Our last time on the Marco Polo was in 2011, our second cruise, after our first on NCL with a butler and a concierge and lots of fancy extras. We’ve done lots of cruises since, but the Marco Polo has stayed VERY special and both times have been equally enjoyable. It’s a shame this is the last time the Marco Polo will visit Canada, so I’ll concentrate on the ship, rather than the ports. If it were to return to Canada, I’d suggest calling it “Canada with a fall”, as a lot of people took the title “fall” rather too literally and actually fell, which kept the doctor fairly busy (although he always seemed to have time for a cigarette – and the occasional brandy - out on deck!)!
On arrival, the new parking facilities at Tilbury made things much easier. As we went towards check in, we were greeted by Sheena, a member of staff who recognised us from 2011 – she was also there to wish us a safe journey home when we got back! Check in took no time, and within minutes, we were in our cabin.
We really like CMV, and yes, there are things they could do better – information about the ports could have maps, there could be more mugs available and a couple of the waiting staff might be a little more courteous at times (that said, our waiter, Pritish, was fantastic). Sometimes, perhaps a little more attention could be paid to detail. Getting the time zone wrong was a good example, but it does add to the quirkiness of CMV and probably why we rate it so highly.
We booked a “guaranteed” cabin and were allocated 655, an accessible cabin on deck 9. It was very big and exceedingly well situated. It had more than ample storage facilities with a large dressing table and three wardrobes. And very usefully, lots of wall hooks for coats and dressing gowns that we brought with. One of the dressing gowns came in particularly useful to block out the light from under the door.
Most of the time the noise from Scott’s Bar didn’t bother us, however we did have to make sure the big doors were closed before we went to bed, and were annoyed by the selfish people who opened them once or twice late at night despite the signs. Our cabin door rattled - we managed to remedy it by using a sock - the cabin attendant did say he’d inform the carpenter, but that didn’t seem to happen, however he did keep the cabin absolutely spotless and never seemed to stop working.
The hold rails in the bathroom came in very useful when we were taking a shower in rough seas. However, as for true accessibility, the ship isn’t modern and one day a lady was in tears after climbing the gang way back up to the ship which was very steep due to tidal conditions – she didn’t leave the ship again until disembarkation. However, others (including yours truly) managed to dance in Scott’s Bar in rather rough seas until the small hours.
Car parking is now much easier than it was before - once you've dropped your car and luggage off, the port building is in walking distance, or there's a courtesy bus.
Charlottetown is adorable and very walkable. After a photo with a Mountie in the port hall, we walked into town. The City Hall houses a secondary tourist information centre which was much less busy than the one near the ship, and the lady behind the desk was incredibly helpful, telling us that there's a mock up of the "Confederation Table" in the Confederation Centre (which houses the library and a theatre - along with an area you can dress up like Anne of Green Gables (which has its own shop in town).
We very much enjoyed the video of how Canada was originally formed, helped by two guides who explained to me why it was the Founding "Fathers" as the only woman (who apparently had some power) was the cleaning lady.
You walk through a lovely historic area on the way to Beaconsfield Historic House (which was free for us as we're members of the National Trust), then onto the grounds of Government House (which has a little information booth, but visits inside weren't available when we were there).
It was a really enjoyable day.
We'd been at sea for ten days before arriving in Halifax, a little later in the day than originally planned, so cancelled our excursion to Lunenburg as we wanted to explore the town. The ship docked just next to the Immigration Museum, but unfortunately we ran out of time before we could go in. We popped into the market place briefly, seeing Canadian delicacies like "Bacon Jam" which even the person selling it said was an acquired taste!
A little further on from the Cunard statue, we turned into town and were delighted to see some LGBT friendly stuff in the windows. Apparently Canada has Pride month in September which made us feel particularly welcome for our whole visit to the country.
We were initially looking for somewhere just for a cuppa, but due to the fantastic ambience and amazingly friendly service, it turned into a lobster roll lunch which we shared – my husband washed it down with a local beer but I stuck to coffee, wanting a break from all-inclusive cruising!
Apart from wonderfully friendly service, it’s well worth a visit to see the beautiful “historic” wooden bar, which was imported from the UK. Also, at the back, there are some very informative history panels - the thing that made us laugh the most was that the distillery was set up by none other than someone called I. C. Shore. After ten days at sea, it was very appropriate! I do hope our travels take us to Halifax again, it was a lovely place to visit, and next time, hopefully we’ll have more time so we can sample the distillery produce and go on a tour.
We then walked up to the citadel and spent a nice hour there, it was brought to life by characters in costume, who explained how life was when the citadel was in daily use.
Then we walked back to the shore and found the historic buildings, which house some lovely gift shops - after a quick drink, it was time to get back on the ship.
We met a friend who lives in Ottawa - she met us at the Cathedral (a few minutes walk from the ship) then drove us to the Gay Village and we had lunch Chez Cora. She had to leave us to see other family by 2pm, so we said we'd walk back to the ship, which was easy enough, walking through a few different quarters on rue Ste. Catherine, then down towards the old town which is very picturesque. It was a lovely walk along the promenade from the old town to the ship.
I did a lumberjack village tour which was fantastic - my husband did a glacier experience tour. We both enjoyed them immensely, then met up to get the shuttle back into town for a wander around. To be honest, there's very little (apart from a rather unique antique shop) in the town, so we were very pleased we'd done the tours.
We arrived in town just to have missed the Pride parade! Hey ho, such is life!
We got on the little $2 land train, which was a good introduction to the layout of the town, which is a bit spread out, but still walkable. There was a "screech" at the local Canadian Royal Legion, but we also missed that as we had lunch in Newfound Sushi, which did an excellent bento box and had very friendly service.
Afterwards, we seemed to meet the whole ship in the huge Dollarama shop, which is basically a Home Bargains / Poundland type store - forget any high class stores here, but do go to the Emporium for a look around!
The people were all very friendly and helpful, which made it an enjoyable day, even though there wasn't a lot to do.