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Review: MV Marco Polo

Cruise - Ocean Cruise

Day visit to MV Marco Polo

  • By SilverTraveller Alan-Fairfax

    83 reviews

    Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon

  • Oct 2011
  • Suite
  • Special occasion
  • Wife

176 people found this review helpful

The wind was blowing hard as I travelled along the M25 towards the Dartford Tunnel for my appointment to board the Marco Polo at Tilbury for the day. An easy journey, particularly for those living in South and East London as well as North Kent and South Essex with lots of car parking spaces at the terminal. This was my first visit to Tilbury since 1962 when I visited a Union Castle ship that had arrived in from Cape Town. I can’t recall the name but remember going down the metal steps into the huge engine room. I was only 18 then. As I approached the London Cruise Terminal I could see the white funnel of Marco Polo appearing above the various wharf buildings and the flags being stretched in the high wind.

Marco Polo is a classic liner built in Germany and launched in April 1964 as the Alexandr Puskin for the Baltic Shipping Company. There are varying stories of her early life but one that is consistent is that she was used on the Leningrad to Montreal scheduled service. In 1985 she was sold to the Far Eastern Shipping Company before being sold in 1991 to Orient Lines who renamed her Marco Polo. In 2010 she was chartered by her current operators, Cruise and Maritime Voyages. Compared with the modern cruise ship Marco Polo is quite small. With a tonnage of a little over 22,000 GRT and at 578’ in length and 77’ in width she fits into the middle of the small cruise ship category. However with a deep draft and an ice strengthened hull she will be able to cope with the worst conditions that the oceans can throw at her.

Boarding was swift with security passes being given in exchange for passports. First impressions are not that of a cruise ship as the security/ boarding point is in an area that does not have a welcoming aura and could perhaps benefit from being upgraded. However on ascending the stairs to Scott’s Bar on Amundsen deck 9 my impression began to change. This is a very pleasant bar with windows on 3 sides. In the centre is a small stage area which can be used by a music group or disc jockey. To one side is a lovely white piano on a slightly raised plinth whilst on the other is a large bar with high swivel chairs. The main area consists of small circular glass tables with 4 comfortable bucket style chairs allotted to each. The rear glass area has a glass door that leads out to the open deck where there are more tables and chairs. Here you can sit and look over the swimming pool and the stern of the ship. A great place to relax with a cocktail whilst watching the ships wake and the setting sun.

The pool deck which is Magellan deck 8 has a pool that is actually large enough to swim in. This is surrounded by the open deck with table and chairs. On one side there is a bar that is undercover so that you can escape the sun whilst sitting to have a cooling drink. At one end of the pool is a statue of Rudolph Nureyev looking towards the heavens. From the colour of it now one would perhaps assume it is actually made of bronze. One thing that I did find a little strange was the 3 jacuzzis are not on the same deck as the swimming pool but are in fact 3 decks higher on Navigator deck 11 the top deck of the ship. By these is another carving but this time of leaping Dolphins which again look as if they could be made of bronze.

One deck down on Columbus deck 10 is situated the Wellness Centre, Internet Café and Beauty Shop. The Wellness Centre is split into two separate parts. One has running machines, exercise bikes, multi gym and weights whilst the other is an area used for Yoga, Pilates and other such classes. For the size of ship and bearing in mind the age group catered for this is quite a well equipped gym. The Internet Café is what it says. An area where you can sit and go ‘On Line’ whilst at sea using the ships system for which there is a charge made. I was unable to view the Beauty Shop as it was closed.

Magellan deck 8 is the deck where most passengers will spend the majority of their time as it is home to most of the amenities ranging from the swimming pool, shops, buffet area, Captains Club and main show lounge. The swimming pool I have already mentioned and adjoining it is Marco’s Restaurant. This is the buffet area which I found to be light and airy with many of the tables and chairs situated by the windows. The blue seats with matching blue carpet were all in pristine condition and well spaced. The serving area was most impressive and spotlessly clean. The food on display had obviously been exhibited with care. The cutlery was half covered with cellophane. A nice touch that I have never seen before.

Next stop was the Livingston Library. This is a library that puts many modern ships to shame. Well stocked with real hard back books in proper glass fronted book cases. Large leather armchairs to sit and relax in whilst engrossed in your favourite novel. This harks back to the days when the ship would have many days at sea and people would read novels in the absence of modern entertainment devices. Moving on brings you to the Columbus Lounge. A small area that has as centre stage an old fashioned ships wheel at one end and a large globe of the world at the other. Continuing along the Starboard side you arrive at the Palm Garden which is a fabulous area with white baby grand piano, together with a mixture of wicker framed arm chairs and wicker backed upright chairs. And, yes, lots of plants. This is an area that really appealed to me as I could imagine myself watching the ocean going by whilst listening to the background music of the piano.

