I have just returned from the Norwegian Fjords, aboard the "adults only" Marco Polo. End of April beginning of May, so more or less end of winter beginning of spring.
This was my very first cruise, and talking to other passengers on board, some, like me, first timers, others frequent cruisers with other cruise companies. I only heard one frequent complaint, lack of mugs at the free coffee stations. Other than that, everyone I spoke to had nothing but praise for this "Old Lady of the Sea".
So, because on many websites, I could not find any answers to the many questions I had about this cruise, or if I did it was here there and everywhere, I decided to hopefully help others who will follow in my footsteps on this wonderful old ship.
Parking my car and embarkation at Tilbury was quick and painless, in 1 hour I was on board, luggage was in my cabin and having a drink on deck.
We all had to adhere to the lifeboat drills, just after we sailed. A painless, interesting and valid exercise. Once aboard, and in your cabin, take your life jacket with you as you explore the ship, you will be ready then to get to your "exercise" lifeboat station without having to run back to your cabin when the alarm sounds.
Sailing from the Thames area to the entrance of the fjords was calm to quite choppy.
Weather all week was rain, cloud, wind, some sun but cold in the lowlands and ports of call. Mountain areas, from sun to flakes of snow to blizzards and cold.
Clothes for outside activities and excursions, good walking boots and layers of warm clothes and a good waterproof jacket.
Clothes for aboard, mixture of formal to casual. Formal, black tie or lounge suits for men, cocktail dresses or smart trouser suits for ladies. Especially in the Waldorf restaurant for dinner, (2 sittings one at 6 pmish other at 8pm).
Smart casual or casual in Marco's Bistro, self service.
Found the food excellent on board, some dishes I didn't like, but that was my choice.
Breakfast - selection of cereals, yogurts, fruit, pastries, cold meats, full English, variety of teas, coffee and fruit juices.
Lunch - selection of salads, pastries, cooked dishes, cold meats, desserts and fruit.
Afternoon Tea - Selection of pastries, cakes and small filled rolls.
Dinner - Choice of Entrees, soup, salads, main course, cheese or dessert, coffee or tea.
Wine from £12 a bottle up to £150 for champagne.
In the bars, £2.50 small beer, £3.50 for large, cocktails from £2.50 to £4.00.
Free tea and coffee from 06.30 to 22.30, either inside Marco's or outside on the main deck. Waiting on times for mugs, but the staff topped up regularly, or do what I did take your own Thermal mug. No waiting, a drink that stays hot, covered, ideal for wandering around the decks and within - no spills.
My cabin - Pacific Deck, premium twin with ocean view. Clean, tidy, tastefully furnished and spacious. 2 double wardrobes, containing drawers and safe, (life jackets), long dressing table/desk with drawers either end, bedside cabinets and I did find quite comfortable beds, with superb white linen and duvets.
Shower room, toilet, wash basin and more storage, towels, dispensers filled with hand soap, shower gel and shampoo.
Our stewardess "Oxi", was excellent and worked very hard keeping our cabin clean and tidy. She was caring ( I succumbed to the motion sickness in the choppy waters of the north sea), cheerful and very helpful.
All areas of the ship were being cleaned constantly. All staff were hardworking and pleasant.
On board entertainment was quite good, the entertainment staff made a real effort, from their own versions of West End Shows, guest entertainers, we had a magician/mind reader who was brilliant.
I wasn't impressed with the guest speaker, sorry but I would have rather watched paint dry.
I am genuinely interested in anything maritime, but found this man painfully boring. I did note that many were of the same conclusion.
The library and card playing rooms are quite small, and I found always in use, but then there are lots of quiet areas on the ship to read and play board games.
Shore excursions. I have read with interest on many sites that they are expensive. We found them quite reasonable, considering the transport involved and very informative local guides, and getting to any of the destinations would have been far more expensive if you did this on your own, (with the exception of Flam railway).
Our first port of call was Eidfjord, and being that we had been on board for 36 hours, decided to do a walking tour, to stretch our legs, rather than being placed on a coach to be taken around.
We opted for the Nature Walk to Hereid, (£24) A super guided walk lasting approx. 2 hours, along the river, up to the lake, up into the mountain, across the plateau and down the other side back into Eidfjord. Th walk also took us past the remains of many Viking burial sites.
2nd port of call, Flam, and the Flam Railway, (£67). Yes we could have done it cheaper by just going to the station, (not far away from the quayside), and buying our own tickets. We all nearly wished we had, that was until, several coaches arrived from who knows where, and the train was almost full.
PLEASE NOTE, here, when over the PA system the staff give advise what to wear up into the mountains listen to their advice. The staff kept advising that it was snowing up in the mountains, it was very cold and suitable footwear and clothing is advised. We could not believe the amount of women wearing heeled boots and thin jackets, then complaining bitterly when they slipped and fell, on the ice and snow and how cold it was?!?!?
The trip up was well worth it, the scenery fabulous and a Winter Wonderland awaiting us when we reached our destination. Free coffee and waffles at the hotel.
Back in Flam, a visit to the Railway museum is a must, and their souvenir shop, is a lot cheaper than elsewhere.
3rd port of call, Skjolden, and the Nigardsbreen Glacier View, (£59). This we thought was the best excursion. The coach takes you to the coach park, by a lake, with fabulous views to the glacier. The lake was frozen when we were there, but apparently when it isn't you can take a boat trip up to the face of the glacier.
Free coffee/tea and waffle at a local hotel.
It is also a nice walk into the small village of Skjolden, and once again the local souvenir shop in the community centre is very reasonable and holds local handmade products/crafts to buy.
4th port of call, Bergen, and a Walking Tour & Mount Floien Funicular (£44). A very interesting informative tour, and a trip up the mountain, in the rain, which turned into a blizzard, once up there, so no photos of Bergen below us and beyond.
As you now are aware, Norway is very expensive place to visit. My friends thought they would leave their souvenir shopping to the Bergen visit, I am so glad I did mine along the way at the various ports. Bergen like London, for souvenirs, is very very expensive. I suggest you buy at the local craft centres along the way.
Coffee ashore is on average £4.50, I was ravenous in Bergen, after the tour, and went for a Macdonalds, the ordinary burger meal and my hot chocolate cost me 100Kr, about £10.
Back at Tilbury, and quite a good 36 hour crossing the North sea, up at the crack of dawn for breakfast and await our embarkation, by deck and cabin numbers. Quite painless, and shuttle buses to the car park to pick up your car and head home. With hopefully great memories of what I found a super holiday.
Last minute thought, I realised, once back in my car, I would need to top up my petrol tank, and as I hate paying motorway service station prices, I did find an ASDA, as you head out of Tilbury.
Would I go on this ship again, a big yes, but to somewhere different.
I found this ship suited my needs entirely.
As I have said previously this was my first cruise, so cannot comment on past cruise experiences.
The big cruise ships - floating shopping malls - floating theme parks, would do nothing for me, as it would be filled with families and children.
I have done the children's holidays, Disney and all that, it's ME time now and wanting the company of adults.