Marco Polo. A personal glimpse

As the Marco Polo sits on the beach at Alang waiting for the men with cutting torches to begin dismantling her, I could not help but remember this old lady that graced us with a visit so many years ago. I wrote the following a few years back and it is the right time to reproduce it here. Farewell Marco Polo, you will be remembered with fondness by so many people.

A Personal Glimpse 02/12/1993

One of the many ships I was fortunate enough to visit was the  MV Marco Polo. when she called at Durban on her inaugural cruise in December 1993. 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. 

One of the five sisters, possibly Mikhail Lermontov

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. 

Postcard issued on board

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.  But first we had to drop off the pilot.

Pilot safely on board we watched her make her approach to the harbour mouth.

and then once safely inside brought alongside by the resident tugs.

The weather that day was overcast and not great for photography and the images that I have are scanned from slides so are less than perfect.

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. 

Cabin views from the brochure

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.

The one memory that I do have is the friendliness of the crew, some were amazed to hear that we had come all that way just to see her, and it was times like that when the long 5 hour drive was worth it. 

We had breakfast “around the pool”, and I managed to snag a dinner menu but I am afraid it did not look too appetising to me. I do not have images of her sailing as she left just before midnight and we were well on our way home by then. 

In 1998 Orient Lines was acquired by NCL, who retained the brand and name and added in Crown Odyssey as a running mate (Crown Odyssey now operates for Fred Olsen as Balmoral). 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 operate her until CMV went into administration in 2020 following the global Corona Virus pandemic. She was sold at auction along with her fleetmates and it was touted that she would become an “accommodation ship” in Dubai. That never happened and she was scheduled to be beached at Alang on 12 January 2021.  She will be missed by those who enjoy small intimate ships.

1/1250 Resin cast model of Marco Polo from 2008

DRW ©  2015-2020. Recreated 13/03/2016, moved to Musings 14/01/2021.

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