Sorry for this being a long review but I tried to cover most of what we did and how we found it.
The holiday started well at the airport, travelling premier class with TUI we were whisked through check in and security, it was the last we saw of our hold luggage until it arrived at our cabin. We were greeted on the plane with a glass of bubbly before take off, we were glad to have booked premier as it was a 9 hour flight the longest we have ever done. There was plenty of room to move around in your seat, video's to watch and plenty to eat and drink.
On arrival at the Dominican Republic, going through security was just as fast as check in at home, signing in at the ship was fast and straight forward, if you can travel premier when with TUI it saves a lot of time at check in's and security.
Marella Celebration had not changed much from our last cruise her in October 2016, new carpeting and seating in Hemmingways and Horizons lounges.
The standard of food on board was very good it was well cooked and presented in The Meridian Restaurant, in the Lido Buffet the standard was just as good with plenty of variety to suit every one.
We tended to have breakfast and lunch in the Lido Buffet where there was always a large selection of both hot and cold foods along with a plentiful array of fruit, we were able to have as little or as much as we wanted. Our preference was to have evening dinner in The Meridian Restaurant served by waiters Iasury, Jaydeep and Katerina and wine by Kumar who did an excellent job keeping the glasses full. Health and gluten free meals were available on request in The Meridian Restaurant and on display in the Lido Buffet to help yourself.
It was definitely an excellent change to our eating experience on Marella Dream in September 2017 where the food was just about as god as pub grub and dolloped on your plate.
Being repeat Marella (Thomson) cruisers we had seen most of the shows/guest artists on previous cruises, so it would not be fair to make comment on any of the shows we attended.
Being a repositioning cruise the cruise itinerary had 8 port stops and 9 days at sea this made the cruise very relaxing.
After our first day at sea we arrived at Curacao, where we did the Discover Curacao Island Tour which started with a visit to Curacao Museum in Otrabanda, one floor is kitted out like a 19th century Curacao mansion, then on to the Hato Caves which have about 50 steps to enter and exit the caves which are full of stalagmites and stalactites, next we were on to the Chobolo Liqueur Factory where you can see where the islands Blue Curacao Liqueur is made along with a tasting. The caves make this trip unsuitable for wheelchair users or those with waking difficulties.
Our next port of call was Aruba where we did the Aruba Off Road trip, starting with a visit to Casibari Rock a formation that is the result of the island’s trade winds, then on to the Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins which operated in the 19th century, next it was on to the ocean carved Natural Bridge, followed by the Alto Vista Chapel and the California Lighthouse which sits on the islands northwest tip, finally to the palm fringed white sands at Arashi Beach. This trip would be unsuitable to wheelchair users also those with back or joint problems and pregnant women due to the very rough and uneven terrain covered.
Next was the island of Bonaire where we did the Bonaire Highlights & Culture Explorer tour. Our first stop was the village of Rincon at the Rose Inn to sample the locally Cadushy Liqueur made from cactus and lime, then on to the Mangazina di Rei Culture Park where The King’s Warehouse is the second oldest building on the island, finally to the Salt Flats and Salt Mountains where salt was mined by slaves in the 19th century, some of the old slave huts are still standing. This trip would suit most people looking for a relaxing non-energetic trip.
Our second day at sea was a welcome break, there were plenty of activities organised if you were becoming bored with the sun bathing, but most cruisers were topping up on their sun tan.
Our 4th port of call was Castries, St. Lucia, where we had booked the Scenes of St. Lucia tour, starting with a drive up the scenic Morne Fortune hillside, translated as “Hill of Good Luck”, it was a key battleground during colonial times, our first stop was at St Marks House, a colonial style house high in the hills where you have a panoramic view of Castries harbour and the Caribbean sea. Then it was on to St. Lucia’s one and only rum distillery, where you see how the spirit is produced, afterwards you have a chance to sample the produce, all 17 different rum’s, from double strength to crème liqueur varieties and it was help yourself, you were invited go round twice if you wanted, no one in our group was brave enough. Lastly it was a bit of retail therapy at Howelton Estate/Caribelle Batic which is famous throughout the Caribbean for it’s batic prints. This tour was easy on the legs and would be suitable for most people.
The next port of call was St. John’s, Antigua where we went on the Highlights of Antigua, the first stop was The Blockhouse Fort ruins, perched 500 feet above sea level making it a great viewing platform for the island. Then it was on to Shirley Heights where during the 18th century soldiers used this as a lookout to spot their enemies and signal to near by forts. Finally it was on to Nelson’s Dockyard which is the world’s only working Georgian Dockyard still in use today, you are able to stroll through the Georgian buildings and visit the original Naval Officer’s house. This tour is not suitable for wheelchair users or those with walking difficulties due to the rough terrain under foot.
Our final port of call in the Caribbean before 6 days a sea was Philipsburg, St. Maarten, where we did the Philipsburg by Trolley Train tour, our first stop was a short distance from the ship at a cheese outlet for free samples, most of the cheese on show was the same as home, but we did get a free tub of ice cream which was delicious, the trolley train then took us on a natural, cultural and historic landmarks trip through Philipsburg, stopping at two venues for a quick taste of flavoured rums. We then had a 30 min stop for shopping etc. before returning to the ship. This was a short easy tour which was suitable for most people.
Our next 6 days at sea were spent relaxing, attending some of the activities arranged on ship, but mostly finding a nice quiet place to sit and watch time go by.
After 6 days at sea our port of call was Funchal, Madeira, where some cruisers could hardly wait to get on terra firma. We had booked the Taste of Madeira & Cable Car, after a short coach run to the cable car station it into the cable car for the ride from Funchal to Monte where the panoramic views are superb. It was then decision time, go back down by coach or wicker toboggan. The toboggan won, it was a great experience sitting in the wicker toboggan sliding down hill guided by two drivers using their rubber soled boots as brakes, then it was on to the Botanical Gardens, unfortunately the weather had been unusually cold this year and plants were about a month behind normal so there was not much to see. The toboggan ride costs 30 euro per couple or 25 euro single, well worth the experience. This tour is not suitable for wheelchair users and may cause problems for those with walking difficulties.
Next it was our last lazy day at sea, by now it was a bit colder 18c and a bit chilly for sitting on deck.
Our last port of call was Gibraltar, having been here many times we decided to do our own thing and walk into town for a bit of window shopping, have a coffee or two and people watch.
Our disembarking port was Malaga, transfer from ship to airport was carried out very smoothly and efficiently, but not as quick as our outbound flight, overall it was another pleasant experience even though we had to carry our own cases this time.
The cabin being at the front of ship it gets a lot of movement when rough. It is one of the smaller deluxe cabins with a fixed double bed and is more square in shape than most. There was plenty of wardrobe and drawer space for two people.