MSC Group’s new ultra-luxury cruise line, Explora Journeys, is set to create a regional headquarters in Australia, to be led by former Norwegian Cruise Line senior executive, Nicole Costantin.
Headhunted by Explora Journeys’ US-based Chief Sales Officer, Chris Austin, Costantin revealed on social media her appointment this week as Head of Sales for Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Her move back into the cruise sector – after tenures with Travel Associates and most recently Travel Partners within the independent division of FCTG (until last October) – has been lauded by travel industry colleagues.
Three days into her role, Costantin told LATTE she was thrilled to be back in the cruise space, but even more so, tasked to establish a beachhead for Explora Journeys as it prepares to set up shop in Sydney.
She said Explora Journeys and its ‘Ocean State of Mind’ is bringing a new benchmark to ultra-luxury cruising.
Joining Costantin this week at Explora is former long-time Crystal Cruises’ Operations Manager for the ANZ market, Wanda Ferrand, following that luxury cruise line’s demise in February. Ferrand has been tasked as Experience Centre Lead, APAC and will be the key point of contact for travel advisors and their clients wishing to coordinate one-to-one appointments with an in-house expert on the product.
Part of the latest global staff intake, both Costantin and Ferrand are this week ‘in training’ on all things Explora Journeys, participating in online orientation and education courses on the brand being hosted from the cruise line’s Swiss-HQ in Geneva, alongside more than a dozen other new recruits mostly in Europe.
Costantin told LATTE that Ferrand will, in time, have a team of colleagues – two of which are expected to be recruited in the near future. Ferrand herself will head to London next week for in-depth product training.
An APAC outpost will be Explora Journeys’ third global hub alongside offices in the United Kingdom and United States, enabling the cruise line to provide a ‘follow the sun’ around-the-clock service for travel advisors.
Explora Journeys APAC will gradually build a local commercial workforce of Business Development Leaders – and other key positions – across Australia, NZ and crucial Asian markets.
“There are certainly a lot of discerning luxury travellers in APAC – in Taiwan, in Japan, in Singapore – so we’ll determine our strategy across those regions over the next 12 months,” Costantin told LATTE.
“With our first ship, EXPLORA I, coming in 2023 and another the following year, and two other firm orders plus two additional options it is really exciting. I’m loving being at the start of a brand and creating a culture,” she said.
Costantin said she hadn’t been itching to get back into cruising after nearly 20 years at Norwegian Cruise Line. She exited NCL during the pandemic in September 2019.
While taking some time off in Europe earlier this year, a chance meeting of Virtuoso travel advisors who mentioned Explora Journeys was recruiting back home was the first Costantin became aware of the opportunity with the fledgling brand. That in turn led to multiple discussions with Miami-based Chris Austin, as well as Michael Ungerer, CEO of Explora Journeys in Geneva, before signing on the dotted line.
For the immediate future, Explora Journeys will be participating at CLIA Australia’s Cruise360 conference in Sydney in late August, at which Costantin will be joining a panel discussion. She will also be participating at ILTM Asia Pacific in Singapore, held in early September.
Four new LNG-powered ships
Meanwhile, Explora Journeys has this week confirmed two additional vessels to its fleet. EXPLORA V and EXPLORA VI will feature a new generation of liquified natural gas (LNG) engines and a containment system for liquid hydrogen that will enable them to use this new low-carbon fuel. Hydrogen will power a six-megawatt fuel cell to produce emissions-free power for the hotel operation and allows the vessels to run on ‘zero emissions’ in port, with their engines off.
These two new will enter service in 2027 and 2028.
Additionally, the previously announced EXPLORA III and EXPLORA IV will now be LNG-powered. The change will see the vessels stretched by a further 19 metres, providing additional space to “enhance the mixt of suites” with more Ocean Residences and even larger public spaces, “which offer a true sense of being at home at sea,” Explora Journeys said. A revised delivery date of 2026 and 2027 has been forecast for these two ships.
“These bold moves to amend our construction plans, make significant additional investment in current orders and confirm orders for two more vessels with new technology despite the economic environment are something only a family company can do,” Ungerer remarked.
“This also demonstrates unequivocally our absolute commitment to operate ships that will appeal and attract the next and future generations of luxury travellers. Sustainability is the new craftmanship and we’re honoured to take a pioneering position within the industry and the wider travel sector,” he added.