Traditional Style Cruising Makes a Comback with Orient Lines Marco Polo II

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If you are a frequent reader of this site you know that I have a deep affection for the traditional style cruising like the ones I enjoyed in the late 70’s and early 80’s. My definition of this type of cruise is one on a ship with less than 1000 passengers, where the emphasis is on a simple cruise experience where passengers have an opportunity to enjoy great service, light entertainment, and each others company. Under this definition, the passengers won’t find many of the new bells and whistles on the mega ships, but usually a formal dining room with traditional dress codes and elegant atmosphere. I’m one of those people who doesn’t want or need all those extras like ice rinks and bowling alleys, just give me great food and service and I’m very happy.

From the wording of their initial launch annoucement, it appears Orient Lines is trying to fill this “niche”.

The “new” Orient Lines earlier announced plans to acquire vessels rich in history and character and that can carry 600 to 800 passengers in comfort and safety to all seven continents, much like the former company’s beloved Marco Polo. Additionally, the new owner’s plans include preserving Orient Lines’ hallmark cruise-tour product, which seamlessly incorporated pre- and/or post-cruise hotel stays and orientation sightseeing tours, as well as distinguished guest lecturers and local cultural highlights, where possible.

The Ship: Marco Polo II

Orient Lines has acquired the Maxim Gorkiy, which will begin sailing as the Marco Polo II in April of 2009. If you’re a ship history buff like me, I recommend the Maxim Gorkiy Page on the web site Simplon Postcards. Some of the features that I like about this ship are its Passenger to Crew ratios (650 guest to 350 crew), traditional dining in a single seating large enough to accommodate all passengers, a specialty restaurant with no cover charge, a lido buffet open for breakfast lunch and dinner. In addition, the ship’s “Grand Salon” reminds me very much of the main lounges on the older/traditional ships.

Ambassador Lounge – A traditional grand salon that spans the full width of the vessel, this showroom is the venue for cabaret performances and dancing to the band. There is a large dance floor, raised orchestra platform and tiered seating for 320 guests.

The ship also offers several other day and evening lounges/entertainment venues including a Polynesian themed disco, a polo lounge offering ocean views and piano music, a casino, cinema/conference room, and even a venue inspired by Harry’s bar in Venice. You can visit the Orient Lines website for a complete list of ship board amenities.

Accomodations:

This is one area where the newer larger ships far and above beat out the older traditional ships. The Orient lines website doesn’t even list the size of the state rooms, which leads me to believe that they are quite small. If you enjoy most of your cruise from the public areas and hardly ever spend time in your room then you would not miss the extra space very much. However, if you like to relax in the privacy of your own state room or enjoy an afternoon in on your balcony, then this ship would not be for you. Even the suites appear to be very small and none offer a balcony. Also for those of you looking for a romantic get away, make sure to be sure to book a room with convertible to queen beds, as some of the rooms do not offer this option.

Service

I suspect that Marco Polo II’s Filipino crew will excel in providing service. The cruise line suggests a $9 a day tip per person per stateroom to cover all tipping for on board service personnel including dining staff and room stewards.

Dress Code
Currently, the Orient Lines website list a three tiered dress code with Formal, Semi-formal and Smart Casual evenings. For those cruisers who enjoy dressing up, it appears this line will maintain that tradition.

Destinations

The Marco Polo II will be offering extended Mediterranean itineraries starting in April of 2009. These cruises vary in length from 11 to 26 days. Then, in June, July and August, Orient Lines will offer Northern European cruises that include the British Ilse and Baltic Sea ports. After a return to the Mediterranean in September and October, Marco Polo II will cross the Southern Atlantic for a series of South American cruises out of Rio de Janeiro extending as far south at Ushuaia.

Pricing and Booking Information

Currently Marco Polo II can only be booked through a travel agent. I contacted my cruise travel agent professional, Sky Scraper Tours. They have provided me with sample pricing for the maiden season as follows.

4/15/09
15 day Barcelona to Cairo
Standard Inside – $4073pp
Standard Oceanview (porthole) – $4723pp

5/09/09
25-Day Istanbul to Venice
Standard Inside – $7183pp
Standard Oceanview (porthole) – $8083pp

Pricing includes all taxes, fees and fuel supplement.

If you ever sailed on the old Marco Polo or have interest in sailing the new Marco Polo II, Please leave a message in our comment section. We’d love to hear about your previous experience or your future plans.