Explora Journeys, the newly launched breakthrough and passion project of the Aponte family, expertly combines family adventure with a completely new offering in the luxury cruise market - perfect for people who love cruising but who also have a child, like me.
Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend five days exploring the family offerings of this new addition firsthand aboard EXPLORA I, with my partner and our lively four-year-old son. I will admit I was anxious before travelling, from wondering whether the cruise truly catered for younger children, to questioning whether I'd be able to fully relax without worrying if he was safe and having fun. These concerns were promptly put to rest, as every aspect of the trip surpassed our wildest expectations, resulting in our little boy crying on the last day as he spent at least 30 minutes saying goodbye to his new friends; all the fabulous hosts onboard who had been so friendly and accommodating throughout the entire voyage.
A Home at Sea
From the moment we stepped inside our Ocean Grand terrace Suite, we were immediately met with the welcoming ambience and homely touches, including a decorative divider between the bedroom and living area featuring ornaments, trinkets and books just like you'd have at home. Complete with floor-to-ceiling windows and a private sun terrace offering panoramic views of the ocean, our suite felt light and airy, with ample space to accommodate the excited energy of our little boy. The terrace space even allowed room for the daybed and table to be placed further away from the railings which certainly eased the 'mum anxiety'!
We were truly impressed by the suite's thoughtful design to provide guests with maximum comfort, from the walk-in closet featuring a dressing table and the much-anticipated Dyson hairdryer to the underfloor heating in the spacious bathroom. It made me look forward to getting ready for dinner! And the luxurious en suite even appealed to our shower-hating pre-schooler! The impeccable attention to detail really elevated our trip, including the complimentary welcome bottle of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label and the plush, bespoke king-sized bed which was made for diving into after a day of sailing the seas.
Dining in Style
The vast array of dining venues left us spoilt for choice, but we managed to try five of the six restaurants on board. Med Yacht Club was a particular family favourite, featuring tasty tapas and dishes from around the Mediterranean in a relaxed setting inspired by beachside Mediterranean restaurants. Marble & Co. Grill is worth a mention though for their delicious, succulent steaks, and Sakura offered some of the best Asian cuisine I have ever experienced.
The exciting range of eclectic culinary options at the Emporium Marketplace certainly starred as another holiday highlight, equipped with a host of live cooking stations for different cuisines from around the world. It was the perfect place to enjoy breakfast and lunch or for those seeking a more relaxed dinner option.
Whilst we didn't get to experience it ourselves, Anthology is the star of the ship's culinary scene, celebrating global cuisine with guest chefs creating menus inspired by intercontinental flavours using the highest quality ingredients. I strongly recommend you book this one in advance!
Explora Journeys currently doesn't feature children's menus, but their philosophy is that you can order whatever you want, and the chef will prepare it, so there was no need to worry. We went slightly off-menu to create our own dishes every evening, yet the chefs were more than happy to accommodate, and our little boy thoroughly enjoyed everything he ate.
When it comes to cruising as a family, what sets Explora Journeys apart is the Nautilus kids' programme. It's a lovely children's playroom situated next to the main pool area, committed to providing a magical sea adventure for young guests. The wide range of children's entertainment certainly sparked the excitement of our little one, from a foosball table and pool to colouring and Lego. With it being open between 2pm and 11pm, it also means those with children aged 6- 13 years could take advantage of a little couple's time in the evening to relax and unwind, leaving the children in the hands of the fantastic hosts who make it their mission to ensure each child leaves with a beaming smile.
The Conservatory, Explora I's main pool area, was one of the most popular spaces on board. It really showcases the ship's architectural excellence, even featuring a retractable roof which proved especially useful in the wet and windy wilds of Scotland, allowing guests to make the most of the warm pool facilities. We spent a lot of time here and one of our favourite things to do was sit in the jacuzzies and watch as we sailed away from our port. Setting off from the Isle of Skye and seeing dolphins jumping beside the boat as my little boy said "dreams really do come true mummy" was a family memory we will treasure forever.
The superb evening entertainment provided the perfect end to each day, featuring pianists and singers performing a real mix of genres, from classical to show songs and even a rock-focused performance. My son remained absolutely mesmerised throughout the entirety of each show which was amazing!
For families seeking an unparalleled luxury cruise experience or even just an unforgettable journey around the world, I would wholeheartedly recommend Explora Journeys.
The Ship Docked at Portree
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