13 Newcastle (England) Marella Cruises Marella Explorer Cruise Reviews

Just returned from two week Baltic cruise on Marella Explorer (10 th Aug19). Never having cruised before, we were unsure what to expect, but the itinerary was exactly what we wanted. Apologies in advance for the length of this review, I ... Read More
Just returned from two week Baltic cruise on Marella Explorer (10 th Aug19). Never having cruised before, we were unsure what to expect, but the itinerary was exactly what we wanted. Apologies in advance for the length of this review, I know it's going to be a long one We sailed from Newcastle, so no flights involved for us which was a huge bonus, mainly as no luggage restrictions ( so long as each case weighed no more than 23k each) but also being able to avoid the chaos of airports in summer. We stayed overnight the night before in Premier inn at the port( not the best, will review separately on trip advisor) . We drove to the car park at 1130 which took all of 30 seconds from the hotel, dropped off our luggage in the marquee as instructed, where our cases were tagged with our cabin number - didn't see them again until we were on board. Then taken by bus to the check in area where we were given our cruise cards and information. We waited no more than 10 mins to be called to have passports checked, and after another very short bus ride we embarked. We were on board by 1215 - really efficient, smooth process, greatly appreciated by us as we had no idea of the process. We had just had lunch by the pool when an announcement was made at 130 pm that cabins were available and our luggage arrived around 330 pm , really efficient service. We explored and attended muster drill which was obviously very busy, but it was well organised and lasted no more than 15 mins. Unfortunately the weather was poor for sail away so I believe a sail away party was held indoors. We stayed on deck in the typical British summer weather to watch us sail away instead. We had a sea day immediately which gave us time to explore all the ship had to offer. Two pools, which were bigger than we expected. Three generous hot tubs too. Poolside bands when weather allowed, and twice daily films by the pools. 10 bars, 10 restaurants , a kids area, a teenage area, table tennis, mini golf, cinema, show lounge, champneys spa and gym, basket ball court, adults only sunbathing area, library with table games, shuffle board, quoits a huge English style pub with lots of quizzes and bands. Great value shops, I'm sure there was more but am at a loss to remember Entertainment was on in the show lounge twice nightly and the few we saw were good. They had a guest comedian who was really good - so good we went to both his shows , one being a late night version Service on board really was with a smile. Every member of staff without exception was friendly and polite. Everyone of the staff worked so hard and gave the impression they loved what they did. Our room stewards were fab and we appreciated the turndown service in the evening. Our cabin was kept very clean each day. Hygiene was important throughout the ship, with hand sanitiser everywhere and gentle reminders in the daily cruise news . Exiting the ship at each port of call was easy and smooth. , no long lines , and the same getting back on after each port. The sail away party after each port was great and after our two day stay in St Petersburg we were welcomed back with songs and dancing from all the crew on the dock side - really nice touch. Another nice touch was a BBQ by the pool on a rare sunny day after we visited Copenhagen . Food is subjective and I'm sure you can't please everyone. But we didn't have a meal we didn't enjoy on board. From the buffet to the steak house, all really good. We tried them all, including the ones with the supplement except for the Dining club, purely as its not to my taste . There were no tender ports on this itinerary , but a few of the ports were a little way out of town. TUI did provide shuttles for these at £5 each which we used. Only in Stockholm was the shuttle useless. It dropped us in a busy part of town difficult to find again for the return. We made our own way back to the ship, but guests were complaining the shuttle picked up in a different part of town that people weren't made aware of causing some to have to get taxis back to the ship We didn't use TUI excursions at all, we researched before and either did our own thing or booked privately with no issues at all. Besides the price, the fact that TUI use full size coaches for excursions put us off. The privately booked tours used 16 seat mini buses, making it easier to see the sights quickly with a guarantee of not missing all aboard time We didn't know wether we would love or hate the cruising experience, but can safely say we are hooked ! Thank you captain John , you have an amazing crew, you should be very proud, but you need better jokes ! Read Less
Sail Date August 2019
We picked this cruise for a number of reasons. The dates fitted in with dates I had booked well in advance (without knowing what we were going to do in the summer) to please my work, the itinerary, and by reading several reviews that the ... Read More
We picked this cruise for a number of reasons. The dates fitted in with dates I had booked well in advance (without knowing what we were going to do in the summer) to please my work, the itinerary, and by reading several reviews that the line was good for families and kids. 14 days is a long time for a 10 year old to be onboard so it had to be fun for him too, which I am happy to report it was. Embarkation was smooth enough but as we had a few smaller bags rather than a couple of big bags they insisted that we took on the "hand luggage". Disembarkation was not so smooth and Port of Tyne were making a hash of it and being rude with it. Ramming as many as they could on the car park shuttle buses for example and siting on the quay for 10 mins while they could have got a full load to the car park and back in this time. Ship was lovely. Nothing too fancy but very clean kept and run throughout. She is big enough to have plenty on her but you will still only be meeting people for the "first" time it seems on the day you are leaving which is the down fall of larger ships. Food was excellent and plenty of options without having to go the areas that you had to pay more. You can pretty much have something different every night and you can choose between sit down service at several restaurants to having a quick buffet which