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14 Fred. Olsen Arctic Cruise Reviews

My partner booked this cruise for me as a last minute Xmas present to sea the Northern Lights, we could have flown but I have a naval background. Black Watch is a lovely ship in good condition for her age. We had Suite 7002 directly ... Read More
My partner booked this cruise for me as a last minute Xmas present to sea the Northern Lights, we could have flown but I have a naval background. Black Watch is a lovely ship in good condition for her age. We had Suite 7002 directly under the Navigation Bridge which if you do not like to feel movement is the last place you wish to accomodate when crossing the North Sea (I loved it but my partner not so much). The cruise to the Northern Lights was amazing, even with the embarkation and dis-embarkation problems, and the lights tour (which we booked independently) were fantastic. I would recommend this cruise My only problem with this cruise relates to a RIB tour in Alta where within 1 minute of leaving dock one of our Mercury engines exhibited problems and either had to be turned off, or was cutting out for large periods of time. Despite this the tour continued with the other RIB sporadically returning to ensure our safety. We were informed that this was a new problem to the engine that they had not known about but that they wished to complete the tour. Towards the end of the tour, rather than throw a line and tow us back to shore which you would normally do, the Officer in Charge informed us that they had to head back to prepare for the next tour (presumably using the RIB with the faulty engine). As we were at sea and the RIB had engine problems then in my view this was a breach of International Maritime Law Regulation 30 and a failure to comply with SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) requirements. However as it was not my tour, seas were calm, and we were informed this was a new "intermittent" engine problem I did not undermine the Officer in Charge nor did I mark the tour down on return as with any new problem at sea you have to give the Officer in Charge leeway in reaching their command decisions based on them having more knowledge of the ongoing incident than a guest. That said, on the following evening I was informed by another passenger that they had experienced the exact same problem at the previous port of call and RIB Tour. The problem was therefore not new, was more serious than indicated to guests and the tour should have been immediately cancelled as soon as the engine exhibited the recurring problem, really it should have been sea trialed before guests were embarked. Certainly in these circumstances the Officer in Charge should not have left the RIB at sea and returned to shore but should have thrown the RIB a line and escorted back to shore to ensure compliance with SOLAS. What is even more amazing was that once complaint was made the Chief Officer tried to suggest that I was just trying to get £40 back and stated that it was a different engine to last time, the other engine having been repaired and sea trialed. He also stated that at no time was the RIB without both engines working I find this totally unbelievable especially as he refused to let to let me see the maintenance/repair and sea trial logs or he RIB engine data. Onshore Fred Olsen have also refused to provide this information. That they are hiding this information strongly suggests that they are hiding malfeasance by Officers and breaches of Maritime Law, after all why would they not wish to share evidence that proves they were not lying to a disgruntled guest Apart from this DINING As a vegetarian with other dietary needs there are limitations to what can be ordered but both the chefs and stewards are very willing to work with you to ensure that every meal is enjoyable and as varied as possible SERVICE This cannot be faulted, as with all small ships the staff take the time to quickly know your needs and to try to fulfill those in advance on future days (or even hours in the bars and cafe library DECOR Black Watch is an older ship and some of the decor is tired but this in a funny sort of way adds to the whole atmosphere of the cruise ENTERTAINMENT Excellent not just from the Black Watch Crew but also the acts. If you see Brenda Collins down for your cruise then you know that you are in for some wonderful entertainment and comedy without the modern need to swear all of the time. The only downer was that due to previous complaints the pianists had to limit the level of their playing making it very hard to hear them properly further away from the instruments. GYM Yes we did use this and were very impressed with the spread and quantity of available equipment. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
FRED. OLSEN CRUISES BLACK WATCH - 14 Nights, Norway & The Arctic Ålesund, Trondheim, Tromsø (overnight), Alta (overnight), Kristiansund I am on a mission. After sailing on over 50 ships, 150+ cruises and crossings, I'm ... Read More
FRED. OLSEN CRUISES BLACK WATCH - 14 Nights, Norway & The Arctic Ålesund, Trondheim, Tromsø (overnight), Alta (overnight), Kristiansund I am on a mission. After sailing on over 50 ships, 150+ cruises and crossings, I'm looking for the uncommon out-of-the-ordinary experience with respect to the ship I sail on and where it goes. Price is relative and a key factor. I love small ship cruising. The reasons and justifications are obvious. A level of personal service and attention one garners; quality of the product including food, entertainment and on-board amenities far exceed those on today's giga-ships with 3,500+ other passengers. Packing for 15 days was a challenge. One 20kg suitcase for on-board wear, another 20kg suitcase for winter and Arctic gear! My Norwegian Air ticket from Miami to Gatwick included two checked bags so I was safe. It was the carry-on camera equipment and my backpack with computer and electronics (I work when I travel) that brought