Cruising Mates Forum: Cruise reviews, chat, answers and information. cruisingmates.co.uk • View topic - Cruise Review: Caribbean Christmas on Marella Explorer

Cruise Review: Caribbean Christmas on Marella Explorer

Cruise Review: Caribbean Christmas on Marella Explorer

Postby Dave » 01 Jan 2019 17:40

We've just returned from our fifth Caribbean Christmas cruise with TUI / Marella Cruises and this one was every bit as brilliant as the others were. :D

I posted a blog from the cruise which focused on the itinerary, called Paradise Islands by TUI, so here I'll give my impressions of Marella Explorer and the overall cruise experience.

But just in case you missed my blog, you can read it here: Dave's digital postcards from Paradise Islands on Marella Explorer

I've also posted a review of our cabin, and that can be found here: Marella Explorer Large Balcony Cabin 10150

Some people have the luxury of time (and money!) to cruise to the Caribbean for Christmas from a UK port (and back again) and thus avoid the hassles of air travel. We're limited to a week, so it's a fly-cruise or nothing! But at least going with TUI / Marella means that the hassles are minimised as much as possible. As usual, we dropped off our luggage at Gatwick and didn't see it again until it appeared in our cabin, and at the end of the cruise we put out our luggage on the last night and collected it at Gatwick. I've mentioned that convenient process in previous reviews and it's been met with some scepticism, but it's true - it's no doubt to do with TUI owning both the aeroplane and the ship. Again, we flew on a relatively comfortable TUI 787 Dreamliner and the 8-9 hour flights passed more quickly than we'd feared. The food was excellent, but the choice of films should have been different on the return flight, and they weren't. That's my only grumble though.

Explorer is the most recent addition to the Marella fleet and I was keen to 'explore her' and see how she compares to Discovery 1 (and 2). The ships are similar in size and feel and there's very little in it, but I think Discovery just pips Explorer in a couple of areas...

I really like the distinctive Marella colour scheme. We saw Marella Celebration and she's still white with light-blue touches - I think that until or unless she's repainted, TUI should stick to calling her Thomson (or TUI) Celebration! ;)

Image

I usually make a point of going around the ship on a sea day taking lots of photos with my camera, but the sea day was on Christmas Day and I forgot. I did take a few photos with my phone though and I hope they'll give some idea what Explorer is like.

The outside areas are very spacious and Explorer feels much bigger than her 77,000gt might suggest. Before looking up the size I'd guessed her to be roughly the size of Costa Deliziosa (a Vista class ship similar to Cunard's QE and QV). In the middle-top area there are the usual pools and jacuzzis, cinema screen and so on, and a jogging track above, but there are also large open deck areas forward and aft where such things as a putting green and sports courts may be found.

My photo collage below also shows some of the pods that are available to hire by the day (or week). They have canopies (retracted in my photo) and a waiter-service button, but we thought the cost was silly (was it £100 per day?) and only ever saw one person in one of them.

Explorer has a very spacious and uncluttered promenade deck, although sadly it doesn't wrap around the whole ship. (The sun-loungers weren't out when I took the photo so it looks rather bare here!)

Image

My next collage includes two of perhaps three reasons why I slightly prefer Discovery. Top-right is one of the entrances to the Broadway Show Lounge and top-left is us waiting for one of the truly excellent shows we saw. One problem was that we like to sit in the upper areas but my wife couldn't see over the balcony fronts so we had to sit below! Secondly, and perhaps less trivial, was that there was no waiter service! Drinks - including wine, beer and some basic cocktails - could be picked up from tables at the entrance, but these were very definitely not of the standard of what's normally available from a waiter. The reason I was given (when I raised this with the Hotel Manager) is that the row spacing isn't wide enough for waiters, but I suspect that it's purely a cost-saving exercise on this AI ship.

The bottom-right photo shows the Coffee Port. Another apparently cost-saving exercise was that full price is charged before 10am.. why? After 10am, 'posh' coffees are still counted as 'premium' drinks but much cheaper due to the AI discount coming into effect. So people tended to wait until 10am (exactly!) before ordering their morning coffee - daft! Also, we thought the service was slower than on our previous TUI ships.

Image

My final foursome begins with my wife using one of the excellent interactive screens in the Destination Services area. We used these to read about and book our excursions, and take our printed-out tickets. The reception area is visible in the distance. More interactive screens can be found all around the ship.

