I recently returned from a week long ‘highlights of the Mediterranean’ cruise with TUI’s Marella cruise line and if you’re anything like me, you may have found this post whilst researching the ship/ route in excitement for your upcoming trip, or perhaps looking into some different companies and routes before you commit to booking! Unfortunately, in my many hours of researching the ship and experiences of past Marella cruises, I found very few blogs or detailed accounts of other travellers views on their week of sailing on the Discovery 2 – so here’s mine!
Day 1 – arriving in Palma
An early start for us as we make our way to Luton Airport for our 7.50am flight! As the news is currently filled with stories of airport chaos, I was a little worried about our flight going ahead – luckily, despite being incredibly busy for such a time in the morning, it all went smoothly and we landed in Palma to be greeted by a TUI rep who directed us to our transfers.
Having not been to Palma for a long time, I would have loved to spent some time exploring but was far too excited to get onboard the ship!
Checking in was really straight forward; when we entered the port we had to show our proof of vaccination, insurance, negative covid test, passports and boarding pass before heading aboard the ship and attending a safety briefing in the theatre. From here we got our cabin keys and not long after, our suitcases turned up outside our cabin ready to be unpacked.
As I’m vegan, one of the first things we had to do was inform the kitchen manager (I always find this super embarrassing, but he had a little queue of people he was taking notes for so I didn’t feel too alone!)
He was incredibly accommodating and spent some time chatting with me about options as well as showing me what I could have from the current lunch buffet.
We wanted to make the most of being out in the sun, so played mini golf on the top deck in the afternoon – putts and golf ball rental is free and all of the equipment was there ready for us to help ourselves too, and of course, it wouldn’t be the same without an all inclusive cocktail in hand whilst we played!
We chose to have an early dinner as the next morning we planned on getting up early for Barcelona, so visited the 47 degrees Italian restaurant which had some amazing plant based options, plus the staff were so friendly! I did eat my weight in bread here as they kept bringing it over, and my husband had a pretty decent steak with potatoes.
Finally, one more drink in the atrium whilst enjoying the live music before bed!
Day 2 – Barcelona
We woke up bright and early this morning to get breakfast in and to be the first ones off the ship to explore Barcelona whilst it was still (relatively) quiet and cool.
We headed to the breakfast buffet, packed our day bag and waited to disembark in the atrium. We had to scan our cabin cards to get off the ship, but didn’t need our passports – perhaps because we’re still on Spanish territory?
The walk to the city centre would have been a long and hot one so we made use of the port’s shuttle bus, costing us €4.50 for a return ticket each.
I’ve been to Barcelona a few times now and I absolutely love this city! We headed to La Sagrada Familiar first – mostly to see if it’s changed at all in the last few years, and to take some snaps outside it before the crowds hit!
We ended up buying a 10-journey-metro-ticket to get around in the city, however, this did end up being a waste of money as we only used the metro twice! The cruise ship was due to leave Barcelona at 4 so we didn’t actually have very long, plus, we wanted to get back on the ship for lunch as the vegan options in 47 degrees looked really good.
Getting back on the ship was pretty much just as simple as getting off asides from the airport style security scan of your bags. Once on, we headed to the restaurant for lunch, then back to the cabin for a nap (exploring is exhausting, okay?!)
Later that evening we visited the buffet for dinner; the head chef brought me out an especially made vegan desert which tasted SO good, and then we headed to the ship’s pub for a quiz before getting to the theatre early to secure good seats for the show of the evening: the story of ABBA! I’m always so impressed at the quality of the shows put on on cruise ships!
When we left the theatre, the sun was setting, so we headed out to the promenade to take some pictures before getting some more drinks and making our way to back to the ship’s pub to watch the game show – I absolutely the atmosphere in these, the whole pub was getting involved!
Afterwards, in the same room, the silent disco started! I didn’t really know what to expect as there is such a range of ages onboard, but we had such a good time and possible drank a few too many all inclusive cocktails!
Day 3 – Saint Raphael (for Saint Tropez)
A bit of a lie in for us this morning as the ship didn’t arrive at Saint Raphael until about 8.30am so we made use of the breakfast buffet and the restaurant manager very kindly brought me out some veggie sausages and hash browns. The ship couldn’t be docked at the port, so we had to get tender boats from where the ship was ‘parked’ into the town. Frustratingly, this was really delayed – we had to wait in the ships pub with a number and wait to be called, we were one of the first people there and we still had to wait about an hour to be called!
I didn’t have high expectations of Saint Raphael as TUI had centred this stop around the fact it was close to Saint Tropez, however this little seaside town in the French Riviera was stunning! Unfortunately the one thing I had planned for us to do – visit a museum – was closed so instead we spent €10 for the both of us to go on the Ferris wheel. We then headed back in the afternoon to enjoy some lunch at the table service restaurant; when it’s quiet the service is like no other and the food comes so quick!
Initially we had planned to then get changed into our swimwear and sit on the adults only deck, but ended up at the main pool for a movie themed quiz before taking a nap in our cabin followed by dinner at the buffet: Chinese themed night!
We had an early night with no extras or entertainment as we had an excursion booked to Florence the following day. We were informed that the itinerary had to be changed as the original berth booked wasn’t suitable for the ship, so the new town we’ll be docked at is a little further away meaning our start time was much earlier!
Day 4 – La Spezia (for Florence)
I was most looking forward to Florence out of all our stops but this day wasn’t great. Florence is beautiful and I loved wandering around admiring the architecture but unfortunately I was quite unwell – I don’t know if it was something I ate, but that plus a 2 hour coach journey was pretty horrendous and after we returned back to the cabin I took a cold shower and slept for about 12 hours!
Day 5 – Civitavecchia (for Rome)
One of the stops I was most looking forward to had finally arrived – Rome! Having visited Rome in 2019 and falling in love with the city, it certainly broke my rule of ‘try not to visit the same place twice’ as honestly I don’t think I will tire how beautiful this place is. We didn’t book an excursion for this one as the train to Roma termini was pretty straight forward (I will however admit that getting to the train station was not so straightforward and we did end up splitting a taxi with some equally lost strangers when we couldn’t work out the shuttle bus pick up location.)
When we arrived at the main station, we headed to the metro where we paid €1.50 each for a one way ticket to Colloseo – plus €1 to use the toilet, annoyingly!
Around the Colloseum there was a lot of building works due to another metro line being created, however, I was able to get some snaps of the landmark amongst the chaos of it all.
From there we were able to walk to all of the other sites we had planned in to see before getting a taxi back to termini and heading back to Civitavecchia where the ship was docked.
Our evening consisted of enjoying snacks at the pool cafe bar followed by an Irish themed theatre show! We also came back to the cutest towel elephant on our bed!
Day 6 – Ajaccio, Corsica
A slight lay in for us on day 6 as Ajaccio’s port is directly in the town so no travelling anywhere! After breakfast we disembarked and made our way towards the beach, however, on the way there we came across a 55 minute open top bus tour for €9pp so thought that would be a great way of seeing more of the city!
Corsica is absolutely beautiful – I was so surprised at how much I loved it as it was probably the place I was least looking forward to on the itinerary!
We then finally continued our way to Plage Saint Francois where we spent a couple of hours enjoying the beach and paddling in the sea. It did start to get quite busy, and it is a rather small beach so be warned if you want to visit!
We actually ended up on and off the ship a few times as the queue was short and it meant we could eat at the buffet for lunch and still enjoy an evening walk around Ajaccio’s shops! We spent the late afternoon by the pool on the ship, watching a 90s and 2000s themed quiz show – I will say that the entertainment on this cruise was more our sort of thing compared to P&Os.
The evening entertainment for this night was a rocky horror picture show style production which we absolutely loved, and we returned to our room after to find another towel animal!
Day 7 – Day at sea
A full day at sea! This did mean that most areas of the ship were absolutely rammed, and getting a sun lounger by the pool was a challenge, plus, the ship stopped midday for an hour or two so the lack of breeze made the sun absolutely roasting, and trying to find somewhere in the shade proved to be even more difficult, but we managed.
The ship does have an adults only area which is usually really quiet as it’s located at the back of the ship away from the main pool, but unfortunately people had reserved sun loungers here then disappeared for the day!
For the evening, the theatre show was some sort of broadway themed musical, and afterwards we enjoyed some live music in the ship’s pub: The Squid and Anchor, followed by a very entertaining quiz show.
The members of staff held a farewell event in the atrium, which we visited on the way back to our room. It was so emotional as the songs they sung and the speeches they made were beautiful! Many of the kitchen/ behind the scenes staff came out with their national flags and the atmosphere was incredible – it was the perfect ending to an amazing week!