my total weight to about 60kg (132lbs) of baggage. Of course, I wore about half of what I packed. I love the Norwegian origins of this ship. The warm woods and artwork furnished throughout by the Olsen's. It's simplistic minimalism and distraction-less parallels that of an English manor and the most comfortable shoes you own. We dined in Glentanar's Orchid Room each night for the exception of one night out while on tour and one night in "Black Watch's" optional dining venue: "The Black Watch Room - The Grill". Menu's in Glentanar were varied, creative, exceptionally presented, plated and hot, a rarity among many cruise lines today. Our nightly wait staff Jon and Elvis were on their toes setting the stage each evening with diligent, prompt service and attention to detail learning quickly how many twists of the pepper mill we preferred, who drank what, and how we took our coffee (more on the coffee later.) I opted for tours in each port. While I had been to Tromsø and Trondheim on previous cruises, I wanted to expand my horizons by visiting previously undocumented key points of interest for myself and my book. This would also be my first winter visit. Snow would be the game changer and a new element and facet on this adventure. I was well prepared. ÅLESUND: We embarked on a tour through the city then over roadways learning about the significance of the furniture industry in the region. It's big business and employs many of the local residents with modern factories and shipping points. Our destination was Stranda Mountain which would require a fjord crossing on a ferry (a simple feat in Norway even on a coach.) The fjord from the mountain top is Geirangerfjord - one which I had sailed through en-route to Geiranger in 2019, Norway's most visited fjord with over a million visitors a year. The return back to the ship was equally impressive with a stop at Ålesund's infamous Aksla viewpoint, 441 steps up from the city-center where photos of the most recognizable images of Ålesund are captured. According to National Geographic, "Ålesund could be the backdrop for a Nordic fairy tale - with a modern plot twist." Most of the city of Ålesund was leveled by fire which occurred on 23 January 1904. It nearly destroyed the whole city centre, built mostly of wood like the majority of Norwegian towns at the time. The town was rebuilt in the then contemporary style of Jugendstil (Art Nouveau). Modern historians have concluded that the fire was actually positive in terms of city development. The pre-fire city centre was extremely crowded, consisting mostly of old and cramped wood housing with only rudimentary sanitary facilities (WIKI). Our second port, Trondheim, was a repeat visit for me and there was much to see. A tour to the war memorial museum (Forsvarsmuseet Rustkammeret) and adjacent Nidaros Cathedral built over the burial site of King Olav II c. 995-1030 were first on the list. Trondheim was the scene of a mass fire in 1681 which destroyed most of the city. The Germans also had a significant influence during WWII all of which was thoroughly disclosed in detail at the war memorial museum. Kristiansten Fortress was built after the city fire to protect the city against attack from the east (Sweden.) An overnight port call in Tromsø was next. Enter the Arctic Circle ! On a previous visit, I had taken the cable car to the top of the mountain (Storsteinen) - this time around wanting to photograph the vista with its snow was not going to happen. The peak was shrouded in clouds and it was snowing hard. At 1,381 feet (421 metres), the weather changes fast. Next time? Next time also for the Northern lights in Tromsø as our seven-hour trek towards Finland and back proved to be too overcast for any hope of an evening display. Others on tour found the lights thanks to some clouds that strategically dispersed and perhaps a more advanced navigator. Let's try for Alta? Day two Tromsø, the sun reached out and delivered glorious view of the sights and scenery. Our sailing time prevented me from another journey up the mountain so I wandered around town capturing images featuring the town's people, streets, the Edge hotel to the harbour just as the sun set - around 15:00. Following a day at sea we arrived for an overnight stay in Alta. 69.9689° N, 23.2716° E, part of Norway's Finnmark country with a population of less than 15,000, our most northern port and evidently the largest northern-most town in the world.Gliding through Alta-fjord or any fjord in wintertime is drastically different in winter. The landscape is pristine, evoking yet stark. Much of my photography is black and white and as you can see, it's the right choice in the case below. Previously I'd only sailed through Norway in springtime and summer - this journey was different. At first light upon arrival in Alta, my traveling partners and I ventured off ship to see the Northern Lights Cathedral (Borealis). I had to grab some shots of this architectural wonder. The sun was brilliant, the church priceless. ALTA would be our final opportunity to capture the Northern Lights. Long story short, we were transported to a camp about fifteen minutes from the ship. Tents, fires, hot chocolate, banana cake and the Northern Lights greeted us. Blink and you'll miss them since out of a point system of 1-10, we struck a 2. With camera and tripod in hand we captured and alas witnessed the organic beauty of the atmosphere dancing in the night. Thanks to "Black Watch's" Supper Club (late night buffet), we returned in time for some tasty bites including crispy chicken wings, pasta and of course, the pastries, biscuits, puddings and more. While the sausage rolls and hot chocolate were a nice touch back in Tromsø at 02:00, the hot buffet at 23:30 was sublime. Bedtime. Set to sail at 15:00 with the wind blowing and snow falling, I didn't have much time except to wander out and catch some shots of "Black Watch", I had spent the morning photographing her interiors which explains why many of the people