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134 Fred. Olsen Europe - British Isles & Western Cruise Reviews

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
Sail Date June 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 July 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
Sail Date August 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
Sail Date September 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 December 2013
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
Sail Date June 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
Sail Date July 2014
I think a three star rating is fair. We thought we would try this one out as a taster to try Fred Olsen. We were only on ship for one night so the fact that we were late boarding 5pm (ship late in port) and made to be out of our cabins by ... Read More
I think a three star rating is fair. We thought we would try this one out as a taster to try Fred Olsen. We were only on ship for one night so the fact that we were late boarding 5pm (ship late in port) and made to be out of our cabins by 8am made it a very short taster ! Food at dinner was excellent but breakfast was a bit like going to Asda for breakfast. Just a bit dissappointed, don't get me wrong the choice was there but all a bit shabby and uninviting. The usual greedy people piling there plates high with no intentions of eating it all. It just felt a bit like Butlins to me. The entertainment was good. We had just an small inside cabin for the one night, clean and efficient but would not like to stay in it for week! Staff were nearly over-friendly, smiles not genuine but forced. I suppose it cannot be easy for them depending on tips and not liking it one bit. A lot of staff had very poor English which I was suprised at. All in all I am glad we went, we had a good time BUT we would not go again. ps it was suppose to be a 70s night. saw little of that apart from some 70's music being played. Read Less
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
Sail Date October 2014
We chose a mini cruise with Fred Olson to Brugge on Black Watch from Tilbury. Check-in is very different from Southampton you drive to the check in hall unload your luggage plenty of help available drive back to Tilbury dock leave your car ... Read More
We chose a mini cruise with Fred Olson to Brugge on Black Watch from Tilbury. Check-in is very different from Southampton you drive to the check in hall unload your luggage plenty of help available drive back to Tilbury dock leave your car in secure parking then catch a bus back to where you started. Check in was fast and easy we only waited a little while till embarkation which was at 2.15.we were soon on board and straight to our cabin. The Ship is very easy to get around and well laid out, there was loads of room in the Public rooms we never felt crowded even at the shows. The staff were friendly and not to pushie were drinks were concerned We only had time to go to the evening shows so did not join any of the other activities, the shows were good. . Dinning, my husband is a Coeliac and the staff very knowledgeable about this , the food was fine with a good choice. On the Sunday with had a Christmas themed meal. We had breakfast in the buffet which was good and as you were seated before you got your food there was none of that wandering around looking for a table. We had breakfast on the last day by 8 am and was off the ship by 8.10 you then catch the bus back to the car park your luggage goes in a covered trailer so you don't have to sit with it. We know why people keep going back to Fred the ships are not that big and you get good service and plenty of space we will be back. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
Did not stay at a hotel. Sailed from Dover, embarkation was swift as the ship was only 75 per cent full. Cabin was clean. we have cruised with Fred Olsen before but this was the first time on the Boudicca. We have avoided this ship in ... Read More
Did not stay at a hotel. Sailed from Dover, embarkation was swift as the ship was only 75 per cent full. Cabin was clean. we have cruised with Fred Olsen before but this was the first time on the Boudicca. We have avoided this ship in the past as it hit the National Press for being struck down with Norovirus. We should have known better than to risk it. Within 3/4 days the infection started on board and when my husband got it, I was asked to stay confined to the cabin with him to protect other people. Having agreed to this, it ensured that I contracted it from him. We missed two ports of call and were isolated until we docked at Dover. Keeping us separated on disembarkation, we were able to see approx 60/70 suitcases with ours indicating many more victims. It was common knowledge that the ship was only 75% full - we are lrft to wonder why. We suggest FredOlsen examines their food preparation as not once did we receive hot food - at best it was warm and at worst it was tepid. We have read in today's paper that the Balmoral has been similarly affected. Olsens need to give this matter priority as it seems immoral to keep selling cruises knowing the very high risk they are putting people at. The entertainment was good, the performers worked hard especially with a much reduced audience both from the number of people sick, but also because the ship was not full. Dining was a mixed bag, due to the self service being discontinued and staff hard pushed to serve. Disembarkation was swift as we were held back for all the healthy people to go off first. We have returned from our "holiday" in far worse health than when we left and we have paid financially for the doubtful privilege of it. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
Mini cruise to Dublin from Liverpool on Black Watch. Fred.Olsen does not expect passengers on Mini cruises to complete a questionnaire so I'm not sure how they get feedback, perhaps they read Cruise Critic? Car parking with CPS ... Read More
