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Cuban Fusion, Marella Discovery 2, Jan 2018

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Cuban Fusion Cruise, Marella Discovery 2, January 2018

Pre-Cruise Stay.

As the outbound flight was at 0915, I travelled to Gatwick Airport the night before and stayed in the Premier Inn North Terminal, which is immediately opposite the North Terminal, where my flight left from. The room was comfortable and quiet. I had a pleasant meal in the evening with very good service. The next morning I went to check-in and then returned to the hotel for a shower and breakfast. I would recommend this hotel – especially if you fly from the North Terminal.

Flights & Transfers.

I flew on a 787 Dreamliner in the Premium Cabin. Seats were comfortable with plenty of room in both width and pitch. Food was pretty good and included unlimited complimentary drinks and a welcome aboard glass of fizz. Outbound we had a four-course lunch and then afternoon tea. Inbound, a four-course dinner and hot breakfast. The cabin crew on the outbound leg were particularly excellent.

Transfer on arrival was efficient and very good. Luggage was handed in at the airport and transferred direct to your cabin. Immigration forms were dealt with swiftly by three staff in a corridor which meant we did not pass right through the airport, leaving by a side-door straight on to waiting coaches. Very short queue at the rather basic Cruise Terminal meant I was off the coach and on to the ship within about 10 minutes. For the inbound flight, luggage was collected overnight from outside the cabin and not seen again until collecting it back at Gatwick Airport. Good job done by TUI and Marella.

Ship.

Marella Discovery 2 entered service in 1995 as Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas and remained as such until last year when she was bought by TUI. She had a refit by TUI before becoming Discovery 2. She is smaller by today's standards, being 70,000 tons and taking around 1,800 passengers. Her public rooms had mostly been re-designed by TUI in a fairly light/bright décor and style – certainly more contemporary than classic style. The Atrium Bar, Bar 11 and Venue lounge were reasonably stylish. Personally I did not find many comfortable seats around the ship. The buffet restaurant (Islands) did not appear to have been refurbished and looked tired. The servery area was spacious but the seating areas really crowded with tables very close together. One thing I did find rather odd – Deck 4 is comprised entirely of public rooms (restaurant, bar/lounge/casino, show-lounge) but there are no toilets on this deck! There are two pools – one indoor, one outside. The outdoor pool area was very busy on sea days and also noisy a lot of the time.

My cabin was a small inside on Deck 2, which was ideal for one but would have been a bit tight for two travelling together. Despite being almost below a late-night entertainment venue, it was quiet and the bed was very comfortable. The only refurbishment to the cabin appears to be a new carpet, wall-art, TV and maybe washbasin in the bathroom. The furniture was pretty cheap stuff with a 'flat-pack' feel about it. There was a safe (big enough for a tablet) but no fridge. Air-con was just about sufficient but was set at the lowest temperature the whole week.

Food.

I found the food pretty disappointing in all venues I used. I didn't use any of the for-fee eating venues. Dishes often did not resemble the description on the menu and portion sizes were pretty small – especially considering that dinner is three-courses as standard. In general terms, fruit juices at breakfast were pretty tasteless and the yogurts were a particularly cheap brand. The sausages were disgusting – probably as much cereal content as meat and utterly tasteless. Three specific examples. 1 - They made fresh 'paninis' in the buffet at lunchtime so I tried one. She asked if I wanted “panini bread” so I said yes. In fact it was only a soft baguette-style roll. I asked for cheese & mushroom and she made it with a spoonful of chopped mushroom and 2 small and very thin bits of 'plastic' cheese-slice. I asked for more cheese as I wouldn't have tasted it otherwise. 2 – My main course one night was “Prawn, Scallop and Monkfish Brochette. I had two small prawns, one very small piece of monkfish and a bit of scallop about half the size of a broad bean! There was more red/green/yellow pepper than anything else! 3 – My desert one evening was “Citrus & Coconut Tart”. What came up was like a cheap mousse which tasted of neither citrus nor coconut, that sat on a very thin layer of sponge cake. A table-mate agreed with me about the lack of taste. Solo travellers had a large table set side so we ate together every night at the same table. The main waiter was at times brusque and sarcastic. He did the rounds of the table asking if the food was okay but ignored any negative comments. A table-mate replied one night that her steak was tough – no response! The assistant waiter on the other hand was super – smiling, friendly and helpful. I did have a very pleasant steak one night and also enjoyed a hot souffle for desert one evening.  The scones (with jam & cream) available in the buffet every afternoon were great!

