Home Travel ReviewsCruise Reviews Cruise Ship Review: Marella Discovery

Cruise Ship Review: Marella Discovery

A comfortable, easy to negotiate ship with a lively, modern makeover perfect for sunny, all-inclusive holidays from the Med to the Caribbean

by Nick Dalton

If you’re looking for a classy ship that has all the comforts of cruising without the outlandish attractions of some modern vessels, this is for you. Marella Discovery started life as Royal Caribbean’s Splendour of the Seas and moved across when ships got bigger and brasher. As such she’s got style, isn’t too big (1,800 passengers) and is somewhere to relax while sailing from place to place.

Attractions are many – there’s an outdoor cinema, mini-golf course, indoor and outdoor pools while the high point is the dizzying rock-climbing wall at the rear of the ship.

Marella Discovery was fully refurbished in 2016, although there has been a recent revamp, with the Glass House glass-roofed indoor pool area was reimagined during the lockdown, creating a sophisticated beach club atmosphere with cabana-style sunbeds, sun loungers, dining tables and sofas. A light lunch is served, and it becomes a quiet restaurant each evening.

Who for?

A somewhat different crowd than most cruises, younger and more akin to those you might expect to find on a package holiday – Marella is part of the Tui holiday empire. As such, prices are much more aligned to holidays, even though the cruises come with flights and, all-importantly, all you can drink. There are no tips to be paid (something that can add a hefty sum to many cruises), and seven-night Caribbean cruises can be had for under £900.

Your room

Marella Discovery pool

Marella Discovery Suite

My junior suite was bigger – and wider – than many rooms I’ve had on other ships, the room-wide glass wall with sliding doors opening on to a balcony with sun loungers and table and chairs. There are 357 balcony cabins, from standard to suites, 230 cabins with windows and 328 inside cabins. Single and family rooms are available. Given that the guests are all Brits, all rooms have a kettle, with tea and coffee, and mine had a pod coffee machine too. Décor is a neat mix of blues, browns and greys. Bathrooms aren’t big but have decent enough showers.

The cruises

Marella Discovery likes the sun. I travelled on a 2021 post-lockdown late summer cruise amongst the Greek islands from Corfu. The ship then sailed to the Caribbean for winter and spring cruises from Barbados. Summer and autumn is devoted to Mediterranean voyages from Palma, Majorca.

Eating and drinking

A good choice of restaurants. The main one is 47, decent starter-main-dessert meals with fish, meat and vegetarian options, even a steak on gala-night. The upstairs balcony seating is Gallery 47, an Italian restaurant. The Glass House is an intimate spot in the glass-roofed winter garden pool area tapas starters, skewers (salmon and prawn, Mediterranean vegetable, etc), pizza and pasta. Discreet and quiet but the size means that while free there’s only a modest chance of a table without booking.

The Islands buffet restaurant on the pool deck starts with breakfast (cereals, fry-up, omelette station), continues through lunch and into the evening. The choice for good, fast food would be the Snack Shack, a well-staffed takeaway serving really good small pieces of battered fish, burgers and chips along with boxed salads and simple desserts – the outdoor tables with their beach hut framing, all in seaside shades of pink and blue, are the place to sit and enjoy.

Varied other places, as are the norm on cruise ships these days, offer different food for a charge – almost £30 a head. The Surf and Turf Steakhouse lets you create your own pairing (half a lobster tail with steak, chicken or lamb) while there’s a choice of steak dinners, including tuna.

Kora La is a mix of Indian and Chinese, whether curries or braised sea bass in bamboo leaves, plus lots of samosa, dumplings and dal, a menu devised by leading Brit Pan-Asian chef Ian Pengelley, whose London restaurants included Pengelley’s, a link-up with Gordon Ramsay. To one side is the sushi bar, with its own dinner menu. All three are tucked away high on deck 11, around the hideaway Bar Eleven lounge, with curving windows and gorgeous sunset views.

Machine coffee is free from Islands throughout the day while the Coffee Port café sells very good barista, along with cookies and cake, in a comfy spot by the library, filled with thrillers donated by other guests.

There are half a dozen bars, including the sunny Pool Bar.

Relaxing

Marella Discovery pool

There’s a nice pool deck with a good-sized pool to wallow in and maybe to try a few strokes, with hot tubs to one side. Sun loungers give way to tables where one can sit with food from Islands buffet or from the Snack Shack. The latter has its own tables with colourful beach hut surrounds. There’s a  gym (free) with glass walls while the Oceans Spa offers reasonably priced treatments.

Despite the sun outside many people on my cruise shunned the sun deck, preferring the seclusion and muted natural light of the Glass House with its uncrowded pool.

I didn’t actually see anyone tempted by the climbing wall although a few people laughed around the crazy golf course.

Entertainment

The fun started with the first night’s Sail & Shine party on the pool deck, Filipino band The 4 Tunes playing an eclectic mix of rock ‘n’ rolling favourites as well as quirkier numbers. They then played regularly at the Squid & Anchor – called a ‘pub’ but really a ‘lounge’ – as well as other day and evening poolside events, and in the Live Room.

Live Room

A more conventional rock band, The Collective, with girl singer, also made their presence felt in various venues.

The Broadway Show Lounge attracted the older guests, all-singing, all-dancing middle-of-the-road entertainment… Elvis’s life story, a soul music concoction.

Overall, there was a very Brit air to proceedings, cruise director Matthew Shaw singing, dancing and hosting events, not least quiz game shows, like Love & Marriage, a wild take on Call My Bluff. Quizzes, silent discos, late-night discos… a laugh a minute.

