Bella Marella Weekender

Marella Explorer 2 Cruise Review

Cruises: 7+ cruises
Reviews: 5
Helpful Votes: 123

Overall rating:

3.5 out of 5
Marella Explorer 2

Weekend Escape

Sail date: July 10, 2021

Ship: Marella Explorer 2

Traveled as: Singles/Friends

Reviewed: 6 months ago

Review summary

This was my first Marella cruise but there were many seasoned Marella cruisers who are loyal to the line. It's a very British orientated experience on Marella but they seem to know their target market well. This cruise was at half capacity & it felt okay for space etc but it might feel a bit crowded once back to full capacity sailings. Explorer 2 feels contemporary following its 2019 refit & the staff couldn't be more friendly. If you want a traditional but relaxed cruise holiday at reasonable value for money, then this could be the ship for you.

Embarkation

4 out of 5
In these Covid times embarkation is always going to take longer. The Marella website wouldn't let me print out Boarding docs ahead of travel which was concerning. However, they managed arrival at the port and Covid testing well & in all fairness boarding was quite smooth and didn't take too long.

Ship experiences

Food and Dining

3 out of 5
Latitude 53 is the main dining room and is a light, bright area in which to dine. Part of the MDR is called Vista and has an Italian menu. The food in Vista is high quality and tastes great. In Latitude 53 the food is good and there's good choice available. There's a small, complimentary Italian eatery on deck 11, Nonna, in which the freshly cooked pasta is really good. Around the pool there is also Snack Shack & Beach Cove (this has dedicated seating) which offer selections of hot fast food staples or on our cruise pre made wraps & baton sandwiches. The Market Place buffet is now dedicated seating and your food is plated by the staff. The choices are limited compared to some cruise lines and is of okay quality. Speciality restaurants on deck 6 are reasonably priced but i didn't have an opportunity to try them on such a short cruise. There's also the Dining Club on deck 5.

Onboard Activities

3 out of 5
Explorer 2 is a mid 90s ship and so doesn't have all the whistles & bells of the latest ships. New to Marella is the 19th Hole venue which is a golf themed bar with 2 golf simulator screens. Luke & Neil are the golf hosts and are really friendly, always on hand to help or advise. The entertainment team put on a usual mix of activities such as trivia quiz, karaoke and live music throughout the day & evening which are well lined by Marella customers. The spa area offers a good variety of facilities and i used the thermal suite (limited controlled numbers & has to be pre booked) which was very reasonably priced with good steam rooms, sauna & great infinity spa pool.

Entertainment

5 out of 5
The ship has a small theatre cast, but some of the dancers are singers too in some productions to bolster the group of 4 singers and ship band. The shows were standard cruise review style shows but of high quality. As this was a short weekend cruise there were only 2 shows but there having chatted with the show team they have many more varied shows for longer cruises and sometimes bring local performers onboard for shows. There are a couple of live performance acts onboard. The reggae band are infectious with their enthusiasm, whilst the solo musicians keep the cruisers well entertained.

Service and Staff

4 out of 5
If there is anything i took from this cruise its that the staff everywhere on the ship were friendly, wanted to help you any way they could & took time to say hello whenever they saw you. This was the first cruise with passengers in over 15 months for Explorer 2 and you really got the feeling the staff were happy to be back and to see you.

Ship Quality

4 out of 5
This ship entered service in the 90s for Celebrity as the Century and i guess at that time was state of the art in cruise ship design. Marella refurbed the ship in April 2019 and have made a really good job of bringing the ship bang up to date albeit without the atttactions found on modern cruise ships. The decor is relaxed with an almost Scandi style but generates a very comfortable ambience. The layout is simple enough, the main public decks being 6, 7 & 11 with some other facilities on 5 & 12. The stairways are colour coded so you know where you are on the ship - blue; forward, red; midship and green; aft. In the main the ship is well maintained, especially following its refurb but you can see signs of its age in say the electrical service outlets in public areas, skirtings etc but a minor point. The staff were constantly cleaning public areas as part of the new regimes which is no bad thing.

Cabin / Stateroom

3 out of 5
Cabin 5016 is an ocean view cabin with a small porthole window. It can be a 3 person cabin with 1 pullman berth and either a double or twin bed configuration. There's plenty of storage; 2 hanging wardrobes plus a shelved wardrobe with drawers too. A desk with drawers and hidden storage behind the desk mirror including the safe. Bedside tables have drawers too. There's a medium sizedx flat screen tv and minibar fridge angled towards the bed. Nice touch is the bedside lamps have slow charge USB slots built in to them. The bathroom is compact but usable with a good sized shower featuring a glass door not a curtain which is a nice touch. Another good feature is the lack of need to have a 'card in a slot' for the lights & power to be on. Overall the room is compact, there's not much free space to move around but its perfectly adequate although might feel crowded with 3 persons. There's a connecting door to cabin 5014.

Ship tip

Marella is an 'all inclusive fare' cruise line. This gives you a certain peace of mind that most of your expenses are already taken care of. Yes, you can upgrade your drinks package & dine in speciality restaurants for extra charges but there is plenty to enjoy that's already included, so relax and enjoy your cruise!

Ports of call

Newcastle Upon Tyne, England

3 out of 5
Quite wasy to get to and from the terminal and the ship. Not sure if there's public transport to the port if you don't drive. There's a retail shopping park next to the cruise terminal.

Disembarkation

3 out of 5
Disembarkation was the usual organised fare of any cruise line. A nice touch was the facility to stay in your cabin till your disembarkation time rather than being turfed out at a set time. The ship was sailing at reduced capacity so getting served in the restaurant for breakfast prior to disembarking was easy and quick, which was a pleasurable experience. Once called the process of leaving the ship was quick and easy and you could choose to either walk to the terminal or take a short complimentary bus ride.
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