is ideal if you have had a busy port call and you just want good food quickly with no fuss. The choice overall is excellent. Drink we took the premium all inclusive which was little extra at booking and meant you could have any drink on the menu included which made things very easy. There are no hidden costs really and the end of the trip we had about £100 to our account for a couple of transfer buses and photos. Cabin was a little small (Deck 10 aft) when the sofa bed was out. Nice size of balcony though and staff were superb. Very clean and plenty of storage etc, worked very well. Entertainment was generally very good, decent show on each night and plenty of other activities around the ship and did not see half of it so always something to do. Plenty of live music around the bars etc. Overall making for a great feel. The entertainments team work very hard to get a good feel and it worked well, sail away parities etc were really upbeat and enjoyable and a real informal feel with lots of laughs. There were 2 formal nights, one of which we took part in and the other we chose to go the buffet (Market Place) so there is no pressure. Ports were superb. Some of the cities there was not enough time but this is cruising, a day in Stockholm, Copenhagen, etc is never going to be enough so you have to see these as giving you a taste. There was a full day (2 in Russia) so the line worked hard to give you the best time available in what is a tight itinerary to pull off overall. We only took the excursions in Russia as it saved getting a visa and also taking advantage of the Moscow trip. Both days in Russia the excursions were very good. In the other cities we took 2 laid on transfers (Gothenburg and Hellsinki) which were very hand. We enjoyed followed our noses to explorer the cities and if this is what you want (I.e. see a bit of the place and enjoy a coffee etc) there is no need to take pre planned excursions. It would have been nice if there was a transfer laid on at Copenhagen as it was a good walk from the city and the public transport did not seem logical although there were hop on/off buses at the quay. The Children's "M Club" was superb. We made our 10 year old go to the first session (he did not want to) and gave him the options if he wanted to go back or not, he hardly missed one after it. He made some great friends and got on really well with the staff which went out of their way to make them feel welcome and make sure they had a good time. Overall there was only very minor things we thought could be better (Coffee Port was slow for example) but nothing major and we really did not want to get off the ship. We would definitely go with Marella and the Explorer again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2019
Iceland and Norway were on our bucket list so this cruise seemed the perfect way to tick them off. As destinations they didn’t disappoint and are both amazing places. We had sailed with Marella at Xmas in the Caribbean and selecting ... Read More
Iceland and Norway were on our bucket list so this cruise seemed the perfect way to tick them off. As destinations they didn’t disappoint and are both amazing places. We had sailed with Marella at Xmas in the Caribbean and selecting Marella again was an easy choice. This time departure was from Newcastle so no flights and extra luggage allowance. Departure was fine. It took a little while and there was some queues but overall not a problem and thankfully the rain kept off. We had inside cabins on Deck 9. Excellent fit out with a good bathroom and shower. Cabin stewards attentive and helpful as were all the staff onboard. Cabins serviced twice daily too. The ship itself is good. There is a good selection of restaurants. Some you have to pay extra for but there is enough choice and variety if you don’t want that. Food quality good throughout. One shortfall is a general shortage of indoor seating which can create challenges when the weather is not so good. Bars excellent as is the range of all inclusive drinks.. there’s enough variety and choice.. if you do fancy an up market brand for a change then you can pay as you go for those adding it to your cabin bill. This works well and saves you going for the drinks upgrade package. The prices are reasonable too. Entertainment was a mixed bag. The shows and tribute act in the Broadway lounge were generally excellent and to a good standard. They certainly had the family looking forward to the next nights show. Otherwise it was a hit and miss affair with bands quizzes etc mainly catering for an older audience. This did get wearing after a while and we did crave something more up to date and modern after a few days. This was a particular issue for my teenagers who continually joked about this being a cruise for “old duffers”. This wasn’t the case although this perception can only have been exacerbated by the frequent and somewhat petty gripes of some of the more senior patrons on the boat. Movies were good with some up to date titles. Outdoor cinema was chilly at night so good that blankets were provided. It was the destinations that made this trip special however. Orkney - We took the tour to Skara Brae - A must for history buffs with a knowledgeable guide. Really excellent. Kirkwall was also fun to explore and there’s enough to do and see here. Aukeyreri was jaw dropping and the cascading waterfalls either side as we entered the fjord were amazing. We took the tour to Mvaytyn baths. This was a long ride on a coach .. over an hour but we got so see some of this fantastic landscape. The bath itself is quite an experience and highly recommended. The town is also fun to explore with some good shops. Isafjordur was a gem. There is so little there at first glance . I can imagine some people only spent an hour ashore. A helpful guide in tourist information provided an excellent walking map and a few hours later we were up amongst the ski slopes with a vista that rivals anything I’ve ever seen. Reykjavík is a funky place with lots going on. We self booked onto a whale watching tour which was excellent and we saw plenty of minke whales feeding. 2 days at sea then into Norway - Flam is so pretty. Everyone heads for the railway and it gets very busy . We didn’t pre-book so couldn’t ride. Instead we hiked and climbed up to see Brekfossen waterfalls which was spectacular. The old town of Flam is also worth an explore .Good walking here and plenty to see. Bergen is excellent and all the key sights are worth your time . Funicular provides great views and fish market is amazing. Eidfjord is also pretty and there is an excellent circular walk which takes a couple of hours if you take it slowly. But not much else other than that at the port. It seems this is a place to look at excursions or car hire. Haugesund was surprisingly fun. Great walks up the coast provided stunning views. Great town and shops too. Kristiansand was a wet day . There is a good nature park to explore at the back of the town and this town had some excellent shops also. Overall - The destinations provided an amazing holiday. The Marella Explorer is a good ship with an excellent crew. There’s little to complain about really and it’s good value for money. Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
