Why this cruise?
We chose this ship due to the superb itinerary and reasonable price point. For less than half the cost of 1 week on board an "expedition" ship, we spent 3 weeks visiting Faroe Islands (1 port), Iceland (3 ports), and the raison d'être - Greenland (7 ports) in addition to a port day in Scotland to pick up additional passengers. The itinerary and ship were well worth the time and dime.
Overall ship impression:
Our experience differs mightily from the many reviewers, including one apparently from the same trip, that trashed the ship. We found the Marco Polo to be clean, safe, with mostly friendly staff and crew. Yes she is 50 years old and her furnishings are a bit dated compared to the latest mass market 2-6,000 passenger ship, but all equipment was clean and in good repair. The crew was very diligent with cleaning and usually whenever we were docked, there were crewmen cleaning or painting the exterior or making repairs. During one port where we were tendered, an excursion ship returning passengers from an iceberg tour banged the side of the ship..hard. The captain waived them off and made them drop the passengers at the small ship dock to be brought on board by the tenders. At the next port the damage (it looked like mostly scratches) was repaired and reprinted. Elevators all worked, treated as a period piece, the Marco Polo proved a capable ship even in rough seas and one we'd sail again.
Our cabin, Pacific Deck exterior aft, was plenty spacious for 2 people, as long as you don't mind sleeping in twin beds. Due to the age and design of the ship, the floor did cant downward just past the bathroom. There are several blog posts online that describe the reason for this, so the info was available before we sailed. I will mention that walking past open doors and peaking inside that there was a lot of variation in cabin size and layout. Size restrictions were exacerbated by residents slovenliness. We may have gotten lucky with cabin assignment but were quite pleased with ours. Our cabin steward was wonderful - friendly, helpful, informative and with the bonus of being a dab hand with towel animals ;-))
Waldorf Dining Room was very good with 4 course plated dinners. Lunch was plated with option to augment with a decent salad bar. Breakfast was good -omelet station, etc. our table and wine steward were superb and took very good care of our needs. We had delightful table companions.
However, I was less impressed with food in the Lido Deck buffet overall. The dinner mains were the same as or similar to some of the Waldorf mains, but by the time you got through the line and sat down ,the food was no longer hot. There were a lot of weird sides, esp in the salads department, but I attributed it ( perhaps charitably) to a difference between American and British tastes. For lunch, most days the grill by the pool was open and had good choices. The food was certainly edible and not the school cafeteria slop alluded to by others. Buffet breakfast was fine. Overall, my preference was the Waldorf, food presentation was good and the experience more sanitary.
My biggest complaint about the buffet food is really the other passengers - a lot refused to use sanitizer, sneezed and coughed on the buffet, grabbed large amounts of food to waste, put their personal bottles on the drinks dispenser, camped out at tables not eating, leaving others wandering around with their plates and just some general nasty dining behavior. Some behavior was gross. Luckily our room was below so some times if we couldn't find a table and it was too cool to eat on deck, we ate in our room.
Despite being an Arctic region cruise, the Aft pool deck was heavily used. We had very good weather, most afternoons in upper 60/lower 70s(F) so you could enjoy being outside whale watching with a sweater or light jacket mid-day. There were several seating areas on the main deck and generally we could find someplace to relax with a view to sea while cruising. Almost all seating areas had a bar and wait staff. Noise levels were reasonable. The lounge behind the theater was most busy, excellent reading area, and the location of activities including guessing games and other low -activity contests. All the lounges were bright. The theater was pretty nice -the floor was sloped towards the stage with benches and cocktail tables like you'd see in a Frank Sinatra movie. Very few seats had obstructed views due to the support columns. There was one kind of witchy waitress in for main lounge, she was also witchy when on dining duty in the buffet. Otherwise the bar and wait staff were very professional or friendly. The reception staff, esp. the head receptionist, were helpful and informative. We did not experience any of the reported attitude (except for witchy woman).
The entertainment team put on several,good programs, especially the first 10-14 days, but them petered out. The performances were high energy, varied and entertaining. After the evening's big performance, one or more of the main singers would do a show in the aft bar, generally singing with some patter. All very enjoyable. The male cast members also led the aerobics and stretch classes.The entertainment team worked hard. There was a guest magician and guest comedian who joined mid-way. Neither was particularly good, I'd say they were "has beens" whose material hadn't changed in a couple decades. The magician was the better of the two.
Overall, the enrichment program presented a wide ranging variety of topics related to our destinations. Besides the obligatory presentations by the shore excursion team, the cruise had 3 subject experts the duration of the cruise. If I remember correctly, the bird expert's name was Peter. He had several book published by the royal bird society that were available for purchase in the ship's shop. His presentations were all excellent and he was very approachable on shore and on ship, even when not "on duty". He is definitely "a keeper" and I hope CMV invites him on lots of cruises. The other excellent enrichment specialist was a photographer, whose name escapes me, but he was very informative as well as helpful with suggestions when we ran across him on shore. The final "main" presenter was a British lawyer who does a lot of work with native peoples advising them how to protect their interests and equities against corporations, countries and other exploitation. She was very interesting and apparently spent a great deal of time learning the native Inuit and related cultures. Her discussions were wide ranging, covering evolution, colonialism, current living conditions, etc.
