TUI Marella Explorer – Restaurants and Dining Guide

If you are planning or taking a cruise with TUI Marella you may be wondering what the food is like on board the ship.

This dining guide will provide you with all of the restaurant options on board the Marella Explorer, show sample menus and what we had during our 7 day cruise on-board.  There are 10 dining venues to choose from, some are more family friendly than others and each have a different theme and dress code to suit.

This guide to dining on the Marella Explorer shows which restaurants are included in your cruise fare and which have an extra charge.  Although Marella market their cruises as all-inclusive, that’s not exactly the case as some of the restaurants are at an extra cost.  This is our first cruise so whether a Marella cruise should be billed as all-inclusive or not we will find out if we ever decided to sail with another cruise line.

The common misconceptions associated with cruising, with tuxedo’s for dinner or having to dine on shared tables are not the case with a family friendly cruise line like Marella.  You can read about our cruise experience on the Marella Explorer and what we experienced on our Adriatic Explorer cruise.

What we did like about the Marella cruise however was unlike most other cruises there are no fixed dining times or gratuities to pay, so we could dine when we wanted to which provided the flexibility you need when you are on holiday as a family.

During our cruise on the Marella Explorer, we dined at

The following speciality restaurants were also available at an additional charge per person.

We had read some poor reviews online about the food on Marella cruises, but it was not the case during our trip.  Each meal we had here was of a high standard, backed up with impeccable personal levels of service.

Included Dining Options on Marella Explorer

Latitude 53

Included in the price
Location – Deck 6

Latitude 53 Menu

The main dining room at the aft of the ship is a spectacular two storey grand and elegant space and one of our favourite places to dine on the Marella Explorer.  We ate here several times on our cruise and loved our table next to the floor to ceiling windows which provided spectacular ocean views at dinner.  Likewise at breakfast whilst in port, it was so nice to be able to look out at a new destination each morning.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served here at this waiter service restaurant, with different menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The breakfast menu offers typical dishes such as fruit, cereal and yoghurt as well as the usual range of hot cooked options and daily specials.  We particularly loved the fresh pastries and buttermilk pancakes.

We had lunch at Latitude once during our stay, whilst we were at port in Kotor and like our evening meals, was impressive.  The girls chose to dine on their own at their favourite lunch spot the Mediterranean so we had a child free lunch, where we selected burger and fries from the Latitude lunch menu which was excellent and better quality than what you get from the Snack Shack.

In the evenings, the dinner menu changed each night and consisted of a 3 course menu, all served by the excellent Marella team.

The desserts were also excellent at Latitude, especially the Bakewell cheesecake, apple pie with ice cream and the baked chocolate mousse cake.

Sample Menus are shown below

Vista

Included in the price
Location – Deck 5 – Opening Hours 18:30-21:30

Vista Menu

Vista is located on deck 5 and is a restaurant within a restaurant at Latitude 53 serving delicious contemporary Italian cuisine. We loved it in here, and if we had to pick some of our favourite meals on our cruise they would have been here.

Their 3 course menu offers authentic Italian dishes including great meals for the kids and fabulous desserts.  Some of our favourites included the bruschetta or the beef and pork meatballs to start and the steak and lasagne for mains with sides of sautéed potatoes and deep fried courgettes.

The desserts were also really good, in particular their baked limoncello tart whilst the pizzas and spaghetti Bolognese were a big hit with the girls followed by the gelato sorbets.  The menu here changes twice a week.

The Market Place Buffet

Included in the price
Location – Deck 11

Market Place Buffet Menu

The Market Place is the ships buffet restaurant located on deck 11, incorporating the typical buffet style self-service, live cooking stations and themed evenings like Mexican, Mediterranean and Chinese. It opens early in the morning for breakfast, followed by lunch then dinner and remains open until late into the night for snacks and hot and cold drinks.

We had afternoon tea several times at the Marketplace buffet, where there was a wide selection of cakes, sandwiches, sausage rolls and scones and jam available.  We loved escaping here from the heat in the afternoon and sampling the different cakes each day! The cookies and the hot sausage rolls in particular were really good.

Afternoon tea was also served in the more formal setting of the Latitude restaurant one day each week called The Great Musical Afternoon Tea at £15 per person.

Below are some of the examples of the food on offer at the buffet restaurant, offering a really good range of dishes and with Marella being a British cruise line, there were lots of British favourites on offer.  What I didn’t like was the fact that although there were hand sanitisers at the entrance to the restaurant, no staff were there enforcing good hand hygiene which is what I would have expected from a cruise.

