This was our first cruise aboard the Marco Polo. To be honest we were somewhat apprehensive, as there had been several poor reviews of the ship since we booked last November. However our concerns were unjustified and we thoroughly enjoyed both the ship and the trip around the Norwegian Fjords.
Embarkation was a doddle, on arrival just drop your bags off at the Terminal and head for the long stay car park about 500m away and get the shuttle bus back to the Terminal to check-in. The whole process took no more than 20 minutes from arriving to unpacking – much easier and far less stressful that at any airport.
We had been given a cabin upgrade on arrival, and our cabin was comfortable and tidy, though probably not as spacious as those on some larger ships, it was perfectly adequate for our needs, there was plenty of wardrobe and drawer space, and empty suitcases could easily be stowed under the beds and out of site. The bathroom was clean and well stocked, and everything worked.
To be honest, there was a bit of hum from the engines which you could hear when it was quiet, so if you are a light sleeper then remember to take your earplugs. On our 2nd night there was a slight rolling around, as the sea was described as 'moderate', and we heard that a number of passengers had suffered as a result. However, we were located in the centre of the ship and although we felt the ship's movement, it wasn't a problem for us, though others might be more sensitive to this. Again, this is something you can expect on a smaller ship.
We found the Crew to be very keen on hygiene, in every part of the ship, not just in the restaurants. There are several Bars, plus Library, Games Room, Gym, Card Room, plus the main Theatre where shows are held every evening. We found all the staff to be friendly and helpful.
We had opted for 2nd Dining in the main Waldorf Restaurant, which was immaculately presented. We had all of our meals there except a couple when it was warm enough to eat out on deck, where we used Marco's restaurant instead. We found the standard and choice of food to be quite acceptable, especially the self-service breakfasts, where there was a huge choice of fruits/cereals/breads and pastries, hot food, plus eggs cooked to order. Porridge and Smoked Salmon were available to order. The Lunches and Dinners consisted of 5 or 6 courses each, and there was always at least 3 choices of each course, plus a vegetarian option. The portions were not huge but were sufficient. (you could always top up in Marco's if you wanted!).
Some of the previous reviews had mentioned that the food was not always hot, but you have to remember that ships are catering for several hundred people at a time, it's not like having a dinner for 2 in some candlelit bistro, so there always has be a small delay from the food leaving the kitchen to arriving at your table. Anyway, we didn't have any problems with the quality of the food. The staff were always polite and attentive too. Water was always served with the meals.
The food served in Marco's (Self-service), was similar to that offered in the main Dining room, and occasionally some of the dishes would run out, and you may have to wait a few minutes for it to be replaced. There was also generally a queue, especially at opening times, so unless you're desperately hungry (unlikely to be honest), we always though it better to wait for 30 minutes or so whilst the queue died down, before getting any food.
There is also another servery out on deck, where they serve a couple of simple dishes each lunchtime, maybe pizzas, sausages, fish & salad etc. This food here was always piping hot as it was generally cooked on the spot.
There was free Tea & Coffee from 2 separate vending machines until 10pm, we never saw a problem of running out of cups, as has been mentioned on other reviews, and saw staff regularly filling them up. Our only complaint was that the Teabags (Lipton Yellow) were rather weak, which necessitated a couple of bags per cup, therefore taking longer to get a drink. The tables both in Marco's and also outside on deck did tend to fill up pretty quickly, but there were lots of tables for 4 with only 2 people, so it was always possible to get a table, but not necessarily to yourselves. We also found that people often stayed at their table throughout the mealtimes, even when not dining, which obviously deprives others of a table.
The Entertainment staff were brilliant, to be honest I'd be happy to watch some of the shows that they put on at my local theatre. There were spectacular shows each evening, mostly West End style Sing and Dance numbers, plus a comedian (Andre) for a couple of nights who was a cross between Tommy Cooper and Jim Davidson, very funny.
Late at night in Scott’s Bar, there was a follow-up themed cabaret act, either 60's, Elvis, Abba, Rock & Roll etc. which was also highly enjoyable, plus a resident singer. In other Bars there was a piano player and violinist every evening. There were also various things going on around the ship throughout the day – talks, quizzes, demonstrations etc. So you were never bored.
One criticism is regarding the drinks prices, which are really overpriced. Draft Beer was the equivalent of £4,20 a pint, and a 250ml glass of wine was £5. A bottle of House Wine was £14,90, and cocktails around £4. However, the same criticisms are levelled at most if not all of the Cruise Lines. The same goes for the Ships Photographs (£10 for 1, £20 for 3) and Cruise DVDs (£20), although we were not pestered by photographers as we have been on other Ships.
We didn't do any organised excursions as we prefer to do our own thing, and you never know what the weather will be like in Norway. Some who had booked for for scenic journeys up into the Mountains were disappointed as there was low cloud and drizzle at the time. Again, we thought most were overpriced. We did our own trip on the railway at Flam, costing 300 NOK (apx. £45) for the return trip, less than half the cost of the organised tour, though we didn't have coffee & cake.
So our overall impression - The scenery in the Fjords was truly wonderful, though the weather could have been kinder to us we thoroughly enjoyed our 8 night holiday. In the end we were pleasantly surprised by what the Marco Polo had to offer. So as long as you are aware of the ship's capabilities and think 4* Hilton not 5* Ritz, then you should be pleasantly surprised too.
Would we book on the Marco Polo again – yes.