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3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2014
Embarkation was well organised and worked smoothly. The lifeboat muster was the most thorough that we have ever attended. All previous musters had ended in the muster station with a practice donning of the life jacket, but this time we ... Read More
Embarkation was well organised and worked smoothly. The lifeboat muster was the most thorough that we have ever attended. All previous musters had ended in the muster station with a practice donning of the life jacket, but this time we also practiced walking the route to the lifeboat embarkation point. The cabin was clean and comfortable, but with a torn carpet it was due for a bit of TLC. The ports of call were interesting to visit, and the Captain’s decision to miss out Horta because of weather conditions had a silver lining in that we had an extra day in Funchal when we were the only ship in port. The town, cable cars and attractions were quiet, unlike the following day (the originally scheduled day) when there were several large ships in port with the consequent crowds ashore. The food was generally good, but choice was more limited than on other cruise lines we have used. At dinner, main courses arrived completely plated, so there was no choice of vegetables. One evening the beef stew was just beef, gravy, and a few carrots cooked with the meat. There were no other vegetables on offer. Others must have complained because the headwaiter came round the tables asking if there had been a problem with the beef dish. In the Palms, the fruit salad seemed to be little else than melon, and the game was hunting the grape. I managed to find a strawberry on one occasion. Drinks were reasonably priced, and passengers on the all inclusive drinks deal had value for money. The crew, with the exceptions mentioned later, were friendly, courteous and efficient. The entertainment was very good. The resident show company were excellent, and the cabaret acts maintained the standard. There were several very interesting speakers on board, and there were consistently good audiences at their talks. There was a good range of activities on sea days. The ship seemed to be very clean, and passengers were constantly reminded to wash their hands and use the sanitiser dispensers found everywhere on the ship. However, at the welcome cocktail party I was given a drink in a pre-lipsticked glass, and at dinner one evening the table had been laid with a fork with food residue from a previous use. One began to wonder how well standards were being adhered to behind the scenes. Unfortunately, we were disappointed with several aspects of Fred Olsen’s service. The first was the lack of shuttle buses in Lisbon. Passengers were told it was an easy 15-minute 1.5km walk into Lisbon. 6kph is a brisk walking pace, which given the hot weather and the age profile of the passengers, is not an easy walk. It's the speed I do on a treadmill when I want to do some moderate cardio vascular exercise. Try it. Also, I would have liked to use my energy exploring Lisbon, not getting to and back from the city. The suggestion from the cruise director that passengers could use the local buses didn't seem to be taken up by many. I suppose they thought they'd be joining a queue of several hundred at the bus stop. Two things made the lack of shuttle buses additionally annoying. Firstly, P&O had provided them for their passengers on Adonia, which was actually moored nearer to the city than Balmoral. Secondly, Fred Olsen had provided them in Funchal a couple of days earlier, even though the distance was less than that in Lisbon. When my wife asked at reception why Fred Olsen had not provided buses as had P&O, the only answer she could get was that it was only 1.5km. The logic behind their decision whether or not to provide shuttles escapes me. The second problem was in Leixoes. A large number of passengers had departed on tours within a very short space of time. Many of the tours included a visit to a port wine producer where there was the opportunity to buy wine. The consequence was several hundred people with bottles of wine arriving back at the ship virtually all at the same time resulting in an exceptionally long queue to board the ship. I timed how long it was from when we joined the queue on the quayside until we passed through security on the ship. It was 42 minutes. As we went up the gangplank passengers were photographing the queue, which by then stretched beyond the stern of the ship, the gangway being level with the forward stairwell. On entering the ship we were then made to queue again to have wine bottles taken from us, and this further delayed the boarding procedure. There were a lot of very angry people. I assumed, naively as it turned out, that there would be an apology in the daily news bulletin, but there was no mention. I asked at the tours desk why they didn’t think it was appropriate to apologise to the passengers who had had to queue for so long in high 70s heat on the quayside. I was asked if there had been any problem on the tour. No, the tour was very good. They said that they only dealt with problems occurring on the actual tour, and that what had happened on the quayside was not Fred Olsen’s responsibility. I asked why so many people had been sent on tours at the same time, and the answer was that they had to take the times offered by the tour operator. If that was so, I suggested that they should have realized that all those passengers would return at the same time and that they should have been better prepared by providing a second gangplank. Unfortunately, it was a waste of time trying to discuss it, as the only response they would make was that it was not Fred Olsen’s fault. I think Fred Olsen were extremely fortunate that the queue was in the shade of the new terminal building. The temperature was in the high seventies, and if passengers had been forced to queue in direct sun having had nothing to drink for nearly five hours except any water they had taken with them, I think it more than likely they would have been dealing with collapsed passengers. The final piece of nonsense was that after having been forced to queue to have our wine taken off us, it was returned to the cabin the following day, two days before the end of the cruise. What was the point of all that? We’ve been on similar tours with other cruise lines and not had to hand over the odd bottle brought back onboard after a tour. The attitude of crew with whom I raised these issues was extremely poor, and the response seemed to be one of “So what?” They need to take a serious look at their passenger relations ethos. Disembarkation went smoothly and we were driving out of Southampton at 9am. Needless to say, we’ll never set foot on another Fred Olsen ship. I’m sure that won’t bother Fred as they have a loyal following that is happy with what they offer, but there’s much better available elsewhere.   Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
BACKGROUND INFORMATION This was an unusual cruise – 8 nights away, but never getting more than 175 miles from the home port, with overnight stays at all three of the ports visited and spending a significant amount of time sailing up and ... Read More
BACKGROUND INFORMATION This was an unusual cruise – 8 nights away, but never getting more than 175 miles from the home port, with overnight stays at all three of the ports visited and spending a significant amount of time sailing up and down rivers on a sea-going ship. Our main reason for choosing it was that we have never visited Amsterdam, Antwerp or Rouen and thought that a travelling hotel would be a good way of seeing them, and it achieved our objectives very well indeed. We found it a bit odd that excursions from Antwerp to Brussels and from Rouen to Paris were featured quite strongly, when Brussels and Paris are so easy to get to from the UK by Eurostar, and Antwerp and Rouen are such worthwhile destinations in their own right, but we’re all different, aren’t we? SHIP INFORMATION Braemar is a modest ship. It lacks many of the attractions of larger and newer ships, but suits people who like a more relaxed, low-key cruising experience We had travelled on it before it was stretched, and found that very good use has been made of the extra 32 metres, including an additional swimming pool, a very attractive observation lounge and a pleasant new restaurant as well as several new cabins. Being an older, screw-driven ship, there is quite a bit of mechanical noise and vibration, especially on the lower decks aft. Some forward cabins are also uncomfortably close to the bow thruster units which can lead to early awakenings, so midships cabins may be advisable if you are sensitive to such things. Braemar is also not the steadiest of ships, so open-water cruises on it are best avoided by people prone to seasickness. Internally, furnishings are pleasing and interiors are light, bright and airy. Braemar does not have a proper theatre, though, and the main Neptune Lounge is far from ideal as a venue for shows, with inadequate tiering, poorly arranged seating and some columns restricting views of what is going on on the stage. Talking about tiering, the tiered stern is magnificent, fully accessible to all passengers rather than just to those with aft-facing balconies as on most modern cruise ships. There is also plenty of sunbathing space on the upper decks, a full wrap-round promenade deck and access to the tip of the bow for Kate Winslet and Leonardo di Caprio impressions – just don’t stand on the rail to do them. EMBARKATION We parked our car on the pier at Dover, which was a very easy process with a short walk (or courtesy minibus ride) to the cruise terminal. The terminal does not have many facilities but the cafeteria is adequate and there is plenty of comfortable seating. Check-in was painless, with no noticeable queues, but embarkation did not start until 2pm which meant that most people had a significant wait in the departure lounge. ACTIVITIES There was only one “proper” sea day on this cruise, which limited the need to resort to activities as such. We normally go to series of talks, but only went to one talk on this cruise, which was all right but not outstanding, trying to cover eight centuries of Anglo-French history in one hour. A second day of cruising was spent navigating down the River Seine, which was delightfully scenic, so we had no need of organised activities. SERVICE Staff and crew were friendly and helpful. People who cruise regularly with Fred noticed cutbacks in staff, notably in the elimination of wine waiters, but we found the level of service in all areas to be at least adequate and often better than that. CABIN Although most cabins are small by modern standards, they do not seem cramped or claustrophobic. Ours only had portholes but was still light and airy. There is plenty of hanging space, but not much drawer or shelf space. Equipment is good, with a flat-screen television, a safe and an adequate supply of toiletries – oh, and the essential (for Brits) tea and coffee facilities. Everything worked, after we had tightened up light bulbs that had been shaken loose. The design of shower curtain made it very difficult to avoid flooding the bathroom when showering. There are no British-style sockets, so plug adapters are vital. DINING No for-fee speciality restaurants here, just the MDRs and the buffet restaurant and fish-and-chips-type meals from the open deck Marquee Bar in fine weather. We used the buffet for breakfast and lunch and our assigned MDR for dinner and were happy with the quality and choice in both locations. Our table companions disappeared off to the buffet for the Asian theme evening and pronounced it to be very good. There was a late-night chocoholics’ buffet on one evening, which looked good but not as lavish as we have seen on previous cruises. ENTERTAINMENT The song-and-dance performances by the Braemar Show Company were good, especially the singers who were definitely better than most in this kind of company. Other entertainment by hired-in performers was not brilliant, but the crew shows were excellent. PORTS OF CALL I will put more details into individual port reviews, but it was the itinerary that sold this cruise to us and we were not disappointed. We do not like the way that Fred describes times in port in advance publicity, just referring to early or late am or pm rather than giving times. This caught out several people who were expecting one and a half days in Rouen and elected to visit Paris on the first day in the expectation of a couple of hours in Rouen the next morning, but the “late am” departure turned out to be 10.15, too early for a look round the city when it is two miles from the cruise terminal. Our departures from Amsterdam and Antwerp were at 16.00 and 17.00 respectively, giving us almost two days in each of those cities. The cruise terminals in Amsterdam and Antwerp are close to the city centres and no shuttle buses were laid on, though in Amsterdam we resorted to a couple of short tram rides to get to the heart of the city because we knew we had a hard day’s walking ahead of us exploring the city’s canal rings. One of the canal bus routes stops very close to the cruise terminal. In Antwerp the ship docked within a few yards of the cathedral and the historic core of this fine city. In Rouen a shuttle bus service was provided for the first day, at a modest £5 for unlimited journeys. It was originally stated that it would finish at 7pm, but this was revised to 1am when the management were made aware of the late night son-et-lumiere at the cathedral. There were some major hiccups with the shuttle arrangements, but we were still glad we went to this fantastic free show. DISEMBARKATION We had a cabin on one of the lower decks and were travelling independently so we were some of the last to leave the ship, but we were still back at our car for 9am after a smooth disembarkation process. SUMMARY We enjoyed our cruise very much. Braemar has some shortcomings, but also some nice features that you don’t find on newer and larger ships, and made a perfectly adequate base for what was effectively three city breaks stuck together with no packing and unpacking to do between them.   Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2014
