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Martyn A wrote a review Aug 2021
County Durham, United Kingdom18 contributions10 helpful votes
THE CRUISE

If you’re going on the cruise to relax, enjoy the food drink and entertainment and maybe take in a couple of sights as well, you won’t be disappointed. The ship has a multitude of restaurants, shops and bars, together with entertainment. On the other hand, if you’re mainly wanting to see places, stunning views between stops etc. then I would think again.

Two out of five days (40%) are spent totally at sea. The ship, being as large as she is, can’t hug the coast whilst travelling up North and must make it out to open sea, with nothing but water to see! Fortunately, we dropped anchor for a time near Lerwick and were entertained by flocks of Gannets for the afternoon.

Whilst Invergordon was sunny, our stops in both Shetland and Orkney were met with cool, overcast, and misty conditions the whole time. Although passengers were allowed ashore independently in Invergordon and Kirkwall, Lerwick could only be accessed via a tender, which many people might have found difficult to negotiate.

Although it’s now obvious, one thing I didn’t appreciate when booking was that, in rough seas, when the bows of the ship plough into the water the stern of the ship rises out of the waves by a similar amount! The cabin (9251) was at the rear of the ship and, being flat at the stern, the return to the water was quite noisy and resulted in a few restless nights

THE SHIP AND CABIN

Although in some small ways she showed her age (the electric sockets were two pin and, in the cabin, the one and only socket didn’t feel totally safe!). overall, everything was impressively clean and well presented.

Accessing the ship at Port of Tyne wasn’t easy for anyone with some walking impediment – the gangway onto the ship was very steep and took some people a real effort to negotiate. There was also quite a bit of walking to the coaches for some of the organised trips so anyone with walking difficulties should discuss this before booking. That said, the overall organising of embarkation including lateral flow test was impressively well organised. The same goes for the disembarking at the end of the trip. There was quite a lot of walking though so it’s important to check that you can cope with this.

There were endless numbers of restaurants and bars to choose from with a really good selection of food, although sometimes limited if you are vegetarian. The main Market Place restaurant was buffet style but with staff serving your selection and it was always possible to find something to your liking. The Latitude restaurant with table service was also very popular with a varied selection of dishes – some wonderful, others not so good (avoid the ‘always available’ options!)! But the staff were always cheerful and happy to help with recommendations (a special thanks to Kathleen in this respect!). There was one place for coffee – The Coffee Port - which was also popular and served generally good coffee, although not quite up to Costa/Starbucks standards. Again, the staff were friendly and how Ayu remembered people’s favourites with so many passengers was amazing!!

Masks and social distancing were enforced through the ship and, although this was a first outing for over a year, we felt very safe in the ship’s environment. Masks, sanitizers and daily temperature checks were mandatory.

The cabin and balcony (9251) were spacious and kept meticulously clean by Roaton and his team, who also provided some additional entertainment!! However, there were a few negatives. I’ve already mentioned the night time noise when the ship was in rough seas and the single two pin plug. The double bed was a bit of a problem as it was located tightly in a side of the cabin against a wall and anyone on the far side needing an exit during the night will find it like negotiating an obstacle course! The balcony was lovely most of the time. Unfortunately, deck 9 is above the smoking area on deck 7 and we were often aware of cigarette smoke drifting up to our balcony area.

Would I go on this cruise again? Probably not. Would I sail on the Explorer 2 again ? Most definitely, the organisation and nearly everything about the ship were 5 star, but I’d make sure the itinerary suited me better than this one did.
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Sail Date: August 2021
Cabin Type: Balcony
Type of Trip:
Destination: Europe
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This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Marella Explorer 2

219 reviews
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Traveler (139)
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Balcony Cabins (11)
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About
Passengers: 1,814   |   Crew: 780
Passengers to crew: 2.33:1
Passengers to space: 0.03:1
Launched: 1995   |   Refurbished: 2019

