zondag 23 april 2017

The English story of our cruise, part 4

Life on the Marco Polo

In this part, I will tell more about the life on a cruise ship: the sea days, amusement, food and usual daily things.

Our ship, the Marco Polo is built in 1965 as an ocean liner, named Aleksandr Pushkin. It was registered in Russia till 1991. Since then it is registered in the Bahamas (Nassau) and renamed Marco Polo. It is rebuilt in 1993. It is not a big ship, it can accommodate 800 passengers and has 353 crew members.
Marco Polo (stern)
Sea days

The cruise lasted 35 days of which 20 sea days. The longest sea period was the 6 day voyage from  the Azores to St. Maarten.
A lot of people have asked us,whether we do not find it boring to spend so many sea days on the ship. The answer is: No, it is not boring for us and not on the Marco Polo!
First, we love to be at sea and standing on the deck, looking at the waves or spotting whales, dolphins and sometimes birds. 
We love standing on the front deck
We read a lot, solve puzzles and chat with our friends. We walk for approximately 45 minutes our daily rounds on deck 10, to stay in good condition, we go to the painting classes or attend lectures.
The lectures are given by retired university lecturers  or other professionals. There is a varied program: oceanography, geology, photography, archaeology  CSI-forensics, politics and history .
There are also workshops such as Spanish, ukulele, singing, drama, dancing, writing, needlework, photograph and painting. There are bridge drives, jakkolo (table shuffle-board or sjoelbak) games, mini golf and all kinds of quizzes on various moments of the day. 
Lecture of Dr. Louise Bonner in the Marco Polo Lounge
Art class, clockwise: Peter, Richard and Jan
Art class, clockwise: Jan, my place, Dianne, Eve, Richard
The ship has a library, a computer room and a fitness club. For the water-rats there is an outside swimming pool and on the top deck are three whirlpool baths.
Sometimes there are demonstrations such as ice carving, folding napkins and towels and others of special skills of the crew.

Whirlpools on the top deck
Ice carving on the pool deck
Pool deck with statue of ballet-dancer Rudolf Nureyev in the background
Folded towels by our cabin steward Melroy
Because we love to take courses, we attended the master course (!) cocktails mixing. We got an extended explanation and demonstration and we received hand-outs to take home. And of course we had to practice drinking the cocktails.The course was a success: we all passed.

Course materials
Professional cocktail mixers
At night there are shows performed in the Marco Polo Lounge or guest acts from magicians or comics. In the other lounges or clubs you can listen to jazz or classical music. And of course there is room to dance and rock and roll in the Scott’s bar.
There are no casinos and no playgrounds for children (children under 16 are not allowed).
Ukulele concert by passengers in the Marco Polo Lounge
Internet and telephone

On the ship is a computer room and here you can use the internet. But it is very expensive. The connection is by satellite and slow. You pay about 1 pound a minute whether you have a connection to the internet or not.
You can also use the satellite telephone connection at sea, that will cost you at least 7 pounds a minute (without the cost of your own provider). When the ship is in a harbour, people (crew and passengers) go ashore and try to call, Skype, send e-mail or use free internet for all kinds of things.
Most of the times we were not the only cruise ship and the internet was overcrowded. There have also been places, where there was no internet or telephone connection at all.
Working on my notebook and smart-phone
Searching for free internet on my smart-phone
I prepared my internet actions, by writing my blog messages in advance. I did not use the computer room. Our cabin was big enough to work in the cabin. I made the parts off-line on my notebook and later in the harbour I tried to post them on the Blogger-site. Sometimes I needed both my smart-phone and notebook to get things organised.
Writing in 'my office' in our cabin

During our last cruises I have used my Garmin GPSmap 62s. I take it with me on the excursions, so that I can see where we are and where we have been.
It is possible to upload the route on Google Earth and it is very nice to undergo the route when you are at home. Especially, when there is Google Street View available. This was the case in Mexico for example. But unfortunately most visited countries and islands, cannot be seen in Street View.
The combination with Google and Street View is also handy to locate some photo's. The fact is, this smart girl forgot to adjust her smart-phone on GPS and my Canon is to0 old fashioned (EOS 350D).
My Garmin in the coach
Google Earth and Garmin map Chichén Itzá (Mexico)
Google Earth, own picture and Google Street View
During the sea days you have information on your television about the course, speed and position.
Information about the distance to the next destination
Information about the total cruise distance

The cruise fare includes breakfast, lunch, tea time, dinner, coffee (not the specials like cappuccino), tea and (tap)water.
You have to pay for your special drinks such as wine, soft drinks, beer and spirits or you can take a beverage package. With this package most drinks are for free and for some you have to pay a little charge. The package costs you 17 pounds pro person each day, whether you drink or not. We did this on an other cruise and it was not cheaper at all.
On some cruise ships there are special restaurants with specialities where you are charged extra. This is not the case on small ships like the Marco Polo. 
The Marco Polo has two restaurants, the official one, the Waldorf and a self-service restaurant called Marco's. 
The Waldorf has a dress-code for dinner: casual, informal (tie and jacket for the gentlemen) or formal (evening or cocktail dress and for the men dinner jacket). Most days the dress code is informal and on days when you go ashore, casual. On a long journey you have about 4 formal dinners. 
If you don't like the formal or informal dinners, you may choose for the self service restaurant. The food is almost the same.
It is nowhere allowed to wear short pants.When the weather is nice you can choose taking your meal on the pool-deck.
Waldorf restaurant and our (still) empty table
In Marco's self service restaurant
Formal dinner in the Waldorf restaurant
A lot of cruise ships have at  a late night buffet (from 10 p.m.).
The Marco Polo only had  these buffets occasionally (about 4 times).
During long cruises the Pastry Chef offers a chocolate buffet in tea time once .
Chocolate buffet
Chocolate buffet
There is  a new dinner option on the Marco Polo: the Chefs Dinner. You pay extra for a special 8 courses meal in combination with a cocktail party and a visit to the galley. The chef himself does the finishing touch on the served food. Each course is paired with a different wine. 

Menu Chefs Dinner
7 courses of the 8 (not the cheese)
In the galley with the Chef
That was all about the life on a cruise ship and on the Marco Polo in particular. There is a lot to do and to enjoy for people with different interests. However, young people will not like these cruises. The average age of the passengers is a lot higher than our age and the amusement and the way of life will not tempt many young people.
But we have had wonderful days and enjoyed it very much.
The next part (5) will be the last part of the story.

Picture taken at the last formal dinner

To be continued . . .

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