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This is a review of Idyllic Italia on Marella Discovery from 16th - 23rd August 2019. My wife & I have travelled on P&O 6 or 7 times and my wife has also travelled on Cunard however this was to be our first experience of Marella. It was also our first experience of an inside cabin having previously only been in a balcony or outside cabin. Inevitably therefore this review will feature a number of comparisons to P&O. This review focusses on the ship, Discovery, rather than the ports we visited. We had an early morning flight from Bristol (5:15) which left on time and landed in Corfu at 10am local time. Our cases were amongst the first to come through on the carousel and then we made our way onto one of the waiting coaches. There followed a smooth transfer to the port and we were onboard and in our cabin by 11:20am. The boarding process however felt rather disjointed, for example, we had to collect our own luggage at Corfu airport and carry them to the coach. Once we arrived at port our cases were taken off the coach and lined up whilst we queued to collect a luggage label which we then had to attach to our suitcase. Once we had done this we then had to queue again to register a payment card after which we had to walk to the ship which was about 400 metres away (in 30C heat). We were told there was a port shuttle bus if we wanted to use it but we saw no sign of a bus. The walk to ship was certainly exciting and gave us a lovely view of the ship but the whole boarding/registration process felt a bit haphazard. I don’t know if this is mostly due to facilities at the port or due to the way Marella operate. Once we had settled into our inside cabin on deck 7 we went to explore the ship and soon found ourselves in Islands Buffet where we had an eclectic mix of salad, pizza & chips. We were impressed by the space in the buffet and the ease with which we found a table. The range of food was exactly what you would expect for a mass catering buffet operation and was certainly no worse than the buffets on P&O ships. Following lunch we completed our tour of the ship before settling into the Atrium bar for a couple of drinks. We didn’t wait long at all to get served which was great although this also gave us a false impression of how the rest of the week would be. As we had been awake since 2am we both needed a little snooze so we retired to our spacious and comfortable inside cabin. We ate in 47 restaurant on our first night and were keen to see how the restaurant and food compared to P&O. The restaurant itself is lovely. Two tiered with floor to ceiling windows provide a light, airy space which creates a perfect atmosphere in which to dine. The food was perfectly pleasant however we felt it was let down by the presentation. On more than one occasion during the week we were presented with food that looked distinctly unappetising however it always tasted very good. The portions are definitely smaller than P&O to the extent that some nights we basically filled up on the cheeseboard. We were very surprised to see that the Islands Buffet closed at 9pm with only a few snacks available at the Glasshouse bar until the early hours. The buffets on P&O ships are open 24hours (or close to) and provide a much wider range of options for a late night snack. One of my favourite parts of any cruise is breakfast on the first day. We (nearly) always eat breakfast in the MDR rather than the buffet as we enjoy the waiter service so we were surprised to find a mixture of self service and table service in the MDR. The hot food was waiter service and everything else was via the buffet in the middle of the restaurant. We both thought this worked well as it meant that you could help yourself to rolls, pastries, fruit and yoghurt without having to order everything from the waiter (unlike P&O). We had decided not to upgrade to the premium package however on the first night I asked for a pint of John Smiths in the MDR and it was basically undrinkable. I am a keen home brewer and have worked in the craft beer industry so I know a thing or two about beer and I know what I like. John Smiths is far from my favourite but I felt that it would be fine to drink that for the week as I certainly wouldn’t drink mass produced lager such as Fosters or Heineken that they also sell onboard. The pint of John Smiths tasted like it was oxidised which can happen if the beer has been on tap for a (very) long time. I literally had one sip and left the rest. We noticed that Live Room had an extended range of bottled beers including two Belgian beers (Chimay and Duvel) so we decided to upgrade to the premium drinks package. In retrospect this probably wasn’t a great idea as I had two bottles of Duvel and was then told that they had run out. So in essence we upgraded but only had 2 bottles of a decent beer!! Anyway, the range of cocktails was good and they did have bottled beer from a UK 'craft' brewery called Meantime which was fine. On a cruise ship it is always enjoyable to walk into a bar/lounge and be promptly attended by a waiter asking for your drinks order, at least it is on P&O. With the