On top of our amazing selection of holidays, we also sell cruises too! If you didn’t know already, we’re part of TUI, and we got very excited when we received our invitation to the launch of their latest ship – Marella Cruises’ Marella Voyager!
When a new ship launches, often cruise lines run what’s known as a ‘shakedown cruise’ – a mini sailing celebrating the launch of the ship, and more importantly, giving the ship and all its crew a practice run, to make sure everything is running ‘ship shape’ before real customers make their way onboard.
The launch of a ship is one of the most exciting events in our travel calendars, and we couldn’t wait to get onboard! Along with five other members of the Holiday Hypermarket team, I packed my case and got ready to make my way to Malaga, where Marella Voyager was ready to set sail!
Keep on reading to discover just how dreamy this ship is, as well as everything we got up to – from a 80s and 90s party, to star-studded performances from Becky Hill and A1!
It was an early start for us, flying out from London Gatwick straight to Malaga, where we’d be boarding the ship for our three-night stay.
Our trip got off to a great start when we discovered we were flying out on the TUI Dreamliner – a plane normally reserved for long haul holidays! We said ‘cheers’ with our complimentary drinks and enjoyed having our own personal TV screens to keep us entertained for the flight.
Before we knew it we’d arrived in sunny Malaga, and hopped on the transfer bus to the port. And there she was – Marella Voyager in all her glory! Freshly painted and ready to rock and roll, the ship’s impressive exterior only made us even more eager to get onboard to discover everything that was going on on the inside.
After whizzing through passport control to board, we crossed the gangway and onto the ship, where we were instantly welcomed by smiling faces. The first spot we found ourselves in was the impressive atrium by the ship’s reception, where a swirling staircase revealed several floors above. A grand piano and sophisticated seats adorned the area, and we immediately felt dazzled by our state-of-the-art surroundings.
My first ‘port of call’ once onboard was to check out my cabin. I made my way to cabin 5019, popped in my keycard and there it was – my home for the next few days!
I’d been assigned an Outside Cabin, which is a room with a window or porthole, meaning you can see outside, giving you a glimpse of your gorgeous surroundings.
My cabin was so much roomier than I’d expected! In the centre of the room was a large double bed with bedside cabinets, with plenty of space around each side.
I then had another tall cabinet area housing tea and coffee-making facilities, plus a good size desk area which I knew would be perfect as a dressing table for getting dolled up.
There was plenty of wardrobe and cupboard space too, as well as my lovely ensuite bathroom – which housed a decent size shower, toilet, sink, and complimentary shower items.
After quickly unpacking, it was time to get exploring the ship! We quickly made discoveries like The Coffee Port, the onboard cafe, as well as some of the onboard bars – the contemporary-looking Arts House, and Flutes (where a glass of something fizzy is a must!)
Our explorations would have to wait however, as the evening’s events were fast approaching – we needed to get ready! Our first night onboard was planned as a Gala evening, featuring a fancy meal in the main restaurant followed by the official launch ceremony of the ship, with surprise celebrations in store!
Rumours had been circulating all day about whether or not there would be any special guest appearances at the launch ceremony – so there was a real air of excitement on the ship.
After getting into my most glam outfit (an all-sequined dress in blue, to match Marella Cruises’ colours, of course) I made my way to the main dining room, Latitude 53.
This enormous dining room is situated at the very back of the ship, and has fantastic floor-to-ceiling windows giving you stunning views of the sea and beyond.
Cruise ships are renowned for their sublime offering when it comes to culinary experiences, and boy oh boy (or should I say buoy?), this did not disappoint!
For starters we had a delicious coronation chicken terrine, which came beautifully presented. Our main dish was an unconventional spin on the simple yet traditional ‘ham, egg and chips’ – and let me tell you, there was nothing simple about these flavours!
We were treated to parma ham wrapped in prime pork fillet, accompanied by buttery crisp rosti potatoes and a crispy egg, with a honey and mustard sauce to pull it all together. It was simply divine!
The cherry on the cake though, had to be the dessert. Written down on the menu as ‘apple crumble’, what we received was far from your average pudding!
To look at, you’d think it was an apple on a plate – in fact, it was a roasted apple and vanilla compote, exquisitely encased in a green apple glaze with a swirl of English custard and crumble to finish. I could have eaten this whole menu ten times over – it was all fabulous!
We left the dining room feeling more than satisfied, and made our way to the pool deck on Deck 11 where the night’s celebrations would take place. Everyone was dressed in their very best!
Waiters were already making their way around handing out glasses of fizz and colourful cocktails, but I headed to the bar for my favourite – a dreamy frozen strawberry daiquiri.
Marella Cruises offer All Inclusive as standard on their sailings, meaning as a customer you can enjoy as many soft and alcoholic drinks to your heart’s content. Their inclusive cocktail list is pretty impressive, ranging from my favourite frozen daiquiris to a blue lagoon or a marvellous mai tai.
