By Leon Beckenham
Cruise Critic Contributor
3.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Entertainment

Marella Discovery Entertainment & Activities

Theatre

The ship's 800-plus capacity Broadway Show Lounge is a glittering homage to the Golden Age of 1920s New York, with swathes of polished brass, cut-glass skyscraper statues, and Art Nouveau touches that extend to colourful stained glass panelling, An undulating golden 'sea' of seats and a trio of chandeliers complete the shimmering space. A team of big names has helped create 11 new West End-style shows, 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. Located on Deck 4, the shows are typically musical-themed performances such as Legends Live -- where iconic artists are conjured up through their hits -- and Medieval Madness, complete with jesters, jousting and men in tights. Shows start at 8:15 p.m. most nights with a repeat performance at 10:15 p.m.; after that the Late Night Live slot kicks off at 11:15 p.m. usually featuring a comedy act.

Daily Fun

Discovery sees the introduction of a new entertainment programme, with everything from multi-media music challenges to innovative Virtual Dance lessons (featuring Strictly Coming Dancing's Anton du Beke), plus the usual raft of trivia quizzes, bingo sessions, and towel-folding demonstrations. There's an almost constant rotation of live music throughout the day that starts at the main poolside stage, and moves into the various bars and lounges towards the evening. Music tends towards polished bands and solo artists performing renditions of classic hits, which can get a little samey towards the end of the week. Daily activities and times are listed in the ship's Cruise News.

Marella Cruises is bang on trend with the line's first ever Breakout & Escape Rooms, pioneered by the previous owners of this ship (but on two much larger models -- Anthem of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas). While the idea is straightforward -- to 'escape' the room within the allotted hour by solving a series of clues -- breaking the codes can be far from simple. Most involve finding the combination to a lock which opens a locker or drawer containing further clues. While there are also plenty of red herrings, the control room feeds in extra hints to keep the game moving along, so don't worry about getting stuck! Groups are from two to five players, and there's a choice between a murder mystery or spy themed experience (murder mystery is a little easier). At £15 per person (or £75 for exclusive use) it's not cheap, but a lot of fun.

At Night

Movies by Moonlight are screened on the line's first outdoor cinema screen on Deck 9 overlooking the main pool. There are two viewings nightly (7:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.) with films tending towards family-friendly blockbusters. Popcorn and hot chocolate are available from the poolside far (for a fee) and blankets are provided. Movies were shown even during stormy weather, to an empty deck (though you can get a good view from up in Kora La restaurant).

The Live Casino (Deck 4; 8:30 p.m. until late) is located in the corner of the Live Room lounge and offers three tables and various slot machines. With no roulette wheel or craps table it feels a little like an afterthought. Blackjack is the game of choice with regular specials (announced in the daily Cruise News newsletter) that boost your chances of a pay out. Croupiers are also happy to give lessons to the uninitiated. Chips cashed in get added to passengers' onboard accounts.


Marella Discovery Bars and Lounges

While Marella advertises eight bars onboard, there's closer to five 'proper' bars with the other venues where drinks happen to be available. Most bars are buzzy and inviting, especially when featuring a live act, with updated interiors that feel fresh and contemporary or with polished-up pizzazz reminiscent of the classic cruise lounge. We never waited long to be approached for table service, and none of the bars ever felt crowded.

A lengthy drinks menu covers a decent selection of wines, including a few sparkling options; familiar pub staples such as Foster's, John Smith's, and Heineken; international and U.K. bottled lagers and ales; dozens of aperitifs, whiskies, and liqueurs; and a dizzying array of cocktails that includes frozen margaritas and a Martini collection. All spirits are served as 40ml measures -- 60 percent more than the U.K. standard measure -- and drinks hover around typical pub prices (though cocktails are a snip at £4.60).

Atrium Bar (Deck 4): Situated at the bottom of a soaring five-storey atrium with shimmering glass lifts gliding towards a glass dome ceiling, this bar certainly features the most dramatic setting. During its incarnation as Splendour, acrobats performed from steel girders across the top of the space; sadly Marella has decided not to continue the tradition. What they do put on is regular musical performances most evenings, and you can also catch the Captain's address here. Open from 10:00 a.m. until midnight.

