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3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
The itinerary sounded interesting. Sadly, Norway was closed between Christmas and New Years! So nothing to see unless you bought a lot of tours. This was not mentioned when we signed up. The food and service were great. The ... Read More
The itinerary sounded interesting. Sadly, Norway was closed between Christmas and New Years! So nothing to see unless you bought a lot of tours. This was not mentioned when we signed up. The food and service were great. The entertainment was mediocre, usually provided by members of the ship's company. There was a very interesting lecturer from the air safety board but he was the only bright spot. The ship supposedly had recently had a major refit. However, many public areas were very cold and our suite was either too hot or too cold. There were very few public toilets (a distinct problem for the large number of older cruisers aboard). There was sometimes rusty water in the bathroom and the overhead lights flickered on and off. During a rainy spell many tables in the diningroom (including ours) had to be roped off for several days as the ceiling was leaking. We certainly were not expecting a Cunard experience, but given what we paid we were disappointed and will not be cruising Fred Olsen again. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
We wanted to get away over Christmas and New Year. This cruise was ideal but the only one we could find. We had extreme trouble in the port on the embarkation day. The Port Authority could not cope with the volume of passengers. We sat ... Read More
We wanted to get away over Christmas and New Year. This cruise was ideal but the only one we could find. We had extreme trouble in the port on the embarkation day. The Port Authority could not cope with the volume of passengers. We sat in a non moving queue watching the taxi meter go from £13 to £20 finally getting out and carrying our luggage 100 metres to baggage check in. The cruise itself was great although we were struck down with a "Virus" for the last 5 of the 15 days. We didn't leave the cabin. Luckily this virus was in the form of a hacking cough and not stomach related. Many passengers were affected. Everything on board was good, food, service, cabin and most of the entertainment although we did have a guy called Christopher Gee who had, quite frankly, seen better days, dreadful. We did have issues with a couple of the port tours. We were disappointed that the catamaran used to take us Whale Watching was so large ( about 200 passengers) BUT we did see Whales so all good really. The other disappointing tour was Reindeer Sledding. Got to do it when you go to Norway. We arrived at the Sami Village and had a drink and traditional cake along with a talk about Sami Life, all very interesting. We were then divided into groups to go down to the reindeer. Bear in mind it was dark. We were led outside and a guy on a snow mobile helped a disabled person to get down to the lower level. He shot off with her on the machine and left the rest of us floundering around not knowing where to go. The Path was unmarked and unlit. We finally made it. They were having trouble controlling the reindeer! We were in a line of about 6 sleds, we were 2nd to last with a young reindeer behind us, well, we thought it was going to get into the sled with us and it was only my hand pushing it away which stopped by wife being injured. She was petrified and the trip was totally spoilt. I did complain at the time to the handler he admitted the problem. I complained again when back on board. I was given a 33% refund as a "Good Will Gesture" but I'm not happy. When taking these shore tours it's important to feel safe and that someone from the ship is keeping a lookout for you. Well this certainly wasn't the case. Definitely no Health and Safety procedures here. Other shore tours were good if a little more expensive than usual. Brilliant Northern Lights experience and an Igloo Hotel. This is my 2nd time to Norway so not sure would go back again but the scenery is amazing. My wife absolutely loved it. Seeing snow at Christmas really made the experience truly great. We've been travelling with P & O for our last few cruises on their smaller ships and I don't think there is much to choose between them. Hope this is helpful. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
We are booked on a longish cruise on Balmoral in 2019 and wanted to refresh our Fred Olsen experience and keep our loyalty level current. So a one-night repositioning cruise was not quite as silly as it sounds. Some 200 other people ... Read More
