PHMarella Discovery II
Marella Cruises is transforming what was once the slightly faded but very popular Thomson Cruises into a livelier and more contemporary cruise line.
Its new ship, Marella Explorer, will arrive in May 2018 and although not a new-build (it is sister brand TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff 3) it will have the first Champneys Ocean Spa at sea – an upmarket coup for the new-look cruise line.
Explorer will offer all-inclusive packages for the British market, with no gratuities and certain drinks included in dining rooms and bars, as does Discovery II and its sister ship Discovery.
Both Discovery ships were previously part of the Royal Caribbean International fleet with almost identical facilities and are particularly good for young families but equally enjoyable for couples and groups of friends.
PHAll rooms have been refurbished in contemporary style
Discovery II is a mid-size ship for 1,836 passengers and the 918 cabins come in a mix of cabins ranging from inside to outside cabins with picture windows, balcony cabins and suites.
Forty per cent of the cabins have balconies, which is more than any other Marella ship, and there are also some cabins for solo travellers and some with disabled access.
All have been refurbished in contemporary style and have all the expected facilities such as modern shower rooms, TVs with satellite channels, hairdryers and USB points, although the plug points are European and American.
What many British travellers will celebrate is the all too rare inclusion of tea and coffee-making facilities, which features Yorkshire Tea.
PHFloor to ceiling windows in the main dining room
Floor to ceiling windows in the main dining room, 47 Degrees, creates a light airy feel during daylight hours and you can get waiter-served breakfast, lunch and dinner here – all complimentary.
There are no fixed dining times and sharing a table with different passengers every night is a great way to make friends onboard.
From this dining room there’s a sweeping staircase up to Gallery 47, which is only open for dinner and serves predominantly Italian food.
PHA range of dining rooms are available on board
Other free dining includes the buffet, Islands, which can get frustratingly busy when it opens for breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea but that’s not unusual for cruise ship buffest restaurants.
Then there’s the Snack Shack for casual alfresco dining at breakfast, lunch and for pre-dinner snacks, while The Glass House is near the Deck 9 pool with a retractable glass roof, which is particularly relaxed in the evening, serving tapas and snacks late into the night.
The paid-for restaurants are highly regarded and Kora La, which serves Pan-Asian food, is particularly popular because of its Deck 11 views (there’s also a Sushi Bar attached to it).
Surf & Turf Steakhouse has a New York feel, with panelled walls, and Hot Stone is a paid-for option in The Glass House and involves diners cooking their own meat on hot slabs.
PHThe 800-seater Broadway Show Lounge offers musicals and tribute bands
By day Discovery II has all the outdoor attractions you would expect of a 1996-built ship – so not top of the range but still pretty good.
There are two pools; with a children’s area in the main outdoor pool and a retractable roof over the Glass House pool, which becomes adults only in the afternoon.
You can watch a film on the giant outdoor movie screen or for those who don’t want to lounge on the sun deck, there’s a rock climbing wall and mini golf course plus bikes to hire for days in ports.
PHDiscovery II has all the outdoor attractions you would expect of a 1996-built ship
There’s also a free gym next to the Ocean Spa, which has sauna and steam rooms as well as beauty treatments.
Free children’s clubs are available for babies right up to teenagers and family activities include workshops and quizzes.
After dinner the 800-seater Broadway Show Lounge is the main attraction, offering musicals and tribute bands, and there’s Movies By Midnight on Deck 9 by the outdoor pool showing mostly family-friendly films.
The Casino is strictly adults only and of the five bars there is always a buzz in Venue, which has hi-tech evening entertainment including family game shows.
PHMarella Discovery II spends winter in the Caribbean and summer in the east Mediterranean
Marella Discovery II spends winter in the Caribbean and summer in the east Mediterranean.
A typical seven-night Aegean Meze round-trip from Corfu, calling at Turkish and Greek destinations such as Kusadasi in Turkey for excursions to Ephesus and Piraeus for Athens, departs regularly from June to October 2018.
Prices start from £1,929 per person, two sharing, including return flights and all tips plus selected alcoholic drinks.
For details call 0203 451 2682 or go to tui.co.uk.