Mini cruise to Dublin from Liverpool on Black Watch. Fred.Olsen does not expect passengers on Mini cruises to complete a questionnaire so I'm not sure how they get feedback, perhaps they read Cruise Critic? Car parking with CPS went well. Check in not as slick as Southampton. Boarding the ship entailed walking under a partially covered walk way which did nothing to stop the area being a couple of inches deep in rain water. We've not sailed with Fred.Olsen before, this cruise was ideal to check out Black Watch with a view to booking a longer cruise. The staff were probably the best we've come across. Their friendliness, use of passenger names, eye contact, made them stand out from other cruises companies. Ships officers were visible too, but not the captain. Drinks were reasonably priced, however in the Lido bar, being asked if you'd like a bottle of wine when you ordered a glass was a bit pushy. One evening I was asked if I'd like a large cocktail, this was served in a pint glass decorated with a slice of pineapple! Mixed age group on board plus a Hen Party who seemed to be enjoying themselves. Menu looked good on paper but not as good when it came to the dining experience itself. Breakfast was poor. Poached eggs, cooked to order, one of which was perfectly cooked the other was so cold it tasted as if it'd been in a chiller. Cabin was a terraced balcony suite on deck 7 I understand this cabin used to be classed as a junior suite before the refurb to include a balcony. The cabin was spacious with plenty of storage, good size bathroom. However the decor was dated, the bath had a sizeable chip which had obviously been repaired (badly) Double bed with two single duvets. Soft furnishings were dated, carpet completed the 'vintage look' The innovative balcony was slightly raised from the deck and so long as you don't mind fellow passengers promenading past you'll be fine. Don't expect privacy on the balcony and keep those net curtains closed! The balcony is a waste of time you may as well find yourself a chair on Lido deck Unfortunately Fred.Olsen doesn't have any photos on their web site of these cabins. Entertainment was fun and informal. Dublin was fantastic, great city to visit, plenty of wonderful attractions and friendliest of people. So, would we book a longer cruise with Fred.Olsen? Not on Black Watch. She may be sea worthy but she is far from luxurious, just a tired old lady who needs a lot of TLC. If Fred.Olsen consider Black Watch to be of a suitable standard for their passengers then Fred.Olsen is not for us. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
I went on a previous cruise in March - see my review "Absolutely magical experience" - this time with my wife, so the previous cruise was fresh in my mind and my descriptions in hers. This time departing from Rosyth, we found ... Read More
I went on a previous cruise in March - see my review "Absolutely magical experience" - this time with my wife, so the previous cruise was fresh in my mind and my descriptions in hers. This time departing from Rosyth, we found the port facilities inferior to before when I departed from Southampton, although actual embarkation was much more painless.There is no left luggage facility which made if complicated sending luggage ahead. It was not made clear that there is no taxi rank at the small Rosyth station, better to stop off at Inverkeithing which is a more major station (indeed some of the London trains stop there). The actual cruise got off to a slow start because the first and second days were taken up with port visits - there was no captain's welcome until the third night (and the captain couldn't even come to that) - this meant that ship-bound activities such as Bridge and similar (which we were looking forward to) didn't start until the third day, which was very disappointing, for example for disabled people unable to go on trips. The "at sea" days where there were more activities so crowded the timetable that many things we wanted to go to all clashed. The Bridge sessions were very well-run and enjoyable. Having come up from London on the train, we were disinclined to launch into 4-hour bus trips to Loch Ness and such on the first full day so we stayed on-board feeling we were wasting time. However with the first sea day things picked up well. We didn't end up going on port excursions as we chickened out of going on tenders to some places and I had had the experience of missing trips I'd booked because of injury before. I thought that the food, although very good, wasn't quite in the same league as before. The soups weren't as good and the desserts were mostly very disappointing. The main courses remained excellent. Unlike before there wasn't wholemeal bread, which we like, and none of the speciality breads such as walnut were on offer. We took out the "all-inclusive drinks package" which was a huge mistake. The only things included in the price for free were the very poor house wines, a cava which we soon got bored with and a limited ranges of beers and spirits. Yes you can get other drinks for 50% of the price (reducing good wines from 3 times the price to 1.5 times) but not basics like tea and coffee for which full price was still applied. I think we averaged out losing out by about £10 per night between us. We definitely won't get that again unless they refine it sensibly. We didn't go to many of the entertainment offerings, but those we did go to were very good, all things considered although the lack of a proper theatre hampered things.There was a theme of a detective mystery run over several nights which was good fun. I even got the answer right (but didn't win the prize). The crew were uniformly good-humoured and friendly - some remembered unprompted my likings from my previous trip which was amazing! Still we enjoyed it enough to wander round to the "future cruises" office and book one for next year - this time on the "Black Watch". Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
Changed cabin after 1st night due to vibration and noise (deck 4) Changed ports of call due to bad weather, visited Santander instead of Sans Sebastian informed quicly and given the chance to book on new tours. New cabin great, both ... Read More