in my photos are missing. They're on tour. Our sail-away in the snow was memorable as we headed south through the channels of Hurtigruten safe from the North Sea (for the most part) towards Kristiansund, our final port. Sea days are perhaps my favorite time spent on a ship. One can lose touch with reality particularity with the backdrop of Norway in winter. We would sail through these channels' past town and villages, some with less than 100 residents. Our Captain's home was one of these small village and sailing south, we glided closely past, for the second time, the Arctic marker on Vikingen Island; a monument posted on this tiny island indicating the precise location of the Arctic Circle. Our final port of Kristiansund was icing on the cake. The weather turned in our favour and a tour to the Atlantic Road and a 1,000-year-old church (Kvernes Stave) were on the agenda, neither of which disappointed. Water was the subject of the coach ride as a record setting high-tide flooded seaside barns and homes. With sunshine and the crisp clear Norwegian air, the church setting brought a sense of tranquility and serenity. The birds were chirping. You knew, at least I did, we were in the presence of a igher power greater than ourselves. It was one of those moments in life when replayed, life challenges and issues seem to vanish. A sunset departure from Kristiansund left me in awe and reignited. My second trip to the Arctic, forth cruise through Norway, the 56th ship I have sailed on, new-found friends and a complement of joyous, happy, and wonderful people particularly the exceptional staff and crew. Just a few of the memories etched in my mind and forthcoming book: "NORWAY, A Photographic Odyssey" representing the 14 ports and seven fjords I have sailed to and through experiencing the most spectacular sights one could imagine. It's why I love Norway and Fred. Olsen cruises. It's all about the journey. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
Was hoping to see the Northern Lights and we weren't disappointed. The embarkation at Liverpool was seamless. Our cabin was ready for us and within 30 minutes of arriving at the terminal to check in we were outside on the deck with a ... Read More
Was hoping to see the Northern Lights and we weren't disappointed. The embarkation at Liverpool was seamless. Our cabin was ready for us and within 30 minutes of arriving at the terminal to check in we were outside on the deck with a gin and tonic in hand. The trips through the Scottish islands were a real bonus both ways - plenty to look at as we cruised. The northern Norwegian islands were really stunning. We benefited from unusually calm seas (apart from one force 10 which saw us the last couple standing (apart from the crew) in the Observatory lounge). Some of the sunsets were almost unbelievable due to the arctic light and crossing the arctic circle whilst swimming in the well-heated pool was a particular highlight. We mostly travelled independently in the ports and it was easy to do so. The highlight was our 'Chasing the Northern Lights' tour. It was a 90 minute drive to get to our 'favoured' viewing point but once we were there, the lights put on a fantastic display. They were right overhead, there had been a solar burst and the night was clear. These conditions gave what our guide said was one of the top five northern light experiences he had ever seen. Truly awesome and something I will never forget. Read Less
Sail Date September 2019
Chose this cruise because of the itinerary . The fact that it sailed from Liverpool was an added bonus as we have always wanted to visit the city. We were not disappointed with our three night stay before boarding. Embarkation at the ... Read More
Chose this cruise because of the itinerary . The fact that it sailed from Liverpool was an added bonus as we have always wanted to visit the city. We were not disappointed with our three night stay before boarding. Embarkation at the cruise terminal was efficient and speedy. The car parking arrangements worked well. We had a balcony suite cabin and were very pleased with its size and the facilities. This cruise sailed within sight of land most of the time and the fact that we were in the land of the midnight sun meant we could enjoy many hours of sightseeing from the comfort of our balcony. The ship itself is small by today’s standards but we don’t need shopping malls or climbing walls. There were lots of shore days so there were plenty of opportunities to get off the ship and walk in the lovely Norwegian countryside. We were very impressed by the standard of food offered at all meals. The menus were varied and the food tasty and hot. The service was impeccable. The wines on offer were very well chosen and priced competitively. The entertainment was standard fare for cruise ships. The young entertainment team provided some jolly themed Beatles and Brit pop shows. My husband particularly enjoyed the ukulele lessons with Ivy on sea days. We have sailed with several of the leading cruise companies and we felt that our experience on Black Watch surpassed them in the quality of the food and fairness of price for wine and gratuities. We shared a table for 6 and our dining companions were great fun. All the staff we came in contact with spoke excellent English and indeed could share a joke with the passengers. We did not go on any of the ships tours preferring to use local buses and do our own thing for the most part. Very easy to do as Norwegians speak excellent English and were very helpful. We did use a local tour group called Blue Puffin to visit the North Cape and they were excellent. We enjoyed all the ports of call. Trondheim has an interesting folk museum just a short bus ride out of town. We enjoyed the cable car ride in Tromsø with spectacular views from the top. Leknes was pleasant but very small however the Viking museum at Borg was a taxi ride from the port and well worth a visit - with a lovely walk down to see the Viking long ship. The North Cape visitor centre was well done. The Alta museum with its World Heritage rock art centre has spectacular view from well laid out paths. Go early and catch the local bus which runs regularly and miss the crowds. Kristiansund was a bit disappointing . Very picturesque but not much of interest locally. Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
