Outbound Journey The police closure of the A14 for 6 hours due to heavy snow resulted in our missing the Stansted flight to Miami and subsequently being unable to join the ship as planned. We fully accept this was our responsibility, however……… Unbelievably, Fred Olsen did not appear to have a clear protocol in place to handle such occurrences and support offered by the company was negligible. We had to make our own arrangements to fly out to pick up the ship at her first port of call.
The whole experience was horrendous -the head office staff were most defensive - afraid any show of sympathy or offer of help could be interpreted as admission of liability. When they eventually offered some travel options, the cost for the same flights we had sourced ourselves was some £200.00 more expensive than we had paid.
Inbound Journey The (chartered) flight back home was delayed for 6 hours due to an error on the aircraft manifest. The original schedule of airports for collection of passengers had been amended which meant that the American authorities would not accept the aircraft. The plane had to abide by its stated manifest and fly from Manchester. This additional flight time meant that a new aircrew had to be found. The Aircraft had been on an exclusive charter to Fred Olsen therefore the mix up with the manifest must lay with them.
My husband asked for an explanation from the reception staff and was misled by a statement that there had been technical difficulties with the plane, however we were allowed to wait on board the Braemar and provided with food and drink. This was greatly appreciated. The problems arose when we finally arrived at Miami airport to check in.
I understand that, had the flight been on time, 15 check in desks would have been available to process the 300 passengers, with at least 1 desk designated to fast track Premium passengers such as ourselves. In reality, there were only 5 check in desks to cope with all 300 passengers.
There was no fast track desk and we queued for 2 hours to check in; only to be allocated seats which were not together. I have a serious medical condition which makes travel in general difficult for me. We therefore paid the supplement to avoid exactly this type of situation. Our experience certainly does not merit the £600 supplement paid.
We found the ship disappointing. The ship sailed through force 6 seas on a few occasions and felt very unstable. The recent extension resulted in some very strange and alarming noises coming from the ship itself during medium seas.
The public rooms and pool deck were crowded; it was difficult to get a seat or sun bed.
The food was average at best, poor on a couple of occasions. My husband sent back a chicken dish which was raw in the middle and dishes were sent back by our dinner companions on several occasions as the food was cold. The menus were unexciting and generally fell short of what we expected.
The entertainment was second rate, I would class it on a similar level to a holiday camp.
Our cabin was 'tired' looking. When maintenance work was done on our balcony one day, we returned to our cabin (after 5 pm) to find the sun beds tipped on end, sawdust still on the furniture and floor. The toilet did not work one morning, and the water was turned off one evening for a short while. The laundry room was well equipped, but one iron was broken - leaving the remaining iron for 900 passengers!
The Good Points
The itinerary was excellent. With the exception of Santo Domingo we enjoyed all the places we visited. The organized tours were interesting and fairly priced. Drinks were also fairly priced. The port details provided were very helpful.
The staff on board, especially the steward and waiting staff were very good indeed and a major asset to the company.
Our holiday has been disappointing and I would summarize my observations as follows:
? Poor support from head office when things go wrong. ? Tired ship - the extension hasn't worked satisfactorily ? lack of space and feeling of crowding ? Below average food and entertainment ? Excellent crew - probably the lowest paid staff (stewards and waiters) are propping up the rest of the company.
We were amazed by the number of FO fans who cruise with this company time and again. Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion, however we can only surmise that either we were very unlucky, or others haven't had the benefit of experiencing the level of service we have previously enjoyed with other companies. I wrote to FO immediately upon our return from holiday - I received a holding letter but since then the silence has been deafening.
We will not use FO again and will return to the reliability of Cunard - which offers much better service at a similar cost