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Ship Visit to Marco Polo
Cruise & Maritime Voyages
 
Tilbury - 20th September 2010
Report by Doug Kibblewhite


MARCO POLO - Photo: ©2010 Ian Boyle
Photo: ©2010 Ian Boyle - MARCO POLO arriving at Tilbury


     
MARCO POLO - Deck Plans: ©2010 Cruise & Maritime Voyages
MARCO POLO - Deck Plans
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MARCO POLO - Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite - www.oceanlinersociaty.com
MARCO POLO - Scott's Bar, Amundsen Deck
Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite




MARCO POLO - Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite - www.oceanlinersociaty.com
MARCO POLO - View Towards Stern - Pool on Magellan Deck
Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite




MARCO POLO - Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite - www.oceanlinersociaty.com
MARCO POLO - Whirlpools - Navigator Deck
Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite




MARCO POLO - Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite - www.oceanlinersociaty.com
MARCO POLO - Stairwell, Columbus Deck
Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite




MARCO POLO - Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite - www.oceanlinersociaty.com
MARCO POLO - Superior Twin, Columbus Deck
Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite




MARCO POLO - Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite - www.oceanlinersociaty.com
MARCO POLO - Deluxe Twin (801), Navigator Deck
Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite




MARCO POLO - Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite - www.oceanlinersociaty.com
MARCO POLO - Lounge, Dynasty Suite, Columbus Deck
Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite




MARCO POLO - Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite - www.oceanlinersociaty.com
MARCO POLO - Bedroom, Dynasty Suite, Columbus Deck
Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite




MARCO POLO - Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite - www.oceanlinersociaty.com
MARCO POLO - Captain's Club, Magellan Deck
Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite




MARCO POLO - Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite - www.oceanlinersociaty.com
MARCO POLO - Nansen Card Room, Magellan Deck
 Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite




MARCO POLO - Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite - www.oceanlinersociaty.com
MARCO POLO - Livingston Library, Magellan Deck
Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite




MARCO POLO - Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite - www.oceanlinersociaty.com
MARCO POLO - Marco Polo Lounge, Magellan Deck
Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite




MARCO POLO - Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite - www.oceanlinersociaty.com
MARCO POLO - Waldorf Restaurant, Atlantic Deck
Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite




MARCO POLO - Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite - www.oceanlinersociaty.com
MARCO POLO's departure, 20/09/2010
Photo: ©2010 Doug Kibblewhite



OLS SHIP VISIT – MARCO POLO – 20 SEPTEMBER 2010

AN OVERVIEW BY DOUG KIBBLEWHITE

This visit brought back some very pleasant memories for me, as back in the late 60’s and early 70’s I worked for the Port of London Authority. Those were the days, when one could look over a ship with just local permission, i.e. as you walked up the gangway. I enjoyed many a lunch hour looking over the various passenger ships calling at Tilbury, but I never did get the opportunity to board any of the Russian passenger ships of the time, the like of the Baltika , the Alexandr Pushkin and her sister the Mikhail Lermontov. They sailed from the Landing Stage on the River Thames as opposed to one of the berths in the enclosed docks.

Our visit on the 20th was therefore quite nostalgic as Marco Polo (formerly Alexandr Pushkin) happened to be berthed alongside the Landing Stage, now known as London International Cruise Terminal.

Although I have been on a number of OLS Ship Visits, this is the first that I have volunteered to write up my thoughts so since the visit, I have undertaken some research in the hope that it gives members a greater insight into the fascinating history of this lovely classic ship.

