Overall a good cruise, but we will not be tempted to sail anywhere from Dover in the future! It's access and the lack of decent hotels and taxis in the area is an absolute nightmare. As we were travelling down by train the day before ... Read More
Overall a good cruise, but we will not be tempted to sail anywhere from Dover in the future! It's access and the lack of decent hotels and taxis in the area is an absolute nightmare. As we were travelling down by train the day before the cruise we wanted a hotel in Dover, and we booked a sea view room at the Best Western as it was the only way we could be assured that we would not have a trail of lorries outside our window all night. We did not have the lorries but we did have a cars wizzing along the promenade every few minutes (presumably to avoid the busy road to the rear of our hotel). The hotel was also very hot with no air conditioning, so we had to endure either the noise or the extreme heat, so I only got about 4 hours sleep.
Our express train to London on the return had people standing from Ashford as there were not enough seats. Also, we had to get a rail replacement bus between Dover and Folkestone and the only way we knew about that is because it was announced on Fred's website - our tickets gave times and journeys to/from Dover with no mention of a bus and different times! The replacement busses were chaotic, being overcrowded with no proper storage space for luggage and there were no directions from the station to the bus stop (and vice versa), yet the bus did not stop outside the station in Folkestone so was very difficult to find.
We got a taxi to the port and embarkation worked efficiently as we were prioritised as gold oceans members on freedom fare, so we were soon on board. We have travelled on this ship a number of times before and it is our favourite Fred ship. Luckily the seas were calm as this ship it is not very stable in rough seas, though we had booked a very central cabin in case of that. The staff were excellent as usual and it was good to be back on board what we always find to be a very happy ship, as the staff just continue to work hard and remain happy and pleasant at all times. I would like to particularly mention Somkhit, our cabin stewardess, who kept the cabin spotless and worked very hard throughout the cruise. I would also like to mention Chaider, from the Palms restaurant who is always working hard whenever we saw him on this and previous cruises, yet he always has a friendly smile and greeting for us. Unfortunately we could not book the Grampian for dinner this time, but we were well served in the main restaurant by the staff, many of whom we have met previously and they remembered us. Rommel runs a well organised restaurant service.
The public areas of this ship are well maintained and it has a lighter more airy feel than the other Fred Olsen ships as it is slightly more modern.
We had booked an inside cabin on deck 4 for this cruise, which I will review below though it was hotter than we would have liked most of the time. There were quizzes and other daytime activities, but we did not partake. We do not often go to the shows either, but we saw part of one by the comedian/magician (Aidan Murphy) on our cabin TV and were not impressed.
There was a pianist in the observation lounge and musician in the Morning Light Pub, yet the large seating space in the Bookmark cafe was eerily silent because the Rosario Trio who used to be there is sadly no longer present on this ship. They were always our favourite musicians on board so they were sadly missed by us. The young band, called ‘The Revolverlites’ who played in the Coral were extremely good and were happy for us to use that dancefloor for ‘disco’ style dancing whilst they were playing, so all venues were not taken over purely by the Ballroom dancers as often happens on Fred’s ships.
The hot food was disappointing this time, especially compared to what we have previously experienced on Fred’s ships, although the cold buffets for breakfast and lunch were still pretty good. We were on early sitting, but we wanted to eat later on two days because of port times and unfortunately those days were the ones when the Asian and Indian buffets were being served in the Palms restaurant. This meant we had to book ahead for the set time of 8.30pm to eat there rather than just go in as we wished. The food for those special buffets could only be described as bad – we have never had such poor offerings for Indian and Oriental food and it bore no resemblance to food we have eaten either in those countries, or in restaurants in the UK. The only saving grace was the papadoms and the sweets, (apart from the banana fritters which would have been better called Banana soggys).
We had taken the AI package this time which, despite the limitations, we found to be adequate for us. We thought the bar service may have been slow as the ship was very full for that cruise, but found it was quite promt, so were pleased about that. There were problems getting served in some areas out on deck, but we have found that to be the case on all Fred Olsen cruises.
