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Former Soviet Classic Ocean ‘Liner’ On Final 'Festive' Cobh Call

21st December 2015

#FinalFestiveCall - Marco Polo, Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) classic cruiseship, it now transpires has become the latest and final caller to Cobh in 2015 on this day of the winter-solstice, writes Jehan Ashmore.

It was in October, that reported on the conclusion of the ‘official’ Port of Cork cruise season that saw Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines 880 passenger Boudicca make an end of season call.

That visit by the 28,388 tonnes cruiseship marked another successful year for the port, prior to the 1973 built Boudicca's refurbishment to include fitting of new balconies.

This current call of CMV’s Marco Polo, is understood to be the concluding leg of a ‘Festive Shopping & Party Cruise’.

She has a deep draft drawing 8 metres to handle long-distance ocean voyages and where the recently upgraded Cobh terminal can easily accommodate such vessels.

The 22,080 tonnes vessel is scheduled to depart Cobh at lunchtime today and return to Avonmouth Docks near Bristol.

A final end of the year cruise from the UK is scheduled to depart Avonmouth tomorrow as Marco Polo embarks on a 14 nights Christmas & New Year Canary Island & Madeira Cruise.

Before we bid farewell to 2015, this has been a very special year for Marco Polo, as the veteran classic ship celebrates her golden anniversary. She was launched in 1965 as the ‘liner’ Alexandr Pushkin, becoming the second of a quintet of ‘poet’ class sisters named after Russia’s greatest poets and writers. She was built at the Mathias-Thesen Werft in Wismar, in the former East Germany.

Alexandr Pushkin entered service in August 1965 with a series of cruises before taking up her intended employment during the following spring. This saw her reopen a regular Soviet service on the North Atlantic, which had remained dormant since the Cold War in the late forties.

The routine transatlantic liner service between Leningrad, Bremerhaven, London, Le Havre and Montreal was established and the schedule continued through to the late seventies.

The transatlantic service operated in the summer months, with cruises carried out in warmer climes during the winter. Such warmer cruises were based on charters mostly to western companies.

The five ‘Poets’ ships at the time represented the fastest, largest and most prestigious liners in the Soviet passenger fleet, and at the time also became the largest fleet in the world.

Over the past five decades Marco Polo has made numerous voyages across the seven seas. She has visited every continent from the Antarctica to the Arctic.

The ‘Alex’, as the Aussies fondly named her following a career with CTC Cruises for the Australian market, arrived in Singapore in February 1990 supposedly for a refit. This did not proceed following the collapse of the Soviet Union and her fate became increasingly uncertain. Added to this where consequent financial difficulties in addition to technical upgrades that albeit were necessary however they proved too costly and so she was laid-up.

In 1993 she was re-built in Greece where she undertook an extensive renovation entailing the entire gutting of the ship. The process took almost three years at a cost of US$60 million. She emerged with an increased tonnage orignally of 19,860. Also she was given her first and only name change during what has became half a century of service.

It was not until 2008, that Marco Polo was acquired by her present owners, Greece’s Global Cruise Lines, and operated by CMV under the Bahamas flag. She sails out of the UK and not just based out of Avonmouth, but also her homeport of Tilbury, London.

The port on the Thames estuary is a former haunt of hers as she served the UK market also during the swinging sixties and over the next decade. So its full circle as she still offers UK cruise-goers sailing with CMV Cruises.

Published in Cruise Liners
Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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