It was a surreal, brilliant cruise. The storied, veteran Marco Polo and an eight night sweep through the Norwegian fjords at the height of the summer season. A serene venue and a sensational ship. What more could anyone ask for?
Well, how about a twenty piece big band that laid down a blistering sound track of everything from Duke Ellington to platinum chip disco? Big band, big ship. A combination as natural as Rogers and Astaire, or Goffin and King. A perfect fit, almost symbiotic. Yet to experience it out there, as the Marco Polo surged through a conga line of implausible, incredible northern nights, was something else.
Don’t get me wrong. I have been to Norway many times, and always enjoyed the experience immensely. But this cruise had something else. For, with her unique outdoor cascade of tiered, semi circular decks, the Marco Polo offered a string of amazing vantage points from which to drink in the sights, sounds and smells of this wonderful country.
And what scenes they were. Twelve thousand miles of rugged, indented coastline showcase the whole, sweeping expanse of Mother Nature like some massive visual smorgasbord. Vast, jagged peaks. their caps still dusted with snow, plunge down to still, silent fjords, where the ice blue water is as still as glass.
Cattle graze nonchalantly at the edge of pine carpeted meadows, as vast, thunderous streams roar and splash down into the fjords nearby. Clapboard houses with bright coloured window shutters and grass roofs cluster for protection around a sturdy old stave church here and there. Cars looking like beetles dart in and out of vast, road side tunnels hewn out of the granite that soars toward the heavens in all directions.
All of this is reflected with almost perfect clarity in the still, silent waters of the fjords themselves. Ferries, fishing boats and tugs bustle purposefully through this surreal, splendid hinterland. Other boats sit tethered to the rocky, moss dappled shoreline like so many flies, frozen in aspic.
The silence here is as deafening as it is majestic. Stillness hangs like a shroud. And, this being Norway, the weather is as mercurial as a supermodel in a strop.
Somber sheets of low, drizzly cloud part like opening theatre curtains to reveal magnificent, sun dappled vistas of lush green pine forests, tumbling down almost to sea level. Light dances and flickers across the faces of vast, granite cliffs and valleys, showing up sudden, amazing shades of red, gold and silver in the ancient stone crevices. The old adage remains true; if you don’t like the weather here, wait ten minutes and, likely as not, it will change.
And the Marco Polo affords a unique vantage spot; at the same time both integral to the scenery, and somewhat detached. Small enough to get close enough to the places where the big ships can never go, and yet, somehow, afloat in her own sense of time and space.
The sheer of that stunning hull and sharp, graceful prow has no equal afloat today. Inside, the Balinese Art Deco statuary and gorgeous, stained glass lighting gives the ship a rich, sumptuous air of space and grace. Small and perfectly formed, boarding the Marco Polo is like putting on that favourite pair of comfortable slippers that only you truly love.
The food and service remain things to savour; intimate and more personal in style and scope, both promote a sense of well being. A kind of feast for the soul and senses, if you will.
On this glorious, implausible ship, we voyaged through a magical, misty land of half glimpsed witches, galloping reindeer and, of course, surly, carefully watching trolls. Over the next series of blogs, you’re invited to share the sights and sounds of this magical adventure…..