Next stop is the Captains Club. A large lounge very tastefully colour co-ordinated with alternate chairs in off white and brown. The comfortable looking settees have off white outers with tasteful brown floral patterns on the seating, arms and backs. And yet again, yes you’ve guessed it, another white baby grand piano. This has a marble lip around it so that people seated at one of the stools by the piano have somewhere to put their drinks. The bar is well stocked and fronted by 6 high level swivel stools upholstered in colours to complement to rest of the lounge seats. A lovely lounge that because of its appearance and atmosphere will, I am sure, get very busy in the evenings.

The final stop is the Marco Polo Lounge which is the main entertainment theatre. It is on one level and unfortunately due the number of columns some of the sight lines are spoiled. Also the seats appear to be on a very similar level so it may at times be difficult to see the stage if seated at the back and the theatre is full. This is not helped by the fact that the stage itself is only slightly raised. However I feel sure that most passengers will overlook this and enjoy the entertainment.

Also on this level are the Card Room, Reception, Excursion Desk and the shops. One thing that was missing was a casino. Most ships have them but for some reason the Marco Polo doesn’t. A good thing some people may think.

Now for that all important subject, Cabins. What are they really like? I visited from the entry grade to the Suites and would first of all say that they are all well fitted out and well equipped. They all have mirrored dressing table, TV, hair dryer, direct-dial telephone, music console and personal safe. Having said that, the lowest grade cabins, Category 1, I thought were small at 110 sq. ft. and the wardrobe and drawer space very limited. However once you move up to Category 2 and onwards they start to get bigger and approach the sizes that are associated with the modern cruise ships. The top suites are the De Luxe Suites, Category DS. 484 sq. ft. These are luxurious with a separate sleeping and living area. The bedroom has a King size bed and a walk in wardrobe. The marbled bathroom has a full size bath/shower with matching wash basin unit and of course a toilet. The lounge area has large settees, TV, VCR, refrigerator and picture windows that look out over the front of the ship. Somewhere in between is a cabin to suit every need and wallet. Being an older ship there are no balcony cabins.

Finally we visited the Waldorf Restaurant for lunch. Cruise and Maritime the operators grade this as a 3 star ship so I was interested to sample the food and have an opportunity to compare with some of the 4 and 5 star ships I have visited. On entering the Waldorf I was immediately impressed with the layout. The waiter stations were all in one area so that diners are not subjected to the constant clatter from large numbers of dishes arriving that on ships can interrupt a good table atmosphere. Most of the tables were laid for 4, 6 and 8 settings. The cutlery was spotless and the glasses sparkled. Napkins were properly set up and each table had a Tulip in a slim vase on it. Over the main white table cloth was a 2nd tablecloth square in orange that gave the table a brighter concept. My first course was Smoked Salmon and it was beautifully presented. This was followed by Split Pea soup that was thick and very tasty. My main course was Beef Mignon with a mushroom sauce accompanied by Carrots, French Beans and Potato. It should however be explained that the French Beans were tied into a little bundle and the Potato was half a jacket potato as a base topped with creamed potato that had a crisp outer. Forget the 3 star, this meal was up there with the 5 star ships. The white wine was nicely chilled and although some will say you should have red wine with red meat. Wine is for enjoyment and I prefer to drink what I enjoy as opposed to what others tell me but that is another subject.

Conclusion. What was my honest opinion? This ship is now getting on in years but it has great charm. It hasn’t got the wow factor of the new mega cruise ships but it’s not everyone who wants glitz and glamour. Some of the cabins are small but many people won’t be put off by this. A lot of TLC has been given to this ship which has resulted in the excellent condition it is in. Not a worn carpet or seat to be seen anywhere. Some of the windows have been stained by the years of salt water on them but in a ship of this age it is to be expected. There is no doubt that the ship overall is in excellent condition. The lounges look like great venues to relax in and meet friends. The food that I had was truly 5 stars. It is a child free ship which will appeal to a lot of passengers as indeed the size of the ship will equally appeal. It has a friendliness that often only comes with smaller more intimate ships. The price of drinks is less than some of the other cruise lines as are the cost of gratuities at £5 per day per passenger. Whilst you are not allowed to take your own drink onboard you are allowed to buy bottles of drink onboard for consumption in your cabin. This ship is aimed at the more mature traveller. Being smaller it can get into those ports that the larger ships can’t. It would be a great ship to do your first cruise on. Having said that I can imagine experienced cruisers booking one of the top cabins and having a great holiday.

Question, would I sail on this ship? Answer, Yes, I think I would have a good cruise and good value for money. Who knows you may meet me on board in the future. Happy sailing.

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