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Marella Voyager godmothers name the ship. (Photo: Leon Beckenham)

Live From Marella Voyager: First Impressions of Marella Cruises' New Ship

Marella Voyager godmothers name the ship. (Photo: Leon Beckenham)
Leon Beckenham

Jun 7, 2023

Read time
4 min read

(10 a.m. BST) – TUI Cruises launched its latest ship, Marella Voyager, in Málaga, Spain, on Wednesday with an evening of live music and celebrations – with popstar Becky Hill as headline act.

Hundreds of guests gathered on the pool deck for the countdown to the christening, which began with speeches by senior executives including Sebastian Ebel, CEO of TUI Group, and Chris Hackney, managing director of Marella Cruises.

Hackney pointed to the ship being “a long time in the making” – the project began during the pandemic – adding: “and there’s no better time to say we are back than with the launch of Marella Voyager.”

It was then the job of the ship’s two godmothers, Tatyana Olkhovska, chief purser at Marella Cruises, and Jacqui Nobile, senior destination services operations manager, to hit a big red button to release the ceremonial Champagne bottle.

Kept under wraps until kicking off her set, two-time Brit Awards winner, singer and songwriter Hill then delighted the crowd with a high-energy 45-minute performance. Her show was followed by a Coldplay tribute band and, at midnight, a dazzling display of fireworks lit up the sky to round off the night’s spectacles.

Cruise Critic got onboard for Marella Voyager's launch event, as well as a short sailing to Palma. Here are our first impressions.

Marella Voyager Introduces New-to-the-Line Restaurants

Marella Voyager has a long history: It once was a Celebrity Cruises ship. (Photo: Sara Macefield)

Built in 1997 for Celebrity Cruises, the ship was transferred to the TUI fleet in 2011 before being retired in 2022 for its transformation into Marella Voyager. A major refurbishment followed, including the hull painted with the cruise lines’ signature wave design and an emphasis on offering customers a wider choice of bars and restaurants.

The Pantry is one food station in Marella Voyager's new buffet concept, The Kitchens. (Photo: Sara Macefield)

The largest area of renewal on board was revamping the food and drink offerings, and indeed the complete strip back and refit of the main dining zone, which was reborn as The Kitchens. Here, diners can choose from a total of eight distinctive eateries including Indian street food, British roasts dinner and traditional Greek fare, plus a self-service dessert station.

Abuela's is a new-to-the-line Mexican restaurant on Marella Voyager. (Photo: Sara Macefield)

Marella Voyager will also debut Marella Cruises’ first Mexican restaurant, Abuela’s (pictured above), as well as a premium Modern British dining experience at Silver Fork.

Marella Voyager has Revamped Nightlife Zone and Lounges

The Electric Rooms is an 80s-themed disco that includes an LED-lit dance floor and upper and lower lounge areas. (Photo: Sara Macefield)

The biggest new investment in the ship’s relaunch was the creation of Electric Rooms. This snazzy neon-drenched disco includes a spacious LED-lit dance floor and upper and lower lounge areas, plus an adjoining plushly revamped casino with blackjack and roulette. The space will host regular themed nights and silent discos.

These two red phone boxes are the entrance to Marella Voyager's coolest new bar, The Exchange. (Photo: Sara Macefield)

Another fun nightlife addition is The Exchange. Hidden behind a secret door and only accessible with a password, this speakeasy-style immersive experience combines interactive actors, parlour games and sing-a-longs, all accompanied by a trio of signature cocktails.

Also a line first is The Art House, a wonderfully colourful lounge space themed around destinations. (Photo: Sara Macefield)

Also a line first is The Art House, a wonderfully colourful lounge space themed around destinations. Connecting the space are two corridors, one a games area (with two shuffleboard tables) and the other with an arts and crafts station where all ages can get creative.

The Arts House has two corridors, one a games area and the other with an arts and crafts station. (Photo: Sara Macefield)

There’s more of an emphasis on art generally around the ship, too, with prints by the likes of Andy Warhol and Matisse brightening up the recarpeted hallways throughout.

Marella Voyager Boasts Spruced-up Cabins and Fleet Favourites

One of the new suite concepts on Marella Voyager, the Santorini Suite. (Photo: Sara Macefield)

Each of the vessel’s 952 cabins has been given a top-to-toe makeover to bring them in line with the rest of the Marella fleet. A dozen cabin categories include two top-end suites themed around cruise destinations chosen by TUI customers, who picked Saint Lucia and Santorini.

Our 17-square-foot Large Balcony Cabin included a 7-square-metre outside space with lounger, seating and hammock. Cabin amenities include a tea-and-coffee-making kit, TV, hairdryer, mini-fridge and safe. Sockets are two-pin 110/220V European standard plus there are two desk-side USB slots.

Common to the rest of the fleet, Marella Voyager sees the return of the Snack Shack, Latitude 53, Surf & Turf, and Kora La, which together with the new offerings totals an impressive 17 restaurants and food stations in all – by far the most in the fleet.

The Kids Club on Marella Voyager is a fun, bright space. (Photo: Sara Macefield)

Family-friendly facilities include the M Club and Hideout, together with kids’ clubs for ages two to 17. On board entertainment also includes a West-End-style Broadway Show Lounge with a different show six days of the week, plus a cinema showing Hollywood classics and recently released blockbusters. A fleet-first store selling Marella-branded merch also joins the other outlets in the Broad Street Shop retail zone.

Marella Voyager set sail on her maiden revenue voyage on Saturday 3rd June 2023, and will homeport in Palma de Mallorca for the summer season.

The ship will offer four different itineraries around the Mediterranean including "Highlights of the Mediterranean," "Magic of Spain," "Cosmopolitan Classics" and "Mediterranean Secrets" until September/October. The ship will then reposition to homeport from Barbados during the winter, offering three Caribbean itineraries.

Marella Voyager Takes Marella Cruises Favourites – And Adds a Few Surprises

The main pool deck on Marella Voyager. (Photo: Sara Macefield)

While not deviating too far from the tried-and-tested Marella blueprint, Marella Voyager has made some impressive steps forward in evolving the line's dining offerings. A bump in the number of family cabins and expanded child-focused activities also firmly establishes the ship among the most family-friendly of the fleet. TUI's bold investment in nightlife entertainment on board, too, will be popular with adults cruising without kids in tow. 

All in all, the Marella Voyager promises an impressive and accessible package that is sure to have broad appeal among the British cruising market.

Updated June 07, 2023
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