Changed cabin after 1st night due to vibration and noise (deck 4) Changed ports of call due to bad weather, visited Santander instead of Sans Sebastian informed quicly and given the chance to book on new tours. New cabin great, both cabins really clean; reception staff very helpful. Excellent staff and wonderful crew, good food; buffet kept open for us when the coach was late back from tour. Booked again for October 16 but on deck 6 this time Good value for money, shops on board needed to be better, shows were as expected. Welsh male choir on board very entertaining. Great visit to Bilbao very informative tour guide needed more time. In france stopped at La Rochelle and visited Courban Castle great tour informative but wanted time in the shops to buy souveniers. Great day exploring Santander on our own. Very clean city, found the bank! Travelled there and back by Eavesway coaches excellent Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
Having worked for four years in P&Os iconic ss Canberra, including her farewell cruise in 1998 prior to her being decommissioned, I have always avoided the temptation of a cruise holiday; party because I had 'been there and done ... Read More
Having worked for four years in P&Os iconic ss Canberra, including her farewell cruise in 1998 prior to her being decommissioned, I have always avoided the temptation of a cruise holiday; party because I had 'been there and done that' albeit from a different perspective, and also because I feared I would spend too much time complaining that 'it isn't like it used to be...' However a partner keen to cruise, a twenty year time gap and a curiosity to see how things had changed, combined to weaken my resolve. What I thought they did well: Firstly, the crew. I know it's a cliché, but the mainly Indian, Filipino and Thai crew could not have worked harder or done more to make our cruise enjoyable. They were friendly, engaging, always appeared happy and managed to remember our names and our favourite drinks. I really could not fault them. Our cabin: we booked a modest deck 2 outside cabin, which was surprisingly spacious and well appointed, though slightly dated decor-wise. The cabin was clean and our cabin steward(ess) (Kitty) was a delight. Even a severe flood requiring a cabin change on the last night was well-handled, with housekeeping staff appointed to help us pack and move. A letter of apology and a £50 credit to our on-board account to apologise for the inconvenience was a nice way to defuse any irritation we may have felt. Food: I thought the food was absolutely first rate. Every day I ordered breakfast from the menu rather than the buffet, and I could not fault it if I tried. The galley even made a slight adjustment to their kedgeree recipe to suit my spicier palate. Lunch as usually taken in the buffet or shore-side when alongside. The buffet was good with plenty of choice. Afternoon Tea (only taken twice) was perhaps the weakest offer - sandwiches were tasty but a but clunky and unrefined, the cake selection was limited, the scones were not the best (a bit dry) and served with UHT whipped cream, which as a shame given we were in port six of ten days so obtaining fresh stores should not have been a problem. Dinner, however, was the highlight of the day; we were lucky to have 4 great table companions whose company we enjoyed and who each added a different perspective to the conversation. Our Head Waiter (Xavier) and the Commis Waiter (Ryan) were efficient, charming and friendly. Each night we had a five course menu, with three to six choices of each. In total we had ten meals on board and I don't think I once left the restaurant unhappy. Full marks and thank you to all concerned. Guest entertainers: we had some super guest entertainers, including Leo Shavers (musician) whose impromptu jazz session was superb. The classical pianist was good, though I would like to have heard more of him, as was the Welsh baritone singer - both of whose names have slipped my mind (sorry). I also greatly appreciated the bridge lessons, which has whetted my appetite for the game. The Braemar Orchestra and the cocktail pianist were also super. Disembarkation: this morning we woke at 7am, were showered and packed by 7.45am and we're in our car on the way home by 8.45am. It could not have gone better. What I didn't like: Having been effusive in my praise for what I felt was done well, I will be equally honest in highlighting what I didn't like. Braemar Show Company: in fairness, a few of them put their heart and soul into the shows, but generally I thought their productions were uninspiring and badly choreographed and the team were very young and lacked believe-ability. Sadly I felt most of them didn't really want to be there and made little effort to hide the fact. Reception (Purser's Desk): I had little dealing with the front desk, apart from towards the end of the cruise when I noticed a billing error. We had upgraded to the 'all inclusive' drinks package for an additional £10 per person per night, this allowed complimentary 'house' drinks and 50% discount on branded drinks, cocktails and wine. When I checked my account on day 8 I noticed they had charged for all drinks. I raised this with the front desk, and rather than apologising and promising to investigate the error, I was asked if I could 'prove' we had paid for the all-inclusive package. I informed the receptionist that I was able to do so as I had just checked my online bank statement and I could see the £200 additional payment leaving my account. Having insulted me once by asking me to prove my case, she then insulted me again by asking how I was able to access my account as the ship's satellite wasn't working (for the record I had international data roaming and was able to access via my Blackberry). Having convinced her I was telling the truth I was then told that they would have to re-enter all our purchases with the relevant discount and we shouldn't order any drinks until this was done. Given this was an error wholly of the company's making, to have a member of staff twice infer I was lying and then to cause me further inconvenience whilst they sorted out an error of their own making, was a poor show. I honestly do not think they could have handled the situation more badly than they did. Show timings: it was also a slightly irritating that passengers on second sitting (8.30pm) had to watch the cabaret at 7.30pm (before dinner) with first sitting passengers watching the cabaret at 8.30pm. Personally, I like to relax with a glass of