Entertainment.

There was a show-team who put on five productions over the seven nights. They were a young team, very enthusiastic but I think struggled with the rather ambitious productions. They seemed to be all-rounders and so not exceptionally good at either song or dance. There was also a set of “trained actor hosts”, who put on a 30 minute play and acted in an 'audience participation' murder-mystery. Both these relied on much double-entendre. There were two main guest acts – Braxi, a husband & wife classical-crossover duo and Dave Kristian, a comedian. Braxi were very enjoyable but I don't really do comedians so didn't attend either of his shows.

There was also a number of musicians performing around the ship – saxophonist, pianist/vocalist, guitarist, trio and party band. They were all of a reasonable standard but often over-amplified – especially in the Live Room, a venue I had to leave on a couple of occasions as I just could not stand the noise level.

The Cruise Director shared his daily TV broadcast with the Asst CD. I feel they thought they were Ant & Dec... To me, they both had rather irritating voices. Again, much use was made of double-entendre. An example of this is the CD, when making an announcement mentioned he had an early rise the next morning and qualified it by saying - “and that's not a euphemism”. I really am not a prude but felt this kind of thing not appropriate for a CD. All the entertainment team are contracted by Peel Productions – including the CD, so maybe that is why he felt the need to try and be a comic.

A number of films were shown on the open air screen but the majority were children's or family films.  Not great with only about half a dozen kids on board!

Ports of Call.

George Town, Grand Cayman. I tendered ashore here for a walk around. It is a typical Caribbean Cruise port, with a lot of shopping opportunities! The town absorbed the 14000+ cruise pax well. Obviously there were plenty of excursions available to beaches and attractions.

Havana. This was the reason I booked this cruise and it did not disappoint. We were docked right on the edge of the old town, affording plenty of opportunity for independent exploration of the city. This is what I did – on foot – for a day and a half. Plenty of tours on offer and also a HOHO bus. I loved this place. Many of the grand buildings are currently undergoing renovation and if you are not prepared for it, going 'off the beaten track' could be shocking, showing real poverty and squalor. Walking around the back-streets felt really safe and the locals were friendly and interested in you. I felt quite humbled after my visit – the local population here have very little but seem so happy.

Cozumel, Mexico.

Again, a typical Caribbean Cruise port. If the town of San Miguel de Cozumel ever had any character, it is either now long gone or well hidden. Plenty of beaches on hand and a few tours – the pick of which were to the Mayan ruins on the mainland, a ferry-ride away.

'Destination Services' on the ship should really be named 'Excursion Sales Team' as they gave no information for independent travellers in their “Port Showcase” presentation. A very small amount of basic information was given on the very basic Port Maps available at the desk.

General.

The Captain was a bit too laid-back and informal for my tastes but did a good job communicating weather and itinerary issues etc. A lot of the crew were friendly and smiley but Bar staff seemed poorly trained and never knew who they should be serving next.

In conclusion.

In my view and based on this cruise, Marella Cruises are very much a budget outfit and should be looked at as a 'fun, boozy cruise'. It is likely to be your cup of tea if you would prefer Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway and Celebrity Juice to Strictly Come Dancing and Have I Got News for You. That's not me being a snob – we all like different things in life and that is absolutely fine. The All-Inclusive offered on all Marella's new ships will mean good value if you like quite a few drinks across the day. Whilst they advertise that the standard AI package includes branded drinks, you have to ask for them by name otherwise they will use the cheap (weak and tasteless) house brands such as Kamel....

