My partner and I chose Marella Discovery 2 as I had previously been on a smaller cruise (formerly with Thomson) and as it was his first cruise. Also we wanted to do something special/memorable for my 50th birthday. The price was reasonable, and we split 2 cruises over 2 weeks which made the choice of locations more interesting. We also wanted to see different places rather than just spend 14 days on a sunbed, so this seemed ideal for us. We booked the Pride of Panama for the first week and Cuban Fusion for the second week, as suggested by a Tui Rep.
Having read varied reviews beforehand, we booked with an open mind, and are so glad we went with our instinct.
The Gatwick process with Marella was flawless and we received our cabin number tag in advance. It was fantastic that we didn't have to lug heavy luggage about and it arrived on the ship in good time. The flight was also excellent both ways and arrived in good time (can't beat the Tui Dreamliner wow!).
The process at Montego Bay airport, although very busy and slightly confusing with the immigration forms (which were provided by Tui staff) went much better than expected, and we were directed straight to our coaches without delay. The only immigration forms needed are those given to you by Tui staff on the plane (the forms we were given separately by Jamaican staff were not actually required from Jamaica to your first port of call - please check with Tui staff if unclear).
The transfer and process for accessing the ship was fine, and everyone appeared to be dealt with quickly and efficiently.
On arrival, the ship looked enormous, but when moored next to a newer, sparkly and much larger ship, yes it does look a little old and insignificant in size, but the rest definitely made up for it and we weren't disappointed.
The staff were friendly, helpful and reacted well to positive communication. We were saddened to hear some people moaning about having to wait, etc, but hey your on holiday and its not a race! We couldn't fault the staff who bent over backwards to keep everyone well fed, watered, comfortable and entertained.
We were amazed by our cabin 7128 at the rear of the ship....wow what a view and a memory we will always treasure. The cabin wasn't sparkling but was extremely comfortable and the bed was lush! I suffer with upper back problems and I slept like a log, sometimes too good and nearly missed breakfast on a few occasions!
Yes the Island Buffet and other restaurants were busy, but we compromised happily and patiently and worked our eating times around the much busier periods. The pager system was a brilliant idea for 47 and Gallery 47, which alerted us whilst nipping to the bar before dinner.
We really enjoyed the food on offer, and were unable to fault any of the restaurants on-board and the choice was immense.
We particularly enjoyed the Kora La Restaurant (Pan Thai) which was superb. The staff were also amazing and helped with our surprise engagement whilst moored in Cuba. This involved the manager, serving staff and also Camilla (Special Events Hostess) all keeping the secret. It was a truly amazing evening and a special memory for us both, and we can't thank them all enough.
Also thank you to housekeeping who put up special balloons, a banner and beautiful swans towel art when we returned to our room after a wonderful evening. Bojan was terrific, always polite and helpful throughout our stay, and our room remained immaculate throughout.
The entertainment was excellent, and again the staff did everything they could to make our stay enjoyable. The shows were fantastic and varied across the 14 days. There was always something to do even on the days at sea, and we admit to attending the gym only once! However we did enjoy the walk around deck, playing board games, visiting the shops, drinking coffee and even trying the climbing wall and crazy golf!
Paul Evans (Entertainment Manager during our cruise) and Captain Chris' announcements were hilarious (our sort of humour and a bit cheesy). We loved listening to them together, a real live double-act to brighten your day! We even held our cabin door open to listen to the morning announcements, as they were most entertaining whilst informative.
The trips offered were varied and interesting. We found the app for booking restaurants, spa sessions, trips, etc, extremely useful. We did think the internet costs were expensive and the wifi reception not always great, but to be honest were glad to have a break away from social media for 14 days! Just remember you are on the ocean miles from anything so it may not be perfect!
We enjoyed all our booked trips, and despite initially thinking they were expensive, soon realised that by doing your own thing isn't cheap either and wished that we had booked more trips through Marella/Tui. Also you have the knowledge that you are in safer hands and the trips are organised. We felt that we wasted time not knowing what to do, and could have spent our money more wisely i.e, spent 110 dollars on a taxi tour round Costa Rica for 2hrs, etc. It was lovely but we were literally following the Tui Tour. Next time we will research more before visiting, but we really enjoyed all the locations we visited.
We particularly enjoyed a chilled Zuana Beach Day (Santa Marta, Colombia), Kayaking in Panama, River Tubing in Jamaica (which was most memorable, chilled and fun!), guided walking tour in Cuba (also old cars and horse and cart trips are available by the port) and Ze-hal (Lagoon in Mexico).
Each of the locations brought about something different, and were real eye openers at times!
We can honestly say this was one of the best holidays that we have ever had, in addition to the kindness we received on our engagement. We loved MD2, it may not be new, sparkly and not the biggest, but it has a warmth/comfort about it being a smaller ship, and we couldn't fault the hospitality we received on this cruise. It still took us about a week to find everything though!
Well done to Marella/Tui and hope to see you again soon for our next adventure.
Fantastic cabin at the rear of the ship with large patio area, 2 seats, small table and 2 sunbeds. We found it cosy and comfortable with plenty of storage space.