champagne or a cocktail and chat with my partner/friends pre-dinner - which I couldn't do unless I missed the cabaret. Nor did I particularly want to watch a jazz show or a comedian at 7.30pm before eating. I understand second sitting passengers usually watch a later show and it had been changed for this cruise. If so, I don't think it worked very well. Visibility of Senior Officers; my final gripe was the total lack of visibility of the 4 stripe officers on board. This might be a throw-back to my P&O days, but I would have expected to see the ship's senior management out and about in public areas most evenings, even if only for an hour pre-dinner. Apart from the welcome aboard Cocktail Party I didn't see the Captain, First Officer or Purser once during the whole cruise, which I thought was surprising and disappointing. Overall, despite the above complaints we had a super time. Would I cruise again? Much to my surprise, the answer is yes. And I would also happily cruise with Fred. Olsen in Braemar again. However the bar tenders, the stewards and the waiters were far better ambassadors for the company than the ships' officers and deserve to be acknowledged as such. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
We were attracted to this most enjoyable cruise (our eighth - we have previously sailed only with Cunard and P & O) for three reasons: (1) the dates (working patterns only allow school holidays); (2) the destinations (we had never ... Read More
We were attracted to this most enjoyable cruise (our eighth - we have previously sailed only with Cunard and P & O) for three reasons: (1) the dates (working patterns only allow school holidays); (2) the destinations (we had never before explored our own islands); (3) the price (we secured an excellent late deal for an inside cabin, which more than met our own requirements since we were really only ever there to sleep). As a 60-something male and 50-something female, we had expected that we would most likely be at the lower-end of the age-spectrum amongst the passengers (the ship sailed full). This turned out to be correct, with the average age of passengers on this particular cruise estimated at between 70 and 75 - almost without exception being able-bodied (this is not a discriminatory comment; the reality is that being a small ship, there is only very limited availability of wheelchair-adapted cabins, so the recommendation is to book early and at full-cost if wheelchair-access is required). Although living near Southampton, somewhat ironically this cruise departed from Dover! My recommendation is to buy the slightly more expensive quayside car parking since it is only a short walk to the ship, which for us proved to be important as we met with some unexpected delays on the drive to Dover and were almost the last to board. 'Braemar' is a very nice ship with a friendly feel and an attentive crew. Its smaller size was very much to our liking, but it may be less attractive to younger travelers looking for more 'excitement' in the way of facilities and entertainment (no zip-wires and the like - thank goodness!). The whole cruise-experience was punctuated by the excellent dining, with dinner being the highlight. We were second-sitting diners (at 8.30), which is always our preference as it allows the opportunity for being ashore longer at the port-stops and pre-dinner usage of the newly-equipped gym (generally empty on this cruise, being a reflection of the age of the travellers) etc. It was really nice to again have 'fixed seating' at dinner (there has been too much of a move to 'open seating' - even for dinner - on other cruise lines) and with no entirely separate 'buffet restaurants', breakfast, lunch and tea were all very civilised affairs (to an 'open seating' basis) in the restaurants, where all tables were graced with linen tablecloths and nicely-laid cutlery at all times. In our assessment, the quality of the food was very high and anyone finding grounds for criticism would be being churlish in the extreme. There were two aspects of the cruise which - for us - carried elements of disappointment. Firstly, the cruise bore the descriptive-title 'Highland Games and Royal Military Tattoo', which set the expectations around likely highlights. In reality, tours for both were not necessarily freely-available, although we managed to secure trips to both (at rather inflated prices relative to the actual ticket-costs - but the convenience of the coach transfers etc. made the expense worthwhile). The Tattoo was wonderful, but the Highland Games (reached from Greenock) were singularly underwhelming (it would perhaps be unkind to say as much, but I have seen bigger village fetes!) and in our view this event had definitely been 'talked-up' too much by Fred Olsen in the brochure. We cut-short the excursion and made our own way back to the ship (obviously having firstly informed the organisers of our intentions). Secondly, the brochure description gave a lot of space to the day of 'scenic cruising' around the Western Isles. True, the sea was a little lumpy on the day, but it came as a surprise when the captain 'for reasons of safety' announced that he would be bypassing the scenic route which meant that we missed all of the wonderful views that we had been looking forward to seeing (despite rather damp and misty conditions). The narrowest passage - to me - looked wider than many Norwegian fjords which are regularly navigated by the cruise-liners, so this was a definite disappointment. Doubtless there is something in the brochure small-print which covers the captain's right to vary the cruise and safety is clearly paramount, but I believe that the brochure should have been heavily-asterisked around this particular part of the cruise-itinerary to the effect 'subject to prevailing conditions' in order that expectations should have been appropriately managed. Of the two other port-calls, the Orkney Islands were especially lovely and Dublin was a very pleasant surprise, being a compact and bustling city with many intersting discoveries. We had organised-tours at all stops, but also 'did our own thing' given the (pleasing) two-day stays at both Edinburgh and Dublin. Whilst this review has only concentrated on a few aspects of our cruise, in summary we have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Fred Olsen - and 'Braemar' in particlular - and we will undoubtedly sail with Fred again in the future. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
