We have never cruised before, and wanting to get away for the whole Christmas Period, this cruise fitted the bill. It appeared good value compared to alternative festive getaways and we had a good time, but all was all not exactly plain ... Read More
We have never cruised before, and wanting to get away for the whole Christmas Period, this cruise fitted the bill. It appeared good value compared to alternative festive getaways and we had a good time, but all was all not exactly plain sailing.
We booked through Saga, who’s service was exemplary. They arranged transportation from our home to the port and return, which was upgraded to minute perfect luxury private cars, free of charge because we live close to Avonmouth.
This is an old small ship, and when docked the view looked comical, as the Marco Polo looked as if it was the tug for the larger cruise ships. However we had the last laugh passing enormous queues for those huge floating hotels, to just walk straight on the Marco Polo. Embarkation, and disembarkation particularly were easy too.
This is not a ship for those without good sea legs, as it rode every wave and rolled. I was shocked how much more movement there was on here compared with a small Cross Channel Ferry we took two weeks previously in an identical sea state. Remember to bring your sea sickness gadgets and remedies. I have never suffered sea sickness but was struck down with nausea one day and took advantage of complimentary Sea Sick Pills. On a few days the choking smell of diesel around the ship added to this problem.
We purchased a drinks package, that was good value, but it could be challenging to make it pay. Service was variable. A good example was, at our dinner table we had an apparently new recruit wine steward who was struggling. At our first meal it was 45 minutes before we were offered a glass of wine. At subsequent meals we tried to purchase wine at the bar to take down to dinner, only to be curtly told to sit at a (lounge) table, as it was waiter service only. This could be a lengthy process, as there were not enough bar staff. However we found we could purchase our wine at the Columbus bar at the opposite end of the ship. Here the regular barman was an absolute legend. He was efficient and very focused. His Cocktails were the best and most consistent on board by a nautical mile.
The main restaurant was always very busy in the evenings, but the service of the meals was excellent. The food was generally very good, apart from a rare duff dish, or one that was not warm enough, but Henry our table steward was very accommodating with replacements and alternatives. Breakfast was served here buffet style, and lunch was back to a more formal style, but we found the the atmosphere too dark and stuffy for mid day and chose to eat at the buffet.
The Buffet was more cafe style and but food here was also tasty and better than it looked. It was always very crowded at lunchtimes, especially early on, but we always (sometimes just) managed to find somewhere to sit, sometimes outside by the pool.
The whole crew were generally friendly when they could be (when it was quiet) but they could come across grumpy when under pressure. The entertainment team were exceptional, and worked very hard to provide a variety of shows and other activities across the vessel, maybe more Hi Di Hi than West End, but it wasn't unusual for the lead role of a fully dressed show to finish at 21:55 to present a quiz at 22:00 in the bar at the opposite end of the ship. Callum and Savannah were particularly outstanding talents. One of the joys of the smaller ship was that they were happy to engage with passengers around the ship and in the buffet and the smaller ship enabled you to get to know most of the staff and fellow passengers, which some passengers enjoyed but a few found this a little stifling. On this fully booked trip, space was a premium and you needed to arrive early to get a decent seat for entertainment, quizzes etc. The little fitness and wellness area was good value.
Despite the ships age, the public areas were in good condition as were the furnishings and as advertised were never luxurious but surprisingly comfortable. Our cabin probably showed its age a little more. On our arrival was clean and comfortable but with some signs of wear and tear especially in the bathroom. There was a problem with the tap water in our cabin, that at times was a strange Brown/orange colour, that we repeatedly complained about.I think this may have been sorted at the end of our cruise. We paid the extra to have a bath, but bathing in that water wasn't at all appealing, but we did benefit from a large comfortable bed and a lot of living and storage space.
Cabin care was disappointing. After about four days our nice bedding was changed for a set with a stained quilt. During the night some of the contents of the stain (possibly blood or vomit) soaked up onto the surface of the quilt cover. Nightly, when our beds were turned, our daily programme was positioned over the offending stain by our Cabin Steward to hide the stain. This went on for about a week until we complained and the bedding was changed. They also could have been a little more generous with the vacuum cleaner, and we resisted the temptation to borrow the one left in the gangway when obvious crumbs were left following the cabins make up.
The ships programme could hardly be relied on, as it was often full of mistakes and inaccurate information. We missed events that were not listed and attended ones that didn't happen. It told us to change our clocks 24 hours early, and it mis informed us that for the last 36 hours of our cruise only one bar would be open on a cash only basis. Thankfully that wasn't the case.
The cruise itinerary went to schedule perfectly apart for our arrival in Funchal where we were unable to anchor, allegedly because of the swell. I think this turned out to be an advantage as we gently cruised past Funchal at such a position that everybody could see and enjoy the whole spectacle of the town twinkling and every firework across the bay in the New Year display. Best of all our late arrival in port meant that we docked instead of tendered. The ship was launched in the mid sixtes, and there was only a handful of people born after this launch date, and most were born some twenty years or more prior. There were also a large number with walking or mobility aids, so docking ensured that everybody had time and were able to enjoy the delights (and the rain) of Madeira relatively hassle free.
In spite of the niggles, we enjoyed a lovely British Christmas break surrounded by friendly, mainly older people who certainly knew how to enjoy themselves. If you like the traditional cruise with excuses to dress up, you like to be constantly very aware that you are at sea, you enjoy the company of familiar faces on a daily basis in a no thrills yet comfortable environment, this cruise is for you. However, I looked with some envy at those big sparkling cruise ships that cut through the waves rather than rode over them. I envied their gleaming new glass and paintwork and particularly their balconies. However I know we would have to have had to stretch our budget much further on there, fly before embarkation with all that entails to get there, and face long queues at every stop.
We had a good time but we won't be back in a hurry. Read Less