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Balcony
Cabin size: 172 - 172 sq. ft.
Connected rooms: 0
Accessible rooms: 0
Maximum passengers: 2
Number of cabins: 0
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Simon W wrote a review 26 Oct
Hebburn, United Kingdom48 contributions53 helpful votes
As Marella announced UK cruises for the summer, it was perfect to be able to join the ship just minutes away from home on the Tyne. First time on the Marella Explorer 2, having sailed previously on the Marella Discovery 2 around the Eastern Med. Firstly, the COVID safe measures were excellent - LFT at the port was organised very efficiently, and we were onboard the ship within 45 minutes of arriving at the port. Temperature had to be taken everyday by 4pm using the self-service machines and temperature was also taken before boarding the ship after excursions. Masks had to be worn inside when walking around and staff were all wearing masks at all times. Felt very safe throughout the cruise. The facilities onboard were excellent - most nights we ate in the main dining room, where the service and food were outstanding. We did eat one night in a special area in the Buffet Restaurant which was reserved for Tapas - not advertised, but amazing, and no extra charge. We ate breakfast most days in the main Dining Room where we were first served by the amazing Kathleen and we asked to sit in her section on other days. The shows in the main theatre were all excellent - great show cast that were better than West End performers. The Indigo bar was great for amazing views and a nice, warm atmosphere. All of the staff went out of their way to provide exceptional service. We had a balcony cabin on Deck 9 - good location, right opposite the lifts and stairs - although due to the weather, we did not make much use of the balcony, but it was still nice to get some fresh air into the room and see the views on arrival at the ports. We docked in three ports: Invergordon (where we did an organised coach tour into the Highlands), Lerwick in Shetland (where we took part in a guided walking tour of the town with an outstanding guide called Laurie, who we have since seen on TV on programmes about Shetland), and Kirkwall in Orkney (where we had a coach tour of the Northern parts of the main island and afterwards we took the free port shuttle into Kirkwall town which was a lovely place to visit). We had two days at sea, where it was nice to relax and not do much, the weather was not great so couldn't make the most of the outdoor facilities and there were only limited activities taking place indoors during the day. It would have been nice to just have one day at sea and squeezed in another port, as we actually arrived outside Shetland Islands with over 15 hours to spare until we docked and the ship just drifted for the day. This was a bit of a waste. There was a bit of movement on the ship, specially on the journey from Orkney back to the Tyne, but nothing too bad and we actually got used to it so didn't notice in the end. Overall, a wonderful chance for an unexpected summer cruise holiday and really enjoyed the whole experience. Marella is a great cruise line - not the newest, or biggest ships (the Marella Explorer 2 was showing its age in places - we much preferred the Discovery ships with the spectacular central atrium - atrium on Explorer 2 was just under utilised and the whole ship lacked a central area) - but perfect for an all-inclusive holiday where you can visit some exciting new places with excellent service.
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Ian F wrote a review Sep 2021
York, United Kingdom170 contributions109 helpful votes
Third time with Marella. Experienced "cruisers". We like the informality and "open" dining of Marella. Second time on this ship this year. Crew superb, unfailingly friendly and helpful. Food good to excellent depending on where you ate, lots of choice. We particularly liked Nonnas especially for service. Ship spotless although showing some signs of age. Cabin very good, bathroom a bit tight though. Lots of storage space and unusually lots of coat hangars ! Covid precautions both on boarding, on excursions and onboard excellent, felt safer on board than back in UK Now the down side - Lack of information prior to trip and lack of communication whilst on trip regarding testing. It is fortunate that we Brits are used to queueing as we had to do it for great lengths of time just to find out what was happening. Reception staff were very patient and helpful, senior ships officers noticeable by their absence particularly since it is they who are responsible for organising testing etc.. Marella should demote the lot of them and promote the reception staff in their place. Marella seemed to forget that the age range on this cruise was of the "more mature" variety many of whom have no understanding or experience of smartphones. The whole testing and location forms debacle took the edge of the cruise and I am sure will have put a lot of customers off sailing with Marella. I estimate that I "wasted" in total a complete day standing in queues and trying to get help with the process.
