Explora Journeys nabs Regent Seven Seas Captain

Cruise Veteran Serena Melani to steer EXPLORA I

Captain Serena Melani | Credit: Explora Journeys

Explora Journeys has appointed Captain Serena Melani as Master of EXPLORA I, the first of four ships the ultra-luxury cruise line will launch in May 2023. This milestone marks a significant move in bolstering the inclusion of more women in senior positions in the industry.

Captain Melani is a cruise veteran with more than 30 years’ experience. She was the first woman to captain a newly built ocean cruise ship. Most recently, Captain Melani was with Regent Seven Seas Cruises and was the inaugural Captain for Seven Seas Splendor.

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Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of the MSC Group’s Cruise Division, said: “It is gratifying to see Captain Melani join our Explora Journeys at this important moment as we get ready for EXPLORA I to take to the seas. She represents all that I and the founding family envisioned for our new luxury lifestyle brand as a disruptive force in our sector that will make it more diverse and inclusive. We look forward to welcoming more experienced women officers to the brand and our overall Cruise Division as it continues to grow and go from strength to strength.”

Michael Ungerer, Chief Executive Officer, Explora Journeys added: “We are delighted to have Captain Melani join us at Explora Journeys leading EXPLORA I in the direction, style, and mindset we have envisioned for our first ship. Explora Journeys provides enriching experiences to explore the world and reach an ‘Ocean State of Mind’. Captain Melani will steer our first ship to some remarkable, both familiar and off the beaten path destinations across the world with her incredible experience as well as her passion for exploration, and respect for the ocean and nature, which reflects our own and, we wish her every success.”

Captain Serena Melani | Credit: Marianna Santoni (supplied)

Captain Melani commented: “I was very impressed by the love, respect, and knowledge our owners, the Aponte Vago family, have for the ocean. Their personal involvement and care in each detail of the project, to deliver something truly unique in the market, is inspirational. Growing up on the Tuscan coast in Italy, I am thrilled to be part of a European luxury lifestyle brand and to take the helm of EXPLORA I, sailing to amazing destinations, some of which have never been reached by cruise ships before.”

In 2010, Serena, became Bridge Officer with Regent Seven Seas Cruises and was swiftly promoted to Master in 2016, leading to her becoming their first female Captain and first Italian-born female cruise ship Captain. She was born and grew up in Livorno, an Italian port city on Tuscany’s coastline which is also a major port for the cruise industry today. Never venturing too far from the ocean, she now splits her time between Italy and her home in Croatia where she lives with her husband.

Seven additional new appointments

Meanwhile, Explora Journeys has announced a further seven new employees for its onboard Guest Experience Team. The cruise line has enticed staff with luxury cruise and hospitality experience across from other high-end brands such as Seabourn, Scenic, Oceania Cruises and Jumeirah Hospitality.

Under the leadership of dual Canadian/Australian national Jason Gelineau, Head of Product (who himself joined the brand in late 2021 from MSC Cruises); will be:

  • Alban Gjoka, Senior Lead Culinary Operations, formerly for five years with TUI United Kingdom Cruises as Head of Culinary Operations and prior to this, he was with Oceania Cruises as Senior Executive Chef for ten years.
  • Thibaut Briançon, Senior Lead, Food & Beverage Services, formerly with Paris Society as Area Project Manager and prior to this Thibaut was with DUCASSE Conseil as Senior Consultant for four years.
  • Julanda Marais, Senior Lead, SPA Operations, formerly with Jumeriah Group in the United Arab Emirates as Regional Spa Director for four years and prior to this, Senior Spa Director at various Four Seasons locations in the Middle East and Africa. In her early career, Julanda spent time at sea with Crystal Cruises and opened the World of ResidenSea with Clinique La Prairie.
  • Drew Gowland, Senior Lead, Entertainment and Enrichment. Gowland has a vast background in the Arts, being the Founder and CEO of The MGA Academy of Performing Arts, Edinburgh, for 15 years. Drew has also spent 19 years at sea in various entertainment departments for P&O, Celebrity, Cunard, and most recently Seabourn.
  • Carmela Paval, Senior Lead, Housekeeping Operations. Formerly with Seabourn as Corporate Trainer, Executive Housekeeper for five years and prior to this, she was with Seabourn as New Build Corporate Trainer, Executive Housekeeper for the Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation.
  • Vitor Alves, Senior Lead, Hotel Operations. Formerly with Scenic Discovery Yacht and Emerald Yacht Voyages as Director, Hotel Operations for two years. Prior to this Vitor was with Seabourn for 17 years moving from shipboard Hotel Director to Deputy Director, New Build and Expeditions.
  • Paolo Milordo, Traveling Food & Beverages Service Lead, formerly with Regent Seven Seas Cruises as Corporate Service Manager for seven years and prior to this, he was with Oceania Cruises as Corporate Service Manager for four years.

Gelineau said “We are very proud to have attracted such a high caliber of luxury hospitality professionals to join our family here in Geneva. It is an exciting opportunity to combine our wealth of expertise in curating Explora Journeys’ onboard guest experience as we continue to build a truly defining and highly desired luxury lifestyle brand for today’s and tomorrow’s discerning traveller.”

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