You always wonder what a ship will be like before a cruise. Having seen the prices and ports of call for the Marco Polo, we weren't sure if an old ship was for us. Therefore, we jumped at the chance for an evening dinner, entertainment and overnight stay.
Whilst for this event they had restricted numbers to around 400, about half of full capacity, clearly the terminal at Tilbury couldn't cope. The cattle market approach together with mis-information given out by checking-in staff and a PA that you could hardly hear, filled us with trepidation.
Once we arrived onboard, we were shown to our cabin. We were on Deck 5. Fortunately, we only had hand luggage. Otherwise dragging large cases over bulkheads would not have been appreciated. The corridor absolutely stunk of diesel fuel and I wonder how passengers could cope with this day in and day out.
Our cabin was spacious, but very well 'used'. There were two portholes. However, to see out of them would have required certain mounteneering skills. There were only 3 channels on the old TV and they seemed to be videos on a loop system, forever repeating themselves.
Given that the ship was only half full, it was very clostophobic in the bars etc. Not helped by low ceilngs and no empty seats. The food was, at best 3* or below. The entertainment, a take off of We Will Rock You, was more Pontins than West End. If you needed the loo, queuing was essential, unless you were up for a walk around the ship.
For the evening meal we were allocated tables pre-embarkation. However, this system was abandoned for breakfast, when it was every man/woman for themselves. You had to queue to get a table and while you were in the scrum for food, they gave your table to another set of guests. There was no queuing system for obtaining your food or obvious area to stand while you watched guests infiltrating the scrum.
They were keen for you to leave the ship but there was only a girl shouting out your Visitors Card number to someone trying to find your name on a manual list and then making a handwritten mark. All made for very long queues.
This was supposed to be a Showcase to encourage future bookings. Whilst, undoubtebly, the cabins on the higher decks were better, save for one super waiter called Constantine, the rest of the crew hardly made you feel like travelling with them in the future. I'd say that they well and truely shot themselves in both feet.
How they could possibly cope with nearly 800 guests is beyond my belief. Thank goodness our next cruise is NOW on a 5* ship and not a poor pretender.