Few people anywhere would dispute that the Marco Polo is one of the most singular and distinctive cruise ships afloat anywhere today. Tiny by comparison with the increasingly huge flotilla of hulking theme parks that have sailed in her wake ever since, she is gigantic in terms of stature, reputation and sheer stage presence. When she sails into a port, heads turn and jaws drop. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn walking into a room full of anodyne, contemporary supermodels.
Since her amazing transformation came into full effect at the end of 1993, the Marco Polo has literally gone where few ships can follow. From the steaming jungles of the Amazon to the the icy, rose tinted splendour of Antarctica, the Marco Polo had showcased them all. From the imperial splendour of Saint Petersburg to the pretty, indolent dolce vita lifestyle of fabled Portofino, the Marco Polo has been there, back, and done it all again.
She has sailed literally millions of miles and carried almost as many passengers. And each individual one is a person on their own, very personal voyage. All with different expectations- and, indeed, perceptions- of what lies ahead and, in time, memories of what now lies astern. Like human fingerprints, no two impressions are ever the same. This is a ship that has generated a million stories across a myriad of oceans.
Naturally, to see, document and understand even a fraction of those stories would be impossible. But there is one whimsical, permanent presence that has, indeed, actually seen the lot. Since 1993, he has done it all and, like any good and patient observer, he has maintained his silence all these years.
Of course, I’m talking about the statue of Rudolf Nureyev that graces the small plinth just behind the aft facing, lido deck pool. Human sized, lithe and reaching for the heavens, ‘Rudy’ has always been a focal talking point on the ship. A presence as distinctive as the funnel, or that gracefully raked bow, and the subject of a million photographs, from the reverent to the downright ribald.
What tales he could tell, if he were not mute. What views his sightless eyes could replay. Monumental, pine shrouded Norwegian fjords in the endless mid summer nights. Pristine, sun splashed Caribbean beaches studded with languid, swaying palm trees. Pretty, yacht studded little harbours like Honfleur in Normandy, and the surreal, lush. mangroves of the wondrous, winding Amazon river.
And if Rudy is a little recitent these days on the subject of his amazing past, then perhaps that is not so truly surprising. After all, a true gentleman never tells. And, as any crew member of any ship will tell you; what happens on the ship, stays on the ship.
Keep up the good work, Mister Nureyev; you’re doing a damned fine job.