MARCO POLO – 50 Glorious years – Part Two
Peter Newall travelled recently on the five week, 50th anniversary cruise to Canada aboard the former Russian liner MARCO POLO. Part two of this fascinating story features a bridge to engine room tour of this wonderful ship and the 50th anniversary cruise to Iceland, Greenland and Canada.
All photos by and copyright Julie and Peter Newall unless otherwise noted.
PART TWO THE EXOTIC MARCO POLO
The new and the old. Courtesy of Cruise and Maritime Voyages.
Although the $60 million, two year rebuild of MARCO POLO transformed the ship from a Russian liner to a modern cruise ship, many of the original external features of ALEKSANDR PUSHKIN remain. One of the most noticeable is the signal mast which apart from modern changes is much the same as 1965. However, the view looking aft from the port bridge wing is very different. Not only has the former Bridge Deck been widened, the funnel has also been raised.
The Bridge Deck is now the Navigator Deck which has the best cabins on MARCO POLO.
The original Bridge Deck had a teak-deck promenade, the White Nights Bar and the large Verandah lounge with panoramic views of the sea.
On ALEKSANDR PUSHKIN passengers also had access to the area above the bridge which was called the Compass Platform.
The streamlined bridge front and bridge wings are more or less the same as in 1965.
After the 1991-1993 refit, the bridge with its old fashioned dials and radar equipment, shown here, was replaced with modern safety and bridge-management systems.
Although the new bridge interior looks less cluttered, the bridge windows are virtually unchanged.
MARCO POLO’s affable Captain Michail Margaritis has had an impressive 34-year career at sea. Not only has he served on numerous classic Chandris liners he was also the master on five Celebrity Cruises ships. Throughout our five week cruise Captain Margaritis was often seen walking around the ship, chatting to passengers or having his meal in one of the restaurants.
During the 1990s rebuild the stern area was transformed into a fantastic, horseshoe-shaped arena with three decks overlooking the large pool on Magellan Deck, which remains in the same position as ALEKSANDR PUSHKIN’s enclosed pool.
One of the best aspects of MARCO POLO’s outer decks is that there is plenty of well-maintained teak decking. This is the semi-enclosed promenade on Amundsen Deck as we sailed through the calm but icy waters off Greenland. The windows belong to the elegant Scott’s Bar with its sea views on three sides.
At the forward end of the Columbus Deck is a large viewing area overlooking the bow. Note the extreme camber.
MARCO POLO’s main public rooms are on Magellan Deck. Marco’s Bistro, the alternative casual dining option, opens on to the pool area where meals can be taken on wooden tables with china plates and cups instead of the plastic tableware found on larger ships.
Of MARCO POLO’s five lounge areas, the cosy, nautically-themed Columbus Lounge is the smallest.
The walls of the Nansen Card Room are festooned with plaques from all the ports the ship has visited since 1993.
The Card Room also has ALEKSANDR PUSHKIN’s ship’s bell.
The stylish Captain’s Club with its Oriental paintings and white piano has large windows either side and is a great place to sit and read during the day or have pre-dinner drinks in the evening.
The theatre-style Marco Polo Lounge is at the forward end of Magellan Deck. Although the sightlines are not perfect, the room does not have the cavernous feel of larger ships. The ship’s orchestra, seen rehearsing here, is very good especially the saxophone player. The shows were excellent and were performed with great enthusiasm by the relatively small show team.
The Oriental-theme continues in the main Waldorf Restaurant on Atlantic Deck. This room with its large windows is in the same position as ALEKSANDR PUSHKIN’s main restaurant.
A large Chinese vase at the entrance to the Waldorf Restaurant.
The food on MARCO POLO is surprisingly good with plenty of variety. Unusually, an example of each meal on offer for dinner is displayed outside the Waldorf Restaurant.