You also have the option to upgrade to their Premium drinks menu too if you want even more choice, which includes beverages from the Coffee Port and their Premium All Inclusive cocktails.
As the sun started to set, the lights on deck got bigger and brighter, and it was time for the celebrations to begin! A set of talented dancers kicked things off with a brilliant performance, all whilst the Captain of the ship made his way to the centre podium.
He introduced us to the ship’s godmothers – Chief Purser Tatyana Olkhovska, and Senior Destination Services Operations Manager Jacqui Nobile, who began the ceremonial countdown to the most prestigious moment of launching any ship – the official champagne smash!
We all eagerly counted down from 10, and with a flurry of confetti we watched as a giant bottle of champagne collided with the ship’s hull, commemorating the official launch of Marella Voyager. What a moment!
After a few moments, the lights dimmed and tension-building music began to play. Quick bursts of song teasing us pounded out of the speakers, and suddenly a very special guest appeared on the main stage – Becky Hill!
Giant firework sparklers lit up the stage and Becky began belting out her unbelievable repertoire of hits – from Gecko to My Heart Goes, Wish You Well and my favourite, Crazy What Love Can Do! There wasn’t a soul in sight who wasn’t dancing and singing along – the atmosphere was absolutely electric!
We partied to Becky’s songs for over an hour before she left the stage – but the entertainment didn’t stop there! After a quick change of the main stage area, on came an amazing Coldplay tribute band!
If I closed my eyes, you’d really believe they were the real deal. The band belted out Coldplay’s biggest hits from Paradise to Yellow, but the magic really happened when the lead singer began to belt out A Sky Full of Stars – and the sky was lit up by an unbelievable array of fireworks, all especially for Marella Voyager as she began to set sail. I hadn’t even realised we were moving!
It truly was a sight to behold, with the fireworks lighting up not only the sky, but marvellous Malaga behind them. I stood and watched in awe as the music continued to belt out behind me and felt grateful to be part of such an amazing experience.
Back in my cabin and kicking off my dancing shoes, I reflected how lucky I was to experience such a brilliant event for work – we’d been part of the launch of a new ship, attended a Becky Hill concert, and been treated to a brilliant Coldplay tribute show with a fantastic fireworks display to match. How could this day be topped?!
I began my second day onboard Marella Voyager by sitting up in bed and excitedly peering out of my porthole window – I could see our next destination approaching, meaning we’d soon be pulling into port!
After getting ready, myself and another colleague enjoyed a hearty breakfast at the ship’s main buffet restaurant, The Kitchens. The breakfast offering was more than plentiful, and we made sure to sit at one of the tables beside the floor-to-ceiling windows giving us stunning sea views.
I enjoyed a tasty Full English (with the bacon nice and crispy, just how I like it at home) and couldn’t resist trying out a couple of the pastries from the pastry counter, too. They were freshly baked and tasted absolutely delicious!
At lunch and dinner times this buffet restaurant’s individual counters serve up a brilliant selection of different cuisines – ‘The Gravy Boat’ is where you’ll find the likes of roast dinners, while the Greek station, Athena’s, serves up things like chicken souvlaki alongside fresh pittas and tzatziki. Delicious!
As we finished breakfast, the ship’s cruise director announced we had pulled into sunny Almeria, and informed us we could leave the ship on Deck 3. We couldn’t wait to get off and explore!
Exiting the ship was easy, and as we walked alongside Marella Voyager pulled up in port, we couldn’t resist stopping for a few pics in front of her impressive hull. We looked like a little dot in comparison to her sheer size!
We made our way into the bustling city centre of Almeria, and we instantly fell in love with the sunny Spanish vibes. Pretty palm trees lined the streets giving us some much-needed shade as we strolled about, stopping to snap photos of the colourful buildings and pretty fountains.
We made our way down Rambla de Almeria, and came to the large ferris wheel overlooking the port. There was an ‘I love Almeria’ sign situated perfectly in front, making a perfect photo opportunity!
We fancied a look to the beach, which was approximately 15 minutes’ walk from the port. We later wished we’d brought our swimming gear for a refreshing dip in the sea, but we made do by having a lovely stroll on the sandy beach and dipping our toes in instead.
Afterwards, we enjoyed a delicious ice cream sundae at a beachside cafe, which definitely helped to cool us down before heading back to the ship.
Once back onboard, we headed to Nonnas – the onboard Italian – where chefs whisk up your order right in front of you. I opted for the farfalle bolognese (topped with plenty of parmesan, of course) – it really hit the spot!
After waving goodbye to Almeria, we headed to the onboard theatre to catch a show. The ‘broadway theatre lounge’ is seriously impressive – it takes up the whole front end of the ship over two floors, and you’re handed cocktails as you walk in. Perfect!
On a normal sailing, there’s 12 shows up for grabs, with two performances every night. We had the pleasure of watching ‘80s vision’, a show dedicated to all things 80s! It was a superb performance by incredibly talented singers and dancers, and we sang along to top 80s tunes as the stage lights flashed away. It was brilliant!