Marella Cruises are probably best booked if you can get a late and very cheap deal imho.

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Hi Andrew.

Thanks for the thorough and honest review, pretty much sums up Marella/ Thomson up.

Having sailed on Discovery 1 I can empathise with a lot of what you said, certainly not 5* probably 3*+ , and more of a party atmosphere, quite noisy in most areas.

I also agree with you regarding the food, I found it ok but certainly not top notch, edible pleasant but nothing special in both the MDR and buffets.

I must say though I felt the crew were all excellent when I sailed, very attentive and friendly and one of the big plus points for me, I also felt that for what I paid I got a good return for my money.

Would you sail with them again?

HLM.

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4 hours ago, HLM said:

Hi Andrew.

Thanks for the thorough and honest review, pretty much sums up Marella/ Thomson up.

Having sailed on Discovery 1 I can empathise with a lot of what you said, certainly not 5* probably 3*+ , and more of a party atmosphere, quite noisy in most areas.

I also agree with you regarding the food, I found it ok but certainly not top notch, edible pleasant but nothing special in both the MDR and buffets.

I must say though I felt the crew were all excellent when I sailed, very attentive and friendly and one of the big plus points for me, I also felt that for what I paid I got a good return for my money.

Would you sail with them again?

HLM.

I would only rate at 3* max I am afraid.  Yes, a lot of the staff were lovely - mainly waiting staff and cleaners around the ship etc.  I hardly ever saw my Cabin Steward and whilst he remembered to give me an ice bucket every day, he forgot to replenish my milk sachets three days running (even though if he had looked he would have seen there were none there!).

Food and entertainment are both fairly key aspects of a cruise for me, so that combined with the overall style on the ship mean I am unlikely to book with them again.  Never say never but unlikely.  The food wasn't badly cooked or anything but was completely nondescript.  I didn't have one meal that I was able to think afterwards "I really enjoyed that".  Likewise the entertainment - nothing to make me say "That was really good".  I wasn't desperate to get off the ship but I was also quite happy to be leaving after just a week.  Normally, I really don't want to leave a ship, even after 2 weeks or more.

It is a shame as the ship is the sort of size I like - I am not into mega-ships with three to five thousand pax - but the cruise did nothing to make me feel I would want to return.  Fortunately, I adored Havana and very much enjoyed the company of the fellow solo pax I ate and socialised with so that saved the day :).

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1 hour ago, Davybe said:

Thanks for the revue, we sailed on her when RCI had her, loved the ship, bit of putting about the food....Davybe

To be fair, food is very subjective.  Some may have found it very acceptable but I know I was not the only passenger to feel it wasn't great.

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20 hours ago, afcandrew said:

I would only rate at 3* max I am afraid.  Yes, a lot of the staff were lovely - mainly waiting staff and cleaners around the ship etc.  I hardly ever saw my Cabin Steward and whilst he remembered to give me an ice bucket every day, he forgot to replenish my milk sachets three days running (even though if he had looked he would have seen there were none there!).

Food and entertainment are both fairly key aspects of a cruise for me, so that combined with the overall style on the ship mean I am unlikely to book with them again.  Never say never but unlikely.  The food wasn't badly cooked or anything but was completely nondescript.  I didn't have one meal that I was able to think afterwards "I really enjoyed that".  Likewise the entertainment - nothing to make me say "That was really good".  I wasn't desperate to get off the ship but I was also quite happy to be leaving after just a week.  Normally, I really don't want to leave a ship, even after 2 weeks or more.

It is a shame as the ship is the sort of size I like - I am not into mega-ships with three to five thousand pax - but the cruise did nothing to make me feel I would want to return.  Fortunately, I adored Havana and very much enjoyed the company of the fellow solo pax I ate and socialised with so that saved the day :).

I've heard the term "Marmite" used many a time in relation to Thomson/Marella, and I suppose it sums them up perfectly.

