Marella Discovery 2 easily holds its own on the dining front with complimentary venues balancing out speciality restaurants, which carry an extra charge. So if passengers don't want to fork out for speciality dining, there's no reason why they should have to as there's a good clutch of free venues offering a contrast of culinary tastes and styles. The main 47° restaurant and Islands buffet are the most popular venues, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, while others, such as Gallery 47° and The Glass House, are open at selected times during the day and/or evening. However, anyone wanting to splash out can sample speciality restaurants that easily compare with those on other ships in terms of surroundings and the standard and variety of cuisine which, while catering for British palates, also injects spice and variety where required. Both Marella Discovery 2's main speciality restaurants are a cut above its other dining options. Kora La benefits from the more spectacular setting at the top of the ship and an imaginative menu which also includes a selection of exotic cocktails. This was our favourite dining spot and well worth the charge, though the Surf & Turf steakhouse has much to recommend it and is also worth a visit. Both restaurants require reservations and can book up quickly. Reservations can be made 48 hours in advance through Navigate or the booking kiosks.
47° (Deck 4): As the main dining room on the ship 47° certainly comes with a sense of occasion, the surrounding floor to ceiling windows letting the light flood in, which creates an airy and spacious feel. The sweeping staircase leading to Gallery 47° on the upper level, and high ceiling with an ornate chandelier as the centre-point, inject a feel of glamour into this restaurant, whose name, rather bizarrely, comes from the latitude line that crosses the French shipyard where Marella Discovery 2 was built.
* May require additional fees
The restaurant opens for breakfast, lunch and three-course dinner each day, with diners enjoying waiter service on tables that seat between two and eight people. At peak times, guests are given the option of sharing a table with other passengers.
There are no fixed seating times; it's simply a matter of turning up when you wish, and no reservations are required.
For breakfast, 47° opens from between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. (depending on the day) for around two hours with open seating and an express breakfast option with one main course, which is pre-prepared, served immediately. This is generally a traditional cooked breakfast.
For those wanting a full breakfast, in addition to the "full English" they can opt for French toast, kippers, pancakes or Eggs Benedict, along with a choice of teas, juices and coffees.
For lunch, it opens from noon to 2 p.m. while at dinner, doors open from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m., again with open seating.
The menus change each day on a 14-day cycle before they are repeated, and there are special menus for gala evenings.
Cuisine, based on the premise of traditional fare with a modern twist, is generally good, but can lack the finesse found in main restaurants on other lines.
At lunch, diners can help themselves to a salad bar and choose from starters that include salads, soups alternative options such as Yorkshire ham with honey or scallops.
Main courses vary from a prosciutto and mozzarella panini, grilled filet of tilapia or goujons of chicken. There is an "Anytime Favourites" section that is always available and contains burger, chips and jacket potato. Desserts can include cheesecake, ice cream and chocolate pannacotta.
The dinner menu offers several starters, ranging from soups and salads to brioche and herb crusted brie wedges and quiche, while main courses include poached fillet of cod, pork loin and an aubergine and courgette parmigiana. One of the specialities -- the Lobster Mac and Cheese is tasty and creamy, but a little lacking on the lobster front.
Chef's Recommendation picks out a choice from each course while a section of lighter options may include fish, a tart and grilled chicken.
Desserts are reasonably varied, with favourites given an added twist with an espresso creme brulee, baked chocolate and pistachio pudding or a forest berry coupe. There are also ice creams and sorbets and a cheese selection.
Additionally, menus contain dishes with reduced sugar or no sugar. Symbols denote vegetarian and gluten-free options, plus dishes where gluten-free alternatives are available.
Gallery 47° (Deck 5): This restaurant enjoys an elevated position overlooking 47° from its galleried balconies and benefits from the same airy ambience along with the shiny brass and chrome that help to give this restaurant its glitz.
However, while it looks a carbon copy of its sister restaurant on Marella Discovery, there is more to it than meets the eye.
When this restaurant was first established on Marella Discovery, Thomson (as it then was known) polled customers to gauge what type of cuisine they wanted served in the new venue. The definitive request was for Italian dishes, and on Marella Discovery, Gallery 47° was dedicated to this.
However, the restaurant failed to attract enough diners so on Marella Discovery 2 just half the restaurant has an Italian menu with the remaining half based on the same menu as 47° downstairs.
