Kerry Spencer
Cruise Critic Editor
5.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Dining

Dining includes the widest selection of options onboard any Marella ship -- including more choice for both free and fee dining and brand-new concepts for the line.

From the main dining room up to the for-fee Dining Club, the quality of food is excellent. We loved the variety of cuisine available -- from casual help-yourself to waiter service; Japanese, Italian, French, Mediterranean, British and Indian -- we found no shortage of options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The freshness of produce stands out, too, with bread, pasta, gelato and chocolates made fresh on the ship every day.

Restaurants cater to dietary requirements well, though some do better than others. There is always a vegetarian option available, though vegan choices are more limited.

We were impressed by how well the ship caters to gluten-free requirements -- even in the Italian restaurant Nonna’s there’s gluten-free pasta. Passengers should notify the line in advance and again at the restaurant if they have specific dietary needs.

Free Dining 

Latitude 53 (Deck 5 & 6)

Meals: (B), (L), (D)

The ship's two-tier MDR is open for waiter service breakfast (7 a.m. – 9 a.m.), lunch 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.) and dinner (6 – 9 p.m.). The restaurant operates a flexible dining policy -- so you just turn up when you’re ready and a server will seat you.  

Located at the Aft, the light-filled space features floor-to-ceiling windows and has an upmarket feel, perfect for a meal with family or friends, though there are some quieter corners, too, suitable for couples. The menu is tailored to classic British tastes and the overall quality is among the best we’ve encountered in a main dining room.  

At breakfast there’s a healthy option, a la carte Full English and daily changing specials. There’s an express option, if you’re in a hurry. We were impressed by the amount of gluten-free options on the menu. Lunch and dinner consists of British staples and daily changing specials and healthy options. There are typically two vegetarian options on the menu and several gluten-free options.

We ate a delicately tempura-style chicken and sweet potato fritters dish that arrived with a lovely hint of lemongrass, served with lemon aioli. We were also impressed with the garden-freshness of a simple salad, topped with crunchy croutons and grilled chicken.

The busiest time is 7 – 7:30 p.m. with more tables becoming available from 8 p.m. If there’s no table available for your party size when you arrive, the restaurant will give you a buzzer and let you know when there’s a table free. Though the restaurant gets busy, we saw no sign of queues on our sailing.

Vista (Deck 5)

Meals: D

This formal Italian restaurant is open for dinner from 6 – 9 p.m., located within a section of Latitude 53 on Deck 5. A divide separates Vista from the rest of the main dining room. It’s a small area, though on busier nights Vista has the flexibility to add a few extra tables, borrowed from Latitude 53. The quality is exceptional -- more on par with what you find in a for-fee speciality restaurant and perfect for a dinner date or special occasion.

The menu takes passengers on a tour of Italy -- with popular dishes from different regions such as Piedmont and Sicily, including a gorgeous and tender pork belly that fell apart at the prod of our fork and a delicious crusted-roast cod served with saffron potatoes and cherry tomatoes. Keep an eye out for the Parmigiano wheel, which is rolled out for a dish that involves hot pasta being mixed into the hallowed wheel to create a delicious gooey carb fest.

There is always one vegetarian option on the menu and gluten-free options, including a GF pasta.

The Market Place (Deck 11)

Meals: (B), (L), (D)

The ship's self-service buffet restaurant offers an informal dining option almost 24/7, with breakfast (7 – 11 a.m.), lunch (11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.), afternoon tea (3 – 5 p.m.), dinner (6 – 10 p.m.) and late-night snacks (10 p.m. – 1 a.m.). Expect British staples -- a full English and Weetabix in the morning, tea and sandwiches in the afternoon and curry and roast dinners in the evening. There are always veggie options available and in the evening there’s a Design Your Own Dish station, with the theme changing daily, such as curry or stir fry.

The Market Place is also the venue to find the ship’s free self-serve ice creams. Drinks are also self-service -- with soft drinks, water, tea, coffee, juices, wine and beer available.

There are typically two vegetarian options on the menu (mirroring the main dining room) and gluten-free options are labelled at the self-service counters.

Finding available seating isn’t a problem -- there’s ample space spread across both sides of the deck.