We are booked on a longish cruise on Balmoral in 2019 and wanted to refresh our Fred Olsen experience and keep our loyalty level current. So a one-night repositioning cruise was not quite as silly as it sounds. Some 200 other people obviously agreed with us although many were travel agent staff on what is euphemistically called a familiarisation trip. Ticketing was bit haphazard as the information was an adaption of that for a usual cruise. You could interpret it that we could expect both a Welcome Aboard and a Farewell cocktail party - presumably back to back! The terminal at Tilbury was dreadful. Admittedly it was not the main London Cruise Terminal of 'Empire Windrush' fame. But check-in was rapid and efficient, we showed our free bus passes, were quickly directed to our cabin by the ever-friendly Fred Olsen crew and there was a good selection of hot and cold food available in the Glentanar restaurant. The main thing that impressed us was the quality of the refit that had taken place in the last year. A lot of money had obviously been spent bringing Black Watch as close to modern standards as is possible in an elderly lady. The decor and facilities in our cabin were very good. We were getting angry that the usual lockable drawer for valuables had no key - and then found a lovely new safe! The bathroom was spotless and storage had been very much improved. It was the same throughout the ship and the new facilities that have been shoe-horned into the ship over the years have not detracted from the sense of space. The new balconies on 7 deck (the Promenade deck) still seem a bit odd but we didn't have one, nor did we use the Prom deck much on a very cold night. There was one sitting for dinner, at 7pm, and a creditable impressionist did his job keeping everyone awake afterwards. You can't expect too much for £80 plus optional £20 return coach fare! This wasn't a busy, noisy party cruise, nor anything like a 'normal' cruise, but for 24 hours we got all the essentials and the four of us thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Well done Fred Olsen - a great idea and a very nice updated ship. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
Excellent check in for self and car parking arrangements. Cabin a little tired. Well kept by stewardess great professional attitude and smile everyday. Food good services chaotic at times never offered wine with the meal restaurant packed ... Read More
Excellent check in for self and car parking arrangements. Cabin a little tired. Well kept by stewardess great professional attitude and smile everyday. Food good services chaotic at times never offered wine with the meal restaurant packed to the full little room to move.bar staff not that well motivated waited one hour for service in lido bar other passengers just left .theatre bar staff just as disinterested can't but feel staff morale not so good with Fred as it used to be sadly .unfortunately Fred closes at mid night not venues or eateries open entertainment finishes at 12 sharp..passengers on drinks package at 35 per day not happy be aware you may not get any value out of this deal.unfortunately staff were not that attentive to elderly guests which is a real shame as Fred would like to this is there target market .this cruise was fair value for money only not a great e experience due to the above Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
Yet another superb cruise – our 7th so far. This was the second time with Fred and Black Watch for my wife and I and we chose this cruise for the ports of call and the fact it departed from a local port. The only slight drawback was ... Read More
Yet another superb cruise – our 7th so far. This was the second time with Fred and Black Watch for my wife and I and we chose this cruise for the ports of call and the fact it departed from a local port. The only slight drawback was that this cruise seemed to attract much older clientele than previous cruises we’ve been on so there weren’t too many folk our age or younger (we’re early 50s). Sadly we didn’t make Mull (Tobermory) due to weather and anchoring issues but we disembarked at all the other ports and did a variety of walks under our own steam. The Fred Olsen excursions are a bit pricey and we instead used the Walkhighlands website to plan trips. Everything lived up to (or exceeded) expectations so it’s probably best to call out the highlights. 1. Food – everything was top quality and the service invariably good. We had requested a table for two but ended up sharing with a tee-total couple in their 80s. We feared this might not be a good match but ended up having a great laugh with them. 2. Lido Lounge – located aft on Deck 7 it’s the place to go if you want to party a bit on board. You need to seek it out as it’s hidden away. Lovely staff in here and great music too. A special mention for The Secret (Jane and Andrew) who are not only extremely talented musicians but also really nice people. They would take time to stop for a chat and a laugh if you met them on-board or in port. 3. Entertainment – the Show Team performed a number of times over the course of the week and each show just seemed to get better and better. The other evening entertainment (Gerry Graham/Leo Shavers) was decent too. 4. Ports of call – a friendly welcome in all ports and I personally loved them all. Lerwick possibly my favourite and a visit to the museum highly recommended. Loved being back on the (refurbished) Black Watch and we will certainly consider further cruises with Fred. Olsen in future. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
Chose this as we had a special anniversary & wanted to try something new. At first we were a bit wary as there is an age demographic in Cruiseville! Actually a pretty good mix & what the hell we were on holiday. We loved ... Read More
