6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
Isn't It Good? Day One, 18 May 2019. This cruise is to Norway, hence the cryptic title. Brilliant arrangements for boarding the Braemar. We arrived at noon, were met and greeted by the car parkers and porters, strolled straight ... Read More
Isn't It Good? Day One, 18 May 2019. This cruise is to Norway, hence the cryptic title. Brilliant arrangements for boarding the Braemar. We arrived at noon, were met and greeted by the car parkers and porters, strolled straight through check in and security, and were eating lunch by 12.15. Cabins were ready for 1 pm, luggage waiting outside. Don't you just hate airports? We spent a leisurely 20 minutes peering over the balcony watching ship's provisions coming off the back of vast lorry and being shuttled about by forklift. Also observing the arrival of passengers who had followed instructions not to get to port before 1.30. The Heavy Brigade were engaged in a valiant charge up the gangplank. Stormed at with shot and shell, boldly they strode and well. They boarded, but not, not the six hundred (Alfred Lord Thomason). One poor soul was borne away in an ambulance, accompanied by concerned companions. Better than cruising around the fjords in the ship's morgue. On Fred Olsen, dinner seating is fixed for the trip. We are on a table for six and if the company is dire, you have the option of taking another roll of the dice by changing restaurants. Fortunately, we deem this to be unnecessary. However, we will not know until tomorrow whether the other four decided that we are dire! Day Two Anthea does not get the cryptic title of this travelogue. Her soul must be made of rubber. Made it to the gym by seven this morning, despite the clocks going forward and a smidgeon of over indulgence on day one. They seem to have added more equipment or maybe my equipment has diminished. We do not arrive in port until tomorrow, so we could go line dancing, listen to a classical concert, or win a quiz. Instead, we opt for a general acclimatisation day, i.e. boozing, snoozing and shmoozing Tonight the dress code is formal in the main restaurant and the overwhelming majority of cruisers are happy to go along with that, leaving the tracksuit two club to order another ten rounds of Newcastle Brown. The Romanian captain quips his way merrily through his welcome cocktail party and introduces his executive team. In matters maritime, Croatia and Bulgaria rule the waves, leaving the Welsh and Scots to boss the galley slaves. I am happy to report that all our dining companions showed up, so we can't be that bad. Day Three Our first stop in Norway is the city of Kristiansand, on the Skagerrak Sea. Its most attractive feature is a 17th Century quarter called Kvadraturen. White clapperboard houses line the grid planned streets, the last survivors of city wide fires which eventually prompted the city authorities to require all new builds to be in brick. The clapperboard houses are roofed with orange tiles from the Netherlands, the trade exchange being one lobster for one tile. We then move on to the Vest Adger County Museum. Here they have re-assembled a 16th century farmstead, complete with turfed roofs. One of the grain stores has a removable section in the wall to enable the storage of bodies of those who died in winter when the ground was too hard to dig. The smoky dark interiors of the houses accommodated up to fifteen people in two rooms, but if you were young and healthy you slept with the pigs and cows. A woman's most attractive feature was considered to be weight lifter calves for lifting buckets. At first sight modern Norwegian living appears to be very functional and politically correct. The Greens call the shots, beer is £12 a pint, 58% of all new cars bought are electric, and income tax is over 50%. Suddenly, those smokey dark interiors with a wood fire and a bucket of mead don't seem so bad, especially with a flash of bulging calf! Day Four We rise early to watch our progress along the 100 kilometre Oslo Fjord, a route which takes us past the house of the Olsen family. Our boat is followed in by the larger Balmoral, the new rigid inflatable boats (RIBS) make up the rest of the flotilla and a special flag is run up in salute of the company founders when we pass the small village they came from in the 1840's. The scenery is very attractive on a sunny morning and crew bustle around with early morning tea, coffee, hot chocolate, Buck's Fizz, pastries and bacon, sausage and mushroom butties. Breakfast comes later. There are just 5.2 million Norwegians but civic pride looms large in the architecture and layout of Oslo. The decision to have a royal family was made by referendum in the early 20th century. A splendid avenue leads up to the palace, bordered by elegant anti terrorist devices consisting of large metal saucers full of flowers. Norway has the largest public reserves in the world derived from its oil revenues, and this is reflected in grand scale building projects such as the 'glacier styled' opera house. But the highlight of the trip so far is a visit to Vigiland Sculpture Park. Gustav Vigiland was commissioned by the city authorities in the late 19th century to produce statues for public spots. He somewhat over-delivered and there are now over 200 groups of these in a beautiful landscape. Made in iron, bronze and granite they are a exhilarating expression of the human form and experience from cradle to grave. Some are in simple repose, contrasting with others which are engaged in extreme contortions. High above the city is the Holmenkollen Ski Centre. A new ski jump and biathlon arena are under construction and testify to the obsession this country has with the sport. What an excellent obsession! The word 'ski' is Norwegian for flat plank. Ancient carvings depict folk on skis, presumably Nords winning the Bedrock Downhill. Day Five The approach to Arendal is reputed to be one of the most scenic in the world, and very pretty it is. We berth close to the town centre adjacent to a steep cliff with houses on top. A footpath zig zags to the top. Along this and in the garden of the house about three dozen school children perform a dance to a piece from 'Frozen'. This has not been announced on board but all the cruisers with starboard cabins or taking a deck stroll give an enthusiastic round of applause when the performance has finished. A great way of showing of the best side of ŷour culture. Norwegiansare still deeply wounded by the massacre of the children by the right wing nutcase in 2011. The guy responsible is never named and is referred to simply as 'the traitor'. We take a small boat ride around channels and skerries of the archipelago. The hills and coastline are covered with beautiful forests and white clapperboard houses. Apparently the place has won the European award for the best maintained properties. Almost every house has a boat and this is a very popular summer resort. Today, the misty waters are very calm and the gulls and cormorants have it to themselves - apart from us! We go along with the suggestion to dress up for British night. Escapist patriotism and mythical identities run riot in the sing song featuring national twaddle songs, and there is no hint of Xenophobia, even though folk are balling "Red, white and blue What does it mean to you Surely you're proud Shout it out loud." Harmless enough. Probably. Day Six Into the fjords proper this morning covering Maurangsfjord, Fureberg Waterfall and Hardangerfjord. Isn't it good, Norwegian Wood, hums Anthea, the Penny having dropped. All very epic. The minimisation of humans and the omnipresence of nature bring on a serious case of pseuds corner, an overload of awe and wonder, and a swelling of the numinous. It is rumoured that some passengers have had to retreat to their cabins and lie down until scenic sickness abates. Not this one. In the afternoon we get up close to the elements by boarding a RIB. We don bright yellow thermal floatation suits, goggles and gloves and wizz around Eijefjord at up to 40 knots. At one end of the water there is a hydro electric power station big enough to power the city of Bergen. Hardly any of it is visible, as the pipes and turbines have been inserted into the cliffs. On a plateau 400 meters high is an old farm, and in former times the children had to go up and down a footpath to school. "Late again Ibsen. What's the excuse this time?" Norway had universal literacy much earlier than the U.K. And it was one of the reasons why the small nation was economically successful even before the discovery of oil. Before we return to the ship our driver takes us close to the bottom of a tumbling waterfall, and we really feel we've earned a tumbler of Bailey's. Day Seven We go into the Lysefjord during the morning, regarded by those who are supposed to know these things to be the ultimate expression of fjord topography. Royal Caribbean would get wedged in the first bend! High vertical cliffs on port and starboard give way to stretches of open water with mountains receding in rows to a vanishing point. Don't try to paint the scene unless you have mastered perspective. We pass the famous Pulpit Rock and the world's longest wooden staircase (4,444 steps ) which has something to do with another hidden power station. It has become a tradition to bring over a Gang of Sherpas once a year to repair and maintain stone footpaths used by hikers. They have celebrity status, which probably means feature articles in 'Hikey Hikey Ho' magazine. The second and final formal night of the trip concludes with the ever popular crew show, which demonstrates that the workers have considerately more talent among them than we would ever guess over the breakfast table. As I have said in a previous report it is an ingenious way of stirring up the feel good factor all round. The status of the crew is elevated, while the guests feel they're making a small contribution to world social mobility. Indeed, during the final song, in the little bubble of suspended reality that is the Neptune Lounge , "We Are The World". Day Eight The day of the gala buffet. Being new to Olsen, our dining companions can't quite believe their taste buds as they range across sumptuous seafood, the finest cold meats and a giant cooked gammon in a shortcrust pastry, an overwhelming display of cakes and pastries, not to mention the chocolate fountain. "Oh the buzzing of the bees, in the cigarette trees...."etc. We have now left Norwegian waters and are churning our way through the North Sea back to Blighty, the land we love, but also the land of blubbing bungling ministers, broken promises, and Brexit Bollocks. That said, would you really want to live in a land of welfare economics, equality of opportunity way beyond the U.K. model, the highest Human Development Index in the world, the top spot in the World Happiness Report, the Better Life Index and the Index of Public Integrity and Democracy? Perhaps not. But we might like to take a closer look at it! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