We chose this cruise mainly for its itinerary and the dates it went on as we had a very limited time window to go away in. We have been with Marella before, a few years ago, and really enjoyed our last cruise around the Adriatic on a ... Read More
We chose this cruise mainly for its itinerary and the dates it went on as we had a very limited time window to go away in. We have been with Marella before, a few years ago, and really enjoyed our last cruise around the Adriatic on a smaller ship . We are a fit and healthy couple in our late 40s and early 50s and travelled as a solo couple, no children or friends with us..although we made plenty of friends on board. I am very surprised on reading the reviews on here how negative some people are about the Explorer and its staff. We embarked at Newcastle and didn't have to wait too long before boarding, and I would say we were probably there at peak time. There were seats to sit on and drinks to be had , we merely had to wait for our number to be called. The same goes for disembarkation, which went very smoothly and was very well organised especially when you consider the amount of people Marella has to disembark from the ship. We were told a time slot and that was in fact the time we disembarked, with time to have a farewell breakfast in the restaurant beforehand. The ship was bigger than the last one we went on and at first we weren't sure about it. The layout is a little confusing but once we were used to it we found our way about pretty well. I would say we were amongst the younger people on the ship although we are not young, the passengers were predominately older than us, in our late 40s. Our cabin was very quiet but we never bother with a balcony , just a window, and we were on deck 4 in the middle. We didn't pay extra for a specific cabin and I think were lucky as some passengers we spoke to did suffer with noise in their cabin. We did feel a very slight bit of vibration when the engines were put to full power, but the Captain also mentioned they were having trouble with a clutch on one of the engines. In my opinion engine noise on a ship is perhaps to be expected, it' isn't a hotel on dry land, it's a moving ship powered by engines on the ocean! Our cabin was very stable in the high seas, and the North Sea did get a bit turbulent on our voyage! Space wise, we thought our cabin was big enough and it had a lovely big window We had drop down bunk beds too so I think it may have been family cabin. Plenty of wardrobe space and hangers...always a big plus in my book! Hairdryer worked well, there was a kettle and cups and teabags/coffee/milk were replenished at least once a day. Toilet rolls were also kept topped up by our steward so we had at least one in reserve and usually more! Seating....I am amazed that people have mentioned a lack of seating. Both us, and other passengers who have been on other Marella ships, thought there was plenty of seating to be had, and in addition a plethora of sun beds...which pleased me as I hate having to worry about getting a seat/sunbed. We could always find seats somewhere...might not have been your first choice but again, as I say, we were there for the itinerary and voyage, not for a good seat in the lounge, We had a nice cabin to sit in too, with a television. Other people who had been on different Marella ships told us some of them DO suffer from a lack of seating, particularly those with a very large central atrium, which might look impressive but takes away from seating areas. We didn't use the pool but it's a reasonable size for the ship. The leaving party could get a bit loud, so loud it was distorted at times, but again, you could get away from it on other decks with sunbeds and it only lasted half an hour. We did watch one outdoor film in the pool area one sea day and as it was a bit nippy on deck a couple of members of staff came round with fleece blankets. Now that's personal customer care! Other areas such as the Squid and Anchor , Bar 53, the Lounge, Indigo were all nice areas to sit in. If you couldn't get a seat in one you could get one in another. Cleanliness of the ship.....the staff were always cleaning on the stairs which have glass sides. In fact they seemed to clean all the time, although our cabin steward could have vacuumed our cabin perhaps a little better....but he did keep us topped up on tea bags, milk and loo rolls as I mentioned so that is more important to us! Public toilets in the ship were always clean as was our personal one. Food...the food was excellent, top notch. We didn't bother paying for the additional restaurants such as the Sushi or Surf and Turf but friends did and raved about them. For us the food in the dining room where we ate every evening was excellent. Service was pretty good too. Someone commented there were more tables for 2 than on other ships, although you could choose to share bigger tables. The dining is flexi in the main restaurant as it you turn up and sometimes wait a few minutes to be seats, but in the Italian, Vista and the Tapas you have to book but it was easy to do so and provided you did it in advance there was plenty of choice. You could turn up at the |Italian and book but might have to wait half an hour or so in the bar with a buzzer, which went off t=hen the table was free. We ate in the Tapas bar, the Italian, the main restaurant and the buffet Market place, although didn't eat in the latter in the evening. Portions were just right, everything was hot and water and wine were kept topped up as needed. If the water was a bit slow to be refilled at busy times (this happened only once) you only need ask a waiter and it gets topped up very quickly. When you consider the amount of people they are serving they do a simply amazing job. Again, it is a ship, and if the food in the Market Place