Interview: Chris Hackney, MD of Marella Cruises

As one of the most popular cruise lines in the UK, Marella Cruises (formerly Thomson) has quickly established itself as a household name. The company, which operates in regions such as the Caribbean, Asia and Europe, is also known for operating out of regional ports, such as Newcastle – all of which adds to its popularity among Brits. We spoke to Chris Hackney, managing director of Marella, ahead of the company’s launch of its first adult-only ship to find out why it was going in this bold new direction.

Tell me why you decided to launch an adults-only ship?
Following the popularity of our adult only itineraries (Celebration out of Dubrovnik) we saw a real appetite for customers looking for adult only cruises and naturally this led to the decision to make Marella Explorer 2 adults only.

How has the decision to have an adult-only ship affected the refurbishment/what is on board?
There has been various work done on board to get it to the standard we’ve seen across Marella Discovery ships and Marella Explorer but some areas like our new clubhouse bar and 19th hole concept has seen significant work and other areas have only needed cosmetic touches.

The 19th hole is fit with quirky golf buggy-seating and two golf simulators; Flutes, a sophisticated bubbles bar catering for prosecco and champagne lovers is perfect for pre or post dinner drinks and comes complete with ‘press for bubbles’ buttons; The Beach Cove serves up barbecue inspired delights with an on the beach al fresco dining feel; And a new pizzeria style restaurant called Nonna’s cooking up made-to-order Italian pizzas. As well as these, Marella Explorer 2 will boast an array of dining and bar options, a luxurious Champneys spa and world class entertainment from ted, similar to its sister ship Marella Explorer.

Do you think that this will bring in more new to cruise guests?
Our customers are really excited about our first adults only ship and sales have been strong. The rest of the fleet offer cruises for families of all ages so there’s plenty of choice for everyone and so now we have an adult only ship it may open us up to people who may not have considered us before, however we have had various adult only itineraries before and our first season in Asia was adults only too.

Will the itineraries be different to those of your other ships?
From May 2019 Marella Explorer 2 will sail from a brand new homeport Naples, Italy sailing to some of the finest European cities including Venice, Rome and Dubrovnik which some of our ships have visited before on various itineraries. but Naples is new. Marella Explorer 2 will be spending her first full winter season in Bridgetown, Barbados for winter 2019 offering customers the choice of three fantastic itineraries with destinations on offer such as St Lucia, Aruba and the Grenadines.

Will there be a different price point?
No Marella Explorer 2 doesn’t price differently as a result.

For agents who haven’t sold much Marella before, who should they market Explorer 2 to?
Marella Cruises is absolutely part of TUI and so with that comes 22 regional airports flying on our dedicated airline, travel expertise, retail advisers and destination services. So our cruises are perfect for well-established travellers wanting to simply enjoy their holiday hassle free and new to cruise customers who may want more advice, support and guidance. As Marella Explorer 2 is adults only this will be the most attractive element to some cruise customers. The ship is smaller than some of our competitors and so can visit smaller ports therefore giving more time ashore and so if time visiting places exploring is important to the customer we are a great option. We are also fully all-inclusive across the fleet and so we can provide customers that peace of mind and convenience. We offer friendly warm service on board in intimate surroundings focusing on customer service touchpoints throughout the ship, we have an array of restaurants, and bars to suit different people’s needs and expert destination advisers for booking excursions all through TUI.

Sam Ballard

Sam Ballard is the publisher of CRUISE ADVISER and has been writing about the cruise industry for a number of years. His CV includes the likes of shipping magazine International Cruise & Ferry Review and the digital publication Cruise News. He can be contacted on:sam@cruise-adviser.com.

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