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Fif wrote a review Sep 2021
Croydon, United Kingdom1 contribution
Just returned from a fantastic cruise to Iceland. Marella made us feel Covid safe the whole time. We had to wear masks while walking around inside, but as we are very lazy spent most of the time without one. Food excellent, the Market place is what you expect ordinary everyday meals, but the specialty restaurants make the experience very special. We had a meal in the Dining Club on the last night which is French cuisine. Sumptuous. Iceland is a fabulous destination, with wild expanses of mountainous terrain. Trips are also safe, few people moaned about no social distancing on the coaches, but everyone had masks on even if some people still don't understand that the nose needs to be covered as well!! Staff on the Explorer 2 cant do enough for you, polite helpful and welcoming the whole time. We cant wait to go on our next Marella cruise. The Rockology show was one of the highlights of the trip.
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Kelper wrote a review Sep 2021
Gateshead, United Kingdom124 contributions44 helpful votes
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This is a very long review, but PLEASE, read it to the end. I am writing this with a heavy heart as my husband & I have recently been on a fabulous cruise on "Marella" Explorer 2, which was all inclusive & adult only, leaving from Newcastle on the 30th. August, where we visited 5 different locations around the UK & called into Le Havre. We only did one organised trip ashore which was in Torquay, & really wish that I hadn't bothered as it was not what I expected, & spent most of the 4 hour trip, on the bus, on what was one of the few beautiful days, but that was nobody's fault but our own, you learn by your mistakes. We also went ashore on our own for a short stroll in fantastic Liverpool. Brilliant City. First of all, this could have been a fantastic cruise, & the majority of it was, but sadly, spoiled by inadequacies. The greats bits:- The Covid safety on board was second to none. Regular sanitizing of the cabins, compulsory wearing of masks inside the ship as well as taking of temperatures, which was also compulsory. If you neglected to do this daily, they would remove your room card from the system so that you could not get a drink. Hand gels on every corner as it were, including toilets. One way systems. Only 4 people permitted in lifts at any one time, & social distancing in all restaurants & bars. Thank you for that, we felt very safe. The Entertainment was second to none, with the Theatre shows coming very close to those that may be seen in the West End. The choreography was breathtaking, with great story lines, & the costumes, dancing & singing were superb. The two bands & solo singer on board gave us great entertainment, & the on board reps worked extremely hard to keep us all amused & entertained both through the day & evenings. We would not criticise any of this. First class. The bar staff throughout the ship, worked very hard also & almost always had a smile to greet you. Our cabin crew, Dindin, Mohamed & Kadek were fantastic & did a fabulous job, thank you to all of them. The food, on the whole was excellent. We ate mainly in the upper Latitude 53 restaurant, & on the majority of cases, the food & service were excellent, with only once or twice finding the service slow, & one meal that wasn't to it's usual standard, but this can be expected on any cruise ship. The young men & women who worked tirelessly in this part of the restaurant were mostly very friendly, helpful & courteous. Our main anti-climax in the restaurants was in the "Vista", which was classed as an Italian on the lower deck of "Latitude 53". I was charged an extra £4. 95 for the meal I had, & to be honest, I have no idea why, as it was just a Chicken Pappardelle, & was the worst meal I had on board, with very poor service, hence, only one visit. We only did one A la carte which was the "Surf & Turf Steakhouse". This was beautiful. We would have liked to have tried the "The Dining Club", but cannot comment on this as we didn't go there as it was overpriced. The buffet restaurant was called "The Market Place", where you could get all meals throughout the day & evening if you wished. We only used it for breakfast & at lunch time. They were unable to use it as a buffet for health & safety reasons due to Covid, but you just asked the brilliant serving staff, & everything you required was put on your plate for you. It worked well enough for those mealtimes. The weather could have been better, but that is no fault of anyone, & as already mentioned, the entertainment gang were always aiming to keep us all amused, & when the sun did shine, we made the best of the loungers on