We'd never been on the Marco Polo and quite fancied some of their itineraries and so when we saw a three day Christmas Markets cruise to Antwerp and Amsterdam we thought this would be a good way to find out what the ship was like! And ..... we're so glad we did. We'd booked an inside cabin on the Pacific Deck but a few days before we went we got a phone call offering us a free upgrade to an outside premium on the same deck - of course we said "yes" who wouldn't. What a poisoned chalice this turned out to be. The cabin was certainly spacious but was right at the back of the ship and the windows looked out onto a large pile of mattresses - yup mattresses - not the ones you get on the sunbeds but piles and piles of single mattresses. On top of that the cabin was absolutely freezing and we had to have an oil filled radiator going full pelt day and night just to keep the temperature around 68oC. We must have been the only passengers ever to beg for a downgrade but it was not possible as the ship was fully booked! On the plus side, there was plenty of wardrobe space and the cabin was kept spotless by the lovely Christian. The inside cabins on the same deck all looked lovely and warm as we walked past them.
There was a choice of eating places, either the main dining room or Marco's Bistro. Both were very much the same in the food they served. Breakfast was a buffet and if you didn't arrive the minute the food was put out then you had to eat congealed eggs, soggy sausages and sticky bacon. The toast was kept warm under a lamp so you can imagine it was tepid and chewy. We ate out so I can't comment on the lunchtime food but in the evenings we ate in the main waiter-service restaurant. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the food but when we go on a cruise we expect something different to what I cook at home - the food was mostly bland, uninspiring and downright boring - certainly not up to the standard of any other cruises we have been on.
There's quite a few bars dotted around the ship but again we found them very cold and a number of the other passengers complained about the cold air blowing from the ventilation systems. Prices in the bars were pretty average for a cruise ship but we did hear a number of complaints from other passengers about overcharging. It was only on the last night that the temperature was increased - to such an extent that the public rooms were stifling hot!
Sadly, we also found the staff in general were miserable and in some cases downright surly - although we were very lucky to have a marvellous cabin steward (Christian) and a lovely waiter (Yvgen). I've never seen so few smiles on a cruise ship from the staff - overhearing some conversations I think many of them were not happy with their lot.
I'm glad we tried it out before going on a 14 night cruise as we now know we will NEVER EVER EVER sail on this ship again - I think Cruise and Maritime need to re-look at their business model - yes it's cheap but it's not value for money.