What TUI Don’t Tell You About Marella Cruises

  • Posted by: Brian M

I was fortunate enough to be on the Marella Explorer 2 maiden voyage at the beginning of April 2019.

Marella Cruises is a fantastic cruise liner. Their cruises go across Europe, the Caribbean and the Middle East. I’ve sailed twice on Marella Cruises and thoroughly enjoyed it, I actually enjoyed it so much we booked our second cruise very quickly after our first.

NB: This is a continuously updated blog post. Last updated: 20/May/2019

However, what TUI don’t tell you about Marella Cruises has been documented below!

Your Marella Cruise Starts!

Marella Cruises Arrival

Upon landing at your destination, in our case, Palma. You’ll be transferred from the airport to ship. Marella Cruises Reps are available throughout the airport terminal to help guide you in the right direction. The bus transfer is usually around 20 minutes and is scenic.

At the cruise terminal, you’ll leave your luggage on the bus. In the background, Marella Cruises will be scanning your bags and within 2 hours they’ll be outside your cabin.

Marella Cruises operates a system where your bags will be tagged at the departing airport with your cabin number on.

At this point you’re still 30 minutes away from boarding the ship itself. A queue of around 20 – 30 minutes where you’ll be provided with an onboard pass, you’ll need this for for entry on and off the ship and onboard spending. You’ll be given a choice between a cash account or debit/credit account. Light refreshments are available whilst you queue.

Marella Cruises Premium

Once you’re on the ship, and I’m drawing inspiration from our stay on the Marella Explorer 2 and Marella Dream go straight to the Coffee Port (Marella Explorer 2) or Reception (Marella Dream) where registration for premium is optional, but in our opinion, a must!

Here you’ll want to upgrade to premium, depending on the ship there are additional advantages. However on every ship the premium gives you access to cans of coke, premium vodka and whiskey at the bar, cocktails and an extensive drinks menu.

On the Marella Explorer 2, there was a dedicated Gin & Whiskey bar which was free for premium user but specialist gin and whiskey was chargeable to everyone else.

What is Premium

Premium is a stress-free way of asking for a drink. The menus are limited in their numbers and can be confusing. You’ll get loads of extras including; upgraded cocktails, all drinks from the Coffee Port (Marella Explorer 1 & 2), premium vodka, rums, tequilas and gins, a huge range of whiskies, brandies and cognacs, cans of soft drinks and juices as well as a 1.5 litre bottle of water per cabin, per day each.

Well worth the £50, especially if you plan to go wild like we did! The Gin & Whiskey bar on the Explorer 2 with a varied menu is also free to premium guests, I go more into this later on.

On-board chargeable transactions are charged with a receipt and your signature. This is added to your bill which is available at reception upon request. Your bill is also available to view via the on-board touch screen devices dotted around the ship.

On another note, I’m a huge fizzy drink drinker to the detriment of both my health and dentist! However, I need a can of Coke (They don’t do Pepsi Max) in the morning and cans are only available on premium!

Explore the Ship!

Once signed-up you’ll want to explorer the ship, there are many benefits to exploring the ship.

  1. Find out where everything is
  2. Get a feel for the sheer size of the ship – it’s essentially a holiday resort on water!
  3. Soak up the exciting atmosphere
  4. Make sure you know where the buffet line and bars are!
  5. Find where your Cabin is

If you’re an adventurer like us, you’ll want to depart the ship, you have until 21:00 to explore Palma, this is when you’re required to be back on the ship! There is a shuttle bus that’ll take you to Palma and back every 15 minutes.

However, there is a Muster Drill at 18:00 and just like the name suggests… You “must” participate if you’re on the ship. You’ll find your Muster Drill station located behind your cabin door. You are not required to take your life jacket. The Muster Drill takes around 20 minutes. Should you be exploring Palma, you’ll be required to go through this upon your return to the ship. The Muster Drill is a Maritime Law and is not optional!

On the first evening, most places apart from the Buffet is dead. I’m not sure what happens on the first evening, but I presume everyone is unpacking, so you won’t be able to get a true tell on which bars are the busiest.

We personally prefer quiet bars or playing monopoly in the library (Marella Dream) among other games in the Coffee Port (Marella Explorer 2). There is a bar for everyone’s taste. With amazing talent in terms of entertainment.

