The Maiden Voyage of Explora Journeys’ Explora I has been canceled again. This time in not such a well-received manner as it was only 11 days prior to its July 17, 2023 start.
Why was it canceled, with the new date being August 1, 2023? What I am told is that there was a failure of something safety related supplied by a major subcontractor. I am told it was not because of MSC, Explora Journeys, or the shipyard, Fincantieri.
I must note that it appears to come as a shock to MSC and Explora Journeys as the ship is filled with all the crew and hosts (they are not servers, etc.!) and everything was gearing up for July 15th, two days before the Maiden Voyage.
According to a letter from Explora Journeys CEO, Michael Ungerer “Certain materials from a third party supplier do not meet the required certifications“. I do have to note that European defamation laws are not the same as in the United States, where “truth is an absolute defense”, so MSC and Explora Journeys has to be careful with its wording and how much to disclose.
UPDATE: According to the Financial Times of London, the problem is with faulty fire resistant panels that were supplied by Paroc, a Helsinki-based company. It is reported that Paroc lost certification on it and a second type of panel, but the recall didn’t occur until this week when MSC was notified just on Wednesday.
Paroc has identified 45 ships with faulty panels. They include ships owned by Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean. They were obviously certified when installed, so what the effect will be on these ships is not known at the moment.
You can read the full article here: Luxury cruise liner’s launch delayed as dozens of ships face potential safety hazard
So, with decades of experience in the shipbuilding industry (I was an international superyacht attorney and Managing Director of Australian Yacht Builders Pty. Ltd.), let me explain.
Virtually all significant materials used on a ship must be certified to meet various quality standards, to be used for a particular purpose, etc. (This applies to wiring, light switches, pumps, filters, all the way to engines and generators.) There are a number of governmental and regulatory entities that provide these standards and each supplier and subcontractor has to provide a certification that the materials, parts, systems, etc. meet those standards. Part of those certifications are the certifications of an approved laboratory that relevant tests have establish their compliance with mandatory standards. (Entities such as ASTM, American Society for Testing and Materials, engage in such testing and provide certifications.)
Where, as here, it could mean the problematic item(s) failed in quality, or they have never been certified, or they haven’t been certified for the particular use they are being used for, among other things. The solution can be replacement of the item(s) with those that are certified, have the item(s) belatedly certified, or obtain a waiver (rarely given) for certification.
Now, that is all well and good, and in a way what exactly the item(s) that failed certification isn’t relevant as to the fact that the sailing was canceled, the issue of transparency – especially to someone like me, who has been there from Day One, matters – but so is understanding the potential legal ramifications of disclosing too much.
From my perspective…and as I have said the lack of transparency limits and qualifies what follows…there may (let me emphasize “may”) be enough blame to go around. Quality Control is not a one-step process. The supplier and shipyard is ultimately responsible, but so is the shipowner (though Explora technically doesn’t own the ship until turnover). Obtaining those certifications is part of the Quality Control process.
Now, I won’t speculate as to whether the subcontractor gave certifications that were inaccurate or fraudulent (it appears it did give them), but it seems pretty clear that both Fincantieri and MSC should have confirmed the certifications during the construction process; not discover the issue a few days prior to delivery….unless inaccurate or fraudulent certifications were provided by the subcontractor.
UPDATE: So it appears quite clear that Paroc knew of the issue in May, but intentionally withheld that its panels lost certification. To me that seems to be clear fraud. But, as I have noted, I don’t have all of the facts.
And with that, some background! As one of the earliest promoters of Explora Journeys – and having the ultimate confidence in the Explora Journeys executives – I urged many to trust me because those folks – who I have known for many years – are about as standup and honorable as any I have met; and not only in the travel industry.
With that I arranged my annual Goldring Travel Culinary & Cultural Journey (changing the name from “cruise” to “journey” to align with Explora’s ethos) on the original Maiden Voyage which departed on July 2, 2023.
Well, as we now all know, things happen in shipyards with manpower and supply chain issues, so after I had everyone booked, I was assigned as the Ensemble Travel host, and arranged some pretty incredibly events (especially in Bordeaux), the Maiden Voyage was canceled and July 17, 2023 was the new date. I was, of course, given all the assurances possible – in this imperfect world – that the date had plenty of margin for error – so confidence was high.
With everyone re-booked or newly booked on the July 17, 2023 Maiden Voyage, the new Goldring Travel events organized, and things looking great, I was invited to the July 8, 2023 Naming Ceremony and to sail on the shakedown cruise from Civitavecchia to Southampton before the Maiden Voyage.
Well, I understand/surmise, due to Fincantieri being delayed in delivering Oceania’s Vista, work on Explora I was slightly delayed so the Naming Ceremony was canceled and I would board in Barcelona on July 10th. (While this was recently reported, the fact is that this was “old news”, as I was aware of this back on May 27th.)
More recently, it was that I invited to board in Southampton on July 15th, two days prior to the Maiden Voyage as work was still happening and the owners of Explora I want things perfect; an expected desire. No problem! I fully understood the situation and flexibility when dealing with newbuilds is a requisite. Then the cancelation of the July 17th sailing happened.
Knowing the status of the onboard crew and hosts, the enthusiasm and positivity from all quarters I have contact with, I am pretty darn confident this was a last minute – and very expensive – discovery. And, alas, a discovery that I do not know how it was made by Explora Journeys, but am thankful that it was.
Knowing what I know of the industry – and it is a fair bit – I have my concerns as to how this major issue was just discovered. A fraudulent certification submitted by a subcontractor seems the most plausible, as I can’t see how Fincantieri and MSC both missed an inaccurate or inapplicable one. But I do not know and, as I have written, it could be a something else, especially if the facts I have surmised are not totally accurate.
Now, financially as to these sailings, I have to say that Explora Journeys has overall been extremely generous – more so than any other cruise line I have worked with – both as to guests and travel agents.
But there is more to a commitment than a single – or in my instance two – cruise(s)…I mean “journey(s)”. As I tell all of my clients and potential clients, “I don’t want to merely book you on this one journey. I want to book your travel for the rest of your life!” So, let’s see what Explora Journeys does beyond this event. I used to have very high confidence. I can’t say I have lost confidence, but I am proceeding with a bit of caution. That said, I am booked on the new Maiden Voyage and will be on for 15 days…and that is my continued Vote of Confidence!
The new Maiden Voyage is set for August 1, 2023 and the ship is scheduled to have whatever needs to be replaced, certified, or waived well before that date.
In the meantime, there is limited space on the August 1, 2023 new Maiden Voyage. Want to give it another try…with me?