Marella Explorer 2: Inside the luxury adults-only cruise ship, from bars to cabins


I had never seen the famous Fog On The Tyne until I left the Newcastle cruise terminal for a well deserved break on the high seas last year.

I’m afraid the song didn’t disappoint, as our ship was shrouded in gray drizzle as it set off for the start of our sea cruise around the UK and Ireland.

But far from being a shock absorber on my first post-lockdown vacation, the adverse conditions gave me full license to dive straight in and enjoy all the interior luxuries of Marella Explorer 2, and I couldn’t wait.

The TUI ship usually travels the world, with itineraries in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and around the Greek islands now booked for 2022/3.

But with travel restrictions still in place when we sailed, our program focused on some of the gems of our own UK coastline, including Liverpool, Belfast and Torquay, plus a Channel hop to Le Havre on the Normandy coast in France.

Marella Explorer 2 should be on your radar for a luxurious adult-only break

Like most other passengers, I was just thrilled to get away from home and enjoy the indulgent and relaxing atmosphere, regardless of ports of call.

OK, so the gorgeous, spacious pool deck with its beach bar-style restaurants and hot tubs was only for the bravest of shipmates on this route. But the rest of Explorer was an absolute delight.

And although the trip I took is no longer booked since the easing of restrictions, I would recommend a trip anywhere on this ship. Unlike many passengers, I had only ever been on one cruise, but immediately realized that was in a different league.

It should be mentioned that this is an adults only ship, so if you have children I would recommend looking at other family ships in the TUI fleet.

The bonus for adults traveling on the Explorer 2 is that it has an altogether more grown-up and sophisticated vibe.

Far from the garishly colored carpets, elevator music, kids’ clubs and canteen that have sometimes become synonymous with cruise ships, stepping on board is like stepping into the lobby of a five-star hotel.

An impressive central atrium with sweeping staircases and glass balconies was filled with the sound of a grand piano as early risers were already perched in chic bars sipping champagne cocktails.

One of the elegant suites aboard the Marella Explorer 2

Headed to my cabin – 1035 on deck 10, and I highly recommend it! – the opulent feel of the hotel continued. The balcony suite was larger than many land hotels and impeccably designed.

A large private deck with loungers and outdoor seating – probably better set up for another trip but still delightful – wrapped around a modern living and dining room with a full three-room suite and a kitchenette. An adjoining bedroom with a king-size bed and an en-suite bathroom with a shower cubicle and separate bath was also spacious, light and airy.

There was even a dressing room with plenty of hanging space as well as a dressing table, vanity mirror and hair dryer.

It’s the little touches that made it – Clarins toiletries in the bathroom, Lavazza coffee for the ‘good coffee machine’, fluffy white bathrobes and slippers. The ship is laid out over 15 decks and even at full capacity I imagine it looks quite spacious. I didn’t have to queue or wait for a table or service the entire trip.

There are nine restaurants, 10 bars, a Champneys spa, drive-in cinema, and Broadway-style theater as well as shops, cafes, mini-golf, game rooms, and a late-night casino. You wouldn’t have to leave at all if you didn’t want to (which I found out is what many passengers decided to do).

On boarding, it is advisable to download the TUI Navigate application which tells you all the opening times, menus and calendar of activities taking place every day on the ship.

It also gives you information about the weather, your layovers and shore excursions, which you can book on the app.

One of the excursions offered a trip to see the impressive Giant’s Causeway


Getty Images/iStockphoto)

There were guided tours of the port towns, including a Beatles-themed trail in Liverpool, a trip to Agatha Christie’s home in Torquay and even a drive out of Belfast to visit the magnificent Giant’s Causeway.

Other experiences on land include a steam train journey through the Lake District with traditional English cream tea and excursions to the cathedrals and white cliffs of Dover.

The Excursions team organize a range of tours for each cruise to ensure you get the most out of the countries you visit. They categorize them by the amount of physical activity involved so you know how intense they are before you book, but you can also disembark and explore on your own if you prefer.

And don’t worry if you prefer good old-fashioned service over booking excursions and making restaurant reservations through your app. Your cabin housekeeper also puts a hard copy of Cruise News under your door each evening with all the same information and reservations can still be made in person at the front desk.

You may also have to rely on it from time to time, as onboard Wi-Fi was quite unreliable and spotty, depending on your location on the ship – the only thing I think could be fixed to significantly improve the experience. guest experience.

The Flutes Bar is a must for prosecco fans

But everything else was very impressive. If you’ve ever been on a cruise, or even at an all-inclusive resort, you’ll know that sometimes the many “different” bars and restaurants can actually be very similar, with familiar food and drink options in slightly different settings. , but with Marella this is not the case.

The laid-back but sophisticated Flutes Bar offers a menu of prosecco, cava, champagne and cocktails with fun “bubble press” bells dotted around so your glass never goes empty.

At the other end of the ship, The Squid & Anchor onboard pub is like a traditional English boozer serving draft beers and ciders and hosting pub quizzes and karaoke.

Dining options are no different. From the casual Italian restaurant Nonna’s, which serves freshly made pasta and pizza in colorful booths, to the white linen tablecloths and more traditional dishes at the main restaurant Latitude53, you’ll never be bored.

Cruises on Explorer 2 are all-inclusive and all you have to do is swipe your room key to “pay” for what you have. You can choose to pay a small premium which grants you access to certain branded spirits, champagnes and soft drinks which incur an extra charge on the base package. But there are so many choices in the basic package, it’s not a necessity.

Premium passengers also receive bottled water daily in their cabin, which can be useful if you are sailing somewhere with a warmer climate, but there are also water stations on each deck where you can refill the glass decanters left in your cabin instead. There are also two specialty restaurants which have a cover charge of around £20 per person, but are well worth it.

Passengers can expect superb dining options

The dim sum and miso marinated sea bass at pan-Asian and sushi restaurant Kora La was better than some of the best Asian restaurants in London.

And Surf & Turf’s menu does exactly what you’d expect – the best steaks and seafood, from king scallops to charred lobster tails. Mix and match, choose your cut of meat and your choice of seafood, then add delicious sides.

There are plenty of great bars and lounges on board

Even if you think cabaret isn’t your thing, at least try some after-dinner entertainment in the Broadway Show Lounge. I was blown away by the quality of the Motown party and the best George Michael tribute I have ever seen!

Or wrap up in a blanket and watch a late-night movie with hot chocolate at the outdoor cinema, then try your hand at blackjack at the card tables of Casino Indigo, which stays open until the early hours.

It’s a cliché, but there’s so much to do on this ship that there’s something for everyone. Get a massage at Champneys, get a haircut, try a still life drawing class, whiskey tasting, craft workshop or sign up to sing at the open mic night.

Explorer 2 was really a post-lockdown reminder that it doesn’t matter where you go, as long as you enjoy the journey.

Climb on board

Marella Cruises is offering an all-inclusive seven-night Adriatic Affair return cruise on Marella Explorer 2 from £1,095 pp. Departure on June 30 from Dubrovnik and stopover in Rijeka, Ravenna, Koper, Venice and Split. Includes flights from Gatwick or Cardiff and transfers. Other airports available at an additional cost, use code CRUISE300 to save an additional £300 per booking. Learn more about

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