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7 Helpful Votes
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
6 Helpful Votes
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
6 Helpful Votes
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
3 Helpful Votes
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
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 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
3 Helpful Votes
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
Marella Explorer Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 4.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 5.0 0.0
Family 3.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 3.0 0.0
Enrichment 3.0 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0

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