Explora I Ship Review – May 2024

May 10, 2024  |  Share:

I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to sail on Explora Journeys from Los Angeles to Vancouver this past April. 

When sailing to the US or the Caribbean, arriving a day before departure is wise. Our American Airlines flight landed us in Los Angeles on time, although the immigration process seemed interminable. Nevertheless, we soon found ourselves en route to our overnight accommodations.

Lynne on Explora I docked in Los Angeles

Explora I docked in Los Angeles

We stayed at the Hilton Long Beach, strategically located for easy access to the port and the vibrant shops and restaurants of Long Beach. It was even possible to stroll to Queen Mary from our hotel. 

Embarkation was a breeze, with swift check-in and a warm welcome from the staff. (Note: A word of advice, never discard or misplace your ESTA; I learned that lesson the hard way!) They required it at the port. We were then treated to a well-deserved glass of champagne and directed to The Emporium, a sprawling area offering a variety of cuisines, where we enjoyed a leisurely lunch.

Our suite, an OT4 Ocean Terrace suite on deck 9 midship, was a luxurious haven that exceeded our expectations. It boasted a walk-in wardrobe, a bath over shower, a cosy sofa, a coffee table, a kettle, and a coffee machine. The veranda was a delightful addition, featuring a daybed, two chairs, and a table, with a bottle of champagne on ice and two reusable Explora Journeys water bottles awaiting us.

OT4 Ocean Terrace Suite on Deck 9 Midship on Explora Journeys

OT4 Ocean Terrace Suite on Deck 9 Midship

Eager to explore, we ventured to deck 11, where we discovered the main pool area beyond The Emporium. There were ample comfortable chairs, both double and single loungers nestled among foliage, and a heated pool. The rectangular Jacuzzis, positioned alongside the ship rather than circular and adjacent to the pool, offered a unique vantage point with a glass wall facing the open sea. An extensive bar and an ice cream/waffle station completed the scene. The retractable roof allowed for year-round sunbathing.

Outdoor Pool on a sunny day aboard Explora I

Pool on Explora I

Adjacent to the pool area, the Nautilus Club caters to the younger generation with a chill-out area and a pool table. We then stopped at the Chef’s Kitchen to arrange our culinary experience. This led us to the Malt Whiskey Bar and Explora Lounge, a luminous lounge bar at the ship’s front boasting a lovely outdoor area.

We decided to watch the ship depart from Los Angeles at the Sky Bar on deck 14, where we discovered two more jacuzzis, again situated on the ship’s side, along with another round one by the bar. Sailing away from Los Angeles with a glass of champagne in hand was a truly magical experience.

In the evening, we dined at Med Yacht Club, a tapas-style restaurant featuring Mediterranean dishes.

Day 2

It took us all night and most of the day to reach San Francisco, with the sea conditions labelled as ‘moderate’ (although the swell seemed rather pronounced). Breakfast at the Emporium offered made-to-order eggs, pancakes, and an array of pastries, cereals, fruits, smoked salmon, bacon, and eggs with beans, tomatoes, and mushrooms.

Breakfast in the Emporium on Explora I - baked beans, bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs and a fried tomato

Breakfast at The Emporium

I attended a brief meeting in the Journey’s Lounge with fellow agents, which was quite insightful. We also had the opportunity to view other suites on the ship. After lunch, we retired to our room to watch films from the extensive selection. While wandering around the ship in the afternoon, I was astonished to discover that the main pool seemed to have a wave machine (or so I thought) — only to find it was the pool reacting sympathetically to the sea!

Arriving in San Francisco that evening was a great relief as the ship finally reached a standstill. For dinner, we dined at Fil Rouge, the French-inspired restaurant, which was a delightful culinary experience.

Day 3

We decided to have breakfast à la carte at Fil Rouge, a refreshing change from the Emporium. Then, it was off to explore San Francisco! We independently booked a trip to Alcatraz, which was a short walk away and more cost-effective. The trip proved to be excellent value for money and incredibly intriguing. Upon our return, we ventured to Fisherman’s Wharf, mainly to see the vocal and amusing seals lounging about. After a leisurely lunch at the Wharf, we strolled around Chinatown before returning to the ship to prepare for dinner.

Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco - Seals

Fisherman’s Wharf, Seals

After enjoying drinks at the lobby bar, an elegant space in the middle of the ship on deck 4 with soaring ceilings, we again dined at Med Yacht Club. Later, we participated in ‘Name that Tune’ at the Astern Lounge, where our performance failed miserably.

Day 4 (At Sea)

En route to Astoria in Oregon, we enjoyed a day at sea, providing ample opportunity to explore the ship further. Due to the wind and sea swell, sitting outside was not ideal. However, we stumbled upon the Astern Pool and Bar, featuring a stunning infinity pool at the aft of the ship. There was also another small pool and bar aft on deck 10, the Atoll Pool and Bar. Before reaching the pools, we passed the gym (Ocean Wellness Fitness Centre) with state-of-the-art equipment facing the ocean, where classes were also available.

Another hidden gem we discovered was the Helios Pool and Bar, exclusively for adults, located at the front of deck 12. That evening, dinner was at Marble, the speciality steak restaurant that requires prior booking. I indulged in the most exquisite lobster bisque, followed by a succulent fillet steak.

Day 5

Today, we arrived in Astoria. It was a rather peculiar place… After disembarking, we decided to stroll alongside the river to the historic city centre (which was disappointingly nonexistent). After failing to find any open restaurants or coffee bars, we hopped aboard the Astoria Riverfront Trolley, which proved to be both informative and economical.

Explora I in Sunny Astoria

Explora I docked in Astoria

In the late afternoon, we found ourselves in the Chef’s Kitchen, learning to cook our own dinner under the guidance of one of the ship’s top chefs. They provided us with aprons, tea towels, and ingredients. That day, we prepared and cooked French Onion soup and Poulet en Cocotte while enjoying some delightful red wine. While my Poulet en Cocotte turned out delicious, I must admit my attempt at French Onion soup was quite dreadful!

Cooking lessons in the CHEFS Kitchen on Explora Journey's Explora I

Lynne on a cooking lesson in The Chef’s Kitchen

That evening, we decided to visit the Journeys Lounge, a show lounge rather than a large theatre, where a resident band and two singers entertained us with songs from Broadway. Later, we headed to the Astern Lounge to enjoy the mesmerizing performance of two talented musicians, Josh and Rafael, who sang and played guitar exquisitely.

Journey's Lounge on Explora I

Journey’s Lounge

Day 6

Today marked our arrival at Victoria, Vancouver Island. It was a breathtakingly beautiful place, impeccably clean and picturesque. We stopped at the obligatory Irish pub for a drink in the sunshine before embarking on a fabulous walk, admiring the historical buildings along the waterside and the totem poles. We also wandered around Beacon Hill Park, which was particularly enchanting in the sunshine.

For our final meal on board, we dined at Sakura, a pan-Asian restaurant that requires advance booking. I savored a delightful Penang curry with slow-cooked beef.

Sakura Restaurant on Explora I

Pan-Asian Restaurant, Sakura

That evening, at 21:15, the Journeys Lounge hosted a single performance featuring the two singers and the band once again. Afterwards, we returned to the Astern Lounge to enjoy another captivating performance by Josh and Rafael, who treated us to a fantastic rendition of ‘In the Shadows’ from A Star is Born. We even had the chance to chat with them afterward, learning that they were pub singers in Dublin before joining Explora.

Vancouver — Disembarkation Day

Disembarkation in Vancouver was relatively straightforward, with taxis readily available. We opted to stay at the Horizon Hotel, which offered a convenient location in Vancouver.

A great way to spend a short time in Vancouver is to take the cable car up to Grouse Mountain, which offers stunning views. Stanley Park is also worth exploring, with its scenic walking trails and the opportunity for a delightful lunch at Stanley Park Pavilion.

In summary, my experience aboard Explora I was nothing short of exceptional. The ship, with its thoughtful layout, abundant outdoor spaces, pools, and jacuzzis, surpassed all expectations.

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