Marella Cruises

History, Review, Itineraries, Ships, Deck Plans, News

Marella Cruises fleet

Review of Marella Cruises

Marella Cruises (renamed in 2018 from "Thomson Cruises") is a TUI-owned and TUI UK-operated British cruise line, that offers low-price voyages in Europe, Caribbean and Asia. The company's older vessels are ships operated under charter from Holland America Line and Louis / Celestyal Cruises. Marella's younger fleet consists of TUI-owned ships formerly owned and operated by Royal Caribbean and TUI Cruises.

Initially, the Thomson Cruises company started operations in 1973, but due to rising fuel costs the passenger shipping operations were terminated in 1976. Thomson restarted cruise shipping operations in 1995.

Marella Cruises has its own unique place in the British cruise market as cruise division of the largest tour operator and travel agency in Britain. After its foundation in 1965, the company soon established dominant position in the British tour market with own airlines and travel agencies.

Thomson Cruises logo

Two Greek ocean liners were chartered by Thomson in 1973, but the company failed to capture audience, like other cruise lines of the 70s. Operations restarted in 1995 after Thomson Cruises chartered the tiny Sapphire ship from Louis Cruise Lines. Soon the company chartered other ships, among which Island Breeze owned by Premier Cruises, Topaz and Emerald.

Thomson Cruises aimed an effect on the British market just like Carnival did in the United States. Package holidays had already been very popular in the United Kingdom, and the company wanted the same for cruising. Despite the aging ships, Thomson cruises attracted an ever-increasing number of Britons- first-time cruisers with attractive fares and presence of company’s travel agencies across Britain.

  • In the 1990s Thomson Cruises began working as budget cruise operator and improved its product becoming more successful in cruise industry by improving amenities, ships and service and introducing a wider range of itineraries.
  • Royal Caribbean sold its stake in Island Cruises to TUI Travel (Thomson Cruises’ parent company) in 2008. In 2009 Island Star left the fleet and joined the Spanish brand of Royal Caribbean - Pullmantur.
  • Island Escape joined Thomson fleet in 2009 and continued to offer informal cruises to the U.K. market. The latest addition to the fleet is Thomson Dream. The vessel joined in spring 2010 from Costa Cruises.
  • In March 2015, Royal Caribbean International (RCI) announced they had agreed to sell Splendour of the Seas to TUI in the second quarter of 2016. TUI would lease the vessel to Thomson Cruises in order to replace Island Escape.
  • In May 2015, TUI Group announced plans for Mein Schiff 1 and Mein Schiff 2 to be transferred to Thomson over the next few years.
  • In October 2015, Island Cruises was discontinued after its sole ship Island Escape completed her last sailing with Thomson Cruises.

A cruise and stay holiday with Marella Cruises at a otel or apartment of the company is a possibility to take the best of both worlds. You can choose to have the stays either at the beginning or at the end of your cruise.

Onboard cuisine offers everything you can think about - from healthy options to exotic local specialties and culinary choices on offer. Daytime entertainment with Marella cruises is great for all members of the family. There are also different activities for children onboard and special children’s menu for junior diners. You can relax each evening in the wide range of bars and lounges or enjoy first class entertainment with singers and comedians.

Marella's fly-cruise deals from UK to Caribbean are served by regional Thomson Airways flights from the UK airports Cardiff, Doncaster Sheffield, East Midlands, Glasgow, Newcastle, Stansted, Birmingham, Manchester, Gatwick. Flights are to the company's Caribbean homeports Bridgetown Barbados and Montego Bay Jamaica.

On select cruises Marella offers free all-inclusive upgrades on the company's older ships. The line's new vessels (Marella Discovery and Marella Discovery 2) offer these all-inclusive packages as standard cruise fare inclusion.

Itinerary of Marella Cruises

With a large selection of destinations and itineraries, Marella Cruises may show you the whole world. With a variety of UK cruises with departures from Southampton, Newcastle and Harwich; cruise and fly holidays from a large number of airports (available departures from over twenty UK airports), Marella Cruises sail in the Red Sea and Canary Islands during winter, the Mediterranean in summer. There are about a hundred different destinations to explore aboard Marella ships. 

Marella cruise itinerary changes

In 2017 Marella Cruises returned to the United Kingdom with a series of sailings departing from Newcastle. The line based its Marella Celebration in Newcastle, UK throughout summer 2017. The 1,254-passenger vessel offers 4 to 14-night itineraries to Scandinavia, the Baltics and the Norwegian Fjords, including StockholmCopenhagen, Saint Petersburg and Iceland. It is the first time the line has based a ship in the UK since 2014.

