Category Archives: Marco Polo

THE LAST DAY

It’s been our final day at sea.

We’ve spent it packing, drinking tea, watching the last two lectures featuring slideshows of the trip, by Ian M. Butterfield and Sue Walsh, drinking more tea, and enjoying the vocal talents of Mitch the Cruise Director in the Show Lounge this evening.

The sea has been quite choppy all day; it was rough all through the night, with things banging and crashing about to the rocking of the ship, and at breakfast it was a case of hold on to your plate. It was unfortunate that both cold drink machines were out of order, so there was no orange juice to be had; it didn’t seem to matter, though… everyone seemed de-mob happy…

It’s been a terrific cruise, not to mention an extremely long one. Despite todays rockin’ and rollin’, we’ve been ridiculously lucky with the weather throughout, and Tracey and I are just two among 800 passengers who have a shedload of extraordinary memories to take home with us. For myself, the raw material I’ve accrued along the way is only the start of further projects, not to mention the networking opportunities the trip has afforded me.

We are due to pick up the pilot for Bristol Avonmouth at 4am, and disembarkation will begin soon after 7am. It’s a long drive home to North Yorkshire… but as far as I’m concerned; as soon as we step off the Marco Polo, we’ll be home.

My next sea-going adventure will not be until the 16th of October, when we will be joining the Columbus for the first time, on a two-week voyage back to the Canary Islands.

In the meantime, there’s work to be done…

THE GRAND EXHIBITION

Today was our penultimate day at sea, and this morning I ran my final classes entitled ‘The Art of Composition’, where I ran through the ‘Composition Checklist’ and had them painting a Mediterranean scene featuring textures and a few simple figures.

After a quick lunch, we returned to the Conference Room armed with the enormous pile of paintings that have been produced by the group over the last two and a half months… that’s a lot of paintings, I can tell you!

There were so many paintings that I started to think we might run out of wall space; everyone mucked-in, with two teams applying blu-tack or masking tape to the back of the paintings, and everyone else employed sticking them up on to the walls.

By 2pm, the corridor looked marvellous, and for two hours, everyone mingled and showed off their work proudly to their fellow passengers… even the Captain turned up for a gander.

At 4pm, the job of taking down the paintings began, and by 4:30pm, it was like we’d never been there at all.

In the immortal words of Mary Poppins and Bart Simpson… my work here is done.

Tomorrow is our final day at sea, as we draw closer to the UK. The weather has been slowly deteriorating, though, and the swell has noticeably increased. I think it’s going to be a bumpy night…

A PACKED ENTERTAINMENTS PROGRAMME

This morning, I held my penultimate classes, while this afternoon has been quite an entertainments whirl…

There has been so much in the daily programme for people to do and see that it must have been hard for passengers to choose, never mind try to fit them all.

For starters, Ian, the photographer, held his all-day photo quiz. He posted 27 photographs in random locations throughout Deck 8, each one taken in one of the 27 ports that we’ve visited throughout the cruise. The competition was very simple; all folks had to do was match the photo up the port; anyone getting all 27 would win the photos. The catch being… they weren’t that easy – in fact, some were downright tough. The good thing is that it’s encouraged people to get up and walk about with their printed lists of locations, hunting for the pictures, swap notes with fellow passengers and strike off where they think they are on their sheet. It was a fun activity that got everyone involved.

As well as Ian’s quiz, there have been performances from the Ukelele players, the choir and the drama club. We went to watch the ukelele players in Scotts Bar, which was enjoyable, and subtly enhanced by the presence of the bass player and drummer from the Marco Polo Orchestra. Their Elvis Presley encore was accompanied by Cruise Director Mitch (who has a terrific singing voice, and a broad range of vocal impressions), who appeared dressed as Elvis himself.

From here, we made our way to the Show Lounge, where we were treated to a series of comedy sketches performed by the passengers who had been attending the drama sessions. From Blackadder to The Importance of Being Earnest, and several unique, self-penned and improvised sketches, it proved to be a thoroughly entertaining afternoon.