Firstly: we boarded in Bristol A one night mini cruise - Bristol to Liverpool - isn't long enough to form a full judgement about a ship or a cruise line, but it gives a flavour and I'm not certain that Boudicca is going to be to ... Read More
Firstly: we boarded in Bristol A one night mini cruise - Bristol to Liverpool - isn't long enough to form a full judgement about a ship or a cruise line, but it gives a flavour and I'm not certain that Boudicca is going to be to our taste. Especially as the smell of fuel oil seemed to permeate several areas. We had a suite. Good size, comfortable with plenty of storage but dated. Bathroom with full size tub but no bath plug, so unusable. If we'd been on board for more than one night we would have complained. But it showed a lack of attention to detail. No toiletries or shower cap and no soap other than a dispenser, which when I pressed for the first time deposited liquid over my trousers. Having a limited palate I liked the selection of food - very British. On Crystal two months ago I described their menus as "complicated" and "very complicated". Unfortunately the actual quality of the food on Boudicca was only average. Afternoon tea was poor consisting of a choice of mushroom pate sandwich (I don't like mushrooms but my wife said 'not to worry' as the sandwiches she chose had no pate on it - and the bread was dry), a slice of chocolate sponge, a cookie and a pink cup-cake. But the tea was good. At the buffet lunch I ordered a dessert from the menu. After 15 minutes I enquired where it was? It was found immediately sitting on the waiters' bar and when delivered was a sea of melting ice cream. No apology. I found the staff friendly and attentive - when called, but they spent too much time chatting together. Doubt they would make the grade on a line such as Celebrity or Princess. Drink prices were better than on many ships but our waiter didn't understand the difference between Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, following which we were presented three times with an incorrect bill. And it seems Fred's left and right hands don't speak to each other (I'd been quite determined not to personify a cruise line, but got dragged in). Example [1] cruise docs said "Embarkation will start at 1.30pm". On arrival at the port the sign said 2.15pm. We got on at 2.45. [2] we booked 8.30pm late sitting dinner because being Bristolians we wanted to film the sail away at 7pm. All dinner reservations were changed to 7.30pm - and the ship left late, so we missed one of the main reasons for being on Boudicca. [3] All cabins must be vacated by 8.30am according to our reservation. By 10am (thank you) according to The Daily Times. [4] Afternoon tea will be served from 3.45pm said The Daily Times. From 3pm said the captain in his (very good) noon briefing. [5] The ship will dock at 4.30pm for disembarkation at 5pm said the general information leaflet. The ship will dock at 3.30pm announced the captain (probably explains the change to tea time). Enjoyed the entertainment very much. Better than some more up-market lines. Boudicca is well maintained but to anybody who has sailed on more modern vessels you do wonder whether the thickness of the paint or the actual metal is holding things together. Hopefully it's the metal. However what truly amazed me was the loyalty of Fred's people on the ship. "You can't beat Fred", one lady told me. Asked what other cruise lines she'd been on the answer was none. However many others also sang Fred's praises (Thomson seemed to be the norm by which most reached this judgement). It is beyond doubt, at least my doubt, that Fred Olsen has a very loyal following. And that's fine; that's what a holiday is all about - being relaxed and enjoying your environment. I tried to open the minds of some to other cruise lines, but if it wasn't Fred, Thomson, P&O or Cunard they didn't want to know. We wouldn't rule out a Fred Olsen ship if the itinerary was one we were looking for as their pricing is very reasonable, but it would probably have to be Balmoral or Braemar (judging by the deck plans) as they seem to have proper restaurants rather than seats and tables in wide corridors. I'm probably going to have to go into hiding now before Fred's fans find me. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2013
My wife and I have just returned from a cruise of Christmas markets aboard the Balmoral and we were very sadly disappointed with our experience. We are seasoned travellers and cruisers and this was our first experienced with Fred Olsen. We ... Read More
My wife and I have just returned from a cruise of Christmas markets aboard the Balmoral and we were very sadly disappointed with our experience. We are seasoned travellers and cruisers and this was our first experienced with Fred Olsen. We were expecting a great cruise but our initial experiences with some of your crew soon put a stop to that and it all went downhill from there. 1. When we booked our cruise through an agency we requested for late dining (which was stated on the confirmation letter from our travel agent and on boarding the ship we were informed that we were given early dining. We proceeded to the restaurant to request a change in our dining time and there was a long queue plus a sign stating that because the ship was full, both early and late dining was full therefore giving the impression it was not possible to change ones dining time. While in the queue we spoke to a couple who were given late dining (they had requested early dining) and we agreed to swap. While in the queue we were watching the people ahead of us requesting a change in their dining times and we noticed it was possible to change your dining time. When we spoke to the restaurant staff about swapping our dining time we were informed that there would be a charge of £32 per couple (i.e. £64) just to swap the dining times over (we have never experienced anything like this before on any cruise ship we have been on). We requested to speak with head of food and beverages and on listening to our feedback he stated that he had no power to just swap our dining arrangements only if we both paid our £32 each. On principle we would not do this. Please note: his customer interface skills had much to be desired. The couple with whom we wanted to swap had requested early dining based on medical grounds (the lady was recovering from cancer) – i.e. she need to take medication early evening after a meal and the late dining was too late. On informing the head of food and beverages about her needs his was response was for the couple to either pay the £32 or eat up stairs in the anytime restaurant. He did not give the impression of any sympathy but just kept smiling with throughout the period. I believe he needs serious training in customer relationship. 2. On speaking to other passengers in the dining queue and others throughout the week (specifically those who were on the anchor deal) we got the same feedback - everybody was given the opposite dining time to what they requested. Now in my mind this seems very much like a scam – i.e. if you give people opposite dining time to what they want but then give them the opportunity to change for £32 (please convince me otherwise). Some people will change and pay because they are on holiday and they just what to enjoy themselves and a peaceful life but many will not change on principle. While in the queue (to change my dining time) I was observing those who changed their dining times and paid their £32 and everybody was so surprised that there was a charge and they were not pleased to par your charge. This is the first time on any cruise ship I have been on when I’ve been charged to change my dining time. Please note: we did meet one person who DID get their dining times swapped for free because they had special influences. 3. Disgusted with our encounter with your food and beverage manager we went to see your Guest Relations. After about 30 minute wait we spoke to your guest relations officer and she took down our details and said that because we were on the anchor deal (along with another 900 passengers) we had to pay to change our dining time and this rule was fixed by the company and is non-negotiable. She politely said she would send off an e mail to head office and come back to us shortly with a response. Throughout the whole cruise we did not receive any feedback or contact from your guest relations. The chasing for feedback came from my wife and me. To me your guest relations officer is redundant is because all she can do is refer the situation to head office and wait for a response. 4. Whatever deal a passenger has for a cruise is irrelevant to your ship staff – we should all be treated equally. Because we were on the anchor deal we were felt as though were being treated as Second class passengers. Please note: We were informed by your guest relations that over 900 of the passengers were on the anchor deal - that is more than three quarters of the passengers. 5. We came on the ship to get some rest and a good night’s sleep - we came off the ship more tired. Throughout the whole cruise we did not get one proper nights’ sleep and this was due to the noise and vibrations of the engines. We live near a major motorway (M1) and are used to the constant traffic noise and when the ship’s the engines are giving off a constant drone we were able to sleep but we were frequently awoken in the mid of night with loud engine noise and extreme vibrations. This you can appreciate upsets your sleep pattern. This happened every night plus when the ship was coming into port (early hours of the morning) the noise vibrations would go on for what seemed ages and it felt as though the ship was falling apart. Hence the lack of sleep. We have cruised on many other ships (also aft and on low decks) and never experienced the noise we heard while on the Balmoral. One night (I think it was about 2 hours after we had left Zeebrugge) I was in my cabin and I experienced very loud engine noise and vibrations. I wondered why because we out at sea. On looking out of my cabin window I saw a ship passing in the opposite direction which appeared to be only meters away. While you in your cabin at night one would expect a drone of the engine which we could sleep through but it seemed that on most nights in the early hours (while at sea) there was frequent vibrations and much increased engine noise which woke both my wife and myself therefore for most of the cruise we had disturbed nights and hence not much sleep.   7. Due to your staff not changing our dining time we had to eat (most evenings) in the anytime dining area and here we experienced food running out and not being replaced. 8. Fred Olson Guest relations said that they would be contacting the travel agency with whom I booked and discuss the booking arrangements. I have just spoken with the travel agent and to date there has been no request from Fred Olsen.   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2013
Fjords and Coastal towns of Norway - Sept 2013 My partner and I have been on 4 cruises but this was our first with Fred Olsen and our first away from the Med. The food, service and entertainment on board the Black Watch were all fantastic ... Read More
Fjords and Coastal towns of Norway - Sept 2013 My partner and I have been on 4 cruises but this was our first with Fred Olsen and our first away from the Med. The food, service and entertainment on board the Black Watch were all fantastic and the staff and fellow passengers were the friendliest we've ever encountered. Fortunately for us, we managed to evade the Norovirus! An email from Fred Olsen 2 days prior to our departure from Rosyth gave us our new, later boarding time. We later learned that this was due to the vessel being sanitised after a Norovirus outbreak on the previous trip. All embarking passengers received a personal sanitiser and instructions on how to avoid contracting and spreading the virus. However, a day into our journey all public toilets were closed and word spread that the virus had returned. During the week more passengers were taken ill and confined to their cabins under doctor's orders. The ship was being sanitised constantly and passengers were not allowed anywhere near food. I don't know how many people suffered with the virus but increasing amounts of empty seats at dinner tables indicated that it was not being contained. Sitting in the theatre one morning awaiting a tender to take us ashore, we witnessed about a dozen people handing back organised trip tickets belonging to family/travelling companions, all giving illness as the reason. We also heard the tale of an elderly woman who had booked a last minute deal just a couple of days prior to the cruise; she contracted the virus on the second day and was confined to her cabin for 5 days, thus missing every stop on the journey. She allegedly told a Fred Olsen representative that she would have never booked the holiday had she known there was a virus onboard the vessel. Fred Olsen offer an all-inclusive upgrade for £10 per day which is great for us as we both enjoy a drink on holiday. My 72 year old diabetic mother accompanied us on this trip but, as she does not touch alcohol, preferred not to pay extra for the package. At the time of booking, our travel agent was informed by a Fred Olsen representative that we were allowed to have all-inclusive and non all-inclusive passengers on the same booking but we would not be allowed to sit at the same table for dinner as diners on different packages were separated. This more or less forced us to book all-inclusive for the three of us. On board the vessel we quickly learned that, although there was allocated seating in the Glentanar restaurant (the main restaurant), the Braemar Garden Cafe and Orchid Room both offer free seating and all restaurants serve the same food. Also, our allocated table in the Glentanar restaurant had a 50-50 mixture of all-inclusive and non all-inclusive diners! To make matters worse, the soft drinks option on the all-inclusive package offers only one sugar free drink suitable for diabetics (my mother) which is diet coke, all other sugar free drinks incur a further charge - 50% off for all-inclusive passengers. Unfortunately my mother does not like diet coke! Just one more piece of useful information - there are two sittings for dinner in the Glentanar restaurant, 6.15pm and 8.15pm. If you wish to change your allocated sitting time there is a charge of £2 per person, per day. So, if you have a preferred meal time, it may pay to sort it with your agent or Fred Olsen prior to boarding. None of this has put any of us off future trips with Fred Olsen but we do feel like we were misinformed and I hope this information is beneficial to others.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2013
