Review: MV Marco Polo
Cruise - Ocean Cruise
Marco Polo to Antwerp
14 people found this review helpful
Bing, Bong. Will passengers with cabin numbers 801 t0 827 please come forward for boarding. The cruise had begun. Marco Polo is an ocean passenger liner from an age when ships looked like ships. Since 2010 the ship has been operated by Cruise and Maritime Voyages. www.cruiseandmaritime.com It is an adult only ship that offers no fly cruises from the UK at realistic prices. I had visited Marco Polo several times on day visits but this was my first cruise on her and one that I had been particularly looking forward to. Would I be disappointed? Read on…
Check in was swift and courteous. Passport checked, photo taken and through security onto the ship where we were met by a ‘Greeter’ who guided us to our cabin. This was on Deck 11, Navigator Deck, and a De Luxe Ocean View category.
It was without doubt one of the largest cabins we have ever experienced. 213 sq ft. with large picture windows, 3 seater settee and Queen size bed. The bathroom was marble tiled with bath, shower, and a toilet and hand basin. What added to the luxurious feel were the added ‘goodies’. Complimentary bottles of wine and water, canapés and fresh fruit bowel. In the bathroom were small bottles of shampoo, body lotion, shaving kit, shower cap, tooth brushes with paste. The wardrobe revealed white towelling bathrobes for use on board accompanied by complimentary slippers, shoe horns and tote bags that can be taken away as a memory of the ship. There is a large atlas for use on board and a golf sized umbrella in case it is raining when you go ashore.
This was a 2 nights, 3 day cruise to Antwerp and back. Just long enough to get a proper feel for the ship. Sailing time was scheduled for 5pm. A little after 5pm we slipped our lines and the ship moved away from her berth at the London Cruise Terminal, Tilbury to begin her journey. We passed various areas that until now I had taken for granted when driving through them. It is only when sailing the river you realise how much the Thames twists and turns on its journey to the open sea. The weather was not kind with overcast skys and rain showers. As the ship gathered speed so did the wind. Time to go inside and sample the buffet.
On arrival in Marco’s Restaurant, the buffet restaurant, it was obvious that many other passengers had decided to do the same thing so tables were at a premium. The swimming pool is just outside this restaurant with tables and chairs in abundance which were sadly empty because of the weather. The food selection whilst not extensive in choice was well presented and tasty. Waiters worked hard to keep the tables clean and cleared of finished plates.
We were 2nd dinner sitting at 8pm in the Waldorf Restaurant. This is a lovely restaurant with a mix of tables, large and small, round and square. We prefer large tables and ours this time was with 6 other people. The table was well laid with shining cutlery and sparkling glasses. The menu was impressive with many choices. My choice was, Thai Seafood as a starter, Cream of Leek soup followed by a Pepper Salad. Main course was Medallions of Pork with vegetables and Strawberry Ice Cream Cake to finish. This was washed down with the house Rosé wine which was excellent. The service afforded by our waiter and his assistant was excellent. After coffee it was time to go to the show.
The show lounge is the Marco Polo Lounge situated at the back of the ship on deck 8. It is well laid out with a raised stage so that everyone should be able to have a reasonable view. The show team is a mix of 13 dancers/singers backed by the Marco Polo orchestra unlike some cruise lines that use taped music. The show was colourful, lively and the choreography very good. Once the show had finished we made our way to the Columbus Lounge, a small lounge with music where you can sit and chat over a drink. From here it was Scotts Bar on Deck 9. This is the late night venue where everybody goes. With a white baby grand piano in one corner and a small stage in the centre this is the place for late night entertainment. Whilst very busy and crowded it was also a very vibrant, pleasant place to be, drink and be entertained with new found friends.
Eventually that Queen Size bed was calling and day one on Marco Polo came to an end.
The next morning I awoke to find we had arrived at our destination, Antwerp. What is not realised is that Antwerp is over 60 miles inland along the River Scheldt. We were berthed almost in the town centre. Canals join this river to the Rhine, Seine and Meuse as well as the areas of Brussels, Lille and Dunkirk. There is a constant stream of barges and smaller ships navigating this river.
Breakfast was taken in the main Waldorf Restaurant where I was a little surprised that it was a buffet and not waiter service. The waiters bring Orange juice and Coffee but the rest you get yourself. One server line deals with scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon etc. but if you want fried eggs then you join the queue that is waiting for omelettes. One person suggested to me ‘Why not put the fried eggs with the scrambled eggs thus saving having to queue twice?’ Excellent question. On the up side the food was hot and offered a good variety.
Time to go ashore and explore Antwerp, the 2nd largest city in Belgium a country famous for its chocolates. Leave the ship, cross the road and you are in the heart of Antwerp. A couple of minutes stroll finds you in Grote Markt which is the main city square and flanked by many old well preserved buildings. One of these is the City Hall built in the early 1650’s on the front of which I counted nearly 80 flags of different countries. In the same square are the 16th century Guildhouses.
In the centre of the square is a large statue and fountain built in 1887. This depicts the mythical hero Brabo. Folklore says that the giant, Antigoon, demanded very high fees for boats to use the harbour and cut off the hand of anyone who refused to pay and threw it in the river. Brabo, a Roman soldier, fought him, defeated him, cut off the giants’ right hand and threw it into the river. This is the act depicted in the statue.
