The Marco Polo at anchor off Lerwick

In an age of excess, there is a very obvious inclination to scoff at the idea that ‘less’ might just possibly equate to ‘more’ under certain circumstances.

Yet in the case of the floating, 1960’s built anachronism that is the Marco Polo, this simple phrase defines the ship, her ethos, and her sheer style to near perfection.

Here is a small, intimate ship, low slung and yet highly styled. No kids. No rock climbing walls or roller rinks. No ‘art auctions’ or extra tariff restaurants.

No casino, No balcony cabins. No huge, fur and feather boa style floor shows. No hassle. No hurry.

So, what is there, then?

Timeless view over a classic fantail

There are broad, expansive teak terraces that frame unforgettable views out over the ship’s wake. Comfortable, cosy, beautifully decorated lounges that are ideal for relaxing. Menus tailored to the tastes of British passengers.

Of course, all these are a given. That being so, here are some personal observations from being aboard the Marco Polo in mid June over the course of a six night cruise to the Scottish Isles and Faroes.

Port side corridor, with the Columbus Lounge off to the right

Some people seemed surprised that the aft outdoor pool was not filled throughout the voyage. Many of those actually seemed to forget that we were not on some voyage to benign summer climes, but actually heading north, out into the North Atlantic. Not exactly an ocean famed for either it’s warmth or friendly disposition to all things maritime.

In point of fact, we were half way to Iceland itself at the northern apex of our cruise, when we reached the Faroe Islands. Out in the big, open ocean, the Marco Polo rolled slowly and ponderously. Leaving the pool empty was a wise decision under the circumstances.

And it was often cold, too. Almost glacially so in the Faroes. But, in those climes, I don’t see how anybody could have expected otherwise. After all, this was not the Riviera.

But the play of light on water in these fast, far northern climes was utterly compelling. Even at 1.30 in the morning, the golden afterglow of the recently set sun cast an ethereal, blood red sheen across the rolling gunmetal expanse of the ocean. It was a sight so powerful and overwhelming that it made you forget the cold almost entirely.

Surreal beauty of the far northern twilight

As we rolled sedately in the Atlantic, the drawers in my cabin continually came open and shut for a couple of hours on end. But with her deep draft and long, classically styled hull shape, the Marco Polo shrugged off this assault with an easy grace that no other ship could muster. After a while, you simply learned to ‘move’ with the ship.

Overall, a sense of calm, easy contentment suffused the Marco Polo as she sailed these legendary waters. There was no hysterical over excitement or hyperbole; in the fevered, often frantic world of the modern, resort style cruise ships, the Marco Polo is nothing less than artfully applied balm.

So there was nothing to really jar the senses or chafe the soul. Relaxation was on the menu every day, pretty much.

Captain’s Club aboard the Marco Polo

So yes, ‘less’ truly was ‘more’in the case of the Marco Polo on this northbound foray with a Nordic accent. Calm elegance, wrapped in a cocoon of sixties style, met solid comfort in an intimate, inimitable classic of a ship, the likes of which we are extremely unlikely to ever see, or indeed, savour, again. She truly is a scintillating, singular ship; a quirky, slightly eccentric old gem that will captivate anyone with even an ounce of romance or appreciation of the classic, old style of ocean voyaging.

And- because she is, quite literally- in a class of her own, she becomes ever more compelling and addictive as the years go by. For anyone intrigued by the idea of such a ship, my advice would be to sail her while you still can.



  1. A lovely description of a lovely ship. Sailed on her last year, Rosyth to the Baltics. This year sailing on her again, Greenock to Canada in August. Can’t wait. Thanks for this.


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