drawnonwords - A Writers Tale

My own views, posts, musings, stories and the odd picture for all to enjoy and let others know.

Tag: Tui

Passion for Cruising

Passion for Cruising 

Over the past couple of months I have had the pleasure of cruising on board Marella’s ship Discovery 1, twice. Why cruise? The first time there was a need for a different type of holiday, the past 18 months had been trying to say the least. A cruise appeared to be that one type of holiday not yet ventured upon.

A little research on where to go, what company to choose and port to sail from had us pick the Discovery. We had cruised once before many years ago as a ‘taster’. It was fun but did not grab us at the time. We decided on Tui and the cruise to Norway, a place we had wanted to visit given it would all be new to us. Pre-cruise excursions email support made a few problems communicating which made us think about what we were getting into. 

That part of the holiday was the only major problem first time around, nothing to do with the ship and crew itself, just the lack of help from Tui really. You always learn lessons, and second time around we did things differently on that part.

Sailing from Newcastle was easy, a bit of a wait to get on board but then again we have waited hours for planes. Once on board its different. The crew are well drilled, bags were at the cabin both times, no hassle looking for them. Cabins are functional for a 20 year old ship. It depends on what you pay for and which you pick. A balcony cabin is fine but we did not tend to spend a lot of time there the first trip so an inside cabin was picked for the second. In hindsight, on the second trip should have picked a cabin with a window but thats us. After all what is a cabin really for? Change clothes, sleep, wash and be ready for the next day.

The Discovery is an ex-Royal Caribbean ship 20 years old and has been refitted very well. There was a video we found of the work done so we knew what to expect. It was for us the right size not over powering and not too small. Easy to find my way around which meant a bit more exercise. Each location on the ship was ok, if I am picky here, the one thing needed would be extra seats in the Atrium and Live lounge. We did make suggestions about having Passion for Dance in the main venue maybe mid-week.

So why the passion? Well, that for me comes from the top down. The captain, Chris Dodds, had his first week as we took our first cruise and we saw him again 6 weeks later. (Yes, it was that good.) He set the tone, very approachable, genuine person who stopped and talked, appeared around the ship and encouraged his staff to make the ship feel enjoyable.

As I have said before, the entertainment, under Gavin’s direction, was brilliant. The shows had quality, the teams giving their all each time. It was not just the one performance, it was each and every one. After each show, be it from the Broadway lounge to venue or live lounge, the company would say hello to people and interact. Not easy to do but they wanted to share our enjoyment. We enjoyed many a good dance with Amy and Roland, listened to B12 and relaxed to the pure saxophone played by Vernal.

The quality could also be found in every element of the cruise. The dinning services were different, varied and excellent quality. You could just move around the ship, eating and drinking all day just about. The waiter service in each location was first class it did not matter where you were. There were times when drinks in the bars were a bit slow, not a fault of the staff just many people all wanting a drink. I have seen the same in the so called best hotels, did it take away from the fun? Not for me I was on holiday.

We did eat a number of times in restaurant 47. It was very good service indeed. Food was excellent, never a bad meal, the waiters and waitresses very pleasant. On the second trip we were remembered by the Head Waiter Samuele who looked after us very well. On the second cruise, we were lucky to be on a hosted table with the First Officer Martin and Welfare Officer Karen. That was great fun indeed. But they did not just host the meal, we ended up chatting after in the atrium. That one step further. Thanks go to Social Hostess Fiona for that who remembered us from the bridge tour on our first cruise.  We also had the pleasure of chatting to the General Manger Liz and Guest Relations Manager Lynne at another event. 

We also found a nice little spot late at night in the Glass House. Midnight snacks galore if not full meals. Often ended up chatting to members of the show teams or crew. Again, that made it different a little more relaxing and special. 

Even our cabin staff had smiles each day and always said hello. We did get the odd towel animal which was fun. The cabin was always clean, everything sorted when we returned each time. We got used to turn down when the bed was made and the nexts days cruise news was there. When on the first trip we had a problem with the air conditioning it was fixed within an hour just as they said it would. 

I can see why people have a passion for cruising now. I have to say I am hooked. When you planning what might be your only ‘big’ holiday of the year, you want to enjoy it. Life is stressful and you do need that break, in my view. The whole ships company went along way to creating the right atmosphere to both enjoy and relax in. The attention to detail was for me the key. The small things added up. There is always things to improve, to refresh and tweak, but thats the same of anything. 

Would I recommend the Discovery? Yes, I would, given after my first cruise we booked the second the day after we got home. For this ship and company they created the passion for cruising in me. It is a very good way to visit parts of a country in comfort, while being looked after. Overall 10/10 excellent ship, company, entertainment, food, service and all. Well, done all.

Tagline: “Bon Voyage” 

Passion for Entertainment 

Passion for Entertainment 

To stand on a stage, facing an unknown audience waiting for that first note must be both thrilling and slightly nerve-racking. At least I would feel that. The entertainment on board Discovery was nothing short of brilliant, breathtaking, wonderful and just dam good. 

I have had the pleasure to be entertained by the company on board Marella’s Discovery two times now and both have been superb. It has to be a difficult task to try and keep 1800 passengers happy over 7 days, given the vast differences. Yet the dancers, singers, bands and hosts do a remarkable job.

Each of the shows put on in the evening had such energy and enjoyment it was hard not feel uplifted. I must admit, some shows I had to watch twice on both cruises they were that good for me. Each of the shows in the main theatre, in my view, were West End productions.  Hard to do in such a small space and on a moving ship.