exception of the Atrium Bar if we wanted a drink on Discovery we went to the bar to get it ourselves which of course meant queuing with everyone else - which is not what we come on a cruise for. We once waited 30 minutes in the Live Room for waiter service. Basically if you want a drink on Discovery you need to go and get it yourself due to the chronic lack of staff. The evening entertainment on P&O ships is a combination of guest performers and the inhouse entertainments team called The Headliners. We have found that the quality of this team varies from embarrassingly awful to mediocre at best however we know that other passengers have really enjoyed shows that we have hated. Given this experience we had low expectations of the Discovery evening shows. How wrong we were. The production quality and, most importantly, the individual talent in the team was exceptional. This meant that unlike on a P&O cruise we found ourselves scheduling our evenings around attending one of the shows. As has been mentioned by many other people the staff on Discovery were, mostly, excellent, Whilst there were one or two notable exceptions which were confined to the bar staff in the Live Room and the Pool Bar, the staff were friendly and helpful, it was just a shame that there weren't enough of them. The captain was highly visible throughout the ship. We have been on previous cruise on P&O where we saw the captain once or twice over a fortnight. In this cruise however we saw him 2 or 3 times every day. We found his tannoy announcements to be much more informal and friendly that we have experienced on P&O. Which brings us to his sidekick, Katie, the cruise director. Now we now lots of people love her style and have even commented that she was the difference in their cruise but for us she was reminiscent of an over-active duracell bunny. Everything was brilliant, amazing or fantastic. Everything was cranked up to 11. For us this was just over the top and at times annoying. There is no doubting her talent and commitment but for us it was just too much. A feature of the ship that I would like to comment on is the lifts. Given that there was no aft lift well (unlike most of the P&O ships that we have been on) we had assumed the lift situation would be bad however this was not the case at all. If we compare the P&O Ventura which carries a maximum of 3192 passengers and has 14 lifts this gives us a ratio of 1 left per 228 passengers, however each time we have been on Ventura there were always at least 2 lifts out of order meaning the ration was more like 266:1. The ratio on Discovery is 183:1 (1830 max passengers with 10 lifts - all of which were working all week). This may seem like a trivial point but I can genuinely say that on Ventura one of the primary annoyances, and persistent topics of conversation, is the waiting time for a lift. On Discovery this simply wasn’t a issue. We pressed the lift button and a lift came - simple!! No need to factor in how long we would be waiting for a lift when planning when to go to dinner! Additionally the two glass lifts that run the full height of the ship were fantastic. Going form the ground floor of the Atrium up to the outside pool deck was great. We spent most of our time in the indoor Glass House pool which was much quieter than the outside pool deck. We were also able to find shade in the Glass House unlike the outside decks, however the main reason was that in the Glass House we were not assaulted by loud music and the hyper active Katie and her team arranging 'fun' activities. The pool in the Glass House was fantastic. It had proper steps going into the pool which made it nice and easy to get in and out, and acclimatise to the cold water on the way in! Before we left I had read a number of comments about occasional sewage smells on Discovery. We experienced this 2 or 3 times. Once in the Live Room and once in the Atrium which was rather embarrassing as the Captain was being interviewed by Katie at the time. Both of these were unpleasant and caused us to the leave the area asap however this was nothing compared to the forward lift about half way through the holiday. Once we entered the lift there was a gut wrenching, overpowering and disgusting stench of raw sewage. There is no other description I'm afraid. We were only in the lift for about 20 seconds but we both had to cover our faces and hold our breath. It was deeply unpleasant however when we used the same lift the following day the stench had gone. All in all we felt that Marella compared very well to P&O. It has a slightly different offering to P&O (or at least this ship does) and is probably more family focussed, although bear in mind that this cruise was in August. We felt the evening entertainment team were far and away better than anything we had experienced on P&O and the food was more plentiful, though not necessarily better, on P&O. We were pleasantly surprised by our inside cabin and would be happy to have an inside cabin again. Overall we would be happy to travel with Marella cruises again although I think we would try the adults only ship next time. Hope this review has been helpful to someone !!