Chose this as we had a special anniversary & wanted to try something new. At first we were a bit wary as there is an age demographic in Cruiseville! Actually a pretty good mix & what the hell we were on holiday. We loved everything about it, great food, entertainment was fun and very professional. OK no Adel but they gave us everything & made the trip! Norway spectacular. Service & staff really attentive & helpful. We went "steerage" after all we went for the sights not the room. Absolutely fine, clean & compact, everything we needed. Spent the savings on having fun! Paid our tips in advance & took full advantage of the "drinking package" a wonderful way to "empty ones head" Beats flying any day. Boarding & disembarking were the easiest things, relaxed Chilled. Looking forward to Cruising with Fred again in 2018 The only shame was our Fishing trip was cancelled. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2017
This was our first cruise with Fred Olsen and overall we were quite impressed with the value for money it provided. First of all the Norwegian Fjords were spectacular. The weather was a little unsettled at times, but this did not ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Fred Olsen and overall we were quite impressed with the value for money it provided. First of all the Norwegian Fjords were spectacular. The weather was a little unsettled at times, but this did not distract from the views of soaring mountains over the tranquil fjords. Service was very friendly although we did notice a couple of exceptions and Guest Services were excellent and always very helpful. Wi-fi bandwith is pretty abysmal even when in port, I would recommend saving your money and taking your phone or tablet ashore and finding a cafe or other place with good wi-fi. We found a number of the small Norwegian villages had their own hotspots. Although we did not attend all the shows, entertainment and activities were varied and of good quality. Food was however inconsistent ranging from very good to quite poor and often a little cold. We ate dinner each evening in the Avon restaurant which was very comfortable, although they could think about changing the art work on the walls which is quite weird. Breakfast was pretty poor quality and it always seemed rushed. Also, unlike most cruise lines they did not have a place where you could get a light meal such as a hamburger or pizza at lunchtime. We signed up for the all inclusive (AI) drinks package was very good value, although I believe it has been increased from £10 per day which we paid, to £15. AI wines were acceptable as was the gin, although I don’t know where the whiskey came from, perhaps not Scotland! The biggest negative for us was the constant chit signing to authorise payment for drinks and coffee. Quite a ridiculous system and technology options must be available to make this a more efficient and seamless process. The time wasted on the Olsen side must be significant. We only booked one excursion which was a 4 hour Great Ocean Road excursion in Kristiansund. This was because it would have been difficult to arrange ourselves. Other tours we did arrange ourselves and saved quite a bit against similar tours promoted by Olsen, all of which seemed very overpriced. We took a Seabourn cruise the previous year and although we did not expect (or get), the quality of food and service on Fred Olsen, it was much better value for money. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
As a present for a special birthday, we chose Fred and the Fjords. We always read reviews before booking and after eliminating the best and worst decided to sail with the Balmoral from Newcastle. Embarkation went smoothly after leaving ... Read More
As a present for a special birthday, we chose Fred and the Fjords. We always read reviews before booking and after eliminating the best and worst decided to sail with the Balmoral from Newcastle. Embarkation went smoothly after leaving our luggage with the handlers, checking in to receive our pass cards and taking a short bus ride to the ship. Our luggage arrived soon after we found our cabin and we made the mistake of unpacking immediately which meant we had to wait until after the emergency drill to get a drink. It became obvious to us that there were many Balmoral returners and we began to see why. The entertainment was excellent with shows twice nightly to accommodate both sittings and the entertainment staff are involved in running activities during the day. There was a Daily News paper left in the cabin each evening outlining the next days activities and excursion times and dining dress code. Cleanliness of the public areas was emphasised at every opportunity with hand sanitizers everywhere and the waiters providing more sanitizer before we entered the dining rooms. The Ballindaloch dining room was waiter service in the evening but most of the restaurants were either waiter or self service during breakfast and lunch. We took advantage of the drinks package and found it a good deal, with only having to add to the bar bill for special cocktails. We didn't take advantage of the 2 pools, 4 jacuzis, fitness room, etc. but did the mile walk 4 times round the deck. We went on 3 organised excursions and did our own thing for the other days in port. Our guides on the excursions were very knowledgeable and spoke very good English. At Eidfjord we went on the excursion to Voringfoss waterfall and the nature centre where there was an excellent film on 5 screens taking us on a helicopter ride over the fjord