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Explora Journeys' Explora I Review: Caribbean Dreaming

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Explora Journeys made their much-anticipated arrival into the ultra-luxury space earlier this year, with the launch of their first ship Explora I, and promising something a little different from the competition. I was lucky enough to join one of their inaugural Caribbean journeys and the experience exceeded my expectations…

Our journey began in Miami and we got our first glimpse of Explora I in the morning, our excitement building as we decided she was definitely the most elegant ship amongst the collection of five in port that day. After a smooth check in process, we were welcomed on board with a glass of champagne and immediately set about exploring our sleek and stylish home for the next ten days.

Explora Journeys - Explorer Lounge

There are many things on board Explora I that will be familiar to luxury cruise guests, and some that will feel a little novel. As many will know, they utilise different terminology, so on board crew are 'hosts', voyages are known as journeys and shore excursions are destination experiences, which was explained to us by the Entertainment Manager, Tanya, on the first evening. The idea is to create a feeling of this being a 'luxury resort at sea' rather than a traditional cruise ship.

There are also no 'Broadway-style' shows, with evening entertainment being low-key musical performances that guests are encouraged to flow in and out of as the mood takes them. For evening dining, guests can choose from six venues instead of one main dining room, and there are 4 swimming pools dotted around the ship which gives the feeling of space and privacy, indeed the whole experience felt like we were on our own private yacht.

Explora Journeys - Lobby Bar

Our Ocean Terrace Suite was on deck 9 and really lived up to the beautiful images we had seen in the lead up to the ship's launch. We loved the spacious terrace which featured a little chaise longue, perfect for relaxing and watching the world go by, and the suite overall felt thoughtfully designed with a separate walk-in wardrobe and vanity area, clever partitioning between the bed and seating area, and amenities such as binoculars for use on board, reusable water bottles for trips ashore and even a Dyson hairdryer, all making it feel like a truly luxurious home away from home.

Explora I - Ocean Terrace Suite

As we left Miami we enjoyed cocktails on deck, before heading to Marble & Co which, together with Sakura, requires reservations due to the restaurants' intimate size. Described as a European steakhouse, Marble & Co is only open for dinner, offering perfectly cooked steaks as well as fish, vegetarian options and decadent desserts. The sommelier took the time to explain the wines and the chef came to our table and chatted to us after the meal which was a lovely touch.

Our itinerary took us to Key West where we explored independently before setting sail once more for two days at sea; the perfect chance to explore the ship in more detail. Luckily for us, the weather on our sea days was glorious and we spent a lot of time relaxing by one of the many pools on board. The Helios Pool was closed during our journey but we spent time by the Conservatory Pool, with its retractable roof, lounge seating and greenery, as well as the Astern and Atoll pools which are at the back of deck 5 and 10 respectively. These individual pool areas, each with a corresponding bar, had intimate beach club vibes with day beds and loungers and the hosts were always attentive, bringing cold towels, water and drinks from the bar. If that wasn't enough, there are also four large whirlpools facing out to sea, designed in such a way to offer privacy and relaxation, with plentiful cabanas and loungers nearby.

Explora Journeys - Atoll Pool

After two days at sea we came to our first Caribbean stop, the beautiful Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. We anchored here and as we weren't arriving until 10am we enjoyed breakfast in our suite and took in the view from our terrace as we sailed in. Today we took part in a destination experience which we had booked in advance and our tickets were waiting in our suite on embarkation day. We enjoyed a catamaran trip past the famous Baths and outer islands with a stop at Prickly Pear Island for a swim and refreshments. Back on board Explora I, we stopped by afternoon tea in the panoramic Explorer Lounge, during which we couldn't resist the home comfort of a scone with clotted cream and jam!

In the days following we visited a different island every day: in St Barths and Guadeloupe we anchored once again and enjoyed prompt tender services ashore, complete with the Explora blue carpet rolled out for our arrival. We explored both islands independently and one of the things I enjoyed about being at anchor rather than docked is being able to get a photo of the ship out at sea in all her glory! We also took part in two further destination experiences, in Antigua and St Lucia, which we booked whilst on board and both were in small groups with fantastic local guides.

Explora I at sea

Each evening we delighted in choosing which bar to visit for a pre-dinner drink, whether it be elegant cocktails in the striking central Lobby Bar, playing 'Name that Tune' with one of the resident pianists in the Explorer Lounge or basking in the warmth outside in the Sky Bar on deck 14. There were so many spots to choose from that nowhere felt crowded and we could always find a quiet or lively spot to suit us.

And speaking of dinner, the dining options were fantastic; we loved Sakura with its Japanese inspired decor and beautiful pan-Asian menu for lunch as well as dinner, plus it had an outside dining area, perfect for sailing in the Caribbean. The larger open seating restaurants, Med Yacht Club and Fil Rouge, still maintain an intimate ambience with varied menus and excellent attentive service at a perfect pace.

Explora Journeys - Sakura

As our journey came to an end in vibrant Barbados we reflected on an unforgettable experience on board this stunning ship, and I was truly sad to say goodbye. Explora I is perfect for sailing the islands of the Caribbean in style, but I would gladly travel around the world to be back on board!

Meet the author

Louise is Marketing Executive at Mundy Cruising, having worked with the company for nearly a year and in travel for over 8 years. Most recently she's cruised on Explora Journeys and has also sailed with Crystal Cruises, Paul Gauguin Cruises, Seabourn, Ponant and Uniworld. Her favourite destination is New Zealand however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Mediterranean, Pacific Islands, Norwegian Fjords, Indian Ocean and South Africa. When she’s not travelling she loves cooking and trying new restaurants.

More about Louise

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