Goodbye Marco Polo

Marco Polo sailing out of Avonmouth, Bristol

Hey Owlets,

Marco Polo sailed out of Avonmouth last night. Out of context that statement seems a little mundane - why would anyone care about a ship doing what it’s meant to do? - but for me watching this elderly cruise liner sail away hurt in a way that I didn’t expect it to.

In case you’re new here, Marco Polo was one of the first ships I ever went on and my first taste of small ship cruising. One day I was bored and started scrolling through a cruise booking website - I wasn’t looking to book a cruise but it’s just something you do if you love travel, like scrolling through Instagram on the bus. During my mindless scrolling I came across a Christmas cruise for £123 sailing from Bristol on a line I'd never heard of (Cruise and Maritime Voyages) - I love Christmas, it was the cheapest cruise I’d ever seen & it was sailing from 10 minutes down the road so I couldn’t say no, out of curiosity if nothing else! When we boarded a month later we were subject to a cabin that broke, the worst night at sea I’ve ever had (even now nothing comes close!) and the cheesiest entertainment I’ve ever seen on a ship - but I loved it. 

CMV Marco Polo alongside in Cobh, County Cork, Ireland in December 2018

Marco Polo is often referred to by her fans as “the little ship that could” and they’re absolutely right. This little ship is over 50 years old - double the lifespan of a normal cruise ship. She’s been through 5 owners, 7 operators and is the only surviving member of her original 5 fleet mates. If you search the ship’s name you’ll find an article from 15 years ago claiming that she’s heading to scrap following the company going bankrupt, and history has repeated itself with rumours of her heading to the breakers spreading like wildfire but, for now at least, she’s dodged a bullet yet again.

Marco Polo is the absolute epitome of resilience. Every time she’s faced challenges she’s made it through, and somehow just the sight of her funnel peering over the buildings at Avonmouth docks every day has kept me going. This little ship sat in the docks for 8 months just waiting for the world to be ready for her again and now it is it turns out I’m not ready for her to leave.

Seeing Marco Polo everyday was a kind of a safety blanket. Having been a travel blogger for the last few years I’m not used to being in one place all this time and neither was she. Seeing Marco Polo laid up in Avonmouth was a reminder to keep going, that this wouldn’t be forever. It was a reminder of the amazing memories I had to reflect on while we can’t travel just as much as it was a reminder that there were things to look forward to in the future.

Cruise and Maritime Voyages  Marco Polo Sailing out of Avonmouth, Bristol in March 2019

After 55 years, 5 owners, 7 operators and numerous articles about her heading for scrap, she sailed yesterday for her new life. She’s heading to Dubai to be an accommodation ship for offshore workers until the cruise industry recovers, then it’s promised that she’ll return to cruising just as she has done every time before.

Watching Marco Polo sail out of Avonmouth last night broke my heart, but it was also maybe the reminder I needed. At her age, Marco Polo has already defied so many expectations, conventions and controversies but she just keeps going. If a 55 year old ship can do that, then there’s no reason why a 24 year old girl can’t too. 

Safe travels Marco Polo. I have no doubt in my mind that we’ll meet again one day when the world is ready.

Love and Feathers,
 The Owlet 💜 
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