Previously cruised on the Royal Clipper (twice) and Norwegian Star (not the best experience), so we have been on small and larger vessels. Tui package holidays have always been consistent for quality, so it was interesting to try their cruise option.
Flights - very good, the system of leaving luggage at Manchester airport and not having to handle it again until it arrived at the cabin worked extremely well. The Dreamliner is an excellent aircraft, in our opinion better than Airbus offerings. Apart from some slow service on the plane (don't think there were enough cabin crew) and not much variety in inflight entertainment all went well. Very comfortable flights both ways.
The ship - excellent all round. Large balcony cabin has plenty of storage and well laid out. Didn't find the small number of power points too much of an inconvenience, we always seemed to keep our smart phones and iPad charged. No other reviewers have mentioned a super innovation on this ship - the Navigate app. for smart phone or tablet. Much better than reams of paper daily news letters cluttering the cabin. Reception service was excellent, always attended to quickly and with a smile. Not many children on this cruise, almost adults only.
No issues with food and drink on board, mainly used Lattitude 53 for breakfast and dinner and the Market Place for lunch. Tried Vista one night, the only time we had to wait for a table, but no real inconvenience, the food was worth the wait - the Parpadelli Carbonare was superb! Visited Surf and Turf once, again a real treat, the fillet steak and lobster combination was to die for, well worth the extra. Generally the food was far superior to Norwegian and on a par with Royal Clipper ( a totally diffent cruise experience). Didn't bother with the Premium upgrade, didn't spend anywhere near the £100 it would have costs, the standard offerings were fine. Service was always quick and efficient, we had no problems on this cruise.
Entertainment was good, with enough variety for us. No problems with sunbeds as we don't like being too near the pools (too noisy). Always found a quiet spot, the Veranda wasn't all that busy and we could retreat to the cabin and the large balcony if we wanted. Just a mention for Alan and Linda - you've stirred my interest in ballroom dancing and am looking to take some lessons ashore, many thanks.
Shore excursions - only tried two. St. Maarten got off to a bad start, over 30 minutes late starting and the tour didn't show off the island in its best light. We walked into the town in the afternoon and we saw a much better side. The Tortola land and sea exclusion was in total contrast, gave us a real taster for the BVI. Otherwise we did our own thing at the other ports (have been to St.Kitts, Antigua and Bequia on previous holidays, so knew our way around).
All in all an excellent holiday, Marella must be doing something right as we are about to book another cruise on the Explorer 2 next March to see some other islands we haven't yet visited.
Very clean well presented, good storage space. Bathroom was fine for a short break and was kept spotless. The balcony was used more than we expected, so well worth having.