It is also waiter service and opens only in the evenings from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. with no set dining times and no reservations required.
The Italian menu carries a selection of antipasti for starters, followed by traditional Italian favourites such as pasta and calzone and fish, meat and vegetarian options.
On signature dishes, which carry a supplement, the pasta is tossed in a parmesan wheel at the tableside before it is served.
There is also a Chef's Suggestion menu which focuses on handpicked dishes from the main menu in 47°.
Islands (Deck 9): While the overall quality of the food in the buffet restaurant was good, this is probably the most dated of Marella Discovery 2's dining venues and lacks the bright, airy feel of the main restaurant. At peak times, it can be difficult to find seats, though if you're travelling alone or as a couple there are handy bar tables with stools where you can perch to eat breakfast and enjoy the views out of the expansive wraparound windows. The nautical decor and darker colours add to the old-fashioned feel, but there is a plentiful choice and variety of different dishes from the food stations clustered in the centre of the restaurant.
Islands is open for most of the day, starting early with continental breakfast offerings from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. which moves into the full breakfast buffet from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m.
Lunch buffet is served from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. with afternoon tea from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. and dinner from 6 p.m. until 9:30 p.m.
Breakfasts are one of the busiest times, and there is a good choice of fresh fruit, cereals, meats and cheeses and popular fry-ups that go down a treat with the British crowd, plus an omelette station too.
At lunch, this is replaced by salads, meat cuts, soups, and jacket potatoes offered with various fillings that include cheese, beans and chilli con carne. Scones with cream and jam trimmings are offered for afternoon tea, while during the evening dishes there is a full range of dishes, which on some evening have an Indian, Mexican or Italian theme. There is a carvery for diners wanting roasted meats.
A new feature is a beer and wine dispenser from which passengers can help themselves, offering Fosters, Strongbow cider and John Smith's Bitter plus red, white and rose wine.
Snack Shack (Deck 9): Bright and breezy, this alfresco deck spot is ideal for informal and impromptu dining. It has been imaginatively laid out with its row of brightly-painted beach hut-style booths, each one named after popular destinations Marella Cruises ships sail to. There are also a few picnic style tables and bench seats.
If you find the buffet restaurant too crowded, this is a good alternative venue and tends to get less crowded. The focus is on Grab & Go bites, available for breakfast from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., and lunch and afternoon snacks between 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Chilled cabinets contain a selection of light bites that customers can eat at the tables or take away -- sometimes on trips ashore as it saves having to buy lunch.
Breakfast selection includes muesli, fresh fruit, plus granola pots mixed with yoghurt and fruit, while a food counter offers hot options including scrambled egg, sausages and bacon along with Danish pastries, croissants and porridge. The bacon butties are definitely worth a try.
At lunch chilled options include pre-packaged sandwiches, wraps and ready-made salads, including Greek and Caesar varieties. Cooked alternatives include burgers, hot dogs and chips.
There is a tea and coffee stand nearby which is useful, but diners wanting juice need to walk across the deck to get it in Islands. However, there is a chiller cabinet behind the counter with cold cans of fizzy drinks.
The Glass House (Deck 9): This light and airy venue is located by the second deck pool, under the glass retractable roof and is a quiet alternative to the busy main deck, especially after 2 p.m. when the pool becomes adult-only.
Tables are set to one side, close to the windows as the pool is surrounded by sun-loungers, but there is a solarium feel to the surroundings.
During the day, when The Glass House is open from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. passengers can help themselves to deli-style light bites that include sandwiches, rolls and salads, plus freshly-squeezed juices.
From 6:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. it comes into its own as a proper evening dining venue which benefits from the attractive lighting around the pool and peaceful, relaxed ambience.
Diners can opt for tapas, pizza and sharing platters, while from 9:30 p.m. until 1 a.m. late evening snacks are served.