Snack Shack (Deck 11)

Meals: (L)

Designed with a British seaside theme, Snack Shack is conveniently located on the Pool Deck offering a selection of fast food -- with many deep-fried items, plus hot dogs and burgers during the day (11 a.m. – 5 p.m.). There’s also sandwiches, wraps, salad and fruit for healthier options. Snack Shack’s hot counter isn’t suitable for vegetarians, though there are vegetarian wraps, sandwiches and salads available in the fridge.

Nonna's (Deck 11)

Meals: (L), (D)

The ship’s informal Italian option is excellent and the informal vibe gives the ambiance of a quaint Italian restaurant that focuses on substance over style.

At lunchtime and through the afternoon (11 a.m. – 5 p.m.) the restaurant offers a selection of pizzas and a Make Your Own Pasta menu. You even get to choose which herbs go into your dish. Gluten-free spaghetti is available and vegetarian options are also offered.

In the evening (6:30 – 9:30 p.m.) passengers create their own pizza and there’s more Italian options available such as calzone, plus a wider selection of pasta ingredients available on the Make Your Own Pasta menu. Two dessert options are also offered, or a selection of ice creams, courtesy of Scoops (which is next to Nonna’s), for an additional fee.

We were impressed with a humble spaghetti dish served with a glug of olive oil, garlic, basil and mozzarella. There are more choices and ingredients to choose from, but we enjoyed the simple nature of this pared-back bowl of pasta.  

Beach Cove (Deck 11)

Meals: (B), (L)

At breakfast (8:30 – 10:30 a.m.) and lunchtime (11:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.) the new Beach Cove venue serves a continental breakfast and self-serve light lunches, with waiter service for drinks, before converting into a for-fee restaurant in the evening. It’s a convenient spot for sunbathers to grab a lighter meal on the Pool Deck and eat at one of the tables or take food back to their sun lounger.

There’s a covered area and al fresco seating available.

The Terrace (Deck 11)

Meals: (B), (L), (D)

This is an outdoor space for passengers dining at The Market Place at the Aft of the ship. There’s plenty of seating and shading as the area is covered by a canopy.

Room Service: Room service is only available to Suite-class passengers for free and, even then, it only consists of one Continental breakfast per passenger per week, available between 7 – 10 a.m. Passengers wishing to order room service must hang their order form on their cabin door before 4 a.m.

There’s a for-fee menu available to all passengers 24/7. The menu can be found in the cabin’s Life Onboard magazine and includes a Continental breakfast, omelettes, Light Bites, dessert and drinks. Drinks are charged for on the Room Service menu.

Fee Dining

The Dining Club (Deck 5); £34.95 or £45 with wine pairing

Meals: (D)

The ship's elegant formal dining venue, which debuted on Explorer, is the only venue to offer a wine pairing menu. It is located next to the Reception by the ship's Atrium. The menu is European, with a focus on French, and the ambiance is spot on -- it feels classy, like a top restaurant you might find in a popular city.

The Dining Club is perfect for couples celebrating an occasion or looking to elevate their dining experience. While we don’t feel The Dining Club is molecular gastronomy in style, which it is described as by the ship, the quality of food and service is excellent.

Here, chefs turn classic dishes into more spectacular creations. We ate a prawn cocktail that featured plump rosewood-smoked prawns. The smokiness was subtle so as not to overpower the large, juicy shellfish, served with fresh microgreens and edible flowers -- and topped with a hearty dollop of Marie Rose sauce. The standout main course dish -- Lamb Three Ways, served as a slow-roast saddle, glazed loin and lamb and bean cassolette -- was equally remarkable. It came with Pommes Parisienne and al dente roast carrots with a Syrah sauce. The flavour combinations and overall dining experience surpassed our expectations.  

There are limited vegetarian options on the menu and no vegan options. Gluten-free options are available. The Dining Club can get very busy and a reservation is required.

Kora La (Deck 6); £24.95

Meals: (D)

The ship’s Asian restaurant focuses on fresh curry dishes, stir fries and regional Indian and Chinese specialities. Kora La is the place to go for the best curry onboard. And if you prefer yours extra hot, the chefs will ramp up the spice, and vice versa. Naan breads and chutneys are all made fresh on the ship.

