Marco Polo Entertainment
Entertainment onboard the Marco Polo is a nice balance between traditional cruise offerings and enrichment programmes. Daytime activities revolve around enrichment lecturers; there is at least one destination-related lecturer on every voyage, and longer voyages with more sea days may have additional lecturers as well.
Lectures aside, you will find special performances by evening entertainers, team trivia, bridge tournaments, ballroom dance lessons by professional dance instructors and the like.
In the evening, the main entertainment is in the Marco Polo Lounge, the ship's show lounge/theatre. There are generally two production shows a week. The singers and dancers are quite energetic, given the amount of performing that's expected of them, though obviously the small Marco Polo Lounge can't offer the same staging and special effects as the theaters of larger ships. Shows are staged once for each dinner seating. (This seems adequate given the number of passengers who attend.)
Perhaps the most popular nighttime venue is the Captain's Club Lounge, a lovely, full-beam room decorated in soft earth tones and located just aft of the Marco Polo Lounge on Deck 8. This is the location where the ship's pianist plays. The third major evening entertainment spot is the colorfully (but not glitzily) decorated Scott's Bar, another full-beam room located all the way aft on Deck 9. The ship's musicians perform here for dancing earlier in the evening, and later the room is transformed into the popular disco.
Many of the singers and dancers are also the cruise staff, handling activities like trivia and even dispatching shore excursions during the day. Not only do they perform both roles well, but this also gives you the added enjoyment of feeling like you know the people onstage during the production shows -- because you do!
The shore excursion selection in many ports is perhaps a bit more limited than some other cruise lines, but they are well-chosen, and prices also tend to be somewhat lower than the major lines. In ports with good facilities or longer stays, the disembarkation process is simple, but in ports with minimal access and/or short stopovers, exiting the ship can become a crowded and chaotic affair.
Marco Polo Public Rooms
As befits its size and age, the Marco Polo eschews the grand and often ostentatious public rooms of today's ships in favor of more intimate but nevertheless very comfortable spaces. The decor is restrained and modern, devoid of glitz without being bland. Also, most of the public areas have large windows, providing a good connection with the sea and lots of natural light during the day.
Almost all the public rooms are located on Magellan Deck 8, which is devoted entirely to them. Amidships, you'll find the main lobby with the Tour Office including shore excursion bookings and purser's desks. Aft of this are the surprisingly large shops to port and a pleasantly quiet lounge with large windows and a collection of naturally concealing foliage to starboard. Next is the cosy Columbus Lounge in the center of the ship, while on the portside the boutiques continue aft along this space. Yet further aft are the library to starboard and the matching card room, with various port plaques and the original Alexander Pushkin ship's bell, to port, and finally Marco's and the pool area aft of all the public rooms.
The only exceptions to the Deck 8 rule are the Scott's Bar (nightclub), aft on Amundsen Deck 9, and the Internet Cafe, Jade Wellness Center and Fitness Center aft on Upper Deck 10.
With three staircases -- unusual for a small ship -- and a logical layout, the ship is quite easy to navigate. The exception is with the internet cafe and spa, beauty and fitness facilities on Deck 10, which can be somewhat difficult to access as they can only be reached from the C (aft) staircase. It should also be noted that numerous raised thresholds and some narrow passageways mean this ship is not ideal for mobility-impaired passengers.
Marco Polo Spa & Fitness
One of the strongest points of Marco Polo is its open deck space, which is wonderfully varied and spacious for a ship this size. The focal point of outdoor life onboard is the aft decks, a great series of semicircular balconies cascading down from Deck 11 to the main pool area on Deck 8. The pool itself is a blue-tiled, average-sized rectangular saltwater example surrounded by an expanse of teak decking with teak table and faux-wicker chair sets. Up on Deck 11, at the top of the balconies, are three hot tubs that are, sadly, surrounded by blue indoor-outdoor carpeting rather than the teak seen on Deck 10 and below.
There is also a 270-degree teak promenade on Deck 9, shaded by the lifeboats and lined with steamer chairs. (You have to climb to Deck 10 at the bow to complete the circuit.) You can also simply go around the whole ship on Deck 10. The forward and aft sections are teak -- the forward section is a huge expanse great for entering and leaving port -- while the midships part of the circuit is covered in blue rubberized non-slip decking. This is the designated walking/jogging track (no jogging before 8 a.m., as cabins are below) -- however, the midships sections are directly behind the lifeboats and thus have no view. (They're also too narrow for any deck furniture. On the plus side, this means no obstructions for walkers and joggers. Those wanting to sit down should do so one deck below on Deck 9.) The Jade Wellness Center and Fitness Center are located aft on Upper Deck 10. The Beauty Salon and Spa are relatively small but offer all the usual treatments; the Fitness Center is an attractive, window-lined room of a good size for this size ship and is equipped with a full range of fairly new equipment.