Embarkation went very smoothly from 101 berth in Southampton, the cabin was ready when we boarded which was great, so we could leave our things there, explore the ship and have a bite to eat. The cabin was quite spacious and very clean, ... Read More
Embarkation went very smoothly from 101 berth in Southampton, the cabin was ready when we boarded which was great, so we could leave our things there, explore the ship and have a bite to eat. The cabin was quite spacious and very clean, comfy bed and a reasonable amount of wardrobe space. The one negative was the size of the bathroom, see cabin review. We were booked in for first sitting in the Thistle restaurant which was light and airy on a table for eight. Lovely company for the cruise and fairly good service though the standard of the food was very variable. Had to send back food that was either overcooked or dried up. The standard of presentation was also lacking at times. We usually cruise with Celebrity whose food and presentation is a whole lot better. They could produce nice meals, both formal nights the food was excellent as was the buffet lunch on the last sea day, which made the 'off' days all the more unexplainable. The entertainment was, on the whole, good. The Braemar troupe were excellent and the shows they put on in the Neptune Lounge were very enjoyable, a couple of the guest entertainers were not to our taste so we avoided them as well as the singer, guitarist in the pub area who made every song sound the same and just sang in a monotone drone, so depressing. Service was excellent on the whole especially in the Coral Club and the Observatory. We had occasion to report a non flushing loo, that was fixed within the hour, very impressed. Good ports of call though the order was different to the advertised cruise due to adverse weather conditions. We did visit them all though, the highlight being Seville. As the Braemar is a shallow draught ship we sailed up the river and docked in the heart of the city, a cruise in itself! Beautiful city and we were there for the last day of the annual fair and the fireworks, very memorable. Add to this Cadiz, lovely Lisbon, Porto and La Coruna, some very interesting destinations. We took two shore excursions, a tour round Seville and a visit to the Alcazar palace which was excellent with a very well informed and interesting guide, worth the money. The other was a coach to Porto from Lexios where we were docked. Total rip off £30 each for what in the end was a lot less than the three hours we were promised. Do not go on this trip, we found out, too late, you could get a local bus there for just a few euros. Check with the local tourist office for details, they are just outside the dock gate and you get a free bus from the ship to the gate! Braemar is a very comfortable small ship, we never had problems finding a seat in the bars or a Sun bed on the pool deck, and the lack of music blaring out there was bliss, so relaxing. Would certainly consider a future cruise on her. Back to Southampton and debarking at 102 which was a tent, not a nice end to a lovely cruise. Felt so sorry for people in wheel chairs and the way they had to get off the ship via a temporary gang way rather than a smooth air bridge. Considering all the money the port gets from cruise passengers this really is not good enough, time to spend some I think, come on Southampton. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
We chose Fred's Braemar as a short break and the opportunity to try out a different cruise operator. Braemar is a well laid out ship in good overall condition for its age, they are currently doing an upgrade to install a RIB as have ... Read More
We chose Fred's Braemar as a short break and the opportunity to try out a different cruise operator. Braemar is a well laid out ship in good overall condition for its age, they are currently doing an upgrade to install a RIB as have the other ships in the fleet. This is being done during normal operation of the ship, so one area of deck and exit route from the services desk was out of bounds. The staff, food, lounges and dining areas were all good. Entertainment from the onboard team was good. At the start of the trip there were only 2 dancers but that did not detract from the spectacle. The last show has 4 dancers which for the last show made it a full stage. If staying on deck 2 starboard side window rooms mid ship, you may incur the sound of the steam heating pipes for the swimming pools banging from around 07:00 through to 17:00. The staff are aware of the noise, we were offered a change of room. I believe the steam hammering is caused by either an unsecured pipe or a defective condensate trap (yes I'm an engineer and know what steam hammer is !.) They have not fixed the hammering so if you stay in this area of the ship listen out for it. It will wake you and can become annoying. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
The background for choosing this cruise, was a family bereavement. The purpose was to have a relaxing cruise to somewhere new. The Braemar cruise of "cruising the Seine" to Rouen then down to Honfluer, prior to return to ... Read More
The background for choosing this cruise, was a family bereavement. The purpose was to have a relaxing cruise to somewhere new. The Braemar cruise of "cruising the Seine" to Rouen then down to Honfluer, prior to return to Southampton, we thought would fit the bill. How wrong can you be. We booked via a travel agent, a suite on a guarantee bases at what we thought was a good price, then came the extras, 1st sitting and a drinks package. The requirement of a table for 2 we were told would have to arranged with the Maitre d' once on board. It was only after the booking was made I was informed we were on Anchor grade by Olsen. The luggage labels arrived 2 weeks prior to embarkation day, allocated 7008, port side near the bridge. Then 2 days before the cruise Olsen sent blank luggage labels, with no covering letter to explain why. On the booking in at Southampton we were told our cabin was one of several that were being refurbished in that area. Suite 7002 was our new suite allocation, which turned out to be a large sitting area with a small windowless bedroom. We were moved next door to a cabin with twin beds. But adjacent to the suites [including 7008] being refurbished. Dinner was the 1st sitting in the Grampian restaurant, and this started the nightmare. On entering the Grampian no Maitre d' to show us to a table, so we sat down at a table for 2 , only to be told you can't sit there. After handing my cabin card to the staff four times, I was told we were not on "the manifest". We were then put on a table for 6.The staff were not properly trained. When asked what was the fish of the day, he did not know and came back later to say it was Catfish. The house Pinot wine was corked, and declined and were informed it could not be, as it was a new bottle. After a plain uneaten main dish, we went to the rather nice bar for a nightcap, before we went back to the suite. The suite had a large bedroom come lounge area and what looked like a large balcony. I say looked because possibly of the adjacent refurbishing it was locked. The bathroom was tiny and for me, a 6 footer too small a toilet and shower. The shower was useless no pressure. The mattresses were hard and the pillows too soft, I like it the other was round. Sleep was not forthcoming the hardness of the mattress and poor air quality prevented a relaxed sleep. Next day we asked why we were treated so badly in the Grampian at diner. To be told that as we were on on Anchor fares we were not entitled to have pre-allocated table and that our table number would be in the cabin, but was not. No did we know beforehand this was the procedure. I explained that the reason we declined a large table was my partner did not want to have to go through the questioning of " how many children etc." The main dinning room had a table which we could have for diner for 2. This turned out to be by the entrance with the only outlook onto the table for disabled. Too depressing and declined. Diner for the next 4 nights was in the Palm canteen. At least we had a table for 2. The "Palm" had the worst food of the cruise. The only good point for me was the cheese. We also had to pay extra for a decent wine. The best meals were breakfast, good if you like bacon eggs and potatoes. Not good if you want anything but melon as a healthy start to the day, where was the Strawberries, Raspberries and blueberries etc? We never saw the usual cruise dishes of Lobster, Steak or fresh fish such as Salmon. To provide some interest we would dine in the ports for lunch, the L'Alcyone in Honfluer is worth a visit. To finish the cruise, the sea on way back to Southampton was a little rocky, but what kept us awake was the continual banging of the wardrobe doors swinging open and closing. I have gone into great detail on why it was a very disappointing.. Perhaps I was expecting more and was comparing to the 4,5 and 6* cruises we have enjoyed over the years., but I would grade the ship 2* max. Poor accommodation, uncomfortable bed, poor shower. Poor dinning, cheap and limited menus, making in my judgement a not successful cruise experience, and certainly not worth the over £360 per day for the suite. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
We have just returned from a trip with Fred Olsen, I hesitate to call it a cruise because as far as we were concerned (and other passengers) this was not a cruise, we booked this quite late as we had some A/L to use up and this fitted the ... Read More
