In keeping with Marella Cruises' ethos, most dining is free, though they've also significantly upped their gastronomic game onboard Marella Discovery. While lacking a roster of fancy chefs (like its closest British rival P&O Cruises) the ship's free dining focuses on good quality and varied fare likely to appeal to a wide spectrum of tastes; without forgetting the burger-and-chips, brown sauce, and ketchup.
47° (Deck 4): This ritzy restaurant is the ship's main dining room offers waiter service dining for breakfast (7 a.m. to 9 a.m.), lunch (noon to 2 p.m.) and dinner (6 p.m. to 9 p.m.). The lower half is a wonderful light-filled space combining lots of shiny stainless steel girders and polished marble trim with huge floor-to-ceiling windows that add superb sea (or coastal) views to mealtimes. A chandelier encircled by shards of green glass illuminates the grand piano below, while a twin staircase sweeps up to the gallery half of the restaurant (Gallery 47°). White cotton-topped tables comes in various sizes from two to eight seats; restaurant staff offer diners shared tables at peak times (when queuing is also common).
47° provides the only waiter-service breakfast on the ship, and is certainly the more relaxing way to enjoy one's morning meal. The breakfast menu includes an a la carte Full English option with cooked-to-order eggs, joined by fancier dishes such as smoked salmon, and daily-changing specials like raspberry pancakes and eggs Florentine. On top of that there's a buffet of fruit, cereals, and yogurt, plus pots of Twinings tea and real orange juice are served to your table.
Lunch and dinner menus change daily, with starters including the likes of prawn and crab fritters, honey and clove basted York ham, and cream of chicken and tarragon, which is certainly a move away from prawn cocktails and Caesar salads. Mains might include roasted cod fillet, Greek-style lamb kebabs and Croque Monsieur (essentially a toasted ham and cheese sandwich and a pretty odd choice as a main dish in the MDR). Also always available on the lunch menu is jacket potato with a variety of fillings including chicken korma or chilli con carne; and a create-your-own burger with veggie option. Dinner menus adds a few fancier 'Chef's Suggestions'. Desserts are typically the likes of fruit crumble, cheesecake, and a sugar-free option, as well as a selection of ice creams. The menu also includes icons denoting vegetarian, gluten free or a dish with a gluten-free option.
What is nice is unlike pretty well all non-luxury mainstream cruise lines we can think of, wine will be included from summer 2017. Until then you can order it by the bottle or glass; glasses are unlimited and waiters offer frequent refills, so be careful!
The food is certainly not radical (and why should it be?), but it's a significant departure from what you might expect on a Marella ship. The menu can be a little hit and miss with some dishes not quite delivering on their promise (the lobster in the underwhelming Lobster Mac & Cheese was elusive); though there's enough razzle-dazzle and attentive service to distract you from any minor shortcomings. And in case you were wondering, the restaurant is named after the latitude of Saint Nazaire, where the ship was built.
Gallery 47° (Deck 5): Marella surveyed its guests at the start of the Marella Discovery process about what they would like to see onboard the new ship, and when it came to dining one cuisine stood out (no not Indian, astonishingly): Italian. And that's what Gallery 47° is. It is still part of the MDR (the galleried upper half), but the menu up here is exclusively Italian. As with the MDR, the design is bright, open, and swanky with large windows along both sides for great sea-view panoramas. The experience begins with a platter of typical Italian antipasti (various cheese, cold cuts, and olives) as well as a fine selection of breads. Starters might include arancini (fried balls of cheese risotto), calamari or beef carpaccio; mains are typically along the lines of mixed fried fish, veal escalope or slow-braised pork shank. There is also a selection of pasta (including fungi ravioli and lasagna) and calzone dishes, while desserts include tiramisu, warm chocolate pudding, and lemon meringue tart. None of this is going to trouble Jamie Oliver much, but it's a great move by the line to directly accommodate the wishes of its past passengers -- and not charge for the privilege.
Islands (Deck 9): The buffet restaurant occupies a privileged position right at the front overlooking the ship's bow. Tables seating two to six fill the space between the serving area and wraparound windows, making for some excellent views. With its nautical-theme decor, clipper-ship murals, and old-fashioned furniture, its the most dating-looking of the onboard eateries, and low-lighting can make it feel a little gloomy at night. The quality and variety of food, however, is generally very good -- at least for buffet -- and marks another step forward for the line's dining.
Most passengers head here for breakfast (7 a.m. to 11.30 a.m.), mainly due to a genuinely impressive selection spread around its numerous self-serve islands (with names such as 'crisp & sizzlin'', 'fresh from the garden' and 'light & sweet'). Islands were always staffed and trays rarely empty, though queues for the cooked-to-order omelette station and coffee and juice dispensers were not uncommon. Lunch (11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and dinner (6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.) buffets often feature themed dishes drawn from the likes of Middle Eastern, Portuguese and Mexican cuisine, plus a carvery with slow-cooked roasts such as lamb or pork. Waiting staff provide a table service for drinks (at bar prices). Vegetarian and gluten-free dishes are available, though not extensive, as are sugar-free desserts.
