We were first time cruisers seduced by the thought of escaping the English winter and the romance of the exotic places that we had never thought we might be able to visit. And so we embarked with a sense of excitement and optimism which is probably essential for a long voyage like this. We were not disappointed.
We were greeted by smiling faces and an immaculate if clearly older ship and everything was as we expected - not a glitzy razzamatazz but a solid ocean going vessel with comfortable if not exactly glamorous amenities.
We were very impressed by the food which was plentiful and always hot (unlike some previous passengers' experiences.) Our table for dinner was a delight - our smiling and efficient waiter Kevin and our enthusiastic wine waiter Alla served us with courtesy and patience night after night in sometimes trying circumstances for them. One criticism would be the standard of the wines on offer at very inflated prices. But I was relieved to find that we did not have to buy expensive bottled water and nicely chilled water was readily available.
A special mention must be made of the entertainers. Small in number they may have been but full of talent and such energy! We saw a different show night ater night, with some gorgeous costumes and good variety. With many of them from Eastern Euopean countries it was lovely, for example, to have an evening of Russian songs and dances. They were unfailingly enthusiastic too and brilliant at raising spirits at the difficult times.
And the voyage itself; my head is still full of images of the empty deep blue expanse of the Atlantic, the jungle in all its different greens as we journeyed down the Amazon, the extraordinary, extravagant facade of the opera house in Manaus, sloths clinging to the topmost branches of trees, the beautiful but sinister Iles du Salut, all bathed in tropical sun and of course occasional tropical downpours! Yes things did go wrong; there was an annoying change of itinerary; we were hit by a norovirus bug that resulted in a lot of facilities being closed but these could and do happen on any ship and we have been offered generous compensation by the company which they were not obliged to do.
Obviously the last 24 hours do overshadow what was otherwise a magical trip and questions do need to be asked about why we were in that stretch of water when the storm of February 14 had been accurately forecast, but when I remember the kindness and hard work of all the crew to try and pick up the pieces of that awful day I would still say that the Marco Polo is a special ship; we met wonderful people both passengers and crew and really did have the trip of a lifetime.