Exactly as Described on the Box: Marco Polo Cruise Review by Apcwmwl

Marco Polo 4
Member Since 2014
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Exactly as Described on the Box

Sail Date: May 2014
Destination: Baltic Sea
Embarkation: London (Tilbury)
Subject: Cruise P414: The Baltic Cities & St.Petersburg 6th-18th May 2014

1. The port: Embarkation procedure was straightforward except that having arrived 15 minutes prior to the booked time 1300, unloaded luggage etc., we then had to make our way to the car parking site some 1km away, returning on the shuttle bus after it had filled, where we then found the 3 buses arriving from Victoria disgorging a substantial number of passengers prior to their scheduled time (1330), which forced a wait at the rear of the queue to check in.

2. Rest of check-in, embarkation etc. smooth and efficient. Once on board welcoming staff escorted to cabin. On return to Tilbury, the delay caused by fog at the Kiel Canal was worthwhile, not only for viewing the operation of the lock, but because it gave extra time to sleep and prepare for disembarkation, which went very smoothly. It might have been welcome for coffee and tea supplies to be readily available on board during the 2 hour More wait, despite crew having to prepare for incoming guests.

3. Marco Polo: Cabin: Initial impression: spotlessly clean, adequate, & comfortable. During voyage: Kept spotless by the diligent cabin-stewardess Romanika: superb. Impossible to keep constant temperature with AirCon without repeated adjustment. Beds comfortable. Equipment adequate. TV a little out-dated and prone to picture interference. Bathroom: as before,spotless and constantly kept that way. Shower temperature control had a mind of its own – unable to adjust to a constant.

4. Ship interior very clean and a credit to the crew. All the lounges/bars were relatively comfortable, though those bucket seats can be the opposite after a while, and all public spaces tended to get crowded when at sea for long periods. Marco Polo Bistro was disappointing, more akin to the self-service facilities on a cross channel ferry than an “eating experience”, though food quality was generally regarded as good and the staff were attentive and good humoured, despite their apparent heavy work load. We used once only for breakfast and light lunch. Invariably crowded and difficult to find a table at most times when food was available, and when weather was inclement enough not to stay outside. Table availability was also scarce around the pool area, with many passengers taking the air all day long.

5. Waldorf Restaurant: Pleasant enough room with many tables, restricting circulation. At dinner, initially allocated Main Sitting Table 7 (4 persons) adjacent to an 8 seater. This small area is very constricted and noise levels are high, especially when fellow travellers(sic) are seeking to make their presence felt by making more noise than most. All credit to the Maitre d’ who offered to change our table to no.25 after noticing our protestations to those on the table on day 4. Our table companions, Rita & David, were a delight from first meeting, and were also grateful for the relocation. Special mention to our waiters, Alexandru and Inna (don’t believe her bullying tactics – she’s a real softie!), and wine waitress Valentyna. The menu was varied, and the choice met our needs. Some vegetables were at times undercooked, salads sometimes a little sparse, most meat and fish dishes well prepared, and sauces somewhat bland on occasion. Sweets very good.

Waldorf Breakfast choices were comprehensive, fresh fruit plentiful, hot food well cooked (bacon sometimes too well) and highly acceptable. The toaster seemed to have difficulty in keeping up supply, but waits were short. Chef did well to keep up with demand for omelettes.

Waldorf Lunch was also very acceptable when we took it, (fish & chips Day 10 were exceptional!) and as usual staff were attentive, organised and very good humoured.

6. The big question: What was that overpriced liquid called “wine”. Both House Red & White were undrinkable – even after several glasses! A joke at £14.90 a bottle. The next white up at £18.90 and the Cabernet and Merlot (Go East) at £16.90 didn’t match up either. Since there are strict rules against bringing drink on board, the least that could be provided would be reasonably priced good quality wines. We would seriously suggest a tie up with a good vintner to supply. Mark–ups in restaurants are always acceptable within reason, but in these cases the mark-ups must be 2000%! Please stop serving RUBBISH!

7. Daytime Activity: There were enough things available to occupy those who wished to partake. The talks were OK.

8. Evening Shows: Our attendance at these was restricted by the time we finished our leisurely meal, often after the start time. What we did see was adequate {ABBA} {Queen} and reasonably good {Best of Broadway}. The participants certainly put enough energy into them. The band could do with a little augmentation – perhaps another keyboard? – to support the vocalists. We enjoyed Mel Harvey. All in all a reasonably effective “end of the pier” experience. How about including a one act play/comedy/farce within the programme,just as a variation from the music?

Our overall cruise experience allied to the Marco Polo in general was very pleasant.

On this particular cruise, we felt that we were unable to spend enough time in most of the cities we visited. Had we not visited Copenhagen previously, 5 hours would be totally inadequate. 6 hours was hardly enough for Tallinn, 6.1/2 hours Helsinki, and a ridiculous 3 hours in Stockholm [shuttle buses 8.30 & 13.30] negated a large part of the purpose of our cruise. Since we did not require a visit to Berlin, 12 hours in Warnemunde/Rostock, though interesting and fruitful, was a little excessive, even though we realise that this was for the benefit of those taking the excursion. St.Petersburg was worth all the time spent there, and a highlight of our 12 days, though we did take the opportunity of booking an independent tour with AllaTours for the 2 days. Worth every penny for being in a small group & a third less than two days with the ship excursions.

In 1993, I sailed on a similar Baltic cruise with CTC Lines Kareliya, but on a much more comprehensive route – Tilbury, Amsterdam, Oslo, Stockholm, Tallinn, St.Petersburg, Helsinki, Warnemunde(Berlin), Kiel Canal, Tilbury. Only one day was spent solely at sea, and each city call allowed at least 7 clear hours in port. This was very pleasant if organised tours were or were not being taken from the ship, and gave an opportunity to get a taster of each city in a relaxed way. In fact, on my return I promised that I would do the same again when the opportunity arose. Of course, CTC disappeared. This has been that opportunity.

Marco Polo & its crew lived up to expectations. Our only regrets were the lack of time to explore, but it was a suitable taster to encourage a return. Less

Published 06/03/14

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