Explora Journeys’ sales chief says customer research helped the line’s bosses position the new brand and shape the onboard product.
“Thousands” of potential “future” passengers told MSC Group’s new line that they wanted “space, choice and privacy” after being asked what they would like to see from a new brand by their travel agent.
Chief sales officer Chris Austin explained that passengers’ feedback “led to the design” of Explora Journeys’ fleet, which is due to start launching from 2023.
Explora Journey I will debut in May 2023, with the line’s remaining ships due to enter service in 2024, 2025 and 2026.
He said: “We were told that there was an opportunity [to launch a new brand]. We built a ship and designed a ship that is 63,900 tons.
“Why? Because unless we had a ship at that scale, carrying 900 guests, we wouldn’t deliver on the space, choice and privacy.”
Austin then stressed “that every single cruise brand out there needs to be successful, and obviously does an excellent job in their field”.
He claimed that Explora Journeys would have the “largest lead-in suites” in the luxury cruise category at 35 square metres, adding that every cabin on board would have a terrace with an ocean view.
In comparison, the interior suites in MSC Yacht Club, MSC Cruises’ current ship-within-a-ship luxury concept, start at around 21 square metres.
Austin explained: “Why do we say terraces? Because the balconies are larger than the standard balcony in our category.”
The 23 largest suites on Explora Journeys I will be called “residencies”, said Austin, adding: “Let’s not just change names for the sake of it. But if there’s purpose behind it, then let’s focus on the nomenclature.”
He went on to say that there would be nine culinary experiences on Explora I and four swimming pools to give passengers choice.
People surveyed by Explora Journeys told the yet-to-launch line that they wanted “longer stays” and sea days included in itineraries.
Austin said the line planned itineraries that had a combination of sea days and overnights. “It’s building itineraries that don’t require another holiday after the holiday,” he added.
“We’re not filling the itineraries chasing ports, as I like to say. We’re building very thoughtfully with purpose.”
Explora I is scheduled to have an overnight call into Edinburgh when the city’s military tattoo in 2023.
The focus groups had indicated to the line that they wanted shorter week-long itineraries with a sea day and opportunities to “explore” destinations, Austin said.
On itinerary length, Austin said each sailing would generally last between seven and nine nights and that the ship would not homeport anywhere.
He added that passengers who wanted to extend their cruise could combine sailings and that the line would offer “grand journey” sailings in the Mediterranean, northern Europe and in South America.
“You can be on a grand journey of anything from 44 to 55 nights,” he explained. “But generally [itineraries] are shorter.”
Reflecting on why he left his “dream” at Seabourn, where he held a senior vice president role, during the middle of last year, he said: “My tea leaves did not tell me that I was going to be offered an opportunity to join a brand, a new brand and a team creating a new brand.
“I think that’s what was really appealing and really exciting.”