We have recently returned from a Fred Olsen four night mini-cruise on the Braemar from Dover to France, Belgium and Holland. Last year, we went to the Norwegian fjords on the larger Olsen ship, the Balmoral. I quite liked the Braemar ... Read More
We have recently returned from a Fred Olsen four night mini-cruise on the Braemar from Dover to France, Belgium and Holland. Last year, we went to the Norwegian fjords on the larger Olsen ship, the Balmoral. I quite liked the Braemar although it is showing its age and our cabin, particularly the bathroom,was in need of some refurbishment. The television had a mind of its own and only worked when it felt like it. I don't think anybody would ever describe this cruise as luxurious but more like a 1960's holiday camp on the high seas. I found that the cruise director's way of making his announcements, as if we were rather slow children, was a bit patronising but I can understand that his job would drive a lot of people the same way! This is no more than a feeling but my impression is that Fred Olsen is watching every penny and is charging for everything. If they could, I think they would have charged for the air we breathed! Check in at Dover was excellent as was disembarkation on our return In my opinion the main drawbacks were: There were definitely not enough restaurant staff and those they did have seemed stressed and rushed. They allowed queues to form outside the restaurants even when it was plain to those queuing that, inside, were empty, set-up tables. That said, the two waiters who attended to us were always courteous; At breakfast time, which was largely a buffet arrangement, there was usually a shortage of food and utensils, particularly glasses. One morning I had the worst coffee in my life!; The food, overall, was no more than moderate with an occasional good dish. It was mass catering and felt like it! It might have been better to have simplified the dinner menu by reducing it from five courses to three and putting a bit more quality into them; I know this seems an odd comment, but I lost sympathy with Olsen after attending the lifeboat drill which seemed to be a poor attempt to impress everyone with a bit of drama. We were told that in the event of an evacuation we were to walk in a crocodile with our right hands on the shoulder of the person in front of us, reminiscent of the scenes shown on war newsreels of injured and blinded soldiers returning from France. With sizeable numbers of very young children and of elderly people with severe walking difficulties, this would have been unrealistic. It certainly was not required on the Balmoral last year and I have been unable to find anything which says it is required legally. If I am wrong and it is a legal requirement then it is a very stupid one which most other shipping lines are disregarding; In this bizarre fashion we had to go outside to our respective lifeboats where we were given a further talk by a crew member with an electric megaphone rendered totally inaudible by the noise of the air conditioning outlet! This was not impressive and in our group helped reduce the whole drill to a matter for derision. Later in the cruise some passengers were spotted walking along each with their arm on the shoulder of the person in front of them, to the general merriment of their friends; In writing this review it is not my intention to dissuade anyone from cruising with Olsen (we have no plans to cancel a cruise already booked on the Boudicca for next year) but to warn any readers not to expect pampering; This company is geared to processing large numbers of passengers and to keeping them under control; it does not attempt to provide traditional service. If you think of their quite nice old ships as a good way of avoiding airports and not having to struggle with luggage then you'll find it OK. At the end of the day you get what you pay for.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2013
We booked our 3rd cruise on the Balmoral as a double special birthday treat. We had always wanted to see the parts of the UK this cruise was going to, the Scottish Western Isles, Orkney Islands, Northern Ireland, Dublin and Guernsey. We ... Read More
We booked our 3rd cruise on the Balmoral as a double special birthday treat. We had always wanted to see the parts of the UK this cruise was going to, the Scottish Western Isles, Orkney Islands, Northern Ireland, Dublin and Guernsey. We were exceptionally lucky with the best weather of the year. We booked late and could only get a cabin on deck 5 but decided to go anyway and wait listed ourselves for a balcony cabin which came up for us around 3 weeks before the cruise. It was even better as it was cabin we have had before and really like at the rear of the ship on deck 9. Everything on this cruise went according to schedule and although there were many ports with only tender access this was not a problem for us but was for some guests, but they did know this before they booked it is made quite clear! The weather was glorious and everywhere we visited was a delight, we didn't take tours in Dublin but just went into the city as we have holidayed there before and neither did we tour in Guernsey as we used to live there. The tours we did take in Mull, Orkney, Stornaway and Belfast (to Giants Causeway) were all well run and had excellent and above average guides they all ran on time and gave a full view of the place visited with lots of extra stories from our guides that seemed to have put a huge effort into their particular tour. The food on Balmoral is always excellent and not rushed, we always try to get into the Spey dining room but don't miss the Indian and Chinese night in the Palms cafe and this time we also tried the Spanish night all were first class and can be highly recommended. The entertainment was excellent as usual in particular the comedian Bob Webb was hilarious and had a full house for both sittings I hope we find him again on another cruise. Our cabin was kept spotlessly clean and this time because of the wonderful weather we were able to make full use of our balcony. There are a great deal of older people on this cruise line, we find this a bonus as they are polite and quiet and easy to talk to should you find yourselves on a table with them. We are not exactly spring chickens ourselves of course! We didn't quite get what we asked for in the dining table, we asked for a 6 and got a 4 but needn't have worried as we got along really well with our table companions. We are booked again on this ship for Christmas 2014 and I would do another one even sooner if we could. We love the Fred Olsen experience and would highly recommend it. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
We have just returned from our 1st cruise with Fred Olsen, we have however, cruised 22 times previously ! Having heard some mixed reviews about FO we decided to give them a try for ourselves. Our itinerary was a 3 night trip ... Read More
We have just returned from our 1st cruise with Fred Olsen, we have however, cruised 22 times previously ! Having heard some mixed reviews about FO we decided to give them a try for ourselves. Our itinerary was a 3 night trip Harwich-Amsterdam-Newcastle. We arrived at Harwich, check in was efficient , easy and the staff friendly. We were invited to wait in the check-in area until we were invited for boarding. Boarding started at 2pm deck by deck, everyone was onboard I would say by 2.45pm or so. We went to our cabin, another 1st for us, a low deck external cabin ( no balcony). It was on deck 3 , smallish, but very well designed, beds in an odd L shape,this layout though, did provide alot of space though ! The cabin was spotlessly clean, flat screen TV ,the usual dire selection of channels as on all cruise ships ! This cabin featured 3 large wardrobes and drawers , so on a long itinerary, plenty of storage ! The shower room was functional, clean and the usual twice a day servicing. The cabin also had tea/coffee making facilities. After we had unpacked, we made our way up to the cafe area , where a very pleasant afternoon tea was available, buffet style, a good choice of sandwiches, cream cakes , scones, cream and jam. A trio was playing which was very pleasant. The ship has several nice bar areas, with friendly staff and a nice atmosphere. The restaurant experience was exceptional. We requested , and paid extra for a table on the late sitting and a table for 2, albeit this was very close to a table for 4, so in effect, as we got our courses at the same time, was almost a table for 6!Choices for each course were excellent, the food was always beautifully presented and hot. For breakfast, you had a choice of waiter service or buffet, kedgeree was excellent ! On our 2nd day, a Sunday, lunch featured a Roast Beef carvery, with all the trimmings, delicious ! On our sea day, there was a seafood buffet on offer, also excellent ! The Captains cocktail party was well attended and the drinks flowed....not always the case on larger vessels ! We enjoyed 2 shows onboard, the ships dancers and singers put alot into their acts . Outside deck space was good, 2 large pools , with steam coming from them (important for this itinerary), several whirlpools, a good sized gym also featured. The ship, personally , I feel , is suited to warmer climes as it didn't feature any indoor pools or whirlpools. But in fairness, its an old ship ! The staff onboard seem genuinely happy and this makes for a nice atmosphere. All in all, we enjoyed our 'FRED' experience and I would repeat the experience !   Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2013
We booked the cruise expecting there to be a range of ages, and we were in a minority, as the average age of the passengers was 85-90! The entertainment reflected this, although the dancers were really good. Considering we were two days ... Read More
We booked the cruise expecting there to be a range of ages, and we were in a minority, as the average age of the passengers was 85-90! The entertainment reflected this, although the dancers were really good. Considering we were two days at sea each way, and one day mid trip, the daytime entertainment was poor. Some activities had a cost to them, and were what is provided in elderly care homes. Many of the passengers had poor mobility, and we were very lucky to find another couple to share our table, who had a bit if life about them! The trip charges were extortionate! The cost of a trip to Oporto was £27 each, when the local bus took two of us return for 7 euros! We felt that this was a way of Fred Olson making more money out of what was a captive audience. The ports of call did not meet our expectations, and were predominantly city centres. Portimao was the only port worth walking around. The food was good, but we have has better service on previous cruises. Meals were rushed, and we had to choose the entire meal at the start, instead of being able to take our time between courses. I would strongly advise anyone considering booking a cruise to do your research first, and read the reviews, which is why I am doing this to save someone else having the same experience. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2013
Introduction: This was an 8-night cruise visiting four ports, two each in Portugal and Spain, which afforded the opportunity to fulfil a long-standing ambition of visiting Santiago de Compostela. Sailing from Southampton, the itinerary ... Read More