is a bit samey, it's still good and a lot of it is baked on ship. They don't re stock with food and ingredients during the trip, it is all taken on board at Newcastle. Staff...the majority of the staff were lovely, happy, polite and willing to go the extra mile. There was the odd one or two which weren't, I can only agree with other reviewers on that, compared to the other Marella ship we went on where all the staff we encountered were bouncy, happy and friendly. However, it is a new ship to the fleet and a lot of the staff were very new so perhaps not a very tight team yet and have yet to settle. We found the odd...and I do mean odd in a large team, waiter perhaps a bit terse, and there were a couple staff on the security team as you go in who were a little terse and rude, one woman in particular. I realise they are on security but the security staff on our other ship were always smiling and customer friendly A please and thank you and a smile is just natural courtesy, although to be honest it could be a culture difference too. So...onto a couple more negative points about the ship which hopefully will get sorted our and certainly wouldn't put us off travelling on it. Air con...far too strong especially in the cabins. Was actually making people ill , and I suffered dreadfully from a dry throat, a bad chest , a stuffy head and dry hair and skin. Many people complained of this and there didn't seem to be a way to turn it down as the controls didn't seem to make a lot of difference. The shows were disappointing compared to the shows we had seen 3 or 4 years ago on a Marella cruise. Then they were West End quality, now more like school show, although some of them were better than others. Again, new staff, new troupe and I was told a different (cheaper?!) company supplying them so not as polished and together as they could be. Also in some shows we felt it was done on the cheap, lack of costumes and stage back drops and equipment. The best shows for us were the Rock one, the Soul one (which I didn't think I'd like..although Id have to say I didn't think all the songs were soul but who cares) the songs from the Musicals and Cogs. I didn't really understand Cogs...it was a very loose story, but the costumes and general stage dressing was fabulous and the songs pretty good. Although Marella, please sort out your sound and mikes....they are on too loud and are distorted...the balance is wrong! Cost of the excursions is ,as usual, a little high but on a par with other cruise companies. We tend to research before we go and do our own if possible. Explorer...you need to increase the cycle tours as they were very popular and difficult to get on to. We managed to do one as someone cancelled and we were on the reserve list, it was fabulous, good knowledgeable guides, easy pace for us and for those who didn't cycle there was the option of the amazing e-bikes (with a motor to help pedalling) We didn't use Marella for any excursions except the bikes and went with TJ Travel for St Petersburg, a 2 day tour. Talking to others we definitely did the right thing as there was no queuing for us, local guides, a better itinerary and a smaller group equipped with the hearing boxes and ear pieces. We notice Marella don't give you much advice about where to catch buses etc now when you land somewhere; they used to the day before on the cruise news. Probably because they would rather you did an excursion. however, as we had researched before going it didn't really affect us. Finally, be aware that although Yoga etc is advertised, it is available but you have to pay for it. The gym however is free and pretty good for a ship. It's certainly an experience on a treadmill in a rolling sea with 50 mile an hour winds! Finally, although yes there was origami and water painting to be done it was self led, not tutored, So all in all we liked Explorer, it is a reasonably priced cruise ship if you want to cruise and see places you may not have done otherwise and we certainly wouldn't hesitate to use it again, particularly if Marella tweak the areas I've mentioned! Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
we sailed on this cruise as we wanted to visit the amazing cities around the baltic 1st The good points. The Onboard staff were all amazing from the Cabin stewards to entertainment crew, all very friendly and helpful. But I have to ... Read More
we sailed on this cruise as we wanted to visit the amazing cities around the baltic 1st The good points. The Onboard staff were all amazing from the Cabin stewards to entertainment crew, all very friendly and helpful. But I have to make a special mention to 2 members of staff who did go that extra mile to make our cruise special Putra our cabin steward was exceptional in trying to sort out our many problems that we incurred and secondly Gregg from the Bar staff who was entertaining, friendly, full of happiness and good fun to be near. 2nd The bad points. We entered our cabin and found we had a paper thin mattress that when you just touched it with slight pressure you could feel through to the bed frame. 2 wooden boxes with sharp edges protruding from the space in the headboard where our heads went. Another wooden box protruding from the wall near the access to side of bed. Safe not working. Fridge not working. Air conditioning not working. welcome to marella explorer. after complaining we were told that it would all be sorted out and not to worry. the reception staff ended up coming down to cabin as they seemed not to believe what we were saying and took photo's. we were informed that there was no other cabins available and they would put an extra mattress on the bed and pillows to cover boxes on headboard, 3 days later safe is replaced, refrigerator is replaced, air con is fixed(ish). We were told that the protruding boxes would be removed the following day, 2 days later we were informed that the protruding boxes could not be moved, a sorry was issued in the form of a scribbled note on a bottle of prosecco with 6 chocolate strawberries and we would have to make do! ships layout is not great if you are in the theatre and want a drink you have to walk 3/4 the length of the ship then que for 20 minutes by which time the show is finished Also if you want to participate in the evening entertainment and watch the evening show you cant as they overlap by 15 minutes so you either miss the end of the entertainment or the beginning of the show .... very poor planning Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