We have just returned from a round britain cruise on Breamar. First the good points. The food in the thistle restaurant on most occasions was some of the best we have ever had on cruise lines. The staff were excellent and the ... Read More
We have just returned from a round britain cruise on Breamar. First the good points. The food in the thistle restaurant on most occasions was some of the best we have ever had on cruise lines. The staff were excellent and the balcony cabins large with good storage. Now the bad points. Breamar was a vast 800 person floating old peoples home. The cabin "bathrooms were so small and poorly designed that you could nor swing round let alone swing a cat as well. The gents public toilets had a dark and dingy appearance badly appointed and when I went to use them I was always treading in what I know was not water. The ship is small and bars are always full on quiz times (conducted by a screeching member of staff ). The theatre, is just a large airless room. and the "casino is two tables and no slotts at all again hosted by two members of staff with not the slightest bit of charisma at all. The ticket collection for shore excursions was a farce. no one was quite sure what they were doing. We will never go on a Fred Olsen cruise ever again and I hope anyone thinking of doing so to think hard to make sure this is a cruise for you Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
This was a short 3 night cruise to Dublin & Waterford, and as the embarkation was running late we boarded about 4pm. Once on board we went to our cabins which were lovely and clean to unpack. We them went to find some food as we ... Read More
This was a short 3 night cruise to Dublin & Waterford, and as the embarkation was running late we boarded about 4pm. Once on board we went to our cabins which were lovely and clean to unpack. We them went to find some food as we hadn't eaten since breakfast, however this proved to be a problem as it had all gone! We had to wait, along with many others, for more sandwiches etc. to be brought out. One small tray at a time. Food was in plentiful supply for the rest of the cruise and lovely. We enjoyed the entertainment with several excellent acts and danced the night away in the Lido Lounge. The entertainment staff were very good and also host dancers made sure that we were on the dance floor with them. Yes, the ship is an older ship and not ultra modern like some others but it was kept very clean at all times. Unfortunately the same could not be said for the organisation. When disembarking to go into Dublin, we had to queue for over an hour just to get off the ship. The following day we went to Waterford and got on the shuttle bus after a short wait. However our return was horrendous, we returned to where the coach was to pick us up only to wait over an hour in the pouring rain, we then decided to phone for a taxi to take us back to the ship. Several other taxis were also ordered as 30+ people were also waiting. When we did eventually arrive back the end of lunch time was fast approaching so this had to be extended for us however some were too late so they were given free room service. Having said this we would go on Black Watch again as the ship is small, kept lovely & clean and more suitable for us. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
This is an old, dated ship that is in dire need of updating. The décor is a mix between a 70's social club and a care home and the smell in some of the corridors is nauseating. We were only on board for 3 nights but had to move room ... Read More
This is an old, dated ship that is in dire need of updating. The décor is a mix between a 70's social club and a care home and the smell in some of the corridors is nauseating. We were only on board for 3 nights but had to move room each night due to cabin problems. The staff watched us move and didn't offer any help and indeed, for the last move, our old room was cleared before we had a chance to fully pack meaning we are still missing some of our belongings. There were what appeared to be blood stains on the carpet in our 2nd room and one of the mattresses in the final room was covered in dubious smelling stains, although the staff did eventually replace this with a cleaner mattress although it took some lengthy conversations with the surly and often hostile staff on reception to achieve this). The food served was mediocre and no match for other cruises we had sailed on. Service in the restaurants (we dined in the Avon/Spey) was generally very good but there were some exceptions and plates were cleared before all guests at the table had finished their meal - indeed it was best to keep hold of your plate even before you had finished to make certain it wasn't whipped when you were not looking. Drinks were a reasonable price but service in the lounges was exceptionally slow, even at times when they were not busy. On an evening there was very little opportunity to escape the pub singers and quizzes and to experience a quiet drink and we regularly found ourselves moving table to escape raucous groups and screeching. Overall we booked this cruise with an open mind as we had heard some very positive things about the company. However we were extremely disappointed in the whole experience and will never contemplate a Fred Olsen Cruise again. There are much better operators out there for the same price and who offer far superior ships, better rooms, dining and overall experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
We went on a mini cruise and were upgraded. However the bathroom in the cabin was awful cracked tiles and vanity units. Don't what we would have had if we weren't upgraded!! The door of the cabin had to be checked when we left ... Read More