Kora La (Deck 11, midship) £19.95: Not only does this Pan-Asian restaurant boast fabulous cuisine -- but it is matched by the wonderful views from its vantage point across the main deck and out to sea. It is open from 6:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m., but try to book a table for around sunset to guarantee the best vista -- a perfect additional ingredient that will set the seal on evenings here. But the food alone is enough to make any meal memorable. The ambience is suitably Asian with dark wood furniture matched by the deep brown tablemats, muted carpet and wall murals adding splashes of colour. The menu has been developed by chef Ian Pengelly, who established London eaterie House of Ho, and it offers around four choices for each course -- starter, main, speciality curries and desserts. The menu carries a pre-dinner cocktail of a K2 Cooler with sake, blue Curacao, fresh mint and a splash of soda water for an extra charge of £1.50. A delectable amuse bouche -- in our case, "popcorn prawns" -- are the first stage of this culinary journey. Starters include prawn satay with a tangy peanut sauce, vegetable samosas or tasty crisp pork belly with Korean barbecue sauce -- but the pick of them is the duck and watermelon salad, a delicious blend of textures and flavours, heightened by the accompanying cashew nuts, sweet fish sauce and Asian herbs.
Main courses include the intriguingly-named Shaking Beef, with crisp garlic and pea shoots -- which is more exciting than it sounds -- bok choy and shitake mushroom souffle, and tasty chicken, lamb and beef curries, cooked to every individual diner's personal spicy preference.
And to round it off, a clutch of sweet treats that include sweet-toothed toffee and banana crumble, golden ginger cream and tempura vanilla cheesecake.
Sushi Bar (Deck 11, midship); £13.95: Tucked into one side of Kora La, this serves Asian temptations such as spicy tuna rolls, salmon sashimi and seabass nigiri washed down with Far Eastern beers that include Tiger, Cobra and Singha. Passengers dining here can choose up to eight pieces of sushi, sashimi or nigiri. It is open from 6:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m.
Surf & Turf Steakhouse (Deck 11, midship); £24.95: The low wooden ceiling and shuttered windows give an intimate closeted feel to this restaurant that is more reminiscent of a private club with its leather-backed wall, accompanied by a long row of white-linen covered tables. It opens from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and is all about understated quality as shown in the surroundings, cuisine and impressively attentive service. There is a tantalisingly long list of starters, ranging from beef carpaccio and caramelised beetroot salad to crab bisque or crayfish and prawn cocktail, while Caesar salads are ""crafted" at your table. But diners should save themselves for the main act in this culinary performance -- the 28-day aged Signature Steaks that take the leading role with a monster 32oz Tomahawk rib-eye steak, served for two, and already cut. There are smaller steaks and the Surf & Turf signature dish of 6oz petite filet mignon and a half lobster tail that were beautifully cooked. Other entrees include roast rack of lamb, grilled butterflied Cornish hen, and grilled tiger prawns. A vegetarian option includes baked vegetable filo wellington, while side dishes range from sautéed mushrooms and buttered peas with pancetta to chips with truffle salt and potato and horseradish mash. If you have any room left, desserts include a flourless chocolate souffle, New York cheesecake and apple tart, all rounded off by dessert cocktails costing an extra £1.50.
Hot Stone (Deck 9, midship); £9.95: One of the more novel options is Hot Stone in The Glass House where diners can enjoy the novelty of cooking their own meat on a sizzling hot slab of volcanic rock at their table. Diners choose from meats including scaloppini of lamb -- though as this was more thinly sliced it seemed to dry out more quickly. The better choices were medallions of pork tenderloin and Angus beef skewer, with other options including salmon and prawns, or Stilton glazed Portobello mushrooms as the vegetarian alternative.
Desserts may include creme caramel, warm tarte tatin or chocolate espresso mousse.
Room Service: This is available 24/7, starting with breakfast from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. The choice is limited to five different fruit juices, hot drinks, a hot bakery selection and a selection of cereals. Passengers need to hang out the order form on their door before 4 a.m. There is also a charge of £4.95 per person.
All-day options include omelettes, for £4.95, and light bites that range from a club sandwich for £3.60 to soup at £2 and Caesar salad for £2.85.
Desserts are apple pie (£3.25), chocolate mousse (£3.25), plus a cheese and biscuit selection (£3.60). Drinks range from assorted juices, for £2, to hot chocolate at £2.60.
White, rose and red wines are offered, ranging from £15 for a 75cl bottle of sauvignon blanc to £18 for a bottle of Mateus Rose. An antipasto selection is also matched to the wines, costing from £3.50 for a selection of hams and cheeses, served with pickled vegetables and granary bread.
The main Room Service menu is featured in the Life Onboard brochure, which is in every cabin and this lists all choices, with prices. Drinks from the room service menu are not included in the all-inclusive drinks package.