This is an extensive review...Bear with me, but this is our honest opinion and our personal view. Firstly, to put this cruise into context it will have been our 17th. We have enjoyed 3 previous cruises with 'Thompson', all of ... Read More
This is an extensive review...Bear with me, but this is our honest opinion and our personal view. Firstly, to put this cruise into context it will have been our 17th. We have enjoyed 3 previous cruises with 'Thompson', all of which have been fine and we thought good value for money. This was why we booked with their new branding 'Marella' and we were looking forward to going on the Explorer. The advertising and videos looked fine, and the Baltic was an area we had not cruised in but had been to independently previously. The port itinerary was great, Copenhagen, Warnemunde, Stockholm, St Petersburg, Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga, Klaipeda, and Fredericia. We had visited Tallinn and Riga both previously. The cruise did what it said on the tin, and destinations were not disappointing with no problems visiting the ports. All through the cruise, we were blessed with sunny weather and mainly calm seas. From this aspect, the voyage went well. Embarkation was good, as it was at the ports, and at the end of our cruise; well organised by the ship and no issues. Same in Russia, where good advice was given by destination services on procedure etc. There was enough time to organise and plan your own trips/activities if you had not booked ship ones, and what excursions we did take were reasonable and good. One issue which a number of people raised was the point that Marella no longer provides port maps in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint and help the planet. Fine, but a lot of people were not happy accessing an online map version on the ship, and some are not IT savvy, so its a cheap cost-cutting exercise in our view. You can in most places get a 'hard copy' map from the cruise terminals at the ports you visit for free anyway. In Stockholm, we went to the ABBA museum and a walk around the old town. Probably as cheap to do this with the cruise ship excursion than independently. In St Petersburg, it was, as always busy but the Panoramic Tour we did with the ship excursion was very good. Our trip to the Ballet was also good. The second day we visited the Yusopov Palace and had a canal trip. It was somewhat chaotic due to road closures ( not Marella's fault ), and our guide was somewhat confused and our experience of Yousopof was marred by rude staff. The disembarkation from our canal cruise via an unstable and unsecured gangway was downright dangerous and a major health and safety issue, which we reported to Marella, and which they need to take up with the operator before someone is injured or worse. A number of passengers were phased by this incident on our trip. Those were the only organised trips we took, apart from a shuttle to enter Helsinki which Marella charged £5.00 return for. I am not sure if in the past with Thompson these were free. They are not now. However, now to comment on the onboard experience., the good and not so good. Let's start by saying the staff were polite and good-natured, and worked incredibly hard. Any queries we had were dealt with promptly but we had a number of issues. ( See cabin report ). From getting on the ship the hard sell started. I was asked almost straight away if I wanted a premium drinks package. We don't drink much, so it was of little use to us. The all-inclusive was fine, as there is no shortage of the stuff either !. I drink mainly wine, and the white, red and rose were perfectly acceptable, but cocktails are invariable too sweet ( depends on taste though ) and lacking in alcoholic 'punch'. Spirits were not of great quality. I suppose our biggest disappointment was food and service in the dining room. We felt that the quality of the ingredients had gone down from previous 'Thompson' cruises, and some of the meals over salty ( again, personal taste ). There was certainly less choice on the evening menu, and some of the meats were fatty ( lamb ) and poorly presented with bland and repetitive vegetables. The Latitude 53 dining room was very hit and miss. The evening meal was 3 courses, fine for us, but a few people were not happy, The Market Buffet was essentially the same with little change. There were no specific theme nights, a feature we have found on other cruises. The Italian option Vista was quite good, and the Tapas evening restaurant OK. The major issue was service, so much so we complained and met the catering manager. In Latitude 53 we waited one evening 3/4 of an hour to obtain our starters and the next evening 1hr before receiving our main course, and we were not alone. A gentleman at the next table waited with us, only to be served cold soup after the wait. My wife is on medication before meals and needs to eat within a reasonable time after taking it, and such a long delay made her feel ill. Often the dishes were presented lukewarm. The catering services manager responded quickly and admitted there was a 'communication problem'. He offered us a complimentary meal in a premium restaurant, which was nice, but not the object of our exercise !. We did try both the steak restaurant and the oriental one and they were both good and worth the extra money. Over and above communication however, there seems to be a cost cutting exercise in staffing. The same issue was evident in the bars, where there was a lack of waiting on staff and it could take quite a while to order drinks from the bar areas. It got to such a state that we often ate in the Market Place Buffet where we were able to serve ourselves and eat in time for the first show in the evening which we liked to go to. That said, entertainment in the theatre was varied, and unfortunately, again not as good as on our other cruises. The entertainers were enthusiastic even if at times the quality was lacking. The theatre has good sight lines and is comfortable. The acts engaged were OK. A comedy duo and singer. We had an individual comedy entertainer ( forgot his name ) who we did not enjoy. The musician in the venues were Ok, apart from the piano player who was an expert at being out of tune. Sea days dragged ( there were not many, and we normally like them ). However, the activities were not well organised. No, I don't want to learn how to fold a towel or napkin. There were no talks or lectures as we have had on other cruises, only the destinations talk by the crew who were out to hard sell