Introduction: This was an 8-night cruise visiting four ports, two each in Portugal and Spain, which afforded the opportunity to fulfil a long-standing ambition of visiting Santiago de Compostela. Sailing from Southampton, the itinerary was: Lisbon - Porto - A Coruña - Aviles. The Ship: The Black Watch is a relatively small (it's barely a minute's walk from the restaurant astern to the forward show lounge), comfortable, easily navigated ship offering a relaxed sea-going experience - when not bobbing up and down in the Bay of Biscay or the Atlantic, that is. It is also one of the world's oldest ships, having begun life as a Viking vessel! There are plenty of public spaces both inside and out and the classic, wide promenade deck allows for enjoyable strolls. The white exterior was rather blighted by rust streaks and contrasted sharply with an elegant, tastefully decorated, clean interior. Announcements were in English only and the passengers with whom I came into contact were all from the UK and almost all were young in spirit if not in body. Embarkation and Disembarkation: We used ParkAtMyHouse and found the drop-off and pick-up to be pain-free and reliable. Having previously used off-port parking, either can be recommended. Embarkation was severely delayed due to an impromptu inspection by the Maritime Cruise Authority, and air-bridge problems. To his credit, Fred laid on a shuttle to Southampton town centre and we, like many other passengers, took advantage of this. The passenger safety drill was conducted as we moved away from the port. Disembarkation was efficient and a rather relaxed affair. Cabin: Our clean and comfortable outside cabin was ideally located between the launderette and the beauty salon, and even had kettles and safe drawers. The beds were in an L-shaped configuration with one being made up as a settee during the day. A note in the bathroom cabinet explained that bars of soap (rather than the liquid soap provided), shower caps, sewing kit and other assorted items would be provided upon request. Dining: This was available in two locations, and the quality and choice of meat, fish and vegetarian options were a delight. Buffet dining was available in the slightly-too-small Garden Cafe. Breakfast and lunch in the Glentanar Restaurant was a mix of buffet items, and menu items on request. Afternoon tea included excellent scones and cream, against a backdrop of the occasionally-not-quite-in-tune musical trio. The patisserie offerings for the afternoon Tea Dance on the second sea day were indescribably good. Did you hear the one about the English couple, the Scottish couple and the Welsh couple? They all became friends at a fine dining table where the late-sitting experience in the Orchid Room (a slightly stuffy annex off the Glentanar Restaurant) was excellent. The cheerful waiters contributed to this bonhomie. There were two formal nights to which most of the men wore dinner suits and others, like me, wore smart, sober attire. There were also two themed nights: Nautical and Rock 'n' Roll. The ship, very commendably, even provided hats for the former and scarves for the latter. Most joined in but you didn't feel awkward in the least if you didn't. The Supper Club buffet, available from 11pm till midnight, included biscuits that were so large they could have been used for shuffleboard - conveniently they came in two colours. The hot-drinks station, located adjacent to the restaurant was spacious and open 24 hours although packet biscuits were only available for mid-morning coffee. Some cruise lines still don't appreciate that a drink's too wet without one! Entertainment: The shows in the Neptune Lounge were varied and generally entertaining, sometimes unintentionally so - the dancers can dance and the singers can sing, but the latter's struggle to cope with both disciplines led us to wonder if they might be graduates of the Eric Morecambe Performing Arts Academy. The late-night dancing and entertainment up in the Lido Lounge were particularly enjoyable - kudos to the musicians and dance hosts (and teachers for their tips on how to dance on 2). The photography and history lectures were informative, well-presented and well-attended, and the piano recitals were entertaining and deservedly well-received. What is it about port lecturers and piss-pronunciation? The Spanish and Portuguese for 'avenue' is 'avenida', not 'avienda'! Despite these and other locutionary lapses, the port lectures were not just focussed on the shore excursions but thankfully also offered useful information for the independent traveller. Public Rooms and Spaces: The ship has an always-open library, internet room, card room, games room, observatory lounge (whose function was militated against, initially, by uncleaned, salt-sprayed windows), and bars and cafes both indoors and out by the pools. Warning! People can be very possessive about jigsaws. (I promised JacqTar not to reveal that it was she who caused one particular male passenger to lose his rag.) The onboard shops were quite adequate and included a small but varied book selection, and the photo shop quickly sold out of their stock of Canon cameras with viewfinder. There was also a gym, and self-service launderettes where cruise passengers are more commonly exercised. Unfortunately the decks were not smooth enough for playing shuffleboard - copious quantities of spinach should be consumed before playing. Ports of Call: We did not take any shore excursions but those that did seemed happy with them - although we met some who were a little grumpy due to a lot of standing around in Santiago de Compostela (they should have joined us in the adjacent parador for Cola Cao and almond cake). 1. Lisbon (a 15-minute walk or 5-minute bus into town): An enjoyable day visiting Sintra and some of its outlying palaces and gardens. 2. Porto (a 30-minute ride on a tourist bus - they come out to Leixos for cruise ships): A fine day exploring port warehouses on one side of the river and tourist attractions on the other. 3. A Coruña (a 10-minute walk into town): An enjoyable visit by train to Santiago de Compostela, followed by exploration of the port. 4. Aviles (a 2-minute walk into town): A wonderful day boozing in bodegas and generally chilling in a lovely, little-visited port. Summary: This was an extremely enjoyable cruise visiting interesting and some less-frequented locations. The experience was enhanced by sunny (if not particularly warm) weather (the ship does not feel claustrophobic even if outside spaces can't be used), helpful and pleasant crew, fine food and even finer dining companions. A combination of swells and winds made for a generally bumpy ride - and particularly challenging dance lessons (my triple-time waltz steps tended to be 1-2-3 stutterstutter; 1-2-3 stutterstutter). With hot drinks on tap and a traditional promenade deck I would certainly consider sailing aboard her again but please: - Clean the windows - Paint the ship - Smooth out the shuffleboard Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2013
Personal Background Information Widow of nearly 70 years who likes to travel Only had experience of 3 cruises, the first on Grand Princess to Scandanavia spoilt me, I could not fault the ship experience and assumed that other crusie lines ... Read More
Personal Background Information Widow of nearly 70 years who likes to travel Only had experience of 3 cruises, the first on Grand Princess to Scandanavia spoilt me, I could not fault the ship experience and assumed that other crusie lines wold be as good. Travel To Port of Embarkation arranged private travel to Dubai Hotel and Igloo Cruises arranged transfer to Fred Olsen's Balmoral Hotel Info (if any) - Arabian Courtyard in Dubai is central and opposite the Dubai Museum which is well worth a visit. Nice hotel very efficeint, cheerful and helpful. Embarkation - I need assistance up the gangway but Olsen's staff were not in evidence despite asking for assistance. One of the cruise speakers helped me and took me to my cabin. Stateroom - Single inside Ship Info Fred Olsen's Balmoral Deck 6 Starboard exit in front of Palms diesel and air-conditioning fumes vented out. Very bad design that Olsen's are aware of but do not rectify. I was unable to use deck 6 starboad because these fumes triggered asthma, laryngitis and sinusitis. Also one day paint fumes invade the interior of deck 6 again bad for my health. Complaint made to Guest Relations Manager whos eattitude was patronising and unhelpful. A fellow passenger told me that on a previous cruise he could not use his balcony (above the doorway deck 6 starboard in front of Palms) because of fumes and on complaint could not be moved but received compensation from Olsen. I have not yet received any official acknowlwdgement of my complaint. Cruise ended 27 April 2013 Dining -reasonable choice but food deteriorated towards end of cruise Activities - limited Children's Clubs none Staff & Service not up to standard in most areas BUT in Palms Cafe waiters were excellent. Entertainment OK Shore Excursions seemed OK Disembarkation well organised. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2013
Firstly I must recommend the services of the Baggage Handling Company as advertised in the Fred. Olsen brochure. Their arrangements were excellent. The cases were collected from home a couple of days in advance and in the cabin on ... Read More
Firstly I must recommend the services of the Baggage Handling Company as advertised in the Fred. Olsen brochure. Their arrangements were excellent. The cases were collected from home a couple of days in advance and in the cabin on boarding. On the return they met us in the arrivals hall and the cases were delivered home the next day. This allowed us to travel with just hand luggage. Wonderful. Arrangements at Portsmouth worked well with the transfer bus meeting us at the station although the stop wasn't obvious. Check in was OK although you're left to sit around waiting for your number to be called. This gets you on to another bus and taken to the ship where you file up the gangway. After the usual security arrangements/ cabin card issue we were directed in the general direction of a lift that was being used for baggage. No advice of where another lift was or on what deck we might find the cabin. All a bit chaotic and a flavour of what was to come. When we got to the cabin Sali soon appeared and told us she would be the steward and showed us where things were and how they worked. The cabin is made up of 2 rooms, a day room with TV, sitting area, dining table, fridge, tea coffee making etc, and the bedroom. Both have plenty of storage space although it would be nice to have a TV in the bedroom.. The bathroom has a full size tub with an over shower, don't expect power shower, separate toilet both with wash basin and mirror cupboards. The cabin we found cold and reported it. A maintenance man did fix it although the following day it was so cold I was forced to sit in my winter anorak. When I complained again I was informed they had a major equipment problem. Why didn't they come and tell us this instead of waiting for complaints? The bath/ shower gel ran out and Sali said she'd get it filled. 4 days later she was still waiting for her supervisor so I reported it to Debbie in guest relations and it was filled within a couple of hours. Now you're also provided with a drinks tray which has a decanter of gin, whiskey and brandy. After a week they needed filling and again this didn't happen until I complained to Debbie. I'm not blaming Sali but if things don't happen when she reports them, the system should pick this up. I also found it odd that you get complimentary spirits but are expected to pay for bottled water. There's also a balcony with 2 upright chairs and 1 steamer. Not much room for anything else but as we didn't go for the sun it was ideal for the quick dash outside when we were told the northern lights had appeared. The restaurant. We were allocated a table in the Four Seasons and although requested a table for 2 was initially placed on a table for 4 even though the restaurant was half full for the second sitting. Dining is allegedly open seating for breakfast and lunch on most days but you will be directed to where they want you to sit which may be with others and not necessarily in the restaurant of your choice. Due to an outbreak of Norovirus the restaurants weren't, as it became self-service, although you didn't serve yourself. You had to stand in a queue and wait for a member of staff to put your choice on a plate before taking it back to the table yourself, by which time it was cold. A bit like I remember the school canteen. There wasn't enough staff at the food stations and when you got back to the table you then had to wait for things like sachets of condiment, cruet, preserves, sugar and milk. There was nothing other than cutlery on the table. I suggested to ease this chaotic situation that sittings should be introduced for breakfast and lunch but Fernando the maitre'd thought this might upset the first dinner sitting passengers. One evening when this open sitting operated we were in and out of the dining room within 30 minutes. This is not what I want on holiday. The attempted control of norovirus has been taken to new heights of inconvenience without success. Fortunately we didn't succumb. Luckily we did see the Northern Lights which was the reason for the cruise. Cannot comment on any of the shows as we didn't go to any. On returning to Portsmouth although we had priority disembarkation, when called to leave we had to wait at the gangway while numerous crew members filed on without any security check or hand sanitation. This filled the area to congestion with the female member of security staff totally losing control. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2012
This review will be quite detailed and is only my opinion but, as I'm a bit of a compulsive note taker, I have recorded information on the ship and ports which may be useful to others so here goes........... Background This was our ... Read More
