Luxury side lock up Apr 2024
Luxury side lock up Apr 2024


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Explora Journeys' Nicole Costantin, Vice President, Head of Sales Australasia & APAC on luxury cruising

Karryon caught up with Explora Journeys’ dynamic VP, Head of Sales Australasia & APAC in Sydney, before she heads off to the Med to join Explora II’s maiden voyage. Advisor alert: She is also looking for more experts to join the team.

Karryon caught up with Explora Journeys’ dynamic VP, Head of Sales Australasia & APAC in Sydney, before she heads off to the Med to join Explora II’s maiden voyage. Advisor alert: She is also looking for more experts to join the team.

Karryon: Two years into your role as Vice President, Head of Sales Australasia & APAC with Explora Journeys, you’ve seen the launch of Explora I and now Explora II is setting sail in September. What has been most memorable for you during this incredibly busy time?

Nicole Costantin: Named the number-one employee in the region, building the team and launching this incredible new brand in market is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I feel truly honoured to have been trusted by the Aponte family – owners of MSC Group, Explora Journeys’ parent company – to do so and extraordinarily proud every day to share their vision with our travel partners and luxury cruise guests.

How many people work in the Australasia and APAC sales team with you?

Explora Journeys Nicole Constantin 2

We currently have a team of nine for Explora Journeys in the region – five in sales, including me, and four in our Explora Experience Centre, managing reservations.

Gillian Seller, James McCullagh, Samantha Langton, Lauren Bevan and I make up the sales team, with Wanda Ferrand leading the Explora Experience Centre of wonderful ambassadors – Matt, Emma and Caroline – all based in Sydney. Because we are on a steep trajectory, we are looking for additional experts to join us at Explora Journeys.

How much overlap is there with Explora Journeys and its owner, MSC Group?

Explora I at sea
Explora II is also identical to Explora I.

The MSC Group began almost 55 years ago when Captain Gianluigi Aponte founded the company. Today, it is the world’s largest commercial shipping company with a large portfolio of other business interests, including ports and infrastructure around the world, transport and logistics, an airline, the contemporary cruise line, MSC, and now, Explora Journeys, which stems from the Apontes’ vision to redefine the ocean experience for a new generation of discerning luxury travellers.

Each business operates independently while reporting into head office in Geneva. It is a phenomenal company to work for with every single employee considered as family.

What inspired your love of travel and how did you first get into the travel industry?

Explora I Astern Bar
Explora I‘s Astern Bar opens up to the Astern Pool.

My father’s family migrated from Italy in the 1930s and once they arrived, they didn’t see the need to go anywhere else. Dad’s sister, Fiorella, and her husband, Ron, were travellers, always off somewhere new, always with great stories (and gifts) when they returned, so my curiosity to discover the world was inspired by them.

Ron was Head of Marketing for VicTour, which is now Tourism Victoria. I did work experience with him and completely loved the vibe of his office. Even though they were ‘Victoria-centric’, they all travelled and had such interesting lives. As a teenager, I knew I wanted to travel, to see ‘everything’. Without my aunt and uncle’s love of travel, I’m not sure where I would have ended up.

What are some of the biggest challenges and highlights of your career?

Explora II at sea trials
Explora II completes sea trials.

The challenges along the way have really been global issues, such as the Gulf War, SARS, 9/11, the global pandemic and, most recently, the war in Ukraine and tensions in the Middle East. The challenges have largely been out of our control; however, the resilience of the travel industry is incredible and Australians’ wanderlust is phenomenal.

Highlights – how long have we got? I started out as a travel advisor working in a Melbourne agency for five years, before moving to Europe to work as a tour manager (I need to write a book!) before returning home and joining the cruise industry. That’s now 25 years ago and it still seems like yesterday!

I guess you could say I’ve found my place. I just love everything cruise. And now, since 2022, being entrusted to assemble a fabulous team and launch Explora Journeys to the region is most definitely the highlight. I feel incredibly blessed.

What are the most significant changes you have seen in the luxury cruise sector?

Welcome bottle of Champagne in Explora I suite.
Welcome Champagne in every Explora Journeys suite.

The simple answer to that is the sheer number of options luxury travellers now have. Luxury cruising is dynamic and ever-evolving. Every year, we witness shifts in what the discerning traveller perceives as ‘luxury’. Today’s luxury cruise travellers crave choice, authenticity, connection, space and privacy.

Conscious luxury is on the rise. Affluent travellers are aligning their choices with eco-friendly and sustainable practices, of which MSC Group is an industry leader. Post-COVID, more and more travellers are seeking luxury experiences that will rejuvenate both body and soul.

What are your top three luxury cruise experiences?

Explora Journeys' Ocean Wellness Centre
The Ocean Wellness Centre is an onboard highlight.
  1. Watching the week-by-week build of Explora I (which I shared virtually) and then boarding the ship for the first time took my breath away. The excitement of being on a brand-new cruise line on a brand-new ship sailing from the UK to Copenhagen was incredibly special.
  2. Being in New York for the naming ceremony of Explora I and meeting her Godmother Dr Sylvia Earl, an extraordinary woman who has devoted her life to marine biology and oceanography, was inspirational. And then sailing out of New York Harbor was a bucket-list cruise experience.
  3. Immersing myself in our Ocean Wellness Centre on a sea day, going from the Finnish sauna to the ice fall to the hydrotherapy pool – oh my goodness, I felt like a new woman!

What tips would you offer someone starting in the travel industry who would love a job like yours one day?

Explora I Lobby Bar
The Lobby Bar is a stylish socialising spot aboard Explora I.

I have valued every work experience I have had and grasped the opportunity to learn at every step – there is always something new to master. Take advantage of the fabulous online educational opportunities developed by industry-based organisations, such as CLIA, destination specialists, such as tourism organisations, and numerous travel partners – such as cruise companies, hotels, resorts, airlines or rail – to further your knowledge.

Explora I Nautilus Club
Family-friendly – the Nautilius Club is dedicated to guests aged six to 17 years.

However, our industry is a people industry first and foremost. Clients need to trust their travel advisors; advisors need to trust their supplier partners and vice versa. We all need to work hard and consistently to earn that trust. Your knowledge will take you far, your relationships and partnerships will take you the rest of the way.

My biggest tip is to never take those partnerships for granted; respect and nurture them every day. It is a wonderful industry to be part of, never a dull moment – and we sell happiness every day!

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