One of the many ships I was fortunate enough to visit was MV Marco Polo. when she called at Durban. She was originally one of five identical sisters of the Ivan Franko class and built by VEB Mathias-Thesen Werft, East Germany, for Baltic Shipping Company (BLASCO) and was completed in June of 1965. She was in service until 1990 when she was laid up.
A year later she was bought to form the nucleus of what was to become Orient Lines. Being extensively rebuilt for service around the world and to the Antarctica. She called in Durban on 2 December 1993 on her maiden call, and we were fortunate enough to be able to go on board for a ship visit.
A lot of work was being completed on board when we visited her, but we literally had the run of the vessel, including the engine room. The crew were very friendly, and went out of their way to provide us with any information (or goodies) that we wanted.
As at 2001 she measured in at 22080 GRT, with a capacity of 848, principal dimensions: 578x77x27. Ivan Franko Class: Ivan Franko, Aleksandr Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Shota Rustavelli, Taras Schevchenko.
In 1998 Orient Lines was acquired by NCL, who retained the brand and name and added in Crown Odyssey as a running mate. This was a short lived partnership, and Orient Lines was closed in 2008 and she was put on charter to Transocean Tours until they went bankrupt in 2009. She then passed to Cruise and Maritime Voyages who still operate her. She is a proper ship with a loyal following, but it is probable that her days are numbered. Crown Odyssey now operates for Fred Olsen as Balmoral.