A relaxing cruise with a Mediterranean medley of ports seemed a perfect spring panacea after months of relentless deadlines.
Savouring diverse cultures, countries and cuisine, the trip exceeded our expectations.
Although cruise aficionados, we were weary of badly behaved children running amok in buffet areas on other lines and commandeering the adults’ swimming pools.
The Marella Explorer2 is the brand’s first adults-only ship. Like all Marella’s fleet, she is all-inclusive.
On our 13th cruise, it was wonderful to mingle with grown-ups for a Spring break.
New venues following an extensive refurbishment include a Champneys Spa which we were invited to review. There is also the 19th Hole bar with two golf simulators, a prosecco and champagne bar and a beach-themed Beach Cove.
The absence of a ‘hard-sell’ for price inflated tours was refreshing. Marella encourage guests to explore for themselves - which as seasoned travellers we invariably do.
Setting sail from Palma, first stop was the quaint port of Palamos, one of the best preserved fishing villages along the Costa Brava. We happily whiled away an afternoon with a coastal walk and cortado at a beach bar.
Next was the picture-postcard French port of Ajaccio and birthplace of Napolean Bonaparte - a visit to his former home, now a museum, is fascinating.
A long walk sustained by mouth watering pastries was rewarded with beautiful vistas of the bay -with not a fellow cruise passenger in sight.
Easter Friday 2019 we docked in Civitavecchia and boarded a train to the Eternal City, a magnet for tourists flocking from all corners of the world.
We’d independently pre-booked what transpired to be a fabulous food and history tour starting in the colourful Campo de’Fiori Square where we sampled pizza, artichokes and mouth-watering fresh pasta in venues popular with the locals.
The tour also took in the Jewish quarter and its heart-rending background illustrated by plaques located in front of the homes of Jews who were killed or deported. Intended to stick out from the sidewalk to attract attention, they are referred to as ‘stumbling stones’.
Another historic insight was the square of Largo di Torre Argentina where Julius Ceaser was assassinated by senators on the Ides of March. Home to a colony of feral cats, the square features the remains of Pompey’s Theatre. By late 2021 the site will feature walkways so visitors can see the ruins up close for the first time.
Bellissima: Bay of Naples
We’d recommend the Hop on Hop off bus which we’d taken on a previous visit. It provides a flavour of the historic city where Sophia Loren grew up and where the Neapolitan Pizza originated. A visit to Naples is not complete without the obligatory slice!
It was impossible to board a ferry for Capri (the second time we’ve tried to get there!) due to the magnitude of the crowds. Instead we secured seats on a jetfoil with thongs of Italians on their Easter travels to the beautiful volcanic island of Ischia - one of ten islands in the Gulf of Naples. Beware though, unbeknown to us the ship moved and we made it back with a whole 10 seconds to spare (and we we not the last!)
Our final stop was the bustling historic port of Olbia, the gateway to Sardinia. The market was in full swing on our arrival and included ladies bedecked in traditional costume cooking up a pasta storm!
Olbia's charming town lined with street cafes and attractive squares was perfect location for a light Easter Sunday tapas lunch accompanied by the strains of a local guitarist.
The aptly name ‘Treasures of the Mediterranean’ cruise certainly satiated the appetites of independent travellers, those wanting reasonably priced informative tours - and cruisers keen to chill on board and maximise the facilities.
Spacious, airy with a great buzz, the ship has an abundance of activities and entertainment is plentiful. The crew were wonderful - a special mention goes to Guest Relations Manager, Samantha Hale and her committed team.
The trio of speciality restaurants include the Kora La Pan-Asian Restaurant with its mouth-watering Chilean sea bass and delicious dishes created by Ian Pengelly, brainchild of London’s Ho restaurant.
Our outstanding culinary experience was the Dining Club offering a high-end, fine dining for foodies in an elegant ambiance.
Savouring the seven-course food and wine pairing dinner, the pièce de résistance for me was the sharing Explorer Dessert Sensation packed with tingling tastes including crème glacée and sorbet pops and salted caramel caviar. For a sugar addict, all the superlatives in the world are inadequate to describe the ultimate pudding - hats off to Master Chef, creator Bernard Cuiller.
Although we’ve mostly opted for cabins with a porthole or window, having a balcony elevates life at sea to the next level, particularly in good weather. Sinking into blissful slumber to the undulating waves and waking to the excitement of a new port from the balcony takes some beating.
We disembarked reenergised, invigorated and, like the ship, fired up for the next adventure.