We had sailed on Marco Polo before, in Sept 2013, so had an idea of what to expect. This cruise exceeded our expectations in almost all areas, the cabin location being the notable exception.
Embarkation was painless once the ship was ready. It was late arriving from the previous cruise and we were turned away at Tilbury and told to return a little later. It being a nice day this was not really a problem, we parked up nearby and went for a stroll to Tilbury Fort. When we boarded our luggage was already outside the cabin, which was spotless as usual.
CMV have improved their product in one major respect. On our previous cruise the dreaded Norovirus had made life miserable for all, and the memory of it lingered. However, on Marco Polo the staff now serve you at the buffet, tea stations etc, for the first 2 days of the cruise. This is based around the 48-hr incubation period of Norovirus, and is to ensure that if anyone has brought the virus on board that its spread is limited. After that, if there are no problems, its normal self-service. In some areas, notably the tea stations, being served by the staff was quicker as some passengers tend to dither and hold up those behind them.
Some people actually complained when the buffet became self-service!
The food throughout our cruise was of the highest standard, and the steak I had one evening was one of the best I have ever eaten. We ate dinner mostly in Marco's but had one evening meal in the Waldorf restaurant. For breakfast and lunch we chose a mixture of the two, and we also opted for the (free) in-cabin continental breakfast. Even if you only want a pot of tea in the mornings, this is a 5-star touch and really was appreciated.
The staff were polite, friendly and even the fierce-looking Maitre'd warmed to her subject when we complimented her on the changes. Most of the crew greet you with a friendly hello when they pass you in the passageways. The staff on this ship work hard to make your cruise experience a pleasant one.
Our cabin was an 'outside' Grade 9 with a view over the boat deck. This meant that the window was cleaned every morning by a seaman with a squeegee, a nice touch. The glass has a film over it which prevents people looking in, unless it is night-time and you have the lights on when you need to draw the curtains for privacy. Our cabin steward was absolutely delightful, and an asset to the company.
Another welcome change from our previous cruise on MP was that the noon announcement was made by the captain, not the cruise director. One very interesting lecture, about the ship itself and its history, was well-attended and made a refreshing change. Marco Polo is 50 years old in 2015 and has had a long career!