Live Room (Deck 4): The Atrium leads into the Live Room, billed as Discovery's "flagship bar" and home to the ship's largest selection of beers on-tap (which even includes some decent ales). Formerly home to Splendour's casino, the once blackened-out windows now let sunlight flood in and show off the now vibrant, colourful and contemporary interiors. It's also billed as a room for families, though there isn't anything particularly kid-friendly about it. There's a bright yellow grand piano, dance floor and live music (though mostly just at night). A small casino area occupies a corner of the room, and is over-18s only. The bar is open from 3:00 p.m. until the last gambler leaves the table (though we didn't try this out).

Venue (Deck 5): Tucked behind the ship's retail section, this spacious bar combines the air of a classic cruise lounge -- complete with metallic pillars, copper-top tables, and undulating bar -- with a large hi-tech LED screen. Expect regular virtual entertainment such as the ship's new Splash Live! Interactive show for children and Virtual Dance classes with (a virtual) Anton du Beke teaching how to rumba and cha-cha-cha (with added professional live coaches). Open from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The Coffee Port (Deck 5): Not so much a bar but a café selling barista-made Lavazza coffee for slightly more than the High Street prices (£2.50 regular/£2.95 large). It also offers a range of breakfast pastries in the morning, plus an impressive selection of sweet treats such as waffles, sundaes, and ice-cream served in large sugar cones through the day. Seating is spread across two sides of the atrium, one side with a small library with books and board games, the other featuring sporting memorabilia.

Pool Bar (Deck 9): An early-opening, semi-circular bar ideal for eye-openers and poolside refreshments, as well as offering hot chocolate and popcorn during Movies by Moonlight. Open 8 a.m. until late.

Deck 10 Bar (Deck 10): A circular bar servicing the sun worshippers on the top terrace; open noon to 6 p.m. during appropriately warm weather.

Bar Eleven (Deck 11): A swish, contemporary space with shimmering LED pattern ceiling, moody low-lighting, and chilled urbane lounge bar vibe. Alongside the regular drinks menu, there's a collection expertly mixed cocktails that include the Earl Grey-infused Five O' Clock tea and smoky Chocolate Ember, served with real smoke. Later the bar transforms into a late-night disco with the ship's resident DJ spinning tunes from midnight until the small hours.


Marella Discovery Outside Recreation

Pools

The ship's two pools are located on Deck 9, one indoor and one outdoor and both filled with filtered sea water (and generally open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.). The outdoor pool has a kids' splash area gated off from a deeper area that reaches 1.7 metres (five-and-a-half feet) though isn't big enough for a proper swim. It is flanked by two hot tubs, each of which can fit up to eight bathers. At one end you'll find a large outdoor cinema screen and there's enough surrounding terrace and sun loungers to ever feel too busy.

On the same deck you'll find the indoor pool in the Glass House area, which doubles as a restaurant. Classical-style columns and wall friezes evoke ancient Rome, while surrounded by abundant (artificial) plantlife is the heated pool. Although on the small side, there are two whirlpool tubs either side (each also accommodating up to eight). A retractable roof occasionally opens in finer weather. The pool is adults-only between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Recreation

While there's certainly little in the way of cutting-edge outdoor recreation, Discovery features the fleet's first climbing wall located on Deck 10, where sessions take place under the supervision of rock-climbing experts. Behind the wall is a nine-hole mini-golf course, and you'll also find shuffleboard up here too. Poolside there is morning Zumba classes, plus regular games of rope quoits and inflatable darts competitions.

Sun Decks

There is an adults-only sunbathing area called The Veranda, at the back of the ship on Deck 9. It's limited space-wise, and there is no fee, so it fills up quickly. There are loungers and large cushioned pod-like chairs. The Veranda also features lounger-side call button -- which guarantees service within 30 seconds -- though in our experience these were not always deployed.

There's also the relatively child-free sun terrace on Deck 10, with plenty of loungers and an open-air bar.


Marella Discovery Services

All the guest services can be found midship on Deck 5, just above the Atrium Bar. Here you will find a 24-hour reception, as well as the 'Destination Services' shore excursions desk. The Broad Street Shops, which include Duty Free and designer products, adjoin here, as does the Photo Gallery. Passengers can also use interactive screens on decks 4 and 6 (which use state-of-the-art facial recognition) to peruse and purchase any photos taken onboard.