This was a Maiden Port Mystery Cruise and we had booked because the ports were all maiden calls. I had done a lot of searching the internet and thought I had got all ports identified, but I only got two, which were Wismar and Fredericia. The only ship’s excursion we did was a seal watching boat trip from Lysekil and that was excellent. I got 'seeking seals' right but not the port! The set up was that the ports had always been referred to as "mystery port 1-6" and the trips were known as "mystery trip A to M". We were given a daily sheet as usual the night before, which gave "mystery port x" or a sea day. The trip departures and their meeting times were denoted as "mystery trip x". As we arrived in port, it was either the captain or the cruise director who announced the port name and usually the country, although we had to wait a bit longer for the country one day. The trips were still referred to as "mystery trip x" and we were not told we were looking for seals on our trip until they were sighted – a real mystery trip!
A sat nav used on the open decks to determine co ordinates before retiring to bed and a photocopy taken from our atlas of the area around Denmark was also useful from our point of view! I was fairly certain we were going to that area, given the 'clues' we had been given regarding number of countries, UNESCO sites, trip descriptions and Fred's brochures for the next two years showing ports to be visited subsequently. We were obviously heading for Sweden from Fredericia for the last port as we still needed our fourth country and we were going north. We also knew we were in port the next day, with the final day being a sea day
As the ports were all maiden calls for Fred and most were rarely, if at all done by other cruise companies, I will review each port here in detail:-
This was a bit of a a problem as Fred sent their shuttle busses to the centre of town, which was a shopping area, rather than the sea front which was the tourist area. We also we had no useful tourist information. The sea front area was very pleasant for people who could walk down the steep hill to the sea front and back up to the shuttle bus point as there were things of tourist interest and a couple of bars/restaurants there. There was also a view point and lovely woodland area nearer to the shuttle drop. When we returned to the town centre there was a band playing in the square, so we bought an ice cream from a kiosk and sat in the sun for a while. We enjoyed the port a lot once we found our way round - but we are able bodied, unlike many of Fred’s passengers. If the ship’s shuttle bus had stopped at the sea front and if we had been given good tourist information, I believe many people would have liked this port, but with the circumstances as they were, many people were not happy. It was also a couple of weeks prior to the main tourist season, so a number of tourist facilities were not open, though we liked that as it meant the town was quiet and peaceful.
The people of Hundested have to be given 10/10 for trying. They put on displays of Viking fighters and gave us a really good send off with singing, a cannon firing and lots of waving.
It was just a shame the facilities are not there to accommodate 800+ cruise passengers at one time. The small local shuttle bus was not easily accessible because there were too many people wanting to use it, and there were no taxis available in the town if you could not get on the shuttle bus. There was also a lack of good bars/cafes, (or even drinks kiosks), were they were needed, (particularly by Knud Rasmussen’s house). Ramussen was an explorer and we paid entrance to the house, but felt there was very little there for the price paid and what information boards were available were mainly in Danish. We had eventually been able to get the shuttle bus to there and after our visit, we walked on to Kikhavn, (an old fishing village), where one of the residents had kindly opened their garden to provide tea and cakes for the Braemar passengers with just a contribution box present. The walk was along a pleasant coastal path and indeed a few people had walked there from the cruise dock. Had we known facilities would have been so limited we would have taken a lot of water or other drinks/snacks with us, but we found our small bottles of water were not enough and there were not even any shops to buy drinks – even at Ramussens house, though there were toilets. Hence we spent much of the day feeling incredibly thirsty as it was a hot day.
The immediate port area was an old industrial location which had been developed with craft workshops, a micro brewery and a couple of restaurants. It was heaving with people, which was worse because it was a sunny Sunday with lots of Danish day trippers as well as our ship mates from Braemar. Hence we did not linger in that area. We were the first cruise ship to dock in the new cruise dock, so I expect things will improve in the future, but meanwhile the port is not really suitable for a ship full of cruise passengers – even a small one like Braemar. There was nothing in the town at all for tourists.