and valley. At Geiranger we had a coach tour up the hairpin bends to a viewpoint where we could see the Balmoral in the fjord below. At Olden we went on the excursion to the Briksdal Glacier taking the troll car for some of the climb. We visited Flam and went out before breakfast to buy our own tickets to ride on the famous railway which is very close to where the ship was docked. In Kristiansund we went walkabout and found a viewpoint on a public footpath before walking round the port. Hellesylt has a very beautiful waterfall in the centre of the village and a walk to the church which unfortunately wasn't open the day we visited. We finished our cruise with a day in Bergen which was a disappointment because the city was preparing for a World Cycling championship and was erecting barriers along the roads and marquees and gazebos blocking any good views of the port. However, the Floyen funicular railway takes you to the top of Mount Floyen with incredible views of the city below. On the evening of disembarkation we had to leave our luggage outside our cabin with labels showing our homeward journey details. Breakfast was served earlier than usual and disembarkation began soon after 7.30am. As we had travelled with Saga organised transport, our luggage was left close to the ship for our collection to meet with our taxi driver. I do feel that luggage wasn't handled very well as I had packed bottles and a mirror with plenty of packing round them but found them broken when unpacking. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
This was our first experience with FOCL and the Braemar. The cruise was 10 nights around the UK from Southampton; up to the first port of Leith for an overnight, then Dundee, Invergordon, Scrabster, Oban and Belfast. The first and last ... Read More
This was our first experience with FOCL and the Braemar. The cruise was 10 nights around the UK from Southampton; up to the first port of Leith for an overnight, then Dundee, Invergordon, Scrabster, Oban and Belfast. The first and last full days were days at sea and the cruise had two formal nights. The Ship The Braemar was slightly smaller than we're used to. We've sailed most often with Thomson on their smaller ships (Spirit and Celebration), we've sailed on much larger ships but small ships are our preference. The ship is well laid out. The side-wards on theatre fore is a first for us but the seas were kind enough that we didn't have many problems with this. Space was never an issue, getting seats in restaurants, bars or the theatre wasn't ever a problem. There's plenty of choice of seating areas during the day and when at sea. Decor is pleasant and areas are well lit. Activities We're active DIY port visitors so we didn't spend that much time on daytime activities. Quizzes seemed good, although we missed most of them as we were out in the daytime and the evening quizzes clashed with our late dining timing. Service The service from all staff was excellent throughout the cruise. Cabin stewards, waiters and bar-waiters, entertainers, reception staff, ships crew - can't fault anyone and would commend Fred for the work ethic and approach of the whole ship's staff. We rarely have to compalin about anything, but did as a neighbouring cabin was waking up with very loud TV for the first few days at 6:30 (we're on holiday, I don't want to be woken up early every day!), we complained at reception not expecting anything and the issue was somehow resolved, and the same member of the team asked us next time he saw us if it was better! This attention to service was very noticeable - staff bothered to remember who they had spoken to and to follow up where appropriate. Ports and excursions We always have to book last minute due to work constraints, so booking excursions can be problematic. On a cruise like this with 'signature' excursions (Braemar games, visits to Glamis and Cawdor castles) we were not surprised but still slightly disappointed not to have any availability on those obviously very popular trips. As mentioned we prefer to 'walk ashore' and do our own thing and this itinerary was good for that - only Oban was a tender port, Belfast had free shuttle buses to get into the city centre. Although we rarely do ships excursions on cruises anyway we were shocked at how expensive Fred's excursions are, they really were pricey compared to any other line we've been with - some eye-wateringly so (£200+pp for the dearest!). The port selection was excellent, we saw a wide variety of places and much of the beauty of Scotlands dramatic coastlines. There was the temptation at Scrabster or Oban to get a local ferry to one of the islands but the time in port didn't mesh well with ferry transit times and schedules so we didn't risk it. The overnight in Edingburgh was great, we got to meet friends who live there, and even had time to walk from Leith to the Parliament area and back (and up Arthur's Seat while there!), Dundee's dock area and centre were well worth walking around, the docks are actively being developed with restaurants and bars, there's a few very good sights in the centre worth a look including the McManus museum. Invergordon is tiny but the murals are nice to look at and the surrounding area is pretty. Scrabster was a low point, mainly because that was our one awful-weather day. We took the free shuttle into