When new ships are brought into a fleet, it’s essential for cruise lines to introduce an exciting and successful shore excursion programme. So ahead of Marella Cruises’ Marella Voyager debut in May 2023, Jacqui Nobile, senior destination services operations manager at Marella Cruises, was busy preparing the perfect itinerary to entice guests onboard.
“It’s all about striking a balance between the unknown and the known,” she says. “Showing people the unexpected side of a destination alongside the bucket list sites they want to tick off is an important part of my job alongside showcasing local beauty, culture, food, wine and people. Guests want to see things they don’t see every day and exploring new destinations offers a chance to step out of the ordinary.
“As you often see when we introduce a new ship to the Marella fleet, we also choose the firm customer favourites. In this case, we selected Palma and Barbados to give our most loyal customers a new reason to return to their favourite destinations.”
Marella Voyager debuted on 31 May 2023 in Malaga, Spain, and was named by Nobile herself, alongside co-godmother and Marella’s chief purser Tatyana Olkhovska. The ship has been homeporting in Palma, Majorca, since its launch and sailing on Marella’s ‘Magic of Spain’, ‘Cosmopolitan Classics’ and ‘Highlights of the Mediterranean’ itineraries. Some of the Spanish destinations it has called at to date include Cadiz, Cartagena and Valencia, as well as nearby cities in Gibraltar, Majorca, Italy and France.
“It’s a real team effort to create an itinerary for a new ship,” says Nobile. “For the core itinerary planning process, we worked with commercial, marine, destinations, finance, hotel operations and customer experience teams. As fly-cruise is our core product there is a lot of input and work with the airline team too, as well as our beach partners that assist with the flying and our Cruise & Stay programmes.
“For my part, I’m here to answer why we would take a ship full of guests to a particular destination or port. I ensure that we know what the destination has to offer, making sure we can deliver on that and then showcasing it.”
Marella Voyager’s maiden season visited the French Riviera during its ‘Cosmopolitan Classics’ trip. allowing guests to visit sites such as the Grand Prix circuit and Casino de Monte-Carlo in Monaco, and the hilltop village of St Paull and Grasse in Nice.
“Livorno in Italy also makes Florence and Pisa accessible, which are two must-visit places,” adds Nobile. “The ship heads to the Caribbean for the winter season, golden sandy beaches and sunshine – what’s not to love in every port? Sailing around Antigua on a catamaran while enjoying a lobster lunch delivers special moments every time.”
Marella Voyager will operate on its ‘Paradise Islands’, ‘A Taste of the Tropics’ and ‘Tropical Delights’ itineraries starting from November 2023.
According to Nobile, the Marella team followed a certain criteria when deciding which ports to include in Marella Voyager’s maiden season.
“Lots of factors get taken into account when we’re choosing ports, ranging from the obvious things like distances, speeds, port facilities to the more people-centric elements like the local infrastructure and availability of guides and buses,” she says. “The ease of getting into the destination, especially the port and local area, is key for us as a destination services team. We want to ensure all our guests, whether they opt for an excursion or to explore independently, can enjoy and maximise their time in the destination. We also like to combine big-hitters like Kusadasi, Turkey – a gateway to ancient Turkish city of Ephesus – with lesser-known ports, which provides a nice balance for the seven or 14-night itinerary profiles we have.”
Nobile and her team also worked with several associations and external groups to develop the itineraries.
“Collaboration has always been the key to ensuring we understand a destination and make the best out of all the ports we visit whilst optimising what the destination has to offer,” says Nobile. “Our local agents, tourist boards, port authorities and cruise associations all play a huge part in ensuring we as a cruise line have the right information and contacts in each destination. Having this information supports the decisions we make for our itineraries.”
This article was first published in the 2024 issue of Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.