Marco Polo

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Marco Polo Berlitz Review

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Berlitz Rating:

Mature Couples/Singles
Ship Beam (ft/m):
Ship Builder:
VEB Mathias Thesen Werft (Germany)
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Ship Cruise Line:
Cruise and Maritime Voyages
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Ship Entered Service:
Apr 1966/Apr 2008
Ship Former Names:
Aleksandr Pushkin
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Ship Size:
Mid-size Ship
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A comfortable, classic, modest ship for frugal cruisers

Cruise & Maritime Voyages - Marco Polo

Overview: This is a comfortable ship with classic looks, and, with its deep draft, rides well in unkind sea conditions. It appeals to couples and solo travelers of mature years who enjoy visiting interesting destinations in the comfort of a ship that is unpretentious yet pleasing, without much entertainment or organized parlor games, but with plenty of old-world charm.

The Ship: Growing old gracefully, Marco Polo was built as one of five sister ships for the Russian/Ukrainian fleet. Originally designed in 1966 to re-open the Leningrad to Montréal transatlantic route, inoperative since 1949, it has a classic ‘real ship’ profile, an extremely strong ice-strengthened hull, and huge storage spaces for long voyages.The ship passed to Norwegian Cruise Line in 1998, and in 2007 to Greek owners. In 2008, it was operated under charter to Transocean Tours of Germany, which sub-chartered it to the UK’s Cruise & Maritime Voyages. It received a £3 million refurbishment in 2009. It operates adults-only cruises from the UK (although during school vacation periods anyone 16 and over becomes an eligible passenger), with Tilbury (London International Cruise Terminal) as its home port.Marco Polo is fitted with the latest navigational aids and biological waste treatment center, and carries 10 Zodiac landing craft for in-depth shore trips in eco-sensitive areas. There are two large, forward-facing open-deck viewing areas, and a helicopter pad. The teakwood-decked aft swimming pool/Lido Deck area is kept in good condition. Joggers and walkers can circle around the ship – not on the promenade deck, but one deck above, although this goes past vast air intakes that are noisy, and the walkway is narrow.As soon as you walk aboard, you feel a warm, welcoming, homely ambience. There is a wide range of public rooms, most of which are arranged on one deck. A sense of spaciousness pervades, as most rooms have high ceilings. The interior decor is quite tasteful, with careful use of mirrored surfaces and colors that do not clash but aren’t boring. The subdued lighting helps maintain an air of calmness and relaxation.Now more than 45 years old, the ship is still in decent shape. Indeed, it’s in better shape than many ships only 10 years old, and its interiors are constantly being refurbished and refreshed. With its deep draft, rides well in unkind sea conditions. It operates well-planned destination-intensive cruises (mostly taken up by couples and solo travelers of mature years) and offers really good value for money in very comfortable, unpretentious but tasteful surroundings, while an accommodating crew helps to make a cruise a pleasant, no-hassle experience. Gratuities are automatically applied to your onboard account.Niggles? There is no observation lounge with forward-facing views over the bows. There are many raised thresholds, so you need to be on your guard when walking through the ship and particularly when negotiating the exterior stairways, which could prove difficult for mobility-limited passengers.

Accommodation: The cabins, which come in various price grades, depending on location and size, are a profusion of different sizes and configurations. All are pleasingly decorated, practical units with good, solid, rich wood cabinetry, wood and mirror-fronted closets, adequate drawer and storage space, TV, thin cotton bathrobe (upper grades only), and bathroom-mounted hairdryer and non-vacuum, non-noisy toilets. Carpets, curtains, and bedspreads are all nicely color-coordinated. Weak points include extremely poor sound insulation between cabins – you can probably hear your neighbors brushing their hair – and the fact that the bathrooms are quite small.The largest accommodation is found in two suites: Dynasty and Mandarin, on Columbus Deck. These have a separate living room, and marble bathroom with tub/shower, walk-in closet, refrigerator, and a TV and DVD. Slightly smaller are two Junior Suites on Pacific Deck. All suites have superior locations with forward-facing views over the ship’s bow.Also quite comfortable are the superior deluxe ocean-view cabins that have two lower beds (some can be converted to a queen-size bed), marble bathroom with tub/shower, and refrigerator.Some cabins have lifeboat-obstructed views. It is advisable to avoid cabins 310/312, as these are located close to the engine room doorway, and the noise level is considerable. No cabins have a balcony because the ship was built for long-distance ocean/sea crossings before they became popular.

Cuisine/Dining: The Waldorf, in the ship’s center, is nicely decorated in soft pastel colors. It’s practically designed and functions well, but it has a low ceiling, is noisy, and the tables are very close together. There are two seatings, with tables for two to 10, and good place settings/china. The food itself is of a modest standard, and presentation, quality, and taste could certainly be improved. The wine and prices are reasonable, although most wines are young.Marco’s Restaurant is for informal self-serve breakfasts and lunches – there is seating inside as well as outdoors around the ship’s single, aft swimming pool. On most evenings, it also becomes an alternative dining spot for about 75 people.

Entertainment: The Marco Polo Lounge is the principal venue for shows and lectures. A single-level room, it has banquette seating and fairly decent sight lines, although several pillars obstruct the view from some seats. Entertainment is low-key and low-budget, and consists of cabaret acts such as singers, magicians, and comedians. There’s live music (and some dancing) in several bars and cocktail lounges.

Spa/Fitness: This is an older ship that was built when spa and wellbeing facilities were not really standard features onboard. A Health Spa was added in a later refit. It is located aft on Upper Deck, and contains a gymnasium – it’s not large, but there are a few treadmills, exercycles, and some muscle-toning equipment. There’s also a beauty salon, a sauna, changing facilities, and treatment rooms for massages, facials, and other body-pampering treatments.The spa is operated by Mandara Spa, whose treatments include Indonesian facials, coconut body polish, and aromatherapy massage.

Berlitz Guide © Apa Publishing 2017

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Marco Polo - Introduction