We are not big buffet fans and preferred to have our breakfast and other meals in the full service restaurants on-board, although we did often call here late in the night for a hot tea or hot chocolate to enjoy on our balconies.

The Mediterranean

Included in the price
Location – Deck 11

Mediterranean Menu

 

In addition to Latitude 53, Vista and the buffet there is also another restaurant located at the back of the ship called the Mediterranean on deck 11.  We would often stop here for lunch where we enjoyed freshly made pizzas in their pizza oven and made to order pasta dishes here, all of which are delicious.  At the other side of the restaurant was another counter serving a range of light bites from sandwiches and paninis to fries.

We loved the setting in this glass roofed restaurant, with al-fresco dining available at the back of the ship providing great sea views.

In the evening you can enjoy Mediterranean tapas here, but its really popular and it books up really quickly.  If you want to upgrade your dining experience you can pay a small charge to upgrade your tapas to include the Esptadada – a hanging skewer of succulent meats.

Snack Shack 

Included in the price
Location – Deck 11

Snack Shack Menu

This was a popular option during the day, with freshly made burgers, hot dogs, chicken wings etc served on the pool deck.

 Our favourites from the Snack Shack were their fish and chips and burger and fries, portions were small but you could have as many servings as you wanted to.

The brightly coloured beach huts and oversized deck chairs not only were popular Instagram spots on board, they provided a lovely setting to enjoy lunch alfresco.  A grab and go fridge containing sandwiches, salads and fruit boxes are also available here, so there was something for everyone.

BBQ Sailaway

Included in the price
Location – Deck 11

The Marella Explorer has one weekly BBQ sail away on a seven day cruise, we had ours leaving the beautiful Trieste in Italy.  Lots of BBQ stations for the chefs were set up on the pool deck serving meats including steaks, chicken, pork chops along with a range of sides and salads – but it did get really busy with long lines so we gave this one a miss.

Speciality Dining Options on Marella Explorer

Although the cruise is marketed as an all-inclusive cruise, this does not cover all dining options on-board.  There were several speciality restaurants which can be reserved via the Marella Navigate app.  These restaurants come with additional charges which can quickly add up on top of what you have paid for your cruise as a family of four.

The following dining options are all available for an extra charge…

Surf & Turf Steakhouse

Extra Cost: £28.95pp
Location – Deck 7

Surf & Turf Steakhouse Menu

This is one of the most popular speciality restaurants on board and reservations are essential.  This steakhouse offers a delicious choice of steak, lamb, lobster and a selection of alternative mains.  This restaurant books up fast, so don’t make the mistake we made and leave it too late as we didn’t get a chance to try them.

We did feel given the cost of the cruise that the cover charge was a little high for a family of four and it’s a shame that you couldn’t visit this restaurant once as part of their inclusive dining package.

Kora La 

Extra Cost: £24.95pp
Location – Deck 7

Kora La Menu

This restaurant was another speciality restaurant serving a menu consisting of a mix of Indian and Chinese food designed by British chef Ian Pengelley.  This was another really popular option on-board and like the steakhouse had to be pre-booked and was at an additional cost.

The Dining Club 

Extra Cost: £34.95 (regular menu) £45.00 (food and wine paring menu)
Location – Deck 5

Dining Club Menu

The dining club is the most expensive and upmarket restaurant onboard and not one for families.  Just off the main reception area, the restaurant has an elegant feel to it with its brown and gold décor.

Umi Sushi 

Extra Cost: £11.95
Location – Deck 7

Umi Sushi Menu

This is another of the ships speciality restaurants, so it comes at an extra cost.  Located on deck 7, this sushi restaurant looks more like a bar than a restaurant close to one of the ships atrium like areas and offers bar stool seating overlooking the chef’s creating the dishes.

Scoops 

Extra Cost
Location – Deck 11

Located on the pool deck, this was a hit with the kids.  Scoops serves a range of delicious ice creams in a wide range of flavours and toppings.  The setting is as cool as the ice creams, with a collection of bicycle seats that face out toward the sea.

I was surprised this was not included as part of the all-inclusive package which could be why it always seemed quite quiet, but prices were reasonable with each scoop costing £1.00.

