Fjords and Coastal towns of Norway - Sept 2013
My partner and I have been on 4 cruises but this was our first with Fred Olsen and our first away from the Med. The food, service and entertainment on board the Black Watch were all fantastic and the staff and fellow passengers were the friendliest we've ever encountered. Fortunately for us, we managed to evade the Norovirus!
An email from Fred Olsen 2 days prior to our departure from Rosyth gave us our new, later boarding time. We later learned that this was due to the vessel being sanitised after a Norovirus outbreak on the previous trip. All embarking passengers received a personal sanitiser and instructions on how to avoid contracting and spreading the virus. However, a day into our journey all public toilets were closed and word spread that the virus had returned. During the week more passengers were taken ill and confined to their cabins under doctor's orders. The ship was being sanitised constantly and passengers were not allowed anywhere near food. I don't know how many people suffered with the virus but increasing amounts of empty seats at dinner tables indicated that it was not being contained.
Sitting in the theatre one morning awaiting a tender to take us ashore, we witnessed about a dozen people handing back organised trip tickets belonging to family/travelling companions, all giving illness as the reason. We also heard the tale of an elderly woman who had booked a last minute deal just a couple of days prior to the cruise; she contracted the virus on the second day and was confined to her cabin for 5 days, thus missing every stop on the journey. She allegedly told a Fred Olsen representative that she would have never booked the holiday had she known there was a virus onboard the vessel.
Fred Olsen offer an all-inclusive upgrade for £10 per day which is great for us as we both enjoy a drink on holiday. My 72 year old diabetic mother accompanied us on this trip but, as she does not touch alcohol, preferred not to pay extra for the package. At the time of booking, our travel agent was informed by a Fred Olsen representative that we were allowed to have all-inclusive and non all-inclusive passengers on the same booking but we would not be allowed to sit at the same table for dinner as diners on different packages were separated. This more or less forced us to book all-inclusive for the three of us.
On board the vessel we quickly learned that, although there was allocated seating in the Glentanar restaurant (the main restaurant), the Braemar Garden Cafe and Orchid Room both offer free seating and all restaurants serve the same food. Also, our allocated table in the Glentanar restaurant had a 50-50 mixture of all-inclusive and non all-inclusive diners! To make matters worse, the soft drinks option on the all-inclusive package offers only one sugar free drink suitable for diabetics (my mother) which is diet coke, all other sugar free drinks incur a further charge - 50% off for all-inclusive passengers. Unfortunately my mother does not like diet coke!
Just one more piece of useful information - there are two sittings for dinner in the Glentanar restaurant, 6.15pm and 8.15pm. If you wish to change your allocated sitting time there is a charge of £2 per person, per day. So, if you have a preferred meal time, it may pay to sort it with your agent or Fred Olsen prior to boarding.
None of this has put any of us off future trips with Fred Olsen but we do feel like we were misinformed and I hope this information is beneficial to others.