Marco Polo Cruise Review by BeginnersLuck?
- Sail Date: January 2016
- Destination: South America
Some Naval Gazing (Pun Intended)
In our thirty years together, my partner and I have travelled tens of thousands of miles, to many different destinations, using many modes of transport; but I am afraid to say that this 54 day cruise rates plum bottom of our list.
The success of cruising stands or falls on its complement of passengers and in this respect I can honestly say that I have never met a more disagreeable group, and it was difficult to keep a civil tongue among such cantankerous, rude, petty-minded, boorish, boring people – obsessed with value and imagined sleights. Mean!
Here I tread wearily through a minefield of misanthropy and patronization!
With its pervading cooking and sanitary smells and its feel of the corridors and public spaces of a Care Home, the Marco Polo is exactly that. Not quite Salty Towers, more three star; a geriatric, floating Butlins without Ruth Madoc’s “Hello Campers!” Just Ross Roberts, our camp Cruise Director, who valiantly rallied us to our Arts & Craft classes, Bridge meetings, Creative Writing courses, Bingo, Twenty Questions, Give us a Clue – a limitless horizon of nursery school fun and frolics for geriatrics.
It was like an institution and like all institutions it had its school prefects, its little Hitlers, its bullies and its selfish, self-important types; its know-alls and its know-nothings.
In port for 22 days, at sea for 32 means that actual cruising alone has to be something enjoyable in itself.
Let me quote from one of the daily programme bulletins –
“IMPORTANT NOTICE: it has come to our attention that some of our passengers’ behaviour has been causing distress, annoyance and upset to the fellow passengers. The well-being of our passengers is paramount to the success of our cruise. If this behaviour continues we reserve the right to terminate their booking arrangements with us.”
This insert appeared several times and there have even been appeals from the management over the PA.
So, like a school, in the last resort was expulsion a possibility? Of course not!
I experienced bullying harassment; in a bridge meeting one passenger was reduced to tears. Rudeness usually arose from petty concerns: chair reservations, queuing, behaviour at the tea stations and such like.
There were, apparently, round sixteen departures from this vessel: six deaths, six emergency disembarkations and repatriations and a few so disenchanted with the atmosphere on board they left the ship early and flew home.
Our geriatric float was filled with badly dressed, often overweight elderly people displaying class obsessions and mistaken perceptions of pecking orders. Many treated the staff in the most off-hand, haughty and rude manner. And there was the inevitable retreat into the tribal fortress of superiority and entitlement where I am afraid my partner and I could and indeed did not want to go. It made one ashamed of being British, and also understand why we Brits are frequently loathed abroad.
The ‘whole’ is not ‘the sum of its parts’ of course; it needs only a few rotten apples to ferment the barrel.
This is also manifested in the level of conversation and social engagement. Beyond, yes, the weather, the boasts of other cruise experiences, taxi stories, the petty complaints about unimportant things and the tyranny of the ubiquitous know-alls, it was difficult to engage in any meaningful way.
It was a relief when someone like-minded and amusing came one’s way, and it is true, they did! We found good apples; kind, considerate, enlightened passengers on the ship of fools, who were as shocked by some of the attitudes as we were, but en masse we appeared a motley and dispirited lot creating a fairly humourless, oppressive atmosphere that was hard to work against. One had almost to warm oneself up, like an actor before a stage entry; psyche oneself into a performance!
It was exhausting!
It is not relaxing - and it is far too long!
DISCLAIMER: this is a very personal view and I’m sure there were many here who would not recognise the picture I have painted. That the average age was round 75 should not be surprising since it can only be retirees who can afford the time and expenditure for 54 days! We should have worked that out long before we paid our deposit, but didn’t.
Our “shore leaves” or “exeats” as we came to call them, extending the boarding school metaphor, were not long enough. That said, and apart from two stops, we enjoyed all the places we visited for one reason or another; had a taster for further, later exploration and, in the case of Brazil, actually saw quite a lot spread across seven very different cities.
I never say ‘never again’ because you never know.
The Marco Polo is a fifty year-old liner, small by modern standards, at around 22,000 tons, she is shabby-chic; the food is good but institutional; everything works – just - the entertainment is frequent and, shall we say, diverting.
She carries 650+ passengers and 250+ staff/crew.
We had a spacious cabin on Deck 9, starboard, for’ard, under the bridge. Lots of light. Edison was our steward; a charming man from the Philippines, efficient and helpful, he works nine months of every year, has a family in Manila whom he phones more often than he sees. He speaks English well and is part of a small Philippino contingent; there others from Burma (or Myanmar as we must now call it). Most are from the Ukraine or Romania and the rest, mainly restaurant and waiting/cooking staff are from India. Philip was our table steward and hails from Mumbai; an exceptionally attentive, cheerful and nice young man who also, like many on board, has family waiting at home.
They all work hard and are never deserving of some of the peremptory rudeness we saw them have to put up with; the attitudes of superiority and sublime sense of entitlement that certain types of English express!
The Ukrainian staff were efficient but rather graceless. A combination of poor English, the shyness that that engenders, a distinct distaste for working so far from home, results in a rather joyless brusqueness that made it difficult to warm to those that hovered around us for much of the day! The Ship’s doctor was Romanian. Most of the troupe of dancers, singers, musicians and entertainers were Romanian/Ukrainian.
Of the entertainers and their efforts, I have only praise. What an impossible task!
The band, the solo musicians, the dance corps were all excellent and we were treated to an array of well costumed, well choreographed floor shows with different themes put together in an astonishing time scale. Only two solo singers were toneless and should be sent home in a hurry!
As one friend opined this morning at breakfast, “Aren’t you looking forward to the end of term?”!!
Lord Dismiss us with Thy Blessing
All who once attended here……….!
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