Blog on the Tyne

Well here we are again folks, on yet another cruise – our 30th to be precise.  🙂

This time it’s a mini 5-day voyage on board the M/V Marco Polo, a delightful old ship (built 1965) on which we have cruised twice before; in the Mediterranean in 2001 and all the way down to Antarctica in 2006.  Marco Polo is a proper classic ship of 22,080 tons which holds 800 passengers, a bit different from the behemoths of today that carry thousands of voyagers.

There was no long journey down to Southampton or tiring flight to foreign shores involved this time – in fact the Marco Polo departed from the Tyne for a cruise around the Orkneys, Hebrides and Fort William, finishing at Leith.

So, despite our cases being packed and leaving for a mini-vacation today, this morning we got up and went to work as usual, putting in a half-day before finishing at 11.30am and then leaving the house once again at 12.20pm for the drive to the Port of Tyne, Newcastle.  Within an hour we were on the ship.  🙂

We had booked an ordinary outside cabin, but we were pleased to note that we have been upgraded.  Our cabin is on deck 9 (Amundsen Deck) right at the very bow of the ship, just below the bridge.  We can see the bow when looking out of the window, and it will be strange to be facing in the direction of travel instead of watching the sea pass by sideways as we usually do from our port or starboard cabin.

The weather was bright and warm and sunny, a complete contrast to the atrocious weather we’ve had so far for May which has thus far been more like February.  After dumping our bags in Cabin 602 we went in search of some lunch and, more importantly (!), a cold beer.  🙂

Trevor got a pizza while I enjoyed some cold meats and salad from the buffet and we took our food out to eat on the deck, in the sunshine.  We enjoyed some cold drinks and the unaccustomed feel of the hot sun on our backs.

When we looked at the events programme for the day I was amazed to see the Captain’s name:  Georgios Antonellos from Greece.  He was the captain when we did our very first cruise on the StarShip Royale, nearly 24 years ago.  We came across him in the restaurant and indeed it is the same one.  Wow.  The StarShip Royale cruise was part of our honeymoon in October 1988.  Fancy the same captain being on the Marco Polo, our 30th cruise.  🙂

After our leisurely lunch we decided to go back to the cabin for a quick nap before life-boat drill at 4.30pm.  Lifeboat drill is always a bit of a chore, but a necessary one.  It’s ironic that lifeboat drill was omitted on both the Titanic and (more recently) the Costa Concordia, but half an hour of our time now could save our lives later on.  It was quite a thorough drill as well; it wasn’t enough just to go to our muster stations and don our life jackets; we actually had to form a human chain and make our way to our lifeboats out on deck.  Once the drill was over, the time was ours.

We have been allocated table 67 in the Waldorf Restaurant, a table for eight.  We always dine fairly early, to give our meal time to go down, but early sitting on the Marco Polo is even earlier than usual; 5.45pm.

Our table companions for this cruise are three other British couples, all older than us.  They all seemed very pleasant.  Service was very quick and the meal was excellent; I enjoyed Thai seafood salad to start, then garden salad, boeuf bourgignon and finally the cheese board, washed down with rosé wine and finished off with coffee and amaretto.

After dinner we went along to the Marco Polo lounge for the evening’s entertainment, which was called “Dancing Queen” and was the show company’s tribute to Abba.  It was very good; the singing and dancing was excellent, the music was catchy and I was sorry when it was over, as I love Abba’s music.

We then made our way to Scott’s Bar, at the stern of the ship, for tonight’s game show which was Catchphrase, based on the popular television programme which used to be hosted by Roy “Say What You See” Walker.  “It’s good, but it isn’t right.”

They wanted a couple of volunteers so I put my hand up and went down to the front, where my opponent, Isobel, turned out to be one of the people on our table, from Consett, Co Durham.  We were each given a buzzer and told the rules of the game, and play began.  At first it looked as if I was going to be trounced because, even when I knew the answer, Isobel was very fast on the buzzer.  However, the game depended on guessing the main catch phrase, and this was where I excelled, winning the contest three games to one.  🙂

My prize was a Cruise & Maritime Voyages medallion, which is actually a trolley token of the type you’ll get in the Co-op and Morrison’s, to ensure you bring the trolley back and don’t just dump it in the car park.  There was also a free Cocktail of the Day for me and Trevor.  🙂  The cocktail was called “Bon Voyage” and was made up of Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Amaretto.  It was very rich and got a bit sickly after a while; I think I’d only manage one at the most.  However, the Marco Polo includes Caipirinha, my favourite cocktail, on its list so I was happy to indulge in them.  🙂

We stayed in Scott’s Bar for the next game show which was called Total Recall.  In any case it was really pleasant in the bar, and the resident musical duo, a guy on the piano and a female singer called the Excelsior Duo, were very good.  The evening ended with some of the singers from the show company singing musical numbers from the 50’s and 60’s.

Then it was back to cabin 602, well after midnight, for our first night on board the Marco Polo.

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