This was an Easter-time cruise affording an opportunity to visit some of Europe's most celebrated gardens such as Keukenhof, Tresco Abbey Gardens and Monet's Garden. Sailing from Tilbury, the itinerary was:
Amsterdam - Antwerp - Cherbourg - Scilly Isles - Guernsey - Honfleur.
The Marco Polo is a small, old, comfortable, easily navigated ship offering a relaxed sea-going experience. The exterior, comprising navy hull, white top and classic wooden decks complement an unfussy interior that is easy on the eye and kept very clean. It is the very antithesis of the more modern floating behemoths.
The CMV website may claim that the Amundsen Deck offers a traditional walk around promenade. It does not, however, offer a walk all-the-way-around promenade. The ship does offer an outside viewing position forward but there is no similar observatory lounge.
Announcements were in English only and the passengers with whom I came into contact were all from the UK. Their ages ranged from ...... well, let's just say that virtually every moment was a senior moment.
Embarkation and Disembarkation:
These were efficiently handled with no particular delays encountered. Due to a computer problem passports were handed in during embarkation and available for pick-up the following morning. The passenger safety drill was conducted before sailing. At my muster station I seemed to be one of only two passengers who preferred to wait for the demonstration rather than arrive ready to plunge over the side. At the conclusion of the drill we were led to our allocated lifeboats. Our leader was the ship's violinist - it was comforting to know that, at least on our boat, the ship's entertainment program would continue until we were rescued.
I travelled to Tilbury by train. Changing stations, both train and tube, whilst lugging a suitcase is a pain in every sense of the word. The 2-minute taxi ride between the cruise terminal and the train station cost Â£6 - it is too far to walk and buses are not an option on Sunday.
My comfortable and well-appointed inside cabin was forward on Deck 10. The only problem related to the TV - it was perched on a high shelf and couldn't be tilted forward therefore optimum viewing was achievable only when standing up rather than sitting or lying down. The cabin stewardess (Claudia) was helpful and pleasant and bore my occasional safety-box lock-outs with good humour. Traditional chocolates were not laid out on pillows but there was a delightful Easter treat of chocolate eggs and bunnies packaged up on arrival.
I have a preference for a leisurely and not particularly sociable breakfast and the extensive selection in the buffet at Marco's usually afforded this. Lunch was equally enjoyable with tasty meat, fish and vegetarian options amongst the varied, tasty dishes. Afternoon tea was a little disappointing with unusual-tasting scones and poor cream on the one occasion when I indulged.
The late-sitting (as requested), dining experience in the Waldorf Restaurant was excellent. A dining mock-up was displayed outside the restaurant and whetted appetites for the imminent delights which were well-presented and very tasty. Service was quick without quite feeling rushed, and our waiter (Elvis) was friendly and unobtrusive. There were two formal nights to which most of the men wore dinner suits and others, like me, wore smart, sober attire. Other nights were either Informal (jacket requested) or Casual (for example, the first night). We were a table of six solo travellers and we got on very well.
Late night finger food was brought round to the lounges and bars.
The two hot-drink stations (one inside and one outside) were only available until 10pm. It's probably time to replace the milk jugs though - they all had broken spouts.
Main access to the Lounge and Scott's Bar appeared to be from the front only making it difficult to engage in surreptitious viewing before deciding whether to go in. There were lectures connected to the "gardens" theme of the cruise but unfortunately I didn't manage to attend any of them. Port lectures were rather uninspiring with slides being displayed and being read verbatim.
The entertainment shows in the Lounge were varied and well-received. The dancers were excellent with an impressive array of costumes, and the resident "Marco Polo Or-ches-traaaa!" was particularly good. Singers occasionally crossed the boundary between singing and shouting and the strained contortions adopted by one or two of the girls made one wonder if they were eating enough All Bran. Late night music in the Captain's Club was a relaxed affair whereas the late night cabaret in Scott's Bar was more of a party. Both were very enjoyable.
The classical piano and violin duo were extremely talented and a particular delight to listen to. I think I may have seen the pianist almost smile on one occasion - or maybe it was just an involuntary twitch.
Public Rooms and Spaces:
Book access was only available at very restricted times although the library itself was always open. The onboard shops were more than adequate with toiletries, clothing and accessories, a limited but varied book selection, spirits and more. There was also an internet room, card room, lounge, bars, pool, and gym and pamper centre - but no self-service launderette.
Ports of Call:
I did not take any shore excursions but those that did were happy with them. The only dissatisfaction regarded neither price nor quality but availability - or rather, the lack of such. I heard of several instances where passengers were unable to book excursions on-board because they were already fully subscribed.
Due to delayed flowering caused by unseasonably cold weather across much of Europe, I chose not to visit any of the celebrated gardens.
An enjoyable day exploring Volendam and Edam, as well as Amsterdam itself
Another cold but bright, sunny day spent exploring the city at leisure
A pleasant trip to medieval Bayeux by train, primarily to see the famous tapestry
- Isles of Scilly
A leisurely day spent exploring the paths of St. Mary's
Cancelled due to the weather (it wasn't safe to use the tenders)
A ridiculously picturesque port that cannot fail to make an "impression"
This was an enjoyable cruise and the crew coped well as unseasonably cold weather meant that outside spaces were not in use. The ship can, under such circumstances, seem a little claustrophobic. Heavy swells were borne with good spirits by the swaying passengers - the appearance of navy sick-bags along grab-rails indicated that particularly lively conditions were expected. I would certainly consider sailing aboard her again despite the lack of my two primary cruise requirements - a true promenade deck, and tea and biscuits available 24 hours a day.