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 Group"-owned and "TUI UK and Ireland"-operated British cruise line, that offers low-price voyages in Europe, Caribbean, and Asia. The company's older vessels are chartered from Holland America Line and Celestyal Cruises. Marella's new fleet consists of TUI-owned ships formerly owned and operated by Royal Caribbean and TUI Cruises.

Company history

Initially, Thomson Cruises (UK company) started operations in 1973, but due to rising fuel costs, its passenger shipping operations were terminated in 1976. Thomson restarted cruise shipping in 1995. Marella Cruises is a very popular brand on the British travel market. It was established in 1965 as a division of UK's largest tour operator and travel agency Thomson Holidays (now TUI UK). Thomson Holidays was a subsidiary of Thomson Corporation (1989-2008 defunct). Marella's parent company (TUI Group) owns hotels, the companies TUI Cruises, Marella Cruises, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, and the travel brands International Expeditions and Zegrahm Expeditions. The company also owns aircraft and the airlines Corsair International (France), TUI Airways (UK), TUI fly Nordic (Sweden), TUI fly Belgium, TUI fly Deutschland, TUI fly Netherlands.

Thomson Marella Cruises logo

Two Greek ocean liners were chartered by Thomson in 1973, but the company failed to capture the audience, like other cruise lines of the 1970s. Operations were restarted in 1995 after Thomson chartered the liner Sapphire (originally named MS Italia, built 1965, scrapped 2010) from Louis Cruise Lines (now Celestyal Cruises). Soon the company chartered other ocean liners, among which Island Breeze (RMS Transvaal Castle, 1961-2003), Topaz (RMS Empress of Britain, 1955-2008), The Emerald (SS Santa Rosa, 1958-2012).

Thomson Cruises aimed an effect on the British market just like Carnival did in the USA. Package holidays had already been very popular in the UK, and the company wanted the same for cruising. Despite the aging ships, Thomson Cruises attracted an ever-increasing number of first-time UK cruisers with affordable fares and presence of company’s travel agencies across Britain. In the 1990s, Thomson started operations as a budget cruise line and improved its product becoming more successful in the UK by improving amenities, the ships and services, 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 (now Mein Schiff Herz) to be transferred to Thomson over the next few years. Shiff 1 (renamed Marella Explorer) entered Marella's fleet in 2017. In October 2015, Thomson's Island Cruises brand was discontinued after its only ship MS Island Escape (now Ocean Gala) completed its last voyage with Thomson.

For FY2017, company's turnover was GBP 502 million, with EBITA (earnings-before-interest-taxes-depreciation-amortization) GBP 86,5 million and total number of served passengers 308,000 (101,7% occupancy). For FY2018 (fiscal year), TUI Group's earnings (from the 3 cruise brands - TUI, Marella, and Hapag-Lloyd) increased by 10,7% - to EUR 901,9 million. Company's turnover was EUR 324 million (26,8% increase over 2017). Group's average daily rates increased to EUR 178 euro (TUI, up from EUR 173), EUR 141 (Marella, up from EUR 131) and EUR 615 (Hapag-Lloyd, up from EUR 594).

In March 2018, TUI Group announced that to Marella's fleet will be added Marella Explorer 2 (formerly SkySea Golden Era, initially Celebrity Century), with scheduled delivery in December 2018. The liner was previously operated by SkySea Cruise Line - Asian joint venture company (owned by the RCCL-Royal Caribbean and Ctrip International). SkySea was the first contemporary brand developed for the Chinese market. Operational between May 2015 - September 2018, the new cruise line handled nearly 300 voyages and around 0,5 million passengers.

Marella "cruise and stay" holiday package deals include hotel or apartment at the beginning or at the end of the voyage.

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 fly-cruise deals from the UK to the Caribbean are served by regional TUI Airways flights from UK airports (Cardiff, Doncaster Sheffield, East Midlands, Glasgow, Newcastle, Stansted, Birmingham, Manchester, London-Gatwick). Flights are to company's Caribbean homeports Bridgetown Barbados and Montego Bay Jamaica. In 2019 were introduced "cruise-only flights" to Malaysia from Manchester Airport. The TUI Airways service (via Boeing 787 aircraft) connects to Langkawi Island - homeport for company's Far East Asia cruises. Such direct flights (TUI Airways) are also offered from London-Gatwick and Birmingham.

On select cruises, Marella offers free all-inclusive upgrades on fleet's older liners. The new vessels (Marella Discovery and Marella Discovery 2) offered these all-inclusive packages as standard fare inclusion. Since summer 2019, TUI's Marella brand operates with all-inclusive cruise deals fleetwide.

The following table shows statistical data about Marella's market share (as fleet and passenger capacity / ship-berth numbers) in comparison to other major cruise companies.

