This is a guest post by cruise and travel bloggers Paul and Carole from Paul and Carole Love to Travel. You can find more links to their website and social media channels, at the end of this post.
We have now cruised 13 times and 2 out of our last 3 cruises have been with Marella Cruises (formerly Thomson Cruises). We had previously discounted them due to the ships being older, smaller, and not having the glitz and glamour that we had been used to with RCL and Celebrity. However, it was due to our friends persistent recommendations that we took our first Marella cruise and we are so glad we did.
Marella Cruises have some fantastic itineraries to choose from, each varied and interesting and we loved the fact that our cruises had 6 – 7 ports in 7 days, in comparison with other cruise companies that were only offering 3-4 ports in 7 days at the same time. Our Greece and Adriatic itineraries were superb. New itineraries have recently come out for Asia which is one of our favourite parts of the world to visit, so that is very exciting!
If we have the choice, we would now choose an adult only cruise and Marella Cruises do offer these. However, they also cater really well for families with their kids clubs which have won awards in the past.
We are British and as soon as we were on board we loved the familiar Britishness. We have cruised on different cruise lines but for us having familiar customs, the British sense of humour and the overall polite mentality, really works for us.
There are no huge theatres on board but the entertainment offered by Marella Cruises compares very well with other companies. The standard of singing and dancing was excellent and shows were varied. We never saw the same show twice, something other companies don’t do so well. The variety of duos and bands such as Top Men, have been the best we have seen and the old school British comedians have had us in hysterics. We liked the fact that the singers and dancers interacted and mingled with the passengers too.
One thing we noticed cruising with Marella Cruises, is that the officers were very visual around the ship. Not just at the organised events, but throughout the cruise. This was great to see and we had some very interesting conversations and insights into life on board.
We enjoyed Marella’s freedom style dining, sometimes just having a table for 2 and at other times joining other guests for an interesting dinner. Choosing your time to eat in the main dining room was also a great option. We were not tied to a time which we really liked.
The afternoon tea was exceptional and was offered free everyday, whereas some other cruise lines do charge extra for this.
We found the quality of the food excellent throughout, with a fantastic selection of British and international foods on offer. If you’re craving your British sausages, black pudding and good baked beans then you can have this. Our experience in the speciality restaurant Mistrals was superb, the meal we experienced was fine dining at its best.
Marella Cruises have one of the cheapest all inclusive cruise drinks packages out there. It is very reasonable. We paid £25 and it included a really good selection of drinks. An optional upgrade was available for £10 a day if you wanted bottled beers, particularly wines and top end spirits.
The entertainment team were very engaging and we had many fun afternoons by the pool. However, if you wanted peace and quiet there were always plenty of places where you can find this. This is also the first time we didn’t experience sunbed hogging. Passengers seemed to remove their towels when they were not using the beds which was so refreshing after experiencing selfish behaviour on other cruise lines.
The Dream and the Celebration have aft swimming pools and plenty of deck space to enjoy the views, we really liked this. They also have promenade decks which wrap around the ship, something unfortunately some of the newer ships do not have. This was our favourite place to sit, just the two of us, watching the sun go down over the ocean. This is definitely our favourite time of the day.
The comfort and service we received on board was very good. Our cabin service was spectacular on every occasion. As soon as we were in our cabin, our stateroom attendant introduced themselves and showed us around. We were on first name terms from then on and it really was a personalised service right from the start. We had towel animals in our cabin most days, which always made us smile.
Gratuities are always a contentious issue and Marella Cruises takes this stress away as tips and service charges are all included in your cruise price. We always tip on top to those that have given exceptional service, but that is a personal choice.
We are not lovers of formal nights but they do happen on Marella Cruises. However if you do not want to partake in the formalities, then there are plenty of other places to go.
We understand that there is now a Navigate App on some of the Marella Cruises ships which enables you to book speciality restaurants, treatments and excursions which also shows that, even though the Marella ships may be older, they are engaging with up to date technology and are moving with the times.
We have been trying to think about how Marella Cruises could be improved, but it is difficult to decide what to change without them becoming the same as other mainstream cruise companies, and ultimately losing their identity. If you love a balcony then the older ships that we have cruised on (the Dream and Celebration) do not have a large numbers of balcony cabins. If that is important to you, then you would need to book early. For first time cruisers Marella is a great choice as it is very relaxed and informal and the ships are not huge, so finding your way around is also not too difficult.
We know that we will be cruising with Marella Cruises in the future. Their new ships – the Discovery 1 and 2 – are old Royal Caribbean ships and we look forward to experiencing what they have to offer too.
In conclusion, if you are looking for the glitz or gimmicks that are found on the newer ships – or a more cosmopolitan European experience – then then you will be disappointed with Marella Cruises. But if you are after a great British cruise experience, then you will not be disappointed!
You read more of Paul and Carole’s posts on Marella Cruises, including ship reviews, here. Or you can follow them on social media via the links below: