5 Fred. Olsen Braemar France Cruise Reviews

Our first cruise with Fred Olsen for many years, the last was in 2006 (Boudicca) and before that 2004 (Black Prince), we enjoyed travelling on Braemar. The ship has a compact cosy feel about it and if like us you regard a cruise as a means ... Read More
Our first cruise with Fred Olsen for many years, the last was in 2006 (Boudicca) and before that 2004 (Black Prince), we enjoyed travelling on Braemar. The ship has a compact cosy feel about it and if like us you regard a cruise as a means of transport rather than a vacation in itself then we found it a pleasurable experience and recommendable. As for the cruise experience itself, we hardly spoke to other passengers and nobody made any effort to speak with us to start the ball rolling, so cannot comment on whether most people were friendly. Some people have what it takes to launch into conversation with total strangers only to create the impression within minutes of having known one another for years, we don't. Perhaps it's that we appear younger than we are, or as I joked with my wife maybe we were thought to be newly-weds so best left well alone! Anyway, after our experience in 2006 of sharing a table in the restaurant, we opted for sitting by ourselves and doing our own thing. The crew, apart from a few waiters in whom we detected facetiousness, were charming, friendly and obliging. A special mention well-deserved for the excellent service to the staff in the Observatory who made our customised Afternoon Teas extremely enjoyable. Unlike previous cruises, we weren't inspired to attend any of the shows, instead after second-sitting evening meal in the Grampian restaurant we retired to our cabin; early to bed early to rise maketh man healthy, wealthy and slim! As discerning vegetarians, our dietary requirements are specific and Braemar catered for us adequately, no complaints there. Otherwise, the bottled water we found unpalatable and at £1.50 a bottle a rip-off. Since we don't mix with others on a daily basis, it was a real eye-opener just how many people start their day with a cup of coffee and continuing drinking stimulants thereafter; still, no accounting for taste, different people and all that. My wife had a massage in the spa which she found thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing. I relaxed by going to the gym a few times for weightlifting. Of the 4 tours we'd pre-booked, one was cancelled. We went on tours in La Rochelle and Isle de Re, Briere National Park & Guerande, and in Rouen. For reasons that I won't go into, the French-speaking guide for Guerande took up my wife's suggestion the tour make a detour to visit the salt marshes which from the sound of some people in the coach was a real treat for the twitchers in the group. We chose the tours carefully by reading reviews, etc and were pleased they proved good value and stimulating, all guides making a real effort to impart information. Where Braemar went wrong for us was Norovirus. A few days before the end of the cruise, the captain announced an outbreak. We'd not experienced norovirus before and were unprepared for how it's tackled. Sanitising went into over-drive. It was on Boudicca that we'd first experienced having to rub sanitising fluid on our hands before entering a restaurant so it was no big deal to do that on Braemar, but there's a difference between the volume of liquid that one rubs on one's own hands for oneself, and the powerful lingering acrid putrid smell that pervades the corridors from a mass disinfectant. I guess it was left to us to find out more about norovirus if we wanted; all that the captain told us was to step up our use of the sanitising fluid and wash hands before eating, also that the self-service buffets at breakfast and lunch would become waiter service only. The Daily Times mentioned two symptoms, diarrhoea and vomiting, so I decided that whatever I was suffering was not norovirus and no need to say anything. Since I rarely get ill, my diagnosis based on a feeling of nausea (not sea-sickness) was a mild food poisoning from something I'd eaten off ship or possibly a bottle of water that I'd bought on board which tasted off when I opened it. I treated it with homoeopathy, reduced my food intake, kept away from the restaurant for evening meals, avoided public rooms wherever possible, and got plenty of sleep and rest. On the penultimate day of the cruise, I felt a sore throat in the making, hardly surprising given the stale air in our cabin (Deck 6), the fumes from the crew re-painting cabin doors nearby, carpet sealant, and the smell of diesel outside on deck. My wife's eyes were watering and feeling prickly. Having shaken off the worst before returning home, I am now, some 2 weeks later, almost getting over a dry cough and cold. What amazed us was just how protective Fred Olsen was of the crew at the