Inspiring • Authentic • Tailor-Made

Inspiring • Authentic • Tailor-Made

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Angela's trip onboard Explora I

Author: Charlotte Boswell

Senior Travel Consultant Angela Scott, has just returned from her journey on Explora I. Take a read of her experience and thoughts below, or get in contact with Angela who would be delighted to discuss Explora Journeys in further detail.

"Thank you to Explora Journeys for giving me the opportunity to see their new cruise ship, Explora I, on a ‘shakedown’ cruise before her inaugural sailing, and to experience their new concept in cruising on a three-night trip from Portsmouth to Copenhagen."

All aboard - the cabins

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It was the first time I had sailed out of Portsmouth, and there was a lovely buzz of excitement from everyone at the port for the new ship.

On my personal cruise trips, I have been used to inside cabins or cabins with portholes, so walking into Suite 9030, I was definitely hit with the WOW factor. I had been allocated with a Cove Suite, with a lounge/dining room, with a TV screen, twice the size of the one at home, a separate bedroom with massive pillows, you could just sink into (wrong word to use for a cruise!), and another big TV screen. The bathroom was bigger than I expected with a walk-in shower, literally – step in, turn left and walk to the shower head! Every passenger cabin has its own balcony, but mine was large, came with a table and chairs, a day bed and a hot tub! There was a vase of flowers on the dining table, next to the bottle of Champagne chilling in a bucket to welcome me on board.

Once I recovered from the sheer size of my suite, you then realise that this does not look or feel like a cabin on a cruise ship. As you enter, there are cupboards for your coats and jackets and shelves for your shoes. The safe is also in here. There is a vanity/dressing area, with plenty of wardrobe and drawers for your clothes. There are pictures on the wall and shelving units in both rooms with ornaments (on a ship!) and books, all types and in different languages. Ok, I did check and the ornaments were stuck down. There was a pair of binoculars and a games compendium. A mini-bar area with a coffee machine and a kettle. There was a TechnoGym bag, which, after a very quick glance, contained an exercise mat and other objects, to join in the exercise sessions available via the TV screen in your cabin or in the exercise classes in the studio.

My suite host, Terrence, was lovely and friendly, happy to have a chat. He wanted to ensure I had everything I wanted (particular items for the minibar, dresses ironed) to make this a special trip for me.

Another agent on the trip had said that the cabins felt more like hotel rooms, but I think Explora Journeys want to make you feel at home!

A gastronomic experience

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There are 6 speciality restaurants and a Chef’s Kitchen. Dinner reservations for my first night was in the Sakura Restaurant, Pan-Asian cuisine. As someone who does not eat fish and seafood and therefore not into sushi, this was restaurant I least wanted to try. The restaurant itself was beautifully decorated, with a cherry tree in the middle and branches of cherry blossom spread across the ceiling, dark wood frames and painted Japanese scenes on the walls. My dining companions choose the platters of sushi to share, but I went for pork dim sum followed by 72 hour roasted beef in a beautiful sauce with teriyaki broccoli spears. It was divine! Thank you, Sakura, for completely changing my opinion in such a delicious way.

The Emporium Marketplace offers all-day dining, so you get to choose when and what you want to eat from a vast selection of food stations, where the chef or serving staff, will hand you your chosen dish. I went here for breakfast on my first morning on board, although this was a little later than I intended, as the ship’s horn sounded as I was about to leave for the restaurant. That could only mean one thing! So I did an about turn, grabbed the camera and headed out onto my balcony, to watch as we sailed out of Pompey, getting a wave from some crew members of the Condor ferry in the next dock.

The hardest thing about breakfast at the Emporium Marketplace was deciding what to have. I eventually settled for some fresh fruit and yoghurt, and a continental breakfast of bread, cold meat and cheeses. The staff here were friendly, happy to fetch you your drinks, juices, teas and coffees.

I went to lunch at the Med Yacht Club, with its large portholes and nautical ornaments. Did not need a starter with the bread-basket selection and some olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip into. I had a veal escalope with a lemon sauce, which just lifted the meal, followed by a chocolate semi-freddo.

