Our last time on the Marco Polo was in 2011, our second cruise, after our first on NCL with a butler and a concierge and lots of fancy extras. We’ve done lots of cruises since, but the Marco Polo has stayed VERY special and both times ... Read More
Our last time on the Marco Polo was in 2011, our second cruise, after our first on NCL with a butler and a concierge and lots of fancy extras. We’ve done lots of cruises since, but the Marco Polo has stayed VERY special and both times have been equally enjoyable. It’s a shame this is the last time the Marco Polo will visit Canada, so I’ll concentrate on the ship, rather than the ports. If it were to return to Canada, I’d suggest calling it “Canada with a fall”, as a lot of people took the title “fall” rather too literally and actually fell, which kept the doctor fairly busy (although he always seemed to have time for a cigarette – and the occasional brandy - out on deck!)!
On arrival, the new parking facilities at Tilbury made things much easier. As we went towards check in, we were greeted by Sheena, a member of staff who recognised us from 2011 – she was also there to wish us a safe journey home when we got back! Check in took no time, and within minutes, we were in our cabin.
We really like CMV, and yes, there are things they could do better – information about the ports could have maps, there could be more mugs available and a couple of the waiting staff might be a little more courteous at times (that said, our waiter, Pritish, was fantastic). Sometimes, perhaps a little more attention could be paid to detail. Getting the time zone wrong was a good example, but it does add to the quirkiness of CMV and probably why we rate it so highly.
It’s a small ship experience with a very friendly and very helpful crew (mostly) and very friendly passengers (mostly), with no casino, no art auctions, very few queues, no huge upselling – and no kids (although most passengers are very young at heart). Calling it a “small ship” is correct, but as the cruise progresses, it takes longer and longer to get anywhere as you keep nattering to people on the way! We’ve racked our brains as to what facilities a larger ship has that we’d use and can’t think of anything that really makes a huge difference to our overall enjoyment.
We booked a “guaranteed” cabin and were allocated 655, an accessible cabin on deck 9. It was very big and exceedingly well situated. It had more than ample storage facilities with a large dressing table and three wardrobes. And very usefully, lots of wall hooks for coats and dressing gowns that we brought with. One of the dressing gowns came in particularly useful to block out the light from under the door.
Most of the time the noise from Scott’s Bar didn’t bother us, however we did have to make sure the big doors were closed before we went to bed, and were annoyed by the selfish people who opened them once or twice late at night despite the signs. Our cabin door rattled - we managed to remedy it by using a sock - the cabin attendant did say he’d inform the carpenter, but that didn’t seem to happen, however he did keep the cabin absolutely spotless and never seemed to stop working.
The hold rails in the bathroom came in very useful when we were taking a shower in rough seas. However, as for true accessibility, the ship isn’t modern and one day a lady was in tears after climbing the gang way back up to the ship which was very steep due to tidal conditions – she didn’t leave the ship again until disembarkation. However, others (including yours truly) managed to dance in Scott’s Bar in rather rough seas until the small hours.
With so many sea days, we were delighted with the daytime activities, especially the creative writing classes by Chrissie – and the drama classes with Harry and Emma. Doing these meant that there were clashes with some of the lectures but the ones we saw (especially Steve’s maritime history ones) were great. Sue was always on deck saying we’d just missed a whale (seriously, she was fabulous at explaining the natural world around us) – and Lucy was a real trooper although a lot of what she said about photography rather went over our untechnical heads – we just want to point and click to get a photo!
Given that our previous Marco Polo Cruise Director was the amazing Richard Sykes, Josh had a lot to live upto and he was a really great Cruise Director – a very talented showman with a great future. The standout moment for us was when he unexpectedly appeared during our drama class in his costume for the cocktail competition. At that moment, it confirmed we were in great hands!
The nightly entertainment was mainly very good, although we thought the comedians were rather past their best before date. At nearly 60, I really struggled with some subjects, such as putting sixpences and aspirins in stocking suspenders that broke in the wash. Thankfully some other passengers explained it to us. One thing we would change about the “Round the World” would be the English bit. Surely Gracie Fields, Vera Lynn and some outdated jingoistic claptrap about how we’re going to widen our “Empire” could perhaps be replaced by something more in keeping with the modern world, perhaps a couple of Beatles songs, like “With A Little Help From Our Friends” and “Imagine”. Or even Scooch’s Eurovision entry, “Flying the Flag”. Or something less innocuous like “My Old Man”.
It was nice to see a smattering of same sex couples, perhaps we should have asked for an LGBT meet up to be put in the programme as we didn’t get to know one couple until the last few days. Being gay obviously wasn’t a problem, but we were rather more cautious about talking about politics and very carefully “came out” as pro-EU – and were delighted to find so many likeminded people – and were over the moon that EU flags sometimes adorned our cocktails! Unlike some other lines, CMV isn’t “totally” British, we very much enjoyed having a smattering of Dutch and Australian etc passengers onboard.
The food was very much to our taste, I’m not sure I ordered anything I didn’t like, and there was a very good variety with very few repetitions during the 30 days, although my pescatarian husband had a couple of veggie dishes he wasn’t keen on, but they were changed very quickly to something he did like. Our waiter, Pritish, was absolutely brilliant and dealt with our dietary requirements superbly. Portions were huge and our only complaint was that the food was too nice so we ate too much! Of course, it wouldn’t be CMV without a few quirks – vinegar springs to mind where at first it came in a gravy boat, then the waiters just brought the plastic bottle! Shame I can’t be as enthusiastic about the house wine. My husband refused to drink the house white after a while and we ended up buying bottles – even at £12 after the discount, it mounts up and is rather annoying when you’ve already spent around £1200 on two drinks packages. For our next cruise, we’ve decided to take the VIP package, reluctantly, in the hope that the wine is better.
To cut down on eating, many times, we had the free “breakfast in bed” – toast, a croissant, a pastry, orange juice and tea/coffee was enough – inside cabins don’t have a kettle, so this was a way round getting a hot drink in the morning. A cooked version for a tenner was also available, although I’m not sure how you’d actually eat it comfortably in most cabins which don’t have a table.
We only missed one port, St Johns, due to a hurricane, the rest of the time, we got to our destinations, although the tender process was a little chaotic at times, and our last Canadian port, Sydney was only until 1pm, meaning a very short stop for some – thankfully we pre-booked an excursion meaning we were off the ship quite early, but didn’t get a chance for a walk round the town afterwards. The excursions we went on were well priced and well organised and most of the time, free shuttles to the city centre were laid on by the port authorities, but that’s down to the port authority, rather than the cruise company.
There’s no denying that CMV is truly unique and not for everyone. There’s simply no point in comparing it to other lines, it does things differently, it will suit some people more than others, and I’m sure there will be reviews about the “rust bucket” and “rude staff” etc. It certainly isn’t a rust bucket and 99% of the staff are friendly and helpful.
Towards the end of the cruise, we had no hesitation in booking another with CMV where we got a 5% discount – plus free parking from cruise.co.uk! We’ve now got three CMV cruises to look forward to, none on the Marco Polo, which is a shame as it’s a fantastic ship, but I hope we’ll put that right soon enough. Read Less