Coffee Port

Extra Cost
Location – Deck 5

Coffee Port Menu

This was an another favourite stop for the kids, where you can choose from a selection of handmade chocolates, cookies and cakes.  Located on deck 5, this was at an additional cost and the girls found out that they could charge any sweet treats or hot chocolates to their room, using their cruise card.

What is the dress code for Dining?

There is no special dress code for dining with Marella, so there was no need for formal jackets or tuxedos, the cruise had a smart casual dress code in their main dining room and speciality restaurants.  Aside from their ‘Dress to Impress’ night where guests can really dress up if they choose to, there is no enforced dress code so smart tailored shorts or jeans or trousers, a skirt or dress, a shirt or polo shirt and smart shoes are acceptable.  The main buffet restaurant had a more relaxed dress code if you wanted a more casual approach to dinner.

Are there be formal nights on Marella Explorer?

The Marella Explorer has one formal night called a ‘Dress to Impress’ night on a seven-night cruise which gives you the chance to dress up and also meet the captain and crew. Smarter formal wear is typically required in the Main Dining Room and speciality dining rooms but not in the buffet on this night.

What’s on the children’s menus on Marella?

There were specific children’s menus on Marella which are shown below.  They can also mix and match any dishes that they like from the main menus.

View Children’s Menu

 

Do I need to book restaurants in advance on Marella?

Yes, at the speciality restaurants, pre-booking is required especially for the more popular options such as Surf and Turf which fills up quickly.  To pre-book, log in to your Marella Cruise Control account to make a reservation or whilst on-board if there is still any availability you can book through the Marella Navigate app on your phone/tablet or via the touch screen self service screens in the lobby area.

What time can I dine on the Marella Explorer?

These are the typical dining times in the main dining room, Latitude 53 on the Explorer:

  • Breakfast: 07:30 – 09:30
  • Lunch: 12:00 – 13:30
  • Dinner: 18:00 – 21:00

For the Marketplace Buffet

  • Breakfast: 07:00 – 11:00
  • Lunch: 11:30 – 15:00
  • Afternoon Tea: 15:00 – 17:00
  • Dinner: 18:00 – 21:30

For the other restaurants onboard, opening hours vary dependent on the restaurant and can be checked onboard via the onboard Navigate app.

Does Marella cater for special diets?

As on all Marella cruises, guests with special dietary needs such as vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free are well-catered for on the Marella Explorer, with a range of options available across the menus at their restaurants.

Would I recommend the Marella Explorer for it’s food for families?

Definitely, there is so much food available on the Marella Explorer, it would be impossible to go hungry.

With multiple dining options available, the Marella explorer offers a wide variety of dining choice for all the family. Many of the restaurant options are included in your cruise fare allowing you to dine lots of restaurants without having to pay any additional charges.

Menus change every day and there was lots of flexibility so dishes could be adjusted to suit your needs so it was great for dining with kids.

 

 

 

18 Comments
  1. Thank you. This is excellent. Well done! a true reflection on the variety of dining available on Explorer.

  2. Very informative and would be very helpful to people going on their first cruise with no idea of what to expect.

  3. Hi, thank you so much for this comprehensive and well written review. We are off on the Marella Explorer in a month, and your review has helped paint a picture of what to expect in regards to dining.
    We sailed with Marella 6 years ago, and can’t quite remember what it was like. We’ve done other cruise lines since, including Cunard, whereby although the dining was superb, the constant ‘having to calculate the drinks costings’, made the decision to go all inclusive with Marella a conscious choice to have a more relaxed experience.
    Thank you again, the sample menus were very helpful.

  4. Thanks for this – so helpful. Been scouring the internet to check a kids menu and couldn’t find anywhere else 🙂

  5. Thank you for this article, really informative as we have been getting so confused. We are on board from 1 June and when we open our Cruise Control there are only 2 speciality restaurants available to book – the sushi and Beach Cove (not mentioned in your article). Do you know why the other speciality restaurants don’t appear for booking?

  6. Fantastic overview of the dining arrangements and the menus, we are doing our first cruise and this has been of enormous benefit to us, I am looking forward to using all the dining options. Again, a first class vlog, much appreciated, from a soon to be first time cruiser.

  7. Fantastic review, thanks for taking the time and effort to produce this!!
    We go on the 7 day cruise in December, so this is helping us get better prepared!

  8. Great review, really informative. After cruising for many years on P&O, we’re doing a Greek Islands fortnight next summer on Marella. This has been a good grounding on what to expect for dining. Many thanks.

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