I found them ok and would sail with them again, but I can fully understand those who won't .

HLM.

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22 hours ago, afcandrew said:

To be fair, food is very subjective.  Some may have found it very acceptable but I know I was not the only passenger to feel it wasn't great.

We found the same on our Ventura Christmas cruise, the food was not very good IMO ,but others thought it very goodwill down to taste or the lack of it....Davybe 

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Hi afcandrew and thank you for an excellent review.

I have sailed with what was Thomson quite a few times. indeed they set me on my journey into cruising back in the 1990's and I thought then everything was wonderful. However since then I have travelled with many different cruise lines and realise what I thought was wonderful was in fact very mediocre compared with others.

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2 hours ago, Oldworldtraveller said:

Hi afcandrew and thank you for an excellent review.

I have sailed with what was Thomson quite a few times. indeed they set me on my journey into cruising back in the 1990's and I thought then everything was wonderful. However since then I have travelled with many different cruise lines and realise what I thought was wonderful was in fact very mediocre compared with others.

One of the things I thought about following my then Thomson cruise was what value I got for my money.

With Thomson it came with a drinks package, local airport etc and from what I remember it was well under the £100pppd mark, I thought that was exceptional value, I didn't expect was 5* quality, unfortunately some people's expectations are set to high (especially when it comes to cruises).

When comparing the above with P&O and others, all things taken into account the others have in general cost me virtually double, nicer, newer ships I grant you, but in my opinion not actually worth the extra, although I still go.

Marella maybe wouldn't be my first choice, but I'd happily sail with them again, if only on a value for money basis.

HLM.

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20 hours ago, HLM said:

One of the things I thought about following my then Thomson cruise was what value I got for my money.

With Thomson it came with a drinks package, local airport etc and from what I remember it was well under the £100pppd mark, I thought that was exceptional value, I didn't expect was 5* quality, unfortunately some people's expectations are set to high (especially when it comes to cruises).

When comparing the above with P&O and others, all things taken into account the others have in general cost me virtually double, nicer, newer ships I grant you, but in my opinion not actually worth the extra, although I still go.

Marella maybe wouldn't be my first choice, but I'd happily sail with them again, if only on a value for money basis.

HLM.

I Think your right about expectation, but then again the cruise lines set the expectation levels for us with there adverts and brochures, and then fail to deliver those promises....Davybe

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Surely if a cruise line advertises cruises showing what they deliver and fail to do so they could be as much in breach of contract as a person who fails to adhere to the terms and conditions of the said cruise. Whilst I’m not too au fait with it but isn’t that what the trade descriptions act for.

The trouble is, these days people are too willing to complain about little things. I do admit that certainly with PandO service and the smaller touches have gone downhill and the same may be said for other cruise lines too. Whilst ever they keep building new huge ships that they can only fill at a fraction of what prices should be then I think service will go downhill. Tips etc will continue to go up as they won’t be able to pay staff etc.

i think it’s about time that cruise lines got their act together and made cruising special like it used to be.

Rant over. 🙄

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I completely agree about expectations and with this cruise, I had set my expectations low and felt that Marella lived down to them.  I wrote the review purely to give my experience of the cruise.  I am not unhappy about my week.  The main draw was to visit Havana and I absolutely adored the place, so that was very successful.  It was some of the smaller aspects that I found most annoying - the dreadfully cheap sausages, the one poor waiter who never responded to negative comments about the food, reception not apologising for the steward leaving me without any milk in the cabin etc.  Re advertising - Marella make much of the fact that the all-inclusive includes branded drinks but then use a cheap alternative unless you specifically ask by brand name.

I have cruised with one other 'cheaper' cruise line in the past - a Portuguese line called Portuscale.  Whilst the food was really not that great on that cruise and the cabin was pretty basic, the service was outstanding and the entertainment - whilst limited (very small ship) was of a really good quality.

