We have cruised 20 plus times before on both small and larger ships but I have to say Fred Olsen is our least favourite Cruise Line to date. There were many people on board who have never sailed with any other cruise line, had done many cruises with Fred Olsen and were very happy but everyone has different expectations and opinions.
Firstly the good points, our cabin attendant was brilliant and kept our cabin very clean. Our waiters at dinner in the Grampian restaurant were also first class. The Braemar Singers and Dancers were excellent with their display of talent and enthusiasm and we enjoyed all their shows. The food, particularly at dinner was well cooked and presented and was of a good standard.
We were aware it is an old ship but that did not bother us. We were not expecting it to be glitzy.
Now for the things we were not happy with.
Our cabin on deck 4 forward was small and very noisy.
The pool deck could at times be very grubby with piles of soot blown into corners.
One day after walking on the pool deck the soles of my feet were black. The sun beds were also dirty and had seen better days.
Many times when we decided to walk on the promenade deck parts of it were closed off for maintenance. Painting was also carried out at various times within a foot of people sunbathing on the pool deck, thus causing a very unpleasant smell.This happened on a sea day when the deck was busy.
The meal times in the buffet seemed to be shorter than we have previously experienced and it was closed at various times. There was not enough seating if the weather was bad particularly at teatime which only lasted for 45 minutes. On one occasion we ended up eating tea outside in a chilly high wind barely able to keep the food on the plate as there were no vacant seats inside. Not an experience I would wish to repeat.
The problem of seating inside on a bad weather day was ongoing. Although this is a small ship there just seemed to be too many people on it. On larger ships there seems to be less crowding and it is usually possible to find a quiet corner. This seemed impossible to do on the Braemar.
We decided against eating Breakfast or Lunch in The Palms Buffet as whenever we looked there always seemed to be a queue waiting to be seated.
Most days we ate lunch in The Grampian Restaurant. The choices from the menu always seemed good and we rarely used the buffet section. The problem with this and The Thistle Restaurant was that as both buffet and al la carte meals were being served at the same time. That coupled with the fact that you could be seated at a table with people who were at different stages of their meal made life very difficult for the waiters who were all working very hard.
We also could not make out why there would not be a menu for each person supplied at breakfast or lunch. These had to be passed around the table and looked well thumbed. We have not encountered these things on any other ship.
Also, sometimes at breakfast or lunch the milk jugs did not look very clean, with a line of congealed stale milk around the rim. This was a off putting.
Our main reason for taking this cruise was a short break away from the atrocious U.K. weather and this one fitted the bill. We did our own thing at all the ports of call and enjoyed the places we visited apart from El Heirro which seemed to have little to offer. We would have preferred to have visited Gran Canaria instead. We did think the £5 charge for shuttle buses at various ports a little steep. Especially at Lanzarote as basically it just took you to the outside of the dock area. We did not use it ourselves but thought that taking into account the age a physical capabilities of some of their passengers Fred Olsen could have supplied buses free of charge to all cabin grades as many other cruise lines do.
Fred Olsen obviously has a very loyal following but I am afraid it is not for us.
In our opinion we found Braemar to be very noisy, crowded and not very relaxing.