Marella Explorer 2 Exits Drydock with New Livery

Marella Explorer 2

The Marella Explorer 2 is fresh out of the drydock in Cadiz with her new Marella Cruises livery painted on the 1995-built ship’s hull.

The ship is the sixth vessel in Marella’s fleet and debuts this April for the TUI-owned British brand.

After starting her career as the Celebrity Century, the vessel moved to China for startup SkySea Cruises and is now under the Marella banner.

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UK Market Moves Toward All-Inclusive Cruises

Marella’s fleet will be all-inclusive come 2019.

The UK’s cruise market is going from strength-to-strength with bargain-hungry Brits boosting the all-inclusive package concept.

Phil Evans, the founder and owner of Cruise Nation, said there is also a trend in the overall marketplace for long-haul products, which are “massively up over last year”. 

Evans told Cruise Industry News: “Consumers want great value for money, and while free drinks packages represent the best value in most cases, customers who do not drink are often left at a disadvantage, therefore it is important to give customers choices.”

Online agency Iglu’s commercial product director, Dave Mills, is upbeat about the fortunes for the UK  market and explained that the market has moved away from a purely price-driven sector with cruise lines now increasingly offering a more all-inclusive product and having a lot more to do onboard which is, more often than not, included in the price.

All-Inclusive

“These all-inclusive packages are so popular right now. The more you have included and the more time you have to explain the experiences, the more interest we see,” Mills said. “Outside the cruising market, all-inclusive holidays are very popular and the cruise market looks like it’s joining this sector in some way.”

He added that the cruise lines have committed to offering ever better value in recent years and packages are effectively close to the final holiday costs outside the sector with guests not having to spend much once they are onboard.

The UK market is looking strong for the future, led by Carnival Corporation’s P&O Cruises UK. The new P&O Iona will be based in Southampton starting in spring 2020.

All-inclusive packages can include shore excursions and, even if they are not included, Mills said that cruise lines are working hard to offer immersive, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, which can still be very good value for money.

Like Cruise Nation, Iglu is also seeing distinct trends appearing in the UK’s cruise market.

“There are some broader trends and we are seeing huge growth in the area of expedition cruises, where people are generally going on smaller ships but heading off the beaten track to destinations such as the Galapagos and Antarctica,” Mills said. “Perhaps this is down to people seeing programs such as Blue Planet on TV and then want to see the locations for themselves.

Booking Window

Another trend appearing for travel agencies is for Brits to book their cruise holidays further ahead than in recent years.

Evans noted: “There has been a significant shift so far this year to winter 2018-2019 and summer 2019. This is mainly down to the many early booking offers available; in some cases, it is cheaper to book a 2019 cruise over a 2018 cruise.

“We have also seen our customers book further ahead than they were this time last year; our average booking window is now nine months in advance.

“Overall cruise prices are increasing. Cruise lines are rewarding customers for booking early with the best prices and incentives. Whereas two years ago, customers were waiting until the last minute knowing that prices would be reduced and they would get a better deal.”

Marella Cruises christens new Marella Explorer in Palma

Marella Cruises christens new Marella Explorer in Palma

Marella Explorer is the largest ship in Marella Cruises’ fleet (Image: Marella Cruises)

Marella Cruises has officially welcomed Marella Explorer to its fleet during a christening ceremony at the Port of Palma in Majorca, Spain on 17 May.

Formerly sailing as Mein Schiff 1 for Marella Cruises’ sister brand TUI Cruises, Marella Explorer was named by two godmothers – Susan Stewart, the line’s hotel operations manager, and Mandy Galloway, a travel agent at one of TUI Group’s retail stores in Edinburgh, Scotland. They were joined on stage by Marella Explorer’s master Captain Peter Harris and 10 crew members, who each represented a different part of the ship and held a beam of light that released the champagne bottle to christen the ship.

“I will remember this special moment forever,” said Galloway.

During the ceremony, invited guests, Marella Cruises employees, suppliers, travel agents and media also enjoyed a performance by a Take That tribute band, a fireworks display and an hour-long live DJ set from multi-platinum selling and award-winning recording artist, songwriter and rapper Craig David. The DJ set was accompanied by a show of mappable versatube lights, floating pool lights and lasers that was masterminded by Black Skull Creative’s Dan Shipton, Ross Nicholson and Jay Revell. Guests also wore LED wristbands that changed colour to the beat of the music.

“It was great celebrating the launch and performing on Marella Explorer in Palma,” said David. “I loved surprising the crowd, the atmosphere was electric.”

Marella Explorer was inaugurated following a four-week, multi-million-pound dry dock in Cadiz, Spain, which involved a team of 1,600 partners, contractors and Marella Cruises’ employees. Together they transformed the 1,924-guest ship by adding Marella Cruises branding, multiple new onboard venues and amenities, 45 square kilometres of carpet, more than 60 kilometres of data cabling and 650 wi-fi access points. A total of 35 public spaces were renovated by UK-based marine interior outfitter Trimline, while Northern Ireland-based company MJM Group revitalised the shopping area and Finnish company Makinen worked on the cabins.

Many of the public spaces were developed in cooperation with UK-based design consultancy 20.20, including a new flagship bar, club and casino named Indigo, several restaurants, the Hideout children’s area, the shimmer wall and the 962 cabins, nearly 40% of which have balconies. Other public spaces include the Broad Street Shops area and the first-ever Champneys Spa at sea. The spa will offer a full-service thermal suite, treatment suites with their own showers and mini saunas, a Finnish sauna with floor-to-ceiling windows, and spa cabanas on the adults-only Veranda Deck.

Guests will also be able to choose from 10 bars and 10 onboard restaurants. New venues include The Mediterranean, which has a retractable glass roof; The Dining Club, which offers French cuisine; Scoops vintage-style ice cream parlour; Umi Sushi; The Market Place buffet; Surf & Turf Steakhouse; pan-Asian restaurant Kora La; and Latitude 53 & Vista restaurants that serve Italian dishes.

“The launch of Marella Explorer marks an exciting time for us as she is the first ship to officially launch under the Marella Cruises name,” said Chris Hackney, managing director of Marella Cruises. “Marella Explorer marks the next step in the continued modernisation and growth of the Marella Cruises fleet. We pride ourselves on continuing to offer more ships, new destinations and fantastic service and the futuristic feel of this evening have given a real glimpse of how we are continuing to look to the ahead.”

Marella Explorer will embark on her first customer sailing around the Mediterranean, leaving from Palma on 19 May. The ship will then sail in the west Mediterranean this summer before moving to Barbados for winter.