expense of the passengers. Why weren't passengers offered face-masks and gloves? Why did we have to breathe fumes unnecessarily? Packing up and unloading the ship came over as a sorry affair and within hours of disembarkation at Dover, Braemar sailed to Harwich where it was deep cleansed and got ready to greet the new group of passengers embarking for the next cruise. Norovirus we have since discovered is rife and not only on cruise ships, but how Fred Olsen managed the situation did not impress us. Not knowing the procedure I assumed Fred Olsen would alert the authorities, but to be on the safe side I did too. The several organisations I contacted were all very helpful and forwarding my email to the right department. I received a reply from a Food and Health and Safety adviser at Tendring District Council who said they take outbreaks on board very seriously and do everything they can to assist the ship. It wasn’t that I thought Fred Olsen would have hushed anything up, but I wanted to notify the authorities that we weren’t impressed with the standard of cleanliness of some of the glassware, cutlery and plates given to us, with grubbiness and fingermarks galore. Also, it concerned me that whereas some foods were covered up, most weren't, particularly bread. Of all the foodstuffs on display, bread has probably been handled and touched by any number of people before it reaches your hands. We heard others say their holiday had been ruined. It didn't ruin our holiday, we achieved our objective, namely to revisit France, but Fred Olsen spoiled their cruise, reminding us too just how challenging it can be to share travelling arrangements with old people. Since we were in good health before the holiday, having to remedy ourselves as a consequence of a virus on a cruise ship is not my idea of fun. I've read that regular cruisers are philosophic about norovirus but a cruise ship is not an experience we want to repeat. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
My friend and I had received letters advising us that Braemar was arriving straight from Hamburg following a refit and that we should adhere to our check-in times (4.30 for me, 6pm for her) as she would not arrive until mid afternoon. As ... Read More
My friend and I had received letters advising us that Braemar was arriving straight from Hamburg following a refit and that we should adhere to our check-in times (4.30 for me, 6pm for her) as she would not arrive until mid afternoon. As we watched her arrive early at noon, we decided that she may start boarding earlier and so set off for the ferry at about 1.30, arriving at the Ocean Terminal at 2.15. Check in was swift but then we had a long wait of about 2 hours before finally being invited to go through security. Knowing how sensitive the security scanners are at Ocean, I was dreading having to take my boots off but thankfully the woman there suggested I try and go through the scanner and see if my boots set it off, in which case I would have to return, take them off and go through again – they didn’t! We finally got on board about 5.30 and set off to our cabins – mine on deck 6, my friend's on deck 2. I had a superior twin for sole occupancy, with obstructed view and best of all – no single supplement! It was a nice welcoming cabin with bed, sofa bed, very large window (with tender outside), twin wardrobe with safe in one half, three drawers and the smallest bedside tables I have ever seen! There was excellent storage in the bathroom with a corner mirrored cupboard and shelf under the basin. The large flat-screen TV was interactive and mounted on an adjustable arm. There was a hairdryer mounted by the dressing table and a tray with tea and coffee making facilities. Caryll’s cabin was not so nice, although it had all the same facilities. It was in the middle section of the stretched ship and had better wardrobe space and coded safe unlike mine which was opened with a key, but required a card to activate the lights etc. The trouble was that there were acres of empty space where they had just taken a bed away to make it a single cabin. Our luggage was there so we unpacked, changed and explored the ship before muster drill at 7.15pm. Dinner had been changed to an open sitting that night, with the restaurant closed while muster drill took place. My muster station was in the Coral Club and it was nice to sit with a drink while it took place! Finally, with all aboard, Braemar set sail as we settled down to dinner in the Thistle Restaurant. We had a table for four on this occasion, with a brother and sister (on her first cruise). After dinner we did a quiz in the Morning Light Pub but didn’t stay up too late as I wanted to be out on deck for the sail up the river Seine the following morning. After breakfast in the Palms Café, I went out to stand on Marquee Deck to watch the river transit. Unfortunately