excursions. Such a shame as the lack of activity was commented on by more than ourselves. The gym was busy though and I got time to read two books !. The onboard cinema was a great idea if they had put more films on and not used it most of the day to flog acupuncture treatments and consultations with the onboard acupuncturist. There was such a lot we could have learned about the Baltic, and it was an opportunity missed. So of all the Thompson 'Marella' ships this has been the most disappointing in the entertainment offerings, surprising as Thompson were widely praised for their cruise ship entertainment in the past. The usual hard sell from the cruise ship shops was evident, but that happens everywhere. They were even trying to flog Bridge Tours at just under £10.00 !!. Did we enjoy the Baltic, yes the ports were fine and the trip went very smoothly As we said the staff were fine, but in our view, the management need to take a long hard look at the training and support they give and the quality of what they are delivering. Standards have undoubtedly dropped as prices have risen. It's a competitive market and people will not pay good money for 3rd rate cruise experiences. Would we cruise Marella again ??? I doubt it if this is what they are offering. Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
We always choose cruises based on the itinerary and this completely fitted the bill! Our second cruise on this ship and once again it excelled itself. We had a large balcony cabin (9135) which is well placed midships and well looked ... Read More
We always choose cruises based on the itinerary and this completely fitted the bill! Our second cruise on this ship and once again it excelled itself. We had a large balcony cabin (9135) which is well placed midships and well looked after and cleaned by the cabin stewards. Food as always was excellent in both Latitude 53 and Vista, as well as the lunches in The Market Place. The entertainment by the ships enetertainment crew was generally good except that we had seen most of the shows before so in some cases we didn't get to see a show. The guest artists, The Harper Brothers are still performing the same act as we have seen 4 times before and well worth missing and Ricky K was also poor and reminded me why I don't watch Britains Got Talent, because blatantly he didn't! There was a guest crossover singer (sorry forgot her name) who was excellent however although only allowed one show! The 2 Crew shows were excellent and show a wealth of talent, in fact in our opinion the best Crew show ever! We did our own thing as regards trips except for the occasional port shuttle bus. In most ports we used the HOHO bus's and Canal/River trips sometimes combined to get a better deal. In St Petersburg we used Alla Tours who were beyond excellent and I really recommend them as opposed to the ships offerings as for about the same price you see more, are in groups of a maximum size of 16 comfortable mini bus's. The guide (ours was Marina) was excellent and spoke great English. All in all an excellent cruise on a super ship with great staff! Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
We chose this cruise for the itinerary and we weren't disappointed. The countries visited were all so interesting but all different too. Due to my lack of mobility we chose to go on an excursion on nearly all the ports of call and I ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the itinerary and we weren't disappointed. The countries visited were all so interesting but all different too. Due to my lack of mobility we chose to go on an excursion on nearly all the ports of call and I have to say they were the best we've ever done. All the tour guides were informative, interesting and fun, yes even in Russia!! We chose to have a balcony and had cabin 10000 which was a great location. It's the last cabin before the bridge on deck 10 so you only have a few staff members going past the door. Plus when you arrive or leave a port you can watch the captain and his amazing staff maneuver the ship when on the balcony. Also in this location you weren't anywhere near any of the music entertainment, which suited us well. Our cabin stewards were superb and so helpful, they were unobtrusive and kept the cabin nice and clean. We only ate at the Market Place as that's our preferred way to eat. I don't want a waiter fussing over me, I'm quite capable of getting my own food, putting a napkin on my own lap and able to eat without being asked if everything is ok. The food was amazing and so beautifully presented and with such choice. As I said all the excursions were so good and well worth the money. It's fascinating to find out how other countries run themselves and their history. As I have limited mobility I found that after 2 reasonably active excursions (I thought I'd chosen ones with little walking, but it was more than my knee could stand easily) that I couldn't face a third so went to destinations just to see if it was possible to exchange to a less active one. They were so very helpful and with the say so of the boss we were allowed to do this, for which we were very grateful. We went on a river cruise instead so hardly any walking and it was a superb way to see Stockholm. The entertainment wasn't as good as other Tui cruises we've been on and I think they got the age demographic a bit wrong. But the performers themselves tried their hardest and we didn't miss a show. Getting on the ship in Newcastle was a bit of a shambles, but getting off went very smoothly. It's hard to exit nearly 2000 people at one time, so we thought they did a good job. ALL the staff are so friendly, polite, happy and courteous and as all tips are included its not like they are trying to be friendly so they get tips. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole event apart from some rather rough sea coming back over the North Sea, but that's Mother Natures fault, no-one else's! Other than a bit of seasickness that afternoon the rest of the cruise was wonderful and we've already booked our next one and I wouldn't call ourselves typical cruise people! Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
We wanted to experience the beauty of Norway and the Midnight Sun Cruise fitted the bill perfectly. Port of Tyne is only a 60 min car drive away from home so it was very convenient for us. First time with Marella (TUI) having been ... Read More