Interesting itinerary, including Norway, Svalbard and the Faroes. Black Watch is an old boat, but is comfortable. Other clients are self evidently fairly old, and mainly British. Being smaller, embarkation and disembarkation is ... Read More
Interesting itinerary, including Norway, Svalbard and the Faroes. Black Watch is an old boat, but is comfortable. Other clients are self evidently fairly old, and mainly British. Being smaller, embarkation and disembarkation is quick and efficient. We were impressed with the attention given to sanitation/handwashing, with regular reminders and lots of antiseptic liquid available. We enjoyed the varied, well prepared food. The ship has a number of black tie dinners, but didn't really differentiate the dining experiences on these nights, so I'm not really sure why they bother (and many guests weren't compliant with the dress code anyway). The entertainment was very good, especially the main dance troupe. The crew are exceptionally friendly, and service was always excellent. We travelled with a walking group so did not go on any FO excursions - however these looked interesting and at a reasonable price. The reason why we have downrated this cruise is solely because of our neighbours smoking on the balcony adjacent to us (see below). Unfortunately, this means we will not book with Fred Olsen again until they change their smoking policy. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
We selected the cruise because the itinerary met our requirements, and the cruise did meet our expectations in this respect, although a storm kept us out of the scheduled first port of call. Cabin very good, as were the staff on board. ... Read More
We selected the cruise because the itinerary met our requirements, and the cruise did meet our expectations in this respect, although a storm kept us out of the scheduled first port of call. Cabin very good, as were the staff on board. Food in general good, although very bland, probably to cater for the majority of guests on board. It did feel that this was an Old Folks Home on holiday, average age of guests must have been nearly 80, with too many needing walking aids just to get around the ship - some never to leave the ship in port of call! Goodness knows what would have happened in an emergency evacuation. Ship very much showing its age in spite of a recent refit. Didn't like the set meal times, and set table for the duration, much prefer an open table and time seating option. Fortunately we got on OK with our other table guests, but 16 days dining with the same people, we would not do this at home! Didn't likr the Fred Olsen charged extra for everything, from a cup of coffee, soft drink, water,change to a different restaurant, thats extra please! We had the drinks package on offer, very limited, a gin made in Spain, a whisky of unknown origin as were the other spirits on offer. If you want something different, thats extra please! Won't be using FOCL again, we will go back to our other preferred cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
This was our 5th cruise on Boudicca. She is our favourite ship of the 4 we have sailed with over 8 cruises, 6 with Fred Olsen. After a disappointing experience 2 months previously on Columbus (Cruise and Maritime), we were excited to be ... Read More
This was our 5th cruise on Boudicca. She is our favourite ship of the 4 we have sailed with over 8 cruises, 6 with Fred Olsen. After a disappointing experience 2 months previously on Columbus (Cruise and Maritime), we were excited to be back on the 'fabulous Boudicca' as the Captain likes to call her i his daily briefing from the bridge, We were not disappointed - in fact, this cruise exceeded our expectations. There are very few cruises to Greenland at all, due the their very short summer. Fred did 2 this year, and we felt very privileged to be able to spend a day cruising through Prins Christainsund in lovely weather, whereas apparently the Black Watch had been unable to do so 3 weeks earlier due to the amount of ice still breaking away and clogging it up. The views of glaciers, mountains and icebergs were jaw-dropping, especially the icebergs! We did a complete circumnavigation of one estimated by the experts from the Bridge to be around 180m long and 70m high. A few days later we did an Ice Fjord tour organised by Fred, using small motor cruisers operated by locals, who took us up very close to some enormous and spectacular bergs. We were even able to reach out and touch one! The small towns of Qaqatoq and Tasilaq were both extremely interesting with small but very informative museums and attractive churches and brightly coloured houses. This is a fragile, sparsely ihabited country due to the Arctic climate. Two lecturers on board gave very interesting lectures on the ports and shore tours, and on the history and culture of the Inuit people. As has always been our experience, the food and service on Fred's ships is superb, and our fellow passengers friendly and interesting. We noticed a larger number of 'younger' passengers (in their 40s and 50s) and 3 children - it was a delight and a refreshing change to engage with them. I was also more impressed than on previous trips with the quality of the Boudicca Show Company, whose singing, arrangements and dance routines were impressive. Many thanks in particular to all the incredibly hardworking waiting staff in the dining rooms, for whom nothing is too much trouble, especially our waiter Jaydeep, also Vincent, Jeronimo, Alihandro and Roshan, the assistant maitre d'. IN fact, all the staff deserve far more than they get. Despite the long hours of often probably repetitive work, they always have a smile. We can't wait to go back on this lovely ship. Read Less