Value for money is of course very subjective.  When I travel solo - as I did on this cruise - I cannot get a deal anywhere near £100 pppd.  With this cruise including a long-haul flight and all-inclusive drinks and tips, it wasn't really poor value but neither was it exceptionally good value - to me. Personally, I would prefer to pay a little more to get the sort of quality I enjoy.

I always say that we all experience things in different ways as we all have different tastes.  I fully accept that others on this cruise apparently loved having their ear-drums assaulted by the very loud music in the live room but I didn't have the same experience.  Equally, I accept that other pax may have enjoyed the Cruise Director's style which irritated me every time I heard him.

Marella garners many 5-star reviews from people that have only ever cruised with them.  I felt it important to have a review from someone who has experienced them in a different way.

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Hi Andrew,

Appreciate your comprehensive review.  Having just about recovered from our overnight flight back from Montego Bay, I thought I'd weigh in with my own views and those of our group of four on our back to back Cuban Fusion and Exotic Explorer (Belize City, Guatemala and two calls in Honduras) cruises on Marella Discovery 2.  It was good to meet you on board in week 1 and we all send our regards.

Our review:-

Our flights from Birmingham did not arrive until late afternoon but transfer to ship went well.  We were greatful for our Premier Fast Track experience when boarding as we avoided the, by then, sizeable queues.  For around the price of a Deluxe Balcony Cabin on, say, Azura we had chosen Grand Suite Cabins on Marella and were rewarded with really generous accommodation.  The brochure and online information did not do these cabins justice and the large, double width balconies had 2 very comfortable wicker sunbeds as well as an armchair and stool/coffee table.  Overall, it is fair to say we were delighted with our accommodation and with our Room Steward (Francisbel) and her team.  Fran was a native of Honduras and was obviously excited that the ship was to have two calls in her native land in week two.  She quickly responded to our request for 2 single duvets rather than one double (though I think we actually ended up with two doubles) and my wife's need for additional coat hangers (on which her dresses might have a chance of remaining rather than slipping straight off).  The Suite package also included access to the Concierge Lounge 24hrs a day which offered complimentary WIFI (a massive bonus), a comfortable place to sit quietly whilst enjoying drinks from the bean to cup coffee machine, or a variety of teas and juices as well as croissant and pastries in a morning and cookies at other times of day.  The Suite Guest Cocktail Party also took place here and gave us the opportunity to meet the Captain and several other Senior Officers, as well being entertained by the amazing Max and Brandi of Braxi Music (of whom more anon).

We found Marella Discovery 2 to be a lovely ship overall.  As someone who likes his Captain to sound well educated, my first aural impression was not good ("Good evenin' ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speakin'.") but the man himself quickly despatched my prejudice when we met.  An extremely competent and professional officer who gave generously of his time, was seen routinely around the ship and oozed a confidence that always adds to a cruising experience.

Our first dining experience also gave a poor and, fortunately, false impression.  The main dining room, known as "47", is accessed from Deck 4 but has some additional tables on the level above, on the starboard side of the Italian Restaurant option "Gallery 47".  Due to our relatively late arrival, followed by a security drill and then unpacking of suitcases, we did not get to the Dining Room until around 21.00hrs and were allocated a table for 4 near one of the waiter stations in the upstairs section.  Our waiter did not look best pleased to see us at that time and his demeanour remained the same throughout our meal.  Other staff who assisted in the area hinted of better things to come and so it proved.  We found the menu choice very limited but came to realise that, when added to that available in the Italian Gallery 47 and the included part of the menu (tapas and pizza) in The Glass House (cooking on hot stone was a payable option here), there was actually a good range of food choice in waiter served areas included in the package, as well as the always available buffet option.

