Orient Lines Marco Polo by Jay Kendall Transatlantic Crossing March 24, 2005
My wife and I chose the Marco Polo for its itinerary and safety record to celebrate our 25th anniversary. This was our third and longest cruise, and our first crossing. We enjoyed the whole trip with no showstoppers. Our trip started at Barbados, and we opted to go a day early (at the deviation cost of $250) to make sure we were not rushed -- and we are glad we did. US Airways out of Philadelphia did not forward our four bags. That is not a good feeling just before a long cruise. Another couple, who did not come in early, had the same problem and it took nine days for their bags to catch up with them in Spain. It is too bad Orient does not offer a day-early option. Barbados was expensive -- lodging and meals came to $350 a night -- and we were worried about our luggage to boot, so it was not a good start. Even though US Airways did not know where our luggage was, they said, "Trust us; go ahead to the ship and it will get there." Well, two hours before departure we got word that the handlers had our bags, so that was a big relief.
We reserved early, with a main-level interior cabin in the middle of the ship and we were very pleased. We had a room that could accommodate three persons, and the extra room was great. Our beds did not combine for a double but that was no big deal. We always had hot water and good air conditioning, and there were no bad outside noises except a little from the rooms next door.
The library and card room were always busy and the pool/Jacuzzi area was great; we spent a lot of time there. We tried a massage and the gym area was very good. We did not frequent the casino or bars. The art auction was interesting but had limited selections. The Internet was a problem in that it was costly and was not available for the last week. The nightly entertainment was great, with British comics, a Russian band, and young American dancers. The movies on the TV were very good, but they showed the same movies in the main lounge area.
The ship had a Swedish Captain with a mixed staff and great Filipino crew and stewards (Mario really took good care of us). Jonathan Neal was the cruise director; he did a fabulous job and was the best lecturer on board, providing briefings on the Bounty, Titanic, Trafalgar, and old cruise ships.
The ship gave us great food with good portions. The Seven Seas was the formal dining area; Roberto was great and worked hard to keep our table of eight happy (we wanted a table for two). Raffles, the informal dining area, was small but had good food and service – especially great soups, bread and pasta.
Only a few were first-time cruisers; most had more than 10 cruises under their belts and so they knew all the nuances. Many were loyal Marco Polo cruisers.
Martinique: The two tours we wanted to take were cancelled, but we took the sea/tram/bus tour, which was OK.
The transatlantic crossing took us seven days; we had great weather and a great time. There was a mistake on the time zone changes and we ended up two hours ahead of the local island and Casablanca time for no apparent reason.
Cape Verde: No organized tours; we just a bus to the town.
Tenerife: We took the Pyramid tour and had a great time.
Casablanca: We went on a city excursion with an interesting city market tour.
Cadiz: City tour.
Malaga: City tour -- not the ship's tour but via the local double-decker -- and had a great time at half the cost.
Barcelona: We took a tour to Montserrat; it was very interesting, and we had a great time.
Monaco: We had to cancel the stop due to the death of the Prince and the weather. That night the seas were so rough that the drawers in cabin dressers would open and close. It got so bad the Captain had to let us know he was slowing down. We did not get seasick but we could not sleep because we kept getting tossed around. Later some passengers said that a sleeping pill helped ease the tossing/waking.
Rome: We took the city tour; it was costly but worth it. We went through St. Peters three days after the Pope's funeral and before the conclave. It was very interesting; so many statues.
Sorrento: We tendered in and took a very interesting tour of Pompeii.
Malta: It was a fantastic entrance into the harbor but the tour was not so good. We wanted medieval, and we got the hospital-and-social-security of Malta tour from the guide.
Santorini: No tour -- just shopping, but we had a great time.
Athens: We stayed in the Metropolitan, which was new, and I must say that the cruise line was very well organized there. So that made the stay that much better. Then we had a great guide to see Corinth -- the place where Paul preached and the ancient city -- and a theater around Mycenae.
Concerning the tours, it really boils down to the tour guide and your attitude as to whether you will have a good time or not. If there is more than one tour bus and you have a choice, take a look at the tour guides and make a choice; otherwise sit back and relax.
We had an excellent time and got some great relaxation.