As stated above ,this review is of 2 different cruises ,both from Newcastle ,to the Baltic sea on the 10th of August,with an immediate turn round on the 24th for another week around the Norwegian fjords,so if its overly long apologies in ... Read More
As stated above ,this review is of 2 different cruises ,both from Newcastle ,to the Baltic sea on the 10th of August,with an immediate turn round on the 24th for another week around the Norwegian fjords,so if its overly long apologies in advance.
First of all,embarkation at Newcastle was not the perfect start for us. We arrived for the first shuttlebus from Newcastle station at 1145, to be told it was already full and the next one would be in an hour ,as there was a bus "missing"..
Once at the port, checking in our luggage was fairly straightforward, there then followed a 50metre bus ride to a larger building where we waited a long time for our number to be called for boarding. The journey from our home in Sheffield took less time than all this.
Our first impressions of the ship was that it had been partially, not fully, refurbished.
The Atrium,shops and reception area were all brightness and bling, elsewhere the dominant colour was brown ,usually varnished wood, including most of the old furniture in the public areas, and the fittings in the cabin.
We chose these cruises for their itineries, and in this case we were not disappointed.
We had beautiful weather throughout the Baltic cruise, usually sunshine with low 20s temperatures, so in the majority of cases we did our own thing, eschewing museum visits and concentrated on outdoor activities .In Oslo, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Helsinki we took local boat trips with great city views. Marella provided a (good value) shuttle into Gothenburg ( which was mainly closed due to our early arrival and departure) and at Warnemünde we hired bikes to try and burn off some of the pounds gained on board. Along with most reviewers ,we felt St. Petersburg was the highlight, there we took a private tour for 2 days , very exhausting but well worth the money, with the advantage of a canal /river trip and early entry into various museums.This was specially good as otherwise we would have been queuing for hours!
Our only disappointment was Tallinn, but this was because we were sharing the port with 3 other ships, all of which arrived simultaneously ,and the small capital was overwhelmed.
So to the food.The Marketplace buffet had all the trappings of a cross-channel ferry, with a scrum and race for tables at breakfast time , but the quality was ok.
The MDR (Latitude 53 ) had more or less the same menu but with waiter service and better wine. The menu changed each day.
Best of all was the Vista Italian , only 2 different menus throughout the cruise , but top class, The only problem was that this soon became common knowledge and there was always a wait of up to an hour..
We found the Mediterranean Italian and Tapas both disappointing, and didn't try any of the speciality restaurants so can't comment there.
Regarding entertainment and enrichment, this is where we felt Marella fell down and thought certain activities were inappropriate.
The cruise was blessed with beautiful sailaways past islands and through archipelagoes.
Was it necessary to have loud music and films on deck at these times?
There was plenty of that to be had in the bars and cinemas, we would have preferred to sail away in peace and quiet, like in the sail -ins we usually missed due to early morning arrivals!
Having said that, the music and games in the evening in the bars were fun, but the entertainment in the Broadway Show lounge (with the exception of the crew show) a bit so-so.
We also felt Marella should have included lectures on board regarding the history and culture of the ports we were visiting, but all we got were talks about Baltic royalty, and a couple of shallow presentations from Destination Services who were simply trying to sell excursions.
The staff were magnificent, and we'd give them 6 stars if we could. From the cabin staff, always there to help,bar staff serving drinks quickly and efficiently,to reception organising our transition from the 1st to the 2nd cruise..
There was only a slight problem in the restaurants, where service could sometimes be a bit too slow, or after a late start in Vista having 3 courses served in a gold medal winning time of 20 minutes.
The 2nd cruise to the Fjords was only a week, but it was lovely to have the ship to ourselves in the 2-3 hours before the next group of passengers boarded, especially in the untypically warm Newcastle weather.
There were more families with children this time, with pool safety regulations often being ignored, and bizarrely people who just wanted to drink all day ,which was a bit mystifying given the landscape.
2 of the ports here were tender ports, and Marella ,to our chagrin, always tendered people who had booked their excursions first. This meant in Olden, we arrived ashore too late to book anything locally.
We used the ship's excursion in Geiranger, which was a long day, beautiful scenery but an amateurish guide.Not a patch on St.Pete.
However, here the Norwegian authorities banned noisy sailaways. so instead we had classical music accompanying the fjord exits, which we found far more applicable.
Indeed ,on one occasion we took our evening meal up on deck with us as the fjord slipped serenely by.
Disembarkation back at Newcastle was a piece of cake compared to embarkation, and we got a train home an hour earlier than anticipated.
Would we cruise again? Difficult to answer after all the adverse publicity the larger floating hotels have had, but Marella seems to pollute less than others, so its a possibility. Read Less