Explora’s Ungerer: Next-Gen Luxury

Explora V

Explora Journeys, one of the new players in the luxury market, is set to launch its service in 2023.

As part of the MSC Group, the brand plans to operate a fleet of six mid-sized, purpose-built vessels by 2028.

The 64,000-ton Explora I, currently in its final stages of construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy, will become the company’s first vessel when it enters service in July.

Explora Journeys was mostly conceived virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions, which made creating the brand a unique endeavor, according to CEO Michael Ungerer, speaking a cruise conference in Florida in late March.

“We started in 2019 with a blank piece of paper to create a new brand and product. Then the pandemic hit, and, to me, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he added.

With his team and using extensive research, Ungerer came up with a new product that offers what he calls the “Ocean State of Mind.”

The concept focuses on authentic connections and mindful choices, as well as highly curated and individualized experiences.

While more luxury cruise lines are joining the expedition sector and launching itineraries to remote and polar regions, Explora took a different approach, Ungerer said.

“To us, exploration is not about expeditions or going to extremes. There are no more white spots on this planet,” he explained.

Instead, Explora sees exploration as a three-level experience that includes connecting with yourself, connecting with like-minded others, and connecting with the ocean. ”

The ultimate benefit that next-gen luxury travelers seek is that memory that lasts. And that’s what ultimately makes you distinct and distinguished.”

Part of the company’s strategy is to operate smaller ships that are able to dock in city centers and go to off-the-beaten-path destinations, Ungerer said. ”

There’s nothing like arriving at a destination by ship over the ocean. To us, the ocean is really the ultimate connector.”

Luxury cruising is also related to sustainability, Ungerer said, with passengers making “thoughtful and mindful” decisions that go as deep as becoming their “personal legacies.”

“Particularly in luxury cruising, we have a special responsibility because we do go to remote places,” he explained, noting that even ships carrying a small number of passengers may be too big for a remote destination.

With a capacity of 922 guests and 640 crew members each, Explora vessels are among the largest currently being built for luxury brands.

While everyone is focusing on emissions, the impact on communities is a key factor, Ungerer said.

“Sustainability has to move throughout everything you do…we cannot focus enough on that, and we must have a long-term view and vision on it because we must achieve net-zero by 2050,” he said, adding that having a sustainable operation is the new craftsmanship in luxury.

The endgame, however, is green fuels, Ungerer added.

“As an industry, can we move and get the suppliers to do that? It’s tough but as part of the shipping industry, I think there’s a good chance.”

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