We went on the Boudicca for a 12 day trip from Newcastle to Baltic ports, during September 2012. We booked last minute, direct with Fred Olsen, which was easy enough. However, when we later tried to get them to correct a misspelt surname, it turned out to be quite stressful. Firstly, I had to wait ages for them to answer the phone and then they wanted to charge me Â£100 to change 'ea' to 'ie' on the booking form. It was only when they had listened to the tapes and found that it was their error, that they agreed not to charge me. Take care to provide the right details or it will cost you!
We travelled to Newcastle by train from Merseyside. I wouldn't do it again, because the car park is right alongside the terminal. The train was delayed in both directions, causing us to miss connections. Also, the system of reserving seats on trains meant that there were empty seats and people arguing about where they should sit. Reserving seats should be stopped!
That wasn't Fred Olsen's fault though, so what about the ship?
Basic outside cabin at the front of deck 3 was okay for us. It wasn't very big, but it was adequate, bring clean and comfortable. It had 2 single beds, which we pushed together to make a double. It had a couple of wardrobes, a dressing table, round 2-pin electrical sockets, a kettle with tea and coffee a small television with a few channels on it, a bathroom with bath and shower.
The furnishings throughout the ship were in good condition.
We thought the meals were quite good. They weren't in the 5 star category, but we didn't pay 5 star prices.
The staff were very friendly and seemed happy enough about the ship.
There were plenty of things to do aboard ship. You could use the small library, go to dancing classes, play cards or attend lectures in the Neptune Theatre. This was an 'Antiques' themed cruise and they had T.V. expert Will Farmer doing a series of interesting talks. There were other talks, mainly about the forthcoming excursions.
The excursions were fine, but when you consider what they must have cost to put on, they were very expensive for what they were. If I was doing it again, I would use their trips to St Petersburg, but do my own thing in Stockholm and Tallin, which are really close to the docks. I wouldn't bother at all with Copenhagen, which was a 90 minute coach trip from the ship and nothing much when you got there. The guide couldn't understand why the ship hadn't docked in Copenhagen itself.
We would have needed to get different currencies in Sweden, Estonia, Russia and Denmark, so we didn't bother. What did we need to buy, after all?
The entertainment was generally quite good. The head man, Ashley, did a pretty good job, with limited resources. The '007' night set had 3 decorated boards at the back of the stage and that was it. Still, the resident entertainers were very pleasant and tried very hard. Come on Fred, pay for a couple more of them!
The guest acts were good and not so good. There was an excellent man and wife duo, a very good female singer and a comedian who wasn't very funny. The resident backing band was very good too. Then, to everyone's surprise, it turned out that Ashley could sing too!
So, would we use Fred again? We think so, yes. We'd be extremely careful to get the details exactly right when booking and we'd be more selective about which excursions we went on.
The ship was older than Thomson ships we've been on, but it was in better shape than the Celebration and Island Escape. The food was about the same standard. Thomson's entertainment was a bit more lavish. Overall, there wasn't much to choose between them.
There is one big difference though. Thomson's prices include tips. Fred Olsen's don't. You get charged Â£4 each per day on Fred Olsen, which came to Â£96 for our trip. Yes, you can opt out of them, but I should imagine you'd feel a bit mean asking to do that at the desk. The tips only go to the cabin steward and the restaurant waiters, so what do the rest of the crew get?
I hope this helps.