, Oban, Liverpool, Glasgow, Fort William, Portree, Kirkwall, Lerwick, Faroes (Thorshavn), Iceland (Reykjavik)

Transatlantic/ICELAND AND GREENLAND (September 2023), call ports Reykjavik, Akureyri, Isafjordur, Paamiut, Nuuk, Qaqortoq, Canada (Sydney NS, St John NB), USA (NYC New York)


USA AND CANADA (September-October 2023), roundtrip from New York City to, Newport RI, Boston MA, St John NB, Quebec City, La Baie, Baie-Comeau, Havre-Saint-Pierre, Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island), Halifax NS


CARIBBEAN (November 2023), call ports Miami, Key West FL, Virgon Gorda BVI, Deshaies (Guadeloupe), Falmouth (Jamaica), San Juan (Puerto Rico), Gustavia (St Barths), Basseterre (St Kitts), Samana (Dominicana), Ocean Cay (Bahamas), St John`s (Antigua), Castries (St Lucia), Bridgetown (Barbados), Roseau, Kralendijk, Willemstad, Saint-Pierre, Kingstown, Grand Turk Island, Santa Marta, Cartagena, Colon, Soufriere, Bequia (St Vincent), Oranjestad, Cartagena, Puerto Limon, Panama Canal transit to Panama City

The journeys of EXPLORA I, scheduled from October 2024 to April 2025, have been adjusted to have the ship sail in the Caribbean, supporting the brand's growth in North America. The winter 2024-2025 season commences with a Grand Journey from Barcelona to the Caribbean, visiting Bridgetown, Pointe-a-PitreSt John’s, and San Juan.

From April to November 2025, EXPLORA I is due to navigate the Mediterranean, providing guests with a taste of effortless Mediterranean living, coupled with the allure of sea air, aromatic herbs, and citrus notes. The itinerary includes the untamed beauty of the Eastern Mediterranean, with the azure hues of the Aegean Sea islands and the picturesque Dalmatian coast.

During winter 2025-2026, EXPLORA I traverses the Red Sea and Arabian Peninsula - a region rich in history and culture, offering fragrant foods, vibrant souks, and the tranquility of desert oases.

EXPLORA II is scheduled to embark on her inaugural journey from Barcelona to Civitavecchia (Rome), visiting enchanting destinations such as Ibiza, SpainPort-Vendres, France; picturesque Portofino, ItalyMonte Carlo, Monaco; and Port Santo Stefano in Italy, a hidden gem with secluded coves and lighthouses.

Continuing in the West Mediterranean until November 2024, EXPLORA II is then crossing the Atlantic to offer sun-drenched Caribbean journeys during the winter months. In May 2025, EXPLORA II is expected to spend the summer sailing in culturally rich locales, with convenient embarkation options in Barcelona or Civitavecchia/Rome. The winter of 2025-2026 is dedicated to the Eastern Caribbean, featuring warm breezes, white sands, and the sparkling blues of the Caribbean Sea, with stops in Pointe-a-Pitre in Guadeloupe; Roseau, DominicaLittle Bay, Montserrat; and Marigot, St. Martin.


Explora Journeys' Alaska 2024 program (May 6 thru August 28) consists of 3x roundtrips from Vancouver, BC Canada.

  • 11-night "The Remote Wrangell and Spectacular Sitka Inaugural Alaskan Journey" (departure May 6th) sails in Alaska (Inside Passage, Wrangell, Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Sitka, Skagway, Ketchikan, Misty Fjord) and Canada (Victoria BC).
  • 11-night "Sailing the Whale's Highway" itinerary (departure May 17th) visits Ketchikan, Hoonah-Icy Strait Point, Valdez, Juneau, Sitka, Hubbard Glacier.
  • 10-night "Journey of the Glaciers" itinerary (departures May thru July 2024) sails the Alaskan Inside Passage.

Explora I's 2024-2025 winter program (September thru April) includes 23 voyages visiting a total of 73 ports/destinations (including Brazillian Amazon) in 24 countries. The program features two longer itineraries:

The 28-night "A Grand Journey to Amazonia and Tropical Isles Cruise" (departure November 15, 2024, roundtrip from Miami) visits Key West Florida, Spanish Town/Virgin Gorda BVI), Basseterre St Kitts, Saint-Pierre Martinique, Bridgetown Barbados, Iles du Salut Macapa, Brail Amazon (Alter Do Chao, Manaus), Admiralty Bay Bequia, Barbados, Kingstown St Vincent and the Grenadines, Castries St Lucia, Basseterre, MSC Ocean Cay Bahamas.


(Caribbean-Europe relocation) The 32-night "Grand Transatlantic Odyssey Cruise" (departure March 27, 2025, from Miami to Lisbon) visits San Juan Puerto Rico, Spanish Town/Virgin Gorda BVI, St John's Antigua, St-Pierre Martinique, Barbados, Cape Verde (Praia, Sao Vicente), Canary Islands (Arrecife Lanzarote, Santa Cruz de Tenerife), Santo Antonio/Madeira, Ponta Delgada/Azores, Leixoes-Oporto, Lisbon.

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