We have just returned from a trip with Fred Olsen, I hesitate to call it a cruise because as far as we were concerned (and other passengers) this was not a cruise, we booked this quite late as we had some A/L to use up and this fitted the dates, when I booked I was told that we would be getting the 'Anchor fare' and therefore we were getting it cheap, they went on to explain that because of that we could not choose our cabin, dinner sitting and we would be excluded from certain 'perks' to be honest it was only for 5 days so we said fine, I was once again told I was 'getting it cheap', after the 3rd time of being told this I finally managed to book it, all the info was emailed through telling us again that as this was an 'Anchor fare' and we were getting it cheaper we would be excluded from any offers, at this point I was getting a bit sick of hearing this!! Embarkation was smooth and efficient, we had a cabin on the 3rd deck, it was small but served its purpose, we were given first sitting at dinner, bit early for us but we were after all getting it cheap, we had to pay for the shuttle service, which was really required for both ports, a total of £30, we were not invited to meet the Captain, but again we were not to worried, it was rather strange when we were talking to some people about the price of the shuttle service we were told ( by a couple who were passengers) it was our own fault we should have paid full price like they had, anyway back to the 'Cruise' it was titled 'Cruising the Seine' or words to that effect, we left Southampton at 8pm so it was overnight crossing the channel, we arrived at Rouen at mid morning, so we saw very little of the Seine, that was on the Sunday, we left Rouen at 8pm on the Tuesday, and arrived at Honfluer early Wednesday morning, so the actual cruise was mainly in the dark at night, Fred Olsen's cruise Itineraries are very basic, they do not give you times of departure or arrivals it is just early/late am or early/late pm, we felt this trip was just to keep the ship moving and fill an empty time slot, there were no meet the crew or formal night, not port lectures no port maps, no guest speakers, no art/crafts, infact not a lot was going on, we have sailed with Fred Olsen on a few occasions in the past and had a great time, but this for us was our last trip with Fred Olsen, ourselves and other 'Anchor fare' passengers were made to feel like second class passengers, what is even worse we were not looking for a bargain, just a nice break from work. On a scale of 1 to 10 we would say a 4, this would be for the nice staff, nice food and very good couple of shows. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
We chose it to see if the small ship experience was to our taste with Fred Olsen having sailed on many other small ship cruises and also for the Ports that we wished to visit. Apart from from the first day there was no afternoon tea and ... Read More
We chose it to see if the small ship experience was to our taste with Fred Olsen having sailed on many other small ship cruises and also for the Ports that we wished to visit. Apart from from the first day there was no afternoon tea and cakes etc unless you were prepared to pay for them, and in fact it felt as if you had to pay for everything including the water. The ship itself was in good condition for an aged vessel and as we did not wish to use the shore excursion facilities, perfering to travel on foot, I cannot comment on these. I felt the trip was more expensive than other liners and no doubt if the cabin had been satisfactory I would have been writing a good report, but as mentioned below that cabin should have come with a health warning as the bow thrust is normally used whenever berthing or undocking. This is why I have given it the rating of 2 stars. I'm not sure if I will travel on Braemar again, but might think about another vessel. However the staff, food and entertainment were excellent Read Less
15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
We chose this cruise because of the river features. It was more expensive but we wanted a luxury cruise. We found out from this site it was a flat bottom boat. We would never have booked as my husband is a poor sailor. He was sick for 2 ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the river features. It was more expensive but we wanted a luxury cruise. We found out from this site it was a flat bottom boat. We would never have booked as my husband is a poor sailor. He was sick for 2 days and drugged (sea sick tabs make him very sleepy) for a few more. Many people were unwell for first few days. Embarkation was quite smooth even though a man employed by southampton dock yard was very rude. Unwashed in dirty clothes unshaven. Shouting at us with out telling us what we were doing wrong. We heard him being equally rude to other passangers. Porters were apologetic. The ship is tierd past its best alot of noise from engins while dinning. Sometimes we couldn't hear other passanges on same table.engin noise bad in cabins. Others struggled as well. Ship broke down on way home. With engin trouble. But we still arrived back on time.WIFI VERY EXPENSIVE £13 for half hour this is just daylight robbery. Fred olsen should be ashamed. Is this even legal. The cakes and puddings were amazing. The rest of the food ranged from lovely to uneatable. Palms cafe not very good breakfast was difficult to get anything hot. Afternoon tea best meal. Alot of penny pinching small amounts ie half a quails egg. Having to buy coffee if not in restaurants or in room. Could not understand three formal nights one would have been more than enough. As the only reason for them seemed to be selling you photos. We did not go to the entertainment as we looked at it on telly and it looked very low key. Also we weren't interested in talks about 2nd world war. Husband enjoyed table tennis. Trips were good. Most expensive same on all cruises. All staff very good very egar to please. YaYa our cabin stewardess was very thorough. The best thing about the cruise was the other passengers. Really friendly and chatty. No bad language or drunkenness. Majority were quite a bit older. But had to admire the determination to have holidays dispite health issues. No children and this is not a cruise for them or really anyone under 40. Overall this cruise was not for us we were bored. Its put us off cruising. Many people loved it. They were very faithfull to the Fred lable. We thought fred olsen were taking advantage of their loyal customer base. This was not a luxury cruise. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
We chose the cruise because of the itinerary - German waterways and that was everything we hoped for. Great stops at Flensburg, Travemunde, Hamburg and Bremen and peaceful and scenic cruise down the rivers and Kiel canal. At all ports we ... Read More
We chose the cruise because of the itinerary - German waterways and that was everything we hoped for. Great stops at Flensburg, Travemunde, Hamburg and Bremen and peaceful and scenic cruise down the rivers and Kiel canal. At all ports we did our own thing so cannot comment on excursions. We had a superior suite on deck 7, roomy with sofa, two armchairs, loads of storage space and really large balcony. Bathroom with bath, shore over bath, twin basins and wc. Some might find the bath an wc cubicle a bit narrow and there is a high threshold on the door, very dated compared to more modern ships. The hot water can get very hot and is potentially dangerous. There was a kettle for tea and coffee and a fridge full of the usual high priced mini-bar drinks. Bottled still mineral water supplied free. The suite dream package not really worth having although the cava was nice. Canapés always seemed stale and I do not consider it a perk to have a mini Daily Mail delivered! Continental breakfast disappointing and very limited choice. We just had tea, coffee and orange juice most mornings. Ate breakfast in Palms cafe, good choice at buffet and enjoyed the made to order omelettes. One feature we really liked was the seating arrangements for the buffet, staff found you a table, wish other cruise lines dot the same. Lunch in Palms a good choice, the other restaurants have a different menu each day, the Thistle has a good buffet as well and the Gampian a smaller one. Rather limited afternoon tea service in the Palms and a supper club at 11 pm are the only other food arrangements available apart from room service. Cannot comment on supper club or room service as did not use. Dinner we had second sitting in the Grampian. Had a table for 4 set for 2. Interesting and varied menus each night and we enjoyed the food, especially the soups but would have liked more vegetables and sauces -realised too late we should have asked!. Service was excellent. Did not like the Observatory bar much as difficult to get seat with view as a lot of people like to sit and read. Morning light pub nothing like a pub, more like an hotel lounge with no atmosphere. Liked the Coral club, good band called Revolverites who had a wide repertoire of songs. Some singers from Braemar show company who seemed to go down well. Did not see any of the other entertainment as mostly musical, think there was a comedian but no magician! (I like them) There were two formal nights, not sure what the point of having them is as nothing extra happened. Overall we enjoyed the cruise, cabin good, food ok and drinks package excellent value. That said I would not cruise on Braemar again or consider Fred.Olsen again as the suite experience offered by the larger cruise companies is far superior and much better value. Would also prefer slightly more lively atmosphere that would accompany a wider age range of passengers. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
This was one of the best, most relaxing cruises I have been on. The highlight was cruising along the Seine, to and from Rouen. We also cruised inland to Bordeaux, and that is a beautiful city. Evening entertainment was very good, and we ... Read More