First Marella cruise for P&O veterans

Marella Discovery Cruise Review by tinsoldier

17 people found this helpful
Trip Details
This is a review of Idyllic Italia on Marella Discovery from 16th - 23rd August 2019. My wife & I have travelled on P&O 6 or 7 times and my wife has also travelled on Cunard however this was to be our first experience of Marella. It was also our first experience of an inside cabin having previously only been in a balcony or outside cabin. Inevitably therefore this review will feature a number of comparisons to P&O. This review focusses on the ship, Discovery, rather than the ports we visited.

We had an early morning flight from Bristol (5:15) which left on time and landed in Corfu at 10am local time. Our cases were amongst the first to come through on the carousel and then we made our way onto one of the waiting coaches. There followed a smooth transfer to the port and we were onboard and in our cabin by 11:20am.

The boarding process however felt rather disjointed, for example, we had to collect our own luggage at Corfu airport and carry them to the coach. Once we arrived at port our cases were taken off the coach and lined up whilst we queued to collect a luggage label which we then had to attach to our suitcase. Once we had done this we then had to queue again to register a payment card after which we had to walk to the ship which was about 400 metres away (in 30C heat). We were told there was a port shuttle bus if we wanted to use it but we saw no sign of a bus. The walk to ship was certainly exciting and gave us a lovely view of the ship but the whole boarding/registration process felt a bit haphazard. I don’t know if this is mostly due to facilities at the port or due to the way Marella operate.

Once we had settled into our inside cabin on deck 7 we went to explore the ship and soon found ourselves in Islands Buffet where we had an eclectic mix of salad, pizza & chips. We were impressed by the space in the buffet and the ease with which we found a table. The range of food was exactly what you would expect for a mass catering buffet operation and was certainly no worse than the buffets on P&O ships.

Following lunch we completed our tour of the ship before settling into the Atrium bar for a couple of drinks. We didn’t wait long at all to get served which was great although this also gave us a false impression of how the rest of the week would be. As we had been awake since 2am we both needed a little snooze so we retired to our spacious and comfortable inside cabin.

We ate in 47 restaurant on our first night and were keen to see how the restaurant and food compared to P&O. The restaurant itself is lovely. Two tiered with floor to ceiling windows provide a light, airy space which creates a perfect atmosphere in which to dine. The food was perfectly pleasant however we felt it was let down by the presentation. On more than one occasion during the week we were presented with food that looked distinctly unappetising however it always tasted very good. The portions are definitely smaller than P&O to the extent that some nights we basically filled up on the cheeseboard. We were very surprised to see that the Islands Buffet closed at 9pm with only a few snacks available at the Glasshouse bar until the early hours. The buffets on P&O ships are open 24hours (or close to) and provide a much wider range of options for a late night snack.

One of my favourite parts of any cruise is breakfast on the first day. We (nearly) always eat breakfast in the MDR rather than the buffet as we enjoy the waiter service so we were surprised to find a mixture of self service and table service in the MDR. The hot food was waiter service and everything else was via the buffet in the middle of the restaurant. We both thought this worked well as it meant that you could help yourself to rolls, pastries, fruit and yoghurt without having to order everything from the waiter (unlike P&O).

We had decided not to upgrade to the premium package however on the first night I asked for a pint of John Smiths in the MDR and it was basically undrinkable. I am a keen home brewer and have worked in the craft beer industry so I know a thing or two about beer and I know what I like. John Smiths is far from my favourite but I felt that it would be fine to drink that for the week as I certainly wouldn’t drink mass produced lager such as Fosters or Heineken that they also sell onboard. The pint of John Smiths tasted like it was oxidised which can happen if the beer has been on tap for a (very) long time. I literally had one sip and left the rest. We noticed that Live Room had an extended range of bottled beers including two Belgian beers (Chimay and Duvel) so we decided to upgrade to the premium drinks package. In retrospect this probably wasn’t a great idea as I had two bottles of Duvel and was then told that they had run out. So in essence we upgraded but only had 2 bottles of a decent beer!! Anyway, the range of cocktails was good and they did have bottled beer from a UK 'craft' brewery called Meantime which was fine.

