Marco Polo ‘Welcome Onboard’ Event Review
A number of times per year, CMV offer “Welcome Aboard” events on their ships, including the Marco Polo, at Tilbury Cruise Terminal. These events are aimed at the general public and NOT just but past cruise passengers or Travel Agents and press etc.
These events either consist of a five course lunch and a show (£49pp) or an evening meal and a show (£79pp). With the latter you also get the option of an overnight stay, with full buffet breakfast for a supplement of £10pp in and twin inside cabin, £20pp for a Twin Ocean View Cabin, £30pp for a Double Ocean View Cabin, and £40pp for a De-Lux Ocean View cabin. Overnight parking at Tilbury cost £8 and is pre-bookable.
Needless to say the ship does not go anywhere so an ‘ocean view’ cabin will just be a view of Tilbury Cruise Terminal or across the river to Gravesend. However this is ideal for those who suffer from mal de mer.
It is important to note that Marco Polo is both a vintage ship and ‘budget’ operation. It is not a five star experience and the cruise fares normally fully reflect this.
Although fifty years old (2015), the MP offers so much more intimacy that today’s mega-ship. The ship interiors are generally in very good condition. The majority of the cabins are compact and somewhat dated, but they are perfectly adequate.
The events start with the normal check-in procedure, two hours before the 8.00pm meal. Guests were required to have ‘photo I.D. and pass through a metal detector. Overnight bags are X-rayed in the normal way. A credit card is required to set-up a ‘cashless account’ in the normal way, for on-board drinks and any photos.
The ship can accommodate around 800 passengers in two evening meal sittings. The on-board events are normally limited to just one sitting. Sometimes they may actually sell out most tables, other times not..
If you are not staying overnight there is a complimentary cloakroom or you can make your way to your cabin. You are given a ‘visitors pass’ but also a traditional ‘key’ for the cabin door (The MP does not have the swipe-card system of door locks). The cabin doors do not self-lock either on exit, so you need to remember to turn the key when leaving your cabin.
Pre-dinner you are free to do a self-guided tour of the ship. Various grades of cabin, on each deck, are open as ‘show cabins’. Cruise brochures and special-offer leaflets were spread around the ship, but there was no ‘hard sell’ at all.
Most guests assemble in the contemporary ‘Captain’s Club’ (Magellan Deck) which is the ships biggest bar area. It was quite busy and quite atmospheric. Here some complementary cocktails were provided (bucks fizz, sparkling wine, etc.) and the pay bars are of course on offer. Several musicians provided piano and singing.
I wondered into ‘Scott’s Bar’, a secluded bar at the aft of Amundsen deck. There were few guest in it at and four bar-staff all willing to serve me. This was a quieter location, in contrast to the busier Captain’s Club. Many of the crew on-board the MP are Eastern European or Russian. Many sound like they are straight from a set of James Bond and to confirm the stereo-type, many of them have a very serious manner. However this is not a criticism, as they are very friendly (once you get them talking) and efficient.
At 8.00pm we were called for dinner. We descended two decks to the Waldorf restaurant. Unusually the Marco Polo displays the day’s dishes outside the restaurant so you can actually see what you will be getting. I always find this very helpful.
CMV used to provide a complementary bottle of wine (per every two guests): you could choose between Red or White. However now they have economised a you get a couple of large glasses. Some soft drink were provided free of charge for non-drinkers.
MP’s food is surprisingly good, in my opinion. There was a very good choice of starters, salads/soup, mains and deserts. Their baked Alaska (complete with the traditional parade) was the recommended choice for desert and very good it was to.
At around 10.00pm we all moved to the show lounge. This is a ‘tradition’ non-raked lounge. As the dining room was not at capacity, so finding a good view was very easy compared to when the cruise ship is full.
The show was called ‘Swing, Jive & Boogie’. The shows offered on the MP are all very lively and entertaining, although rarely very original.
There is always a live band (no taped music for the main shows) and a small entertainments team of singers and dancers. As with most ships, the MP’s ‘troupe’ are mostly young people learning their trade, unless you are lucky enough to get the multi-talented Cruise Director, Richard Sykes. All the team were very enthusiastic. Several of the performers were very good dancers and singers, however lets just say that the talent of some of the other members was not so well developed, but this did not matter. I feel that live entertainment works better in an intimate show lounge, irrespective of any imperfections, than it does in a 1,000 seat theatre. Most passengers really enjoy the show. There was a great atmosphere, in part due to some of the audience being the ‘party crowd’ type. (MP’s entertainment consistently gets rated very highly by their passengers).
After the hour-long show, we were then treated to a ‘Cabaret’ which involved the singers singing along to an Abba backing tracks (taped). The audience were invited to join them on the stage and dance – and many did. I guess the entertainment finished at 11.45pm. However the pay bars were open until 1.00pm, if you required them. I was seen the disco in Scott’s still going strong at 2.00am.
After a good night’s sleep (no motion of the ocean) breakfast was served from 8.00am, once again in the Waldorf restaurant (Marco’s buffet is used if the ship is ). This was help-yourself, buffet-style and provide the full range of hot and cold items. It also included an omelette station: freshly cooked to your liking. Although much fruit and health options were provided, many passengers opted for the ‘Full Monty’.
We were invited to disembark at 9.30am.
In conclusion, I would be amazed if anybody did not enjoy the experience. For £89 you got a chance to see the ship, a five course meal, with some wine, entertainment and bed and breakfast. You could pay a similar price at some hotels and only get the bed. I would certainly recommend this as a great way to spend an evening, especially given the fact that most ships do not even want you on-board, unless you have booked a full cruise. Well done ‘Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ – long may you sail!