This was one of the best, most relaxing cruises I have been on. The highlight was cruising along the Seine, to and from Rouen. We also cruised inland to Bordeaux, and that is a beautiful city. Evening entertainment was very good, and we were always able to find a seat for the 2nd sitting show. We were seated at a table for 4 and the couple we shared with, Edna and Peter were excellent company. The food was of a very high standard - much better than I experienced on the Queen Mary 2 in October last year. Daytime entertainment for me (57) and my mum (92 but very fit) centred mostly around the quizzes. These were made extra entertaining by the staff who ran them but especially Thomas, who, at the age of 26, was funny and entertaining and really brightened up the day. Only problem was that the quizzes were very popular, and so Fred needs to re-think the venue - the Morning Light pub simply isn't big enough. I also used the gym and was often the only person in the pool - it was a chilly April, but the pools were heated and lovely. Our cabin was lovely and quiet - we were on deck 4 with a picture window. The queues sometimes to get off and on the ship were a bit of a pain, but when when you have several slightly disabled octagenarians it's only to be expected. On the whole our fellow guests were a lively lot and out to have a good time. This cruise was quite expensive, but worth every penny. I'd definitely do the same one again, but it would be even better in the summer! Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
We have just returned from a round britain cruise on Breamar. First the good points. The food in the thistle restaurant on most occasions was some of the best we have ever had on cruise lines. The staff were excellent and the ... Read More
We have just returned from a round britain cruise on Breamar. First the good points. The food in the thistle restaurant on most occasions was some of the best we have ever had on cruise lines. The staff were excellent and the balcony cabins large with good storage. Now the bad points. Breamar was a vast 800 person floating old peoples home. The cabin "bathrooms were so small and poorly designed that you could nor swing round let alone swing a cat as well. The gents public toilets had a dark and dingy appearance badly appointed and when I went to use them I was always treading in what I know was not water. The ship is small and bars are always full on quiz times (conducted by a screeching member of staff ). The theatre, is just a large airless room. and the "casino is two tables and no slotts at all again hosted by two members of staff with not the slightest bit of charisma at all. The ticket collection for shore excursions was a farce. no one was quite sure what they were doing. We will never go on a Fred Olsen cruise ever again and I hope anyone thinking of doing so to think hard to make sure this is a cruise for you Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
We were attracted to this most enjoyable cruise (our eighth - we have previously sailed only with Cunard and P & O) for three reasons: (1) the dates (working patterns only allow school holidays); (2) the destinations (we had never ... Read More
We were attracted to this most enjoyable cruise (our eighth - we have previously sailed only with Cunard and P & O) for three reasons: (1) the dates (working patterns only allow school holidays); (2) the destinations (we had never before explored our own islands); (3) the price (we secured an excellent late deal for an inside cabin, which more than met our own requirements since we were really only ever there to sleep). As a 60-something male and 50-something female, we had expected that we would most likely be at the lower-end of the age-spectrum amongst the passengers (the ship sailed full). This turned out to be correct, with the average age of passengers on this particular cruise estimated at between 70 and 75 - almost without exception being able-bodied (this is not a discriminatory comment; the reality is that being a small ship, there is only very limited availability of wheelchair-adapted cabins, so the recommendation is to book early and at full-cost if wheelchair-access is required). Although living near Southampton, somewhat ironically this cruise departed from Dover! My recommendation is to buy the slightly more expensive quayside car parking since it is only a short walk to the ship, which for us proved to be important as we met with some unexpected delays on the drive to Dover and were almost the last to board. 'Braemar' is a very nice ship with a friendly feel and an attentive crew. Its smaller size was very much to our liking, but it may be less attractive to younger travelers looking for more 'excitement' in the way of facilities and entertainment (no zip-wires and the like - thank goodness!). The whole cruise-experience was punctuated by the excellent dining, with dinner being the highlight. We were second-sitting diners (at 8.30), which is always our preference as it allows the opportunity for being ashore longer at the port-stops and pre-dinner usage of the newly-equipped gym (generally empty on this cruise, being a reflection of the age of the travellers) etc. It was really nice to again have 'fixed seating' at dinner (there has been too much of a move to 'open seating' - even for dinner - on other cruise lines) and with no entirely separate 'buffet restaurants', breakfast, lunch and tea were all very civilised affairs (to an 'open seating' basis) in the restaurants, where all tables were graced with linen tablecloths and nicely-laid cutlery at all times. In our assessment, the quality of the food was very high and anyone finding grounds for criticism would be being churlish in the extreme. There were two aspects of the cruise which - for us - carried elements of disappointment. Firstly, the cruise bore the descriptive-title 'Highland Games and Royal Military Tattoo', which set the expectations around likely highlights. In reality, tours for both were not necessarily freely-available, although we managed to secure trips to both (at rather inflated prices relative to the actual ticket-costs - but the convenience of the coach transfers etc. made the expense worthwhile). The Tattoo was wonderful, but the Highland Games (reached from Greenock) were singularly underwhelming (it would perhaps be unkind to say as much, but I have seen bigger village fetes!) and in our view this event had definitely been 'talked-up' too much by Fred Olsen in the brochure. We cut-short the excursion and made our own way back to the ship (obviously having firstly informed the organisers of our intentions). Secondly, the brochure description gave a lot of space to the day of 'scenic cruising' around the Western Isles. True, the sea was a little lumpy on the day, but it came as a surprise when the captain 'for reasons of safety' announced that he would be bypassing the scenic route which meant that we missed all of the wonderful views that we had been looking forward to seeing (despite rather damp and misty conditions). The narrowest passage - to me - looked wider than many Norwegian fjords which are regularly navigated by the cruise-liners, so this was a definite disappointment. Doubtless there is something in the brochure small-print which covers the captain's right to vary the cruise and safety is clearly paramount, but I believe that the brochure should have been heavily-asterisked around this particular part of the cruise-itinerary to the effect 'subject to prevailing conditions' in order that expectations should have been appropriately managed. Of the two other port-calls, the Orkney Islands were especially lovely and Dublin was a very pleasant surprise, being a compact and bustling city with many intersting discoveries. We had organised-tours at all stops, but also 'did our own thing' given the (pleasing) two-day stays at both Edinburgh and Dublin. Whilst this review has only concentrated on a few aspects of our cruise, in summary we have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Fred Olsen - and 'Braemar' in particlular - and we will undoubtedly sail with Fred again in the future. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
Having worked for four years in P&Os iconic ss Canberra, including her farewell cruise in 1998 prior to her being decommissioned, I have always avoided the temptation of a cruise holiday; party because I had 'been there and done ... Read More
Having worked for four years in P&Os iconic ss Canberra, including her farewell cruise in 1998 prior to her being decommissioned, I have always avoided the temptation of a cruise holiday; party because I had 'been there and done that' albeit from a different perspective, and also because I feared I would spend too much time complaining that 'it isn't like it used to be...' However a partner keen to cruise, a twenty year time gap and a curiosity to see how things had changed, combined to weaken my resolve. What I thought they did well: Firstly, the crew. I know it's a cliché, but the mainly Indian, Filipino and Thai crew could not have worked harder or done more to make our cruise enjoyable. They were friendly, engaging, always appeared happy and managed to remember our names and our favourite drinks. I really could not fault them. Our cabin: we booked a modest deck 2 outside cabin, which was surprisingly spacious and well appointed, though slightly dated decor-wise. The cabin was clean and our cabin steward(ess) (Kitty) was a delight. Even a severe flood requiring a cabin change on the last night was well-handled, with housekeeping staff appointed to help us pack and move. A letter of apology and a £50 credit to our on-board account to apologise for the inconvenience was a nice way to defuse any irritation we may have felt. Food: I thought the food was absolutely first rate. Every day I ordered breakfast from the menu rather than the buffet, and I could not fault it if I tried. The galley even made a slight adjustment to their kedgeree recipe to suit my spicier palate. Lunch as usually taken in the buffet or shore-side when alongside. The buffet was good with plenty of choice. Afternoon Tea (only taken twice) was perhaps the weakest offer - sandwiches were tasty but a but clunky and unrefined, the cake selection was limited, the scones were not the best (a bit dry) and served with UHT whipped cream, which as a shame given we were in port six of ten days so obtaining fresh stores should not have been a problem. Dinner, however, was the highlight of the day; we were lucky to have 4 great table companions whose company we enjoyed and who each added a different perspective to the conversation. Our Head Waiter (Xavier) and the Commis Waiter (Ryan) were efficient, charming and friendly. Each night we had a five course menu, with three to six choices of each. In total we had ten meals on board and I don't think I once left the restaurant unhappy. Full marks and thank you to all concerned. Guest entertainers: we had some super guest entertainers, including Leo Shavers (musician) whose impromptu jazz session was superb. The classical pianist was good, though I would like to have heard more of him, as was the Welsh baritone singer - both of whose names have slipped my mind (sorry). I also greatly appreciated the bridge lessons, which has whetted my appetite for the game. The Braemar Orchestra and the cocktail pianist were also super. Disembarkation: this morning we woke at 7am, were showered and packed by 7.45am and we're in our car on the way home by 8.45am. It could not have gone better. What I didn't like: Having been effusive in my praise for what I felt was done well, I will be equally honest in highlighting what I didn't like. Braemar Show Company: in fairness, a few of them put their heart and soul into the shows, but generally I thought their productions were uninspiring and badly choreographed and the team were very young and lacked believe-ability. Sadly I felt most of them didn't really want to be there and made little effort to hide the fact. Reception (Purser's Desk): I had little dealing with the front desk, apart from towards the end of the cruise when I noticed a billing error. We had upgraded to the 'all inclusive' drinks package for an additional £10 per person per night, this allowed complimentary 'house' drinks and 50% discount on branded drinks, cocktails and wine. When I checked my account on day 8 I noticed they had charged for all drinks. I raised this with the front desk, and rather than apologising and promising to investigate the error, I was asked if I could 'prove' we had paid for the all-inclusive package. I informed the receptionist that I was able to do so as I had just checked my online bank statement and I could see the £200 additional payment leaving my account. Having insulted me once by asking me to prove my case, she then insulted me again by asking how I was able to access my account as the ship's satellite wasn't working (for the record I had international data roaming and was able to access via my Blackberry). Having convinced her I was telling the truth I was then told that they would have to re-enter all our purchases with the relevant discount and we shouldn't order any drinks until this was done. Given this was an error wholly of the company's making, to have a member of staff twice infer I was lying and then to cause me further inconvenience whilst they sorted out an error of their own making, was a poor show. I honestly do not think they could have handled the situation more badly than they did. Show timings: it was also a slightly irritating that passengers on second sitting (8.30pm) had to watch the cabaret at 7.30pm (before dinner) with first sitting passengers watching the cabaret at 8.30pm. Personally, I like to relax with a glass of champagne or a cocktail and chat with my partner/friends pre-dinner - which I couldn't do unless I missed the cabaret. Nor did I particularly want to watch a jazz show or a comedian at 7.30pm before eating. I understand second sitting passengers usually watch a later show and it had been changed for this cruise. If so, I don't think it worked very well. Visibility of Senior Officers; my final gripe was the total lack of visibility of the 4 stripe officers on board. This might be a throw-back to my P&O days, but I would have expected to see the ship's senior management out and about in public areas most evenings, even if only for an hour pre-dinner. Apart from the welcome aboard Cocktail Party I didn't see the Captain, First Officer or Purser once during the whole cruise, which I thought was surprising and disappointing. Overall, despite the above complaints we had a super time. Would I cruise again? Much to my surprise, the answer is yes. And I would also happily cruise with Fred. Olsen in Braemar again. However the bar tenders, the stewards and the waiters were far better ambassadors for the company than the ships' officers and deserve to be acknowledged as such. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
BACKGROUND INFORMATION This was an unusual cruise – 8 nights away, but never getting more than 175 miles from the home port, with overnight stays at all three of the ports visited and spending a significant amount of time sailing up and ... Read More
BACKGROUND INFORMATION This was an unusual cruise – 8 nights away, but never getting more than 175 miles from the home port, with overnight stays at all three of the ports visited and spending a significant amount of time sailing up and down rivers on a sea-going ship. Our main reason for choosing it was that we have never visited Amsterdam, Antwerp or Rouen and thought that a travelling hotel would be a good way of seeing them, and it achieved our objectives very well indeed. We found it a bit odd that excursions from Antwerp to Brussels and from Rouen to Paris were featured quite strongly, when Brussels and Paris are so easy to get to from the UK by Eurostar, and Antwerp and Rouen are such worthwhile destinations in their own right, but we’re all different, aren’t we? SHIP INFORMATION Braemar is a modest ship. It lacks many of the attractions of larger and newer ships, but suits people who like a more relaxed, low-key cruising experience We had travelled on it before it was stretched, and found that very good use has been made of the extra 32 metres, including an additional swimming pool, a very attractive observation lounge and a pleasant new restaurant as well as several new cabins. Being an older, screw-driven ship, there is quite a bit of mechanical noise and vibration, especially on the lower decks aft. Some forward cabins are also uncomfortably close to the bow thruster units which can lead to early awakenings, so midships cabins may be advisable if you are sensitive to such things. Braemar is also not the steadiest of ships, so open-water cruises on it are best avoided by people prone to seasickness. Internally, furnishings are pleasing and interiors are light, bright and airy. Braemar does not have a proper theatre, though, and the main Neptune Lounge is far from ideal as a venue for shows, with inadequate tiering, poorly arranged seating and some columns restricting views of what is going on on the stage. Talking about tiering, the tiered stern is magnificent, fully accessible to all passengers rather than just to those with aft-facing balconies as on most modern cruise ships. There is also plenty of sunbathing space on the upper decks, a full wrap-round promenade deck and access to the tip of the bow for Kate Winslet and Leonardo di Caprio impressions – just don’t stand on the rail to do them. EMBARKATION We parked our car on the pier at Dover, which was a very easy process with a short walk (or courtesy minibus ride) to the cruise terminal. The terminal does not have many facilities but the cafeteria is adequate and there is plenty of comfortable seating. Check-in was painless, with no noticeable queues, but embarkation did not start until 2pm which meant that most people had a significant wait in the departure lounge. ACTIVITIES There was only one “proper” sea day on this cruise, which limited the need to resort to activities as such. We normally go to series of talks, but only went to one talk on this cruise, which was all right but not outstanding, trying to cover eight centuries of Anglo-French history in one hour. A second day of cruising was spent navigating down the River Seine, which was delightfully scenic, so we had no need of organised activities. SERVICE Staff and crew were friendly and helpful. People who cruise regularly with Fred noticed cutbacks in staff, notably in the elimination of wine waiters, but we found the level of service in all areas to be at least adequate and often better than that. CABIN Although most cabins are small by modern standards, they do not seem cramped or claustrophobic. Ours only had portholes but was still light and airy. There is plenty of hanging space, but not much drawer or shelf space. Equipment is good, with a flat-screen television, a safe and an adequate supply of toiletries – oh, and the essential (for Brits) tea and coffee facilities. Everything worked, after we had tightened up light bulbs that had been shaken loose. The design of shower curtain made it very difficult to avoid flooding the bathroom when showering. There are no British-style sockets, so plug adapters are vital. DINING No for-fee speciality restaurants here, just the MDRs and the buffet restaurant and fish-and-chips-type meals from the open deck Marquee Bar in fine weather. We used the buffet for breakfast and lunch and our assigned MDR for dinner and were happy with the quality and choice in both locations. Our table companions disappeared off to the buffet for the Asian theme evening and pronounced it to be very good. There was a late-night chocoholics’ buffet on one evening, which looked good but not as lavish as we have seen on previous cruises. ENTERTAINMENT The song-and-dance performances by the Braemar Show Company were good, especially the singers who were definitely better than most in this kind of company. Other entertainment by hired-in performers was not brilliant, but the crew shows were excellent. PORTS OF CALL I will put more details into individual port reviews, but it was the itinerary that sold this cruise to us and we were not disappointed. We do not like the way that Fred describes times in port in advance publicity, just referring to early or late am or pm rather than giving times. This caught out several people who were expecting one and a half days in Rouen and elected to visit Paris on the first day in the expectation of a couple of hours in Rouen the next morning, but the “late am” departure turned out to be 10.15, too early for a look round the city when it is two miles from the cruise terminal. Our departures from Amsterdam and Antwerp were at 16.00 and 17.00 respectively, giving us almost two days in each of those cities. The cruise terminals in Amsterdam and Antwerp are close to the city centres and no shuttle buses were laid on, though in Amsterdam we resorted to a couple of short tram rides to get to the heart of the city because we knew we had a hard day’s walking ahead of us exploring the city’s canal rings. One of the canal bus routes stops very close to the cruise terminal. In Antwerp the ship docked within a few yards of the cathedral and the historic core of this fine city. In Rouen a shuttle bus service was provided for the first day, at a modest £5 for unlimited journeys. It was originally stated that it would finish at 7pm, but this was revised to 1am when the management were made aware of the late night son-et-lumiere at the cathedral. There were some major hiccups with the shuttle arrangements, but we were still glad we went to this fantastic free show. DISEMBARKATION We had a cabin on one of the lower decks and were travelling independently so we were some of the last to leave the ship, but we were still back at our car for 9am after a smooth disembarkation process. SUMMARY We enjoyed our cruise very much. Braemar has some shortcomings, but also some nice features that you don’t find on newer and larger ships, and made a perfectly adequate base for what was effectively three city breaks stuck together with no packing and unpacking to do between them.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2013