On a cruise ship it is always enjoyable to walk into a bar/lounge and be promptly attended by a waiter asking for your drinks order, at least it is on P&O. With the exception of the Atrium Bar if we wanted a drink on Discovery we went to the bar to get it ourselves which of course meant queuing with everyone else - which is not what we come on a cruise for. We once waited 30 minutes in the Live Room for waiter service. Basically if you want a drink on Discovery you need to go and get it yourself due to the chronic lack of staff.

The evening entertainment on P&O ships is a combination of guest performers and the inhouse entertainments team called The Headliners. We have found that the quality of this team varies from embarrassingly awful to mediocre at best however we know that other passengers have really enjoyed shows that we have hated. Given this experience we had low expectations of the Discovery evening shows. How wrong we were. The production quality and, most importantly, the individual talent in the team was exceptional. This meant that unlike on a P&O cruise we found ourselves scheduling our evenings around attending one of the shows.

As has been mentioned by many other people the staff on Discovery were, mostly, excellent, Whilst there were one or two notable exceptions which were confined to the bar staff in the Live Room and the Pool Bar, the staff were friendly and helpful, it was just a shame that there weren't enough of them. The captain was highly visible throughout the ship. We have been on previous cruise on P&O where we saw the captain once or twice over a fortnight. In this cruise however we saw him 2 or 3 times every day. We found his tannoy announcements to be much more informal and friendly that we have experienced on P&O. Which brings us to his sidekick, Katie, the cruise director. Now we now lots of people love her style and have even commented that she was the difference in their cruise but for us she was reminiscent of an over-active duracell bunny. Everything was brilliant, amazing or fantastic. Everything was cranked up to 11. For us this was just over the top and at times annoying. There is no doubting her talent and commitment but for us it was just too much.

A feature of the ship that I would like to comment on is the lifts. Given that there was no aft lift well (unlike most of the P&O ships that we have been on) we had assumed the lift situation would be bad however this was not the case at all. If we compare the P&O Ventura which carries a maximum of 3192 passengers and has 14 lifts this gives us a ratio of 1 left per 228 passengers, however each time we have been on Ventura there were always at least 2 lifts out of order meaning the ration was more like 266:1. The ratio on Discovery is 183:1 (1830 max passengers with 10 lifts - all of which were working all week). This may seem like a trivial point but I can genuinely say that on Ventura one of the primary annoyances, and persistent topics of conversation, is the waiting time for a lift. On Discovery this simply wasn’t a issue. We pressed the lift button and a lift came - simple!! No need to factor in how long we would be waiting for a lift when planning when to go to dinner! Additionally the two glass lifts that run the full height of the ship were fantastic. Going form the ground floor of the Atrium up to the outside pool deck was great.

We spent most of our time in the indoor Glass House pool which was much quieter than the outside pool deck. We were also able to find shade in the Glass House unlike the outside decks, however the main reason was that in the Glass House we were not assaulted by loud music and the hyper active Katie and her team arranging 'fun' activities. The pool in the Glass House was fantastic. It had proper steps going into the pool which made it nice and easy to get in and out, and acclimatise to the cold water on the way in!

Before we left I had read a number of comments about occasional sewage smells on Discovery. We experienced this 2 or 3 times. Once in the Live Room and once in the Atrium which was rather embarrassing as the Captain was being interviewed by Katie at the time. Both of these were unpleasant and caused us to the leave the area asap however this was nothing compared to the forward lift about half way through the holiday. Once we entered the lift there was a gut wrenching, overpowering and disgusting stench of raw sewage. There is no other description I'm afraid. We were only in the lift for about 20 seconds but we both had to cover our faces and hold our breath. It was deeply unpleasant however when we used the same lift the following day the stench had gone.

All in all we felt that Marella compared very well to P&O. It has a slightly different offering to P&O (or at least this ship does) and is probably more family focussed, although bear in mind that this cruise was in August. We felt the evening entertainment team were far and away better than anything we had experienced on P&O and the food was more plentiful, though not necessarily better, on P&O. We were pleasantly surprised by our inside cabin and would be happy to have an inside cabin again. Overall we would be happy to travel with Marella cruises again although I think we would try the adults only ship next time. Hope this review has been helpful to someone !!
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