MSC Group’s new luxury cruise brand, Explora Journeys, has been accepted into Virtuoso‘s exclusive portfolio of travel partners as the first cruise line in the network’s Preview program.
Officially named in June, Explora Journeys has been in the pipeline since 2019 when MSC ordered four vessels with shipyard Fincantieri to cater for a new “premium market” product. Explora Journeys is earmarked to launch its first 461 suite and residence luxury ship, Explora I, in 2023, with sister-ships to follow annually.
“As part of Preview, Explora Journeys has partnered with the network and its advisors during the crucial launch phase, receiving guidance from the industry’s most professional and influential travel advisors, as well as a head start on bookings,” Virtuoso said.
Explora Journeys’ fleet is utilising the latest in environmental-supporting technologies, while being ready to adapt to alternative energy solutions as they become available. It’s that state-of-the-art technology and an innovative approach to responsible maritime travel that appeals to Virtuoso and its customers.
Virtuoso agencies worldwide sell an average of US$25–$30 billion annually, making the network the most significant player in luxury travel.
Matthew D. Upchurch, Chairman and CEO of Virtuoso said the luxury travel network was excited to name Explora Journeys as its first Preview cruise line.
“What Explora is doing in terms of responsible tourism aligns with our own ethos of travel as a force for good. And, coming out of the gate with such an innovative compensation model shows their strong support of travel advisors. Welcoming Explora into the Virtuoso network prior to their first ship launching is a testament to our faith in this company, their leadership, and their product.”
Explora Journeys joins Virtuoso’s collection of the finest travel entities worldwide. These partners, which specialise in world-class client service and experiences, provide superior offerings, rare opportunities and exceptional value for Virtuoso clients.
Acceptance into Virtuoso gives Explora direct relationships with the world’s leading leisure travel agencies in North and Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East.
“We are immensely honoured and excited about the opportunity to partner with Virtuoso, which is a testament to our commercial strategy,” said Michael Ungerer, CEO of Explora Journeys.
“Building a brand that will redefine the cruise experience has been a long-held dream of our Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago, his wife Alexa and the Aponte family and, I am truly honoured the family asked me to build and lead this new luxury travel brand.
“Through a significant investment in research, including luxury roundtables, surveys and focus groups, we have created a customer-centric brand that will exceed the expectations of discerning luxury travellers looking for sustainable and responsible travel. We therefore feel very privileged to be starting our journey with Virtuoso, and on behalf of the entire Explora Journeys team, we look forward to a mutually beneficial and respected strategic partnership for the long term,” Ungerer added.
Chris Austin, Chief Sales Officer of Explora Journeys, said: “We are totally committed to our partnership with Virtuoso.”
“The travel advisor community has been at the core of everything we do, and they remain a vital part of our future.
“Our relationship with Virtuoso is based on long-held respect and commitment, and our new partnership provides all global Virtuoso member agencies with a compelling new brand, stunning ships and guest experience designed with purpose, and a portfolio of commercial policies to ensure doing business with us is joyful. We are so looking forward to engaging proactively with Virtuoso members for many years to come,” Austin said.
As part of Explora’s commitment to travel advisors, the new cruise line has launched “By Appointment Service,” which allows sellers the ability to wait-list a suite, with no obligation, for any of the cruise line’s inaugural collection of journeys.
“This service adds value for travel advisors, as they can take our new brand story to their clients and place a waitlist request, prior to our public open for sale later this [autumn],” said Austin.
In addition to generous commissions, no NCF’s, commission paid on optional add-ons, and easy move-and-change policies, travel advisors will have access to a robust experience centre that delivers the best in-class e-learning and performance and marketing suites.
“Explora Journeys is the perfect cruise line to welcome into our Preview program,” said Beth Butzlaff, Vice President of Global Partner Relations. “Their commitment to the travel advisors, and Virtuoso members in particular, shows how much they value the advisor-client relationship that serves as the cornerstone of the Virtuoso network.
“We look forward to partnering with Explora to help establish a solid customer base prior to their inaugural sailing and are pleased to work with them through this crucial launch period,” Butzlaff remarked.