We have recently returned from a Fred Olsen four night mini-cruise on the Braemar from Dover to France, Belgium and Holland. Last year, we went to the Norwegian fjords on the larger Olsen ship, the Balmoral. I quite liked the Braemar ... Read More
We have recently returned from a Fred Olsen four night mini-cruise on the Braemar from Dover to France, Belgium and Holland. Last year, we went to the Norwegian fjords on the larger Olsen ship, the Balmoral. I quite liked the Braemar although it is showing its age and our cabin, particularly the bathroom,was in need of some refurbishment. The television had a mind of its own and only worked when it felt like it. I don't think anybody would ever describe this cruise as luxurious but more like a 1960's holiday camp on the high seas. I found that the cruise director's way of making his announcements, as if we were rather slow children, was a bit patronising but I can understand that his job would drive a lot of people the same way! This is no more than a feeling but my impression is that Fred Olsen is watching every penny and is charging for everything. If they could, I think they would have charged for the air we breathed! Check in at Dover was excellent as was disembarkation on our return In my opinion the main drawbacks were: There were definitely not enough restaurant staff and those they did have seemed stressed and rushed. They allowed queues to form outside the restaurants even when it was plain to those queuing that, inside, were empty, set-up tables. That said, the two waiters who attended to us were always courteous; At breakfast time, which was largely a buffet arrangement, there was usually a shortage of food and utensils, particularly glasses. One morning I had the worst coffee in my life!; The food, overall, was no more than moderate with an occasional good dish. It was mass catering and felt like it! It might have been better to have simplified the dinner menu by reducing it from five courses to three and putting a bit more quality into them; I know this seems an odd comment, but I lost sympathy with Olsen after attending the lifeboat drill which seemed to be a poor attempt to impress everyone with a bit of drama. We were told that in the event of an evacuation we were to walk in a crocodile with our right hands on the shoulder of the person in front of us, reminiscent of the scenes shown on war newsreels of injured and blinded soldiers returning from France. With sizeable numbers of very young children and of elderly people with severe walking difficulties, this would have been unrealistic. It certainly was not required on the Balmoral last year and I have been unable to find anything which says it is required legally. If I am wrong and it is a legal requirement then it is a very stupid one which most other shipping lines are disregarding; In this bizarre fashion we had to go outside to our respective lifeboats where we were given a further talk by a crew member with an electric megaphone rendered totally inaudible by the noise of the air conditioning outlet! This was not impressive and in our group helped reduce the whole drill to a matter for derision. Later in the cruise some passengers were spotted walking along each with their arm on the shoulder of the person in front of them, to the general merriment of their friends; In writing this review it is not my intention to dissuade anyone from cruising with Olsen (we have no plans to cancel a cruise already booked on the Boudicca for next year) but to warn any readers not to expect pampering; This company is geared to processing large numbers of passengers and to keeping them under control; it does not attempt to provide traditional service. If you think of their quite nice old ships as a good way of avoiding airports and not having to struggle with luggage then you'll find it OK. At the end of the day you get what you pay for.   Read Less
Sail Date: May 2012
We have just returned from a wonderful cruise aboard Fred Olsen's Braemar. This was the third time that we had sailed on the ship, the previous two cruises were when the ship was in the Cunard fleet and was known as the Cunard ... Read More
We have just returned from a wonderful cruise aboard Fred Olsen's Braemar. This was the third time that we had sailed on the ship, the previous two cruises were when the ship was in the Cunard fleet and was known as the Cunard Dynasty. Fred Olsen had made several changes to the ship. First of all a few years ago, they cut the ship in two and extended it creating more cabins, deck space and introducing a new restaurant. The passenger capacity increased from 800 to around 1000 berths and is a perfect ship to cruise on. Our check-in was pretty speedy compared to the last cruise with Princess at Southampton, where we had to queue up outside the building and were nearly 3 hours going through the check-in procedure! So this was nice, straight in with a seat to wait to be called through and pretty quick desk check-in. Our last few cruises have been on the mega ships with more than 3000 passengers and we straight away settled into our comfortable floating home. Its an easy ship to get around and best of all there are no queues. We were fortunate to be allocated the Grampian restaurant and I would encourage you to choose or request this at the time of booking. As we booked late we could only get 2nd sitting, but we were rewarded with a table that gave us the most fantastic sea views through a huge round window (like a giant port hole approximately 8 feet in circumference). The highlight one evening was watching a school of dolphins swim and play just off the port side as we sailed between the Outer and Inner Hebrides and this was accompanied by a family of swallows, with their new born, just flying by the window and landing on the deck. In terms of food served we were generally satisfied apart from the Rock and Roll themed Menu which was generally pretty poor. Burgers served in the restaurant and the sort of stuff you would expect on a TGI Friday menu - but worse! Otherwise the meals and menu choice was pretty good and considering the price we paid for the cruise - it was exceptional value. Others with far reaching expectations probably would not be satisfied and we did hear crumbles. My only negative about the restaurant were: Breakfast - many passengers would come up from the main restaurant and so we had to queue and could not use our own table. The maitre d walked through the restaurant and was not really hands on to problems. The waiters served tea/coffee as the desert was delivered and therefore it was cold and the tea/coffee was served from pots that unless they were fresh, were generally only lukewarm. There was just so much wastage. We ended up asking for fresh hot boiling water and adding a tea bag - which really was the only way to get a decent cup of tea that was hot and even then the waiters would fetch or use a lukewarm pot, so you had to continually ask for 'Hot Boiling Water', which the waiters were generally reluctant to go to galley for. My mother had cause to complain about an Indian waiter (we won't say his name). On several occasions he was seen picking his nose in full view of everyone in the restaurant and we raised this with the maitre d who promised to take action. Needless to say the waiter carried on and failed to wash/clean his hands and serve food! Fred Olsen seemed to take precautions in providing anti bacteria hand cleaners at the restaurant entrances. This was not supervised and as well as waiters, other passengers would nonchalantly just walk past them. Its no wonder norovirus spreads and its these folks who probably carry the infections. We visited the main restaurant on one occassion and were so glad we were not allocated to dine in there. The dining room is crammed tight and Lunch is self service and is just like a bun fight! The sun deck was vastly improved, with two swimming pools and two hot tubs. The swimming pools were heated, but the water was dirty. We came out with rashes. The pool water was only changed once in 9 days. We enjoyed the sailway parties from Dublin and Belfast under clear blue skies. Dancing to a live band at the rear of the ship. If you want a seat, you need to get there around 45 minutes - 30 at the latest. We have to knock the pushiness of the waiting staff at the sailaway party! They were obviously under orders. as soon as you appeared it was like being greeted by timeshare touts and if we said no twice we said it over twenty times! This ruined the ambiance of the sailaway. Yes we do like a drink, but to be in your face every 30 seconds is well over the top and Fred Olsen should review the clients experience at a sailaway. It ruined it for us. On a more positive note, I liked some of the change on board the ship that Fred Olsen have made. The Observation lounge/bar, just under the bridge. This was previously a gymnasium. It was nice for a pre or after dinner drink. Entertainment on board was limited and the dance group performed pretty much repetitive boring routines that are very dated. That aside, the singers and the bands were pretty good with entertaining shows. The highlight was the crew show and some very talented individuals,e specially the waiter who performed a comic sketch as a ventriloquist! So why waste a budget when you have the talent in house! This is how the good old days of cruising use to operate with talented crew performing and keeping the passengers entertained! Now for the real moan of the cruise. The port lecture was the worst we have ever been to. Despite the lounge being full, the presenter was so full of himself and what he had done and where he had been. He did not know the times the ship was in port - saying he would have to check and his port information was pathetic. You may as well picked up a map and studied it yourself. His voice was so boring he sent half the