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Ancient Icons: 7-nights onboard Marella Discovery with Marella Cruises

Jordan has recently returned from Marella Cruises' maiden cruise departure from Marmaris - a seven-night sailing around the Ancient Icons of the Mediterranean. In this article, he'll delve into what he got up to on this must-experience cruise, aboard the Marella Discovery.

Day 1: Marmaris, Türkiye

I flew on one of TUI's 787 Dreamliners from London Gatwick to Dalaman, around 1 hour 45 minutes away from the port of Marmaris. The benefit of a Marella Cruise is that all the essentials are included in the cruise fare. Flights, transfers, luggage, drinks, gratuities, the list goes on. I didn't really have to think of anything, as it was all taken care of for me. For this sailing, travellers have the option of flying from 16 regional airports, including Bournemouth, Cardiff, Bristol, Exeter, Newcastle, Liverpool, Birmingham, and more. The journey begins in Marmaris' bustling marina. Check in was very smooth and we were soon onboard. The ship doesn't depart until the last TUI flight arrival of the day, which is typically around midnight. So if you have an early arrival, it's possible to head back ashore to quickly explore. One of my disappointments was not being able to explore more of this vibrant town, as the old town and waterfront looked great, especially in the evening as the sun began to set. I would strongly suggest booking a cruise & stay package at one of TUI's land-based hotels, either before you board or for a few days after you disembark. This way, you can combine both styles of holiday in one convenient trip and get to spend more time in Marmaris itself or one of the nearby resorts, like Içmeler or Dalyan.

Marmaris at night

Day 2: At Sea

After a long first day of travelling,this port-intensive itinerary features it's one and only sea day on the second day. It is the perfect time to soak up some sunshine, enjoy some refreshing cocktails and get acquainted to Marella Discovery, by exploring every area onboard. Marella Discovery, along with her identical sister, Marella Discovery 2, are gems in the Marella Cruises fleet. The intimate size, spacious venues, and warm, welcoming atmosphere, make it the ideal cruise ship for first-time cruisers. With a capacity to host 1,800 passengers, this ship offers a perfect balance of activities, dining options, and entertainment to suit all tastes. From indulging in a range of cuisines at a choice of restaurants, to taking a dip in the open-air or indoor pools, the Marella Discovery promises a cruising experience that combines relaxation and excitement in equal measure. We'll dive deeper into life onboard the ship in a future blog.

47° Restaurant onboard Marella Discovery

Day 3: Limassol, Cyprus

Limassol is the second-largest city in Cyprus and one of the only places in this region to feature skyscraper buildings. I took part in one of the onboard excursions, a Jeep Adventure. This was a lot of fun. We drove past Limassol's Salt Lake to reach our first photo stop, the Kouris Dam. We then headed north to a small Cypriot village called Lofou, where we had the chance to explore the cobbled streets, full of history and character. We then had a stop at the Lambouri Winery for some local wine tasting. This winery and region of Cyprus is known for producing Commandaria, an amber-coloured sweet dessert wine made from sun-dried grapes. Dating back to the 8th century, Commandaria is one of the oldest types of wine still in production today. It gained its fame thanks to the Knights of St John who took it with them during the Crusades. It was also featured in the Pirates of the Caribbean films, thanks to its uniquely shaped bottle. After however many glasses consumed, we jumped back into our Jeep and headed off-road into the Troodos Mountains. The view from the top was really impressive, and you could just make out the salt lakes and dam we had passed earlier that morning. As we headed back down the mountain roads, we stopped off at some scenic woodland trails to visit some waterfalls, which gave us all a refreshing cool down from the sun, before we returned to downtown Limassol and boarded the ship.

At the top of the Troodos Mountains

Day 4: Alanya, Türkiye

Marella Discovery docked in Alanya, with much fanfare from local residents. Apart from just a handful of other cruise ship visitors each year, Marella Cruises is the only cruise line that will be regularly offering ports of call in this stunning resort town. The red walls of the historic castle dominated the hillside next to where we docked. I took part in a boat trip along the coastline, where I even caught glimpse of a turtle! We made a number of stops to enjoy swimming in coves and scenic shoreline. We passed the expansive stretch of Kleopatra Beach, which was bustling with people enjoying the glorious afternoon sunshine. Alanya is known for its wide beaches and vibrant nightlife, but it has so much more to enjoy. I took a walk around the historic walls and meandered along untouched pathways to get a glorious vantage point across the bay.

Coastline Cruise in Alanya

Day 5: Rhodes, Greece

The island of Rhodes is a treasure trove of historical landmarks. The medieval Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is encircled by ancient walls and filled with cobbled streets and medieval buildings. I have been here before, and it is always one of my favourite places to just walk around. Sadly though, I didn't have much time to explore on this occasion, as I had an exciting day of exclusive experiences planned onboard the ship - more about that in an upcoming blog!

Fishing boats in Rhodes

Day 6: Bodrum, Türkiye

Bodrum has a mix of traditional Turkish charm and Aegean architecture. The city's crowning glory is the Bodrum Castle, which houses the Museum of Underwater Archaeology. I took part in a walking tour, as our guide told us all about the fascinating history of sunken medieval shipwrecks, how Bodrum became a fortified settlement, and a vital trade route with the rest of Europe. We also walked around the ancient theatre from the 4th century. It must have been such an impressive structure in its day and it still offers the most amazing view over the town. We also stopped to look at The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it is another must-see attraction. Believed to be destroyed during an earthquake between the 11th and the 15th century, many of the stones were reused in local buildings. including the castle. You can still see many of the intricate marble columns, statues and foundations. Bodrum has many bustling streets, with shops and restaurants to explore.

Medieval shipwreck on display in Bodrum Castle

Day 7: Heraklion, Crete

Finally, our last port of call for this cruise is Heraklion, the largest city on the island of Crete. I took an excursion to Elounda, where we then boarded a boat to take us over to the island of Spinalonga. This small islet was a stronghold of the Venetians, who built a massive fortress in 1579. After a leprosey outbreak, the island became a quarantine zone in 1903 and was home to a leper colony until 1953. The heartbreaking story of these lepers became widely-known around the world after Victoria Hislop's 2005 bestselling novel The Island. We saw all the old derelict buildings, the bakery, graveyard, and church. Upon returning to Elounda, we enjoyed a traditional Cretan mezze in a local taverna, before having free-time to explore the town and beach.

Arriving at Spinalonga Island

Day 8: Marmaris, Türkiye

Our arrival back into Marmaris signalled the end of the cruise. My flight back to Gatwick wasn't until the late afternoon, which unlike other cruise lines, Marella Cruises allow you to stay onboard the ship for the afternoon to continue enjoying all the facilities onboard, until it is your time to be transferred to the airport. You do still have to be out of your cabins first thing in the morning, so these can be prepared for new arriving guests. Once again, like on arrival day, you are free to explore Marmaris if you wish to, before your departure time.

Marmaris Waterfront

Overall Marella Cruises' Ancient Icons itinerary has the perfect mix of ports and some amazing excursions to choose from. While the destinations are undoubtedly the stars of the show, the time spent on the Marella Discovery is equally enriching. This journey is one where each day brings a new adventure, and the comforts of the ship make you feel right at home. Whether you're a seasoned cruiser or a first-timer, this voyage promises to be an unforgettable exploration of some of the most enchanting destinations in the Mediterranean.

Love the sound of this itinerary? Speak to Jordan or one of New Era Travel's expert team on 01962 396 100 to discuss booking a Marella Cruises holiday.