Embarkation in Reykjavik was very organised and smooth and after a speedy check in we were escorted by a host to the ship. Our first thought was be prepared to be blown away!
As we ascended the 'gangway to heaven', the opulence was striking. My husband muttered to me "this does not feel like a ship!". Stepping into the main foyer, the rather impressive lobby bar boasted a spectacular 50ft wall of sprits and beverages - the perfect place for an evening aperitif. With views of the grand piano on the deck above, this created a warm and sophisticated ambience.
We eagerly made our way to our Ocean Grand Terrace Suite. As we entered, the amount of space was just incredible: a walk-in wardrobe with lots of storage, a spacious bathroom, walk-in shower with heated floors and a state-of-the-art Dyson supersonic hairdryer.
To top it off, a chilled bottle of Veuve Clicquot was waiting to welcome us along with a well-stocked mini bar, an espresso machine and a kettle. I have never been so happy to see a kettle as the thought of making my very own English breakfast tea and sitting on our enormous terrace was somewhat comforting! It had started to feel like home already.
As 1pm approached we entered the Emporium Marketplace for lunch and were greeted by an entourage of happy chefs and waiters. With their beaming smiles, it felt like returning to your favourite local restaurant.
The design did not conjure up a buffet-style restaurant. Among the many dishes, they served a daily rotisserie, a selection of grilled and slow-cooked meats, delicious fresh bouillabaisse, fresh seafood, sushi, an array of pastas which were cooked to order and freshly baked pizzas. If one's stomach permitted there was also a fromagerie, charcuterie and a patisserie!
The Explora's ethos of 'Ocean State of Mind' was represented everywhere on this ship. With a capacity of 922 guests, the spacious design was mind-blowing and it was impossible for it to feel crowded. With three outdoor swimming pools and one indoor pool, complete with a retractable roof, you could relax and unwind anywhere.
The infinity pools on Deck 11 were perfect for cooler weather and the tranquility of the ocean were just organic relaxation at its best. The Astern pool on deck five soon became a favourite spot of ours, offering outdoor lounging with comfortable sun beds and the most stunning infinity pool.
Whilst sailing from Reykjavik I became fond of the conservatory pool and bar - it was the ideal location to enjoy some warmth, featuring a central pool and hot tubs on either side where you can gaze at the ocean. There was also a cascading waterfall wall which transformed into an indoor cinema in the evenings.
As a fitness fanatic it didn't take long for me embrace the 'Ocean Wellness' in the fully-equipped gym with free weights and video guided machines. There was also a fitness studio with a good selection of classes for all abilities, ranging from yoga to pilates. The floor-to-ceiling windows had beautiful views of the ocean which was just heavenly. Weather permitting, there was also an open-air fitness deck with a 360-degree running track in addition to bikes and rowing machines. If you prefer to engage in competitive sports, other activities such as pickleball and basketball were also offered in the two courts.
Sticking to the philosophy of Ocean Wellness a visit to the spa was a must - and the best I have ever seen at sea. The aroma of peppermint lingered in the air, whilst the mood was inviting and relaxed.
You will be spoilt for choice with a steam room, a sauna, a saltwater hydrotherapy pool, a salt cave, an experience shower and a relaxation room with heated marble loungers. An assortment of treatments are also available and if you're planning to book a treatment on a sea day, do it well in advance to avoid disappointment.
Food on board this ship will take you on an unforgettable culinary journey. Boasting six dining options and various types of cuisine, prepare to be in awe! For our first dinner on-board we opted for Fil-Rouge, a stylish French restaurant serving a fantastic menu of French classics. The other restaurants were just as delightful - the Med Yacht Club serves tapas along with freshly grilled Dover sole - and Marble & Co remained one of my favourites. The steak did not require a knife, it was so soft!
The Asian inspired restaurant Sakura - which translates to cherry blossom - will indulge its diner in a multitude of flavours from all over the Far East; a pan-Asian restaurant that takes you on a travel journey through Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, China and Vietnam. It was also available for lunch, and no reservations are required. There were two other dining experiences available for an additional fee, The Chef's Kitchen and Anthology.
The culinary master Franck Granger took time off his busy schedule to speak to us. I mentioned to him that the food was just incredible, he agreed and confessed that it was the ethos behind the food that brought him to Explora Journeys.
He explained his tireless efforts to discover the best sustainable ingredients which was admirable. He also revealed that he did not have a budget and it was a case of only the best will suffice!
This has certainly been my best luxury experience at sea. Explora Journeys have perfected luxury, excelled on the culinary front and created an ambience of wellbeing throughout the ship. We truly felt at home. Well, frankly I cannot wait to be back on board!