Retro Cruise - Marco Polo, CMV / by Byron Clayton

In 1993, Jurassic Park was the top movie, X Files debuted on TV and John Major was Prime Minister. That was also the year that Marco Polo had its last large scale refurbishment. Walking off the gangway, it's as if you have been transported by the Tardis to a parallel universe and stepped onto the set of the teen TV series 90210, with shades of Peach and Teal Green greeting you in abundance.

 Marco Polo preparing to berth

Marco Polo preparing to berth

Marco Polo is a retro time capsule of cruising from the 90s. Many of her Orient Line furnishings can still be found decorating the ship. A grand wooden Buddha in the Captains Lounge or a print of a Southeast Asia rice field hanging discretely on a wall opposite Reception. Those familiar with cruising on older ships from 3 generations ago will appreciate the copious use of mirrors in public rooms to create the illusion of infinite space or, the gleaming brass colored ceiling boards that were very common on Regency, Ocean and Epirotiki cruise lines.

Unlike modern cruise vessels built with straight linear lines, she has the upward curving of sheer in her decks and a lot of crowning or camber, across her width. For those whom haven't experienced it before, it can be an odd sensation when standing on near the railing on deck, as it gives the immediate impression that the ship has a pronounced list even when berthed.

 Note the upward curving or sheer of Marco Polo's decks

Note the upward curving or sheer of Marco Polo's decks

While Cruise Maritime Voyages, CMV, is a solid 3-star cruise line, what makes the experience onboard Marco Polo so enjoyable is the crew. The multi ethnic crew, with an abundance of Eastern Europeans, are a joyful, smiling bunch who are always friendly, happy and have a relaxed disposition. Unlike mass market cruise lines, you won't feel nickel-and-dimed by constant up selling. This is a simpler way to cruise without rock climbing walls, water slides or specialty restaurants.

All of these unique features make Marco Polo a charming ship. Cruising aficionados will reminisce of a bygone era when ships like Sitmar's Fairsea where queens of the sea.

 The beautiful stern of Marco Polo wrapping around her pool on Magellan deck 8.

The beautiful stern of Marco Polo wrapping around her pool on Magellan deck 8.

The food on-board is plentiful and of a reasonable quality. There are two restaurants, the traditional two seating Waldorf and Marco's, a buffet near the pool. The cabins are on the small side with most having separate twin beds and all being opened by old fashioned turn in-the-lock keys.

Entertainment is provided nightly with different shows in the main lounge with a young cast of British and Eastern Europeans that has an off-off Broadway feeling. A music duo will be found in various bars on the ship before and after dinner. A light night disco and DJ can be found in Scott's lounge until the wee hours. Cocktails are plentiful and reasonably priced around £4.

All prices on-board are in British pounds with daily gratuities automatic added to your account at the low rate of £5 a day. Less common in today's cruise industry, you can choose to settle your account by cash at the end of the cruise or with a credit card.

Your fellow passengers are British with a surprising mixture in age. The exceptionally value priced fares from CMV, captures a lot of first time cruisers, tour groups as well as those seasoned travelers who probably sailed on Marco Polo when her 90s refurbishment was new.

 Stern view of Marco Polo

Stern view of Marco Polo

Marco Polo is one for the 3 oldest ocean going, passenger ships still sailing. CMV offers a wide range of cruise lengths aboard Marco Polo from 1-night mini-cruises up to and including an ambitious world cruise. Marco Polo won't be around forever so if retro cruising is your idea of a great experience, it would be wise to book while you still can.

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