The bottom-left photo shows a small part of the very large buffet restaurant where we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day. I slightly preferred the Discovery buffet layout, but Explorer's grew on me. Even at busy times, tables-for-two were easy to find, and the food was excellent. We're vegetarians and the only niggle was that salads often contained meat or fish mixed in - why not keep the bacon bits (or whatever) separate and let people add it if that's their preference?

Image

So to summarise...

Although after about 30 cruises we still enjoy being on a ship and being at sea, that's a very minor consideration nowadays. Quite simply, the reason we still cruise is because once a year we want to spend a week in the Caribbean. We could choose a resort, but we still want to visit new places, do new tours, and experience a variety of beaches - so cruising it is! And after more than 13 years of cruising, we've decided that TUI's Marella is far and away the cruise line that suits us best. We love their smooth operation and friendly, casual approach. Our first taste of TUI was over Christmas 2012 on Thomson Celebration for a Red Sea cruise; the ship wasn't exactly classy, but the experience was a revelation. Thomson Dream was bigger but no less enjoyable than Celebration, but with the Discovery ships and now Explorer, TUI has moved into a different league, combining everything they've always excelled at with what we consider to be pretty-much perfect ships. :clap:
Dave

Booked cruise 2019: December - Caribbean on Marella Explorer 2
Remaining land-based holidays 2019: July - Peak District, August - Harris and Highlands, October - Brecon Beacons
User avatar
Dave
Mutineer
Mutineer
 
Posts: 13111
Joined: 24 Feb 2011 15:25
Location: Whitstable
National Flag:
United Kingdom

Re: Cruise Review: Caribbean Christmas on Marella Explorer

Postby rdw123 » 02 Jan 2019 08:31

An excellent review Dave, thanks. I would have liked the hammock also! Marella Cruises are perhaps one to look at for the future.
rdw123
Commander
Commander
 
Posts: 367
Joined: 31 Jan 2013 18:04

Cruise Review: Caribbean Christmas on Marella Explorer

Postby bobbyoscar » 02 Jan 2019 08:55

A lovely read, Dave. I think I'm right in saying that Marella don't sail from the UK? If they did, we would be considering them now they have the ex RCI ships.
Cruises booked:
June 2020 Celebrity Silhouette
- Bergen - Geiranger - Flam - Stavanger
Sept 2020 Celebrity Silhouette - Madeira - Tenerife - Las Palmas - Lisbon- Vigo
May 2021 Celebrity Silhouette - ST. PETER PORT - CORK (COBH) - WATERFORD(DUNMORE E) - DUBLIN - GLASGOW (GREENOCK) - AKUREYRI - REYKJAVIK - BELFAST
Aug 2021 Celebrity Silhouette GIBRALTAR – CARTAGENA – BARCELONA – VALENCIA – CADIZ - LISBON
bobbyoscar
Rear Admiral
Rear Admiral
 
Posts: 4819
Joined: 01 Jun 2011 19:16
Location: Bedford
National Flag:
England

Cruise Review: Caribbean Christmas on Marella Explorer

Postby Gillzajoker » 02 Jan 2019 10:07

Brilliant, comprehensive review and photos, Dave. Thoroughly enjoyed it all! :D
Image
User avatar
Gillzajoker
Admiral
Admiral
 
Posts: 15405
Joined: 03 Mar 2011 16:07
Location: Costa Almeria, Spain
National Flag:
Spain

Cruise Review: Caribbean Christmas on Marella Explorer

Postby grannyM » 02 Jan 2019 11:13

Good reviews of this new Marella ship and Balcony cabin Dave. Thank you. :clap:
Marie
Image
User avatar
grannyM
Admiral
Admiral
 
Posts: 17607
Joined: 28 Feb 2011 11:22
Location: Ayrshire
National Flag:
Scotland

Cruise Review: Caribbean Christmas on Marella Explorer

Postby Mungo » 02 Jan 2019 11:55

bobbyoscar wrote:A lovely read, Dave. I think I'm right in saying that Marella don't sail from the UK? If they did, we would be considering them now they have the ex RCI ships.