Musicals are great fun to watch. The show team put together a number of productions over the week. One show was called Best of Broadway ranging from Chicago to All that Jazz and Half a Sixpence ending with the Lion King. Really not easy to do but the changes not only in the songs but the costumes and pace was just right. Welcome to Cabaret was certainly right.

“Putting on the Glitz” combined the best of ballroom, latin dancing along with numerous well known songs. Hosted by a virtual Anton de Beck, the cast went through some outstanding routines. There was a buzz from the start, the cast basically beamed on stage and sang their hearts out. Even a wonderful Carman Miranda shook her banana’s. It is my favourite by a very small margin. 

Radio Ga Ga took yet another direction covering the 80’s and included one very special song ‘Whats Love Got to Do With It’ which includes Amy and Roland dancing, Bethany singing and the saxophonist Vernal. There is also humour in the performances as with Radio Ga Ga and wonderful take on Boy George. Additional there was Steel City with maybe the cheekiest performance of the Full Monty by the men.

The show team put everything into each performance, heart and soul reaching out to entertain everyone. But its not just the staged shows in the Broadway Show Lounge, they also sang classical works and host the farewell on the last night. Another element that showed just how talented each of the show team were. After each show, the team interacted with the passengers again adding to the feel of the ship.

But that was not all the entertainment. There were also a number of solo and band performances which meant you cold walk through the ship watching and listening to musical changes. B12 was often in the Live lounge again creating such a dynamic atmosphere allowing passengers to dance. Yes, I did attempt to dance but my hips often forgot to join in. You could see the sweat as the bands played their hearts out time and time again. They also interacted with the passengers not just in song and dance but in just the pleasure of meeting new people.

The hosts also added to the entertainment running quizzes, game shows and more. We had fun watching a four-handed play called ‘Cooking with Gus’ a straight forward comedy with some interesting twists. Spies like Us was one that involved the passengers trying to find out who might be a spy of course. And yes, it was very humorous with wonderfully silly jokes. Neverland, for the children, engaged everyone and once again made passengers smile. Especially when they were part of the play.  Even after doing all their work, when walking around the ship there was interaction with the passengers again keeping that uplifting spirit. It was a family feeling. 

All of this was under the watchful eye of the cruise director Gavin Carroll, himself full of energy and a duo with the Captain. There was so much entertainment at times you did not know what was best to see. In itself, that was good because they really tried to cater for everyone which has to be hugely difficult. Between all of the entertainers you could not help but be entertained, smile and enjoy yourself. The amount of times places were packed clearly showed how the balance was working. All of the teams in my view were talented, passionate to make the cruise memorable and fun. They did that in buckets time and time again, making it feel special. 

A credit to the Captain, Gavin, the ship and themselves.

Tagline: ‘One more time!’

Passion for Music

Passion for Music

Music. Sometimes you hear a song which just manages to reach inside you and hit that perfect spot. It just does not appear to need anything else. Many others will try and cover the same song putting their twist which leaves you returning the original. However, sometimes a group twists the song to created something amazing. 

In this instance, the song was the Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel. The music and lyrics are amazing. Yet, to take that into a new realm is both difficult and challenging. This particular cover managed to recapture it for me.

You don’t often think that the cover itself can be bettered, that was about to be blown away.

There is nothing more uplifting, in my view, to hearing live music. It carries an element which has that something extra. During the past few days, whilst on our second cruise with the Discovery and her crew, we were privileged to listen to a duo known as Braxi Music. Max and Brandi, are an amazing vocal couple, able to cross many boundaries, creating their own sounds.

We had seen them as the Discovery sailed away from one of the ports through the Norwegian fiords. It was magical, their sound surrounding the splendour of Norway. Their voices echoed around the fiord as they treated us to an amazing range of classical and rock. The ship, passengers and crew were moved, I have no doubt. 

There was another chance to enjoy the duo. This time we were treated to their pure sound inside the Discovery. The main atrium, vibrated with their take on further rock classics again drawing us to them. There came a point when, without knowing, their version of the Sound of Silence began. Many have sung this song, yet as I mentioned only one other seemed to recreate it. Max and Brandi not only recreated but took it a different place. 

To hear live music, not a recording mind you which is amazing, but really hear it for me has that extra feeling. As they sang, I felt it engaged me. The music had feeling, power and a presence. The duo pushed the boundaries of the song, their essence took it just went another step higher. There was a silence as they sang, everyone watching had to listen it was that engaging. 

Knowing the song I was amazed as they carried us through the lyrics, making it their own. Their unique style was loud and clear, as barriers were broken and for me ripped to bits. The notes were so pure, the words given such emotion just on the edge. It was breathtaking.

There is a line within the song which has meant something to us this past year. I have to say for me, they brought a tear to the eye and to many others around me, not just with that one line but the whole performance. Their voices blended, separated and built as they complimented each other and the song itself. As the song finished you could feel the emotions from all around. It was amazing.

I had the pleasure of being able to talk to the duo and express my appreciation of the joy they created. Max and Brandi entertained the ship and like their music, went one step further. They interacted with everyone who spoke to them. Very warm couple who enjoyed the feedback from all. It was a joy to listen, watch and feel their musical performance. If you ever get the chance find their music, listen to them, enjoy. Thank you.

Tagline: ‘Passion for music’

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