The 22,080 ton ship was launched in 1965 and began service in April 1966 as the Alexandr Pushkin. Built in Germany, she was the second of five similar vessels for the Russian/Ukrainian fleet. She has an ice strengthened hull (most useful for some of her current itineraries), and in my view is still very attractive with pleasing lines giving her the look of what I would describe as a ‘proper’ ship. In those earlier days she was operated by the Baltic Sea Shipping Company for the Transatlantic Leningrad to Montreal run. I believe ownership was transferred in the ‘80’s to the Far Eastern Shipping Company of Vladivostok, offering cruises from Australia until 1990. Following a brief ‘rest’ in Singapore, the ship was then purchased in 1991 by the founder of Ocean Cruises Limited, and taken to Greece where, following an extensive re-fit, she emerged as the Marco Polo, the first ship of a newly formed company, Orient Lines, with her first cruise to Mombassa and Cape Town.

In 1998, Orient Lines was purchased by NCL and Marco Polo operated under this subsidiary of NCL for the next ten years. Today Marco Polo is owned by Global Maritime and under charter to Cruise & Maritime Voyages for adults only cruises. They also operate the Ocean Countess (ex-Cunard Countess).

Our party of 32 members were met by the Society’s Peter Godliman and we were all duly assembled ready for boarding at the allotted time. Unfortunately the ship had arrived late that morning due to a longer than expected transit of the Kiel Canal, followed by strong head winds on her voyage down through the North Sea (I suggest that whilst there were some passengers who enjoyed those seas, there may have been some that did not!)

We were officially welcomed by Sharon Bastow, Director of Administration for Cruise & Maritime Voyages, who apologised for the short delay to our embarkation and to try and make up for lost time, we were allowed on board whilst the last of her passengers were disembarking. At this stage I give 10 out of 10 to Cruise & Maritime for still allowing our visit to take place, as turn arounds are always extremely busy, and having lost three hours of their time to prepare the ship for the next voyage, we still received a very warm welcome and efficient service from the staff.

We boarded at noon and for our tour we were divided into two groups. The ship has eight decks, carries a crew of some 356 and about 900 passengers.

Our first stop was at Scott’s Bar on Amundsen Deck (9), a bright and intimate venue with a small dance floor. This area was formerly the Charleston Nightclub, and would seem to be a popular meeting place, both during the day and in the evenings when live and disco music is provided. There were tables for four with comfortable wraparound chairs.

The rest of this deck is given to six categories of cabins and it also offers a walk round facility for those keen to exercise.

One deck below is Magellan Deck (8) given completely to public room areas. The Marco Polo Lounge located forward offers theatre style tiered seating in two formats – bench style and individual in alternate rows, with small tables for those after dinner drinks. A variety of shows are offered, there being two performances in the evening to cover both restaurant sittings. Next on this deck was the Captain’s Club, a comparatively large lounge area used for those pre-dinner cocktails with piano accompaniment.

From here we viewed the Shore Excursions, Future Cruises and Reception Areas, and these in turn led to the main Lobby. From here a double lift served all decks with the exception of the Caribic. There were also single lifts available in other locations. Continuing towards the stern, we found the Boutiques (Port) and the Palm Garden (Starboard). These areas led to a further lounge area, The Columbus.

The tour continued towards the Nansen Card Room. A pleasant and bright area with card tables and brightly coloured orange chairs. This room housed a display of many plaques and shields presented to her on each maiden arrival. On the other side of the ship was the Livingston Library where a good selection of books were on display. The room had large picture windows and some large brown leather chairs for that quiet browse! Lastly on this deck is Marco’s Restaurant which whilst we did not view in detail, understand is used for informal dining. Beyond Marco’s, the outside pool and the largest outside deck area laid out with tables, chairs, loungers and a pool bar.

Pacific Deck (7) is laid out entirely for cabin accommodations. There are 15 categories on this deck alone ranging from De Luxe suites, to standard twin, inner berths.