This was an exceptionally good port and in our opinion the best of the cruise. It was a beautiful historic town, with many characteristic buildings and also a lovely moat and lake that could easily be accessed from the town by walking through a tunnel under a grass mound by the castle. There was a path along the moat and also plenty of seats so we bought some food from a local shop and returned with a picnic lunch to this lovely area. We also had a couple of drinks in local cafes, all of which were very pleasant. The people in the city had really gone out of their way to make us welcome by opening attractions that are normally closed on the day we visited and letting us have free entry to them. There was a Castle, Water Tower and a really interesting museum. The normal entry charges to those places were not high, so even with payment I would suggest a visit to all or at least some of them would be worthwhile. A special program was printed for us with details of the city and the places I have mentioned. It also had details of walking tours of the city and/or the Castle which we could use if we wanted. Instead we chose to use the comprehensive walking guides which had been made available to us and just stroll around. So there were lots of things to do in the city and it was compact, so it was easy to relax and just enjoy that day, which we did immensely. The people in this city were also very friendly and helpful at all times and there was even free wifi by the tourist information office. I can see it becoming a very popular cruise port in the future, so it was nice to visit now before it gets over run.
This was quite a touristy, old, Hanseatic city, with a large central square and numerous historic buildings. It was busier and more touristy than Nyborg, but none the less it was a very pleasant place and we had an enjoyable day there. It was easy to pick up tourist information and we visited a couple of churches, which are the main tourist attractions. One old church, which was largely a shell, had a lift to the top of the tower, (which we accessed for a small fee), to get views of the city and the area around. One church had been demolished as the city was in East Germany before the wall came down, so funding had not been available to maintain and renovate it. Despite that recent history, the city as a whole was in very good condition and buildings well maintained now. We visited the ‘Alter Schwede’ bar/restaurant in the square, (which dated from a time when the city was Swedish), and it was impressive. We also went to the ‘Brauhaus am Lohberg zu Wismar’, which is a micro-brewery, not far from the port.
As we were due to sail out of the port we were serenaded by a local male choir, (I think with sea shanties), and then a display of soldiers in old costumes firing of a mini cannon.
This was a maiden call for Fred Olsen, but has been visited by some fairly large ships previously. Again a pleasant town, though more a mix of old and new. We followed the walking route we had been given of the town, which also involved walking along some of the grass mounds and along part of the moat which originally formed defences for the city. Hence it was again a chance to be in a city, yet enjoy some pleasant natural areas around. We climbed the White Water Tower for a small charge to get views around, then returned to the town for a drink before returning to the ship. This port was walkable from the ship, so no shuttles needed.
Another good send off with an even smaller miniature cannon being fired by soldiers in costume and lots of waving.
This was the port were we went on the excursion which had been billed as a ‘boat trip searching for curious marine mammals’. We were fairly sure it was seals as they are reputed to be curious, (about things), so we went armed with binoculars and a good camera. It was well worth having the binoculars as we got some really good detailed views of the seals. They would still have been visible by eye alone, but not in detail. The boat trip was very good indeed with small, picturesque, rocky islands all around and the captain gave a good commentary both as we were going and quietly when we were within view of the seals. After a quick lunch on board Braemar, we caught the shuttle bus into the town, which was a very pleasant, small town in a picturesque location.
Disembarkation was earlier than usual as the ship was then sailing on to Southampton to pick up passengers for the next cruise, so we had to vacate cabins by 7am. As we were so early and there were queues for taxis, we walked back into the town and had a second light breakfast in a café to the side of the Best Western Hotel, before strolling up through the town of Dover to the train station.
So overall the cruise was very good and we were pleased with the choice and variety of ports which included a selection of towns, but also quieter, scenic locations. The main reason we sail is for the ports and we do like this ship, so we will undoubtedly sail on her again. We just hope the disappointments, such as the food will regain some of it's previous quality. Read Less