We returned last week from a Canaries Cruise on board Fred. Olsen's 'Braemar'. Let me say straight away that we have cruised many times before over the last fifteen years, including all of Fred. Olsen's ships, so we speak from experience. Overall we had a lovely relaxing cruise.
First the positives. Our cabin (inside, Atlantic Deck) was surprisingly spacious given that it was low grade, clean and very quiet. The bathroom was small and a bit the worse for wear but everything worked well. As always the ship's staff were incredibly friendly, and some cruisers shed tears when they said goodbye on the last night! The food was great, amongst the best we've had on any cruise and certainly better than P. & O. in the last two years. We lunched and dined in the main restaurant (Thistle) and a couple of times had fish and chips on deck in the Marquee Bar. No complaints at all. On board currency was sterling and prices about the same as UK Pub prices - £3.10 for a pint of Boddingtons or Stella and cocktails about £4.50. Reasonable wines varied between £14 and £25. The Braemar Show Company were up there with the best we have seen on ships, and other entertainers were good too.
Now the negatives. The ship is showing its age in places. It's certainly not the 'rust bucket' previous reviewers have alluded to, but it does look tired in places. If you want 'swish and snazzy' then this is not for you. The Neptune Show Lounge is terrible, with no stage and seats crammed in. If you're not in the front row you will see very little. In theory, first sitting diners choose from one of two shows each night, in the Coral Club and Neptune, followed by second sitting diners (as we were). In practice the first seating diners started in the Coral Lounge then got to the Neptune for the second show, meaning that second sitting diners never get a good seat for the show. The passenger profile on Fred. Olsen cruises is older, but on this cruise was ancient! We weren't told that it was a KENT Active Retirement Association chartered cruise with just a few of us extras to make up the numbers. Average age looked about 75 and of course most people came with groups so it was very difficult to break in to established friendships. We changed our dinner table because our fellow KENTARA diners did not want anything to do with us. And boy could they moan! This nearly took the edge off our cruise. Shame on you Fred. Olsen for not making this clear when we booked. The on board shop is small and was always in a mess, leaving us to climb over Hoovers and boxes to get near perfumes etc. We felt that we were an inconvenience.
Despite all this we had a lovely cruise - we went for sun and relaxation and we had loads of both.