My husband and I are new to cruising and our first cruise was on the Independence of the Seas and was a wonderful experience. Wanting to compare this experience to a smaller ship to see if there was a different atmosphere we booked onto the Marco Polo leaving Tilbury on 2nd January 2010. This proved to be a big mistake - the ship was so obviously overbooked, there were not enough sunbeds or outside chairs for the amount of passengers wanting to use them and we witnessed many tense confrontations where these were "reserved" with towels, blankets or books for well over the 30 mins allowed. Our first problem was with the safe which, having put our valuables in, refused to open. Eventually the whole safe had to be drilled out of the wall and a new one put in which we couldn't use till the glue dried. Next our shower consistently only gave us cold water and it was only thanks to our cabin steward that it got fixed at all. Then the air conditioning wouldn't work and again we had workmen in the cabin trying to fix it. The cabins are extremely small especially as we had the comparison with the Independence. The excursions from the ship were very expensive and we felt ripped off when we found we could do the same trips from the port at much lower prices. The alcoholic drinks on board were extremely expensive and what was worse they ran out of beer nearly a week away from the end of the cruise!! The water was not much better - foul stuff tasting of chlorine and if you couldn't bear it you could buy bottles at extortionate prices (£2.50 bottle), which meant at each port we were forced to go shopping for affordable water. By far the worst thing was that they allowed smoking in one of the bars which meant that place was somewhere we couldn't go and the rooms leading off this bar always smelt of cigarette smoke. The disembarkation was unbelievable - it took 3 hours of boredom whilst they tried to get all the luggage off the ship before we could get off ourselves - complete incompetence. The overall impression of the Marco Polo was of a tired old ship charging 4 star prices for a 3 star service, and we will not be repeating this experience ever.