Leaving the square by a small side street takes you to the towering ‘Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal’ or in English ‘Cathedral of Our Lady’. This magnificent structure was started sometime in the 14th century and finally completed in 1518. Inside are four works by Rubens, namely The Descent from the Cross, The Elevation of the Cross, The Resurrection of Christ and The Assumption. There is a charge of 5 Euros to enter the main part of the Cathedral although the book and souvenir shop is free. Everywhere are bars selling various brands of Belgium beers for which the country is world famous. There are shops with mouth-watering window displays of the famous chocolates for which Belgium is known. Buy to order by both weight and selection. Choices of dark, milk and white chocolate with plain or decorated tops. You are spoilt for choice but the result is the same, fabulous chocolates to eat and enjoy and worry about your weight later.
Although it was May it was still cold so a cup of hot coffee was needed at one of the many cafes lining the square. Whilst sitting and sipping this near to a ‘Garden Heater’ I saw the little 3 carriage train giving city tours.
Coffee finished we boarded and spent the next hour being taken all over Antwerp and seeing the sites that were not within walking distance. The Botanical Gardens with their many species of plants and shrubs, the Museum Aan de Stroom that stands out with its modern design against a back drop of older buildings. Nearly 200 feet high and built of Indian red sandstone together with a construction of glass panels it really stands out. The house where the famous painter, Rubens lived for 29 hears from 1611 together with St. James church where Rubens is buried. The time passed very quickly as we rumbled through the cobbled streets vying with the cars and trams. The different sites were pointed out in various languages including English. Even the obligatory Irish Pub. Have you ever been to a city in the world where there isn’t one? Answers on a postcard please. Soon we were back at the start point but agreed it was 5 Euros well spent.
As we meandered back to the ship we pondered on Antwerp and all agreed it is a city that deserves more than just one day. There is so much to see so we will return again.
As we walked onto the quayside there was a local band playing their hearts out which really was a nice touch. Although it was raining they sheltered under the pier overhang and carried on.
Back on the ship it was time for afternoon tea and then get ready for our last night which had been designated a ‘Formal Night’. An evening for ladies to look resplendent in their glamorous outfits and for the men to don dinner jackets and bow ties.
Showered and changed, Must remember to let the adjusters out on the side of the trousers. Oh dear they are let out!! It’s true what they say about passengers on cruise ships. There is so much food that you come on as passengers and go off as cargo. ‘Reminder’ diet starts, ‘Again’, when I get home.
First stop is the Captains Club for a pre dinner drink. What a lovely lounge this is with the seating colour co-ordinated in various shades of brown and beige. At one end is a lady playing a white baby grand piano accompanied by a violinist. What a great atmosphere. Again the waiters and waitresses are excellent. What is noticeable is the majority of people are dressed in formal attire unlike some ships I have been on where formal attire seems to mean clean tee shirt and jeans without holes. I can see this has the making of a great evening. Two G&T’s later and it is time for dinner.
Again the menu choice is excellent. I decided that starters would be the Shrimp Cocktail, followed by Cream of Pumpkin soup and a Lemon Sorbet to clean the palate. Mindful of putting on weight I missed out the salad and went straight for the Beef Tenderloin with vegetables and finished with Baked Alaska. The Beef was absolutely fabulous. Again it was washed down by the excellent house Rosé wine. Before the serving of the Baked Alaska was the Baked Alaska Parade. For those who have not seen it done this is where the waiters parade the Baked Alaska adorned with sparklers around the dining room to music whilst the diners wave their napkins in the air in the time honoured cruising tradition. For those who have not seen it before it is impressive. We were also all treated to a glass of Champagne. Goodbyes said it was off to the show.
Show time, and what a show. ‘We Will Rock You’ is a tribute to Freddy Mercury and Queen. It is without doubt one of the best shows I have ever seen on any ship anywhere in the world. These boys and girls who make up the ‘troupe’ are amazing. The numbers included, We Will Rock You, Another One Bites the Dust, Radio Ga Ga, A Kind of Magic and many more. The show ended with Bohemian Rhapsody. The songs were sung and performed so well that it had the audience singing, clapping, cheering and wanting more. At the end they received a well deserved standing ovation.
Heading for the Columbus Lounge for a nightcap everyone was talking about that show. We sat for nearly an hour discussing the various points of the cruise that was rapidly coming to an end.
Coming back to the question that started this article off, ‘Was I disappointed?’ Marco Polo was built 47 years ago, one of 5 ships, as an ocean going liner on the St. Petersburg to Montreal route for the Baltic Shipping Co. It does not have the glitz and glamour of the large modern cruise ships that you see or the different amenities, venues and speciality dining. Yes, breakfast arrangements in the Waldorf and the buffet selection could be improved on but they are minor points in the bigger picture of things. What Marco Polo does have is an old world charm where people feel comfortable on an adult only ship. Most travellers are 50+ and want somewhere they feel at home with. This ship has had a lot of TLC. It is a ship where tradition, good food and good service still matter. Lounges that are comfortable bright and airy. Smaller rooms you can escape to like the library and card room if you want to read. The Palm Garden, another area that is different from the modern ‘all look the same’ ships. The casino is gone so you are not hearing the constant ‘casino noises’ that some people find distracting. 3 areas have white baby grand pianos that are played on a nightly basis. It has real teak decks that are in pristine condition with a beautiful tiered stern. Speaking with people who had stayed in the lower grade cabins I heard no complaints. A greeter to guide you to your cabin on boarding is shades from a past era but a welcomed one. Drinks at reasonable prices. Snacks brought around the lounges between 11 and 11.30pm, again something not done now on many ships. And once again the shows. Fabulous. Was I disappointed? NO. Would I sail on Marco Polo again? YES and I look forward to it.
14 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.
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