Thurso and walked around a bit, had a coffee and cake in a nice café but that was the limits of our patience with the downpour. We stayed in Oban to walk around, good vistas from the hill behind the town! Belfast we did a walking tour with a local guide and it was fascinating (though took up 2 hours)! My only recommendation to FOCL would be to amend the itinerary to call at at least one island as they are tantalisingly close as you sail around. Transfers We made our own way to Southampton before the cruise and back from it afterwards. Nothing to comment on here. Embarkation itself and disembarkation afterwards was quick and easy - no fuss. Cabin Our inside cabin was an anchor fare - so no choice over what cabin we had. It was at the front on deck 4, so some trepidation over seasickness if we had rough seas. The weather was kind, we only had bad seas on one night in the end despite all the storms brewing in the Atlantic. The first half of the trip up the east coast of the UK couldn't have been smoother. The cabin was spacious enough for our needs with a good amount of storage. Bathroom was standard for this class of cabin. We had a twin cabin and the steward made it into a double on our request, another stress of booking so last minute, we'd have been annoyed if the beds were fixed as separate. Dining We were very impressed with the food standard throughout the cruise. We ate on late service (8:30) in the Grampian. Excellent service from our two waiters and very good food throughout the cruise. We ate in the Palms buffet for breakfast and lunch as we normally do on a cruise. Interesting that on the Braemar staff seat you according to how busy the restaurant is - if it's busy you might be sharing, otherwise they find you a table of your own. Never had that in a buffet restaurant before - it makes for less chaos and 'running to grab a table'. Food was good in Palms for both times as well, very impressed with the lunch options overall. As with CMV, FOCL meal times are quite restricted - food isn't available mid afternoon. That's a bit annoying if you come back from an excursion or shore visit a bit late - we barely made lunch twice although the staff were very good about allowing us to grab a plate before they cleared. Unlike CMV, Fred do at least have a supper club - though eating this late we didn't need to use it. Normally we'd chose first sitting as we find it easier to organise our evenings when dining earlier but then the temptation for midnight snacks is always there! Alcoholic drinks seemed very reasonably priced, although the attempts at pushing cocktails of the day (which were not discounted?) was a bit annoying in the bars. Entertainment Very good shows from the company on board, they danced and sang very well. A more segmented show team than were used to - not gender balanced (no male dancers?) and the dancers didn't sing at all. Musicians were good overall in the bars, we listened to the pianist and the guitar/singer a few times each. The ship's orchestra were very, very good as well - it's nice to have live music for the shows. We weren't as impressed with the comedian/impressionist but then we weren't the target audience for the cruise perhaps (well below the average age...). Summary This cruise made a very positive first impression on us. Overall the cruise was good value and the ship and crew were welcoming and professional. The intinerary was interesting, though we were a bit frustrated by missing the castles. Food onboard was excellent, and the drinks selection was good. Would recommend! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
We booked this cruise mainly because of the ports of call, which we hadn't been to before, and because of there being some river cruising involved. Embarkation at Southampton was stress free and our cases were outside our cabin by the time ... Read More
We booked this cruise mainly because of the ports of call, which we hadn't been to before, and because of there being some river cruising involved. Embarkation at Southampton was stress free and our cases were outside our cabin by the time we got on the ship. We were very impressed by the quality of the food on board and had two excellent waiters. The company show group had just joined the ship and they were enthusiastic and extremely professional. We really enjoyed their shows. The ship is small and very easy to get around, but one lift was out of action for the whole cruise and this did cause problems for people with mobility limitations. We had a wet day at sea and it was difficult to find somewhere to sit in the public lounges. We sometimes found it difficult to find a chair on the promenade deck in the shade, but there were plenty of loungers on the sun deck. Unlike many ships there is not a theatre on board. Shows took place in the Neptune Lounge where the seating is not ideal for a good view. We did 3 shore excursions, and although expensive, they were well organised and interesting. Our only complaint on the Bordeaux wine tour to Graves and Sauternes was that we were not given a 'nibble' to go with the wine - not even a slice of French baguette! Disembarkation was very organised and our car was waiting for us as we got off the ship. We really enjoyed the Fred Olsen experience and will certainly use them again. Read Less
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