We arrived at Tilbury at 3.30pm on Wednesday 6 April 2011, quickly unloading our three suit cases at the baggage handling building. We were then told where to park and went straight into the Reception building where we were immediately processed (X-ray machines photo annd boarding card etc.) We were met at the gangway by a senior officer who instructed one of his staff to show us to our cabin, insisting on taking the hand luggage with him. As we arrived at cabin 205 our suitcases were already waiting. We have never known luggage to be delivered so promptly. We entered cabin 205 and were pleasantly surprised by it. It is true it was small with two single beds and a small chest of drawers in between with a mirror, plus a large wardrobe which housed a modern electronic safe. The shower room was of a standard size. We would like to call the cabin bijou as it was completely functional with plenty of space for our needs for a short cruise. Incidentally the lock on the door of the cabin was the old fashioned key rather than the more modern card type. We unpacked and listened for the announcements that we should all meet in the Marco Polo lounge at 4.45pm for muster drill. We found this slightly different as after initial instructions we all went out on deck to meet our lifeboat and to be inspected by the captain to ensure that we knew where to go in case of emergency. We took the early sitting for dinner at 6pm. Second sitting was 8.30 allowing plenty of time to sit and chat after dinner in the Waldorf restaurant. Our table number was 34 a table for six people and our waiters were Freddy and Dawson who looked after us extremely well. Nothing was too much trouble, they even joked and laughed about everything. The food throughout the cruise for dinner was excellent, beautifully served with up to five courses should you require it. Freddy often asked whether we would like an extra helping. We declined but he would have willingly brought more food. We cannot praise them both enough for their caring attitude in making our dinner experience perfect.
We chose to have breakfast and lunch in the self service bistro Marco's. The food was very good. A lot of it seemed to be quality home cooking, eg tapioca, bread and butter, apple crumble puddings. Main courses such as sausage and mash, pork cutlets, beef stew and fish were available in a variety of dishes. There was also a pizza bar on the deck outside serving pizzas, beef burgers and chips. We likened it to quality cafeteria style with paper knapkins and self service cutlery rather than tables laid formally. Tea and coffee was available all day but only in mugs. The station inside with a good selection of teas was inadequate for the number of passengers and had long queues at busy times, although there was a coffee station by the pizza bar outside that wasn't as available and had less selection. If it had been raining this could not have been used. During mealtimes waiters served tea and coffee in addition. The hot water and coffee were served out of two large stainless steel urns but only had ground coffee. Decaffeinated was available in sachets only. There were no sachets of regular instant coffee and no hot chocolate, horlicks or other bedtime drinks available at night as there often are on other cruise ships.
The entertainment was of an excellent standard, but there were no cinema or gambling facilities. There was the usual yard of gold and silver chain available but no art auctions. The shops were pleasant and adequately stocked. Duty free prices were good for drink and tobacco products, although perfumes and after shave seemed expensive even with a 20% special offer on certain days. Bar prices were just over public house prices and in some cases cheaper. Wine started at a reasonable £14 per bottle and was cheaper to buy than by the glass.
We felt this was a no frills cruise. There were photographs taken if required but were never pushed. The words "No thank you" were met with a smile and readily accepted. As with all cruises photographs were not the cheapest product, but remain a good momento of your holiday with a DVD available at £22. Incidentally this DVD ran all day long on a TV channel in your cabin as well as on screens around the ship. The general condition of the ship is excellent but does not allow for wheelchair use very readily, as there are lots of stairs and bulkheads to negotiate between areas which would make it difficult to get round the whole ship. The general attitude of the staff was extremely good. Everyone replied to the best of their ability when asked a question and were friendly and polite, always insisting you go first. With this cruise around Britain, passengers were ferried ashore by tender at four out of the seven ports visited. In our opinion if the water was choppy, unless you were good on your feet it seemed dangerous and there was a number incidents of people being injured.
So to sum up we found this to be a basic cruise which was good value for money with no frills. There were no cocktails served at the welcoming formal night just sparkling wine or orange juice. There were paper knapkins at breakfast and lunchtime, there was no customary chocolate on the pillow at night, nor replacement of cabin toiletries or in fact clean dry towels every day. Generally speaking the positives far outweighed a few negatives. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip and would recommend it and we will definitely cruise again with Cruise Maritime Voyages recommending the Marco Polo ship. We have yet to try her sister ship the Ocean Countess.
We hope you have found our review of a helpful nature. Of course there are lots of things that we have not had the space or time to comment on as with most cruises. We have tried to pick out some interesting facts to give an overall picture. The ports of call on this trip had plenty of excursions available to suit all tastes and capability and did not seem that expensive. We preferred to be independent travellers exploring on our own. All the ports are well documented in guide books and do not need our inexperienced opinions on them. We visited Inverness, Stornaway on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, Dublin, St Mary's on the Scilly Isles, St Peter Port in Guernsey and Honfleur. We had chosen this cruise because of the ports on the itinerary and were not disappointed. They were all delightful and we enjoyed each one.
Reviewed by Peter and Pippa (rent15c), age group late 50's.