Glynis I think that Marella Explorer has a few sailings from Southampton and Newcastle. :thumbup:
Aurora and Ventura October 2019
Britannia March 2020
Iona July 2020
Arcadia December 2020
User avatar
Mungo
Vice Admiral
Vice Admiral
 
Posts: 7010
Joined: 28 Feb 2011 17:41

Cruise Review: Caribbean Christmas on Marella Explorer

Postby Mungo » 02 Jan 2019 11:56

All looks and sounds good. :clap:
Aurora and Ventura October 2019
Britannia March 2020
Iona July 2020
Arcadia December 2020
User avatar
Mungo
Vice Admiral
Vice Admiral
 
Posts: 7010
Joined: 28 Feb 2011 17:41

Cruise Review: Caribbean Christmas on Marella Explorer

Postby Dave » 02 Jan 2019 14:40

Mungo wrote:
bobbyoscar wrote:A lovely read, Dave. I think I'm right in saying that Marella don't sail from the UK? If they did, we would be considering them now they have the ex RCI ships.


Glynis I think that Marella Explorer has a few sailings from Southampton and Newcastle. :thumbup:


There are 3 cruises on Explorer from Southampton: https://www.tui.co.uk/cruise/deals/cruises-from-southampton

And 9 cruises on Explorer from Newcastle: https://www.tui.co.uk/cruise/deals/cruises-from-newcastle

Itineraries focus on the Baltic, the fjords, and Iceland. Prices look very reasonable! :thumbup:
Dave

Booked cruise 2019: December - Caribbean on Marella Explorer 2
Remaining land-based holidays 2019: July - Peak District, August - Harris and Highlands, October - Brecon Beacons
User avatar
Dave
Mutineer
Mutineer
 
Posts: 13111
Joined: 24 Feb 2011 15:25
Location: Whitstable
National Flag:
United Kingdom

Cruise Review: Caribbean Christmas on Marella Explorer

Postby bobbyoscar » 03 Jan 2019 00:25

Thanks Sue and Dave for the information, I'll have a look see tomorrow xx
Cruises booked:
June 2020 Celebrity Silhouette
- Bergen - Geiranger - Flam - Stavanger
Sept 2020 Celebrity Silhouette - Madeira - Tenerife - Las Palmas - Lisbon- Vigo
May 2021 Celebrity Silhouette - ST. PETER PORT - CORK (COBH) - WATERFORD(DUNMORE E) - DUBLIN - GLASGOW (GREENOCK) - AKUREYRI - REYKJAVIK - BELFAST
Aug 2021 Celebrity Silhouette GIBRALTAR – CARTAGENA – BARCELONA – VALENCIA – CADIZ - LISBON
bobbyoscar
Rear Admiral
Rear Admiral
 
Posts: 4819
Joined: 01 Jun 2011 19:16
Location: Bedford
National Flag:
England

Cruise Review: Caribbean Christmas on Marella Explorer

Postby Dave » 05 Jan 2019 16:57

My wife took a few photos with her phone which I've just been browsing. Here is a select selection... :D

There's a seating area outside the Squid & Anchor lounge at Explorer's stern. This rather arty shot shows the ship's 'ducktail' (if that's the right term?) together with its reflection in the glass railing panel (if that's the right way to describe it!):

Image

Our trip to Pinel Island on the French side of Saint-Martin involved more than just beach time. The island is a nature reserve and we went for a stroll inland looking for... nature stuff.

Image

I was sound asleep when Fred took this amazing photo. It's sunrise, we're approaching Tortola (BVI), and Braemar (also heading for Road Town) is on the horizon to the left:

Image

Our 4x4 tour on Antigua included a beach break. It was a day of sun and rain and luckily the rain was far out at sea while I was having a dip!

Image

And finally - a photo from the perfect beach at Pirate's Cove, Barbados. Hmm, jet-ski or an ice-cold Carib beer?.. :think: :D

Image

And yes, I know... her photos are better than mine. :oops:
Dave

Booked cruise 2019: December - Caribbean on Marella Explorer 2
Remaining land-based holidays 2019: July - Peak District, August - Harris and Highlands, October - Brecon Beacons
User avatar
Dave
Mutineer
Mutineer
 
Posts: 13111
Joined: 24 Feb 2011 15:25
Location: Whitstable
National Flag:
United Kingdom

Next

  • Similar Topics
    Replies
    Views
    Last post

Return to Thomson / TUI / Marella



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest