Stories of 2019 #62: Adriatic Explorer with TUI Marella Cruises

We discovered historic cities and picturesque ports along the Adriatic coast on Marella’s Discovery ship last week. I always knew I have had a long romance with Europe’s lesser known cities from four years ago when I went interrailing through Eastern Europe with my friend Eve and we got to see uncovered corners such as Krakow, Sophia and Bratislava. Europe in my eyes is simply beautiful and this cruise did not prove my point wrong.

The Discovery docked in Kotor, Montenegro with the tender boats bringing us too and from the boat

Before we left, none of us really knew what to expect from this cruise. Our family holidays have often consisted of waking up, going for breakfast, sunbathing, going for lunch, sunbathing, getting ready, dinner and then bed. You know, your usual relaxing week away. But seeing as we were visiting all these amazing countries we felt that we needed get off the boat and have a taste of each port. However, dubious as my dad is not too into the whole sight-seeing thing.

Adriatic Explorer itinerary;

  • Fly into Corfu from Luton
  • Day at sea
  • Koper, Slovenia
  • Venice, Italy
  • Split, Croatia
  • Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • Kotor, Montenegro
  • Corfu, Greece and fly home to UK 😦

The nice thing we all agreed on about visiting these places on a cruise was we got the best of both worlds. We were able to get off for a few hours and walk the cobbled streets and sip on ice cold beers (or mainly Aperol in my case) in the main city squares. Then when the boys we dragged along with us got bored, we could get back on-board for a few hours of rest and relaxation on our sun beds before the ship departed for the next port of call.

Sipping the world’s best Aperol in Venice

Venice and Montenegro were the ports I was most excited for. Venice because it is Venice… and Montenegro because it has forever been on my bucket list and I have longed to visit the majestic fjords and quaint city of Kotor. But Croatia I had recognised as becoming more of tourist destination now as flights and access to the islands have become much easier and Slovenia I had been to before and was never blown away by the city of Ljubljana but I was going with an open mind with these places.

By the end of the cruise my highlights were of course, Montenegro. It is an utterly breathtaking place and I am so happy it lived up and exceeded my expectations completely. I was surprised by Croatia and I would 100% return to both Split and Dubrovnik and hopefully explore more of this idyllic haven. Both ports had a real buzzing atmosphere, packed with rich histories and both nights had fire-like sunsets – my absolute fave thing to see. And of course, Venice was beautiful but I must say it is only a place I would go to for a day, out of all the ports we visited, with the best part about visiting Venice being the incredible sail away party Marella cruises hosted as we sailed through the Grand Canal of Venice with prosecco cocktails and a live opera singer. Finally, Slovenia as I had expected was a sleepy town, with not too much to do. In hindsight we should have gone on one of the excursions that Marella cruises offer rather than wandering around aimlessly. And Corfu or I mean Corfu’s airport was, unfortunately, all we got to see.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Our home for the week was Marella’s Discovery boat. An 11 deck cruise liner with 918 cabins, seven restaurants, seven bars, a climbing wall, a spa, mini-golf and two swimming pools. We have stayed on TUI cruise liners before it was Marella, as well as other company cruises such as Royal Caribbean but I think this ship was the perfect size in order not to get lost everyday (you would be amazed how hard it is to get your bearings on a ship) and be able to be involved with all activities throughout the day.

Everyone on-board is also part of the all-inclusive package so all drinks and most food is included. We had the premier drinks package so we had more spirits, beers and cocktails included as well as the coffees from the Coffee Port station on-board. This is where you would find me more often than not if you lost me! Coffee bean is my nickname…

Unlimited expresso martinis – yes please!

Food is incredible on cruises… full stop. From buffet options to more formal three-course meals, you cannot fault the food on-board. I read one day in the Cruise News (delivered every night to your room) that the average cruiser puts on 1 to 2 pounds a day! A DAY! And that does not surprise me with the delicious food they plate up every hour, everyday of the week.

Also as a veggie I was worried that I would end up eating chips and salad all week but in the main restaurants (Islands, 47 Degrees and Gallery 47) they had the most amazing vegan/vegetarian options available. Inserting images for you (and me) to drool over… Especially the trio of tiramisu at Gallery 47.

It is not surprise the scales were up when I got home as I flick through these images but with the menu being different each day it is so nice to be able to try all these different dishes. I would never have Russian dumplings otherwise. And yes, that is a tower of Baileys, Amaretto and Cointreau…

It was also my birthday whilst we were on-board and seeing as it was a special occasion we booked into Kora La which is a restaurant were you have to pay a supplement. It is pan-Asian cuisine and the dishes are created by renowned chef – Ian Pengelley. The menu included crusted tofu, satay chicken and several curries accompanied by rice, naan and some veggies. We all thorough enjoyed this meal and all loosened our belts a few notches after. I had tofu to start and then a vegetable kashmiri before a big spoonful of the sweetest, most delicious birthday cake. Happy Birthday to me!

After dinner most nights we would find ourselves having a little flutter in the casino in Live bar before heading to deck 11 where we found, funnily enough, Bar Eleven and we would cut the shapes on the dance floor until the early hours of the morning. Around the clock there is always something going on on a cruise ship! From the morning stretch, to poolside catch-phrase, afternoon bingo and late night discos, I think you find it hard to be bored on-board.

Our cabin was on deck seven and also had a balcony. We have had outside cabins before with no balcony but only a little port hole and I must say, it makes such a difference having that extra little bit of space to sit outside. Also, coming in and out of these amazing ports it was so lovely being able to roll out of bed in your pjs onto the balcony and see the cities as they are waking up.

Early morning docking in Kotor, Montenegro

I loved every moment on this cruise with some very special memories of beautiful countries, breathtaking experiences and an untold amounts of funny memories.

More to come on the ports we visited.