Sail Date August 2017
After seeing the fjords of Norway on a previous cruise, we wanted to go further afield and see the fjords of Greenland too! We had a suite on Deck 9. Departure from Liverpool a bit odd -- the building is temporary and I think they are ... Read More
After seeing the fjords of Norway on a previous cruise, we wanted to go further afield and see the fjords of Greenland too! We had a suite on Deck 9. Departure from Liverpool a bit odd -- the building is temporary and I think they are building a proper one soon. A bit delayed, but Fred not to blame for the triathalon and road closures. Gorgeous weather as we left. We would have really appreciated it if they had opened the pool and jacuzzis given that it was glorious weather, and seemed a shame not to watch Liverpool receding from the jacuzzi. Weather stayed glorious the whole trip. The Faroes was interesting, with lovely scenery as we left and a well-planned route so we could appreciate it. We had a nice coach trip, saw some typical villages, beaches, a wide selection of scenery from sounds and fjords to the tops of hills and wonderful panoramas. Reykjavik, Iceland we went on another coach trip, got to see lava fields and boiling mud, plus a viking museum. Very good coach tours at both ports, a nice wide range of scenery and good guides. There is a limit to how much you can see in just a day or an afternoon, but I felt they were well thought-out, and the guides were enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Greenland and Prince Christian Sound were absolutely amazing! The scenery at points was so stunning you felt you couldn't take anymore, and needed to go inside for a little lie down with the curtains closed! Good narration and lectures on the ship. Overall, absolutely stunning, things I will remember for many years. And on top of all that, we had a stunning display of northern lights one night (unusual for summer). We were very, very lucky with the weather, both terrestrial and solar! Port visits in Greenland were very good too, although facilities very limited since it is Greenland, we got to see real working ports and met some real people! Cabin was very nice. We went for formal dining and the food was really excellent. But best of all were the staff (waiters, cabin stewardess etc) who did a really marvelous job. A few niggles as regards opening the pools and keeping them open until the scheduled time, and lack of waiting staff near the pools (I don't think they thought so many people would be in the pool whilst we sailed around Greenland!). A fabulous cruise route, amazing scenery and if you are very lucky with the weather................... Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
Review of Cruise W1610 Black Watch: Arctic Adventure and Exploration July 17th- August 12th “Not again, even with discounts….” PART 1 THE REVIEW: This is at best a mixed reaction and review of a specialist cruise, which ... Read More
Review of Cruise W1610 Black Watch: Arctic Adventure and Exploration July 17th- August 12th “Not again, even with discounts….” PART 1 THE REVIEW: This is at best a mixed reaction and review of a specialist cruise, which was anticipated with great promise, but was compromised by a series of running flaws. Not many ships visit Greenland, certainly not with an itinerary that lasts just short of a full month, crosses the Arctic Circle and visits Norway, The North Cape, Spitsbergen, Iceland and Greenland. This means that the cost factors were comparatively high, and the ship was –at least initially- full to capacity. Things got off to a bad start after a drive to Tillbury found me and three suitcases (plus numerous other confused passengers besides) on a dockside with no ship in sight: in the event it was stuck at Dover so emergency coaches had to be quickly ordered as many hundreds of people began asking why they had not been informed of this so that they could have made their own arrangement to go directly to Dover. Fred Olsen’s explanation that it was simply not possible to contact everyone at short notice looked like a more than lame excuse when they had been sending passengers sms texts for some days reminding us all of arrival times, etc. No refreshments were provided for the journey and the coach driver- who could barely speak English- was completely flummoxed by the air-conditioning, which only worked intermittently. (“Oh my God, Oh my God” was all he was heard to utter.) Apparently a passenger’s plastic walking stick somewhere towards the coach’s rear began to melt! Fred Olsen’s Black Watch is by now clearly an ageing vessel and one desperately in need of a complete refit, severe updating, or putting out to pasture. The carpets were manifestly ancient and everywhere- corridors and public areas- covered with stains as if previous passengers and simple expired there (well maybe they had). The staff tried to cope with this on a more-or-less daily basis by soaking them thoroughly then aiming massive blower heaters on them (result: much noise plus humidity). My cabin (outside with view) was the size of a cramped prison cell with what seemed to be beds for four- all narrow and no more than 20” wide with two metal ones slung from the walls, presumably to accommodate a family, and reminiscent of primitive holiday conditions more suited to Butlins in the 50’s. The outside view was provided by two (I assume) original portholes bolted shut with rust all around on the outside. I asked for a change of room, for which I was fully prepared to pay additionally if necessary, but none was available and I was not informed of any subsequent vacancy although passengers did leave throughout the voyage. The walls were not well soundproofed and a noisy party next door allowed me to participate in most conversations, should I have chosen to, from a very short distance. (PS There is ALWAYS another cabin available; believe