We booked this 3 night weekend mini-cruise to Rotterdam and Guernsey earlier this year and got a very good deal. We are regular cruisers having cruised with P&O x 1, NCL x 1, RCCL x 1, Princess x 5, Celebrity x 1 however this was our first with Fred Olsen. Our previous reviews include:
http://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=41823 http://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=32739 http://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=25494
Suffice to say we were quite apprehensive based on what we had heard about the clientele Fred Olsen attract (quite significantly older) and the more traditional cruise style Fred Olsen is renowned for. However it was pleasing to see that the weekend cruise attracted a wide age range of passengers so one of our apprehensions was allayed almost immediately.
Embarkation: the paperwork we received the week of the cruise indicated that check-in would commence at 2pm and take place in 'deck order' and based on this, our check-in time would be 3pm. We arrived at the port just after 2pm and despite a late change to the Boudicca's berth we parked our car and were checked in within 10 minutes. A short time was spent waiting around until boarding commenced however we were on-board by 3pm.
Cabin: our cabin was an outside cabin on Atlantic Deck (deck 4) which was clean and prepared for our arrival. In terms of space and storage there was plenty and whether on-board for a short or long cruise there was plenty of cupboard, draw and shelf space to store one's belongings. The cabin was well decorated and the bathroom was adequate. Our only criticism was that the ships engines/ship did vibrate quite significantly when arriving in port and even at times during the night. And as a result there appeared to be a number of fixtures and fittings that "rattled" very noisily and woke each of us on more than one occasion.
Facilities: At just short of 29,000 tonnes the ship is quite small in comparison to the 'mega' ships that are at sea today. The ship underwent a 'refurb' back in 2006 and is very good condition considering its' age. The ship has one main pool, 2 splash pools and a couple of "hot tubs" - unfortunately the weather wasn't good enough to experience the pools/pool area however they did appear to be quite inviting. The bars/show lounge were of a fair size and were busy at times, but despite this we were able to sit and enjoy a drink on most occasions. The ship boasts 3 restaurants and a self-service cafe; the restaurants were large although the tables were extremely close together. Whilst the 3 restaurants are large the cafe "Secret Garden" was small and badly designed, suffice to say we only went there once for Afternoon Tea and never went back.
Entertainment: we saw one show and a couple of the musical acts which were playing in the bar/lounge areas. In short, the entertainment is very much geared towards an older crowd and in general wasn't our "cup of tea". However the acts certainly weren't the worst we have ever seen at sea.
Food: Breakfast and lunch was primarily a buffet with a limited choice of A la carte options available which the waiters appeared reluctant to offer. However the food available on both was good and there was always plenty of food available. We had dinner in The Heligan dining room and were sat on a table of 10. The choice of food was not great i.e. 2 appetizers, 3 main courses and 3 desserts plus cheese and on two of the nights we were on-board we found it quite difficult to chose, although when the food did arrive it was plentiful and tasty. So whilst not particularly inspiring it was fine.
Service: the service was OK, although it did lack substance i.e. every member of staff was very pleasant and extremely courteous however it took forever to deliver, if it came at all. We experienced a number of occasions when our requests were forgotten e.g. wine with dinner, additional bread for the dinner table, drinks etc. and we found ourselves having to ask for things more than once.
Disembarkation: we decided to opt for the walk off option and did not place our luggage outside of the cabin the night before. This worked well since the shipped was alongside by 8am and we were walking off by 8.40am.
Summary: a good weekend away, the Fred Olsen 'way' was quite frustrating at times however in terms of value for money it was excellent. Would we sail with Fred Olsen again, probably but only on a mini cruise.