The line’s partnership with Ian Pengelley (of the excellent House of Ho restaurant in London) includes speciality dishes on the menu created by the famous chef, who regularly joins the ship to make sure they’re being prepared and presented correctly.

Passengers will find Kora La located opposite Surf & Turf, towards the aft of the ship. It is recommended to book in advance.

Sushi @ Kora La (Deck 6); £11.95

Meals: (D)

Within a section of Kora La the chef prepares fresh sushi platters made to order -- as you watch from the counter. Hot (cooked) dishes and fish-free options are also available. Reservations are necessary as it can get busy at peak times.

Surf & Turf (Deck 6); £28.95

Meals: (D)

This is the go-to venue for meat lovers with various cuts of steak, other meats, shellfish and seafood available. The setting feels formal and perfect for a special occasion or date night -- we love that the music (usually a pianist) filters through from Aperitif, just next door. The quality of food, presentation and service is excellent. We tucked into gorgeous pan-roasted scallops served with a celeriac puree and lemongrass sauce that were fashionably smeared on the plate, adding a touch of zesty flavour to a perfect dish. We followed this with a classic Surf & Turf, opting for the lobster tail and fillet of Angus beef medallion. Our steak was beautifully cooked, though we found the lobster meat on the dry side. We were also disappointed by the Lobster Macaroni Cheese -- while it was still tasty -- oozing with creamy, gooey cheese -- we struggled to find the lobster.

As with the ship’s other speciality restaurants, Surf & Turf can get very busy and requires a reservation.

There’s one veggie dish on the menu, though Surf & Turf is not really suitable for vegetarians. Several gluten-free options are available.

The Coffee Port (Deck 7)

The line's popular coffee house venue serves Lavazza coffee and is arguably the best coffee onboard. Cold brew (coffee over ice), soft drinks, juices and a selection of tea are also available.

We love the handmade chocolate creations at the counter -- all made onboard -- which make for a lovely souvenir to take home.

The Coffee Port is spacious and has the upmarket feel of a business lounge, featuring casual seating and booths with USB charging points. While the ship doesn’t provide a dedicated library, there are a selection of books and board games in The Coffee Port.

Passengers use the space to take a break from the sun, read and chat with fellow passengers.

Beach Cove (Deck 11); £11.95

Meals: (D)

A new-to-the-line venue, Beach Cove is a poolside restaurant with a barbecue-theme -- think chicken wings, baby-back ribs and pork, beef and lamb sliders -- in the evening. The most affordable of the ship’s speciality restaurants, Beach Cove is a lovely spot for an informal dinner. It’s perfect for a date night, especially if you time your reservation to coincide with sunset (check the daily Cruise News for sunset times).

The menu also offers the Taste of Beach Cove for two, designed for sharing and includes a combination of dishes from the main menu. The quality isn’t nearly as good here as in the ship’s other speciality restaurants, but that is reflected in the price. We tried the Espetada (Portuguese skewers) -- consisting of meat, fish, tofu or vegetables, served barbecued on a tall spike at the table -- which has fast become Beach Cove’s signature dish. The barbecued salmon and prawns were a little dry for our liking, though the baby-back rib starter was incredibly tender and fell off the bone -- we were tempted to order another portion.

Vegetarian options are available -- typically one starter and one main course (the vegetarian Espetada) -- though because of the barbecue theme, the menu is meat heavy. Several gluten-free options are available.

We found it easy to make a reservation for Beach Cove on the day -- though the restaurant did fill so it’s still recommended to book ahead.  

Scoops (Deck 11)

A jaunty venue on the Pool Deck themed on a vintage ice cream parlour, Scoops is open from 11 a.m to 6 p.m. offering a selection of homemade gelato that changes daily. Expect classic options and some fun flavour combinations. There’s a charge of £1 for one scoop or £2 for two, served in a cone or cup. There’s also an ice cream sundae menu offering fun classics such as a Knickerbocker Glory.

There’s seating in the form of three upcycled-style unicycle seats facing out to sea, though most passengers opt to take away.

Marella Explorer 2 Information

Marella Explorer 2 Ship Stats

  • Crew: 780
  • Launched: 2019
  • Decks: 14
  • Passengers: 1,814
  • Registry: Malta
  • CDC Score: N/A

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