me I know this from friends who work in the business.) Here I must introduce another cautionary note: this cruise is adult only and attracts a comparatively aged group of guests. Indeed I think the average age was well over pension age, and to be amongst such a group was certainly a double shock; firstly in the realization that oneself is now probably perceived as an “older person” , but secondly as to how infirm many of the passengers are. Wheelchairs, walking frames and many with stick struggling in the public areas, particularly in rougher seas. I was unable amongst the 750 or so guests on board, to spot anyone under the age of 50: the downside of a combination of destination, price, length of voyage and ‘adults only’ appellation. (Just as I am completing this report I have spotted two who might just qualify not to compete in a senior tournament.) Food was reasonably good but on sea days always taken in very crowded conditions. Entertainment was of varying quality with an enthusiastic troop of young dancers who barely mixed with passengers, except when obliged to (on “Captains Cocktail Night”, etc.) a good trio, an excellent guest violinist and a very good pianist for the lounge areas. One thing I have noticed with Fred Olsen is that extras such as photography packages are increasingly “pushed” at guests, as are future cruises with added discounts and inducements. I suppose people fall for these ploys or else there would be much less activity of this sort, but it is a very unwelcome part of the Olsen cruise experience, in my opinion. Also, beware of hidden extras even with an all-inclusive package. I bought the drinks package @ £10 per day which in theory allows unlimited house spirits, wine and soft drinks. However, even though I presented my inclusive card to bar staff I was still charged for a Bloody Mary although the ingredients of tomato juice and vodka are part of the package. When I challenged this at the Guest Services counter a couple of days later this produced a dramatic encounter enjoyed by many staff and guests. The Bar Manager was called who explained that a Bloody Mary was a cocktail requiring expert preparation, hence the charge. When I explained that I had been making them for years by simply putting these ingredients together, I was repeatedly told, again and again, that it was classed by Olsen’s as “a cocktail”. When I said this should have been made clear by the bar staff and that I considered £8 excessive for 6 drops of Worcester sauce a guest listening nearby turned her prune-moon face at me and said “do be nice!” “That’s all very well madam,” I countered “but it is not your bill that’s been docked twenty four quid!” I was promised a complete refund and left the scene through a wave of clapping and supportive passengers. The departure from Greenland and the subsequent 3-4 days at sea was a terrific strain both on the inner resources of the ship and the passengers, many of who did not cope well with rocky sea conditions. Also, we steamed rapidly past the Faroe Isles, which seemed to me to be madness given that everyone was begging for a break from the lengthy sea days, and many would have given their eyeteeth for the chance to stretch their legs on dry land. From the reactions I canvassed from many guests, most thought well of the cruise and enjoyed much of the itinerary; although quite a few criticized the cost of many of the shore excursions which were all extras to the original cost (for example £90 for a guided 2 mile walk on one of the islands, easily accessible on your own from the ship, and therefore unguided and potentially cost free). I went for three reasons: Icelandic waterfalls, Greenland icebergs and to complete the draft of a novel. Frankly I was not too interested in local craftsmen weaving winter apparel from seal dung or whatever regional materials they use. So this made my reasons for travelling quite specific and probably unusual. But for those in general I noticed a measure of “British stiff-upper lip-ness” which I have to say I admired, but did not feel obliged to participate in. Cabin TVs looked like something out of “Crossroads” circa 1960s and performed about as well. Internet access was totally unreliable and very expensive, and I insisted of refunds of £41 and £13 respectively for connection to the server but thereafter NOT to the internet. If few other passengers complained then someone was making a lot of money out of this failed service. Much better to wait for a port day and connect to Wi-Fi in a local café for cost of a coffee (and very often entirely free.) In conclusion if you require dance lessons, craft and art classes (the art teacher’s own exhibition was a severe embarrassment to any half-competent watercolourist) basic lectures on ports of call, or geology, being sold overpriced jewelry and branded goods, expensive snaps of your trip et al, then this might be the one for you. But, I’m sorry to say, as I have travelled in the past with Olsen and have a soft spot for Fred Senior’s determination to continue with his pet loss-leader, this is not one for me, not again (even with 5% plus 4% plus 5% special offers off.) PART TWO: THE REPORT This part of the review has not yet been substantiated or commented on by The Fred Olsen Company. Currently I am waiting for confirmation that the following information is basically correct. I sent this directly to the M.D of Olsen who declined to respond or comment personally, and his Customer Service Dept. demanded 28 days to reply. I’m afraid, again, this is not good enough Messrs Olsen! The delay at the start of the cruise at Tilbury/Dover was due to a severe engine fire on a previous voyage, which had to be curtailed as a result. The marine authorities were not apparently satisfied with the quality of the repairs undertaken and requested that additional works be carried out. This meant The Black Watch was unable to sail to Tilbury due to a statutory entitlement for the crew to rest before setting out. It was