We went on a mini cruise and were upgraded. However the bathroom in the cabin was awful cracked tiles and vanity units. Don't what we would have had if we weren't upgraded!! The door of the cabin had to be checked when we left the cabin as it did not close properly. Every morning there was noise outside our cabin I think they were cleaning the outside of the Ship!! Could this not have been done before we boarded. The chamber maid acme in to do our room while we were getting ready for dinner which was strange. The staff were friendly and food good but the Ship needs a major overhaul. Our luggage should have been taken off and put together as we were travelling in a group. However my cases were lost for a while and were scuffed and dirty when found (annoying because they are new). Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
I have just returned from a 60s party cruise on the Balmoral, sailing with 3 friends. Having enjoyed many amazing cruises with Cunard, NCL and others, I returned to Fred Olsen after a three year break. My initial impression was not ... Read More
I have just returned from a 60s party cruise on the Balmoral, sailing with 3 friends. Having enjoyed many amazing cruises with Cunard, NCL and others, I returned to Fred Olsen after a three year break. My initial impression was not great of the atrium, as it lacked the glitz and finish of the larger, new ships. We were then shown to our inside cabins, which were spacious but not 'modern'. Despite first impressions, I quickly remembered why Fred is so special. The greetings we had from staff were genuine and friendly; waiting staff remembered our preferred drinks from the very first order; the lounges and meeting spaces were comfortable and well designed; and we weren't bombarded with pushy staff selling drinks/ photographs/ tours/ spa. On arrival at the Palms buffet, the buffet had been decimated by the hungry arrivals (I have experienced this on plenty of other cruise lines). However, after this initial experience we all found the food to be hot, plentiful and tasty. There was not the choice of the big ships (no pizza stations; no bbqs; less extensive salad and pudding choice), but in all honesty, the food choice was ample and we certainly did not starve! At every meal time, we managed to secure seats quickly and were served very professionally. Nothing was too much trouble for the waiting staff and the food was hot and tasty (if sometimes erring on the 'comfort' side, rather than the cuisine side). We were booked on a sixties party cruise and the Balmoral certainly delivered for its target audience of mature british guests. As a forty year old, the headline acts were not to my taste (the headline was The Searchers). The comedy was old hat. However both acts went down a storm with the older passengers. My friends and I found plenty to entertain ourselves on the dance floor and a family 50s/ Rock n roll band. Whilst not the most sophisticated of entertainment, reindeer racing, line dancing, ballroom dancing and other activities were hosted well and good fun. What our stateroom lacked in modern finish, it made up for in cleanliness, comfort and space. The beds were extremely comfortable and good nights sleep was had by all. Our cabin steward Kristine was excellent - available but unobtrusive. We enjoyed an overnight in Antwerp. The balmoral could not have been docked in a more convenient location for the Christmas markets and historic city. Fred olsen makes it easy for guests to visit ashore independently, as well as their own excursions. Antwerp was great for chocolate shopping. If we had more time we would have visited Ghent or Brussels, but we only had two half days in port. We paid an amazingly low price for this cruise and could not have been happier with the whole package. Having cruised with the higher end cruise companies, I would say that Fred Compares well with its own unique charms. If you are after glitz and glamour and 'hyacinth bucket' bragging rights, then Fred will not be for you. However if you are after comfort, charm and genuine hospitality, please consider Fred. I certainly will again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
We thought we would give FO a second chance having cruised with them before. We tried an inside cabin for the first time as it was only two nights. We have cruised many times before and know what is normal this time we were ... Read More
We thought we would give FO a second chance having cruised with them before. We tried an inside cabin for the first time as it was only two nights. We have cruised many times before and know what is normal this time we were disappointed mainly with embarkation/disembarkation, the food & food service. We use a disability scooter and normally have no problems getting on and off but the "ramps" were step/ramps and very steep, like they set up on the wrong deck. See photo. Staff helped with the scooter but my mobility impaired wife made herself totally breathless and exhausted and her inhaler was not effective by the time she got to the top, boarding staff were not interested so we went to customer services to advise of the problem for disabled persons, but again staff not interested and just said would put note on our file. The menus were uninspiring and the general restaurant service was organised chaos and totally disjointed. For example one person was serving tea & coffee and then you had wait while you hoped to flag down a separate milk person and then try and find the very rare toast person who appeared to have cold toast only. The breakfasts were very slow and food was cold. Many of the staff (There were exceptions) appeared totally disinterested and had the attitude I have only seen of people working their notice out or with very low morale. One in particular, we will call him Mark was ineffectual in seating people, making them wait unnecessarily while he showed others further down the line tables, the restaurant was virtually empty at the time, a jack of all trades wiping tables, serving drinks & toast and never a hand clean seen. The entertainment was OK and there were also late shows, when you had to be up very early the next day. There seemed very little to do during the day unless you wanted to play cards. Some loved the personal service that the smaller ships appear to provide but you can foster that on the big ships also and there is far more to do, its personal preference but the experience will not be repeated. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