Although there's no dedicated internet café or corner, Wi-Fi is available throughout the ship and connection speeds are good enough for most browsing and email. Charges start from £8 for an hour, £15 for a day, £25 for 3 days, £49 for 8 days and £90 for 15 days, but be warned data limits apply and can run out before the time does.

Marella Discovery Spa & Fitness

Spa

Discovery's Ocean Spa & Beauty Salon is the largest wellness space in the fleet, comprising no less than eight treatment rooms (half with sea views), a hair and nail salon, and skin rejuvenation clinic. Marble accented his and hers changing rooms provide plenty of clean towels, secure lockers, and even a steam room in each. There's also a relaxation lounge with comfy seating (which looks out over The Verandah) and ambient music, as well as iced cucumber water and a selection of teas and juices.

The spa offers an exhaustive list of massage, body treatments, and skin care therapies. Massage on offer includes the likes of hot stone, Swedish, deep tissue, and herb and coconut poultice; couples' massages are also available. Massages start at a pricey £72 for 50 minutes, going up to £160 for a 90-minute 'bamboo' treatment. Body and face therapies also average around the £100-mark, as do acupuncture sessions. An impressive list of hair services is also available, including highlights, perms, and waxing.

Kid- and teen-friendly treatments are even on offer, including mother-and-daughter manicures and pedicures, teen spa specials, and sherbet scrubs for under-12s. The spa is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. most days.

Fitness

Just off the spa is the gym, a bright and fairly spacious fitness room with a decent selection of equipment including eight running machines, five cross-trainers, four exercise bikes, and about half a dozen weights machines. There's also plenty of free weights and a small studio area where free stretch and abs workout session take place most morning, plus occasional yoga classes (at £7 each).

There's also a running track that encircles Deck 10, where four times round equals one mile.

Marella Discovery For Kids

Marella certainly sells Discovery as a family-friendly ship, and on the most part it is. All child-related areas are contained on Deck 11, where there's a baby centre for the littlest tots, next door a spacious area for teens, and opposite a kids' club offering plenty of daily activities. Lack of babysitting services means parents have to organise around pre-arranged activities, and there's nothing at all put on for toddlers under three.

Children must be potty trained and supervised by adults to use the pools, also meaning most under-threes can't even have a splash about. Highchairs are available in all restaurants, though they could use updating with many of the straps not working. Cots for infants can be requested free of charge at the time of booking, however cot space is not available in all cabins -- be sure to contact the line in advance to clarify sleeping arrangements as younger kids being allocated flip-down bunks is not unheard of.

Marella Cruises doesn't allow infants under six months.

Kids

The main focus for child-friendly activities is the kids' club, located on Deck 11 and open to three- to 11-year-olds. Its base is a bright and colorful room with small sofas, chairs and tables, plus lots of activity books, stimulating games, and toys. The three, two-hour supervised sessions each day mostly take place in other parts of the ship, and include backstage tours of the show theatre, treasure hunts, and code-breaking challenges. Activities tend to be broken down into two age groups: three to eight, and nine to 11 years. There are also breakfast clubs, art sessions, and movie nights; daily activities are available on port days and times are listed in the ship's Cruise News.

The Baby Centre is equipped with changing facilities, a food preparation and bottle-cleaning area, and somewhere safe to play, complete with plenty of soft toys, games and a small ball pit. The centre is not supervised and parents must remain with their children at all times; this can mean the small playroom gets overcrowded easily. Lack of organized toddler activities also means there's not a great deal for children too young for kids' club (under three).

Aimed at six- to 10-year-olds, a brand new show 'Splash Live!' features on Discovery with animated aquatic characters brought to life to take children on an interactive journey under the sea (only on during high season, two to three times a week in the Venue on Deck 5).

Teens

Teenage passengers have a dedicated and spacious area called The Hideout, complete with a dance floor, a DJ booth, and a karaoke booth where pop stars can record a CD. Daily organised teen events include UV parties, ice-breaking activities, and movie nights (from 10 p.m. to midnight). The adjoining GamerZone also provides plenty of Xbox consoles and a good assortment of games.

Marella Discovery Ship Stats

  • Crew: 761
  • Launched: 1996
  • Decks: 11
  • Passengers: 1,830
  • Registry: Bahamas
  • CDC Score: 97

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