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Marco Polo Cruise Review
3.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
434 Reviews

A Christmas Cruise (kind of).

Marco Polo Cruise Review by glumonion

8 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Dec 2018
  • Destination: the British Isles & Western Europe

We have never cruised before, and wanting to get away for the whole Christmas Period, this cruise fitted the bill. It appeared good value compared to alternative festive getaways and we had a good time, but all was all not exactly plain sailing.

We booked through Saga, who’s service was exemplary. They arranged transportation from our home to the port and return, which was upgraded to minute perfect luxury private cars, free of charge because we live close to Avonmouth.

This is an old small ship, and when docked the view looked comical, as the Marco Polo looked as if it was the tug for the larger cruise ships. However we had the last laugh passing enormous queues for those huge floating hotels, to just walk straight on the Marco Polo. Embarkation, and disembarkation particularly were easy too.

This is not a ship for those without good sea legs, as it rode every wave and rolled. I was shocked how much more movement there was on here compared with a small Cross Channel Ferry we took two weeks previously in an identical sea state. Remember to bring your sea sickness gadgets and remedies. I have never suffered sea sickness but was struck down with nausea one day and took advantage of complimentary Sea Sick Pills. On a few days the choking smell of diesel around the ship added to this problem.

We purchased a drinks package, that was good value, but it could be challenging to make it pay. Service was variable. A good example was, at our dinner table we had an apparently new recruit wine steward who was struggling. At our first meal it was 45 minutes before we were offered a glass of wine. At subsequent meals we tried to purchase wine at the bar to take down to dinner, only to be curtly told to sit at a (lounge) table, as it was waiter service only. This could be a lengthy process, as there were not enough bar staff. However we found we could purchase our wine at the Columbus bar at the opposite end of the ship. Here the regular barman was an absolute legend. He was efficient and very focused. His Cocktails were the best and most consistent on board by a nautical mile.

The main restaurant was always very busy in the evenings, but the service of the meals was excellent. The food was generally very good, apart from a rare duff dish, or one that was not warm enough, but Henry our table steward was very accommodating with replacements and alternatives. Breakfast was served here buffet style, and lunch was back to a more formal style, but we found the the atmosphere too dark and stuffy for mid day and chose to eat at the buffet.

The Buffet was more cafe style and but food here was also tasty and better than it looked. It was always very crowded at lunchtimes, especially early on, but we always (sometimes just) managed to find somewhere to sit, sometimes outside by the pool.

The whole crew were generally friendly when they could be (when it was quiet) but they could come across grumpy when under pressure. The entertainment team were exceptional, and worked very hard to provide a variety of shows and other activities across the vessel, maybe more Hi Di Hi than West End, but it wasn't unusual for the lead role of a fully dressed show to finish at 21:55 to present a quiz at 22:00 in the bar at the opposite end of the ship. Callum and Savannah were particularly outstanding talents. One of the joys of the smaller ship was that they were happy to engage with passengers around the ship and in the buffet and the smaller ship enabled you to get to know most of the staff and fellow passengers, which some passengers enjoyed but a few found this a little stifling. On this fully booked trip, space was a premium and you needed to arrive early to get a decent seat for entertainment, quizzes etc. The little fitness and wellness area was good value.

Despite the ships age, the public areas were in good condition as were the furnishings and as advertised were never luxurious but surprisingly comfortable. Our cabin probably showed its age a little more. On our arrival was clean and comfortable but with some signs of wear and tear especially in the bathroom. There was a problem with the tap water in our cabin, that at times was a strange Brown/orange colour, that we repeatedly complained about.I think this may have been sorted at the end of our cruise. We paid the extra to have a bath, but bathing in that water wasn't at all appealing, but we did benefit from a large comfortable bed and a lot of living and storage space.

Cabin care was disappointing. After about four days our nice bedding was changed for a set with a stained quilt. During the night some of the contents of the stain (possibly blood or vomit) soaked up onto the surface of the quilt cover. Nightly, when our beds were turned, our daily programme was positioned over the offending stain by our Cabin Steward to hide the stain. This went on for about a week until we complained and the bedding was changed. They also could have been a little more generous with the vacuum cleaner, and we resisted the temptation to borrow the one left in the gangway when obvious crumbs were left following the cabins make up.

