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Wealthy Travelers Are Flocking to a New Luxury Cruise Ship With a Rolex Store, Crystal-Infused Water, and a $190 Tasting Menu. See Inside. Popular luxury resort brands like Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, and Aman are also building out their own luxury floating hotel portfolios.

By Brittany Chang

Key Takeaways

  • MSC Group's new Explora Journeys has seen "one record week after the other" for 2024 bookings, its CEO said.
  • The new luxury brand says its most expensive 2024 itinerary will sail at $90,050 per person for the largest cabin.
  • Take a look around the Explora I complete with the first Rolex store at sea and a $190 tasting menu.
Brittany Chang/Insider
Itineraries on the Explora I range from $3,000 to $90,050 per person in 2024.

This story originally appeared on Business Insider.

If you've only sailed with the likes of Carnival or Margaritaville, you might not think of cruise vacations as the pinnacle of luxury travel.

But for high-earning globetrotters who know where to look, cruise vacations can feel like a step below traveling on a superyacht (albeit shared) or in a floating luxury hotel.

One of the newest luxury cruise lines to hit the market, Explora Journeys, is trying to offer just that. Just be ready to shell out at least $500 per night per person in 2024 for its only vessel, the Explora I.

Michael Ungerer, the CEO of Explora Journeys, called the Explora I a "boutique-style resort on the water."

Suite in Explora Journeys' Explora I cruise ship

Explora I began revenue sailings in August 2023. Brittany Chang/Insider via BI

The new cruise line isn't the only one pursuing this concept. Competition could be tough: Popular luxury resort brands like Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, and Aman are also building out their own luxury floating hotel portfolios.

However, there's one considerable differentiator between Explora and these legacy hotel giants: "We come from the maritime side," the company's CEO said.

outdoor pool on Explora Journeys' Explora I cruise ship

The Explora I has four pools. Brittany Chang/Insider

Explora is owned by MSC Group, a 53-year-old European cargo shipping giant that already operates a 23-cruise ship fleet under MSC Cruises.

Since the ship began revenue sailings two months ago, "word of mouth" has pushed the cruise line to have "one record week [of 2024 cruise bookings] after the other," Ungerer said.

MSC towels on daybeds

MSC's emblem can be spotted throughout the ship. Brittany Chang/Insider

Itineraries in 2024 start at $3,000 per traveler for a six-night January sailing from Miami to Cartagena, Colombia. This price ranges up to $90,050 per person in the largest 3,014-square-foot Owner's Residence on the 25-night cruise from Bridgetown, Barbados to Los Angeles.

Unlike the giant cruise ships that have been flooding the market, the Explora I is smaller and more intimate.

Suite in Explora I

The new ship is 813 feet-long and 107 feet-wide. Brittany Chang/Insider

Royal Caribbean says its upcoming 1,198-foot-long Icon of the Seas will have 2,805 staterooms for 7,600 travelers.

To compare, Explora's 813-foot-long vessel has 461 cabins, all suites. At double occupancy, this ship can sail with 922 travelers.

These ships, luxury or not, generally have the same baseline amenities: a pool, a buffet, restaurants, bars, lounges, and entertainment.
lounge in Explora Journeys' Explora I cruise ship

There are 12 bars aboard the Explora I. Brittany Chang/Insider

But with luxury vessels like the Explora I, these all have an opulent flair. Think lounges with sleek and contemporary designs, infinity pools over the ocean, complimentary access to the spa, and a buffet with raw seafood and lobster tails.

If you interpret "quiet luxury" literally, Explora I offers just that.

balcony in Explora Journeys' Explora I cruise ship suite

Even the least expensive cabins have balconies. Brittany Chang/Insider

There's a reason the average demographic of its travelers falls in the 50-year-old range: The ship doesn't have any amusement park-like rides filled with screaming children or flashy virtual reality arcades.

Instead, this is where wealthy travelers go to unwind, take in the views from their private balconies, and indulge in fine cigars and rare whiskeys.

For guests who need a relaxing getaway, access to the spa — but not its services — is included in the fare.

Spa in Explora I

Access to the spa is included in the fare.

Brittany Chang/Insider

This includes crystal-infused water, a sauna, a steam room, and a hydrotherapy pool (as if the ship's four other pools weren't enough).

If you prefer indoor swimming holes, the Explora I has one under a retractable glass roof as well.

pool in Explora Journeys' Explora I cruise ship

The pool with a retractable glass roof resembles a typical cruise ship "solarium." Brittany Chang/Insider

You might not have to fight any "pool chair hogs" — there are 64 cabanas throughout the ship.

