Having cruised on Marco Polo 3 times over the past 18 months and experienced nothing less than complete satisfaction I amazed at some of the comments published on this site. My latest cruise to the Baltic and St Petersburg was the best of the 3.
With the usual Cruise and Maritime boarding procedure which sticks to the stated check in times we were on board within 10 minutes of arriving at Tilbury and our luggage almost beat us to the cabin which was a grade 12 premium outside on deck 7. We booked during our last C&M cruise in August 2012 and it was not until just 6 weeks before sailing that the last few cabins were selling for less than what we paid all that time ago.
Marco Polo’s cabins are probably the weakest part of their product but the room was very acceptable with sufficient storage space, a flat screen TV and 2 picture windows. It was kept clean and tidy by a hard working steward who apparently had 28 cabins to service each day
The cruise schedule was Copenhagen (half day), Warnemünde, Tallinn, St Petersburg (2 days). Helsinki, Stockholm. Stockholm was cancelled because of a collision in the Kiel Canal which extended the home journey by some 400 miles. We made our own arrangements at all ports. In Copenhagen we simply used the HoHo bus because of the limited time. We were quoted 20 euros each but the charge on my credit card was just £31 for the 2 of us. We spent a full 4 hours on 3 different buses, all with English commentary. In Warnemünde, after walking around the small town we took a boat to Rostock (10 euros each for about a 1 hour trip) which was interesting but would have been better if the live commentary had not been in German! After walking round the old town of Rostock we returned by tram and train for 1 euro 80 each. In Tallinn we pre-booked on the internet a private 3 hour walking tour with Tallinn Traveller tours which was well worth the 60 euros we paid but was very tiring. In St Petersburg we used the excellent services of Alla Tours for both days. We were unable to join their usual scheduled tours because they do not operate in October but they linked us with a party of four from Marco Polo and shared the cost over the 6 of us. The cost for the 2 full days was about £190 each but we saw so much more than those on the ship’s tours and the cost was still considerably less. In Helsinki we again booked a private walking tour, this time with Happytourshelsinki.com which incorporated using a 2 hour tram ticket to get from sight to sight. This was another 60 euros well spent.
The cruise included 5 sea days which were so packed with activities you had to decide what to leave out. Quizzes, demonstrations, crafts workshops, singing workshops, day-time cabaret, Keep Fit, deck games, 3 guest lecturers who delivered 15 lectures between them and much more besides. Evening entertainment included excellent live shows by the resident team of singers and dancers and 2 guest entertainers a magician and a tenor. Elsewhere on the ship there were 3 classical music recitals per evening, TV style game shows, cabaret and disco.
Most of our meals were taken in the Waldorf Restaurant because we dislike the canteen environment of most self-service restaurants. Evening dinner was a traditional 2 sitting affair with the opportunity to partake in 7 courses and we shared with 4 delightful companions on second sitting. Breakfast and lunch are "free” seating but you are actually placed on a table by the staff. As vegetarians our tastes may differ to others but we both felt that the quality and variety of all the meals was excellent and everything was very tasty. There were a few, but not many, tables for 2, but we enjoy making new friends on holiday.
Some passengers may have been unhappy that there were times through the day when no food was available an hour before lunch, 30 minutes before afternoon tea 90 minutes before dinner. There is no 24 hour room service and free tea and coffee is only available from 6am till 10 pm.
We had 2 formal evenings which were respected by almost everyone. The remaining evenings were "informal” but everyone dressed in an appropriate manner. The first formal evening included meeting the Captain and the 2nd was a traditional gala dinner complete with Baked Alaska parade.
Drinks are reasonably priced by cruise-ship standards. House wine £14 per bottle, gin and tonic £3.80 with reduced prices during "happy hours”.
Marco Polo is a small but very friendly ship and all staff are very helpful and work tirelessly to ensure passengers have a happy time. It is old and lacks the sparkle of some newer ships but it is in no way past its sell-by date and what it lacks in glitz it more than makes up for with its own magical personality. If you want climbing walls, 4D cinema experiences, skating rinks, wave-flow machines and a tower block living experience then forget it. If you want a traditional relaxing cruise then consider it.