We would consider ourselves to be experienced cruisers who go for the itinerary rather than the ship. If the ship is a good one ,then thats a bonus. We've sailed with 10 different cruise lines,some up to four times and on different vessels in the same line.
Embarkation: Best ever! we joined at Rosyth, and as we live in Scotland's central belt we were on board one and a half hours from leaving home, plus we both 90kgs luggage allowance!! Just as well we did not load our luggage up to the mark as one of our cases was damaged during embarkation. Fred Olsen completed a form for our insurers. P.S. get a lift to Rosyth as Forth Ports charge over £7 per day to park
Cabin : We were on the Main deck, starboard and towards the stern, we would normally book a balcony cabin but were not prepared to pay the prices asked for, we spoke later to one disgruntled couple who had paid almost £6000 more than us albeit for a suite. First impressions were that the (twin) cabin was small compared to what we are used to,but we got used to it. At least we had natural light coming in the double window, but we did find the cabin stuffy, in fact some of the public rooms were stuffy, but when you see the prevailing age of most of the guests you know thats what they like! The beds were comfy and warm, we had a bath and shower,safe,space for clothes ok, enough drawers as well. Coffee and tea maker provided but we never used it, would much preferred to have a fridge.
Dining and Service: Have to say that we were pleasantly surprised here, We were not looking forward to the fixed 1st sitting after having got used to freestyle type eating, however, even in the main restaurant, breakfast and lunch was buffet style,so only dinner was served. The buffet area got a mite busy at times but there was never any shortage of food. Staff would fetch and serve breakfast and lunch to those less mobile. Breakfast was fine but repetitive, lunch options really good, dinner likewise, service was smart and friendly (as it was throughout the ship) There is an informal restaurant(secret garden cafe) which looked interesting,but we never used it, probably as its really too small and there was normally a queue waiting. Afternoon tea was served here and was very nice.
Activities: We had a lot of sea days so activities were important..the lectures were good, Library and games room pleasant, gym well equipped,pool and jacuzzis
fine, so the days passed reasonably well, but you would be advised to take plenty of reading material,or catch up on some writing, the Boudicca is not a resort ship!
Entertainment: Generally very good,although the passenger talent show had a high cringe factor. Good tight dance and singing troupe, we had a Scottish comedian who was able to make us all laugh with clean material, an excellent crooner, and the musicians dotted around the lounges were also to a good standard. Of course its all geared to the older clientele so dont look for a disco!
The Cruise Director was a very nice and experienced guy but I would say he is probably by his sell by date.
Excursions: We only went on a few as two of the Greenland ports are really just walk off, however, the trips we did use were well organised and reasonable value, got to say this is when the smaller ship comes into its own,when waiting for tenders especially, dont have to get 3,500 people off !!
Ship : Our last time with Fred Olsen was in 2000 on the Black Watch and it was hard to believe that in 2011 we were going on a ship nearly 40 years old. I suppose that Olsen will be able to cash in on the Vintage/Classic market soon!
Best thing is that the main sailing crew are Norwegian and I always feel safe sailing with the Vikings, Captain Jan Thommessen is by a long way the best captain we've ever sailed with. He was informative,humourous,walked the ship and had a chat with everybody,instilled confidence when we had a few shaky hours in ice and fog, takes part in a jazz jam session,playing a good trumpet. When we had to miss an Icelandic port because of the ice problems the previous night he told us the reasons why he had to make straight for Reykajavik.
OK the ship is a little tired in some public areas and the main theatre is really just a big lounge,so you have to be early to make sure you are not seated behind a pillar!
Disembarking: No problems, little bit chaotic in the terminal(Rosyth)as its not really big enough.
Summary: Despite our concerns about an older, smaller ship and being with the "blazer brigade" we would travel with Boudicca and Olsen again. We were concerned about the ships history of Norovirus, but we were exorted at every turn to use the hand sanitisers,even in the library! We felt the shop prices and bar prices were reasonable, and the photographers were excellent again with good value prices. The ship has a homely feel about it,but also has some character, a real nice touch was having the great grandchildren of Fred Olsen on board who assisted the Captain to throw a wreath over the stern during a small service of remembrance for Olsen merchant sailors who perished in WW2. We think though that as the older Olsen returnees(most of the guests we spoke to had never sailed with anyone else) pass on, they will have to address a few things. A wee bit too formal, we dont mind "proper formal" nights, but there were too many jacket and tie nights for us. Also need to enlarge the informal anytime dining area as more of us want dining flexibility.