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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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