One thing noticable was the number of VERY elderly and variously "infirm" passengers boarding. I am no spring chicken but I have never seen so many and it made for slow progress on board ( cannot imagine what it would be like in an emergency)
I know everybody it entitled to cruise but this bordered on the very risky for some passengers.. if not all!
Once on board, sorting the cabin, going thru the emergency drill, and waiting to meet up with some friends, have missed lunch we went for something to eat.
First problem. The emergency drill was timed to co-incide with afternoon tea
(Great planning Fred!). and nothing available except tea and biscuits..No thanks , after hours travelling chekcing in , queing etc, I wanted a sandwich, at the very least.
Amazing!! After some strong "requesting , we got two small ones!!
This strange way of timing food availability continued throughout the cruise. Unilke any cruise I have ever had before, there was no "open" eating. There were gaps , so if you missed lunch, or afternoon tea, for whatever reason, you had to wait for the next area/session to open. (except for tea and biscuits of course). I do not wish to eat 24/7 but this seemed a very arbitrary way of making food available (or not as the case may be)
The meals and service was very variable, some meals and service were excellent , others not so good. but never bad. Well sometimes service was bad with long waits for, say coffee at breakfast, toast, wine, bread rolls etc.
Staff generally were ok, with the exception of some at the reception staff whose enthusiasm and mastery of the Engish language were less than impressive.
Entertainment was good. and the on board production team were very good, excellent at times and very friendly at all times.
One significant negative was NOROVIRUS.
We were warned by letter just before departing of an ourbreak on Boudicca en route Liverpool, and advised a deep clean would take place upon arrival Liverppol.
On board there were frequent reminders to wash/disinfect and hand cleansers/disifectant dispensers were prolific. everywhere.. It was impossible to eat without first being hand cleansed by crew. not a problem. Good to see they took it seriously. Despite all these precautions, on day 3/4 we were advised that there was an outbreak and "condition red" was in force. This meant no self service, no passengers we able to self serve food or anything connected with food.. This meant long queues for breakfast, tea, sandwiches and other self service facilities. The jacuzzi's were emptied and despite constant reminders by the Captain "wash wash wash " was his mantra, the outbreak continued though no information about who , where or how the virus was located/spread, was given.
As an aside the skipper was very amusing and in his dail announcements commented " we are exactly where we should be" to everybodys amusement.
This was to come back and bite him later.
The crew worked hard and tirelessly and they cannot be faulted in their efforts to limit the problem but this constant effort, added to the usual hard days work def seemed to ad to their sometimes negative attitude.
Ports were Corunna, Vigo, Lisbon and Leixoes (15klms from Oporto. so not quite Oporto) all were ok as weather was perfect throughout the trip.
For the final day/event, I cannot decide if to criticise or praise Fred Olsen.
Due to high winds , on returning, we were unable to dock at the (infamous) Langton dock/lock. We awoke, early on the final morning to find we were not alongside the quay but in the middle of the Irish Sea en route Dublin
For once the skipper mader no comment > no announcment now saying "we are exactly where we should be"
Because were were clearly NOT where we should be.
Well seemingly the next cruise was due to leave from Dublin the they were clearly under some serious time constraints.(due to tide and lock issues as well as wind)
Do they disembark the Liverpool bound passenger in UK and be late picking up the ourbound from Dublin or?
Clearly the schedule integrity had to be maintained. But at what cost to both passenger and Fred Olsen
To their credit they had overnight arranged charter flights from Dublin to Liverpool. Unfortunately many passengers were infirm and could not fly, and may other cruise because they will not fly.
Despite the best efforts of the crew/info desk etc, who worked VERY hard, there were many VERY unhappy passengers. for my part it was no great problem as I dont mind flying and I appreciated their sterling efforts in organising return services
but...I still feel perhaps they let the departing passengers suffer for the benefit of the passengers and schedule integrity .
We finally arrived home 12 hours later after a very long and stressful day.. this followed 4 rather stressful days worrying about Norovirus.
Not an ideal holiday.
Cant really blame Fred Olsen for weather or virus... or can we?
Why is Boudicca so prone to Norovirus?
(Apparently crew dont seem to get the virus.and confidentially a crew member told me that they feel it may be something in the books/library or even the cabins, and being pre warned by Olsen ( correctly) we took precautions , brought our own strong spray disifectant and wiped all cabin surfaces , door handles, tv controls etc etc BEFORE we actually used the cabin.
Might be wise for all to do the same.
I should stress that none of our friends suffered from the problem and we were both cautious and constantly reminded by the crew to "wash wash wash"
but.. should we have to??
I really feel Fded Olsen try very hard in a very competetive market and like them ... but!!
I would say the vessel itself, Boudicca is a great sea boat. She travels well and looks good. Far better than any of the more modern "floating blocks of flats"
In fact, I love the ship but will not go on her again unless and until they resolve the Norovirus problems.
One final comment on the facilities at Liverpool Langton Dock on departure, and arrival back at Liverpool Airport.
Sorry to say
Both were very poor. VERY poor indeed.
But if we dont tell them , they wont get better.