The Marco Polo – Revisited

MP in Cobh (Dec. 2018)

The Marco Polo (MP) is not the newest, biggest or most impressive of ships, but it is definitely one of my favourite ships.

I have a fuller review for you to read HERE, but this is my most recent experience:

My Love Affair

I first visited the Marco Polo in the early noughties when he was 35+ years oId (Russian ships are male). I had secured a tour of the ship at Dover. At that time the Norwegian Cruise Line had purchased the Orient Line, who had owned MP. Her itineraries regularly included expeditions to Antarctica.

I’ve always loved MP’s external appearance; the vessel is a real beauty. However, I was told before I visited her, by a ship enthusiast, that internally she’s “nothing Special”. I suppose if you compare her to the likes of the SS Rotterdam, now a hotel ship in Rotterdam, she’s not. The MP does not have the Rotterdam’s breath-taking public rooms with her acclaimed works of art and decor. However, the MP is more intimate and full of charm and atmosphere.

My Most Recent Cruise

My most recent cruise on MP was in December 2018, when the vessel was 53 years old. It was a 3 night mini cruise to Cobn, Ireland, from Bristol Avonmouth. The Marco Polo is older than most other cruise ships still in operation and probably the oldest cruise ship serving UK passengers.

In the past decade, not so much has changed about the ship, apart from the carpets, furniture and soft furnishings.

MP has an official capacity of 826 (all berths) but crew member told me that 600 was regarded as full. My winter mini-cruise only accommodated 450 passengers, making the MP more spacious.

As each year goes by, the Marco Polo can be considered more outdated and gets nearer to the end of his service. However, CMV have just published MP’s 2020 itineraries, so he’s safe for a few more years yet.

Magellan Deck 8 (Courtesy CMV)

Entertainment

The show lounge looks dated (with much orange decor) and is overdue a refit. It gets packed at times during a full cruise and does not have a raked floor, so those at the front half get the best views. It is always wise to arrive early to get a prime seat. However, the fact that it is an intimate lounge and the entertainment troupe are enthusiastic, a good atmosphere is always generated.

The troupe that I saw has six singers, plus dancers. The male singers in particular had very good voices. This is a polite way of saying that several of the females singers….were not to my taste. The three shows on my mini-cruise were:  A compilation show: Magic of the Marco Polo, Dancing Queen (Abba Hits) and West End Revue

The cruise director, Mitchell Rutter, was very competent and had a great voice.

‘Daniel’ the guitarist and DJ is a CMV stalwart, having been with them approaching a decade. He’s performed on various CMV ships – and long may he do so.

Accommodation

Cabin 219 (2018)

The cabins are one area which particularly shows the age of the ship. You will not find any very opulent suites on this ship, compared to those on-board newer ships. Although some cabins are of course bigger than others. There are no balcony cabins on MP either.

I most recently stayed in a modest cabins: 219, Baltic Deck (twin porthole, Caribic deck 5). It was very clean and perfectly functional with two single beds, but had limited floor space. However, the storage space/wardrobes were quite adequate, even for a two week cruise. I picked this cabin for its low amidships position – ideal in a storm.

In fact, the crossing of the Irish Sea from Bristol was around storm force 8-9 both ways, so both my cabin portholes had their respective ‘deadlights’ closed for safety reasons, making the sea-view cabin an “inside” cabin, for much of the cruise.

The Buffet

Marco’s Bistro (the posh name for the buffet) is quite small but normally copes well. It is possible to carry the food through a door, to the lido deck, located behind it. The food choices are never very wide, probably due to space. Pasta, fish, chicken and vegetable curry would be typical of the main meals. The food never looks that great either, but fortunately it tastes much better than it looks.

Several new self-service tea/coffee machines have been acquired. These are working well. These are available all day.

The Main Dining Room

The Waldorf dining room looks a little dated, but is still an attractive space. It is in a nice low near-amidships location, ideal for stormy weather.

The food is still displayed outside at the entrance, pre-dinner, which I’ve never seen on any other ship. (I have seen it in ex-communist countries and Chinese restaurant windows). However, I find seeing what I will be getting, to be extremely useful.  There are two fixed dining sittings around 6.00 and 8.00pm, subject to slight variation.

Like any ship, the evening meals can be a little variable in quality, but generally the food is very good for the fare paid. There are five courses. I enjoyed lamb, beef and fish dishes.

The traditional ‘Baked Alaska Parade’ was performed which I have seem many times, but I still enjoy it.

The service was very good. The bar prices are also very good, compared to American ships. Although the bottled wine for dinner, is of course overpriced, but still a little cheaper than some ships.

Amidships: Atlantic Deck 6 (CMV)

Public Rooms

The Palm Garden also has much orange décor too, like the show lounge. The well-worn cane furniture must be approaching a decade old and need upgrading. However it is still an attractive enclave.

The ‘Captain’s Club’ looks very contemporary, the more intimate ‘Columbus Bar’ and ‘Scott’s Bar’ are doing fine.

The photo gallery has two new digital machines, for previewing and ordering photos on screen. These sometimes worked quite well, other times they didn’t.

Trivial fact: The ‘Daily News’ sheet used to be unimaginatively called ‘Marco Polo’, but it has now been re-branded as ‘The Explorer’.

Stern: Amundsen Deck 9 (CMV)

Conclusion

CMV are NOT Cunard.

The Marco Polo is a small/old ship, with all the advantages and disadvantages that brings. The MP is like an old pair of slippers – very comfortable but a little worn. The MP is a ‘real’ ship and not a ‘theme park or ‘shopping mall’. The relatively small passenger capacity and intimae public rooms makes MP VERY friendly and charming.

However, MP has enough public rooms and all the basics one needs during a holiday afloat: good bars, good food and good entertainment.

Even though the ship is a now a senior-citizen by maritime standards, I still recommend the MP, as long as you do not require a balcony suite, climbing-wall, water park or a roller-coaster at sea.

The MP is offering some very interesting itineraries in 2019 and 2020, so take full advantage, while we still have him.

Nothing lasts forever.

Malcolm, December 2018


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