This review will be quite detailed and is only my opinion but, as I'm a bit of a compulsive note taker, I have recorded information on the ship and ports which may be useful to others so here goes........... Background This was our first Fred Olsen cruise but our 30th ocean cruise...... can you tell we like cruising? My husband and I are in our mid 60s and I have some mobility problems. My husband and I are from the Midlands in the UK and we chose this cruise because it was very reasonably priced and fitted in with our holiday dates. Travel arrangements We travelled down by car from our home on the day before the cruise and stayed at the Premier Inn Central in Basingstoke which is roughly 30 miles from the dock in Southampton. I booked this hotel well in advance and got a room at a very reasonable rate (£36). The hotel is conveniently situated about 1mile from the town centre and within a leisure park with cinema and chain restaurants. Car Parking We pre-booked car parking with 'Cruise Parking' which is situated a 20 minute mini bus drive from the port area. The cost once again, was reasonable, especially compared to the port 'on site' car parks. The whole process was very straight forward. We drove into the site, handed over our keys and transferred our cases onto the mini bus trailer. From drop off to arriving at the port terminal took no more than 30 minutes. On arrival back in port we saw a representative from the company standing right outside the customs clearance area and he directed us to a waiting coach. Once again, it was approximately 30 minutes from getting out of customs to getting into our car. We will certainly use this company when cruising from Southampton. Boarding Unlike many other cruise lines, it is not worth arriving early at the terminus as the ship did not start boarding until just after 2.00p.m. We had been given 2.30p.m. as our embarkation time and we actually got on board at 2.45p.m. - Check-in was fairly quick -- about 20 minutes from arriving at the terminal (cases were whisked away) to completing the security checks and sitting down in the lounge. - There is a magazine stand just outside the departure lounge with many free travel and concept magazines. - There is plenty of seating inside the departure lounge together with toilet and snack facilities. - There was a stand advertising 'silver service afternoon tea' at £6.50pp. The same food is available without charge in the Palms Buffet. - Passengers are given a boarding number and groups of 20 are called to go through. This prevented a mad rush to get on board. - Once on board we were directed, not shown, to our cabin. Balmoral - the ship. My husband and I actually sailed on this ship in 2005 when it belonged to NCL and was Norwegian Crown. When it was sold to Fred Olsen the ship was stretched to add extra cabins and some new facilities. It was good to see that some of the original features still remained and we recognised the dining room, rear pool and buffet area. Balmoral is 43,500 tonnes with 1,300 passengers and 500 crew so a relatively small ship in comparison with many of today's liners. I felt it was geared towards the more mature passenger and had a definite British ambiance although there were a few guests from other countries on board and, as it was half term for many UK schools, there were over 50 children who appeared to be well catered for by the designated crew members. Muster Drill This took place immediately prior to sail away and the muster stations were all indoors. We took our life jackets, listened to the safety talk and then were asked to put on our life jackets. Dining options Palms Buffet - Food is not available 24 hours in the buffet. - The set times for breakfast 07.00 -- 09.30 Lunch 12.00 -- 14.30 Afternoon tea 15.30 -- 16.30 Dinner 18.30 -- 21.00 - IMHO the food was generally good with a fair variety of hot and cold dishes. - I did like the fact that the tables were set with a flower decoration, table mats, fabric serviettes, side plates and the correct amount of cutlery. Dining rooms - Evening Dining is traditional set times and tables -- early sitting is 6.15p.m. and late sitting is 8.30p.m. - Breakfast and Lunch servings are open seating in all 3 main dining rooms. Breakfast 08.00 -- 10.00 and Lunch 12.00 -- 14.00 - There are 3 dining rooms -- the largest, Ballindalloch Restaurant, is on deck 6 and the 2 smaller ones, Avon and Spey, are on deck 10. - There are several tables for 2 available. - I found the service to be efficient without being intrusive. - The menus were varied and always included a 'British traditional favourite'. - Food quality varied but I never had a bad meal. There are no speciality restaurants. Entertainment - There is no casino but there were a couple of Roulette and Black Jack tables available in the evening in one corner of the Lido Bar on deck 8. - The 'Morning Light Pub' was the main bar with comfortable seats and musical entertainment in the evenings. - There is a large Library with comfortable chairs, a good selection of books available to borrow, British news paper each lunch time and quizzes, crosswords and Sudoku challenges each day.- There is an internet room with computers but we didn't use it so I can't provide any information. - There were a few shops selling jewellery, clothes, cosmetics, alcohol, cigarettes and general items etc. - The Marquee lounge and the Observatory lounge on deck 11 provided quiet areas with good views. - The Neptune Lounge on deck 7 was the main show lounge and had sofas, swivel chairs and small tables. There was a fairly large dance floor which rose up to form a stage for the shows. My DH and I are keen ballroom dancers and we were in heaven.....there was ballroom and sequence dancing every evening and there were dance hosts (4 gentlemen and 1 lady) for people who needed a dance partner. - There were 3 production shows which I thought were among the best I have ever seen on a ship, a comedian who had most of the audience laughing (me included), a singing magician who, in my opinion, was poor and a terrific 'crew talent' show......definitely the best I have seen afloat. - There were 2 formal evenings where probably 70% of the passengers wore formal/semi-formal clothes plus a 'tropical' night and a 'rock and roll' night where approximately 30% of passenger dressed up. - There was a Captain's welcome and a Captain's farewell reception with free drinks and canapes. - There were quizzes, lectures, recitals, card competitions, craft classes, cookery demonstrations, dance lessons etc on sea days. Launderettes Wow!.......I know it is a bit strange to get excited about launderettes but, with creased clothes, modern airline baggage weight restrictions and longer cruises, I find the launderette particularly useful and the 2 on Balmoral are the best I have come across on cruise ships. - There are 2 launderettes -- 1 on deck 3 and 1 on deck 9. - They are both quite spacious rooms and fitted out in a similar pattern. - Each room has 8 front loading washing machines and 8 driers. - Deck 9 has 2 irons and deck 3 has 3 irons. - A wash costs £2 (tokens available from the reception desk) and that includes detergent which is automatically dispensed onto the clothes at the push of a button as the wash cycle starts. - Driers and irons are free. Remember to empty the water condenser at the top left corner of the drier to make drying more efficient. - If the washer door has been closed on an empty machine, there is a yellow tag to pull down on the left corner of the washing machine. - Opening hours are from 08.00 to 23.00 Cabin 5218A inside superior (deck 5 mid-ship) We were pleasantly surprised with the size, layout and comfort of the cabin. We knew when we booked this grade of cabin that the beds would be arranged in an 'L' shape so were quite happy with that. - I found the bed to be reasonably comfortable and the pillows were soft and fluffy which I like. - I found the duvet to be on the heavy side but my DH thought it was a perfect weight....everyone to their own! - I loved the fact that there was a kettle with coffee and tea sachets provided along with sugar, sweetener and milk cartons. It was lovely to have our early morning cuppa and I really don't know why the American cruise lines do not offer this facility on all their ships. - There was ample storage with plenty of drawers and hanging space in the wardrobes. - There was a bucket style chair and small glass table along with a large dressing table. - The safe was in the wardrobe and you input your own number. - The cabin had very good lighting which could be varied to make it darker or lighter. - There is a flat screen TV with BBC news, Sky news and sports channel, a film channel, bridge cam and interactive options -- pay films and access to your OB account. - There are plenty of plug sockets but they are US/European style. I brought an adapter and 4gang extension and this worked well. - I thought the bathroom was a reasonable size compared to our experiences with standard cabins on other cruise lines. - The best thing is the largish shower stall which had ½ glass wall/ ½ shower curtain so NO sticking curtain. The shower power was good and hot water was plentiful. - Toiletries were basic but reasonable quality -- liquid soap on the counter and liquid body wash in the shower. You could request things like shower caps, solid soap etc. - Towels and wash cloths were changed on request. Ports and ships tours. Our ports of call were -- La Rochelle, Getxo (for Bilbao), Aviles and La Coruna We had already visited all the ports except for Aviles. We decided to do 1 ship's tour and that was to Ile de Re just outside La Rochelle. We chose this one because a French friend holidays there regularly and we wanted to see the places he talked about. We also chose this one because it did not have 'compulsory walking' (Fred Olsen's description of their tours contains this information) and I have some mobility problems. - A set of port maps was left in each cabin during our 1st sea day. I thought this was a nice touch. - Ship's tours departed from the Neptune lounge. - All ports were industrial areas La Rochelle The dock is approximately 5 miles from the centre of La Rochelle and is a controlled area. - There was a free shuttle bus to the dock gates but there is nothing to see there and it is a very long walk from there into the town. - There is a small terminal building with a shop, toilets and tourist information desk. - FO ran a shuttle bus into the centre of La Rochelle for £10pp with unlimited transfers. These run from the car park outside the terminal building - The town is easily walkable with some pretty streets, an interesting small harbour area, outdoor cafes and many shops. Unfortunately, many things were closed or opened late as it was the end of the holiday season. - The Ile de Re tour was quite interesting. We saw the best of what was on offer including the Monastery ruins and some pretty fishing villages - La Flotte, Sainte-Marie-de-Re and Saint-Martin-de-Re were the most notable. There was 45 minutes free time in Saint-Martin-de-Re which was definitely not enough to explore the quaint streets and pretty harbour. Getxo and Bilbao Getxo is a thriving suburb of Bilbao and has its own charm. - Again it is an industrial port area so, although you could walk out of the port, it was a long way to the town centre. - There is a small terminal building with a shop, toilets and tourist information desk. - There were maps available in there. - FO ran unlimited return shuttle buses into the centre of Getxo for £5pp. The bus stopped 100 metres from the metro station where there are frequent trains into Bilbao. - There is a very nice beach just at the edge of the port. - There is a shopping complex just outside the port. - Getxo centre has cafes and shops. - There are some beautiful and imposing villas along the coast road. We had been to Bilbao twice before when I was more mobile and we had seen the main attractions already -- the Guggenheim Museum, the river front promenade and the Old Town -- so we decided not to do a ship's tour but to get the metro and then make our mind up what to do when we got into town. The metro was easy to use: - Ticket machines have an option to have information displayed in English. - It was €3.20pp return for the 20 minute journey. - We decided to get off at 'Abando' station which was nearest to the Old Town and was a short walk across the river. After coffees and a croissant at a pavement cafe (€3.50 which we thought was extremely good value) we caught the tram (€1.40pp single journey) along the river front to the Guggenheim Museum where we got off and sat in the sun in the park area for a while just enjoying the sunshine and people watching. - We caught the metro back from the San Marmes station We had a lovely few hours for a very reasonable price. Aviles Aviles was a revelation and turned out to be, by far, our favourite port. The old town area was very attractive with some most unusual cafes, little food shops and fabulous arcades. This is a relatively new destination and, I believe that Balmoral was the first cruise ship to use the port earlier in the year. There is a lot of building work going on to extend the dock area. - You cannot walk directly from the ship so there was a free shuttle bus to terminus at the edge of the old town. - The terminus is just a tent with a few chairs and tourist information. - It is quite a long walk from the drop off to the town as you have to cross the river and the railway line by bridge first. - There is a very helpful Tourist Information centre at the beginning of the street which takes you to the Town Hall square. - The streets which radiate from the square are all quaint and there are some beautiful buildings, speciality food shops and gardens. - The newer town is to the right of the old town and has a nice food market and a shopping Mall. - We had beautiful weather and enjoyed sitting out in a cafe and people watching. La Coruna Unfortunately, the weather changed as we got to La Coruna and it became cold and overcast with torrential rain showers. It was also November 1st which is a national holiday in Spain the vast majority of shops and many restaurants were closed. These 2 factors combined to make it a disappointing port for many passengers. Fortunately we had visited La Coruna before and remember it in better weather and as a bustling shopping centre. - The ship docks in walking distance of the town centre. - There is a small terminal building with a shop, toilets and tourist information desk. - 2 minutes from the terminal building is a huge shopping mall with cinema, restaurants and upper market shops. - There are lovely walks around the promontory and a beautiful beach at the other side of the peninsula which can be reached by walking about ½mile through the town centre. - The Old Town has a large Town Hall square with many cafes and restaurants. It's approximately 10 minutes walk from the ship. And finally We were so impressed with the Fred Olsen product as a value for money option that we have booked 2 more cruises with them. Balmoral was not the glitziest or most modern ship we have been on but she was one of the friendliest and had many things that we really enjoyed. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2012
We have just returned from a wonderful cruise starting in Newcastle and going to the North Cape in Norway. The first two days were at sea, allowing us to relax. We then called at the Loften Islands before going on to Honningsvag and the ... Read More