And with all drinks included, other than posh brands and wine by the bottle, everyone’s there to have a good time.

Verdict

Cruising without pretensions. The ship may not be new but has been expertly crafted into a bright, light-hearted floating resort for those who like to lie back and relax, have regular ports of call – and finish the evening with a drink and maybe a party. And all at a price that’s difficult to beat.

Sailing

A seven-night Mediterranean Medley cruise, departing May 24, 2022, heading to Spain, France and Italy, starts at £921, all-inclusive, with flights. To book visit tui.co.uk

16 comments

Regular Cruiser Nov 13, 2021 - 9:29 am

You can not pre book the Glass House for a meal so your suggestion is impossible. Somewhat patronizing comment regarding the theatre shows which is not a true representation. Shame you only seemed to see two of the shows. And please they are cabins not rooms – you are not staying in a hotel on land. Guests are usually but not always all British. Otherwise a fair representation.

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Nick Nov 14, 2021 - 11:40 am

Thanks for your interest. Yes, the Glass House seems a difficult one to get a table at. Regarding the shows, I saw most if not all of them and it’s a fair view. As for accommodation, a cabin is a room is a stateroom is a suite, depending on how one wants to regard them. The Collins Dictionary says: ‘A cabin is a small room in a ship or boat.’
Happy sailing, Nick

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Robert Levey Nov 21, 2021 - 1:05 pm

I think I was on the same cruise! We arrived back in Manchester on the 15th of November… and booked to rejoin the ship on Dec 5th. My wife and I loved the cruise and we love this ship… especially when Capt Chis is at the helm!
I enjoyed your review and would like to say a big thank you to the show cast, whose performances were spectacular and to ship’s crew members who made our cruise so enjoyable, despite the Covid complications which were beyond their control.
Finally, our cruise was made really special by Alexandra and Adian, the professional dance couple, who gave almost daily dance lessons and breath-taking dance performances!

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J Bottoms Feb 11, 2022 - 6:52 pm

We are due to go in may. It seems good, it’s our first time. We will be picking the ship up in palma as we live in mallorca. So easy to book on line .

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Elizabeth Still Feb 5, 2022 - 12:42 pm

Will be on the Discovery in June. So looking forward to it due to Covid this our third time trying.

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Lynn cash Feb 11, 2022 - 2:01 pm

We were on her in December Christmas and new year it’s is a fantastic ship plenty to do and great entertainment we join in the silent disco it was fun food is fantastic in all the eatery including the buffet cabin cleaned every day cabins stewards were great will definitely recommend a cruise on the discovery.

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Tracy Wroblewski Mar 10, 2022 - 6:55 am

We are on this ship in june …..3rd time lucky been such a long wait since 2019…hopefully all ok this time… looking forward to our cruise

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Danny Jun 19, 2022 - 2:04 pm

Just got back from this cruise.
The staff are absolutely amazing and couldn’t do enough for you
The Downside!! The food standard and choice has dropped since the last cruise we had with them , so so disappointing as we payed top dollar . Maybe this is because so many people only paid half of what we did and you have to make cutbacks somewhere at the expense of those who overpaid. I would suggest to people they don’t book until the very latest so that they can get a better deal or maybe look at other operators.
Despite the downsides it’s a lovely ship and don’t be put off cruising

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Deborah Marshall Mar 13, 2022 - 8:43 pm

Me,my husband and 2 friends are going on the discovery 2 in June for our very first Mediterranean cruise,to celebrate our 60th birthdays,really excited to say the least,

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Patricia Kelso Mar 30, 2022 - 6:42 pm

Me and my husband will join the ship for 2 weeks in the Caribbean on Sunday 4/4/22, to celebrate, 2 x 50th birthdays, my husband retirement and 25th wedding anniversary! So excited!

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James brown Apr 18, 2022 - 11:46 am

Myself and my partner. Are going on the discovery. Medditaranian cruise in May 2022. Can’t wait sounds like a beautiful ship. Was on marella dream 4 yrs ago. That was brilliant
Ship was great and staff and food fantastic.

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Damian Gray Apr 18, 2022 - 4:55 pm

We have just arrived back from two weeks in the Caribbean on the Discovery. Same cruiser as Patricia above. It was our first cruise but compared to travelling to over 100 countries and staying in 2 to 6 star hotels I was very impressed with this ship and crew. Crew were amazing, ship was clean, food was very good and service was excellent. We did go all inclusive and upgraded but we will be back very very good for a boat

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Gary May 9, 2022 - 8:55 pm

Great cruise ship we’ll be on board tomorrow

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George and Carol May 19, 2022 - 5:11 pm

Most enjoyable trip in the Med with Discovery in May, great staffing all round. Look forward to next time.

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Lorraine Hurrell Jun 16, 2022 - 11:54 am

We go 21st June for week round med. Can’t wait. The cruises are fantastic!

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Chris Threadgold Jul 5, 2022 - 6:45 pm

Just returned after a week on the Discovery in the Med. Had been on this ship several years ago, and our return was not dissapointing. The crew continue to be impeccable; The cabin crew are always so cheerful, the guys in the restaurant are always so helpful, and all told you are surrounded by people who just want you to have a good time. The food was top quality, not only in the two restaurants, but also in the buffet. Entertainment was also very good in the bars, with a choice of comedy, bands and a show most evenings. Cleanliness 10/10.We love this boat and those who work on it.

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