I must start by telling readers that I am usually pretty shirt if people start moaning about perceived trivial service faults while on holiday, especially on a cruise where so much can go wrong but is usually so right. On this occasion I ... Read More
I must start by telling readers that I am usually pretty shirt if people start moaning about perceived trivial service faults while on holiday, especially on a cruise where so much can go wrong but is usually so right. On this occasion I am forced to change my position radically. I shan't bother Fred Olsen again and the following explains why. Friends, upon whose judgement previous experience had lead me on rely and who had sailed with Fred several times in the past latterly in 2012, spoke so warmly of both line and ship that I booked with confident expectations. I anticipated a lovely experience at least akin to my handful or so of previous cruises with P&O over the past 10 years. Alas disappointment was to be my reward. You board with no ships map so stand lost in the reception area not knowing where to go. After a time a member of staff approached me and directed me to my cabin. The room was pleasant enough but as I explored I found: Large bottle of water-£1.50! No fridge No shower cap, shampoo, body lotion or soap tablet (just liquid). Mattress...not to my personal liking. Dinner in the Ballindalloch restaurant on the first night was OK but not memorable. And tepid. Following a nightmare night due to Storm Katie through which we sailed in gale force winds (later recorded on the 'cruise log' as being force 6!), as a result of which most on board hardly slept at all we eventually rose for breakfast the next morning. Shambolic! Waiters rushing everywhere, looking stressed. No sugar, milk, butter/spreads or preserves on the table. I sat and waited for some 5 minutes for my order to be taken. Nothing. I eventually managed to flag down a waiter who simply said "buffet madam" and indicated the direction. I asked for tea. He disappeared. So I found the buffet scrum and helped myself. The eggs had languished for too long on the hot plate and had set. The fruit was all from a tin. The cereals dispensed from machines which crush everything. The bacon tasted of chemical treatment and had long since been a stranger to the pan. You could get no toast at the table until you got lucky with the scuttling Toast Waiter and then you had to find and flag down the One with the Butter/marmalade. Tea/coffee took an age then you had to keep watching for the Man with the Milk, or the Waiter who could get you a Fork/teaspoon/butter knife - in some cases even a cup and saucer. A complete, shambolic nightmare of a meal spent mostly trying to achieve some sort of service instead of enjoying a conversation with fellow passengers, all of whom were struggling with the same issues. It seems that the clear table policy was an exercise to avoid Noro virus. Why then were we all forced to get our own food requiring every passenger to handle every serving utensil at the buffet rather than have it plated and delivered by the staff who we assume we're Noro-free? I don't take lunch, but understood from many conversations with similarly shell-shocked travellers that it was the same mess as at breakfast. Let's get positive. The Balmoral, once you have a map which was finally located in the 'welcome in board' pack, is easy to navigate and all public areas easy to locate. They were pleasant and the staff extremely attentive. I'd have liked to have finish one drink before being asked if I would like another but perhaps they are on commission, hence their persistence. Dinner on night two. The starters were very beautiful, 'nouvelle cuisine' sized offerings. The soup, for which I opted, was pleasant - but tepid. The main course was a perfectly cooked Filet Mignon, quite possibly the nicest I have been served in many a long day, accompanied by delectable spinach in a gorgeous sauce and a small portion of fondant potato. It was all tepid, but tasty. I shan't bore you further except to say that the main course of dinner each night was definitely the stand-out of the cruise food. Breakfast, in every restaurant (I didn't try the Cafe which was a self-service buffet), even after it seemed that their precautions against Noro virus eased to permit milk, sugar butter and preserves back on the table, remained a shambles every morning. I also found that if you could get a waiter you could order and omelette, fish, or my choice of poached eggs which I ordered with bacon. The eggs arrived on a plate swimming in water with the rim of the plate smeared greasily round with a hint of previous use suggested by a hint of dried egg yolk... No bacon. Notwithstanding, assuming it was a one-off glitch but no. The second time I tried the bacon did too, thus making the watery bath greasy. The smears and finger marks on the rim remained as before. The entertainment was, with one exception very good. The musical shows put on by the in-house troupe were outstanding. (P & O please note. Your Headliners are becoming entirely predictable and missable). There was an extremely versatile and entertaining musician in the Morning Light bar and a very pleasant Trio elsewhere whose gentle, well balanced repertoire was ideal music to listen to or as a background for a pleasant chat. The magician was excellent. The 'comedian' an embarrassment. I know, humour is personal. Well, this one managed to entertain only a small handful of the audience the rest of whom were somewhere between bored and down-right embarrassed at his ineptitude. The excursions were excellent. We were after all in Ireland and the tour guides, and often drivers too, were uniformly entertaining as well as informative. The port talks were only available pre-recorded on the in-house TV. The 'presenter' was abysmal. We were encouraged to see see the 'murials' on the walls in Belfast. I am sure as I made myself re-listen twice to be certain. He tripped, stammered, and coughed his monotonous and unenthusiastic way through painfully unexciting scripts. Oh, and there was no TV channel guide in the cabin and when you could find a programme other than a film or Fred Olsen promotion channel it was of out of date Australian television programmes. Why? One last warning to all O2 mobile users. On enquiry at Guest Services as to why it might be that I could not send or receive on my mobile phone shortly after departureI was advised that FO had signed a contract with a new mobile network service provider at the beginning of the year and that the new company did not currently have a contract with O2. Heaven help any passenger leaving home with a pressing need to keep in touch. You can't until you are within range of land. I am so truly sorry that this, my first cruise blog should be so negative but I have tried to be honest, accurate and unexaggerated in this report. I hope never to have such a negative experience ever again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
