This was our second cruise, the first through Royal Caribbean on the Legend of the Seas. What a sad experience!
Having read some of the reviews of previous passengers prior to booking the cruise and having realised that they were up to two years old in some cases we were prepared for some problems.
Whilst overall the standard came no where near to that of the Legend of the Seas I think that to be fair the staff on board were tired and a bit jaded. Many of them were apparently working up to 16 hours a day and this reflected in their less than friendly grins. For some there were language difficulties, but it is evident that they were trying.
Daily meeting were held for the cabin and waiting staff to update them all on the problems of the previous 24 hours, and this appeared to be having an effect.
Our cabin was small, but well maintained by a young man who was very cheerful and conscientious in his job.
Our three main concerns were as follows:
1 The farce of dining in the serve yourself restaurant. If you could find a table, then you probably could not find a chair. If you found a table and chair then there were no cups. Getting all three to combine together was a work of logistical magic!! The very ebullient guy in charge of the restaurant was once heard to comment "I'm getting mug hassle again from the passengers!"
2 The lack of time spent on shore trips. In the main the shore trips lasted little more than four hours, sometimes less if the ship was delayed getting to port. On one occasion the trip from Cadiz to Gibraltar showed on the onboard television log that we were 35 miles from the destination as we left Cadiz. The ship came into port in Gibraltar about 8am the following morning. At one point during the night I was awake and turned on the television to watch our progress. We were going first of all north, then south then east and finally north again. We spent all night going round in circles. Whilst this was bad, what made it worse was the heavy weather which we had been warned about the previous evening.
With the large number of quite old and some infirm people on board I felt at the time that the captain was not considering the health of his passengers by not going straight to Gibraltar when he knew this. The same thing happened going across the Bay of Biscay.
One of the ports of call was Portimaio in Portugal. We sat on the boat all day watching the resort from about half a mile off shore. The tender was lowered to let people off but the swell was such as to make this impractical. However, if the tender had been lowered on the other side of the vessel (sheltered from the swell by the ship itself) then we could have made it to shore. Add to that the fact that 12 people were brought onboard during the late afternoon makes on feel that there never was an intention to let us ashore that day.
Out of 11 days on the ship we spent over 5 days at sea - with a break of 4 hours on one of those days. Not a bunch of happy passengers.
3 Tipping. On the first information sheet from the booking agency we were informed that all gratuities were included in the cost of the holiday.
On board we were told £5.00 a person per day would be automatically added to our credit card bill unless we registered in the first 24 hours onboard that we did not wish to have this facility.
When we told the reception area that we wanted to withdraw from this system we were told that a box would be available on the reception counter for us to put an envelope with any gratuity inside for the individual staff member.
To the end of the cruise we enquired with our cabin cleaner about these two systems. He informed us that they never got any extra in the form of tips either from the company or the white box system. So, we gave him the money ourselves. Apparently there was some system onboard to prevent them having any money on their persons, but as our guy said, "There are always ways of getting around this problem".
On the whole we felt that the experience of the passengers was similar to our own and that the ships owners and operators had little or no concern for the experience of the paying passengers.
There are many other small niggles about the cruise, but I am so tired of the whole thing I think I had better call it a day now.
In future, don't book with the Marco Polo - unless it is going to join the other four similar ships built at the same time. To the scrap yard!
Tiny. Two portholes, two single beds despite asking for a double. Enjoyed listening to the couple next door, all day and every day!!!! soundproofing NIL.
Lisbon - a bit too big, but interesting. More time needed to see it.