The day of passenger-fueled entertainment didn’t stop there, though; in the evening, we were treated to the ‘Passenger and Crew Talent Showcase’. As expected, it was standing room only in the Show Lounge; there were singers and dancers, musicians and a monologue, all rounded off with an impressive BMX-Bike-Dancing (yep… you read that correctly) finale, from one of the young lads in Housekeeping.

The sea has been smooth all day, with a deep but gentle swell that has been noticeable some times and not at others. The captain has warned us of a change in conditions from about lunchtime tomorrow, when swells of up to 5 or 6 metres are predicted (not good…). I’m hoping they don’t disrupt my final classes, or the exhibition planned for tomorrow afternoon.

One last time change tonight… Tomorrow, we’ll be back in line with the UK.

PONTA DELGADA, AZORES

Today, we arrived at the final stopping-off point on our grand voyage, Ponta Delgada in the Azores. Arrival time was 8am; we left at 1pm, so we only had five hours to make the most of our relatively short visit. Knowing that our stay would be short, we’d told Shorex that we definitely didn’t want to be doing any tour escorting. Instead, we has a leisurely breakfast and an equally leisurely walk into the town.

The Marco Polo was berthed alongside a very nice-looking luxury yacht, ‘Yalla’. A quick Google search (cos we can) told us that it is worth 80 million US dollars – more than the asking price for the Marco Polo when it was up for sale recently (no-one wanted to buy it). It has a crew of 22 and carries 12 guests, and is currently owned b y the richest family in Egypt… It really was a beautiful vessel… how the other half lives huh?

We walked as far as the ornate gates of the Town Hall, took a few photographs and climbed to the top of the clock tower, from where we had some magnificent views across the rooftops of Ponta Delgada.

Back in the port, we paused to enjoy a drink in one of the marina-side cafes before heading back to the ship to gorge on our fast, freely-available, phone-contract internet access. Bliss!

As we sailed away, the entertainments team were in fine voice, pulling out all the stops to make our final port-of-call as memorable as possible, with a deck-party that had many passengers singing along and dancing.

There seem to be a few rumours circulating with regards to forthcoming sea conditions. For sure, the news is full of weather warnings for the UK as Storm Gareth makes its approach, and there does seem to be a large amount of red on the sea maps posted in the Reception area. So far, we’ve been extremely lucky with the weather throughout the whole of the cruise, and it would be a shame for it to be spoilt by rough seas. Tracey checked some online charts, which don’t look quite so fearsome, and suggest that, providing Storm Gareth keeps moving eastwards and away from us, then we shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

We now have just three more sea-days before we are due to arrive at our final destination, Bristol on Sunday. I have two days of classes to look forward to and an exhibition on Friday afternoon. We have our fingers firmly crossed that things don’t get too rough…

SIX DAYS ON…

Today marks our sixth consecutive day at sea since leaving Barbados; as we’ve headed east, we’ve adjusted our clock three times.

If it seems like not a lot has happened over those six days, then that’s because not a lot has happened. Each day has been a working day for me (except for the first one, before the unexpected change in schedule), classes in the morning followed by lunch followed by working in the cabin during the afternoon. Each evening after dinner has been marked by another episode of Game of Thrones, some reading, a final cup of tea, and then sleeping… who would have thought doing so little could be so tiring?

The swell has continued, but the seas have remained generally flat. We spent some time up on the front deck this afternoon, but there was nothing to see but sea. Apparently, there have been the odd few sightings of dolphins and distant whales, but nothing like what we experienced in the Pacific Ocean and the Southern hemisphere. It’s definitely getting cooler as we head east, and the wind has been quite strong.

Tomorrow, we are due to arrive in Ponta Delgada, in the Azores. Because it belongs to Portugal, we should be able to use our phone data there, and I plan to gorge on the internet. I have six days of online work to catch up on, not to mention a shedload of blog entries to upload… this will be one of seven new entries, that I’ve written while we’ve been travelling, but have been unable to update due to the diabolically poor on-board wi-fi. After the third day, I gave up trying altogether.

I have only two more classes scheduled for Thursday and Friday, which will be followed by a grand exhibition of art and craft on Friday afternoon. This means that I’ve been rallying people in my group to bring along their work, and create a pile of paintings to exhibit.

Only five days to go before we are due to arrive back at our starting point, in Bristol.