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Marco Polo sledding in the dark by Jim Whelan

We boarded at Tilbury for our Baltic Cruise on the Marco Polo.

First impressions confirmed what we already knew. A small ship, 800 passengers. We set sail across the North Sea, and after stops at Copenhagen, and others, we berthed at Tromso.

Marco Polo Tromso

The northern lights were a disappointment, we rose at 2am, donned our warmest clothing and went on deck, but they failed to appear for us.

Never mind, the highlight of our trip was coming up, a sled ride. We had booked privately as the official trip was so expensive, what we didn’t realise was, as the ship had booked all the early slots, we had to settle for 4.30 pm. It was getting dark as we met up with our minibus, away from the ship as they didn’t want the company to know that they took private bookings. Arriving at the compound, we were given a piece of paper with the names of our dogs, we then had to find them in the dark, and with help fasten them to a sled. Helen travelled in the front, I stood in the back with the reins. The dogs set off at what seemed 100 mph along a lakeside track in the complete blackness. I had very little control and did my best just to hang on, at one point a dog ran past us, no idea where it came from, didn’t care. In theory Helen should have taken over after 20 minutes for the return trip. She flatly refused, as did the other ladies, and us chaps had to do a double shift. I have never been so pleased to arrive back at the compound, back to the ship for a stiff drink before the evening meal.

Marco Polo It was darker than this
It was darker than this

Thinking back, it was utter madness. When we thought about it, how would you try to explain to an insurance company had we broken a leg or worse, that approaching 70, we had careered alongside a lake, almost out of control in the pitch blackness.

The Marco Polo was a nice, slightly old fashioned ship, we enjoyed our trip, and would travel on her again were she available. The crew, entertainment staff and cabin staff couldn’t be more helpful, a lovely cruise with happy memories, pity about the Northern Lights.

Jim Whelan – Actor and Public Speaker

Marco Polo Jim Whelan
Jim Whelan

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