Explora Journeys to sail ex-UK itineraries ‘in next couple of years’, says boss

Explora Journeys will operate northern Europe itineraries from the UK “in the next couple of years”, according to MSC Cruises’ chief executive Pierfrancesco Vago.

Vago told a Travel Weekly webcast the line would begin operating itineraries from the UK to provide a “luxury experience” to British customers who will not need to fly.

He hinted the ship sailing the itineraries could be Explora III, which is scheduled to enter service in summer 2026 and will be the first in the fleet to be powered by liquified natural gas (LNG).

More: Explora Journeys ‘demonstrates dedication to trade’ with appointment

When asked if Explora would consider basing a ship in Southampton and sailing ex-UK, Vago said: “For sure there will be an Explora ship operating from British shores. It will operate northern Europe itineraries which goes towards the luxury experience where you don’t have to catch a plane as you’re closer to home.

“It will happen in the next couple of years which is nothing, it’s around the corner.”

He also hinted an expansion into the expedition cruise sector, saying the line must invest more in technology before it can build a ship to sail in the polar regions, but it is a long term possibility.

Vago went on to hail the success of the brand, saying Explora Journeys has “opened up a new market” within the cruise sector by tapping into the new-to-cruise, luxury customer base.

He said the line deliberately designed seven-night itineraries to cater for people who are too busy to take a longer holiday but want to feel relaxed.

“Our idea is to bring in people that have never cruised before but all of a sudden see the value for money in our luxury product,” he said.

Vago described the UK market as “paramount” for both MSC Cruises and Explora Journeys and said the MSC Cruises brand has a “perfect relationship” with British consumers.

He praised the UK trade for supporting the creation of Explora Journeys and said the “next phase” is for customers to become more aware of the luxury brand.

Currently, MSC Cruises is the official cruise partner of Formula 1, however, Vago said Explora Journeys would soon be on the branding at Silverstone to raise awareness of the brand in the UK.

“Brits love to travel; they’re very curious and they love their holidays, with their Mediterranean summers and Caribbean winters,” he said.

“So we feel that we have the perfect relationship because the [MSC Cruises] product we deliver is a little bit different and we have done an incredible job in letting the brand be known… and now we are introducing the luxury Explora side, and the trade understands [the brand] and is ready to help us but now we need to be more known to the consumers.”

Asked how he felt about hotel companies, such as Four Seasons,  expanding into the cruise sector, Vago said he thought it was a “very good thing” for the industry as a whole, and welcomed the publicity it would bring luxury cruising.

“Other brands coming into the market will help speed up the process of showing the high income population that there is a new platform for holidays which is not necessarily a hotel on the Mediterranean coast, it is cruise,” he said.

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