As an alternative to the larger mega ships in the Caribbean, the Braemar is a wonderful surprise. At 19,000 tons, she is small enough to slip into more secluded Caribbean ports such as St. Barts and Virgin Gorda, yet ample sized enough to supply all the creature comforts any cruise passenger could possibly want.
If you want large, roomy cabins, this possibly isn't your ship. Standard insides and outsides come in at around 140 sq. ft., but they are ingeniously thought through, comfortable and immaculate. Yes, you'll dance with the shower curtain, but the shower itself is great. Storage space is a little tight for two but, as you're in the Caribbean, informal is largely the order of the day in any event.
Suites with balconies -- twelve of them -- range from 220-300 sq. ft, but even these are shower only. Good balconies, though.
Public rooms are mainly on five deck. From fore to aft, the Neptune Lounge has poor sight lines from behind some columns, and has seating at a right angle to the bow. Next on, the gorgeous Braemar Lounge is kitted out in soft butterscotch, with obvious, but not overwhelming, Scottish touches. This is the piano lounge and the pianist, Glen, is superb. Lovely for pre dinner cocktails.
Walking aft, you pass the shops, hotel and shore excursions desk and enter the Coral Club, a lounge hosting live bands and entertainment. This is at the crossroads of an almost unique, five story glass walled atrium and brass accented staircase. Offset by a huge floor to ceiling mural, this part of the ship is simply stunning without being glitzy. It fills the ship with light.
One deck down, the Thistle Restaurant has windows on three sides, fine personalised service and food which is definitely above the ship's four star rating. In seven cruises, I have never eaten an indifferent meal there. One level above Coral, the Palms Cafe offers Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner buffets tailored to Olsen's British clientele. They can be predictable, but the quality is again higher than you might expect.
Top deck, the Skylark Disco will play until you drop, but don't expect late night partying on this ship. The average passenger is older, and hardly likely to be doing the Hustle at three in the morning.
At the stern, a series of terraced lido decks, beautifully laid with blue cushioned wooden tables and chairs cascade right down to the flagstaff. I have yet to discover a more idyllic lounging spot afloat, that after sixty-six cruises. At night, with some wine, a few friends and a canopy of stars, it is simply magical.
The blue matted pool deck comes with a small plunge pool and a pair of bubbling hot tubs. Sun loungers, tables and chairs flank the edges, the whole served by the Marquee Bar under its shade. Some lunchtimes, a band will play for an hour or so to get people in the mood. The gym, while light and airy is small, but adequate for the number of avowed fitness fanatics on each trip.
Entertainment -- geared to the older English crowd, so expect end-of-the-pier production shows, though the singers and dancers work their hearts out. Musicians and some of the comedians are generally superb, and the line provides excellent on board lecture programmes.
Braemar's strong point is undoubtedly her crew. Pleasant, efficient and hard working to a fault, they are quite simply a delight to travel with and always remember returning guests. This is all the more amazing when one sees how crabby, condescending and downright petulant some of the older passengers can be. Again, they are a small minority, no more or less than on any other ship.
This ship will surprise and delight you in many ways, large and small. Overnight stays in Barbados each cruise are a real bonus, and the charter flight arrangements, out and back, are seamless, with check in for the return flight done aboard ship on the last day. If you sail on this ship once, the odds are, you will want to do so again.