We have just returned from a wonderful cruise starting in Newcastle and going to the North Cape in Norway. The first two days were at sea, allowing us to relax. We then called at the Loften Islands before going on to Honningsvag and the North Cape. Our return trip was on the 'inside passage' between the islands along the Norwegian coast to Bergen, before the final cruise back to Newcastle. This was only possible because it was a small cruise ship. The staff on board were absolutely wonderful and responded immediately to any requests. The food was excellent and there was even a simple menu which was available every day for anyone who did not fancy anything on the menu. We never needed it. The captain said that he hoped we would be able to visit Trollfjord, which is only accessible to small cruise ships, and this was a magical experience for everyone on board. To make a u-turn in a tiny fjord is something special. For those who wanted it, there was always plenty to do on board and for those who wanted to just sit quietly and read there was the opportunity. Although the tours seemed expensive they were no more costly than making private arrangements; it is just that Norway is a very expensive country. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2012
We have just returned from a wonderful cruise aboard Fred Olsen's Braemar. This was the third time that we had sailed on the ship, the previous two cruises were when the ship was in the Cunard fleet and was known as the Cunard ... Read More
We have just returned from a wonderful cruise aboard Fred Olsen's Braemar. This was the third time that we had sailed on the ship, the previous two cruises were when the ship was in the Cunard fleet and was known as the Cunard Dynasty. Fred Olsen had made several changes to the ship. First of all a few years ago, they cut the ship in two and extended it creating more cabins, deck space and introducing a new restaurant. The passenger capacity increased from 800 to around 1000 berths and is a perfect ship to cruise on. Our check-in was pretty speedy compared to the last cruise with Princess at Southampton, where we had to queue up outside the building and were nearly 3 hours going through the check-in procedure! So this was nice, straight in with a seat to wait to be called through and pretty quick desk check-in. Our last few cruises have been on the mega ships with more than 3000 passengers and we straight away settled into our comfortable floating home. Its an easy ship to get around and best of all there are no queues. We were fortunate to be allocated the Grampian restaurant and I would encourage you to choose or request this at the time of booking. As we booked late we could only get 2nd sitting, but we were rewarded with a table that gave us the most fantastic sea views through a huge round window (like a giant port hole approximately 8 feet in circumference). The highlight one evening was watching a school of dolphins swim and play just off the port side as we sailed between the Outer and Inner Hebrides and this was accompanied by a family of swallows, with their new born, just flying by the window and landing on the deck. In terms of food served we were generally satisfied apart from the Rock and Roll themed Menu which was generally pretty poor. Burgers served in the restaurant and the sort of stuff you would expect on a TGI Friday menu - but worse! Otherwise the meals and menu choice was pretty good and considering the price we paid for the cruise - it was exceptional value. Others with far reaching expectations probably would not be satisfied and we did hear crumbles. My only negative about the restaurant were: Breakfast - many passengers would come up from the main restaurant and so we had to queue and could not use our own table. The maitre d walked through the restaurant and was not really hands on to problems. The waiters served tea/coffee as the desert was delivered and therefore it was cold and the tea/coffee was served from pots that unless they were fresh, were generally only lukewarm. There was just so much wastage. We ended up asking for fresh hot boiling water and adding a tea bag - which really was the only way to get a decent cup of tea that was hot and even then the waiters would fetch or use a lukewarm pot, so you had to continually ask for 'Hot Boiling Water', which the waiters were generally reluctant to go to galley for. My mother had cause to complain about an Indian waiter (we won't say his name). On several occasions he was seen picking his nose in full view of everyone in the restaurant and we raised this with the maitre d who promised to take action. Needless to say the waiter carried on and failed to wash/clean his hands and serve food! Fred Olsen seemed to take precautions in providing anti bacteria hand cleaners at the restaurant entrances. This was not supervised and as well as waiters, other passengers would nonchalantly just walk past them. Its no wonder norovirus spreads and its these folks who probably carry the infections. We visited the main restaurant on one occassion and were so glad we were not allocated to dine in there. The dining room is crammed tight and Lunch is self service and is just like a bun fight! The sun deck was vastly improved, with two swimming pools and two hot tubs. The swimming pools were heated, but the water was dirty. We came out with rashes. The pool water was only changed once in 9 days. We enjoyed the sailway parties from Dublin and Belfast under clear blue skies. Dancing to a live band at the rear of the ship. If you want a seat, you need to get there around 45 minutes - 30 at the latest. We have to knock the pushiness of the waiting staff at the sailaway party! They were obviously under orders. as soon as you appeared it was like being greeted by timeshare touts and if we said no twice we said it over twenty times! This ruined the ambiance of the sailaway. Yes we do like a drink, but to be in your face every 30 seconds is well over the top and Fred Olsen should review the clients experience at a sailaway. It ruined it for us. On a more positive note, I liked some of the change on board the ship that Fred Olsen have made. The Observation lounge/bar, just under the bridge. This was previously a gymnasium. It was nice for a pre or after dinner drink. Entertainment on board was limited and the dance group performed pretty much repetitive boring routines that are very dated. That aside, the singers and the bands were pretty good with entertaining shows. The highlight was the crew show and some very talented individuals,e specially the waiter who performed a comic sketch as a ventriloquist! So why waste a budget when you have the talent in house! This is how the good old days of cruising use to operate with talented crew performing and keeping the passengers entertained! Now for the real moan of the cruise. The port lecture was the worst we have ever been to. Despite the lounge being full, the presenter was so full of himself and what he had done and where he had been. He did not know the times the ship was in port - saying he would have to check and his port information was pathetic. You may as well picked up a map and studied it yourself. His voice was so boring he sent half the audience to sleep and many just got up and walked out. He would point out landmarks in the town and was quoted saying, I think that has moved! He pushed the ships tours and quoted for Belfast if you want to visit the Titanic Exhibition then unless you book the ships tour you probably wont get in! We took the complimentary shuttle bus to town and got a lift to the museum. We walked straight in and purchased tickets for the next tour! Three of us got in for £38 which was not even the cost of one on their sightseeing tour! Needless to say we did not book any ships tours as we found the presenter awful and uninspiring and full of useless information which he provided to fill his port lecture. Worst of all though, was the presentation was on a loop on the in cabin TV entertainment system. Fred Olsen need to closely look at this sector as it is affecting their on-board revenues and income potential and almost everyone we cam across on the cruise was of the same opinion. Our ports of call sailing from Dover was Dublin, with an overnight stop. There was a shuttle bus operating, but you had to pay Fred Olsen. Belfast Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands Invergordon in Scotland. The cruise also provided 4 days cruising at sea. For some reason Fred Olsen cancelled Holyhead. To us they missed out on probably one of the best ports of calls in a Round Britain Cruise. Whilst there is not much at Holyhead, the tour options are fantastic with fantastic scenery of the Snowdonia National Park mixed in with the historic Welsh Culture and their UNESCO world heritage Castles, which you can visit at Conwy, Caernarfon and Beaumaris on a day ashore. We had booked a private tour with Boutique Tours of North Wales and had to consequently cancel. Boutique Tours were pretty informative with their information and options. We had used them before on a previous cruise last year when we called at Liverpool. We were fortunate to come across him as a friend recommended him when they cruised into Liverpool. They have a lovely Mercedes Viano, which is a nice spacious and comfortable vehicle. One bit of advice, they only have the one vehicle and you have to book early to take advantage of their services. Although the itinerary was not a great one, the mixture of cruise days at sea and ports was well balanced. Our only real negative was Fred Olsen had cancelled the port of call to Holyhead in North Wales before the cruise operated and there was no reason provided. So despite not visiting Holyhead, the weather on our cruise was outstanding and we had sea conditions that resembled cruising the Greek Aegean Seas - beautiful blue calm waters with a smooth ripple and wake from our ship cruising at a very relaxed rate of knots. To finish with, we have to say that value for money this was a really enjoyable cruise and just let down on the few areas that we have highlighted. We found that the majority of passengers had booked via a heavily discounted late offer from just £299 and many of the dining experiences we encountered, guests were asking what you paid and this became a very sensitive subject and one or two became annoyed as the conversations progressed with people gloating over what they paid and taking pleasure out of upsetting other folk. We just did not enter the conversation as we said it was a present from our mother who was travelling with us and we said it would be rude to ask her what she paid! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
I was lucky to win this cruise in the magazine Cruise International. I was aware beforehand not to expect any facilities for children but still decided to take my daughter and, almost 3 year old, granddaughter. I had problems getting a ... Read More
I was lucky to win this cruise in the magazine Cruise International. I was aware beforehand not to expect any facilities for children but still decided to take my daughter and, almost 3 year old, granddaughter. I had problems getting a cabin and then its suitability. Please go to the end of the review if you are interested in the details. Leaving from Dover we were able to hop on a high speed train from St Pancras and use Fred Olsen's shuttle service to get to the dock. Checking in and boarding through security was tedious and took about an hour and a half. We were unfortunate in the weather, at least at the start of the cruise, as we were sailing into a deep depression forming in the Bay of Biscay. So for the first day and a half it was dull, rainy, windy and rough. Tough for all the family. The cabin was bigger than we expected and well furnished. As were the public rooms and the rest of the ship. Plenty of wooden deck space for walking and jogging and a large pool deck with Jacuzzis. Mostly deserted during the cruise my daughter and granddaughter enjoyed both on the slightly warmer days. We avoided the main dining room on the formal nights as I had neither dinner jacket or dark suit and found the designation old fashioned and frankly silly. Although many passengers were happy to accept the code. We also found it easier some nights to use the buffet so that my granddaughter could get a plate of food she found acceptable. I was disappointed that no effort was made by the dining room staff to help in providing suitable food or generally bring her something she could cope with. We even had to ask for a suitable glass for water instead of the large, slim stemmed glasses provided. I can understand why Fred Olsen might not feel the need to provide children's' facilities on the Braemar but the dining room could, and should, have done better. The food itself varied from OK to some good courses and the general service was only adequate (worse that any of my previous cruises). I should tell you here that all the staff on board were very friendly and it wasn't long before it seemed that they were all greeting my granddaughter by name. The other public rooms were all well appointed and comfortable but got a bit crowded on 'at sea' days due to the weather. We didn't visit the main show room but did go into the cabaret room on 3 nights to listen to an excellent 4 piece group called 4th Dimension. My granddaughter and 2 friends had a wonderful time on the dance floor which had very few other dancers. We arrived in La Pallice, a short free coach transfer into La Rochelle. The weather was dry and quite pleasant. The next two days would be the same until we reached A Coruna when it became cold and rainy. They have a new aquarium there which was great fun and well worth a visit. We also had lunch which was way better than you might expect at a tourist attraction. Worth trying even if you don't want to go to the aquarium. The small harbour - La Vieux Port - was very picturesque, as was the surrounding streets and buildings. Next day we were in Getxo for Bilbao. We didn't fancy the hour round trip into town so got out our bucket and spades and went to a beautiful broad beach 5 minutes walk from the ship. The next port of call, Aviles, was the best. It turns out that we were the first ever cruise line to dock at the new terminal right in the centre of town. As we approached up a narrow channel both sides were lined by people welcoming our arrival and more were at the quayside. We were next to the impressive new Centro Cultural Internacional Oscar Niemeyer and then a short walk across an amazing bridge into the old town. We strolled through charming squares, cobbled streets and a lovely park ending up in a pavement cafe in the Plaza de Espana drinking a cafe solo. And at our departure the crowds waving goodbye were huge. Lots of waving and sounding of the ship's horn. A Coruna was disappointing for us due to the cold, rainy weather so we weren't ashore for long. The weather on the trip back to Dover was cold, windy and overcast but the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel were fairly calm. Two highlights of this part of the voyage were the schools of Dolphins we saw on our penultimate evening and a very traditional afternoon tea served by white gloved staff in the Observatory bar with its large picture windows overlooking the bow. The tea was a very reasonable £6+. Overall the cruise was disappointing. The weather didn't help of course but I would rate the food and restaurant service as average, certainly worse than my previous cruises. The cabin was good (except for the particular problems below) and cabin service very good. Two bonuses were very few tannoy announcements and we weren't pestered by the photographers. The general atmosphere was old fashioned/traditional with quite a high average age for the passengers. If this suits you then you might enjoy the Braemar. [Finding a suitable cabin was difficult. My prize was an outside cabin which unfortunately could not accommodate an extra bed so it was either a case of upgrading for over £500 or going to an inside cabin and a bunk bed but still paying and extra £150. I chose the latter.] There were still 2 basic problems with the cabin. My granddaughter wasn't used to a bed yet and tended to roll off so we had to put one single bed against the wall and then push the other against it. And the ladder to access the upper berth was only designed to be used at the side of the bunk so any double bed configuration meant that I had to use the ladder at the end of the bunk where it was not safely secured. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2012
From the long queues at embarkation, despite being given staggered boarding times, this proved to be an old-fashioned, limited cruising experience. By the time we finally boarded lunch was long over, and newly embarked guests were heading ... Read More
From the long queues at embarkation, despite being given staggered boarding times, this proved to be an old-fashioned, limited cruising experience. By the time we finally boarded lunch was long over, and newly embarked guests were heading for lifeboat drill. We found our way to a deck 4 cabin, to discover we had 2 berths,a tea and coffee tray, and a smallish rusty window.The saving grace was that the bathroom was of a decent size and came with a tub, plus 2 neat little bags of toiletries. After the drill, we went to find some food- but it consisted of an afternoon tea type spread in the crowded Palms cafe, which we decided to avoid on future occasions. we had chosen to dine late, and had been allocated a table in the smaller Spey dining room , with its lovely sea views. we had requested a large table, but were not afforded our wish. Dining was very pedestrian, and totally lacked imagination and creativity.The wine list had some unusual wines of a decent quality, and was not overpriced. For our other meals, we lunched in the dining room, as it was so much quieter than facing the overcrowded,badly ladi out self service cafe. though food choices hardly varied and featured salads with tinned vegetables. We prefer room service breakfast when on cruises, but this was limited to cold continental breakfast items. Evening entertainment was offered in the Neptune lounge, but was of a very ordinary standard, and elsewhere a trio played, a keyboard player sang in a lounge, and a pianist played in the attractive Observatory, sea facing lounge. Day time activity was limited to bingo, lecturesand a few deck games.Cabin TV was very poor, with few chanels, and pay-per view films. The entire ship seemed so dated and dreary, with little to compete with the many other ships offering cruises from UK shores. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
We like the "Balmoral" as it is large enough to have all the facilities but small enough to remain personal and friendly. Embarcation was the only poor point on a 5 night mini cruise taking almost 2 hours from arrival to ... Read More
We like the "Balmoral" as it is large enough to have all the facilities but small enough to remain personal and friendly. Embarcation was the only poor point on a 5 night mini cruise taking almost 2 hours from arrival to boarding ship. Everything else was a major plus point making this the most enjoyable cruise we have taken. The cabin was well appointed, immaculately clean and maintained so,comfortable beds and with a good roomy en suite with shower. The food was superb with an excellent choice in the breakfast, lunch and late supper buffets we used, with efficient and friendly service in the main dining room. The bars and lounges supplied drinks at normal Uk pub prices,without pressure and NO service charge. The entertainment was by far the best we have experienced with excellent quality shows in the theatre from the Balmoral company plus great shows from comedian Lloyd Davies and fine singer Bruce Anderson. The entertainment team were also excellent throughout the ship with fine singing and entertainment from Jamie Clark, lovely vocalist Jessica Samuel and good music from Frankie Jones and the Q-Tones. On the sea days there were excellent well supported lectures. The fitness and beauty salon are attractive and well equipped. Overall a great holiday break and great value for money. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2011
This was the second time that we have cruised with Fred Olsen with our first being away back in 1989! The UK itinerary was the attraction coupled with the convenience of the walk on at the port of Rosyth after a short car journey of 45 ... Read More
This was the second time that we have cruised with Fred Olsen with our first being away back in 1989! The UK itinerary was the attraction coupled with the convenience of the walk on at the port of Rosyth after a short car journey of 45 minutes.Embarkation was very smooth although we did arrive far too early for the start of boarding at 2.30pm. We were very impressed with our Balcony suite on Bridge deck 8. Large sleeping and lounge area with spacious illuminated closet, drawer and storage space.The bathtub was very small but the toilet overall was spacious with unusually lots of toiletries. The ship has a good amount of open deck with adequate sunbathing areas. There was plenty of space with little sense of over crowding mainly because of the weather coupled with the average age of the passenger must have been in the region of 157!!!! There are lots of small public rooms, bars and lounges with a tranquil observatory lounge on deck 9 at the bow. The main dining room is divided into three ares with bland seating without ample space between each table giving a sense of overcrowding. Breakfast and lunch is open seating with mostly repetitive buffet food. The usual jockeying passengers trying to weave a safe return to their table with copious amounts of food!! The Neptune Lounge was the most used venue for the small scale high energy production shows, cabaret acts and guest lecturers. I have to say they were all excellent. A special mention for the resident comedian onboard going by the name of Barnaby for performing his two 45 minute gigs without one swear word or blue material!! The ships tours which were on offer we did not take advantage of for obvious reasons. Outrageously overpriced and not good value for money. I can understand the comfort and safety of a ships tour when abroad with the language and custom difficulties or a bit infirm. But, DIY sightseeing in the UK could not be more simple and made very easy with information available at all ports of call. My main gripes: Long lines at the cramped buffet, not enough wine waiters with poor wine selection plus the over priced house wine at nearly £4.00 a small glass!This is comparable with the larger cruise companies. This cruise ship suites the older British couple looking for realistic pricing with exception to the house wine! Good value for money with British food and entertainment. If you like napkin folding,line dancing and bingo, carpet bowls, Vera Lyn and prunes for your breakfast, then this is the cruise for you!! Fortunately for me it is still a bit early for the Sing Along A Max with afternoon tea and scones before Bingo!!! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2011
After an unscheduled overnight stay in Southampton due to technical problems with a lifeboat and its certification (why is there never an inspector on 24 hour call outs,surely the cruise company fraternity can give someone a good wage to ... Read More
After an unscheduled overnight stay in Southampton due to technical problems with a lifeboat and its certification (why is there never an inspector on 24 hour call outs,surely the cruise company fraternity can give someone a good wage to facilitate such matters).So,this meant no stop off at the French port of Hendaye,disappointment for some but i was okay with it specially as F.Olsen had reimbursed us £50pp of OBC,which took care of my bar bill! Pleasant weather most of the time, though a bit rough for some as we sailed through the Bay of Biscay,lots of sick bags available on this day plus we heard the doc's surgery was busy handing out sea sickness jabs (always take your own pills).After a couple of days sailing we eventually got to Lisbon,a wonderful vibrant city.Took the Big red bus tour here (15 euro pp) rather than a ships tour of the city (£40pp) and the bus stop is right outside the terminal gate,they did not advertise that in the brochure and only at the very end of the port talk (wonder why). However we did take a ships tour in Vigo,our next port of call. Seeing it was Sunday and all but the cafes were closed though the main attraction today was the Aircraft carrier, Spain's Juan Carlos was in town and the Spanish public were queuing for literally miles to get on it as it was open to them today. Our trip was okay though as usual way too overpriced for a view of the harbour and city from a high vantage point and a trip to Bayona were we saw some ancient castle/fortress which now houses a 4* hotel (with 5* prices for drinks,2.80 euros for a small coke!) Next up was La Coruna,did our own thing again, a free shuttle bus through the port to the port entrance was laid on,then we took a leisurely walk around the quaint old town,then into the shopping district where we stopped off for a coffee and watched the world go by.Next day was the port of Getxo for Bilbao,took a ships tour here,again our first stop was to a high vantage point to get a panoramic view of the city,this view was quite spectacular.A couple of stops in the city to a sacred church and then into the old town centre,again quaint, and very picturesque finishing off with a look only at the carbuncle of a building that is the Guggenheim museum. After each trip the weather was very good for a spot of R&R on deck 11 with its warm Pool and even warmer jacuzzis and if you did not fancy a 4 course lunch there was soup and sandwiches. We dined in the Spey restaurant were the food was excellent,service slow at times,as the waiters had a "lot on". Breakfast taken mainly in the Palms self service,they do a wonderful ham omelette,cooked fresh to your liking here. Entertainment, could not fault the visiting "pro" acts though the Balmoral singers and dancers were ordinary,probably the worse we've seen on a cruise but hey. The other entertainment staff were good,thought Juliet had a great voice in the wonderful crew show. All in all a very good cruise would recommend to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2011
The itinerary for this cruise to Spitzbergen was excellent. Being quite a small ship (some 900 passengers) we were able to sail between the Norwegian coast and the many coastal islands. Much of the area is almost deserted and the views ... Read More