There are many restaurants across the Marella fleet some free and some that cost regardless of premium. We actually had a steak in one of these restaurants that cost £20 each and, it was dry and not the best in the world!

What they serve in the sit down restaurant the Orion (Marella Dream) Latitude 53 (Marella Explorer 2) can be found in the buffet.

Marella Cruises Food & Drink

Actually, the food in general isn’t the best, but to be honest, I’m on holiday and it isn’t at the top of the priority list – you certainly won’t go hungry!

On the Marella Explorer 2 they had a specific Pizza bar and Pizza Chef and I ate a lot of Pizza that week! This is located in the buffet. There is also Fosters available from the pump across the buffet, so you’ll never go thirsty!

On the Marella Explorer 2, there are snack shacks on the pool deck, again, it’s unlimited and as much as you can eat, burgers, hotdogs, cookies and more! There are also packaged food, which although we didn’t do this, is great for packed lunches during your excursion the following day or that day!

Marella Cruises Cabin

On the Marella Dream there wasn’t a balcony cabin, on the Marella Explorer 2 there were. I’ve had a taste of both outside and balcony and don’t really fancy an inside cabin.

They’re really well presented, and you’ll be looked after by a Cabin Steward Fahrudin (Marella Dream) and Max (Marella Explorer 2) your steward will obviously be different!

On the Marella Dream, the Cabin Steward was fantastic! He couldn’t do enough for you!! It’d be like he had learnt your walking pattern as whether he was inside a cabin cleaning or in the corridor, there’d always be a “morning”, “afternoon” or “evening” followed by Brian & Olivia!

Marella Dream Outside Cabin
Marella Dream Outside Cabin

Then he’d come out and greet you, ask about your day.

Always with a smile and always asking whether we’d have everything we needed. A really nice guy who was well tipped!

On the Marella Explorer 2 I recognised the receptionist from the Marella Dream and we got into a conversation, since my time on the Marella Dream the cabin stewards have gone from maintaining 10 cabins to 45! It was really telling! The service on the Marella Explorer 2 from the stewards really suffered!

As part of premium as an example, you’re meant to get a bottle of water each, daily, we didn’t!

We didn’t at all! Among other things like friendliness! Marella Cruises should revert back to the 10 cabins per steward rule!

The staff overall, are really friendly and whether they’re English reps or plumbers who struggle with English, they’ll all greet you in a friendly manner. It can become repetitive, but it rubs off and you’ll find yourself being friendly.

Marella Explorer 2 Gin & Whiskey Bar

Oh what a ship this is! With a seriously stacked list of Gin & Whiskey at the “Gin & Whiskey Bar” found on Deck 7 to the side of the Squid & Anchor bar.

My MD who is a discerning Gin drinker commented that for £50 for the premium was worth it for the Gin available to drink.

The bar steward was very knowledgeable and helped me understand the various whiskeys available and mixed Gin for Olivia that she thoroughly enjoyed drinking. Olivia now has an expensive taste for Gin!

Marella Cruises SeaScape Experiences

*Warning* I go on a rant here!!!

Olivia & I during our seascape experience.

On the Marella Dream, it was also the first time I’d gone on holiday. I really wanted to make memorable experiences and over spent, slightly!

However, one activity I did take in was a one-on-one photography experience called “SeaScape” and it’s essentially half an hour with a professional photographer, and I use the term professional loosely.

During the SeaScape you’ll be walked across the ship and snaps taken, usually on a Nikon D7200 crop sensor on a 50mm lens, a Neewer softbox and a yongnuo speed light. This isn’t the most expensive set-up and I know this, as I’ve taken inspiration and own all this bar the Nikon D7200 and opting for the Nikon D5300 instead!

My point here is, many people are being charged ££££ for photography, where as on the Marella Dream I got 119 photos for £200, on the Marella Explorer 2 on the other hand, they wanted £70 per photo or if you wanted in this case the whole portfolio 178 photos it’d be a minimum of £1780!!! To give you an idea of price! All we wanted, was the photos on USB to use on social media. The second time round, the photos aren’t the best either, they were not  flattering angles! I didn’t see the value in them and there was only 2 photos we actually liked! Stay well clear and if you want similar photo quality, most people on the cruise volunteer to take a photo for you anyway! As an all or nothing type of person, we chose not to purchase any, to the displeasure of the photography manager!

