If you’re looking for a stylish ship with all the comforts of a cruise without the weird appeal of modern ships, this is for you. The Marella Discovery started out as Royal Caribbean’s Splendor of the Seas and moved to the other side as the ships grew and exploded. As such it has style, is not too big (1,800 passengers) and is a place to relax as you sail from place to place.
There are many attractions: there is an open-air cinema, a miniature golf course, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and the highlight is the vertiginous rock climbing wall at the back of the ship.
Marella Discovery was completely renovated in 2016, although a refurbishment has recently taken place. The glass-roofed indoor pool area of The Glass House was redesigned during the closure, creating a sophisticated beach club feel with cabana-style lounge chairs, daybeds, dining tables, and sofas. A light lunch is served and it transforms into a relaxed restaurant each evening.
A slightly different crowd than most cruises, younger and more like the crowd waiting for a package holiday – Marella is part of Tui’s holiday empire. So the prices are much more in line with holidays, although cruises do include flights and, most importantly, all you can drink. There are no tips (something that can add up to a hefty sum on many cruises) and seven-night Caribbean cruises can be had for less than £900.
My junior suite was larger – and wider – than many rooms I’ve had on other ships, the entire room had a large glass wall with sliding doors that opened onto a balcony with lounge chairs, table and chairs. There are 357 standard to suite balcony cabins, 230 window cabins and 328 inside cabins. Single and family rooms are available. As the guests are all British all rooms have kettles, tea and coffee and mine even had a pod coffee machine. The interior is a nice mix of blue, brown and grey. The bathrooms are not large, but have adequate showers.
Marella Discovery loves the sun. I traveled on a cruise to the Greek Islands in the late summer of 2021 after the lockdown from Corfu. The ship then sailed to the Caribbean for winter and spring cruises from Barbados. Summer and autumn are dedicated to Mediterranean trips from Palma and Mallorca.
Food and drink
Good selection of restaurants. The main ingredient is 47, a decent starter-main-dessert, fish, meat and vegetables, even a steak at the gala dinner. The upstairs balcony houses the Gallery 47 Italian restaurant. Glass House is an intimate venue in the glass-roofed conservatory by the pool serving tapas snacks, kebabs (salmon and prawns, Mediterranean vegetables, etc.), pizza and pasta. Unobtrusive and quiet, but due to its size, while it is free, there is only a small chance of getting a table without a reservation.
The Islands buffet restaurant, located poolside, starts with breakfast (cereals, fries, omelet station), continues through lunch and into the evening. A good choice for fast food is the Snack Shack, a well-stocked takeaway that serves really good starters, burgers and fries, as well as simple salads and desserts – beach shack outdoor tables, all by the sea. Shades of pink and blue are a place to sit back and enjoy.
Various other places, as is common practice on cruise ships these days, offer a variety of food for a fee – nearly £30 per person. At the Surf and Turf Steakhouse, you can create your own combination (half lobster tail with steak, chicken, or lamb) while serving a variety of steak dinners, including tuna.
Kora La is a mix of Indian and Chinese, curry or sea bass braised in bamboo leaves, and lots of samosas, dumplings and dal. Menu designed by renowned British pan-Asian chef Ian Pengelley, whose London restaurants include Pengelley’s, link with Gordon Ramsay. On the other side is a sushi bar with its own dinner menu. All three are located on the high deck 11 around the hidden Bar Eleven lounge with its arched windows and breathtaking sunsets.
Machine coffee is free all day from Islands, while café Coffee Port sells great baristas, cookies and pastries, in a nice spot next to the library, full of thrillers donated by other guests.
The hotel has half a dozen bars, including a sunny poolside bar.
There is a nice pool area with a large pool where you can splash around and try a few strokes across the hot tubs. Lounge chairs give way to tables where you can sit with food from the Islands buffet or the Snack Shack. The latter has its own tables surrounded by colorful booths. The hotel has a glass-walled gym (free), and the Oceans Spa offers treatments at reasonable prices.
Despite the sun shining outside, many people on my cruise avoided the sun deck, preferring the solitude and soft natural light of the Glass House and its tranquil pool.
I actually didn’t see anyone being attracted to the climbing wall, although there were some laughing around the miniature golf course.
The fun started with the first night’s Sail & Shine poolside party, with Filipino band The 4 Tunes playing an eclectic mix of rock and roll favorites and more quirky tunes. They then played regular shows at the Squid & Anchor – called a ‘pub’ but really a ‘lounge’ – as well as other daytime and evening poolside events and the Live Room.
The more traditional rock band The Collective, with a female singer, also performed in several places.
The Broadway Show Lounge attracted the older guests, all singing, dancing, entertainment in between… Elvis’ life story, the invention of soul music.
Overall, the show had a very British feel, with cruise director Matthew Shaw singing, dancing and hosting events, not least quizzes such as Love & Marriage, a wild version of Call My Bluff. Quizzes, silent discos, late night discos… laugh a minute.
And all drinks are included except fine brands and bottled wine, so everyone can enjoy.
Surf without claims. The vessel may not be new, but it has been expertly converted into a light and airy floating resort for those who want to relax and unwind, anchor regularly and end the evening with a drink and perhaps a party. And all at a price that’s hard to beat.