This was our first cruise and in truth we had been rather sniffy about cruises before but we wanted to go to Iceland and CMV were offering a 2 for 1 deal so we gave it a go.
The Marco Polo appealed as it was a small ship and looked like a real ship as opposed to the floating blocks of flats that pass as cruise ships. So, how was it?
The embarkation started off well, we parked our car (under cover) and our luggage was whipped away and we were shuttle bussed to the terminal. Here there was a long queue and a lot of waiting. We trooped through the P&O ferry terminal as if we were on a day trip to France. It is at this point that you realise the Marco Polo has 800 passengers and there was only one window where you picked up your boarding card. CMV do stagger the boarding times but two or three windows would help.
However, we were soon on the ship and into our cabin (434), which was bright, airy and clean. It wasn’t quite as spacious as the pictures led us to believe but hotels do the same trick (shoot the picture on a wide angle lens) so we weren’t disappointed. The steward was very attentive and helpful and kept the cabin clean and tidy for the whole cruise.
The staff (or are they all called crew?) were mainly Indian or East European and were friendly and wanted you to enjoy yourself. For some reason those on the reception desk did have a somewhat supercilious air about them as if they would rather be dealing with passengers on the Queen Mary. I don’t know, is there a class system amongst the staff with reception being at the top of the pile?
The food was OK, perhaps a little bland for my tastes but CMV has worked out the demographics of their passengers and erred on the side of caution. Except for one meal, which consisted of a fish called Panga (Pangasius) a native of the Mekong Delta. Well, let’s just put that down to experience!!! There are two main restaurants: The Waldorf and the Marco Polo Bistro. The food was the same at both venues and whilst the bistro had the ambiance of a crowded works canteen it did offer the opportunity to sit outside on the aft deck which was pleasant. The Waldorf was slightly more formal, although the dress code was generally informal save for two nights, with two sittings for the evening meal. We chose the early sitting and you were aware as soon as the main course had finished that they were rushing through the dessert and coffee to clear ready for the second sitting. We were extremely fortunate that our table of eight all got on very well and meals were a delight. If you happened to be on a table where this wasn’t the case, then that could be a chore.
We couldn’t really comment on the evening entertainment as we didn’t go but we did go to the lectures given in the daytime. These were generally interesting and well-presented although the one given by the shore excursion team about the ‘exciting places’ we were going to visit simply involved a girl reading from the brochure, verbatim. Not very illuminating.
We booked lots of the shore excursions and these were well organised and pretty efficient. I know several people have said that they were expensive and, yes, you probably could have organised them yourself at a considerable saving but we didn’t want all the faff. There is the added bonus that if you are on an organised excursion and you are late returning they will hold the ship for you. A case of ‘you pays your money and you takes your choice’.
Disembarkation was very swift and easy, albeit we were up and off the ship by 7.15 am. This was just as well as the ship was running low on food and had run out of several basic items, breakfast cereal and bacon.
So, what were our final thoughts on this our first cruise? We liked it. I accept that several aspects were low rent but then, in fairness, CMV are not charging top dollar for the cruise. We chose the Marco Polo for the reasons stated plus we didn’t want great atriums with shopping malls and restaurants with great big ice sculptures and it did what it said on the tin. If you want big glitzy cruises with all the bells and whistles then this ship isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you want a simpler time on a ship that’s a bit quirky then do as we did and give it a go.