Boarding - We have cruised many times including two with Marella, on their smaller ships, so looked forward to this, the latest addition to the fleet. Boarding at Barbados was smooth, with up selling limited to the AI Premium pack, which we already had.
First impressions of the ship were disappointing, the general decor being a low key drab‘battleship’ grey and the main atrium area, though nicely decorated for Christmas, being soulless and more like a shopping centre, There is only one bar, ‘Flutes’, around the atrium, this is a pleasant place for pre-show drinks, but has a limited capacity. In my view too much space has been allocated to shops, that never seemed to have customers.
Cabin - plenty of storage, very nice shower and useful customer features on the TV, though no music options. All the films were free. Space at the end of the bed is limited. We also found the bed uncomfortable, a thin mattress that felt lumpy. The room was kept immaculate by Maria, with fresh towels every day. Our cabin, 9211, was located opposite the cleaners store, so we were woken early most mornings as they parked the service trollies and got ready.
Food - best described as mediocre in all the standard restaurants, we preferred Vista. The self catering is the usual free for all but ok if you go off-peak. The additional costs for the specialist restaurants are some of the most expensive we’ve seen across all lines. Surf & Turf, nothing special, but the Dining Club was lovely.
Pool area - two nice pools and four jacuzzis. Sun bed hogging is endemic on this ship, particularly on sea days. Due to our circumstances we couldn’t get off the ship at several ports and witnessed people reserving beds in the morning and returning several hours later, in the afternoon, presumably after doing a shore tour. The staff did nothing about this. People with restricted mobility, unable to use stairs, should be aware they will not have access to the upper decks that have The Veranda and Sundeck, the lifts do not service these decks! It means you must sit around the pool area. This is were all the quizzes, live performances and discos take place. OK for a while, but for us there was no escape to a quiet area. Finally, the large poolside screen, it just shows adverts for cruises, trips and staff bio’s all day, why can’t they show a concert or similar during the day? There were a couple of films in the evening, but no comfortable seating available, sorry I’m being so negative, but we were trapped here for 12 days!
Shows & Bars - nice theatre with some well produced shows. We enjoyed the comedian. My wife, due to an on shore accident, had to use a wheelchair throughout the cruise, giving us an eye opening insight into this aspect of cruising. The PRM (Persons of Restricted Mobility) seats are at the back of the theatre. Like the sun-beds, you have to get in early to secure one. Again, no staff oversight of this area, on one occasion we were told the seat was being reserved whilst the person ran to the toilet! Squid and Anchor, the Gin and Whisky bar is the highlight, but again, it’s like drinking on the moon, no atmosphere. It’s a general feature that the seating on the ship though it looks stylish is uncomfortable with few places to really relax.
Finally - my fellow cruisers! We met some lovely people who enriched our experience. Equally there were some who were selfish, loud, boorish and occasionally outright drunk. There were a couple of dress to impress nights when some did make an effort, with long dresses and evening suits, making it so incongruous to see people in shorts, vests and flip-flops, mingling in the bars.
Special thanks to Carol, from the ships welfare team, for her communication and invaluable assistance following our accident on Tortola.
Overall though a really disappointing cruise and I doubt we will return to Marella.
Reasonable condition. A bid noisy with creaks and rattles during the night.