Marella Explorer 2 Review

Another Very Fun (and hot) Cruise!

Review for the Eastern Mediterranean Cruise on Marella Explorer 2
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slclove
6-10 Cruises • Age 30s

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Sail Date: Jul 2023

Party:

2 adults from England, aged 29 and 64, previously cruised twice with Marella (Dream and Explorer 2), with NCL 4 times (Jade, Breakaway and Prima), and 3 other cruises in the early 00s on now defunct lines. We don't have any disabilities and we didn't use the casino, so we can't comment on these aspects, and this was an adults only ship. The sailing is listed as 'Sail Three Seas', but we actually did 'Adriatic Affair' straight after on a two week back to back, so this is reviewing the two weeks as a whole.

Summary:

Cabin Review

Port Reviews

Bar Harbor

We took the Budva & Sv Stefan tour via road, and this was great - the tour guide was funny and informative and the vistas from the roads you take overlooking the coast are insane. The old town of Budva is very pretty and having a beer in the cobbled streets is not to be missed, and whilst you can't go down to Sv Stefan as its privately owned, the viewpoint is lovely.

Corfu

We took the Sea Caves of Paleokastritsa tour - not great on this one sadly. Far too rushed and tried to pack way too much into a 5 hour window. The first half was lovely taking the boats out to the caves but bear in mind this can become a scrum and I did witness a boat screaming at a pair in a kayak who wanted to go into the cave as well - and you can't swim off of these either. Back on land you go up to Bella Vista viewpoint which is lovely, but as you only had 30 mins here you couldn't really absorb how nice it was, and then the trip to the monastery was again 30 mins long so you were funnelled into the monastery for quick pictures and then ferried back to the bus (we didn't bother, we bought limoncello and took in the views). A final stop to the Old Town was - you guessed it - supposed to only be 30 minutes long, but as we were parked outside the town walls, walking into it would've taken 10 minutes on its own, so the guests gave up leaving altogether much to the confusion of the guide. We took the 30 mins to just sit in the park we were parked by, get some water down us and stretch our legs. This either needs to be much longer, or the old town is cut out altogether and more time is given to the things around Paleokastritsa.

Taranto

We took the Dolphin Watching tour, and this was up there with one of the best. It is prefaced that seeing dolphins is not guaranteed - you're working with mother nature after all!! - but our first surprise came in the form of the catamaran we were on not just being a tourist boat, but an opportunity for tourists to come together with scientists of an NGO studying the pods of dolphins and tracking their movements and how they grow etc. We were driven out to sea a very long way as the scientists had had a tip off the pod was further out than usual, but the distance was worth the reward - over 20 rhesus and striped dolphins of all ages, altogether, looking healthy and happy. The boat fell respectfully silent as the scientists took their pictures and DNA swabs, and when we travelled along a bit further, the dolphins began to follow us and play with the boat, and the scientists (and us, quite frankly) were practically in tears. We celebrated our findings with lots of cheese, bread and wine on the ride home. This was probably one of the most interesting, moving and fascinating tours I've ever taken via a cruise line and it was not sold as this, it was sold as just a fun cruise where you might see nothing at all. If you do take this one, you might not see dolphins like we did, but if you do you will come away from it feeling elated and happy that your tourism has somewhat contributed to the science and conservation of these beautiful animals.

Taormina (Messina)

We took the Sicilian Flavours winery tour, and went up the slopes of Mt Etna to the Gambino Vini winery. This tour was great as the winery was generous with its time, tastings and portions of food served with it - the only letdown was trying to run a tasting for so many people all at once meant the actual pairings messages kind of got lost half way through, so everyone was just eating and drinking everything together without paying much thought to it. It needn't have mattered though, everyone was very happy and were just talking with each other like friends at a dinner table, and you have the opportunity to buy the wine at the end or ship cases back to the UK.

Malta (Valletta)

We didn't take a tour here, but it's worth noting that unless you visit a museum in the Old Town, you may want to take a tour here in the future. Marella ended up on the berth that wasn't actually next to the Old Town (Celebrity got it first), so we had to take a water taxi across the straight to get to the lift that takes you to Barakka Gardens. This was quite painful and slow, and unfortunately we turned up here on the hottest day of the heatwaves with the mercury hitting 41 by about 10.30am. As a result, we effectively developed heat exhaustion and had to abandon the rest of the day back to the ship. I would hope that tours going around the island would a) be air conditioned and b) allow you to see more things, so I'd recommend doing that unless you really really want to see something in Valletta.

Dubrovnik

We didn't do a tour here as this was the changeover between the two itineraries, so we took the opportunity to just come off as independents as we had all day till 9pm to explore. We went back into the Old Town which is very pretty (beware how busy it gets with other tour groups though), and then came out and down the coast a little to gardens overlooking the sea. We finished up with a seafood lunch at a restaurant by the port, and a trip to the Dubrovnik Brewing Co sampling some of the local lagers and IPAs. All of this is basically within walking distance (or a 10 min drive by taxi or bus to the old town), so I recommend not bothering with a tour unless there is something out of town you really want to see.

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