This was my first cruise with Fred Olsen and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Ports visited were Lisbon, Portimao (Algarve) and Morocco and it ended at Santa Cruz, Tenerife.
Embarcation was a doddle. I’d overnighted at the Best Western hotel from which I could see the ship so only a £5 taxi ride. There were virtually no queues and only one numbered group was called through to board before my number was called, so pretty much straight in and on. My case arrived at my cabin at the same time as me, so no delay in unpacking before going for a discovery stroll.
It’s the smallest ship I’ve been on and I found it very easy to find my way around. More or less all the public rooms apart from the restaurant are on the same deck.
My outside cabin (3095) was midships, facing the salon/spa and I think it must have been in the section that was added only a couple of years ago because everything in it looked brand spanking new. The bed was very comfortable as was the pillow. It was good to have tea/coffee-making things in the cabin.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food. Also by the relatively small portion sizes. On previous cruises I’ve only ever managed a starter, main course and dessert. So on the first evening that was what I ordered. I was first sitting (6pm) and by 10 o’clock I was feeling decidedly peckish and for the first time ever on a cruise I needed to go up to the 11pm ‘Supper Club’ or I wouldn’t have been able to sleep from hunger pangs. It was crowded, so I didn’t feel quite so guilty but - in my defence - I’d only had a toasted sandwich for lunch while strolling round Dover. From then on I made a point of having something more substantial for lunch. Lunch in the restaurant gave a choice of waiter service from a menu, or self-service from the buffet. Plenty of choice. Daily Room Service breakfast was fine. I just phoned when I wanted it and it was there within 5 minutes.
Evening entertainment was fine. The Braemar singers and dancers worked hard. Des O’Connor was a great hit. He still has a lovely easy-listening voice. There was a Swedish classical pianist who gave two afternoon recitals which were superb.
Every day there were two daytime quizzes – morning and afternoon – and another in the evening. They were very popular. There were other ‘enrichment’ things but I stuck to quizzes, concerts and carpet bowls, the latter being particularly enjoyable on the sea day that the captain forewarned us would be ‘rough seas and gale force winds’. He was not wrong.
The staff/crew were all very friendly. The only one whose smile was conspicuous by its absence was Cruise Director AnTHony. What irritating habits he had. Referred to all the entertainment – whatever it was, music recitals, shows, talks - as ‘Presentations’, and not a Powerpoint slide in sight. And Braemar was always the ‘vessel’. Why couldn’t he call her a ship, like everybody else does? Grrrrr!
I don’t do ship’s tours so can’t comment on those. I prefer to do my own thing, based usually on self-guided walking tour itineraries of the ports that I research and download before I go. I dropped in very lucky in Lisbon (despite the constant drizzle), where I’d decided to join a guided walking tour for the morning. I was the only person to turn up and consequently had a private 3 ½ hour tour for just 10 Euros. An added bonus was that it ended at exactly the point where my afternoon self-guided one started. There wasn’t much to see in Portimao (non-stop rain most of the day) so I got a local bus to Silves, a town just 5 miles inland, and enjoyed strolling and treating myself to some wonderful pastries. 3.20 Euros each way on the bus made for a cheap day out. For Casablanca I’d printed a city map at home and marked on it the places/things I wanted to see after I’d done a tour of the Hassan II Mosque. All was going well for the first half hour or so after coming out of the Mosque, until I realised I must have dropped my map. So there I was, lost in Casablanca. No problem. I enjoyed wandering around and saw some of the things I’d wanted to, and had a good hour or more strolling through the old souk and got some great photos in there. Had a delicious lunch - the tastiest freshly-made burger I've ever had and a huge glass of orange juice squeezed to order, in a little local cafe near the Mohammed V Square. Came to 20 Dirhams, which at 11 to the Pound was a real bargain.
I used the City Forex currency facility through Fred Olsen whereby you order foreign currency before you leave home, they deliver it straight to the ship, and any of the currency that you don’t use, they buy back on board at the same exchange rate that they sold it at. A win-win situation. I knew I wanted some Dirhams for Casablanca and got cash back for the ones I didn’t spend when I got back on board.
My disembarkation was smooth. I wasn’t getting the F.Olsen charter flight home as I was staying with friends who live not far from Santa Cruz, so I got off at 10am, got my case from the dockside and went off to enjoy another week’s holiday.
All in all it was a lovely cruise with friendly staff and equally friendly fellow-passengers. It was my first Fred Olsen but won’t be the last.