fairly clear during our Arctic Adventure trip that problems with the engine(s) persisted. On our return from Greenland (three days non-stop at sea) in the mid-Atlantic and well over 24 hours from any safe haven, mechanical trouble seemingly struck again resulting in a severe loss of power. Speed reduced to approximately 8 knots, from 14 knots, and the ship began a series of circular manoeuveres transmitting a much greater degree of motion on board, sending many passengers to their cabins. This mechanical problem apparently manifest itself –at least as it was recounted to me- with a degree of panic on the bridge, and also seemed to affect the ships stabilizers which only appeared to operate spasmodically. A total engine failure in our position in the mid-Atlantic could have been a major calamity, and whilst it would clearly be unwise to transmit any kind of panic from crew to passengers, a blanket of silence is not a good solution either. In an era when transparency is a worthy goal to aim for, it seems that Fred Olsen have only managed to score one entirely of their own. 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Sail Date July 2016
Chose this cruise because the Newcastle port is near home. Awkward embarkation because you go through check-in in the terminal and, after security check, are then back outside catching a bus to the quayside. Getting off the bus, ... Read More
Chose this cruise because the Newcastle port is near home. Awkward embarkation because you go through check-in in the terminal and, after security check, are then back outside catching a bus to the quayside. Getting off the bus, there's a further walk to the ship. If it's raining, you'd get soaked just getting to the ship. The cruise itself was fine - nice ship - fairly small by today's standards, but that worked in its favour. Got to know lots of other passengers: mainly couples/singles over the age of 50. Reasonable entertainment (a couple of very good performers, especially singer/pianist Lisa Harman). The restaurants were excellent with very good choices on offer. The staff were very pleasant and helpful. Very pleasantly surprised by the premium outside cabin - bigger than expected with large-sized shower. The ports of call and excursions were good and not too expensive, except the whale watching trip costing £70 for seeing one small whale, which apparently is normal. The previous cruise on this ship had a norovirous outbreak but have to say everything was spotless and great emphasis was placed on personal hygiene with hand gel everywhere on this cruise. Would have cruised again on this ship and given it a 4-star rating had it not been for the following incident. The good feeling was spoilt by a ship's officer sneakily taking a photo, with a small digital camera, of me and another passenger having a treatment in the spa. We were never asked if we minded having our photo taken or anything like that - just stuck himself in the doorway of the spa and snapped the picture. On raising a complaint on board, the officer who took the photo dealt with the query! On returning home, I wrote to Fred Olsen and was surprised to receive the following response: "...it is company procedure for senior members of crew to photograph everyday activities taking place on board. This is then sent ashore to Head Office for senior management to review. It is a daily pictorial, controlled document that is only viewed by the most senior staff at Head Office. It is used to ascertain life on board, something which those of us shore side cannot experience day-to-day........Please be assured that the photographs are not made public in anyway [sic], they are stored securely at Head Office and deleted from the camera following the report being compiled." Surely those at Head Office can pay for a cruise if they wish to see what life on board is like. I find this behaviour/policy abhorrent/very unsavoury and don't know of any other cruise line that breaches passengers' right to privacy in such a cavalier manner. If Fred Olsen wishes to take photos of guests they should be completely open and honest about it and at least advertise the fact that they will do this in their brochures, so that passengers are fully aware of their policy prior to booking. If you don't mind having photos being taken of you without your knowledge or permission for faceless personnel to pore over [note FO didn't say what happens to the pictures after Head Office is finished with them - just that they are stored securely], then you could have a good cruise on this ship. If you do mind the sneaky picture-taking, try another cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
This is the 2nd Fred Olsen cruise for me 1st from Southampton and latest from Newcastle which is only a 2hr drive or less from my home town Doncaster. The ship Balmoral is fantastic, a Premier Suite cabin very very good, dining superb, ... Read More
This is the 2nd Fred Olsen cruise for me 1st from Southampton and latest from Newcastle which is only a 2hr drive or less from my home town Doncaster. The ship Balmoral is fantastic, a Premier Suite cabin very very good, dining superb, entertainment especially Lisa Harman who is an excellent pianist and superb singer/activities very good/ service with smiles from the waiters and excellent choice of food. Ports excellent,did 3 tours which were excellent. Yes I would and have booked a cruise for 2017 with Fred Olsen on the Balmoral. My husband & I cruised on the QE2 and I have cruised with Cunard alone twice and with my 98yr old Aunt (who was in a wheelchair) on the Balmoral in 2013, help was given at every stage. My last cruise from which I recently returned, I took my friend for whom it was the first time cruising and everything came up to expectations. I would highly recommend a cruise with Fred Olsen. Norma B. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