The Cruise Director for the 50th anniversary cruise was the extremely talented Richard Sykes. He is without doubt one of the world’s best cruise directors and a firm favourite among CMV’s passengers not only because of his charm but also because of his musical ability. Here he is singing at a sail-away party in front of the rather bizarre sculpture of the great Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev.
One of the most extraordinary facts about MARCO POLO is that she still has her original Sulzer main engines, seen here in 1965.
The large engine room is spotless with various parts colour co-ordinated. Note the ALEKSANDR PUSHKIN builder’s plate and engine room bell. This is all the result of the leadership of the Chief Engineer Georgios Katsifarakis whose engineering career started in 1973. He has worked on 21 passenger ships including classics such as Chandris Lines AMERIKANIS and Epirotiki’s JASON.
MARCO POLO’s 50th anniversary cruise took place between July 24 and August 29, 2015. The journey covered 8,194 nautical miles and included nineteen ports of call. Here are a few photographic highlights.
The old meets the even older! The 67 year old veteran AZORES, with her distinctive fan tail, passes her running mate, the 50 year old MARCO POLO in Tórshavn in the Faroe Islands.
Our first call in Greenland was supposed to be the small town of Tasiilaq. Unfortunately this was not possible because it was surrounded by over three miles of thick ice, despite being mid-Summer. The weather was perfect and whilst we were hove to numerous whales appeared around the ship.
Throughout our voyage around Greenland we had a Danish ice captain aboard and there was a constant visual watch from the bridge for icebergs, some of which were immense.
We arrived at Qaqortoq, Greenland in the light of a full moon.
Tendering at Qaqortoq. It is easy to see why the first Norsemen who settled here in the 10th century called it the Greenland.
The Tunulliarfik Fjord in southwest Greenland is spectacular with high mountains and thousands of small, colourful icebergs.
MARCO POLO spent over two weeks cruising in Canada and her old route along the St Lawrence River. The ship was warmly welcomed at all the ports we visited not only by the port authorities but also by the local inhabitants.
Our first Canadian call was the picturesque city of St. John’s Newfoundland. Whilst we were ashore the ship underwent a lifeboat drill.
The former industrial town of Sydney, Nova Scotia has a splendid new cruise terminal and, what is believed to be the world’s largest fiddle, which celebrates the folk music tradition of Nova Scotia. Here one can see the sheer of MARCO POLO’s hull which gives the ship such a distinctive profile.
The sheer is most noticeable looking forward on Pacific Deck.
Passing under the Pont Pierre-Laporte and Pont de Quebec bridges on the way from Quebec to Montréal.
Prior to our arrival in Montréal there was a gala dinner attended by Chris Coates (seated left), co-founder of Cruise and Maritime Voyages, and his wife. To his left are Julie Newall and Belinda Coates. Standing behind are John Dennis, CMV’s US-based Vice President (left), and myself.
We were welcomed in Montréal by the tug OCEAN PIERRE JULIEN doing a splendid water cannon ballet.
Just over 49 years after ALEKSANDR PUSHKIN made her first call at Montréal, the ship was once again tied up overnight at this vibrant city.
The fine lines of this old veteran can also be appreciated at night. Here, she is tied up alongside at Sept-Îles, Quebec. Her hull shows up black and at first glance she looks as if she has returned to her old Russian hull colours as ALEKSANDR PUSHKIN.
MARCO POLO is certainly a unique ship and CMV has produced a wide range of excellent value for money cruises from three night Christmas cruises to a 42-nighter Amazon, West Indies cruise. In August next year MARCO POLO returns to Canada on a 28 night cruise from Liverpool when it will also be possible to cruise only to Montréal or from Montréal to the UK.
See www.cruiseandmaritime.com for more details.
A well-known shipping writer, cruise journalist and cruise ship lecturer,
Peter Newall is a former British Airways executive who has, in the past 57
years, visited and travelled on many famous ships. As well as numerous
articles he has written seven highly acclaimed books including the
definitive histories of Union-Castle, Orient and Cunard Line. He also owns
the Newall Dunn Collection, the extensive collection of historic merchant
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