On Atlantic Deck (6) you will find approximately 50% of the deck area given to three categories of accommodation, featuring inside and outside berths. Also on this deck, approximately midships, is the very acceptable Waldorf Restaurant. It was here that we were entertained for lunch and is the main restaurant area with two sittings in the evening when the ship is operational. I did feel though that the room seemed a little crowded in that the tables were quite close together possibly making the journey to your table and waiter access interesting. Members will be able to see from the photo the décor and part of the room layout. The seats in contrasting colours were without arms, but very comfortable nonetheless. I saw a few tables for two, but in the main tables seemed to be configured in either four, six or eight place settings. The standard of food and portions served was, in my opinion, very good and well presented, and the service on our table was excellent Wine was offered quite freely and for those not driving, top ups were generously offered. I have a preference for restaurants to be located midships, as is the case here, as it tends to enhance in particular, the evening meal experience! Too many of the modern ships have one of their main restaurants located at the very stern, and having experienced on more than one occasion dining at a table at the extreme end, i.e. directly overlooking the stern wake, the movement and vibration from the propulsion units can be uncomfortable at times, particularly in very heavy swells.

Deck 5 – Baltic Deck 9 (not viewed) – finds a layout of five categories of accommodation (inside and out) and the Hospital.

Caribic Deck (4) (not viewed) provides 34 cabins in six accommodation categories (inside and out) in the forward section of the ship.

To the two remaining decks, Columbus Deck (10) provides two Deluxe suites – Mandarin and Dynasty, and a number of Superior and Premium twins, and three single inners.

Aft of the ship on Columbus, we found the Beauty Salon and the Jade Wellness Centre which offered a range of beauty and treatment packages. The staff I spoke to here were very friendly. Tucked between these two centres was the Internet Café, offering six workstations. There was also a small Gym area, and table tennis table.

The Navigator Deck (11) offers a selection of Deluxe and Premium twin cabins in three categories – all outside, and to the rear of the ship there are three whirlpools and the second of the two larger outside deck areas.

As regards cabin tours, these were somewhat restricted due to timings and as part of the organised tour I only saw three. They were two, i.e. 720 and 718 on Columbus Deck, both Superior Twin of adequate size and nicely furnished, but unfortunately with restricted views due to the lifeboat positions. We were also shown 801 on the Navigator Deck – a Deluxe Twin. This was obviously larger than the previous two and nicely appointed. I feel that subject to affordability, for a longer cruise you would really need one of the better cabin grades.

I was lucky enough to overhear a conversation from two visitors who were due to cruise on the vessel in 2011.They had previously arranged to view their Suite. Having obtained agreement, I joined them to view the Dynasty Suite on Deck 11, which meant I missed part of the OLS Tour. It did however enable me to take photographs for Members to see the standard of accommodation offered by one of only two such suites. The space/layout was very acceptable, but disappointing insofar as there were no windows or viewing facilities that would enable you to see forward. The outside views to the starboard side were also partly limited by the overhang of the ship’s structure. I would say at this stage that with this level of accommodation a private balcony would normally be essential, but sadly in the layouts of the majority of liners of her age, balconies were not featured as they are today. One could probably argue that the modern ships of today have too many, with the obvious impact on their appearance!

On a general note, the ship, registered in Nassau is stabilised and air conditioned and has international officers and crew. Her length is 176.3 metres, beam 23.6 and she has a draft 8.2 metres.

The currency on board is Sterling, and there are currency exchange facilities.

There were a number of interesting items of artwork and pictures in stairwells and communal areas.

Two observations in respect of smoking and mobility. Although there are designated smoking areas, the ship is perhaps not large enough to escape the drift of smoke into other areas, as it appears to be drawn into the air conditioning system and can be smelt in certain parts of the public areas. As regards passengers’ mobility, there were a number of raised thresholds, making it possibly difficult for passengers with mobility problems to access all areas easily.

In summary, the ship offers good levels of accommodations, very interesting itineraries, with the opportunity to go to locations beyond the reach of the larger, more modern cruise ships. I hope you will agree with me from the photos I took as she sailed that afternoon that her overall lines are very attractive and pleasing to the eye. Clearly she has a number of loyal passengers and I sincerely trust that she is allowed to continue in service for many years to come. A FINE SHIP.

MARCO POLO - Photo: ©2010 Ian Boyle
Photo: ©2010 Ian Boyle - MARCO POLO at Tilbury




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