Youth will be served on Explora Journeys sailings

Cruising with kids on a luxury ship often means forgoing dedicated children’s spaces and programming.  

Explora Journeys, the luxury cruise line launched this summer by MSC Group, wanted to upend that notion, not only by creating a dedicated space for youth on its vessels but by treating its younger guests with the same principles it does adult guests. 

Speaking at the dedication of the ship’s Nautilus Club for kids, hours before the brand’s first ship, the Explora I, was to be named in New York, Drew Gowland, vice president of entertainment and enrichment, said Explora is filling a blank space in upmarket cruising.

“We are unique in the marketplace, because we’re celebrating young people and offering them a unique experience within the luxury sphere that is missing,” said Gowland, adding that while there are luxury resorts on land and at sea with youth spaces and programming, they are often “seasonal. It’s an additional thought. It’s not something with their own dedicated space.”

Explora, Gowland said, decided “it’s important that we get it right” and wanted a dedicated space that offers similar experiences “whether it be in a peak children’s season or off-peak.”

On other luxury cruise brands, four or five children might be a lot, said Gowland, who has worked on cruise ships for two decades and spent five years at Seabourn. The Explora I, as of early October, had 51 children booked on its New Year’s cruise; in his previous positions, Gowland might have worried about how to accommodate the young people and maintain a luxurious atmosphere.

“That’s why I really enjoyed the process here of starting from the beginning and saying, ‘Why don’t we celebrate children? Why don’t we set ourselves up for success and have a dedicated space,'” he said.

The Nautilus Club is open to anyone from 6 to 17 years old (3- to 5-year-olds can enter with an adult). The club has a selection of board and table games, including foosball and pool; a digital library; video PlayStation and Nintendo Switch consoles; iPads; and an Oculus.

The Nautilus Club hosts who were here for the dedication said to give youth a luxury experience, they treat them as they do adults, by listening to them and being flexible with programming, basing activities on what the kids want to do rather than a set schedule. That might include taking a group to play basketball at the ship’s Sports Court or swimming pool or arranging arts and crafts sessions and a video game tournament. 

Dedicated family experiences continue off-ship. Explora is still crafting land experiences dedicated to families but said they will include “edutainment” activities such as visiting a space center and being hosted by an astronaut or whale-watching with a marine biologist.

The goal, the Nautilus Club hosts said, is to ensure the youth onboard are as entertained and enriched as the adults 

It’s a goal that comes from the top, with Explora chief sales officer Chris Austin calling the family focus part of Explora trying to “break the rules.” 

“Let’s be a little bit disruptive, but let’s also give guests what they actually want,” he said. “They want to bring their families. They want interconnecting suites and destination experiences designed specifically for families. We want to change the mindset.” 

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