Although my husband and I had cruised before ,although not with Fred Olsen, we were a little apprehensive about taking my mother a first -time cruiser for her 80th birthday. Although her looks belie her age she is less sprightly than she once was, with a heart condition and an arthritic knee and what was more worrying for me she has a palette for very plain food and can't abide mayonnaise, sauces, pasta, high seasoning. I need not have worried. She managed moving around the ship quite easily as there was always a lift within easy reach and she enjoyed sitting in the open lounges reading,napping or talking to other passengers.The food was not an issue at all as there were open buffets at lunchtimes with dressings available but not added to salads. At dinner there was usually enough choice and our waiter was skilful at offering her items on the menu without the accompanying sauces etc.
I liked the Boudicca;its comfortable ,unpretentious,very spacious in the public rooms and very easy to familiarise yourself with the layout. We booked early to ensure we had adjoining cabins but my mother paid just £400 less than my husband and I together. We could have had a suite for the same price and my husband and I could have slept on a sofa bed. I think it would have been better value as the cabin was cramped and my husband and I are both still suffering sleepless nights with bad backs due to the bed we slept in on board.
There was however lots of storage space which was a god send for the number of clothes I took.
The dining categories are difficult to understand and I can't say I understand the differences (particularly for women) completely. There were three formal nights with most men in dinner suits and women in evening or cocktail dress. Then there were informal where men wore lounge suits and women wore cocktail dresses and then there was casual, two of which were theme nights and men wore smart trousers eg linen or chinos with open necked shirts or ties and a smart jacket, women could wear smart trouser suits or cocktail.
The two shops on board are rather strange and really do need to be sorted out. The larger of the two carries perfume, clothes, jewellery and nice pieces to take home as souvenirs. The second shop also carries clothes although more casual eg cagoules and souvenirs with Boudicca on them, but there was just one carousel of books and no magazines or stationery and limited stock of the things people really need or forget. On sea days there were special sales eg The Russian Bazaar and the shop moved into the corridor on Deck 5 which also held the photo boards of the recent photographs taken on board. It became a scrum and I had to leave pronto when I started an asthma attack. The staff had to provide handwritten receipts for every item bought and these had to be inputted later to the onboard ship account often incorrectly. Has Fred Olsen not heard of barcode scanners?
I only went into the Neptune Lounge shows once but you can access them live on Channel 6 in your cabin. The entertainment team seemed a little young and inexperienced ,good dancers but generally not good singers. They also seemed a bit giggley when they performed other duties on the ship. I attended some of the talks on board and they were interesting and informative. I also went to the six Art Classes and they were very relaxing and the class was a mix of complete beginners and others. I hadn't taken my art equipment but the pack for £10 was excellent.
Fred Olsen send out the tour and excursion book out several weeks before the cruise. My advice is read it thoroughly especially the advice on terrain and suitability and if necessary get more information from the internet or guidebooks. We booked all our excursions before we left the UK.