The ships programme could hardly be relied on, as it was often full of mistakes and inaccurate information. We missed events that were not listed and attended ones that didn't happen. It told us to change our clocks 24 hours early, and it mis informed us that for the last 36 hours of our cruise only one bar would be open on a cash only basis. Thankfully that wasn't the case.

The cruise itinerary went to schedule perfectly apart for our arrival in Funchal where we were unable to anchor, allegedly because of the swell. I think this turned out to be an advantage as we gently cruised past Funchal at such a position that everybody could see and enjoy the whole spectacle of the town twinkling and every firework across the bay in the New Year display. Best of all our late arrival in port meant that we docked instead of tendered. The ship was launched in the mid sixtes, and there was only a handful of people born after this launch date, and most were born some twenty years or more prior. There were also a large number with walking or mobility aids, so docking ensured that everybody had time and were able to enjoy the delights (and the rain) of Madeira relatively hassle free.

In spite of the niggles, we enjoyed a lovely British Christmas break surrounded by friendly, mainly older people who certainly knew how to enjoy themselves. If you like the traditional cruise with excuses to dress up, you like to be constantly very aware that you are at sea, you enjoy the company of familiar faces on a daily basis in a no thrills yet comfortable environment, this cruise is for you. However, I looked with some envy at those big sparkling cruise ships that cut through the waves rather than rode over them. I envied their gleaming new glass and paintwork and particularly their balconies. However I know we would have to have had to stretch our budget much further on there, fly before embarkation with all that entails to get there, and face long queues at every stop.

We had a good time but we won't be back in a hurry.

glumonion's Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Cabin Deluxe 804

Lovely spacious cabin, plenty of storage, large comfortable bed, but a little bit dated. View, of the sea over a lifeboat. Windows, bath and fittings showing their age. Spotless on arrival, but nasty stain on quilt through the large middle part of our stay. Tap water was a dirty colour at night and early morning.

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

Bristol (Avonmouth)

Terminal is a big warehouse, but does its job well.

Avonmouth is not pretty. Excellent transport service arranged by Saga.


Walked from ship through town centre. Nice Pubs, Shops opened late because it was Boxing Day. Some remained closed. Took cable car up the Rock. We carried a croissant, well wrapped in the bottom of our back pack. This created unwanted attention from the Apes so we made a hasty retreat down again. DONT CARRY ANYTHING EDIBLE up there. Also try and pay with as near to the right amount of cash as possible as you will be given change in Gibraltar coins and notes which are not legal tender in the UK.

Puerto del Carmen

WE did the Puerto del Carmen transfer. Lovely beach but Puerto del Carmen town was OK if drunk Brits watching football, Cannabis clubs, and plastic tat are your thing.

Trip was good and showed us a little bit of Lanzarote with interesting narration.

View All 2 Puerto del Carmen Reviews
Las Palmas (Gran Canaria)

Port nice and close to City. Nice Prom to stroll, had a good meal at tapas bar in back street, then browsed large City Centre shops.. Most were open, if a little later because it was Sunday.

Madeira (Funchal)

Although we didn't get into the harbour, the New Year fireworks were amazing, as werethe view of Funchal's lights decorating the hillside and sparkling in the rain. CMV laid on useful transfer into town. Took the sightseeing bus ride in the pouring rain. When it stopped we took the cable car up into the clouds in Monte. Then back for a stroll through town.

Most of the shops were closed for New Years day and in spite of the weather found the place fascinating, so much so we have booked a break there (flying this time).

Lisbon was rather cold and foggy, so we missed out on some of the views. A good trip and time in warm and sunny Cascais. Good guide who bombarded us with as many facts as she could get in. Afterwards we had time to wander into town and take in the atmosphere. Plenty of interesting areas within walking distance of the port.

View All undefined undefined Reviews

Lovely trip, in clear very warm sunshine. Puerto de la Cruz was lovely, but nowhere nearly long enough there. Not long enough in port to do anything else.

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