We wanted to experience the beauty of Norway and the Midnight Sun Cruise fitted the bill perfectly. Port of Tyne is only a 60 min car drive away from home so it was very convenient for us. First time with Marella (TUI) having been P&O cruisers before. Overall a good experience and we would recommend this cruise, especially for beginners. But don’t expect to meet young people on this cruise. We would have scored this a 5 if it not for the very poor embarkation process. The best part of this cruise was the whole crew, they were absolutely fabulous. Friendly, fun, engaging wherever you were in the ship, and whatever they were doing. They are a credit to the company and made the cruise for us and the main reason we would return. Captain John was a particular delight despite some unforeseen berthing changes resulting in more use of tenders than planned. His Q&A session was one of our highlights. The ship is a good size but sometimes felt like there were a touch too many passengers as queues for dinner were a regular feature (Latitude) and securing a seat in the Lounge for a drink in the evenings or a table for breakfast in the Market Place (buffet) often a challenge. We had a balcony cabin on deck 10 mid ships, a little tight on space and storage and a little tired here and there but fine for our needs. It was clean and very well maintained by our steward. We wouldn’t choose this deck again as we were below the running track and could hear some over enthusiastic joggers early in the morning (at 6 on holiday?) stomping their way around. We had an all inclusive package which worked well for us. The food ranged from superb (Dining Club, Kora La and Surf and Turf - additional cover charges), very good (Latitude and Mediterranean) acceptable (Market Place buffet). Best place for drink quality was The Lounge where the bar staff were brilliant. For me the entertainment was mixed. The Broadway Show Lounge shows were either very good or a little working mans club. Some really good singers.dancers and some not so good singers.dancers. I’m sorry but I thought all the resident bands were poor. However, the crew show in the theatre was excellent entertainment. We purchased the Spa pass, which was good value for the money as we were able to come and go as we pleased for the whole cruise. A good place to unwind and relax. The Horizon Sauna was excellent for watching the world go by and recommended for departures. They keep numbers down to a manageable level so you had good room to use the facilities. One morning they didn’t have some of the rooms switched on as we were in port, a little annoying but a really pleasant place with friendly staff. No complaint at all about the service in the bars, restaurants or cabin all very attentive and we had so much fun with the staff they were brilliant. Excursions we went on gave us exactly what we wanted, a real experience of the stunning beauty of Norway. They were well managed, had a good variety of interesting visits and locations and the guides were excellent. One of the tours was too rushed with a 15 minute visit to a beautiful waterfall and only 20 minutes to eat a 2 course meal as we had a ferry to catch. Disembarkation was fine, made easier for us as we were in the last group to leave the ship. That was a pleasant experience seeing most of the public areas empty and quiet. Embarkation was terrible and poorly organised. You park your car then have to walk your cases up a steepish car park, dodging the cars that were parking to a big queue outside a marquee at the top of the car park. Unlike Southampton, they wouldn’t take any hand luggage like suit carriers/flight bags. Then onto a bus for a 2 minute ride to the terminal, where more queues to collect paperwork and then across to the other side of the terminal to another queue to collect tickets and go through security to another coach that took 15 mins to load for another.2 minute trip to the ship. Anyone with some logistical/organisational skills could make this process so much easier, come on Marella sort this out its dreadful. So to summarise, first class crew, pleasant ship, functional cabin, good food, good soda, ok entertainment, superb service, good excursions, beautiful county, older passenger demographic, terrible embankment and better disembarkation.....would we go with Marella again, yes but mainly for the crew and to explore the Baltic. Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
After many cruises with Thomson on Emerald,Celebration and number one Spirit, we decided to see what a “new “ ship was like. One out of 5 is good. Newcastle was waiting for 2 hours after 4 hours of driving. (We were lucky- others much ... Read More
After many cruises with Thomson on Emerald,Celebration and number one Spirit, we decided to see what a “new “ ship was like. One out of 5 is good. Newcastle was waiting for 2 hours after 4 hours of driving. (We were lucky- others much longer. This is not the first time - see reviews. Access to ship far too steep - why not a lower deck? Outside cabin ok but continual noise all night as ceiling panels vibrating so noisy - new ship? Seatings a problem everywhere - lounge, market place, indigo and theatre. Food fair in market place and 53. Found vista for last 2 days - much better. Staff in restaurants don’t seem to be allowed to be part of your holiday - Spirit was fun- Explorer dead pan waiters. Shows poor quality- team worked hard but material terrible - what was cogs all about? Far too loud-too much visual effects and flashing lights. Oh, Spirit was 10 out of 10. Did not participate in any of the daily activities other than walking ourselves around the deck! Days at sea were dead - why no speaker - why no play by show team? Met some of our old Spirit team - Spirit is still their ship- no further comment required. Out of control is the “show your appreciation to the magnificent crew” - how many times were we asked to applaud? Leaving the ship was just as bad. Group 8 had 1000 leaving at same time to queue, get transfer bus and finally find luggage. WHY not make groups of 300 max. So view of Marella is that they have totally lost the Thomson “spirit” that made cruising so enjoyable. Sorry Marella but it’s goodbye from us Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
We always choose our cruises by itinerary, not cruise line and this one did not disappoint. Combination of fjords and the Arctic with the 24 hour daylight was perfect for us, Marella only do this route once a year and not many other cruise ... Read More