The itinerary for this cruise to Spitzbergen was excellent. Being quite a small ship (some 900 passengers) we were able to sail between the Norwegian coast and the many coastal islands. Much of the area is almost deserted and the views were terrific for much of the journey, including a memorable visit up Trollfiord, where we seemed to just squeeze through. Svalbard was magical but we were only able to make one stop (at the tiny scientific settlement of Ny Alesund)as the fiord entrance to our second one (Longyearbyen) was blocked by sea-ice due, apparently, to a particular set of climatic and wind conditions. The weather was reasonably kind; mostly dry with 5 degree C temperatures and moderate winds. The other ports of call in Norway, including Bodoe, Lifoten Islands (a welcome but unexplained last minute addition to the itinerary), Honningswag (for North Cape),Tromso and Bergen were all very attractive. We were pleased that in all cases the ship was moored close to the centres of the towns and, as not particularly agile OAP's we were mostly able to walk round the ports. We rented a car at Bodoe (cheaper for 4 than the tours) and took short but interesting tour at Bergen; otherwise we strolled around. The service on board was efficient and mostly cheerful and friendly. The reception desk was sometimes not very good; there seemed to be a problem with understanding English for anything but the routine questions. The food was mostly good and occasionally excellent. Wines at £13 a bottle and up were cheaper than on many other cruises. The evening song and dance shows were severely limited in scope by the facilities. My wife liked the Fourth Dimension trio who performed most evenings in the Coral Lounge, although I found them over amplified. The comedian was worth seeing both his shows; old fashioned material but not rude and quite funny. We can get bored on 'days at sea' and there were 6 or 7 of these. One of the themes of the cruise was Bridge, and as very modest players we found this excellent. On all days at sea, there was an hours lesson in the morning (one for intermediates and one for beginners) and then about 3 hours of duplicate play in the afternoons. All this was run most efficiently and in a very friendly manner and was an unexpected bonus on the holiday. There were also some port lectures (quite good) and other general lectures (Concorde, Bletchley Park etc) which were reportedly good.There were some shortcomings. Our cabin (3051) was rather small, and particularly short of drawer space. We managed, but I would not wish to make a long trip (4 weeks or more) in it. The airconditioning did not work at first, but was repaired fairly quickly (change of controller required) when reported. Our friends in the next cabin also had similar trouble, which took longer to fix. Also, quite often, one of the 4 elevators was not working for short periods. Do they do any preventative maintenance? At these high latitudes, satellite services (television and Internet) suffer badly. I was frustrated by the frequent reference in the Daily Times to 'occasional poor reception' when there was absolutely none for most of the trip. I found that information on location, weather prospects etc. was poor. There were screens dotted around the main deck purporting to show location but their scale was such as to make the information indecipherable. Weather reports seemed to consist of out of date notices telling us what the actual conditions were the day before, with no hint of any forecasting; important in those climes. The captains daily report at noon was OK if you didn't miss it; it wasn't repeated. Overall, a lovely, interesting trip, but the ship could be better run. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2011
We would consider ourselves to be experienced cruisers who go for the itinerary rather than the ship. If the ship is a good one ,then thats a bonus. We've sailed with 10 different cruise lines,some up to four times and on different ... Read More
We would consider ourselves to be experienced cruisers who go for the itinerary rather than the ship. If the ship is a good one ,then thats a bonus. We've sailed with 10 different cruise lines,some up to four times and on different vessels in the same line. Embarkation: Best ever! we joined at Rosyth, and as we live in Scotland's central belt we were on board one and a half hours from leaving home, plus we both 90kgs luggage allowance!! Just as well we did not load our luggage up to the mark as one of our cases was damaged during embarkation. Fred Olsen completed a form for our insurers. P.S. get a lift to Rosyth as Forth Ports charge over £7 per day to park Cabin : We were on the Main deck, starboard and towards the stern, we would normally book a balcony cabin but were not prepared to pay the prices asked for, we spoke later to one disgruntled couple who had paid almost £6000 more than us albeit for a suite. First impressions were that the (twin) cabin was small compared to what we are used to,but we got used to it. At least we had natural light coming in the double window, but we did find the cabin stuffy, in fact some of the public rooms were stuffy, but when you see the prevailing age of most of the guests you know thats what they like! The beds were comfy and warm, we had a bath and shower,safe,space for clothes ok, enough drawers as well. Coffee and tea maker provided but we never used it, would much preferred to have a fridge. Dining and Service: Have to say that we were pleasantly surprised here, We were not looking forward to the fixed 1st sitting after having got used to freestyle type eating, however, even in the main restaurant, breakfast and lunch was buffet style,so only dinner was served. The buffet area got a mite busy at times but there was never any shortage of food. Staff would fetch and serve breakfast and lunch to those less mobile. Breakfast was fine but repetitive, lunch options really good, dinner likewise, service was smart and friendly (as it was throughout the ship) There is an informal restaurant(secret garden cafe) which looked interesting,but we never used it, probably as its really too small and there was normally a queue waiting. Afternoon tea was served here and was very nice. Activities: We had a lot of sea days so activities were important..the lectures were good, Library and games room pleasant, gym well equipped,pool and jacuzzis fine, so the days passed reasonably well, but you would be advised to take plenty of reading material,or catch up on some writing, the Boudicca is not a resort ship! Entertainment: Generally very good,although the passenger talent show had a high cringe factor. Good tight dance and singing troupe, we had a Scottish comedian who was able to make us all laugh with clean material, an excellent crooner, and the musicians dotted around the lounges were also to a good standard. Of course its all geared to the older clientele so dont look for a disco! The Cruise Director was a very nice and experienced guy but I would say he is probably by his sell by date. Excursions: We only went on a few as two of the Greenland ports are really just walk off, however, the trips we did use were well organised and reasonable value, got to say this is when the smaller ship comes into its own,when waiting for tenders especially, dont have to get 3,500 people off !! Ship : Our last time with Fred Olsen was in 2000 on the Black Watch and it was hard to believe that in 2011 we were going on a ship nearly 40 years old. I suppose that Olsen will be able to cash in on the Vintage/Classic market soon! Best thing is that the main sailing crew are Norwegian and I always feel safe sailing with the Vikings, Captain Jan Thommessen is by a long way the best captain we've ever sailed with. He was informative,humourous,walked the ship and had a chat with everybody,instilled confidence when we had a few shaky hours in ice and fog, takes part in a jazz jam session,playing a good trumpet. When we had to miss an Icelandic port because of the ice problems the previous night he told us the reasons why he had to make straight for Reykajavik. OK the ship is a little tired in some public areas and the main theatre is really just a big lounge,so you have to be early to make sure you are not seated behind a pillar! Disembarking: No problems, little bit chaotic in the terminal(Rosyth)as its not really big enough. Summary: Despite our concerns about an older, smaller ship and being with the "blazer brigade" we would travel with Boudicca and Olsen again. We were concerned about the ships history of Norovirus, but we were exorted at every turn to use the hand sanitisers,even in the library! We felt the shop prices and bar prices were reasonable, and the photographers were excellent again with good value prices. The ship has a homely feel about it,but also has some character, a real nice touch was having the great grandchildren of Fred Olsen on board who assisted the Captain to throw a wreath over the stern during a small service of remembrance for Olsen merchant sailors who perished in WW2. We think though that as the older Olsen returnees(most of the guests we spoke to had never sailed with anyone else) pass on, they will have to address a few things. A wee bit too formal, we dont mind "proper formal" nights, but there were too many jacket and tie nights for us. Also need to enlarge the informal anytime dining area as more of us want dining flexibility. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
After considering many options decided to go for Fred Olsen as it has a reputation for old fashioned British style cruising. We took the mini-cruise as taster - just in case - as not been on anything more than a channel ferry in the past. ... Read More
After considering many options decided to go for Fred Olsen as it has a reputation for old fashioned British style cruising. We took the mini-cruise as taster - just in case - as not been on anything more than a channel ferry in the past. Found the booking process - direct with FO at the Telegraph Cruise show quick & easy. All documentation & tickets arrived on time. Booked parking through APB - again quick & easy. Didn't get the email from FO about the delay - so rolled up at Soton about 1230 - where the car was taken away before we we told there would be several hours to wait. would have been nice to know before we handed over the keys. The staff seemed in total disarray - got different stories about check in times depending on who you spoke to. Once through security spent 3 hours or so in a warehouse type lounge with one small expensive cafe/bar. Would have been a good gesture if FO had laid on some free refreshments at this stage. Not a good introduction. Once onboard things improved. Being on deck 9 had it's advantages - as we were amongst the first to board. Having got through the ID photo but we were told the cabins were available so we went straight there. All but one bag was waiting for us. Cabin was roomy, clean & bright. Dumped the stuff and headed for the Lido bar for a drink - service was polite & quick. Last bag was waiting at cabin on our return. Balcony cabin was as spacious and well equipped as many hotel rooms - could easily have spent a much longer cruise in there. Everything worked - although TV channels a bit limited and reception poor. Tends to vibrate a bit when ship is docking - probably as right at the back. However view (side&rear) from balcony compensates for this. Staff in general very polite & attentive. Found all bar staff to be helpful and unlike other reviewers never had to queue or wait for drink. Agree Lighthouse pub not very inviting. Dined in Ballindoch on second sitting. Food was good - some dishes better that others - served quickly and efficiently. Not piping hot - but plenty warm enough. Pre-ordered wine was waiting on the table. Took breakfast in the Palms - once again never had to queue and buffet was plentiful and of good quality. Only lunched on board once - went to the Spey restaurant - where we were ignored by the staff! Left after 5 mins - went back to Ballindoch were we greeted and the buffet layout explained a soon as we sat down. Afternoon tea in the Palms of same standard as breakfast. Shows/entertainment were as you would expect but good fun when taken in context. Didn't have cause to use the gym or other public rooms but all looked well equipped. Pool areas were nice if small - but noticed prople did tend to hog the jacuzzis. Daily news was very helpful. Going ashore a very organised process. On the last day we barely had time for breakfast before disembarking - all bags waiting for us, car just round the corner, so we were away from the dock in no time at all. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2011
The ship is of a very good standard and is always being refurbished. Our Cabin was a little on the small size but adequate for our needs. We personally would like a bath rather than shower, but cost prohibits such luxury. The service on ... Read More
The ship is of a very good standard and is always being refurbished. Our Cabin was a little on the small size but adequate for our needs. We personally would like a bath rather than shower, but cost prohibits such luxury. The service on board was first class, mainly Filipino waiters and waitresses. The shows were of a reasonable standard with some talented artists. I thought the ports of call could of been better. Casablanca was an utter disaster. I think as this cruise was mainly for the elderly a little more thought could of gone into the shows. We had a British night and a western night, and the shows were of a good standard, however, I got the impression the audience would of preferred a "sing a long" type show on each occasion. This was the first cruise I have ever had to pay for a "shuttle bus" to get from the ship to the main resort. All other cruises I have been on always provided a "free" shuttle bus service. Cut backs like this do no favours for the cruise line. The food as always was plentiful and the quality was superb. I did think the portions in the main dining room could of been a little larger. As I'm a fussy eater I was a little disappointed that the menu didn't cater for "plain food" eaters. Everything I received had one sauce or another poured on it, I don't like sauces. The price of alcohol on the ship is akin to a reasonable pub price so no complaints there. The "tax free" goods I think were rather expensive for what they were. Overall a good quality cruise, with good staff. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2010
My wife and I were avid cruisers and have sailed on the largest and smallest vessels. This was our first experience with Fred Olsen. We arrived at Southampton and all was well until we came to board. Although we had some heavy hand ... Read More
My wife and I were avid cruisers and have sailed on the largest and smallest vessels. This was our first experience with Fred Olsen. We arrived at Southampton and all was well until we came to board. Although we had some heavy hand luggage no help was offered and a fellow passenger assisted. This was due to medication which could not be packed in our cases. When on board the booking in was quick and efficient but we were not given any indication as to where the cabin was situated and it fell to a passing crew member to advise us where we should head. When we finally found the cabin (some 10 minutes later) we were pleasantly surprised at the size and general condition of the cabin. Food was acceptable. Tours were very good. Disembarkation was easy. However I can't say this was an experience to be repeated. Until now. I lost my wife to cancer and found how expensive it is to travel as a single passenger on both Cunard and P&O. Fred Olsen offer certain cruises with no single supplement so I thought I would try them again in a different vessel. I will keep you posted.... Read Less
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