the pool decks. Our cabin was on the 12th. deck, right at the aft of the ship with a large balcony, but was slightly obscured by the awnings on the lower deck, but not a real problem. The bed was a tad hard for our liking, & we also felt the bathroom, especially the washbasin, was a bit small, & as we had upgraded to this cabin, we did expect it to be a little better, but it did not spoil the cruise. It was quiet in this area, & the only problem we found, was that there was some considerable noise at times from the engine room, especially as we were coming into port, which was always earlyish in the mornings. There was also a little more feeling of movement when the sea was a little choppy, but on the whole, it wasn't a problem, however, we would probably not choose an aft cabin in the future. The not so brilliant experiences:- We knew we were getting a free Covid test at North Shields before we were permitted onto the ship, and we had no problem that at all. However, on arriving at the port, we were informed we had to do two more tests while on board, & another one two days after we returned home. This was because we were travelling into French waters. Yes, we knew before we left that we would be calling into France, but TUI did NOT inform us that we had to have these extra tests, or that we had to pay for them. We booked our cruise in a TUI shop & called in to ask for some information a week before we were due to depart, & NO ONE told us about this. It's not the £60 we had to pay, that was very inexpensive as tests go, it was the fact that other passengers, who booked through various companies other than TUI, were informed in advance, so were able to order their tests on line & bring them onboard with them. We were told at the port that the cost would be added to our bill at the end of the cruise, not a problem, & the tests would be delivered to our cabin before the first test was due, which we were informed would be on days 3 & 6. The next we heard was that the days were changed to 6 & 9, but still no tests were delivered. Late on the night of day 4, on arriving back in our cabin after being out for the evening, we found a letter (as did everyone else in the same position), telling us that they would no longer be delivering to the cabin, but we would have to collect them from reception the following day. That particular day, the sun was shining & we were docked in Liverpool. My husband went down to the reception in the morning, but the queue was so long, & we wanted to go ashore, that he left it. After returning to the ship, we both went back to the reception area & the queue was still very long & we queued for almost an hour, only then to be told the tests had to be paid for there & then, so my husband had to go back to our cabin on th12th. Deck, to get his credit card. We then, with the help of the reception staff, had to go through the rigmarole of registering online, with the testing company "Chronomics", our names, addresses etc. He & many others were extremely upset about the situation, & there were NO senior staff to be found, only young members of the crew trying to sort it all out. The Captain came on the tannoy that evening to vent his dissatisfaction for the way in which passengers were showing their frustration to these young people; & it wasn't their fault I agree, but they were sadly the ones in the firing line, but not once did he apologise to the paying passengers, most of whom were in their 60's, 70's, 80's & some even in their 90's. The following day was test day, & the chaos continued threefold. These tests had to be done by ourselves, (doing the test was not the problem, we've done many), but they then had to be photographed & downloaded to the test company. As I already pointed out, most of us were in the older aged category & some did not even own a smart phone, I do, but have no idea how to download apps etc., I tried but hadn't a clue what to do, so, as the crew were using one of the bars as a "Help room", we made our way there. Once again the queues were extremely long. There was a one way system in use for this bar throughout the cruise. As you walked in there were rows of settee's & chairs by the entrance, but for some illogical reason, they reversed the entry & exit doors, so we were left with no where for anyone, especially the elderly to sit. It was suggested to a member of crew, would it be possible to swap back to the way it had usually been so there would be somewhere for the elderly to sit, but was told, without any explanation, that it wasn't possible. Eventually, after some persuasion by various passengers, they brought some chairs for those in need, to sit on. Eventually after over an hour, we were sorted out, & I asked for an explanation on how to do it for the next time. This was explained & I thought I understood it. The next test was on day 9; we were in Torquay, another beautiful day. I attempted to fill out the app myself, but because I was so slow, I was timed out before