Generally, the waiting staff were very pleasant indeed.  The experience in Gallery 47 was particularly to our liking.  We also tried the two payable venues.  Kora La, the Asian fusion option, provided excellent and attentive service.  The "Amuse-Bouche" and starters were fantastic but my wife and I chose the wrong option for our main course in selecting "Shaking Beef" as it proved to be too well done for our taste in meat.  On the other hand, our friend's cooked to order mild to medium chicken curry was delicious (we all had a taste).  For my wife's birthday, we ate in Surf & Turf.  The service was good but not as attentive as Kora La.  The combination of steak and lobster on my plate was delicious.  We chose the payable option to cook our own food on hot stones in The Glass House, only to find that the stones were delivered with the meat already on the stones and, to our taste, verging on over cooked.  As my wife and I both like our meat rare, we mentioned this to the Maitre D and he immediately invited us to visit again, free of charge, when our meat would be delivered separately and uncooked.  We took him up on this option in week 2 and enjoyed the experience more, though service was particularly slow that night.

We found the Islands Buffet perfectly satisfactory for breakfast, with an efficient egg station preparing omelettes to order, plus a daily special.  Yes, the breakfast sausage was nothing to write home about but nor was it unpalatable, to my taste.  On days when we had an early start, the grab and go concept at The Snack Shack offered really handy breakfast options on the same deck (9) with chill cabinets containing pots of fruit and a cereal and yoghurt combination and quick and tasty bacon and egg or sausage and egg rolls.

Islands also offered some tasty lunchtime options, particularly when pies were available.  On sea days, we also grabbed a light bite of lunch in The Glass House on occasion.

All in all, we felt the food was very acceptable.  In fact, both my wife and the other lady in our group felt that the breads and pastry on board were the finest they have experienced so far at sea (and that includes our beloved Azamara, as well as Silversea, Celebrity, Cunard and P&O).

Once we had become familiar with the ship, we avoided the gaudy and raucous Live Room, choosing to meet for a pre-dinner drink in Bar 11 or The Atrium Bar.  The Broadway Show Lounge (deck 4) is comfortable and elegant and we generally enjoyed the ship's company's shows (with the exception of the weird first offering).  On our final night they premiered a new offering created with the help and incorporating video footage of, Anton du Beke.  A terrific show.  The Geordie comedian in week 1 was excellent in both his shows.  Week 2's comedian was poor, with very dated material so we gave his second show a miss.

Braxi Music, however, were outstanding.  From the first notes we heard them sing at the Cocktail Party in The Concierge Lounge, we were smitten.  I am a singer myself and can be very critical but these two are the best crossover act I have come across.  They are a husband and wife pairing - he is Dutch, she is American.  She is an immense performer with an adaptable voice, moving easily from pop to opera and back.  He is a light baritone, with fabulous control and the most amazing falsetto.  I have never before heard a male/female duo sing The Flower Song from Lakme by Delibes and I doubt there are any others out there who would even attempt it.  Sung in the original key and without microphones, it was a stunning and flawless introduction to their substantial contribution to our 2 weeks at sea.  Later in week 2, to hear the same guy sing the Largo Al Factotum from Rossini's Barber of Saville just emphasised the range of this amazing musical act.

The ship has another show lounge, The Venue, situated immediately above the Broadway Show Lounge on deck 5.  What a waste of a lovely space in only housing quizzes and such like.

I guess the Pool Area did get crowded on sunny sea days but that's why I always have a balcony.  My wife and our friends, who like the direct sun exposure, always managed to find a space somewhere but I found the covered pool area in The Glass House to my liking for a swim and our huge balcony for a relaxing time in the warmth with minimal direct exposure to those harmful rays.

If this review seems a little disjointed, I apologise.  Put it down to the last of the jet lag.

Would we consider Marella again?  Based on our Grand Suite experience and what we felt was very much value for money, then, most certainly.  In fact, we are considering another exceptional itinerary they are offering in 2019 on the sister ship Discovery which takes in Petra, Jordan (on my wife's bucket list) and transits the Suez to visit The Holy Land.

Meanwhile, it's back to Azamara for us in September.

DavidH

 

Edited by DavidH
Added information.

