A new luxury cruise line just ordered 2 more ships — and it hasn’t even launched yet

Jul 6, 2022

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Call it the fastest-growing cruise line you’ve never heard of.

Explora Journeys, a new luxury cruise brand under development by the owners of MSC Cruises, on Wednesday ordered two more vessels for delivery in 2027 and 2028, bringing the total number of ships it plans to launch in the next few years to six.

This is despite the fact that the line isn’t yet operating voyages with a single vessel.

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The first Explora Journeys ship, to be called Explora I, is scheduled to begin sailing in May of 2023 in the Mediterranean. It’s currently under construction at a Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy.

Three more sister ships to Explora I already were on order from the same Fincantieri shipyard before Wednesday for delivery in 2024, 2025 and 2026, respectively.

The new order will bring two more ships that are similar to Explora I and its sisters but slightly bigger. In a statement sent to TPG, Explora Journeys said the vessels would be about 62 feet longer than their predecessors.

Explora Journeys didn’t say how many passengers the two new vessels will hold. The line has said the first ships in the series would be all-suite vessels with 461 rooms. That means they’ll be able to carry 922 passengers at double occupancy. That’s similar in passenger capacity to the upscale ships operated by fast-growing Viking and the soon-to-be-relaunched Crystal Cruises.

Explora Journeys will be competing in the same upscale cruise space as Viking and Crystal as well as luxury lines Seabourn, Silversea Cruises and the forthcoming The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. It’ll be run completely separately from its sister brand, MSC Cruises, which caters to a mass-market audience.

Related: New Ritz-Carlton cruise ship delayed for a seventh time

Explora Journeys has said its vessels would offer oceanfront suites, penthouses and residences designed to be “homes at sea.” Its first ship will have 10 distinct culinary experiences, 10 indoor and outdoor bars and lounges, four swimming pools, outdoor deck areas with private cabanas, wellness facilities and entertainment.

Explora Journeys on Wednesday said the larger size of the two newly ordered vessels would allow for larger public spaces and a different mix of suites.

The line also said the larger size of the ships would allow for the installation of a new type of power generation system that would be able to run partly on hydrogen as well as liquified natural gas — two fuels that are considered cleaner burning than the marine gasoil that many ships currently use as a fuel source.

In a relatively unusual twist, the newly ordered ships will have a 6-megawatt fuel cell system that will be powered by the hydrogen fuel that will allow the vessels to run completely emissions-free while in ports. The fuel cell system also will allow for the ship’s onboard electric needs including power for lights and air conditioning to be emissions-free.

Related: Our picks for the 7 best luxury suites at sea

As part of Wednesday’s announcement, the line said it would be changing the design of the third and fourth vessels in the series to allow them to run on liquified natural gas. The change will result in the ships being completed a year later than originally announced. They’ll now arrive in 2026 and 2027, respectively.

Explora Journeys said the new ship order on Wednesday would bring the total investment in the brand to 3.5 billion euros — about $3.56 billion at current exchange rates.

“Explora Journeys is building ships for tomorrow, utilizing today’s latest technologies and being ready to adapt to alternative energy solutions as they become available,” Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of the cruise division of MSC Group, said in a statement.

“The announcement today marks another significant step forward in our goal as a business to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 across all our cruise [operations] for the two brands and a further proof of our commitment to invest in the most advanced marine environmental technologies available to develop sustainable solutions for the future.”

MSC Group is the parent company of MSC Cruises and Explora Journeys as well as the Mediterranean Shipping Company. The latter, also known simply as MSC, is the largest container shipping company in the world.

MSC Group is one of just a handful of cruise ship-owning companies that have ordered new cruise vessels since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. Pandemic-caused cruise cancellations and reduced bookings over the past three years have left many cruise companies in a tough financial situation that has crimped their ability to order new vessels.

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Featured image, an artist’s drawing, courtesy of Explora Journeys.

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