Afterwards, I headed back to my cabin to get ready for our big themed evening – 80s vs 90s! I donned a bright pink 90s t-shirt, shiny pink lycra leggings, a multi-coloured bomber jacket and the pièce de résistance – my original tamagotchi as a necklace. 90s kid coming right ‘atcha!
Add that to crimped hair and a splash of glitter and I was ready to go. As we made our way out onto the pool deck where the party would be held, we were impressed to see that everyone else had gone ‘all out’ too! From fellow 90s ravers to people dressed like the spice girls and even pac-man, it was clear everyone was ready to party!
With classic 80s and 90s tunes blasting from the speakers, we danced out on deck as the sun went down. Then, the smoke machine on stage began to puff out smoke, before Madonna made her way out on stage! (not the real one sadly – but a terrific tribute!)
After belting out top songs like Holiday and Like a Prayer, we waved goodbye to Madonna – but it wasn’t long before an even bigger surprise was revealed, as 90’s boy band A1 took to the stage! We had a blast singing and dancing as they performed their top hits.
The night wasn’t over yet though, as we made our way to the Electric Rooms – the ship’s very own nightclub! I was impressed to say the least – the club had a really contemporary feel and the atmosphere, was indeed electric!
Tonight was a silent disco, so I popped on my headphones and danced to chart-topping 80s and 90s dance hits. It was the perfect way to see the party out in style!
My dancing shoes wore out in the early hours of the morning, and I made my way back to my cabin via an all-important pit stop at the buffet for some end-of-the-night snacks – pizza, and more pizza!
The best thing about the night was knowing we could re-live it all – as Marella Voyager is hosting a 80s vs 90s Electric Sunsets mini cruise in May 2024! Marella Cruises has upped its game with these special mini cruises over the years, so the next one will no doubt be just as epic.
I woke up on our final full day onboard Marella Voyager and headed straight up to the pool deck to take in my surroundings – sea, and endless amounts of sea! We hadn’t yet reached Palma, so soaking up uninterrupted views of the Mediterranean sea was a special sight.
After wandering up to the highest point of the ship on Deck 14, we discovered the perfect spot to do a bit of sunbathing. Luxurious, plump sunbeds were lined up facing out to sea, making the perfect area to top up our tans whilst soaking in sea views. It would’ve been rude not to!
Around midday we caught a glimpse of land again, and over the next hour picturesque Palma came closer and closer towards us.
We planned to get off the ship and head into the city centre, but as we were still rather tired from the night before (alongside some tender feet from all the dancing) we decided to stay onboard and enjoy the delights of the ship instead.
We enjoyed lunch at Abuelas’s, the onboard Mexican eatery, where we tucked into burritos and tasty nachos with all the toppings. After, we headed to Cherry on Top, the onboard ice-cream counter, and tucked into several scoops of dairy goodness. Yum!
I spent the rest of the afternoon in one of the luxury cabanas on Deck 14. These are available to customers to hire on a daily basis, and I have to say – it was the perfect way to enjoy some chill time in the sunshine.
I laid on the plush sun lounger with my strawberry daiquiri perched on a side table, looking out to stunning views of all the port and beyond – the harbour, the hillside, and the heavenly cathedral. It felt like your own private piece of the ship.
For our final night, we headed off to the Squid and Anchor – the ship’s very own pub. Walking in, you’d think you’d just popped into your local British boozer. We took part in the quiz – and won!
We then got involved in another one of the pub’s fun games, known as ‘All Bands on Deck’. The ship’s resident band began to play the intro of some of the biggest hits of the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s, and we raced together in our teams to be the first to name the song the quickest! It’s safe to say it got really competitive, and it was such a good laugh!
Afterwards, the band played everyone’s favourite hits live, and they sounded so brilliant that before long everyone was up singing and busting moves on the dance floor. It was the perfect way to round off a terrific trip!
Time to say Bon Voyage!
We departed Marella Voyager in the early hours of our fourth day, sad that our epic mini cruise adventure was over. We truly had the best time – and were so jealous of all the real customers who were about to board that day, ready for their cruise around the Med.
This ship has so much to offer – from a cinema to its theatre, a ‘hideout zone’ for teens and a pool deck complete with whirlpool baths to enjoy some bubbles in the sea breeze. Even from our short time onboard, the ship really does become your amazing new home as it takes you to some seriously dreamy destinations.
This summer Marella Voyager is ported in Palma, and is heading off to picturesque places like Rome and Barcelona. In the winter, she’s heading over to the Caribbean, where she’ll tick off tropical paradises like Barbados and Antigua.
If you’re new to cruising or thinking of trying out this terrific ship, get in touch to hear all about her amazing itineraries and the rest of the Marella Cruises fleet. Cruises with us can’t yet be booked online, so simply give us a call on 020 4578 0977. We’re ready to chat 7 days a week!