audience to sleep and many just got up and walked out. He would point out landmarks in the town and was quoted saying, I think that has moved! He pushed the ships tours and quoted for Belfast if you want to visit the Titanic Exhibition then unless you book the ships tour you probably wont get in! We took the complimentary shuttle bus to town and got a lift to the museum. We walked straight in and purchased tickets for the next tour! Three of us got in for £38 which was not even the cost of one on their sightseeing tour! Needless to say we did not book any ships tours as we found the presenter awful and uninspiring and full of useless information which he provided to fill his port lecture. Worst of all though, was the presentation was on a loop on the in cabin TV entertainment system. Fred Olsen need to closely look at this sector as it is affecting their on-board revenues and income potential and almost everyone we cam across on the cruise was of the same opinion. Our ports of call sailing from Dover was Dublin, with an overnight stop. There was a shuttle bus operating, but you had to pay Fred Olsen. Belfast Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands Invergordon in Scotland. The cruise also provided 4 days cruising at sea. For some reason Fred Olsen cancelled Holyhead. To us they missed out on probably one of the best ports of calls in a Round Britain Cruise. Whilst there is not much at Holyhead, the tour options are fantastic with fantastic scenery of the Snowdonia National Park mixed in with the historic Welsh Culture and their UNESCO world heritage Castles, which you can visit at Conwy, Caernarfon and Beaumaris on a day ashore. We had booked a private tour with Boutique Tours of North Wales and had to consequently cancel. Boutique Tours were pretty informative with their information and options. We had used them before on a previous cruise last year when we called at Liverpool. We were fortunate to come across him as a friend recommended him when they cruised into Liverpool. They have a lovely Mercedes Viano, which is a nice spacious and comfortable vehicle. One bit of advice, they only have the one vehicle and you have to book early to take advantage of their services. Although the itinerary was not a great one, the mixture of cruise days at sea and ports was well balanced. Our only real negative was Fred Olsen had cancelled the port of call to Holyhead in North Wales before the cruise operated and there was no reason provided. So despite not visiting Holyhead, the weather on our cruise was outstanding and we had sea conditions that resembled cruising the Greek Aegean Seas - beautiful blue calm waters with a smooth ripple and wake from our ship cruising at a very relaxed rate of knots. To finish with, we have to say that value for money this was a really enjoyable cruise and just let down on the few areas that we have highlighted. We found that the majority of passengers had booked via a heavily discounted late offer from just £299 and many of the dining experiences we encountered, guests were asking what you paid and this became a very sensitive subject and one or two became annoyed as the conversations progressed with people gloating over what they paid and taking pleasure out of upsetting other folk. We just did not enter the conversation as we said it was a present from our mother who was travelling with us and we said it would be rude to ask her what she paid! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
I was lucky to win this cruise in the magazine Cruise International. I was aware beforehand not to expect any facilities for children but still decided to take my daughter and, almost 3 year old, granddaughter. I had problems getting a ... Read More
I was lucky to win this cruise in the magazine Cruise International. I was aware beforehand not to expect any facilities for children but still decided to take my daughter and, almost 3 year old, granddaughter. I had problems getting a cabin and then its suitability. Please go to the end of the review if you are interested in the details. Leaving from Dover we were able to hop on a high speed train from St Pancras and use Fred Olsen's shuttle service to get to the dock. Checking in and boarding through security was tedious and took about an hour and a half. We were unfortunate in the weather, at least at the start of the cruise, as we were sailing into a deep depression forming in the Bay of Biscay. So for the first day and a half it was dull, rainy, windy and rough. Tough for all the family. The cabin was bigger than we expected and well furnished. As were the public rooms and the rest of the ship. Plenty of wooden deck space for walking and jogging and a large pool deck with Jacuzzis. Mostly deserted during the cruise my daughter and granddaughter enjoyed both on the slightly warmer days. We avoided the main dining room on the formal nights as I had neither dinner jacket or dark suit and found the designation old fashioned and frankly silly. Although many passengers were happy to accept the code. We also found it easier some nights to use the buffet so that my granddaughter could get a plate of food she found acceptable. I was disappointed that no effort was made by the dining room staff to help in providing suitable food or generally bring her something she could cope with. We even had to ask for a suitable glass for water instead of the large, slim stemmed glasses provided. I can understand why Fred Olsen might not feel the need to provide children's' facilities on the Braemar but the dining room could, and should, have done better. The food itself varied from OK to some good courses and the general service was only adequate (worse that any of my previous cruises). I should tell you here that all the staff on board were very friendly and it wasn't long before it seemed that they were all greeting my granddaughter by name. The other public rooms were all well appointed and comfortable but got a bit crowded on 'at sea' days due to the weather. We didn't visit the main show room but did go into the cabaret room on 3 nights to listen to an excellent 4 piece group called 4th Dimension. My granddaughter and 2 friends had a wonderful time on the dance floor which had very few other dancers. We arrived in La Pallice, a short free coach transfer into La Rochelle. The weather was dry and quite pleasant. The next two days would be the same until we reached A Coruna when it became cold and rainy. They have a new aquarium there which was great fun and well worth a visit. We also had lunch which was way better than you might expect at a tourist attraction. Worth trying even if you don't want to go to the aquarium. The small harbour - La Vieux Port - was very picturesque, as was the surrounding streets and buildings. Next day we were in Getxo for Bilbao. We didn't fancy the hour round trip into town so got out our bucket and spades and went to a beautiful broad beach 5 minutes walk from the ship. The next port of call, Aviles, was the best. It turns out that we were the first ever cruise line to dock at the new terminal right in the centre of town. As we approached up a narrow channel both sides were lined by people welcoming our arrival and more were at the quayside. We were next to the impressive new Centro Cultural Internacional Oscar Niemeyer and then a short walk across an amazing bridge into the old town. We strolled through charming squares, cobbled streets and a lovely park ending up in a pavement cafe in the Plaza de Espana drinking a cafe solo. And at our departure the crowds waving goodbye were huge. Lots of waving and sounding of the ship's horn. A Coruna was disappointing for us due to the cold, rainy weather so we weren't ashore for long. The weather on the trip back to Dover was cold, windy and overcast but the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel were fairly calm. Two highlights of this part of the voyage were the schools of Dolphins we saw on our penultimate evening and a very traditional afternoon tea served by white gloved staff in the Observatory bar with its large picture windows overlooking the bow. The tea was a very reasonable £6+. Overall the cruise was disappointing. The weather didn't help of course but I would rate the food and restaurant service as average, certainly worse than my previous cruises. The cabin was good (except for the particular problems below) and cabin service very good. Two bonuses were very few tannoy announcements and we weren't pestered by the photographers. The general atmosphere was old fashioned/traditional with quite a high average age for the passengers. If this suits you then you might enjoy the Braemar. [Finding a suitable cabin was difficult. My prize was an outside cabin which unfortunately could not accommodate an extra bed so it was either a case of upgrading for over £500 or going to an inside cabin and a bunk bed but still paying and extra £150. I chose the latter.] There were still 2 basic problems with the cabin. My granddaughter wasn't used to a bed yet and tended to roll off so we had to put one single bed against the wall and then push the other against it. And the ladder to access the upper berth was only designed to be used at the side of the bunk so any double bed configuration meant that I had to use the ladder at the end of the bunk where it was not safely secured. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2011
The itinerary for this cruise to Spitzbergen was excellent. Being quite a small ship (some 900 passengers) we were able to sail between the Norwegian coast and the many coastal islands. Much of the area is almost deserted and the views ... Read More
