I am not a veteran cruise taker having only done one previous cruise many years ago with child in tow. I cannot therefore compare the Marco Polo with lots of other ships - having no experience of them.
Nevertheless I can give an honest review of the Marco Polo and its crew as holiday accommodation and destination.
The operational side of this ship in terms of passenger embarkation etc throughout the cruise was excellent, well organised, swift and if it was not for the pushing and shoving of other passenger, would have been a pleasant experience.
The cabins were small but well equipped and kept extremely clean by housekeeping staff at all times, indeed the whole ship was spotless. Passenger hands were sprayed with a smile before entering any food related area and toilets and stair rails in the public areas cleaned almost non stop.
The food was not always to my taste but for mass catering it was excellent with 'plainer versions' of dinner on request. The waiters and waitresses worked tirelessly with smiles that might have been fixed on but always looked very genuine. Individual preferences were remembered and great care taken to make each diner feel special. Drinks in the bars were not expensive at all, a huge array of excellent cocktails ensured variety to our pre dinner drinks and a very acceptable wine list to accompany dinner itself. The addition of one standard charge of Â£5 per passenger for tips each day worked out much cheaper than it would have done had we had a service charge on every bill.
I didn't much like the scramble in the self service restaurant - but that was much more to do with the other people causing the scramble than the provision of the ship. But as I didn't like it in there I didn't use it very often.
If I have one complaint it was having to drink tea that was not made with boiling water - but then that is a small niggle. My biggest niggle was the ridiculous scramble for mugs at the tea stations. With staff endlessly searching for mugs to wash and replace I can only imagine that passengers were hiding them - the arrival of a tray of mugs heralded the worst kind of pushing shoving and rude behavior you could imagine. No amount of pointing out politely that we were all queuing for the same thing would prevent even the most well spoken passenger from barging ahead to make sure they had their mug and their tea.... not very dignified behavior I am sad to say.
The entertainment team also worked tirelessly to ensure we were not bored and whilst the shows were not always west end standard they were carried out with great enthusiasm and energy. Day time lectures, quizzes and other sea day activities were on a Parr.
The ports of call were excellent - with only one disappointment - probably should have chosen an excursion that day. The excursions were well managed with all unavoidable changes compensated for. The on shore excursion teams provided excellent guides and their destinations were well chosen.
Despite all this positive 'stuff' I shall not be taking another cruise on the Marco Polo or any other ship - the reason - my fellow passengers....
There were some lovely people on board and we were lucky to dine and chat with a number of them. However, there were far too many, moaners, pushers and shovers and generally very rude people for me. At times they did spoil the day and at times I could have cheerfully tipped a few of them overboard to make it all more pleasant. Constant complaints could be heard about the most trivial of things or to my amazement at times, unavoidable things; one chap complained endlessly at breakfast that the Captain should have done something about the rolling of the ship in the night, several people complained loudly that it was unacceptable to turn off the air con in the arctic circle just because the outside temperature had dropped so low in the night that it was in danger of freezing up - yes it was uncomfortably warm night for one night - and surely if we choose to go to the arctic circle for our holidays we should expect to be affected by extreme conditions some times.
Which brings me to a very positive note - We were most fortunate to see the Northern Lights on more than one occasion which was the main purpose of the cruise for me. I am pleased to say that nothing and no one could detract from that experience, not even my own moaning about my fellow passengers
So in summary, a clean pleasant and very enjoyable cruise .... but watch our for fellow Brits, you may need to pack ear plugs and cricket pads if you want to survive them unscathed.