The Neptune Lounge (Deck 5 forward): Featuring a show lounge format, this room is set sideways on to the ship, so the dance floor is wide but short in length and surrounded on three sides by seating. Curved tiers of seats in wide arcs mean that sight lines are better than in some show lounges. However, we found latecomers would often obscure views towards the stage, as did waiters serving drinks during the show. People are asked to order their drinks 10 minutes before the show starts, but this hasn't solved the problem.
The Braemar Show Company and orchestra are by far the best we have seen in a show lounge. They have a repertoire of nine productions, plus extra shows put on for Christmas and New Year cruises. The variety and quality of costumes and quick changes were quite incredible, especially in "Non-Stop Europa", described as a whirlwind tour of Europe's song and dance. One night the company gave passengers an insight into their work, including a quick change on stage and a visit to the very limited backstage area. An eye-opener to us non-showbiz folk!
Vocalists, a comedian and a magic act alternated with the production shows, and the traditional crew show was excellent, made special by the gorgeous national costumes worn by the Thai crew and other nationalities performing their national dances.
Ballroom dancing (with dance hosts available) takes place before and after the evening shows. The Neptune Lounge is also used for a range of other activities, including a very moving church service taken by cruise director Simon Vickers, classical piano concerts, and occasional feature films during the day.
Quizzes, bingo, darts, chess, carpet bowls, table tennis, dance classes, singing classes with a voice coach, and craft classes are all on offer.
Music is in all the main venues, plus dancing, karaoke and disco. There is no casino, but two gaming tables (blackjack and roulette) are open in the Braemar Room on Deck 5 in the evenings.
Braemar Bars and Lounges
The lounges vary in size but all are well appointed and welcoming, friendly but never boisterous.
Cocktails and wines of the day are recommended in the daily programme and are served in all venues. The wide range of cocktails start from a White Russian at £4.30 up to a Kir Royale at £7.65.
Morning Night Pub (Deck 5 forward): Open from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. The largest bar stretching the width of the ship, and a venue for games and quizzes throughout the day plus nightly bingo. Live music and song was provided on our cruise all evening by guitarist Michael Burke. As its name suggests, the Morning Light has the ambience of a British pub, with a laid back atmosphere, comfortable armchairs and plenty of relaxed entertainment.
Coral Club (Deck 5 aft): Open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. A show lounge and bar featuring more song and dance shows by the Braemar Show Company in a more intimate setting than the Neptune Lounge. Sofas, armchairs and tables are set around a small dance floor, with music throughout the evening from the In Tune band on stage. There's a well attended karaoke (with prizes on certain nights) and a late night disco.
Observatory (Deck 8 forward): Open from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. An elegant sophisticated bar offering panoramic views of the sea, and a cocktail pianist (Tony Williams on our cruise) playing throughout the evening. With armchairs set around small tables, this is a great venue for pre-dinner drinks or to sit and enjoy a late night tipple to super music.
Marquee Bar (Deck 8 midship): Open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weather permitting. Out on deck but under a canopy, this is a very popular venue on sunny days, with lots of comfortable chairs and sofas where sun lovers can enjoy a drink near the pool.
Braemar Outside Recreation
Ample sun loungers surround two swimming pools, appropriate to the size of the ship, plus two hot tubs and a paddling pool.
Traditional deck sports such as shuffleboard, deck quoits, hoopla, and golf putting.
The forward section of Deck 8 is given over to a large sunbathing area with standard quality sun loungers. On our cruise (December in the Canaries) the weather was hot but there were plenty of empty loungers. Further along the deck are the luxurious sofas and armchairs surrounding the Marquee Bar. Stairs lead from the sun deck to an upper deck with more sunbathing spaces.
The Reception desk (deck 5) is open all hours for information and advice. Nearby is the shore excursions desk, and some shops selling a variety of souvenirs, personal items and clothing. A spacious arts, crafts and card room is on deck 3, and on deck 5 is a well-stocked library where Wi-Fi access is available. Charges are £5 for half an hour, £10 for an hour, £20 for three hours and £30 for 24 hours. There is a cabin laundry service, and a self-service launderette, with washing machines operated by a £2 token available from Guest Services. Tumble driers and ironing are free. A four-page Daily Mail printout of national news is distributed from Reception.