Marella Explorer will be the first ship in the fleet to restart service in June 2021 after a 15-month pause.
The 1,924-passenger ship will be the first of two Marella vessels that will operate round-Britain cruises this year, and the only one in which kids can come onboard (the other is Marella Explorer 2, which is adults only).
Marella Explorer is very much geared towards the family, with a host of fun features including a climbing wall, splash pool and M Club, as well as some of the friendliest crew in the industry.
Marella Explorer will offer seven new UK itineraries during the summer season with a three-night itinerary from Southampton, visiting Dover and Portland, and a seven-night itinerary in August from Southampton, visiting Liverpool, Dublin and Cobh in the Republic of Ireland.
Here are 10 reasons to get excited about Marella Explorer's return to service.
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1. You Can Cruise With the Whole Gang
If you want to sail with the kids this summer, there are limited options available since most lines have mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for all passengers, effectively ruling out kids from cruising. Opt for a sailing on family-friendly Marella Explorer, however, and you can take the whole gang.
Marella Cruises only require over 18s to be fully vaccinated. Passengers under 18 will be required to undergo a pre-departure lateral flow test (as will adults). Adults just need to have had their second dose of the vaccine at least seven days before sailing.
2. It's Well Geared Up For Families
Not only can you take the kids along, but when you get onboard there are tonnes of fun features for all ages. There is a dedicated kids space, M Club, catering for three to 12 year olds. There's a soft playroom for toddlers and a teen room, Hideout, for older kids. There's also a kids' splash pool with a slide and a dedicated Sports and Family Deck, featuring a sports court and mini-golf course, and a Gamers Lounge.
Unique to Marella Explorer, there are also 14 wake-view Family Balcony cabins with extra space measuring 215 square feet with a 129 square foot balcony.
3. There Are Adults Only Spaces, Too
If you're not travelling with kids -- or you just need some downtime from your little darlings -- there are adults-only spaces onboard, too. Bag a lounger on The Veranda sun deck, which is completely free and features nifty call buttons to order your drinks. It's quieter than the main sun deck, though you can still hear the gentle hum of music. For added luxury, cosy couples' cabanas can be rented for £99 per day. One of the ship's two main pools is also kid-free.
Marella Explorer's luxury Champneys Spa -- one of only two at sea, the other being on sister ship Explorer 2 -- is the largest spa in the fleet and strictly for over 16s. The gorgeous space features a couples' room that can be booked out for the day for £389, which includes four treatments and use of a private sauna in a room with a balcony that overlooks the bridge.
If you don't fancy forking out for a treatment, you can use the spa thermal suite for £15 per day or a bargain £77 for a week. It's one of the best thermal suites we've experienced with multiple rain showers, steam rooms, hammam rooms, ice therapy, a relaxation area with heated loungers, an outdoor relaxation area and a wonderful Swedish-style sauna with sweeping sea views.
4. Fares Are All Inclusive
Forget budgeting for booze and gratuities, one of Marella's biggest draws is that alcohol, soft drinks and tips are included in the price of your cruise fare. Drinks covered include selected draught beer and cider, selected wine by the glass, spirits and aperitifs, a range of cocktails, mocktails, fruit juices and sodas.
Marella doesn't scrimp on bevvies, either. Expect glasses of wine or beer handed out before theatre performances; self-serve draught beer, wine and soft drink stations in the buffet restaurant and cocktails handed out on the pool deck during Movies Under Moonlight.
5. The Ship Received an Upgrade Just Five Months Before the Global Cruise Shutdown
Not long had Marella Explorer received an extensive 24-day dry dock refresh, the cruise industry was put on a temporary pause because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. While over a year of no sailing has been tough on the industry, it means the ship remains fresh from its October 2019 makeover.
No new venues were added, though upgrades took place in almost all areas of the ship, including new furniture in The Lounge and Squid & Anchor pub; a revamped Marketplace buffet restaurant; upgrades to Junior Suites and Executive Suites, including the addition of Bluetooth speakers, handy USB sockets and new furnishings; a new slide for the kids-only splash pool and new outdoor furniture and Astroturf at the Hideout.
6. Fares Are Very Competitive
Marella’s fares are hard to beat. If you compare with, say, Disney Cruise Line, a three-night UK cruise on Disney Wish, departing August 6 from Southampton, starts from £1,058* per adult and £332* per child, based on a balcony cabin. While a three-night voyage departing August 27 from Southampton on Marella Explorer works out at a budget-friendly £427* per person -- not forgetting that fare also includes drink and tips.
*Fares correct at the time of publishing.
7. You May Bump Into Harry Redknapp
If you’re a football or reality TV fan, you’ll want to grab a spot on Marella Explorer’s East Coast Explorer itinerary departing from Southampton on July 16. Harry Redknapp, the former Premier League football manager and winner of “I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!” will appear as part of an Audience with Harry Redknapp event onboard the mammoth 12-night cruise of the British Isles. Redknapp will take part in a live audience Q&A and share stories from his illustrious football career during the voyage.
8. There's Plenty of Choice at Mealtimes
With 10 dining venues to choose from, you'll never be short of options on Marella Explorer. In addition to the main dining room, Latitude 53, and buffet restaurant, there's also Snack Shack for fast poolside meals; Vista for Italian; Kora La for Asian; The Dining Club for fine dining, plus Surf & Turf Steakhouse and Umi Sushi.
Surf & Turf Steakhouse, serving outstanding cuts of meat and fish, is the ship’s standout restaurant. Worth the splurge of £28.95, dishes such as seared scallops followed by an array of cuts of steak and the classic surf and turf dish -- a fillet steak served with lobster tail or salmon fillet dominate the menu. Umi Sushi is another hit, consisting of a relaxed counter where you can sit and watch the chefs prepare fresh nigiri rolls, sashimi and other delectable dishes, such as dim sum, made to order.
9. Entertainment is World Beating
Marella's investment in its entertainment offering has paid off. Buckinghamshire-based Ted (The Entertainment Department) is responsible for performances in the ship's 1,000-seat Broadway Show Lounge. There are a solid variety of shows covering different musical genres, including "Festival", "Bud's Diner" and "Cogs", involving high-energy dance and vocal performances with some seriously jaunty set designs.
We love that Marella Explorer also has an indoor cinema and Movies by Moonlight -- classic and new releases shown on a big screen on the pool deck. Picture curling up with your loved one under the stars -- with blankets provided to keep warm and cocktails offered out -- Movies by Moonlight has a lovely romantic ambiance.
10. Marella Explorer is a Home From Home
Marella Cruises knows its market inside and out and delivers a very British experience onboard. Currency is in Pounds Sterling and you'll find kettles in all cabins. There's the Squid and Anchor pub for a pint and packet of crisps, with popular draught options including Fosters, John Smiths and Strongbow, with live sports and bingo for entertainment. There's even a gin- and whisky-tasting bar within a section of the pub.
You'll find colourful British seaside beach hut-themed seating and fish and chips at Snack Shack. English classics, including roast dinners, curries and bangers and mash, are available at The Marketplace buffet, along with Marmite at breakfast and traditional British afternoon tea, ensuring you feel right at home.