The itinerary was changed 3 weeks before we sailed and we were given the option to cancel. However, having made a variety of arrangements (hotels. car park, house-sitters) we decided to stick with it and accept the OBC, although with it being an All Inclusive cruise this wasn't really much use.
A week before we travelled we received notification that we would be flying back to East Midlands, rather than Birmingham, since the runway was undergoing works at night. This added an hour on our homeward journey, not what you want at 1.30am when you've been up for over 20 hours already and still have almost 5 hours to drive home. As the runway works had been published much earlier in the year, they were clearly aware of this at the time we booked (September) and should have made us aware. Had they done so, we would not have booked the cruise.
The outbound flight had about 125 empty seats, presumably due to passengers who had cancelled. Cabin crew did move a few people so as to ease the congested areas. We did only have one meal going out, rather than the promised two for long-haul.
Our cabin was generally OK, other than the vibration which did hinder my sleep a few nights. We tried to upgrade and were quite happy to pay. Even though they had about 200 empty cabins, they wanted a ridiculous amount from us. It was twice as much as we could have paid whilst still at home.
Service in the restaurant was excellent. The waiters are always so friendly and helpful. Food is very goo, although does lack a bit of variety at times. The bar service was generally very good but it was a shame that many of the drinks I expected on the upgraded premium package ran out early on and were not replenished for about a week. I discussed this with a manager but was not recompensed for the lack of being able to use the package I'd paid for.
Service from Destination Services was poor. The information that was provided was, in many instances, totally incorrect and, when I queried this with them, they were quite defensive and unpleasant. It transpires that the only information they have to impart comes from Google (!!) or the Port Agents. I got the impression that they were really only interested in those people taking the ships tours.
Part way through the first week, it was announced that some of the original itinerary was being re-instated. Whilst it was a vast improvement on the amended itinerary it did lead to some issues, such as not having the right currency, and not having done enough research for DIY when in port. Some of the ports that were left on were diabolical with nothing at all to do in the vicinity. Fujairah - we went to the port gates, took one look at where we would have to walk to get anywhere ourselves, and went back to the ship. The shuttle bus driver said that there wasn't much point in going in to Fujairah as it was Friday, Prayer Day and everywhere was shut anyway. Khor Fakkan - the ship offered tours to Fujairah and not a lot else so that was another wasted day.
The entertainment on offer was generally poor, mainly Butlins or Benidorm style. It was trivia, quizzes and karaoke. I mean, 'cryptic biscuit', guess the name of the biscuit from the clue? Whoever thought of that?! The evening theatre shows should have been twice a night but in the second week this was reduced to just one. We were not told why so I asked the assistant cruise director who said that they had been told to do it by HO, due to the low passenger numbers. In the second week there were only about 1100 passengers instead of 1800, presumably again because people had taken the cancellation option. I was told that it was better for the show team to perform to one larger audience. I replied that surely what suited the paying passengers should have been of higher importance. Since we like to dine at about 8pm, we were unable to see any of the shows as they were held at 9pm.
The classical singer in the Atrium was popular so this is an area that could be built on
The guest speakers were great but not utilised enough. Marella needs to realise that some of the passengers actually have brains that they want to use, even when on holiday.
One day, when we were in the worst port of all (and it rained all day) out of 21 activities listed in the Cruise News, 10 were Spa events, 2 were shop sales, 1 was Bingo ticket sales!
I used the steam room a few times which was very pleasant. However, on many occasions the floor in the changing area was swimming in water.
Embarkation was OK, in general, although disembarking was poor. We had to get on a coach, drive less than 200 metres, get off the coach to do Oman immigration, then re board the coach to the airport. I asked if we could just walk but were told that we couldn't since passengers might get on the shuttle bus to the port gates by mistake. Many passengers didn't take their hand-luggage off with them to go through the security machines but the Marella representative said to keep in quiet and it wouldn't matter. We were at the airport several hours early and, whilst it is a beautiful airport (Muscat) there is very little seating.
On the plane back the rear part was almost empty of passengers and the captain announced that there were 170 passengers on the 300 seat plane. Cabin crew refused to let anybody move unless they paid £65 each, claiming that the empty seats were all extra legroom seats. This meant that we had a very uncomfortable 8 hour flight home since we had a rather large and smelly passenger sat next to us who had wanted to move. This seemed to be another penny pinching move by Tui/Marella.
To summarise, there were too many changes which were poorly communicated. Many of the ports should never be chosen as cruise ports since they had nothing to offer. Restaurant staff were excellent and the major plus point. If you want intelligent entertainment, choose another cruise line.
The cabin was as expected with regards to cleanliness/size etc. It was well located on the ship but it appears that deck 6 inside cabins adjoin fan rooms or similar, having looked at the deck plan since returning. There was a lot of vibration coming up through the pillow each night which woke me up and prevented me from getting back to sleep, not what I expected from a cabin quite high up on the ship and above the shops. This was more noticeable when we were in port. There was also considerable noise when they were launching tenders, luckily there was only one tender port on this cruise.
We did the Trek to the Monastery Tour. It was rather expensive and we could have done the Trek ourselves without a guide. It is quite a long way and the steps are hard-going in the heat. Petra is well worth a visit but I had concerns about the animal welfare.View All 92 Petra Walking Tour Reviews
This was a coach tour, followed by a Dubai Marina Dhow cruise of an hour. It was a good way to see many of the sights but not the greatest for photo opportunities.View All undefined undefined Reviews
We did this independently, walking from the port gates. Other than having to run the gauntlet of taxi drivers and Dhow boat operators, it was quite easy to see the Museum of Islamic Art and the Souk Waif.
It's worth knowing that you can get a free golf buggy ride from the port gate car park out around the MIA Park.
We couldn't get ashore due to swell so this was cancelled
We took a taxi from the WTC Mall as it was cheaper than from the port. We went to the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque. This cost about £10 each way. It is worth noting that you can borrow cover-up clothing at the mosque. I wish I had known this before I went. There is also a shopping area there with cafes etc.
The mosque is beautiful and well worth a visit. It is also free of charge. Why pay for a ships tour at about £50 each?!