Built 1965, VEB Mathias-Thesen-Werft Wismar, East Germany
Tonnage 22 080 GT
Length 176,28 m
Width 23,55 m
Draught 8,17 m
2 Sulzer-Cegielski diesels, combined 15 447 kW
1 bow thruster
Speed 16,5 knots
Marco Polo is a fascinating survivor of a bygone era in many ways. She was built in 1965 in East Germany as the second in a series of five ships for the Soviet Union. Named Alexandr Pushkin, she was set in the Baltic Shipping Company's service linking Leningrad to Montreal via Helsinki, Copenhagen, Tilbury and Quebec City. She was also used for cruises out of Canada and reportedly occasionally for charters to other operators - however her precise movements during the Soviet era are hard to trace due to conflicting information provided by different sources.
What is known for certain is that the Alexandr Pushkin was withdrawn from transatlantic service in 1980 when the United States and British Commonwealth forbade Soviet ships from entering their ports after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. By this time the Pushkin had been one of just four ships in transatlantic passenger service (the others being her sister Mikhail Lermontov in Leningrad-New York service, Polish Ocean Lines Stefan Batory in Poland-Canada service and of course Cunard Line's QE2). After this the Pushkin was used exclusively for cruising, chartered at least to West Germany's Transocean Tours. In 1985 her ownership was transferred from the Baltic Shipping Company to the Far Eastern Shipping Company and subsequently she was chartered to CTC Cruises for cruising out of Australia and the UK.
In 1991 - after a brief lay-up period - the Alexandr Pushkin was sold to Orient Lines, a new destination-intensive cruise line established by Gerry Herrod. After a 2½ year refit the ship finally re-emerged as Marco Polo; her exterior redesign (largely faithful to the original) had been overseen by the Knud E. Hansen maritime archiotecture practice, while her new interiors were largely the work of Michael and Agni Katzourakis. Orient Line with their sole ship was a success, and in 1998 the Norwegian Cruise Line purchased the brand.
The Marco Polo became the sole surviving ship of her class in 2005, when the last of her sisters (the Taras Shevchenko) was scrapped. By this time Norwegian Cruise Line and their owners Star Cruises were experiencing financial difficulties. Resultingly in 2008 the Marco Polo was sold to Global Maritime of Greece. The sale of the Marco Polo also meant the closure of the Orient Lines brand (although an attempt to restore the brand was made later in 2008 but was foiled by the economic downturn of that year). Global Maritime chartered the Marco Polo to Transocean Tours, who took the ship in service without a change of name. Transocean Tours planned to retain the ship until 2012, but due to financial difficulties they gave the ship up already in 2009. The newly-founded UK-based Cruise & Maritime Voyages took her under charter for five years from the beginning of 2010, still retaining the name Marco Polo.
Photographs below are of the Marco Polo departing Helsinki South Harbour on 6 August 2010, photographed from the breakwater of Suomenlinna's boat harbour. Click on the image(s) to view full size.
|Turning towards Kustaanmiekka strait, with Laajasalo oil harbour in the backround on the left.|
|Heading for the Kustaanmiekka strait...|
|...and entering the strait.|