the weather was grey, damp and misty although you could see patches of blue sky above the cloud layer. People ashore and on the ferries waved at us as we sailed past, a few sounding their horns at the ship or stopping to take a photo of us. There were hedgerows and trees laden with mistletoe, half-timbered tumbledown barns and cottages, small towns and ruined abbeys and castles. As we neared the industrial outskirts of Rouen, Braemar was spun 180 degrees and reversed to her berth on the seaward side of the new lifting bridge. Our tour to Honfleur was leaving at 2.15 so we had lunch in the Palms Café before going down to the show lounge to get our tour stickers. It was not long before we were asked to go down to the coaches. Unfortunately it was one of the high-level coaches – great views but very steep stairs and excruciatingly limited legroom, at least on the nearside. I have visited Honfleur once before and loved it so I was happy to return. We followed our guide round from the Salt Warehouse and through the medieval street as far as the church and then had an hour of free time to return to the harbour and take photos of the pretty shops. Unlike my last visit, early in the day with blue skies, this time we were able to watch the sun slowly set over the harbour – a beautiful scene. I bought a bottle of Calvados with raspberries and we explored the shops and streets north of the harbour. It was dark when we set off to return to the coach for the hour and a quarter drive back to Rouen and Braemar. It was our only formal night that evening – a shame since many people were ashore in Paris. In view of this, in lieu of a Captain’s welcome party, free drinks were available in any of the bars for half an hour before our respective dinner sittings. That night we were back to set table dining and we were taken to table 52 – for 8, right at the stern with a view of the wake – perfect (even though we were in port on most of our evening). One of the nicest things about Braemar were the lovely passengers. There was a good mixed age range, which I wasn’t expecting from Fred!, but may have been because of the unusual itinerary. Whenever we sat to eat – open sitting breakfast or lunch, at dinner, we were all soon chatting like old friends, even in the bars. It was certainly a refreshing change from other ships where passengers tend to regard solo women with a degree of suspicion!! After a good night’s sleep (FO beds are wonderful!), it was time to have breakfast and explore Rouen. Once again, we had both been here before but felt the town deserved a further visit. FO operate a slightly complicated shuttle bus system. We first had to get a shuttle pass from reception – these were free for those who had booked Freedom fares (us) or chargeable to those on cheaper fares. Once we had those (a different one for each of the two days we were there), we then had to go get a shuttle ticket from the tours desk once we were ready to depart. This worked exactly like a tender ticket and saved standing around on the quayside for the bus. The shuttle took about 10 minutes and dropped us off beside the river close to the famous Cathedral. We had intended to visit the Cathedral again and then head up towards the clock and explore the side streets off. In fact we came out through a different door in the church and spotted yet more intriguing narrow streets lined with the half-timbered medieval and 17th century houses which fill the central part of Rouen, so that was the way we started off. One street had several small shops selling the striking Faience pottery that is made in Rouen (not dissimilar from that made in the Breton town of Quimper). Nice as it was, the prices were too high to persuade us to take some home. In one of the shops the owner was moving a shelf to make room for some more pieces, when there was a horrible crash and some slid off it to the floor! Thanks goodness we were nowhere near. On the other hand, the home ware stores were filled with temptations, from the natural linen towels with red embroidery to the Christmas decorations filling the shops; pretty glassware with coloured bases to fabulous tapestry cushions with designs of liners and animals. After walking to the end of the old buildings, we headed back and sat with a coffee in a small square in front of the Church of St Maroc. Suitably restored we set off in the direction of our original plan. The pretty Christmas Market was just being set up in front of the Cathedral but would not open for another week. The shops in this direction were more common chain stores – C&A, Manfield, Bata etc. there was a small street market where we stopped to buy some Neufchatel cheese – a bargain at 1 euro 10 cents. The flower stall beside the renowned Gros Horlorge was so beautiful with bunches of Amaryllis in soft pink colours and glass bowls of moss and roses. Once we reached the