This was our 8th Cruise, our first with Marella. Previously we have cruised with RC, P&O and MSC. We had previously sailed on Discovery 10 years ago when it was Royal Caribbean - Splendour of the Seas so we knew what to expect.
The flight and boarding of the ship was smooth and easy. We had an inside cabin and this was small but functional and clean. Marella have tarted up the sink units in the bathroom but the shower is still the same with a curtain, rather than an enclosed cubicle.
This was a new system to us as we have always previously had a late set dining time.
We were a large party of 14 adults and we knew that we would not be able to have one large table, so we split into two groups each night - a table of 6 and a table of 8. Personally I thought this was a good system, we would be given a buzzer which would indicate when our tables were ready and there was never a long wait. I would add that the down side to this is that we didn't have the same waiting staff each night and the service varied considerably, on the whole the staff were attentive and being all inclusive the wine glasses and water glasses were kept filled. However, one evening our glasses remained empty until we asked a passing staff member for more drinks, which he immediately started to fill, only to be questioned by the Restaurant Manager why he was waiting on someone else's table, a short sharp heated exchange took place, which resulted in half our glasses being filled before he walked off very disgruntled! This was awkward and embarrassing for us. Personally I think you get better service on a set sitting on a set table as the waiting staff get to know you and also know they will be tipped if they provide a good service.
The bands on the ship were very good, there were some fantastic singers on this cruise.
Bar & Drinks:
All inclusive package was absolutely fine, I didn't find any need to upgrade as there was plenty of choice in the normal package. We never had to wait too long for drinks to be served.
Excursions & Ports of Call:
We booked the Catamaran Excursion on our 2nd Day in Langkawi, after a long flight we had to be up early to join the excursion, only to be told when we got to the dock that our excursion was cancelled as the Catamaran had broken down. We took a taxi to a local beach - in hindsight this was probably one of the best beaches of the cruise but at the time I thought how dirty and shabby it looked. There were plastic bottles and waste on the beach and the sea was quite rough with Jelly Fish warnings posted on the beach!
I went swimming all the same - no Jelly Fish sighted!
Malaysia - Penang
The next day we had an excursion to Monkey Beach, despite reading terrible reviews we thought we would like to try it for ourselves. The reviews were not unfounded - the beach was covered in plastic, rubbish and bottles, lots of rundown shacks that need clearing away. I would not use the "facilities" they were too dirty. We had a BBQ lunch on the beach but I was very wary of the hygiene, but hunger got the better of me and I ate some of the chicken skewers which were very tasty and nothing untoward happened. The monkeys all came down to the beach, so you do get to see a lot of monkeys. They were not aggressive but you need to watch your bags etc.. we saw one monkey make off with a packet of pills from one ladies handbag! Another grabbed a can of coke and bit into the can to drink it, I don't think we tourists are making a very good contribution to their diet and well being. On the return journey we had to climb a ladder onto a very rickety pontoon with no handrails, so I would not advise anyone with any mobility issues to attempt this excursion. I actually wonder whether a Tui representative has tried this excursion?
Kuala Lumpur - Port Klang
By this time jet lag had definitely kicked in but we still had to be up early for our excursion to see Kuala Lumpur on your own. A very clean modern city. Loved the KL & Petronas Towers.
Another very clean city - we used the hop on hop off bus, which goes from the Cruise terminal. Went to Raffles (of course) but a long queue deterred us from waiting for a Singapore Sling. My sister went in but found it a bit of a tourist conveyor belt.
Went to the sky bar with the inifinity pool - lovely views but pricey - expect to pay London prices.
Finally a Lay in and a day at sea...of course no sunbeds available on deck.
One point to note on the sea day - my brother in law went underwater in the pool and came up in agony, something in the pool really upset his eyes. He wasn't the only person either, there were a couple of other guys also complaining of painful eyes after submerging in the pool.
Koh Samui - Thailand
Got a mini bus for $75 each way for 8 people to Chaweng beach, quite a pretty beach but not clear enough for snorkelling. Jelly fish warnings again but none of us suffered any stings.
Bangkok - Thailand
We booked the Classic Thai dance and dinner
The port is a working port - with nothing pretty to see, as were quite a few of the ports on this cruise. The coach trip to Bangkok was 2 hours - we had an hour in the Night Market before going to the show, the show lasted for one hour with dinner served during the show - a typical thai curry with various accompaniments (we were told it was Crocodile Curry) - good tasty food but it was all over and done with very quickly and we were back on the coach for the 2 hour journey back. In hindsight I wish we had made our own arrangements to see Bangkok on our own - perhaps with an overnight stay in an hotel.
Pattaya - Thailand
We did Pattaya on our own, again due to the ship departure time we only had a very short amount of time here. Had a look around a shopping centre and went to the beach - nothing much to say about it - beach ok but not pretty like the beaches in the Caribbean.
I think it would be better to visit at night to see the lady boys etc..
A group of us took the port shuttle bus to make our own way around. However be prepared for a total scrum of Tuk tuk drivers who as soon as the shuttle bus gets out of the port will start to run along side the bus, banging on the windows, pointing at their placards of places they will take you. When the bus stopped I wasn't sure I wanted to get off as there were around 30 tuk tuk drivers wanting our business. In the end two of the guys in our group managed to agree for two brothers to take our group to Sokha which is a beach resort hotel. The short tuk tuk ride took us past the building sites and smells of this area of Cambodia. It looks at present as though the whole region is under construction so don't expect anything pretty. The resort of Sokha however was a little haven. I am sure we paid too much for the Tuk tuks - but it was only $15 dollars each way and the brothers only took payment on the return journey. Sokha has a beautiful pool and access to the beach which looked clean and nice although the sea was a bit rough. Entry to Sokha was $20 each and for this you got a beach towel, and a drink.
We cancelled our - Saigon on your own tour as I didn't fancy the long coach trip - 2 - 2.5 hours for a few hours there. Some of our friends did the tunnels and thoroughly enjoyed it although they all felt claustrophobic in the tiny tunnels. The rest of us grabbed a minibus and again went to a local Beach Resort Hotel - this was about 45 minutes away.
The hotel and pool were very nice $24 each, this time no drink just a towel and use of the facilities. The beach was full of bitumen and again very rough sea, so we stayed in the resort area.
Malacca - Malaysia
The last stop before returning to Langkawi for home. This is a tender to shore, very quick and easy, you can walk into the town area, you don't need an excursion. The tuk tuks here are very colourful and blasting out with different kinds of music. You can walk to the Jonker Street area, which is quite busy and near the Dutch Square too.
My first time in Asia: Some countries were very clean and modern and others not but that was all part of the experience. In hindsight some of the excursions we booked were not the best choice. There are things I would have liked to have differently but not knowing how easy it was to get around we played safe. I would have liked to see the Mekong Delta and Saigon but both places were 2-2.5 hours away from the port as were some of the other excursions.
I expected breath taking beaches and pretty towns but this was not what we got, a lot of the places are in the midst of mass development. The beaches are not good for snorkelling and all the beaches we visited were strewn with rubbish. I think I have been spoilt by the beauty of the Caribbean. But everything added to the experience and it was a holiday I would not have missed. I just don't think I would hurry back...just yet.
One final point to note; there was a lot of sickness and tummy upsets on the ship, we heard people in the public toilets being violently ill and heard lots of people talking about stomach bugs!
As expected from an older ship. Adequate, clean comfortable, although the double bed is two singles pushed together, so you feel the lump in the middle.