Marco Polo - Weekend Cruise To Honfleur
With rumours abounding during 2017 that Marco Polo was being sold at the end of 2018, it was high time I got on the grand old lady so booked the three night cruise from 1st to 4th June 2018.  The cabin I chose was designated single inside 711 (Category 5).  Unlike Astoria, when it came to paying the balance, you had to call but the lady was very helpful.  Eighteen days before departure, the ticket arrived with an upgrade to single oceanview 643 (Category 10).

Since the CMV transfer was only a coach from Harwich to Cardiff, I made my own arrangements, heading to the Welsh capital the day before the cruise.  I booked the Future Inn, since I was familiar with their Bristol hotel.  That one always had an 'out of order' lift, so I wanted to see if this did too.  It's very easy getting to Cardiff by train from Southampton, since it's the same one I get to Bristol.  You change at Cardiff Central for the train to Queen Street (one stop) then head to Platform 1 to catch the one to Cardiff Bay.  The rooms are larger than Bristol while their menu has a Welsh flavour.

The following morning, my friend, David Trevor-Jones, and I went to see her arrive, hoping the fog would lift.  Her scheduled arrival was 9am but ABP South Wales listed her as 10am.  We got a taxi only to find the driver had no idea where we wanted to go and never heard of the Barrage, so he dropped us past the old Doctor Who Experience and we had to work it out from there.  Thankfully the fog did lift but after she emerged through it.  Back to the hotel to check out.  Annoyingly, Cardiff bus drivers don't give change.  Due to her late arrival and subsequent departure, there was no need to rush to the terminal so David went exploring Cardiff Bay while I stayed with the luggage.  A taxi was booked for 1.30pm and thankfully the weather had improved enormously.  We took photos of the ship and David pointed out you could see the original Aleksandr Puskin name under Nassau on the stern.  

I went to ask about assistance, since I had two parastomal hernias and there was no way I could stand around queuing, while David took more pictures of the ship.  I was delighted to see the Cruise Director was Mitch Rutter, who had been on Astoria and joined on the 6th May after Astoria's latest charter ended.  He remembered me and sorted it, calling Gold Columbus members then directing me to my own check-in desk.  Security was one machine and she told me it sets everything off and to carry my laptop through. Your names were checked off the manifest by port officials before you were allowed to board.  This is where the ship gets confusing.  With the cabin number 643, you naturally would think it was on deck 6.  It was on deck 9 (Amundsen), while reception, lounges and buffet were on deck 7 (Magellan) with the Waldorf Restaurant on deck 6 (Atlantic).  I was on by 2.05pm and my cabin was very easy to find as it was next to an outside deck door, case waiting outside.  Keys!!!!  It took me back to the QE2, having to remember to lock the door on the way out instead of it automatically locking behind you, as well as turning the catch when inside so no one could walk in. Having windows overlooking the deck was a bit disconcerting, but the glass outside is reflective so no one can see in unless it's dark and the light is on.  The toilet was unusual.  Instead of the small button behind the lid to create a vacuum, this was a huge, square one with a normal flush.  

Lunch in the buffet and it was nice having a virtually empty ship as people still boarded.  It was so delicious, and I'd missed breakfast apart from a couple of Bourbon biscuits due to waiting for the ship to arrive, I had seconds and grabbed a table outside.  David joined me.  Muster was 5pm which is where I fund Stephen Morton, who had been on my table during the Astoria 2017 cruise.  He was in the cabin next to the one I'd originally booked.  We were taken outside to our lifeboats and lined up with women in front.  Later we found David, who showed us his upgraded forward cabin then we saw mine and Stephen's inside.  There were seven of us from the Ocean Liner Society (Bill Mayes and his son Richard plus Rachel and Giles Woodfoode, who were friends of David) and we met up in the Captain's Club bar for drinks.

Sailaway was 7.45pm and a bit windy but fascinating going through the lock, which took about 20 minutes.  Then dinner.  Our waiter was Jereg Melek.  The Maitre D' brought the advance menu, which was for formal night.  Some of us went to the Abba show in the lounge afterwards.  Mitch saw me and immediately pulled some chairs into an aisle.  He is an absolute star! Only Stephen and I stayed and we had to endure two annoyingly loud, talking, cackling women sat behind us.  Why do people go to a show only to do that?  Then we rejoined the others in the Captain's Club.  No one was interested in the cabaret, which Mitch and the entertainment team had done on Astoria, so we stayed in the bar as one by one they all went to bed until the rest of us left at 1.30am.  I decided to get pictures of the ship while it was quiet, bumping into David on the top deck who was very disappointed the funnel area was now closed off.  I tested my cabin windows to check how much you could see in at night, said goodnight once again to David then finished my photographing.


© Patricia Dempsey 31st May-4th June 2018
Not to be reproduced without permission