Joan of Arc church we bought a pastry and found a seat by the Metro station to sit and eat. By then I was walked out so we headed back towards the shuttle stop, via a few shops of course. There was only a short wait before the bus came and took us back to the port. There was still a lot of work being done and a large quantity of glass panels was stashed at the stern ready to be installed – on deck?? The brown rattan deck furniture looked new and very stylish but I still do not like Fred Olsen sun beds – aluminium frame with white plastic strips. The games deck is right in the bow and is a great place to stand and watch a port arrival if not too windy or cold. In fact we stood there for sailaway for a while, until we neared the big grain mill and an ominous cloud started to waft our way. Back on board time was 4.45pm. Then started the announcements for four missing people! Then it was reduced to two missing people. As we were standing in the atrium we could see what was happening and hear the walkie talkies. It appeared that they called the missing couple on their mobiles and were told they were on their way. One youngish couple turned up in a taxi but there was no sign of the others. Just as we feared we might leave without them, they appeared at the far end of the security compound. The security officer sent someone to let them in and they walked up the gangway with no attempt at speed. We can only assume they looked at the sailing time rather than the all aboard time! We eventually left at 5.45, lifting off the berth and starting the six-hour transit back down the Seine. It was a calm crossing again and we arrived back in Southampton at about 6am. Disembarkation was by deck (luggage out by midnight) and we were off the ship at 8.30. All in all a delightful short break on a very attractive ship which restored my faith in Fred Olsen (although I still do not like Balmoral!). I would not hesitate to sail on her again, although maybe not for a long cruise as facilities and entertainment is limited.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
My partner were on our first cruise. The car parking and check-in at Dover were excellent; we were given clear directions to the car-park, porters took our luggage from the car and it next turned up outside our cabin. We had a forward ... Read More
My partner were on our first cruise. The car parking and check-in at Dover were excellent; we were given clear directions to the car-park, porters took our luggage from the car and it next turned up outside our cabin. We had a forward cabin on deck 4 (picture window, not portholes); comfortable beds, plenty of hanging space, a little short of drawer space. Decent size towels and changed as required; hand and shower wash toiletries supplied. Duvet covers changed daily. A full tea/coffee making tray provided. We had failed to noet that. although it is a UK ship, the electrics are continental 2 pin! Reception loaned us 2 adaptors for the trip, for a small returnable deposit. The structure of the cabin creaked and groaned a bit on the two nights when the sea was a bit rough but were excellently sound proofed The staff were all cheerful, polite and competent - dining-room, bar, reception and cabin. There are two sittings for dinner 6.15 and 8.15 pm with tables for 2,4,6, or 8. Choose time and number when you book. There are three restaurants where one can have breakfast and lunch but the menu is the same in each. The food was excellent with a wide selection; good food, nicely cooked and presented,,on hot plates and as good as you would eat in any up market holiday hotel. Drinks prices were on a par with UK bar/hotel prices, but we found that the £8 per person/day All Inclusive package represented good value and, even at the £10 it has gone up to it is still worth doing. A gin and tonic and a pint of draught bitter is about £8.60 and wine is around £4 a glass so spending your daily allowance involves normal holiday drinking and nothing excessive! There was an outbreak of noro-virus, almost as soon as we sailed. Strict health precautions were enforced which basically meant that whenever you entered or left a public room you were required to sanitise your hands with an alcohol based gel. People who got the virus were treated free by the ship's doctor and anyone who accepted the request to stay in their cabin for 48 hours was give a pro-rata 2 day refund on their fare.. There was a huge range of onboard activities including talks, demonstrations of art and craft, dancing, bridge, truly something for almost everyone.. We did not attend any of the evening entertainments but heard good reports of them from those who did. The shores excursions in Nantes, La Rochelle, and Bordeaux were excellent but seemed a bit pricy at £49 per person for a 1/2 day. There were about 8 excursions offered at each port and the full range can be seen on the Fred Olsen website. The arrangements of getting on and off the boat for these tours was poor, bordering on shambolic! Many passengers had a range of mobility issues which made them a bit slow, the gangways were steep and at one time there were 300 passengers who had got off tour buses, trying to get back on board via a one-way gangway with 300 passengers trying to get off and board the coaches! Disembarking and baggage collection were speedy enough and efficient. Overall, my idea of a good cruise, Braemar was full but did not seem to be (900+ passengers) and I was sufficiently impressed that I booked a cruise on the same boat for next year, while I was on-board! 