Even before the cruise Tui behaved poorly. Tui claimed the Kremlin was shut due to an extra national holiday when in fact it is always shut on a Thursday. We cancelled that excursion as a trip to a convent really wasn't worth almost £700 per couple. I am still waiting for a response two months after submitting a written complaint about the misleading information. Not everyone was informed of the changes, there were some irate travellers after the excursion. The destination services team were fantastic, helpful, responsive, so apologetic when circumstances outside of their control caused issues but most of all they were willing to put themselves out for you. The cities we visited, the excursions and the guides were first class.
Getting on was fine if you had priority boarding, for those that didn't I was told it took some 2.5 hours to check in.
The ship is tired, dated and in many places needs refurbishing. The staff are amazing, they work so hard (particularly the cabin stewards) even though several told us they were severely understaffed, we were told over 100 short on board. Getting drinks sometimes took 45 minutes and the 47 degree restaurant struggled at busy times. We were new to cruising and when we asked the receptionist for a map of the ship so we could orient ourselves on the first couple of days I was told I should have brought a brochure if I wanted a map of the ship, the same receptionist was particularly useless when we had a plumbing issue. He was the only staff member who was poor.
The food in the restaurants was excellent, the Glass House tapas was superb.
Some of the bad points;
I witnessed one man tasting the food off the spoons in the Islands self service and putting them back in the food (I did tell the staff they needed to change the dishes).
During the first England game no security was present in the bar and there were pensioners pushing and shoving each other, arguing over the crowds blocking their view of the screen.
The majority of people on board were lovely and as a couple sitting on tables with 2 or 3 other couples at lunch and dinner provided some brilliant conversations. Some of the clientele were incredibly selfish, reserved seating signs for disabled people moved on coaches so the front seats were taken. Seating in the show lounge was limited so when it was busy people would leave gaps so they had more room and tell others that the seats were taken.
The constant noise around the pool during the day was more like Butlins or a resort in Ibiza - not relaxing. Fortunately we were able to relax on our balcony.
The all inclusive drink meant so many people went on the beer early and all day with the expected consequences.
You need to be careful for the extra costs, tea and coffee isn't free everywhere on the ship. Besides the coffee shop there's also a cost from the bar in the Glass House.
Some areas were so busy that there was no where to sit during the day or evening - see earlier point about seating.
The painting of the ship during port meant that our cabin was unusable due to the xylene fumes, although we were offered a move we really didn't want to pack everything up so if you experience this be prepared to stay clear of your cabin for several hours.
Some of the great points;
Most of the people on board
The cruise was summed up by a young couple we spoke to from Birmingham, it would be interesting to go on a more upmarket cruise to see the difference.
In summary, we chose this based on destinations and we have travelled with Tui before to Orlando. As a first time cruiser it is not what I had expected from the discussions with friends who are regular cruisers on other cruise lines.
In hindsight from my perspective Tui are not good at cruising and Marella is a low end product in the market, it isn't for me but it obviously is for a lot of people as they go back time after time and the all inclusive booze is a big factor for many of the people we met.
Enough space, tight for a wheelchair.
Old and tired furniture.
Good storage space.
Brilliant comfy bed.
Superb cabin staff