  • Marella Celebration (1984, former ms Noordam and Thomson Celebration), joined the fleet in 2005. During summer, the ship operates Adriatic Sea cruises leaving round-trip from Dubrovnik Croatia. During winter it offers Persian Gulf cruises from Dubai. For summer 2018, the ship was relocated to homeport Dubrovnik for an adults-only cruise program with full day port stayss in Bar, Korcula, Zadar, Venice, Trieste, Split. The ship also introduced 2 new 7-day itineraries, themed "Sail Three Seas" (Valletta Malta, Messina Sicily, Cephalonia Island, Igoumenitsa, Kotor) and "Greek Mystique" (Chania Crete, Piraeus-Athens, Kalamata, Corfu Island, Kotor).
  • Marella Dream (1986, former ms Homeric, ms Westerdam, ms Costa Europa and Thomson Dream), joined the fleet in 2010. During summer, the ship offers Eastern Mediterranean cruises leaving round-trip from Corfu Greece. During winter it offers Caribbean cruises leaving round-trip from Jamaica (Montego Bay).
  • Thomson Majesty (1992, former ms Royal Majesty, ms Norwegian Majesty, ms Louis Majesty), joined the fleet in 2012. The ship operates on year-round itinerary program with round-trip Madeira and Canary Islands cruises with departures from Tenerife and Gran Canaria. For summer 2018, the ship will be based in Palma Majorca.
  • Thomson Spirit (1983, former ms Nieuw Amsterdam, ms Patriot, ms Spirit), joined the fleet in 2003. The ship offers year-round European itineraries - Western Mediterranean cruises from Malaga and round-trip Madeira and Canary Islands cruises with departures from Tenerife and Gran Canaria. In July 2017 Marella Cruises announced that it extended the time of Thomson Spirit with the fleet, sailing the ship until the end of summer 2018 due to overwhelming customer demand. Thomson Spirit, which was due to cruise for the final time in November 2017, was based in Palma in April 2018, before moving to Malaga in May. Clients had the opportunity to see the best that Western Mediterranean has to offer - big city favourites like BarcelonaLisbon and Rome, as well as lesser-known Spanish gems like Mahon, Roses and Tarragona. The last cruise of Thomson Spirit in the fleet of Thomson, Continental Coasts, set sail October 21, 2018.
  • Marella Discovery (1996, former Royal Caribbean ship "Splendour of the Seas" and Thomson Discovery), joined the fleet in 2016. The ship offers year-round Western Mediterranean leaving roundtrip from Palma de Mallorca. Discovery moves to her new homeport Newcastle from May 2018. The ship has a scheduled visit to the Norwegian fjords and major cities including StockholmTallinn, and Reykjavik. Passengers on the Baltic voyages enjoy an overnight stay in Saint Petersburg. In September 2018, Marella Discovery is homeported in Southampton for Baltic Sea itineraries. 
  • Marella Discovery 2 (1995, former Legend of the Seas / Royal Caribbean and TUI Discovery 2), joined the fleet in Spring 2017. The ship operates Mediterranean cruises (leaving from Malaga Spain) and Canary Islands cruises (out of Tenerife to ports in Canaries, Morocco and Madeira). The new ship's itineraries were opened for booking on July 21, 2016. The inaugural cruise's ports were Barcelona, Valencia, Porto, Ibiza, Marseille. Following the Canary Islands repositioning in September 2017, the ship operates on Caribbean cruises out of Montego Bay Jamaica. For summer 2018 os homeported in Corfu Greece for roundtrips to Greek Isles, Turkey and ports in Adriatic Sea (Dalmatian Coast).
  • Marella Explorer (1996, former Mein Schiff 1 and TUI Explorer) - starting operations for Thomson in 2018, the ship will operate on 7-night Western Mediterranean cruises leaving round-trip from Palma De Mallorca Spain. Among the ports of call are popular French Riviera cruise ports in France.

Guatemala was introduced together with more calls in Cuba in an expanded Caribbean program by Marella Cruises for winter 2017-2018. Three of the company's ships are based in the region including Marella Celebration, moving to a new homeport of La Romana, Dominican Republic. All-inclusive ships Marella Discovery and the newest addition Marella Discovery 2 will join Celebration and sail out of Bridgetown and Montego Bay, respectively.

Marella cruises to Cuba from Jamaica

Marella Cruises offers Cuba cruises with round-trip departures from Jamaica (Montego Bay) on the ship Marella Dream. Itineraries started in 2017. The first cruise was on January 31 (7-night / 8-day to Grand Cayman Island, Havana Cuba, and Cozumel Mexico).

The current list of passenger shipping lines offering cruises to Cuba in 2017-2018 includes:

  • Carnival Paradise leaving from Tampa Florida - cheapest prices (from USD 480 pp)
  • MSC Cruises (ship MSC Opera, leaving from Havana)
  • Holland America (ship Veendam) leaving from Fort Lauderdale since December 2017
  • Oceania Cruises (ships Marina and Regatta) starting in 2017, Cuba circumnavigation, stops in Cienfuegos and Havana, also part of some Panama Canal transition itineraries.
  • NCL (ship Norwegian Sky, 4-day itineraries with Havana overnights - starting May 2017.
  • Azamara Cruises (ship on Azamara Quest from Miami)
  • Compagnie du Ponant (yacht Le Ponant, leaving from Miami Florida)
  • Pearl Seas Cruises (ship Pearl Mist, leaving from Fort Lauderdale Florida)
  • Lindblad Expeditions (chartered sailing ship MS Panorama II, leaving from Havana)
  • Celestyal Cruises (ship Celestyal Crystal, leaving from Havana and Montego Bay Jamaica)
  • Grand Circle Cruise Line (ship MV Clio / ex Tere Moana) one-way from Miami to Havana, or the reverse from Havana to Miami (embarkation/disembarkation in port Cienfuegos).
  • International Expeditions (leaving from Havana, charter flights out of Miami)
  • Victory Cruise Lines - MS  Victory I (former MS Saint Laurent) - fly-cruises from Miami to Havana (home-port Cienfuegos /departures)
  • Note: According to the current Cuban law, US citizens of Cuban origin (born in Cuba) are not allowed to visit the island country (including on cruise ships). Regardless of their US citizenship status, Cuban-born Americans were denied booking on cruise itineraries visiting ports in Cuba. However, the situation changed in April 2016, after Carnival Corporation negotiated with the Cuban government for allowing ships with Cuban-born passengers, as such US citizens are allowed to visit the country on USA-Cuba charter flights. The Carnival-fathom line started Miami to Cuba cruises in May 2016.
  • Alaska Airlines offers regular nonstop flights to Havana from Los Angeles (California USA). An 80-min ling JetBlue flight from Fort  Lauderdale (Florida) to Havana costs less than USD 100. Previously, air travel from USA to Cuba was thought charter flights only.

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