I managed to do both my husbands & mine, so we did the tests ourselves, photographed them, then stood in yet another queue for it to be finalised. That wasn't the end of the saga though. On day 11, another beautiful sea day, we had to fill out the "Passenger Locator Form", once again, via an app!! The help team were available once again from 10am, so my husband & I had our breakfast & proceeded immediately to the area 10 minutes before the help line was supposed to start, but surprise, surprise, we were back in a queue. This time I timed it. We entered the queue at 9.50am & did not get seen to until 11am, & it was 11.30 by the time we finished, a total of 1 hour 40 minutes by the time we made it out into the sunshine. Everyone we spoke to felt the same way, that we had been used as guinea pigs for their following cruises to Iceland & especially the one after which was to Spain. Most of us felt that under the circumstances as they were at the time due to Covid, we should not have gone to France as your previous UK cruise in July had missed it out & gone elsewhere. Very few of us went ashore in France, but still had to undergo all of this disruption. This is not what we expected on a TUI cruise, & although it did not spoil the cruise as such, it most certainly took the edge of what should have been a fabulous experience, especially those of us who had not been on a TUI cruise before.
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Bailey Shaw wrote a review Sep 2021
28 contributions32 helpful votes
This review is coming from a younger person's view, as cruising is seen to be an older person's holiday. As a couple both in our 20s, this was one of the best weeks away we've had. We were also onboard the first cruise since covid from Newcastle which was a 2 night weekend cruise. Marella Explorer 2 is an adult's only ship, so no kids! Marella have got it spot on, after arriving at the port, we were tested, documents checked, and through ship check in and security in less than an hour. We had cabin 8147 for the 2 nighter and 8219 for the Gaelic Getaway cruise, 8219 was the fourth cabin from the rear of the ship and despite it being above the pub onboard, noise was minimal if at all there. Having a balcony on a UK cruise might not sound worth it but the views were stunning, especially in the scottish highlands and sailaway from Greenock. Our cabin steward Karen, was amazing, always up for a chat and a smile and nothing was a problem at all. Our cabin was serviced twice a day, once in the day and then a turndown service when you went to dinner with a chocolate left on the bed and a copy of the cruise news. Covid wise, vaccinations mandatory, masks indoors when not seated, temperatures to be taken every day before 4pm (or your cards will be deactivated). Buffet was served to you (please keep this Marella as the amount of people who don't wash their hands after using the toilet is disturbing). Shore excursions were needed if you left the ship, which has been relaxed since. Muster drill was via an app on your phone then scanning into your muster station, which is much better than the alternative of gathering at your muster station for the breifing. One thing to note is that you will delay the ship if you do not complete this straight away, we had 150 people who didn't do this and delayed departure, don't be those people. We were sailing with 50% capacity at the time. Food onboard was fantastic, but if you're used to 5 star michelin star, you'll need to pay for that via another more premium cruise line. We ate steak twice in the main restaurants which was fabulous and cooked to perfection, service in Lattitudes and Vista was efficient and excellent. We ate in Beach Cove on our last night and for £25 for two people, you can't go wrong. The wheel of desserts is a must! Entertainment was better than we imagined, the entertainment team were fantastic and 'COGS' is the show not to miss, amazing. The Squid and Anchor was our favourite place to sit and have a drink, the cocktails are the best we've had on holiday and the all inclusive is generous with the premium drinks only adding a £2.50 or so surcharge. There is one formal night a week, but don't feel pressured into thinking you need a black tie, wedding casual was just fine, but i think some older cruisers were dissappointed at this, if that's your thing you're better off with a traditional cruise line like Cunard. Pools on board are heated to 28 degrees Celsius and were glorious to swim in. Various activities and games to take part it, there was mini golf but we didn't get round to that. 'Dem Boyz' the onboard band were brilliant and always got a crowd going. As did 'the collective' All in all a fabulous week with Marella and we have loved the feeling of being at sea, ships movement was minimal throughout however did become a bit rocky when en route to Belfast past Aberdeen. We will be back on board a Marella Cruise next year.
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