Dinner reservations again had been made for me, but this time at the Marble & Co, the European steakhouse. This was the restaurant I really wanted to try. It was dark and sultry with black and white photos on the walls. The waiting staff could have just shoed a horse with their jeans and blacksmith aprons. I may have to disagree with the European description of this restaurant. I felt I was being transported to a gaucho bar in Argentina and would not have been at all surprised if someone performed an Argentine tango. And the food! A-MAZ-ING! My starter was three bitesize cubes of belly port with an orange sauce, so good! The prime rib of beef just melted in the mouth, which is great, as the steak covered the plate. Just beautiful.

I had breakfast at the French restaurant, Fil Rouge, with lovely, flaky pastries followed by an omelette. I went for lunch at the Emporium Marketplace – beef cheeks in a rich beefy stock, so I must have eaten a whole cow by now! I tried a crepe at the Gelataria & Creperie. For my last evening, I tried some In-suite Dining.

Reservations are a must for Sakura and Marble & Co restaurants. The only restaurant you would pay additionally for is the Anthology. This currently is an 8-course tasting menu created by Italian Chef Mauro Uliassi and Franck Garanger, Head of Culinary, to celebrate Explora’s Ocean State of Mind.

My only comments regarding the food and beverages, was there could be a better choice of mocktails, for those who choose not to drink and who can’t for religious or health reasons, to use a jam that was more set and a better brand of English Breakfast Tea, which I understand they are in the process of changing.

Facilities & leisure

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Although the size of the ship could take over 2000 passengers, with only 461 cabins, there will be half this number.

My first full day on board was checking out the different cabin types. It was lovely to see the lead-in cabin, which I would class as a junior suite with a balcony in a hotel, a bedroom with a separate area with a sofa and large TV screen. The balcony had a day bed and a table and chairs, and the bathroom was the same as mine. The bathrooms were the same in most suites, except for the Residences, which were marble, some had baths and some a separate toilet.

On the second full day, the sun was shining, so a good time to check out the outside areas. For pools you have a choice of the Astern Pool & Bar, Atoll Pool & Bar, the adults-only Helios Pool & Bar, and the Conservatory Pool & Bar with a covered roof. There is also the Sky Bar on Deck 14. There are more sun lounging areas with whirlpools.

The Conservatory Pool & Bar area turns into a cinema in the evening, and musicians and DJs play throughout the evening at the Astern Bar.

The Journeys Lounge is the largest of the lounges, with a cocktail bar and cabaret-style entertainment in the evenings. During the day, you may enjoy a talk by one of the guest luminaries. The Explora Lounge is a quieter area during the day, although it gets busier during mid-afternoon, when it serves Afternoon Tea, but turns into a jazz and piano bar in the evening.

The Lobby Bar is a central meeting place on board the Explora I. It has floor to ceiling bar shelves, and I do hope they have enough stock, so no-one has to fetch a bottle from the top shelf! This is where you first enter the ship, where the customer services desks are located and where the shops are. Luxury retail therapy, with the first ever Rolex boutique on board a ship, along with Cartier, Panerai and Piaget plus a unique collection of over 30 artisanal brands of fragrances and skincare, ready to wear clothes, homeware and gifts, jewellery and food and drink.

Angela's final thoughts

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Our daily lives can be so hectic, with many demands being made on us, family to look after or run around, friends to catch up with, household jobs to be done. Work can be so busy with meetings, zoom calls, deadlines to meet, starting earlier and finishing later to make sure the tasks are done. Constant demands are made on us by others and our own consciences, often to prove our ability to others.

Explora Journeys gives you the best cuisine and the fine wines. It encourages you to exercise – in a class, in your cabin or just walk around the deck. You are given the opportunity to relax in the sun, by a pool, or on your balcony. You can read a book, watch a film or sit in a lounge, listening to the musicians or just watch the world go by. When you dock, you can discover new places or try new experiences, or stay on board and enjoy the ship when it’s quieter. On Explora I, you can forget your mobile and recharge your own batteries. There’s no demands to do anything or be anywhere, unless you have chosen that for yourself.

I call that serious ME time - Explora Journeys call it the Ocean State of Mind.

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