Travel Diary | Baltic Cruise | Marella Discovery
21st August 2018
It’s time for a brand new Travel Diary series!
This new series is going to be all about the Baltic cruise I have just returned from. I’ll be writing blog posts for each port of call but I wanted to kick off this series with a post about the cruise ship we stayed on, our itinerary and a little bit about going on a cruise from the UK, which was a whole new experience for us.
We sailed around the Baltic on a ship called the Marella Discovery. For those of you who don’t know, the travel company Thomson recently changed their name to TUI and their cruise line change their name Marella.
The Discovery was previously owned by Royal Carribean (Marella never use new ships) and it is one of the largest ships in the Marella fleet. But when you dock beside other ships from other companies you realise that it’s actually quite a small ship!
We had originally talked about upgrading to an outside cabin (with a porthole or window), but as we left it until the very last minute to book we missed out on the opportunity to upgrade, so we ended up in an inside cabin. I actually don’t mind inside cabins because you don’t hear the sea crashing against the side if it’s choppy, but the downside of inside cabins is that they have no natural light, so putting on makeup isn’t easy!
We were really fortunate with the location of or cabin. We had a corridor for staff only on the one side and a maintenance cupboard on the other meaning we didn’t have any rooms right next to ours and also meaning it was super quiet at night for sleeping.
As always, cabins are super small but it doesn’t matter as you don’t spend too much time in them. We had two single beds in our cabin but our cabin steward kindly offered to turn our two single beds into a double bed for us.
The Discovery is an all inclusive ship meaning all of your food and drink is included. You can upgrade to a premium drinks package if you want to drink “premium drinks” (just more expensive beer and spirits), but all of favourite drinks were a part of the standard package so we didn’t upgrade.
In terms of food there are lots of places to eat on-board including a waiter service restaurant, an Italian, a buffet, and a place called the Snack Shack where you can grab snacks from all day long. There are some additional specialist restaurants on-board but again you have to pay extra for these.
The entertainment was great day and night. After dinner we would go and watch a show in the theatre (they even did an adaptation of one of my favourite films: The Full Monty!) and then head upstairs to another bar where the staff put on “game shows” for the guests. There was always live music on and we took part in quizzes almost daily.
There’s two pools on-board including an indoor one, but they were packed because it was full of kids with it being the school holidays. There’s also a mini golf course, a climbing wall, gym, spa, shops, cinema screen on deck and a breakout room game.
In true Holly fashion, I don’t have many pictures of the inside of the cruise ship, but if you head over to my Instagram account you’ll find a story highlight called Baltic Cruise, and if you watch that you’ll get to see some short videos I made.
Sailing from the UK
For all the previous cruises I have been on I’ve had to fly out to a different country to join the ship, but this cruise actually departed from the UK.
The ship sailed from the Port of Tyne in Newcastle, which is about a three hour drive from Liverpool. Initially we looked at taking the train but the main station in Liverpool was closed at the time meaning we would have had many changes (too much anxiety for me!).
In the end I decided to drive. I think a lot of people were surprised at this decision as I’ve never drove that far before (almost 200 miles each way!) but I knew I could do it and I knew it would be the least stressful option for me.
We set off at about 6:30 in the morning to avoid the traffic (it was a Saturday in the summer holidays) and we had one stop around half way. The most stressful part of the journey was navigating through the centre of Liverpool but once we were on the motorway it was straightforward. Unfortunately we were really unlucky with the weather that day and for the majority of the journey I was driving in torrential rain with poor visibility. But I didn’t let it stop me and in the end we made it to Newcastle two hours before we could check in!
I’d pre-booked my parking through TUI (it cost £140 for two weeks, which is about the same two train tickets to Newcastle!) so once we arrived at the port we were directed to a specific car park. Here we were given our welcome pack containing our ship cards and labels with our cabin number on to stick on our luggage. You then leave your luggage in a secure place in the car park and the next time you see it it’s outside your cabin!
We then hopped on a shuttle bus which took us to a building where we could check in. Here, they connect your ship cards to a bank account so that when ever you make a purchase onboard using your ship card, such as excursions or premium drinks, the money is taken from your bank account. Your ship card is also the key to your cabin and it is used to check you in and out the ship when you get off so they know if you are onboard or not (so no one gets left behind!).
After that we got on another shuttle bus to take us to the ship. From parking the car to getting on the ship the whole process took less than an hour and it was a lot less stressful than going through an airport. It was even easier when it came to getting off the ship at the end of our holiday.
I would definitely go on a cruise that sails from the UK again in the future, and I’d recommend it to anyone who doesn’t like flying. I just wish Marella would depart from Liverpool. I mean, imagine that! 20 minutes on the bus and we’d be there!
The itinerary that we chose was called Baltic Discovery, and what we liked about this particular itinerary is that it docked in many of the major Baltic capitals. I’ve been on cruises in the past where you dock miles and miles away from the place you actually want to visit and so you have to book excursions.
One thing I will say here is that I expected to be a lot closer to some of the cities than we actually were. For example, I though we would dock right in Helsinki and Stockholm but they were so far out we had to get shuttle buses into the centre.
Now, the annoying thing is, my parents did this exact cruise just a couple of weeks before us (it was my idea to go on this cruise first but I sold it to them so well!) and they didn’t have to pay for these shuttle buses. However, we had to pay £8 per person for the shuttle bus. I know that’s not a lot but it quickly adds up and it was more money than we had anticipated paying. I am going to contact TUI about this because it seems odd that my parents got the shuttle buses for free and two weeks later they started charging for the service.
Anyway, here’s a list of all of cities we visited on our cruise. I’ll be linking to each post as I publish them.
- Oslo, Norway
- Gothenburg, Sweden
- Tallinn, Estonia
- St Petersburg, Russia (Day 1)
- St Petersburg, Russia (Day 2)
- Helsinki, Finland
- Stockholm, Sweden
- Berlin, Germany
- Copenhagen, Denmark
Have you ever been on a cruise? If not, is it something you’d like to try?