The cruise headed north to Alta in northern Norway seeking the Northern Lights and offering scenic cruising and port calls en route. Despite a few minor niggles the cruise was successful, enjoyable and generally well-run. The ... Read More
The cruise headed north to Alta in northern Norway seeking the Northern Lights and offering scenic cruising and port calls en route. Despite a few minor niggles the cruise was successful, enjoyable and generally well-run. The itinerary was suited to the nature of the cruise; the ports of call were appropriate and the scenic cruising in the fjords was magnificent. Embarkation was slow. We queued standing for almost an hour but once checked in we were on board without much further delay. I was part of a Mr Bridge party so spent much of my time on board at tutorials on bridge or playing the game. My attendance at other talks was limited but those I was able to attend were good. The Arctic weather limited deck games but I participated in a couple of quizzes and other activities which were generally well organised. Evening dining in the Ballindaloch restaurant was very good and a couple of evenings in the Palm Buffet were also good. Breakfast and lunches were also of a good standard; not much variety at breakfast but the lunch menus had good selections and the buffet food was better than on other cruises. Entertainment was varied and of variable standard but there was usually something to enjoy each evening. Daytime entertainment included quizzes, at which I failed miserably, and other activities which I did not have time to try. Talks on Norway were amusing and informative but the port lectures, as often, seemed to feature more on the excursions (many of which were already sold out) than any background to the ports themselves. Other lectures were available but I was not able to attend or not interested in them. Excursions were generally well organised and available at typical cruise prices. One excursion on which I participated left the ship late and was curtailed but my comments to the Excursions Manager resulted in a partial refund and apology, which I considered a reasonable response. Disembarkation was swift and efficient (I was amongst one of the first groups to leave) and the valet parking service was efficient. Overall a very good cruise which has left me happy to sail again with Fred Olsen when a solo cabin is available at a reasonable price. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
We sailed from Newcastle on 2nd August on Boudicca on what was to be a wonderful experience exploring the Arctic. Having sailed on Boudicca twice before, we knew that we would be happy with the ship and apart from the cabin being in ... Read More
We sailed from Newcastle on 2nd August on Boudicca on what was to be a wonderful experience exploring the Arctic. Having sailed on Boudicca twice before, we knew that we would be happy with the ship and apart from the cabin being in much need of a refurb, we were not disappointed. The crew on Boudicca are the most friendly we have ever encountered on our 30+ cruises and the food was excellent as always. The itinerary was wonderful., the highlight for us being our 3 ports of call in Greenland- Nanortalik, Narsak and Qaqortoq. Never having been close up and personal with glaciers and icebergs, we both marvelled at the sights we saw. Fortunately for us, the weather was pretty good and the sun shone at the rights times. I would thoroughly recommend an Arctic cruise to anyone who cruises for the scenery and wildlife. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
The ship was fantastic, small but very friendly as you got to know lots of people. The food the entertainment and all the staff were fantastic. This was my first cruise and I worried that there may not be enough to do.What a joke we ended ... Read More
The ship was fantastic, small but very friendly as you got to know lots of people. The food the entertainment and all the staff were fantastic. This was my first cruise and I worried that there may not be enough to do.What a joke we ended up running from deck to deck in order to do all the quizzes, table tennis and every thing else we wanted to do. The out door pool even though we were in the Arctic was 30 degrees so we swam nearly every day. The cabin was amazing but we did have a suite. Some of the information was incorrect. We were told we could get on the ship early due to our suite.We got to Dover early and that information is wrong you have to wait like every body else.We took priority disembarkation and this was excellent we got off the boat at least 2 hours before everybody else. The cruise was excellent except we never knew exactly where we were. The day sheet for all the on board entertainment was great but we needed one to tell us where we were passing and where we were. We took the drinks package. For me that was fine but for my sister it was a waste of money. Strongbow cider was included but Kopperberg cider which cost 5 pence more was excluded so she had to pay 50% of the price every time but she could drink rum and brandy until she fell over. Read the small print before you pay. DO NOT BOOK ANY TRIPS WITH THE CRUISE COMPANY. They are a total rip off. Example in Bergen a trip to the Funicular including price up and down £40. Distance from ship a slow 5 mins walk. Return trip £10 on the Funicular. Do the maths yourself. And this was a cheap trip most were at least £90 each and you did not get the right time off the ship and you had no time at the attraction. The Atlantic Road was fully booked up price £80 each. We got a taxi and did it alone for less than £50 for the 2 of us. The ship photos are good but expensive choose carefully but the video is great. All the services on the ship were amazing nothing was too much trouble. I would do another Fred Olsen Cruise but not book any trips. Research them before you go and do it yourself. Would recommend the Braemar to anyone it is a first class ship with a great crew and Captain. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
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