It was a late decision as we already had another cruise booked for November. We saw that Marella Spirit’s last cruise was advertised as having a fireworks send off from Malaga. That was enough incentive so we signed up. Sailing at ten in the evening meant that there was time for exploring the sights of the city. Malaga has improved dramatically over the last decade and the port area with shops and restaurants is a delight to walk around. The old city around the Alcazaba, cathedral and Roman amphitheatre is interesting too.
The sailaway was on a calm, mild October evening. As we left the port entrance, cruise director Ted reminded everyone that Spirit had visited 41 countries and 213 ports whilst covering over 700,000 miles for Thomson/Marella over 16 years. There followed an impressive firework display to set the atmosphere for an amazing final week. Marella had laid on several ‘little extras’ and souvenirs to mark the occasion from a glass of sparkling at check in, a free arrival photo and special chocolates for this final cruise.
First full day was a sea day and friends often say that we must be bored on a sea day on a cruise – far from it. There was plenty to entertain us from a talk about the ports to be visited, a backstage tour with the entertainments girls, cocktail demo, an afternoon play and music around the ship. This was also the day for the Captain’s Gala reception and dinner. Most people dressed to impress but sadly I found the meal itself somewhat under-whelming. This contrasted with otherwise excellent food throughout. Meals on Marella are tailored to British tastes with great cooked breakfasts and roasts at both lunch and dinner. There were plenty of alternative choices and vegetarian options too.
Stage shows were high quality and they were complemented by good groups, pianist Alex and, particularly, saxophonist Callum Sweet. Comedian Phil Doyle was hilarious. Mark Labbett from ‘The Chase’ was a special guest and a great favourite for ‘selfies’ although at 6 foot 6 inches tall he towered over everyone.
We found staff always helpful and cheerful in spite of many not knowing where their future lay at the end of the cruise. The crew show highlighted that many had been on the ship for ten or more years so the end of the Tui era meant a life-change for them. Most contracts seemed to be ending and many were returning home for a break and to seek new challenges. The captain in charge of the first sailaway in May 2003 was invited to take charge of the final departure from Cartagena – a nice touch. There were tears from many both on and off the stage after the last night’s show and final talks from cruise director Ted and Captain Kafetsis. Many passengers on the cruise had sailed multiple times on Spirit and knew the crew as friends. This was our first cruise on Spirit but we felt part of the ‘family’ by the end.
We had visited all of the ports before but found something new in each. Barcelona never ceases to produce something fresh to see and we explored Toulon for the first time. The only excursion we took was in Valencia where we had an excellent guide and the ship’s price for the tour was good value for money.
This was our third cruise with Thomson/Marella and we have always found a happy atmosphere on their ships. This was also the smallest ship we have been on and it was without the variety of the newer monster ships of other cruise lines but it meant we could get to know the entertainments team and had a great time. Thank you to all the Spirit team and we wish them all well for the future. Next week we are on Marella Discovery and looking forward to another interesting voyage – but no fireworks this time.
A little tired but good on space.