Parent CompanySubsidiariesFleets (vessels per brand)Passenger Capacity (berths per brand)
Carnival CorporationCarnival2671300
Carnival CorpPrincess1742000
Carnival CorpAIDA1329300
Carnival CorpCosta1229200
Carnival CorpHolland America1525900
Carnival CorpP&O UK818600
Carnival CorpP&O Australia58200
Carnival CorpCunard36700
Carnival CorpSeabourn42000
Carnival CorpTOTAL103 ships233,200 berths
RCCL (Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd)RCI (Royal Caribbean International)2684,700
RCCLCelebrity1325500
RCCLTUI614900
RCCLPullmantur47600
RCCLMarella34000
RCCLAzamara32100
RCCLSilversea92600
RCCLTOTAL64 ships141400 berths
NCLH (Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd)NCL (Norwegian Cruise Lines)1646600
NCLHOceania65200
NCLHRSSC (Regent)42600
NCLHTOTAL26 ships54400 berths
(other large brands)

1- MSC

2- Disney

3- Star Cruises (GHK)

4- Dream Cruises (GHK)

5- Hurtigruten

6- Viking Ocean

1- 15

2- 4

3- 5

4- 2

5- 15

6- 5

1- 44600

2- 8500

3- 8500

4- 6800

5- 6700

6- 4700

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, fly-cruise holidays from a large number of airports (available departures from over twenty UK airports), Marella Cruises sail in the Red Sea and the Canary Islands during winter, the Mediterranean in summer. There are about a hundred different destinations to explore aboard Marella ships.

Marella cruise itinerary changes

  • 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 stays 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). The company is making a return to the 'City of Gold' with its Marella Celebration homeporting in the port of Dubai for the winter season in 2020. Guests are able to see Singapore by night due to a couple of new Asia itineraries, Wonders of the Far East and Flavours of the Far East. Both 2-week itineraries feature a late night stay in 'The Lion City'. Marella Celebration offers 3 exotic itineraries from Limassol, Dubai, and Dubrovnik. The 6-night Ancient Adventure is due to set sail from Dubrovnik and visit Piraeus and the island of Rhodes. Sailing between Limassol and Dubai, Continental Crossing and Arabia Awaits are new additions to the adult only selection, visiting Aqaba, Jordan (for Petra) and Salalah, Oman.
  • 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). In 2020 winter, Marella Dream offers a 16-night Transatlantic Treasures itinerary out of Palma to Bridgetown with highlights including Funchal, the beaches of Philipsburg, and the forests of Kingstown. The ship also sails on a 12-night Ocean Odyssey itinerary out of Barbados to Palma, with a selection of culture-rich destinations like Castries and Cartagena.
  • Thomson Majesty (1992) joined the fleet in 2012. The operated year-roundtrips to Madeira and Canary Islands with departures from Tenerife and Gran Canaria. In 2018, the ship was sold to Mano Cruises and now operates as Crown Iris.
  • 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 the Canary Islands cruise with departures from Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Thomson Spirit's last cruise for Marella is scheduled for 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 moved to a new homeport (Newcastle) in May 2018. The ship has a scheduled visit to the Norwegian fjords and major cities including Stockholm, Tallinn, 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. In 2020 winter, passengers choosing to sail onboard Marella Discovery can benefit from the option of a 13-night 'Capture the Caribbean' voyage from Malaga visiting the islands of Turks and Caicos.
  • 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 the Canaries, Morocco, and Madeira). For summer 2018 the ship is homeported in Corfu Greece for roundtrips to Greek Isles, Turkey and ports in the Adriatic Sea (Dalmatian Coast). In winter 2019 Marella Discovery 2 offers 2 new itineraries, Secret Shores and Panama Canal Experience, both departing from Montego Bay.
  • Marella Explorer (1996, formerly Mein Schiff 1, initially Celebrity Galaxy) started operations in 2018, with 7-day Western Mediterranean cruises leaving roundtrip from homeport Palma De Mallorca Spain and visiting popular French Riviera ports in France. In 2020 winter, the ship is sailing a 6-night Magic of the Mediterranean cruise from Corfu.
  • Marella Explorer 2 (1995, formerly SkySea Golden Era, initially Celebrity Century) starts operations in April 2019 with 7-day Mediterranean itineraries leaving roundtrip from homeport Naples (Italy). For winter 2019-2020, the ship is deployed to the Caribbean and homeported in Bridgetown (Barbados). In 2020 winter, it sails a 14-night Atlantic Explorer out of Malaga to Barbados.

New call ports added for winter 2019-2020 season are Gatun Lake (Panama Canal) with its vast wildlife and hidden islands, Kingston Jamaica (Port Royal - called "wickedest city on earth" because of the pirates once anchoring there) and Samana, Dominican Republic. Along with these new ports, Marella returns to the popular North African ports Alexandria Egypt and Casablanca Morocco, and to Cyprus (with Marella Celebration and Marella Dream cruising to Limassol).

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 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 the USA to Cuba was thought charter flights only.

Marella Cruises related cruise news