Snack Shack (Deck 9): Located on the pool deck (and open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.) this fun and informal snack bar is themed around British beach huts, with seating at one of a row of colorful booths or around picnic-style tables. A range of healthy grab 'n' go items that include Greek salads, falafel wraps, and fresh fruit pots are available from the fridge and ideal for stashing for packed lunches on excursions. At the other end is a not-so-healthy hot buffet of hotdogs, burgers, and (naturally) fish and chips. Breakfast items (served until 10.30 a.m.) also range from egg and bacon butties and cheese croissants, to Bircher muesli and fruit yogurts.
The Glass House (Deck 9): A glass ceiling ensures plenty of natural light at this all-day eatery, which opens for breakfast (7 a.m. to 10.30 a.m.) serving a simple Continental buffet and fresh juices. Salads and sandwiches are on offer for most of the day (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.). The free option for dinner (6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.) is a choice of sharing platter (meats, cheeses, or both), a selection of Spanish-style tapas, and a pizza with range of toppings. Alternatively for a £9.95 cover charge diners can have the 'Hot Stone' experience where diners get to grill their own meat presented on a sizzling stone plate; options includes marinated tenderloin pork medallions and 28-day aged Angus beef skewer, as well as a Stilton-glazed Portobello mushrooms for veggies. Desserts might include crème caramel or chocolate-espresso mousse (though the free option doesn't provide a pudding course).
With this area used primarily as an indoor pool, the layout and ambience of this all-day eatery feels a little awkward, at least by day when the pool and surrounding loungers are in use. By night, however, its one of the quieter, least busy, and most relaxing dining options on the ship.
Room Service: A Continental breakfast is available from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. for £4.95 per person and includes a fruit juice, hot drink, bakery selection and choice of cereals (covering favourites such as Weetabix, All Bran, and Rice Krispies). Passengers must hang their breakfast order form on their cabin door before 4 a.m. The regular room service menu is detailed in the Life Onboard guide, left in all cabins, and includes omelettes (£4.95), pizzas (£4.95), "Light Bites" (from £2), which include French Onion soup, Caesar salad, steak sandwich, cheeseburger and vegetable lasagna. Drinks including lager, juices, hot drinks, and wine by the bottle or glass are also available.
Both of the for-fee restaurants appear on other ships in the Marella/TUI fleet: Kora La on Marella Dream and Surf & Turf is lifted from the TUI Cruises' fleet (where it's very popular among the German clientele). The cover charge in Kora La (£19.95 per diner) can feel a little steep, especially when the odd dish doesn't lift itself beyond the quality available in free dining. The Surf & Turf menu, however, is worth every penny of the extra outlay (£24.95 each) and stands head-and-shoulders above its for-fee rival -- positioned just opposite high up on Deck 11. Reservations need to be made for both, and it's not unusual for them to be fully booked up by mid-week, so get your booking in early.
Kora La (Deck 11); £19.95: The Pan-Asian menu is designed by Ian Pengelly, the man behind the popular London restaurant House of Ho. It's a lovely space with a subtle Oriental vibe designed and ranged around a semi-circular spot with views over the main pool deck. Its small but regularly changing menu ranges across the entire region, picking the best dishes from each. Starters might include chilli salt squid, honey glazed spare ribs, and duck and watermelon salad (one of their signature starters and we thought a real standout dish). Mains include the likes of Thai green salmon curry, vegetable stir-fry noodles, and "shaking beef". There is also a selection of speciality curries -- including chicken Kashmiri, lamb madras, beef panang and prawn vindaloo -- cooked to order and as spicy as you dare. While portions are very generous and flavors bold, we found some of the dishes lacked finesse. Also on offer is a list of signature cocktails that infuse ingredients such as fiery green chilli and fresh ginger and certainly have plenty of zing (at £4.95 each). There is also a small sushi bar where guests can choose up to eight pieces of sushi roll, sashimi or nigiri, washed down with a choice of Asian beers. The restaurant is only open for dinner between 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Surf & Turf Steakhouse (Deck 11); £24.95: Imported from Tui Cruises' Mein Schiffs but tweaked for the British palate, the Surf & Turf Steakhouse does what it says on the tin, and some. The vibe is smart, intimate and inviting with darkwood panelling, atmospheric lighting, and splashes of crimson; a leather-button banquette stretches the length of the main dining area. At the more refined end of a long list of starters are the likes of crab bisque and pan-seared diver scallops, while old favourites are also given a twist -- Caesar salad is prepared at the table and prawn cocktail includes crayfish. Unsurprisingly, it's the 28-day-aged Angus steaks that steal the show, from the huge 32oz Tomahawk rib-eye (cut for sharing), to the 6oz fillet mignon with lobster tail (our personal pick which was cooked to perfection). Further mains include lamb and pork chops, grilled chicken and seafood dishes, while sides are the likes of potato and horseradish mash, poached asparagus, and chips with truffle salt. Opening times are from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.