The itinerary for this cruise to Spitzbergen was excellent. Being quite a small ship (some 900 passengers) we were able to sail between the Norwegian coast and the many coastal islands. Much of the area is almost deserted and the views were terrific for much of the journey, including a memorable visit up Trollfiord, where we seemed to just squeeze through. Svalbard was magical but we were only able to make one stop (at the tiny scientific settlement of Ny Alesund)as the fiord entrance to our second one (Longyearbyen) was blocked by sea-ice due, apparently, to a particular set of climatic and wind conditions. The weather was reasonably kind; mostly dry with 5 degree C temperatures and moderate winds. The other ports of call in Norway, including Bodoe, Lifoten Islands (a welcome but unexplained last minute addition to the itinerary), Honningswag (for North Cape),Tromso and Bergen were all very attractive. We were pleased that in all cases the ship was moored close to the centres of the towns and, as not particularly agile OAP's we were mostly able to walk round the ports. We rented a car at Bodoe (cheaper for 4 than the tours) and took short but interesting tour at Bergen; otherwise we strolled around. The service on board was efficient and mostly cheerful and friendly. The reception desk was sometimes not very good; there seemed to be a problem with understanding English for anything but the routine questions. The food was mostly good and occasionally excellent. Wines at £13 a bottle and up were cheaper than on many other cruises. The evening song and dance shows were severely limited in scope by the facilities. My wife liked the Fourth Dimension trio who performed most evenings in the Coral Lounge, although I found them over amplified. The comedian was worth seeing both his shows; old fashioned material but not rude and quite funny. We can get bored on 'days at sea' and there were 6 or 7 of these. One of the themes of the cruise was Bridge, and as very modest players we found this excellent. On all days at sea, there was an hours lesson in the morning (one for intermediates and one for beginners) and then about 3 hours of duplicate play in the afternoons. All this was run most efficiently and in a very friendly manner and was an unexpected bonus on the holiday. There were also some port lectures (quite good) and other general lectures (Concorde, Bletchley Park etc) which were reportedly good.There were some shortcomings. Our cabin (3051) was rather small, and particularly short of drawer space. We managed, but I would not wish to make a long trip (4 weeks or more) in it. The airconditioning did not work at first, but was repaired fairly quickly (change of controller required) when reported. Our friends in the next cabin also had similar trouble, which took longer to fix. Also, quite often, one of the 4 elevators was not working for short periods. Do they do any preventative maintenance? At these high latitudes, satellite services (television and Internet) suffer badly. I was frustrated by the frequent reference in the Daily Times to 'occasional poor reception' when there was absolutely none for most of the trip. I found that information on location, weather prospects etc. was poor. There were screens dotted around the main deck purporting to show location but their scale was such as to make the information indecipherable. Weather reports seemed to consist of out of date notices telling us what the actual conditions were the day before, with no hint of any forecasting; important in those climes. The captains daily report at noon was OK if you didn't miss it; it wasn't repeated. Overall, a lovely, interesting trip, but the ship could be better run. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2010
We have previously cruised on the very big RCI ships. We fancied a quick summer getaway cruise to get some sun, so booked a late deal with FO. Embarkation at Dover was very slick,easy and friendly. As we got on board we found the ... Read More
We have previously cruised on the very big RCI ships. We fancied a quick summer getaway cruise to get some sun, so booked a late deal with FO. Embarkation at Dover was very slick,easy and friendly. As we got on board we found the ship much much smaller than we are used to, but clean and nicely kitted out. Our inside cabin was small and set out as two single beds, we asked our attendant to convert to a double and she did this within half an hour. Although small, it was clean and we had everything we needed including tea and coffee making facilities. The cabin did creak at night in the rough weather which was a bit disconcerting and kept us awake. The ship was quite unstable in the rough weather we encountered. The thing that struck us the most was the age of the other passengers; probably 80% were over 65, quite a few singles travelling alone. We did feel sorry for the younger couples on board with children. Seating aroung the ship was generally occupied with sleeping elderly. However, we were there to have good time, so we made the best of it. The food was excellent. You could have 5 courses if you wanted, the portions were just right, not too excessive, and great variety every day. We could not fault the food. The waiter service was not as polished as RCI but they did try hard. Drinks were very reasonably priced all round and we appreciated the absence of the dreaded service charge. We were able to tip as we saw fit and that was a bonus. Unfortunately, we were struck with bad weather. Our first port of call was Fowey, which we were looking forward to visiting, but it was closed. We headed for Porto, we hoped we would get there sooner but the captain went slower to get there at the scheduled time, so we had an extra sea day with not much to do. When I say not much, it was so not much. Extra activities were scheduled but did not appeal to the younger passenger. The weather did improve slightly later on but was so disappointing for August, they had better at home, but this was not FO's fault. Entertainment was generally very good and we enjoyed talks by Sir Bernard Ingham. The rest was not Hollywood, but Ok; we were getting used to the slower pace and our expectations were lowered. Have to say the staff overall were excellent - majority Phillipino. The cruise director seemed too young for his audience and out of his depth. All in all the bad weather made a huge difference to our enjoyment, there was not enough for younger(50's!)passengers but we can't deny that there's an obvious allegience to FO and the quiet and friendly atmosphere on board if that is what you want. If you want endless doing nothing and reading, this is for you. For us, if we had known the age range of the passengers we would not have booked. Would we go with FO again? On reflection, maybe (later on!) In the meatime we have booked our next trip with RCI. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2010
First of all, I must reiterate what many folks have mentioned in regards to the crew onboard the Braemar who were all very friendly. I must say in addition that all of the folks from Fred Olsen with whom I was in contact with on the ... Read More
First of all, I must reiterate what many folks have mentioned in regards to the crew onboard the Braemar who were all very friendly. I must say in addition that all of the folks from Fred Olsen with whom I was in contact with on the telephone or via email prior to our cruise were also tremendously helpful, professional and friendly. I sure hope that the powers-that-be from Fred Olsen Cruise Lines read this review and see that all persons involved receive the promotion or recognition that they so deserve. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived to the cruise terminal in Dover around 12:30 p.m, and were allowed to start in line for the embarkation process very shortly upon arrival. There was also a nice little snack bar area and tables where you could get a bite to eat and a beverage. Once we completed the initial embarkation process, we went on into the waiting area of the terminal for boarding. Our numbers for boarding were called right around 2:00 in the afternoon. We got to our cabin, and our luggage had already arrived. We found our cabin to be very clean and average size as far as cruise cabins are concerned. Jeneth was our cabin steward, and she did an amazing job keeping things so clean and inviting. Our bottle of wine which I had previously ordered was waiting for us upon arrival. Meals were fabulous. We had the first dinner seating, and thoroughly enjoyed our dear sweet table mates Jane and Ted. I really can't complain one iota about the quality of the meals,either. I felt like the portions were reasonable, particularly if you wanted to be able to enjoy all five courses and not feel miserable after doing so. I also felt like there was a nice variation of different foods offered which would appeal to every taste. The entertainers onboard the Braemar have a lot of talent. The singers and dancers all did a nice selection of shows including showtunes, pop, oldies, big band. There are some great musicians on that ship! The comedians onboard were also hilarious. My husband and I still catch ourselves repeating some of their lines for a little extra chuckle. The ports of call were actually what drew our interest to this particular cruise. I will go into more detail as to what we did in each port down below. If I have to criticize anything on this cruise, the tendering service was one thing that seemed to disappoint a number of folks and consequently receive a bit of complaints. There were only two ports where we had to tender, and we were fortunate to be able to get off on the earlier tenders to shore both times. However, they probably would have benefited from running more tenders two and from shore. We, as well as many other folks, ended up having to wait a good while in line to get back to the ship. We also heard a number of folks complaining that they were not able to tender to shore until about noon in one or both of the ports, and therefore unfortunately did not have a better part of the scheduled time in the port of call. We enjoyed the afternoon tea time. Since we yanks are not normally accustomed to that nice little time-out period during the day that the British routinely enjoy, it was a nice little treat to relax with some tea or coffee and delicious little sandwiches or sweet cakes. We did not pay the extra fare for the white-glove service -- maybe another time. One thing that we had to get used to on this particular cruise was that not being a EU citizen, we had to surrender our passports to the reception desk just about every evening before arriving in the next port of call. The folks at reception were very patient with us, and were very understanding of our lack of comfort with this particular policy. We eventually got used to it, though, and it certainly did not hamper our ability to have a good time. Read Less
Braemar Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 3.8
Dining 4.0 4.3
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 5.0 4.0
Fitness Recreation 5.0 3.7
Family 2.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 5.0 3.5
Enrichment 3.0 3.3
Service 4.0 4.4
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 3.8

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