We always choose our cruises by itinerary, not cruise line and this one did not disappoint. Combination of fjords and the Arctic with the 24 hour daylight was perfect for us, Marella only do this route once a year and not many other cruise lines do trips into the Arctic Circle. First the good points - some people are a bit sniffy about Marella (Butlins at sea etc) but loads of positives for us. First the size of ship, we prefer the smaller ones and the Explorer we found to be light and airy, especially the Mediterranean lounge which houses the fab tapas restaurant and the pizza/pasta in the evenings at no extra cost with spectacular views. All in all, the food we ate was certainly on a par with any other ship we have been on. The extra cost Surf and Turf and Kora Lai were top notch, as were all the staff (and we include the fabulous quiet bar 'Aperitif staff' just outside these venues as well - our bar of choice - mainly because you could get Fever tree tonics and Bottega processo on the premium upgraded all inclusive which for us at just over £7 a day we considered good value). The regular staff (bar staff, cleaners, cabin staff ) all great. Now the Marella entertainment and customer facing staff could take a few lessons from the regular staff. Even spoke to Calvin James (head of staff?) ref some points but even he didn't give us much eye contact and generally didn't give the impression that he was being very attentive to our conversation. The entertainment from our point was very ' samey' - silent disco brilliant but mix it up abit and theme it eg have a soul theme v the 80'st,lost is novelty after a few times but with a few changes it could be so much better, you have the staff. Again some of the staff seemed to turn their smiles on and off. And only so many times you can watch Bohemian Rhapsody........And a bit more variety on the at sea days would be good, as we were in the Arctic Circle it is hardly sunbathing weather. But we did have a concern with the comedian that was flown in and thanks to head of entertainment that met us to talk about our issues. Thank you for that. If you do this cruise next year just be aware that as it a one off cruise , go with an open mind. Weather etc can affect it - we were blessed with the most fab weather. But some of the ports required us to tender when originally we were due to be harbourside, so if you have mobility issues, be warned. Also when we did use the destinations staff, on a few of the trips it was very poorly arranged. Alot of waiting around in the cold, and we were one of the youngest on board (we are 58!) . No wonder we choose to do our own thing in port if we can, not good value at all. Cabin was great, proper shower door and huge balcony, had a hammock, sunbed and 2 chairs and a table (extra large balcony cabin!). Maybe a few funky toiletries would be nice and the towels could have been a lot fluffier! But all in all, no issues. So would be cruise Marella again? If the itinerary was right, yes we would. As an ex - Tui member of staff, I know you can do much better, it won't take alot to sharpen up staff attitudes and better organised excursions, lets give the big boys a run for the money! And please keep the middle sized ships, they can get into all the smaller ports that those monsters can't! Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
Everything about this cruise was awful. The embarkation in Newcastle took hours, shuttle buses overcrowded and we spent so much time queuing for everything. Once on board we were advised to upgrade to premium drinks package and after ... Read More
Everything about this cruise was awful. The embarkation in Newcastle took hours, shuttle buses overcrowded and we spent so much time queuing for everything. Once on board we were advised to upgrade to premium drinks package and after sampling the all inclusive drinks it was obvious why! The same applied to the quality of the food! We pre booked two excursions for when we were in St Petersburg and only did one because the first was such a let down. The overall standard of this ship is at best 2 star. We visited our local Tui branch to give our feedback and were told it couldn't be compared with the likes of Celebrity but this was not reflected in the price!!!!! We contacted the Tui post cruise help line 3 weeks ago and have not had a reply, we also tried calling but nobody picked up the phone. Absoluty disgraceful! Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
Liked the look of the cruise itinerary, and departing from Newcastle is more convenient and an easier port to get to than other ports. Booked an executive suite which are supposedly the best cabins on board and are on deck 10. Bad ... Read More
Liked the look of the cruise itinerary, and departing from Newcastle is more convenient and an easier port to get to than other ports. Booked an executive suite which are supposedly the best cabins on board and are on deck 10. Bad decision. Must say the cabin is spacious and well furnished BUT the inescapable element is constant noise from the deck above. We noticed it initially during the first day, noise of furniture being moved and scraped along the deck. The first night we were woke at 5am, then at 1.30am second night. It appears the deck was being cleaned which needed furniture to be moved. Formally complained in writing, no one responded and had a third night of disturbed sleep. Altogether had to complain 3 times to the “hotel manager”, not impressed at all with the response. The cruise was spoiled by the noise as it is a constant irritant when in the cabin, even during the day. A number of other issues occurred such as on embarkation we were told there was an IT problem which meant long queues while dropping off luggage in the car park and within the terminal building. Luggage was not unloaded on time from the ship after disembarkation, again huge queues in the car park whilst fork lift trucks were coming and going delivering suitcases. The food generally in the restaurants is adequate, not of a high quality. Got the feeling that some of the crew were very inexperienced, and required further training. Overall, it is downmarket, it was a bad experience and will not be going anywhere near a Marella ship again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
Marella Explorer Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.1
Dining 4.0 3.8
Entertainment 4.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.0
Fitness Recreation 5.0 3.8
Family 3.0 3.8
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.5
Enrichment 3.0 3.4
Service 4.0 4.1
Value For Money 4.0 3.7

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