The Marco Polo dropped anchor this morning in Loch Broom, upon the shores of which is located the picturesque little village of Ullapool. We had not booked any excursions today, deciding instead to explore the village ourselves at leisure.
When we went down to breakfast the day already showed signs of being another scorcher without a cloud in the sky, so we went on deck for a wander around. We could see the ship’s tenders ferrying the first of the Marco Polo’s passengers across to Ullapool for their excursions.
As we were walking about the decks we looked up and saw Captain Antonellos out on the bridge wing. Trevor went over and called up to him “My wife thinks she knows you from a previous cruise – 24 years ago on the StarShip Royale”. The Captain called us up to join him and we was absolutely delighted that we’d remembered him! We chatted for a while and he then invited us onto the bridge and gave us a guided tour. During our tour he asked us what cabin we were in and we said “602”; just below the bridge in fact. Captain Antonellos said it had been a real pleasure meeting us and we shook hands and went on our way.
We decided to get a ticket for the liberty boat and await our turn. When we went to reception, we were just in time to get the last couple of tickets so we were able to board the boat immediately for the short ride across. There was a welcome breeze and the loch water was like a millpond.
We disembarked the tender and walked along the sea front. The sun was already very hot. Ullapool is a pretty little village with a few shops and cafés, a former church that is now a museum, a couple of pubs and a few houses. We decided to visit the museum, which promised a fascinating look into Ullapool’s past.
Ullapool Museum is only small and houses lots of files and archives; perfect for anyone wanting to trace their family tree or carry out some research. There was also an upstairs gallery which contained the original pews and showed a short video of life in Ullapool, past and present. In the small garden adjacent to the museum were a few trees, and one of them contained a bird box which we could see being frequented by a blue tit.
The bird box contained a nest with five newly-hatched chicks in it, and we could see this clearly because the box was fitted with a hidden camera, and so allowed a close up view of the nest to be displayed on a CCTV screen inside the museum. We could see the mother blue tit bringing food for her young, their little upturned faces with their beaks open wide to receive the titbits (no pun intended) that she provided. Then she would fly off again and be back minutes later. It brought a smile to our faces to see the nest up close like that – the wonders of modern technology. 🙂
After about an hour in the museum we went back out into the sunshine and decided to find a pub and have a welcome pint. There was a bar and restaurant nearby that had tables and chairs outside so we got a drink and sat out. They were doing a lively trade. It was very hot as we were out of the breeze so, once we’d finished our drinks, we decided to find another pub on the sea front.
There was a pub called “The Arch” because you had to go through an archway to get inside; the pub had wooden tables and chairs across the road right on the sea wall. We got a pint each and sat down, facing outwards towards the loch, where we could see the Marco Polo at anchor, along with many other small boats and a couple of guys water ski-ing.
Once again I went down to the water’s edge for a plodge and the cold, clear water cooled me down. It was so pleasant just sitting out in the sun, enjoying our drinks and taking in the stunning scenery. We had another pint each before deciding to get the liberty boat back to the Marco Polo and having a light lunch.
Back in our cabin I put on my swimsuit and grabbed a towel to go back up on deck. The pool looked inviting and I wondered why no-one was in it on such a hot day. I found out the hard way though – it was freezing! They empty the pool each evening and refill it the following day, which means the water doesn’t have time to warm up. So I stayed in the water for about 10 seconds flat!
After going back to cabin 602 and drying off, we had an afternoon nap and then got ourselves ready for dinner. An announcement came over the tannoy to say that, because it was such a fine evening, the entertainment programme for tonight had changed and they were having a quiz, cabaret and deck party out on the pool deck instead of in Scott’s Bar.
We enjoyed another delicious dinner and listened to Moaning Minnie on our table complaining yet again. This time it was the weather she didn’t like – it was too hot. After a while we just tuned out and let her get on with it. 🙂
The cabaret in the Marco Polo lounge was called “Magic of the Musicals” and featured a selection of songs and musicals from the West End and Broadway. As ever, it was very good. After the show we needed to go back to the cabin so I could get my jacket and/or a wrap if we were going out on deck, and when we got back we had a very pleasant surprise.
There, on our chest of drawers, was a bowl of fresh fruit, some smoked salmon canapés, a bottle of wine and a couple of glasses. A card peeped out from the fruit bowl and when we read it it said “With Compliments” and was signed “Captain G. Antonellos”. 🙂 Wow. What a lovely, lovely gesture. It was so kind of him and totally unexpected. It really was the icing on the cake of what had been an excellent day.
We made our way to the pool deck aft, where a lot of people had already gathered for the evening’s entertainment. The pool is overlooked by a statue of the late ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, reminding us that the Marco Polo used to be a Russian ship (she was originally named the Alexander Pushkin). We started off with a quiz and watched the sun go down at 10.20pm in these northerly latitudes. With the twilight it started to get a bit chilly, particularly since the ship was going along; there was a brisk breeze. So another announcement was made to say that, due to popular request, the entertainment was being moved back into Scott’s Bar. It was a bit ambitious planning a deck party in northern Britain when it is still only May, but at least they tried. 🙂
The evening finished off with some lively songs from the talented entertainment team, then back we went to our cabin where we enjoyed some of our smoked salmon canapés before turning in. 🙂