The best of the western Mediterranean on board newly-refurbished Marella Voyager
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We're sailing from the port of Palma, Majorca, to Ajaccio, Corsica, a destination on the Highlights of The Mediterranean itinerary on board the 1,912-passenger ship Voyager, Marella Cruises' biggest (by tonnage) and latest addition to their fleet.
The 950-cabin cruise liner is fresh from a multi-million pound makeover, and my spa experience is just one example of how a million miles from reality life on board this luxury vessel is.
Everything is bespoke, with highly-polished chrome fittings, varnished wood, plumptious chairs, and high-end decor with tasteful pastel shades fighting for your attention wherever your deck shoes take you.
Marella cleverly embraces the fact that all-inclusive holidays are very popular today, with more and more people wanting to know that their holiday accommodation, food and drink is fully paid for before boarding at a price they're happy with. The cruise line also takes it one step further, with all tips included in the price too. Of course, there are extras you can pay, but more of that later.
So what do you get for your buck on board Voyager? With 10 bars and 10 dining spots there's always somewhere to get a drink and a bite to eat. On pool deck 11 there's the Snack Shack, providing fish and chips, burgers and hot dogs, together with sandwiches and salads, while a multitude of waiters are only too happy... scratch that...only too eager to take your drinks order and bring it to your sunbed.
Just off the pool are The Kitchens, a collection of world food outlets but which cater very much to British tastes. So you have a roast or veggie Sunday lunch wrapped in a Yorkshire pudding at The Gravy Boat, chicken tikka masala et al at The Banyan Leaf and a selection of oriental dishes at Bamboo. Or why not sample a pitta gyros at Greek-inspired Athena's, or a fish and chip pie at The Pastry Crust. The Pantry offers sandwiches and jackets, while dessert and salad outlets and a self-serve drinks counter complete the dining experience.
It's here where you can get your full English or continental breakfasts in the morning, but also an option for relaxed dining, with all the outlets changing their respective menus for the evening repast.
Just off The Kitchens you'll also find Nonna's, where you're given a pager which buzzes when your freshly-cooked pizza and/or spag bol is ready, and Abuela's, which serves up a menu of classic Mexican options, like tacos and nachos.
If you fancy something a little more formal, Latitude 53 offers a selection of delicious dishes including vegetarian and vegan options, all served by polite, attentive and smiling waiters, who never let your wine reach the bottom of your glass! Breakfast and lunch are also served here. This plush eaterie is also home to Vista, a classy Italian restaurant, complete with an evening menu of regional dishes made with authentic ingredients.
If you fancy something that little more special, you can also pay an extra cost to dine at one of the speciality restaurants on board, with Surf & Turf serving your favourite steaks and seafood, The Silver Fork, which lines up a stack of British favourites with a modern twist, and Platter, which opens late afternoons and evenings and whose menu includes boards topped with cheese, meats or veggies – either for one or to share. And, there’s a wine list here so you can pair your tasty treats with a tipple or two.
We plumped for an amazing dining experience at Kora La, which offers up a selection of pan-Asian dishes from gyozas and dumplings to curries and bespoke dishes including a new Thali option - an Indian-style meal made up of a selection of dishes served on a platter. Simply delicious - and expect some amazing amuse-bouches and 'pre-puddings' thrown in for good measure!
Your included drinks package includes a myriad collection of beverages including draught and bottled beers, wines, soft drinks and a considerable array of cocktails, but you can also upgrade to Premium, adding even more refreshing tipples to your armoury.
There is always something to do on board, with trivia quizzes, stretch, aquafit and salsa classes, movies in the cinema, deck games, arts and crafts and bingo to name but a few daily activities. Not to mention the soloists, duos and bands who entertain at different times all over the ship on all days throughout your stay.
If you've brought the family there are kids clubs for all age groups with appropriate activities and facilities, including the Mini M Club for between six months and three years, the M Clubs for youngsters from 3-7 and 8-11, and the Hideout for 12-17-year-olds.
But after your evening meal is where the real fun starts. The Squid and Anchor pub is a great place to relax and watch you and your cruise companions compete in a full week's gamut of game shows based on Family Fortunes, Mr & Mrs, Catchphrase and many more.
The highlights for us were to be found in the Broadway Show Lounge, an unbelievably spacious theatre which played host to some wonderful West-End quality shows performed by the hugely-talented Show Cast whose singing, harmonies and choreography were of an incredibly high standard.
Not too tired? Head up to the Electric Rooms for late-night disco, with the popular 'Silent Disco' headphones available on the Day at Sea evening, or try your luck next door at the casino.
You're on holiday so why not treat yourself too with a bit of retail therapy at the Broad Street Shops, or indulge in some luxury pampering for the body, face, hair and nails at the Oceans Spa.
So much to do, so much to cover, I would be here all day, but I now must turn my attention to this fantastic itinerary, which is an ideal one for both seasoned and first-time cruisers.
With ports including Livorno (for Florence and Pisa - the leaning tower is a must-see!), Palamos (for Barcelona) and St Raphael (for St Tropez and Cannes), this was a fantastic opportunity to tick off some bucket list places.
Your Destinations Experiences team can help organise a wide range of offshore trips in all of the ports, or you can also organise them yourself via the free-to-download-and-use Navigate onboard app, which also gives you all the information about facilities and entertainment schedules.
We enjoyed the Taste of Rome excursion (£65pp) which saw us leave the port of Civitavecchia on an air-conditioned coach to visit this historic city, enjoying a guided panoramic tour on the bus, and then some four hours of free time to take in the imposing Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Spanish Steps and Vatican City in Italy's capital to mention but a few.
Last but by no means least, I must mention the service on board. The staff are simply amazing – professional, dedicated, always ready to help, and always with a smile. You can understand why the entertainment hosts constantly refer to the Voyager team as 'family'.
After our amazing week on board it was sad to leave, but I'm hoping it won't be too long before we revisit our Voyager 'relatives'.
Marella Cruises offers seven-night cruises on board Marella Voyager on the Highlights of the Mediterranean itinerary, departing on 21 October 2023 from £1,189 per person. Price includes return flights from East Midlands Airport, based on two adults sharing an inside cabin on an all-inclusive basis, all tips and charges, 23kg luggage allowance and transfers. Sailing round-trip from Palma, Majorca, calling at Ajaccio, Corsica; Civitavecchia, Italy; Livorno, Italy; St Raphael, France and Barcelona, Spain.
Outside Cabin from £1,254pp, Balcony Cabin from £1,440pp, Executive Suite Cabin with Premier Service from £1,956pp.
For more information or to book, visit www.tui.co.uk/cruise
Voyager refurbishment facts
The fifth and largest ship* to the fleet underwent a drastic makeover and spent a total of 36 days in the dry dock in Cadiz, including 24 hours at the start to empty the dock and 12 hours at the end to flood the dock.
A collective effort of 11,460 dry dock working hours has been put into preparing the ship, with the help of; 630 contractors, 193 technical crew, 120 yard personnel staff, a team of 12 from technical projects and not forgetting, the hotel staff and their additional working hours to get the ship in running order. That’s enough people to fill the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.
37,600 square metres of carpet laid, enough to cover five standard size football pitches.18,500 litres of paint used to revamp the hull, enough to fill 14 six-seater hot tubs.
6,000 metres of technical cabling installed, nearly four miles long, or the distance between London King’s Cross to London Victoria.70,000 tiles fixed to the walls, floors and counters in the The Kitchens, which was kitted out with 20 tonnes of new catering equipment. That’s about the same weight as three African elephants.There are a total of 150 new dishes introduced to guests on Marella Voyager, across the 17 food venues, of which 25 per cent of the new menus feature vegetarian dishes. Over 250 hours have been spent developing the new menus.
* Largest ship in terms of tonnage
** Excluding IT equipment
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East Midlands Airport’s Escape LoungeEast Midlands Airport’s Escape Lounge is conveniently located just beyond the main F&B and retail area close to the departure gates. It offers passengers a chance to relax away from the hustle and bustle of the main terminal where all-inclusive food and drink can be enjoyed immediately prior to catching a flight. The lounge is suitable for passengers of all ages and offers fast unlimited WiFi, flight information boards, bar service for alcoholic and soft drinks, and a hot and cold buffet.
Prices start from £23 when booked in advance. For more information or to book, please visit: Escape Lounge