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Thanks for your alternative review giving your experience of the cruise David.  As I have said in some of my posts, we all experience things in different ways.  Marella do have a lot of good itineraries but my week left me really underwhelmed on just about every aspect of the cruise.  I suppose I look at 5 aspects of a cruise - Itinerary, ship, food, entertainment and ambience.  Sadly, only one of these impressed me - itinerary.  In terms of value, it is always difficult when travelling solo to decide whether you have had good value or not due to the extra cost we have to pay.  I think I have said earlier that I don't think this cruise was poor value but neither could I say it was particularly good value either.

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On 08/02/2018 at 5:42 PM, DavidH said:

Hi Andrew,

Appreciate your comprehensive review.  Having just about recovered from our overnight flight back from Montego Bay, I thought I'd weigh in with my own views and those of our group of four on our back to back Cuban Fusion and Exotic Explorer (Belize City, Guatemala and two calls in Honduras) cruises on Marella Discovery 2.  It was good to meet you on board in week 1 and we all send our regards.

Our review:-

Our flights from Birmingham did not arrive until late afternoon but transfer to ship went well.  We were greatful for our Premier Fast Track experience when boarding as we avoided the, by then, sizeable queues.  For around the price of a Deluxe Balcony Cabin on, say, Azura we had chosen Grand Suite Cabins on Marella and were rewarded with really generous accommodation.  The brochure and online information did not do these cabins justice and the large, double width balconies had 2 very comfortable wicker sunbeds as well as an armchair and stool/coffee table.  Overall, it is fair to say we were delighted with our accommodation and with our Room Steward (Francisbel) and her team.  Fran was a native of Honduras and was obviously excited that the ship was to have two calls in her native land in week two.  She quickly responded to our request for 2 single duvets rather than one double (though I think we actually ended up with two doubles) and my wife's need for additional coat hangers (on which her dresses might have a chance of remaining rather than slipping straight off).  The Suite package also included access to the Concierge Lounge 24hrs a day which offered complimentary WIFI (a massive bonus), a comfortable place to sit quietly whilst enjoying drinks from the bean to cup coffee machine, or a variety of teas and juices as well as croissant and pastries in a morning and cookies at other times of day.  The Suite Guest Cocktail Party also took place here and gave us the opportunity to meet the Captain and several other Senior Officers, as well being entertained by the amazing Max and Brandi of Braxi Music (of whom more anon).

We found Marella Discovery 2 to be a lovely ship overall.  As someone who likes his Captain to sound well educated, my first aural impression was not good ("Good evenin' ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speakin'.") but the man himself quickly despatched my prejudice when we met.  An extremely competent and professional officer who gave generously of his time, was seen routinely around the ship and oozed a confidence that always adds to a cruising experience.

Our first dining experience also gave a poor and, fortunately, false impression.  The main dining room, known as "47", is accessed from Deck 4 but has some additional tables on the level above, on the starboard side of the Italian Restaurant option "Gallery 47".  Due to our relatively late arrival, followed by a security drill and then unpacking of suitcases, we did not get to the Dining Room until around 21.00hrs and were allocated a table for 4 near one of the waiter stations in the upstairs section.  Our waiter did not look best pleased to see us at that time and his demeanour remained the same throughout our meal.  Other staff who assisted in the area hinted of better things to come and so it proved.  We found the menu choice very limited but came to realise that, when added to that available in the Italian Gallery 47 and the included part of the menu (tapas and pizza) in The Glass House (cooking on hot stone was a payable option here), there was actually a good range of food choice in waiter served areas included in the package, as well as the always available buffet option.

