Who are you going to meet?
- Marella attracts exclusively Brits and predominantly families in school holidays
- During term time, expect couples aged 55-75
- The line is popular with first-timers, as many passengers will have been on a land-based holiday with parent company TUI and been persuaded to try a cruise
- P&O Cruises has three adults only ships (Aurora, Arcadia and Oriana), which attract a 55+ crowd
- The four family ships -- Britannia, Ventura, Azura and Oceana -- are family ships drawing similar clientele in the off season, and families with kids during school holidays
- Catering exclusively to the British market, passengers are almost entirely from the U.K.
Where are they based, and where do they go?
- With its ships scattered around the world, itineraries are all fly-cruise (very occasionally will they base a ship in the UK, and it's usually for a short season)
- Cruises are focused around the Canary Islands, the Caribbean, Central America, North Africa/Middle East and the Eastern and Western Mediterranean
- Marella also offers a cruise-and-stay program combining a week's cruise with some of its many beach hotels in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean
- Ships sail from Southampton from April to November to destinations around the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and the Canary Islands
- Ventura and Oceana ships offer fly-cruises to the Mediterranean from Venice
- In the winter Britannia and Ventura are based in the Caribbean
What's the accommodation like?
- Accommodation in four of the five ships have an updated look and feel that includes flat-screen TVs and tea/coffee facilities in cabins, and iPod docks in suites
- Sea-view balconies have been added to Marella Celebration.
- Lower-end cabins in some ships can feel cramped (starting at 129 square feet)
- Passengers who wish to choose a specific cabin must pay an additional £42 reservation fee
- Marella's newest ship -- Marella Explorer -- has 1,924 cabins, 430 of which have cabins
- A wide variety of cabins on the more modern ships, starting at interiors and going up to suites
- A choice of interconnecting and family cabins onboard the family ships
- Britannia offers the line's first solo cabins with balconies. Azura and Ventura both have 18 dedicated single cabins
- At an average of 184 square feet, cabin sizes are on par with most other mainstream cruise lines
What are the dining options?
- All five ships feature open-seating dining, as well as a casual, free buffet restaurant open for all meals -- expect plenty of traditional British and international favourites
- The three newer ships -- Marella Discovery, Discovery 2 and Explorer -- all have excellent speciality restaurants including Asian fusion Kora La and Surf & Turf Steakhouse
- Celebrity chef Marco Pierre White oversees the Gala Dinner in the main dining rooms
- P&O Cruises have a roster of "food heroes" and passengers have the opportunity to cook with James Martin and Eric "Cake Boy" Lanlard in the first Cookery Club at sea on Britannia
- Passengers cruising on Britannia, Azura, Ventura, Arcadia and Oceana can choose Club Dining (traditional set seating) or Freedom Dining (flexible dining times and seating)
What's each line's idea of fun?
- Marella Discovery and Marella D2 boast a rock climbing wall -- a first for the line -- and mini golf
- Daytime entertainment tends towards classic cruise activities like trivia, movies, games, dancing, fitness classes and musical performances on the pool deck
- Marella's cultural and enrichment programmes are limited to the likes of sport memorabilia and art auctions, as well as port talks and the odd seminar
- Also leans away from adrenaline-fuelled activities with traditional sports such as short-tennis, mini-golf, basketball and cricket, often in a dedicated sports area (on the family ships); on the adults-only ships you'll find shuffleboard and quoits
- On the family-friendly ships, expect pool-based water games like volleyball and deck fun that is less cheesy and more organized, including dancing with an often-exuberant entertainment team
What's the nighttime entertainment like?
- On the newer ships a team of 11 big names -- including choreographer and dancer Tara Wilkinson, who has worked on hit shows Motown and The Full Monty, and Martyn Ford, a musical arranger and conductor who has worked alongside Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice -- has helped created 11 new West End-style shows
- Expect a good variety of bars of lounges, often with live music in the evening, as well as the odd nightclub with karaoke and late-night DJs, including Indigo Lounge on Marella Explorer
- Features the in-house entertainment team Headliners, who perform a series of revues and shows
- Unique to Britannia is the Limelight Club where former stars of stage and screen give intimate performances in a supper club-type setting
- "Strictly Come Dancing" dancers and judges appear across the fleet on selected sailings
- Expect the likes of regular karaoke, quizzes and discos across an array of bars, including the signature Crow's Nest and Glass House
How well are families catered for?
- Marella Discovery and MD2's kids' area is split into three sections: the Baby Centre; the Kids' Club, for ages three to 11-years old; and The Hideout, a teen room complete with karaoke booth, a dance floor, DJ booth and lots of sofas to hangout. There's also a Gamer Zone next to The Hideout, featuring a brand-new children’s show, 'Splash Live!'
- Marella has rolled out kids characters -- the M Crew -- across the fleet, complete with a movie and puppets
- Marella Explorer's kids' club is too small for the ship, with just 30 places
- Marella Dream also provides a Showtime Stage School for 9- to 16-year-olds with lessons in acting, dancing and singing (90-minute lessons cost £35 per child, though end with a show in front of an audience)
- The range and quality of the children's facilities on the family-friendly ships are excellent, with dedicated, exuberant staff, outdoor space and a first-class kids' program
- Themed tie-ins with Mr Men and Little Miss means kids get to meet characters from these classic books on most cruises
- All the family ships have kids' pools and splash areas for the tots
- Family ships provide dedicated areas for family-friendly dining
- Also on the family ships, child-friendly movies are shown throughout the day
How does pricing compare?
- All gratuities are included in the price of the cruise
- All non-premium alcohol is also included in the cruise fare
- Gratuities are relatively low at £5 ($7) per person, per day
- Bar prices are the same as you'd pay on land or, in some cases, cheaper