Besides the spa services, one of the only other amenities that's not included in the base fare is dinner at Anthology.

anthology in Explora Journeys' Explora I cruise ship

Anthology has indoor and outdoor seating. Brittany Chang/Insider

This 70-seat dining venue is helmed by rotating guest chefs, some of whom have led kitchens with Michelin stars. At eight courses with luxurious dishes like cuttlefish tagliatelle with Calvisius Oscietra caviar, the meal will cost an additional $190 or $265 with the wine pairing.

Having only one restaurant with an additional fee isn't the norm for the non-luxury cruise industry anymore.

Seafood in Explora I buffett

Explora I's buffet has seafood items like grilled lobster tails. Brittany Chang/Insider

Some cruise lines have been introducing a growing number of specialty restaurants on their new ships. Guests dining at these venues have to pay extra, increasing the ships' onboard revenue.

But that's not Explora's business model.

day beds on Explora Journeys' Explora I cruise ship

There are several lounge chairs in and around the ship's four pools. Brittany Chang/Insider

"I'd rather have a few empty beds and get the right guests at the right price. And most of [amenities] are already included so we don't have to upsell," its CEO said.

This doesn't mean Explora I's other dining rooms aren't high-end either.

Sakura on Explora Journeys' Explora I cruise ship

Sakura serves up sushi and "pan-Asian" food. Brittany Chang/Insider

The menu at Sakura includes wagyu tataki. At Mediterranean-inspired Med Yacht Club, travelers can chomp down on grilled octopus. And at steakhouse Marble and Co Grill, the cooks serve up plates of aged prime rib and potatoes with caviar.

This doesn't include the breakfast room service, which can be ordered the night before using a door hanger.

Even the buffet is more upscale than the average cruise.

sushi on a plate

The buffet has a sushi bar. Brittany Chang/Insider

Instead of self-serving tongs, workers behind the counter fill up travelers' plates with cooked-to-order handmade pastas, sushi, and crab legs.

While most cruise ships are centered with a liminal space-like atrium, the Explora I has a "Lobby Bar" designed to look like a high-end hotel bar.

lobby bar in Explora Journeys' Explora I cruise ship

The Lobby Bar is surrounded by onboard shopping. Brittany Chang/Insider

Music from the overhead self-playing piano fills this space. All of the pianos on the ship are made by Steinway and Sons, which has a partnership with the luxury cruise line.

On high-end vessels like this one, onboard shopping no longer means buying a bottle of booze or some cruise line merch.

Rolex store in Explora Journeys' Explora I cruise ship

This Rolex store at sea carries some inventory. Brittany Chang/Insider

Besides the legendary piano maker, Explora also has a partnership with Rolex, making its cruise vessel the first in the industry to have a floating Rolex store.

If Swiss watches aren't your thing, you can pick up some items at the neighboring Cartier store instead.

This list of flashy partnerships continues on: Explora Journeys is also partnered with Technogym.

outdoor gym on Explora Journeys' Explora I cruise ship

There's a sports court next to this small outdoor gym. Brittany Chang/Insider

Its indoor gym is supplied with equipment from Technogym's Artis Line where a treadmill will set buyers back $20,250 and an elliptical $15,500.

The smaller outdoor gym also has equipment from the company, including exercise bikes that face the ocean.

Almost all cruise staterooms have a bed, storage, bathroom, and additional seating.

Suite in Explora I

Suites start at $500 per person per day in 2024. Brittany Chang/Insider

The cheapest of these cabins often have no windows.

But with Explora, the least expensive cabin is still a suite. A sizable one at that.

Living room in suite in Explora I

Literature on the shelving unit separates the bed from the living "room." Brittany Chang/Insider

Ungerer says the ship's smallest 377-square-foot staterooms are the largest entry-level accommodations in the luxury cruise market.

This "small" floating hotel room is decked out with a balcony with lounge seating, a walk-in closet with a seated vanity, and binoculars.

walk-in closet in Explora Journeys' Explora I cruise ship

This walk-in closet has hangers, organizers, and a vanity. Brittany Chang/Insider

There's even an espresso machine hidden in a pull-out shelf and a Dyson hairdryer stored in its own molded drawer.

Similar to luxury cruise lines like the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, travelers are greeted with a "complimentary" bottle of Veuve Clicquot in their cabin.

bottle of champagne

It wouldn't be a luxury cruise without some expensive champagne. Brittany Chang/Insider

Think Veuve Clicquot is too cheap for you? Book a higher-end suite instead. There, you'll receive a bottle of Dom Perignon Vintage 2013, perfect for the wealthiest of cruisers.

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