Internet & Marella Cruises Data

If you go on holiday and require internet, is it really a holiday? You’ll find internet access whilst at Sea is non-exist on your phone, you’ll need to use Marella Cruises WiFi which is in the region of £90 for 2GB. This isn’t worth it as you’ll have internet during the day whilst on your excursions.

Marella Cruises Formal Night & Dress to Impress

Most cruise liners have a tradition and it’s sometimes called Formal Night or Dress to Impress.

On the Marella Explorer 2 there were two Dress to Impress nights. The ship will be divided into two, you’ll be given a time and place to attend. This is of course optional.

You’ll queue at Latittude 53 or Orion dependent on the ship. You’ll shake hands with the captain, have a photo and then sit down for a meal. However, the photo is completely optional.

To my dismay there was no captains table! On both the formal night and dress to impress nights, there was a tendency to dress more smart casual then anything more than formal. Many gentleman were sporting a jacket and trousers whilst some dressed with a casual shirt and jeans. In reality it’s whatever you’re comfortable with.

Marella Cruises On-board Shops

The shops on the ship look way better than shops in real life, however there is no real value or discount to be had in these shops.

Nothing you can buy in the shops on-board, you can’t find a discount code for back home and buy cheaper. Have a look around them if only to see how well presented they are. However, purchases are better back in the UK with a good coupon code.

Marella Cruises Entertainment

The entertainment on-board is fantastic, there is always a singer or show on of an evening in each lounge / bar. The entertainers tend to rotate from bar to bar. I avoided the big Broadway shows personally as they’re not really my thing, however talking to other passengers, they all seemed to thoroughly enjoy them. The quality of the entertainment is outstanding. My particular favourite was an Elton John tribute act, the guy (Andrew) had all the mannerisms of Elton John down to a Tee! It was really impressive to watch!

I was really impressed with this Elton John tribute, so much so I started recording to show everyone at home and found myself filming a Code Victoria warning that went across the ship from the cruise director on the bridge. Listen to it below! Do you know what a Code Victoria is? Let me know in the comments below!

Marella Cruises Excursions

The excursions available across the Marella Cruises itinerary are fantastic. However my best tip is, when you go on a guided tour. Make sure to bring your own earphones.

On guided tours, you’ll follow a local expert listening to their commentary using a radio transmitter. The earphone provided is one ear piece and very short wire. Take your own earhones for comfort and convenience of being able to leave the radio in your pocket rather than having it dangle down from your neck. Also, each time you move your head, their earphone will fall out of your ear!

Having had my first holiday at only 27, I’ve got a lot of making up for in terms of exploring! The excursions are a fantastic way of seeing cities with commentary from a local.

An example of this is Rome, I’ve now seen the whole of Rome in a very grueling 10 hour excursion that was very heavy on the feet! I’ll return to Rome for a weekend having now pin pointed what I’d like to see more of!

I’ve travelled around Barcelona and have since returned twice and feel like I know my way around, each time returning to old stomping grounds as well as exploring more of what I missed the previous time!

Your excursion guide will recommend / insist that you dine at certain places whilst you’re on your break. The guide and their company earns a commission from this and our guide on the “Pompeii & Mount Vesuvius Excursion” was in the restraunt of their choice for well over 1.5 hours, eating into time spent in Pompeii (excuse the pun!).

Marella Cruises Ports

The ports, not all ports are as picturesque as Monaco! Port of Livorno as an example is actually a working port that sees hundreds of thousands of Cargo a year. Therefore access through the port is limited, you can’t just get off and walk around. This port is for Pisa and Florence.

Other ports like Barcelona marina, you’ll be able to get off, walk across the road and be in the centre within 10 minutes! We were lucky enough to go to Monaco and dock at Port Hercules. Captain MacAry was introducing us to Monaco and you could hear the passion in his voice, this was a rarity. Another fantastic destination that I’ve always wanted to visit, but perhaps wouldn’t unless I was on a cruise.

Have you been on a Marella Cruise? Have I missed anything out? Do you have a question? Comment below and I’ll try and answer…



Leave a comment
Author: Brian M
A digital marketing manager with a proven track record in boosting sales and increasing brand exposure. With experience working in several industries, including the mobile leisure, travel and tourism, and service sectors, I’ve successfully employed offline and online strategies to drive footfall, generate leads, and deliver sales.