5% discount too! Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
This was the maiden voyage down the Loire followed by a further river trip down the Garonne to Bordeaux. Someone came on board with the dreaded Norovirus which meant that on 4 of the 7 days cruise we were in lockdown which spoiled the ... Read More
This was the maiden voyage down the Loire followed by a further river trip down the Garonne to Bordeaux. Someone came on board with the dreaded Norovirus which meant that on 4 of the 7 days cruise we were in lockdown which spoiled the trip. No quibble with the captains decision, but the restrictions took most of the pleasure out of the cruise and the constant handwashing and antibac. 'squirters' resulted in a nasty dose of eczema of the hands. Recommend the tour of Green Venice in Bordeaux though, very serene and relaxing. Beware disembarkation at both Nantes and Bordeaux, very very steep gangway from level 5 to quayside due to local conditions/tides which created long delays getting both on and off the ship and would be very taxing to anyone with disabilities although help was on hand - heart conditions would be a bit worrying. Cannot comment on fitness facilities, gym was closed for most of the trip. Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
Right from the start this inaugural river cruise was beset with problems. From the second day we had the Norovirus which wiped out a lot of on-board activities and amenities including any self-service restaurant meals and closed all the ... Read More
Right from the start this inaugural river cruise was beset with problems. From the second day we had the Norovirus which wiped out a lot of on-board activities and amenities including any self-service restaurant meals and closed all the public toilets, so there was a lot of toing and froing back to the cabin. Our cabin was on the No. 2 deck and was just on the water-line along with the cabins of some of the crew. Given a choice I would rather not take a cruise again at such a low level and would rather book another ship. The cabin itself was looking rather worse for wear and I do wonder if it is usually used by the crew. Also we found the cabin cold and could not warm it up with the heating control. The ports of call were also problematic with Nantes being the worst. Our pre-booked city tour on a road train was a disaster as the commentary was French! The coach to take us back to the ship was over half an hour late and then there was the delay in getting back on the ship as the tide affected the gang way and it had to be fixed to another deck. Because of the delays we missed the Readers Offers cocktail party that we had invitations to. La Pallice (for La Rochelle) was just an industrial port and some distance from La Rochelle which was somewhere we have been and enjoyed several times before. The only problem here was the same as Nante - the only view was of the concrete dock side - so we would have been better off with an inside cabin at a cheaper price. Beautiful Bordeaux was slightly better as we did start of with having a view out of the port holes, but later on we sank again below the parapet! Again our vineyard excursion was a disappointment with thimble size tastings and nowhere to sit which certainly did not provide value for money. We did receive some compensation for the road train commentary, but overall the whole cruise was very shambolic and poor value for money. Surely as an inaugural River Cruise, you would have thought that all elements would have been out to impress and that everything had been checked and double-checked thoroughly. My next problem is that we have already booked River Cruise No. 2 to Germany next June also on the Braemar. I do hope that lessons have been learned and that the Germans are far better prepared. Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
Braemar Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabin 4.0 N/A
Dining 4.0 4.2
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 5.0 3.9
Fitness & Recreation 5.0 N/A
Family 2.0 3.7
Shore Excursions 5.0 N/A
Enrichment Activities 3.0 N/A
Service 4.0 4.4
Value for Money 4.0 N/A

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click