The shore presentations were okay, but you could tell the staff were mostly reading and not speaking from experience. They augmented their presentations with one by their subcontractor and a Greenland excursion organizer. He sounded great when on stage but when approached with a question later was very dismissive and borderline rude.
There was one performance by a Greenland native (Inuit) who performed a drum dance. It was very different, she spent a great deal,of time putting the dance in context and explaining its history. Interesting and unique, however several people walked out.
The only "bad" enrichment activity was some guy whose presentation started interesting but turned into a diatribe against international organizations, the US, and climate change skeptics.
Biggest gripe with the cruise was that some people were able to get on several,of the mostly limited excursions. By the time we were able to reserve excursions from the US, all the interesting ones were full, including all the small boat ice berg trips. We only had opportunity to choose from very long hikes or one expensive flight seeing tours. We're not big hikers so those were out. We booked the only available flight seeing over the glacier at Kangerlussaq, my husband got denied due to how they distributed weight so heavy people who registered early got to go and there wasn't enough weight allowance for us both on the same plane. We decided I would go and film. That didn't work out as iI got stashed in the back seat behind a large man and all I saw was bits of the dirty edge of the glacier, but mostly my view was filled with the engine under the wing. Oh yeah we also got the tundra wildlife bus tour in Kangerlussaq, which was a bust. Pretty much we wasted about $500 dollars on the ships excursions. Luckily in Torshavn, Faroes, there were seats on the bus to the bird cliff cruise, so we did that. It was okay, over-hyped or we had bad luck with birds.
Since we didn't have good selection of Greenland excursions from the ship, we tried to book independently. For all but 2 port that also was a bust since the Marco Polo booked all available tourist services for flight seeing and for iceberg cruising.
Kingston-upon-Hull -planned embarkation port but got email night before ship wouldn't make it due to Kiel a Kanal delays and Hull port tides. Got a free bus ride to Newcastle on Tyne to embark Marco Polo. Complete with boxed lunch (yuck )
Rosyth - took train to Edinburgh, walked around, did a ghoulish bus tour
Torshavn - ships bird cliff tour, nice enough, sadly not a lot of puffins (2 flying high) :(
Seyðisfjörður - walked outskirts of city, only 2 excursions offered, one of interest was full, the other was bus to sites we did on our own in 2015
Akureyri - rented a car to drive to Dettifoss and Asbergyi - excellent drive, great sights (had been to all other options on our ring road trip in 2015)
Tassilaq - had a great 8 hour independent tour arranged, ship didn't go to port due ice, but sister ship was reported there 2 days later (Note: cruise ship did not have any excursions available for this port)
Qerqetauq - substitute port for missed Tasiilaq. Nice picturesque town, lots of midges, seal (furring) museum. Short visit (~4-5hours).
Narsarsaug. - independent ice berg tour via a Blue Ice, was on old fishing boat since ship booked all speed boats, but it think we spent more time in water looking at lagoons, trade les money, but ships excursions were full. Very good choice.
Qeqertarsuaq -wandered about on own, excellent views, whale watched. Ship offered several long hikes here with availability. Beautiful town, island
Ilulissat - ships excursions full. Walked to UNESCO heritage site. Superb view of glaciers from land. Rough getting back to ship on tenders doe waves and wind. Sat in tender about an hour while excursion ships tried to tie up to unload passengers.
Sisimiut - wandered the town, bought great Greenlandic rock specimens
Kangerlussuaq - ships tundra wildlife tour, no reindeer, no musk ox, few birds, very dusty, glad I don't live here! Ships glacier flightseeing - disappointing, mostly waste of $$$
Nuuk - walked to national museum on other side of town, steep uphill (in case that matters to someone considering it). Great museum, torn whether it would have been more useful at start of trip or at end, but satisfied a lot of questions I might not have had at beginning of cruise
Sea days -rough crossing to Iceland
Reykjavik - disembarked and flew home
Like Marco Polo enough to book 2018 cruise on her before disembarking!
Our cabin, Pacific Deck exterior aft, was plenty spacious for 2 people, as long as you don't mind sleeping in twin beds. Room had plenty of drawer and hanging storage. Due to the age and design of the ship, the floor did cant downward just past the bathroom. It wasn't unmanageable but if you are mobility challenged ( or drink a lot), pick an inside room. There are several blog posts online that describe the reason for this, so the info was available before we sailed. I will mention that walking past open doors and peaking inside that there was a lot of variation in cabin size and layout. Size restrictions were exacerbated by residents slovenliness. We may have gotten lucky with cabin assignment but were quite pleased with ours. Our cabin steward was wonderful - friendly, helpful, informative and with the bonus of being a dab hand with towel animals ;-))
Although ship offered a selection of excursions, we rented a car from a local agency and drove to Dettifoss and Asbergyi. The dock location was serviced by a couple international car rentals and we saw a few passengers driving off. Our Jimmy 4x4 was waiting for us. Driving out of town was simple and we had no issues with navigation upon returning to the dock. The dock was centrally located and walking distance to a museum. There was a small souvenir store on the pier, and a lot of the ships crew were sitting around using the wifi.
Recommend trip to Myvatn although we didn't do it - we had self explored the area a couple years earlier and the ships excursion certainly included the highlights.