Generally, the waiting staff were very pleasant indeed.  The experience in Gallery 47 was particularly to our liking.  We also tried the two payable venues.  Kora La, the Asian fusion option, provided excellent and attentive service.  The "Amuse-Bouche" and starters were fantastic but my wife and I chose the wrong option for our main course in selecting "Shaking Beef" as it proved to be too well done for our taste in meat.  On the other hand, our friend's cooked to order mild to medium chicken curry was delicious (we all had a taste).  For my wife's birthday, we ate in Surf & Turf.  The service was good but not as attentive as Kora La.  The combination of steak and lobster on my plate was delicious.  We chose the payable option to cook our own food on hot stones in The Glass House, only to find that the stones were delivered with the meat already on the stones and, to our taste, verging on over cooked.  As my wife and I both like our meat rare, we mentioned this to the Maitre D and he immediately invited us to visit again, free of charge, when our meat would be delivered separately and uncooked.  We took him up on this option in week 2 and enjoyed the experience more, though service was particularly slow that night.

We found the Islands Buffet perfectly satisfactory for breakfast, with an efficient egg station preparing omelettes to order, plus a daily special.  Yes, the breakfast sausage was nothing to write home about but nor was it unpalatable, to my taste.  On days when we had an early start, the grab and go concept at The Snack Shack offered really handy breakfast options on the same deck (9) with chill cabinets containing pots of fruit and a cereal and yoghurt combination and quick and tasty bacon and egg or sausage and egg rolls.

Islands also offered some tasty lunchtime options, particularly when pies were available.  On sea days, we also grabbed a light bite of lunch in The Glass House on occasion.

All in all, we felt the food was very acceptable.  In fact, both my wife and the other lady in our group felt that the breads and pastry on board were the finest they have experienced so far at sea (and that includes our beloved Azamara, as well as Silversea, Celebrity, Cunard and P&O).

Once we had become familiar with the ship, we avoided the gaudy and raucous Live Room, choosing to meet for a pre-dinner drink in Bar 11 or The Atrium Bar.  The Broadway Show Lounge (deck 4) is comfortable and elegant and we generally enjoyed the ship's company's shows (with the exception of the weird first offering).  On our final night they premiered a new offering created with the help and incorporating video footage of, Anton du Beke.  A terrific show.  The Geordie comedian in week 1 was excellent in both his shows.  Week 2's comedian was poor, with very dated material so we gave his second show a miss.

Braxi Music, however, were outstanding.  From the first notes we heard them sing at the Cocktail Party in The Concierge Lounge, we were smitten.  I am a singer myself and can be very critical but these two are the best crossover act I have come across.  They are a husband and wife pairing - he is Dutch, she is American.  She is an immense performer with an adaptable voice, moving easily from pop to opera and back.  He is a light baritone, with fabulous control and the most amazing falsetto.  I have never before heard a male/female duo sing The Flower Song from Lakme by Delibes and I doubt there are any others out there who would even attempt it.  Sung in the original key and without microphones, it was a stunning and flawless introduction to their substantial contribution to our 2 weeks at sea.  Later in week 2, to hear the same guy sing the Largo Al Factotum from Rossini's Barber of Saville just emphasised the range of this amazing musical act.

The ship has another show lounge, The Venue, situated immediately above the Broadway Show Lounge on deck 5.  What a waste of a lovely space in only housing quizzes and such like.

I guess the Pool Area did get crowded on sunny sea days but that's why I always have a balcony.  My wife and our friends, who like the direct sun exposure, always managed to find a space somewhere but I found the covered pool area in The Glass House to my liking for a swim and our huge balcony for a relaxing time in the warmth with minimal direct exposure to those harmful rays.

If this review seems a little disjointed, I apologise.  Put it down to the last of the jet lag.

Would we consider Marella again?  Based on our Grand Suite experience and what we felt was very much value for money, then, most certainly.  In fact, we are considering another exceptional itinerary they are offering in 2019 on the sister ship Discovery which takes in Petra, Jordan (on my wife's bucket list) and transits the Suez to visit The Holy Land.

Meanwhile, it's back to Azamara for us in September.

DavidH

 

 

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Glad to hear you had a good time on your cruise David.  It was nice to meet you and Joan.  Fortunately I met a lot of nice people on board to help me have a very sociable week.  Perhaps if I have a nice windfall from the lottery or premium bonds, I'll try Marella again - in a suite :D

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