For our Wedding Anniversary we decided to do something special and choose the Fred Olsen cruise "Easter Ireland" and booked a Premier Suite. We could not fault anything (perhaps apart from some of the weather - not in Fred ... Read More
For our Wedding Anniversary we decided to do something special and choose the Fred Olsen cruise "Easter Ireland" and booked a Premier Suite. We could not fault anything (perhaps apart from some of the weather - not in Fred Olsen's control!). As it was our 40th Anniversary we were given the complimentary anniversary package of sparkling wine, flowers, cake, card, portrait photo and gift. During the cruise it was also my birthday so we were slightly embarrassed when a cake was brought to our table on the Friday for my birthday together with the table staff serenading me and the next day another cake and serenade for our anniversary. The staff were superb and could not do enough for us. We asked if the anniversary cake could be packaged to take home to share with family and they made a special box for it and wrapped it with ribbon. The staff soon learned our names and we were often called "Sir, John and Madam, Jennifer". The food was superb both in choice, presentation and cooking. Most evenings we only managed three of the five courses due to the quantity. The ports of call were Belfast, Dublin (two days) and Cobn. All of which were interesting and we went independently rather than take the organised tours. We are not night owls and in Dublin managed to find a pub (Oliver St. John Gogerty) which had live Irish music during the afternoon. The evening shows were very good but I much preferred the live music from the string trio and pianist/singer in the small lounges. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
‘Easter Ireland’ on board Balmoral was our second cruise with Fred Olsen (last year’s ‘Round Britain’ cruise on Braemar was the first) and our ninth cruise to date. We came back a second time because the ‘value for money ... Read More
‘Easter Ireland’ on board Balmoral was our second cruise with Fred Olsen (last year’s ‘Round Britain’ cruise on Braemar was the first) and our ninth cruise to date. We came back a second time because the ‘value for money proposition’ is unbeatable. It’s interesting to read two very recent reviews of this same Cruise which are so divergent. The top-end suite-guests could not be more complimentary; the outside-cabin guests were to my mind unreasonable. We always travel pretty near the bottom-end – but we enjoy the same food, entertainment and facilities as those who pay top-dollar. Our ‘superior inside’ cabin (£384 each – yes, just £384 for seven days transportation to new destinations, food that only the most churlish would dare to criticise and entertainment that we thought some of the best to date on a cruise) must represent excellent value. Our cabin was fully adequate – and it should be noted that there were some even less expensive deals available closer to the time of sailing. The message seems clear to me; tough it out and wait for the prices to drop if you want the very best deals! For those who book early and pay a lot more, you need to accept that some of your fellow-passengers may not be quite to your liking (not everyone purports to be, or can afford, ‘Titanic First Class’) - but ‘you pays your money and take your choice’! A few general observations: (1) The Captain’s decision clearly, but not delaying Easter Sunday’s departure from Southampton when storm-force winds were known to be likely seemed a little odd; the cynic in me says that the Captain must necessarily run his ship as a business which needs to generate a decent profit each trip and it cost him nothing (other than discomfort for the passengers) to be at sea, whereas delaying departure would have cost the company a considerable amount of money in additional port-fees. As it happens, we still arrived late at Belfast, so a delayed departure from Southampton with a rather ‘pacier’ trip once the winds abated would have been of little overall consequence (except again in terms of cost, as more fuel would be expended if the ship sailed faster). (2) It was very nice on the Braemar last year to see table-cloths in the Palms Café at all times. Balmoral’s rather more utilitarian tables were a small sign of evident cost-cutting. (3) Other cruise lines’ Captains and Senior Officers are regularly seen around their Ship; other than at the ‘Cocktail Parties’, they were rarely, if ever, seen on Balmoral. Fred Olsen and/or Balmoral should think about this as passengers like the opportunity to interact with the Crew (even if it is only a quick ‘Good Morning’). (4) All credit to the resident Showtime Team; the ten members worked very hard and put on three very good shows. (5) Future guest should think about organising their own shore-tours. We sourced on-line a really excellent ‘Giant’s Causeway’ trip at Belfast for just £35 each (as against Fred’s £72 – although this did include an unwanted lunch). Whilst broadly following the same agenda, we also experienced a tour of Belfast (in the failing light) which, as part of living history, included the Falls & Shankill Road areas. To the best of my knowledge Fred’s trip did not. I’m sure this is just one example of equivalent/better value can be obtained elsewhere. In overall summary, another enjoyable week with Fred Olsen. We will be back! Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
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