THE MARCO POLO- LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE

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The Marco Polo at anchor off Lerwick

For those used to the mega ships that now dominate the world of contemporary cruising, the Marco Polo might come as something of a conundrum. At only 22,000 tons, the ship is quite a way smaller than the new generation ships that often tower above her in the ports that she visits.

But, before making a judgement based on size alone, it is worth considering that the Marco Polo carries only something like eight hundred passengers maximum. And none of these are children.

Essentially, you have a trim, tidy, adult only ship that can often slip into the smaller, more secluded harbours that the big resort ships have to bypass. That same size allows you to enjoy a more intimate, up close and personal kind of exploring.

If you’re an active type, she might not be best for you. Marco Polo does not have the rock climbing walls, flow riders and ice rinks of the modern ships. There is a small, aft facing upper deck gym and sauna complex that will help keep you in reasonable trim, and a promenade deck that wraps neatly around one of the most sublime, spectacular hulls afloat anywhere today.

You won’t find balcony cabins, either. But the cabins that are on board- both inside and outside- are beautifully panelled little alcoves, with more than ample wardrobe and drawer space. Not all of them convert into doubles so, if booking, best to check the deck plans, or ask your travel agent to do so for you.

Another strong point is the ease and accessibility to almost everything on board, from any one given spot. The restaurant is just a couple of flights down from the main lobby, which contains the Reception and Shore Excursions desks. From this central lobby, the main run of passenger lounges and bars runs fore and aft, ending in the open fantail behind the Marco Polo buffet.

Only Scott’s, the late night entertainment lounge and disco, will require you to ascend another flight of stairs. But, once you’ve checked out the room itself, with it’s stunning, aft facing open terrace allowing Olympian view out over the stern, you’ll probably make it a focal point of your sea days. Half of that terrace- the starboard side- is devoted to smokers.

On the top deck, aft of the funnel, is a trio of Jacuzzis that offer both bubbling warmth and brilliant vistas, right out over both sides of the ship, as well as astern.

Most importantly for many passengers, the Marco Polo is a very strong, stable ship. Built with an ice strengthened hull and a very deep keel for a ship of her size, she can shrug off ocean swells that would have many, much larger ships rolling about like so many drunken dowagers.

In many ways, the Marco Polo plays the part of the traditional, agelessly elegant cruise ship to absolute perfection. She is exactly what she appears to be; an enigmatic sixties throwback that offers solid comfort rather than screaming cabarets and endless, round the clock casino action.

Naturally, this might seem like ‘not enough’ for some, and that’s fair enough. But the Marco Polo does offer something of an alternative to the mega ships; a totally different, dignified and distinctive piece of maritime architecture. If she does not attract your interest, than she should certainly at least command your respect, simply because there is nothing else quite like her in the world.

 

 

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