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3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2019
My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our 5 night cruise down the river Seine. Having cruised on the big ships of P&O, Princess, RC, NCL we were concerned that a smaller ship would not be as good - how wrong we were. The ship has a great ... Read More
My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our 5 night cruise down the river Seine. Having cruised on the big ships of P&O, Princess, RC, NCL we were concerned that a smaller ship would not be as good - how wrong we were. The ship has a great layout with lovely pools and bars at the back of the ship plus other great places to sit and watch the world go by in comfort. We are in our early 40’s and were younger than most on board but everyone was so friendly and this made for a great atmosphere on board. There was good entertainment every night and the inclusive drinks package was a real bonus. Food was the best I have ever had on board any cruise and I loved having the choice of a la carte as well as buffet options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I also loved the evening supper club buffet which had a different theme each night. We would love to sail again with Fred but it’s not a ship to take our children on as there’s not much for them to do compared to the big ships. If you are a couple who are looking for some much needed r and r - like us - then I thoroughly recommend Fred Olsen. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2019
Fred Olsen were recommended by family members. The fact that Balmoral sailed from Rosyth (near Edinburgh) was so handy for us and saved us a flight to Southampton. Our cruise to Norway far exceeded our expectations and the glorious ... Read More
Fred Olsen were recommended by family members. The fact that Balmoral sailed from Rosyth (near Edinburgh) was so handy for us and saved us a flight to Southampton. Our cruise to Norway far exceeded our expectations and the glorious weather was a huge added bonus! From the minute we arrived at the port terminal until the day of disembarkation, staff constantly went over and above to ensure everything was perfect. They were so friendly, attentive and generally interested in making sure everything was right and that you felt special. Our waiters in particular, Vilroy and Flacher, were simply excellent! The food was wonderful and the great choice of menu ensured there was always something for everyone. Afternoon tea is a lovely treat, especially if you have had a busy shore day. We also enjoyed the special Observatory Lounge Afternoon Tea on one occasion and would certainly do this again. The service, food and ambience was wonderful. Entertainment ranged from a very talented flautist and guitarist, to cabaret style shows. All shows were very entertaining and had full audiences. My only suggestion would be to make them slightly longer! Most were around 45 minutes - an hour. Our cruise itinerary was excellent. The port talks gave us a good insight of each place we were visiting and the captain kept us well informed. To see Norway with blue skies every day certainly allowed us to see it at its best. We didn't book any shore tours as we prefer to do our own thing, although did book the RIB trip from Hellesylt, which was very worth while. Bergen - We berthed very close to the town centre so walking around was easy. Loved the Bryggen area of old wooden houses and the fish market. The tourist information at the end of the harbour has a lot of great maps and information. We took the funicular up Mount Floyen and had great views over the city. There's a lovely walk from the top (about 20 minutes) to a small lake where they offer free canoe hire. Flam - We booked our own tickets for the Flam railway and were on the first train of the day. Tickets were sold out on the day so do book these in advance. What a beautiful journey through the mountains and past many waterfalls. There was only a 15 minute stop at the top and many people got off for tours. It meant we were able to have a carriage to ourselves on the way back down allowing us to take photos through an open window. The carriage had been reserved for a group of Japanese tourists so there was no English commentary in this carriage, but it's worth doing if you are keen to take photos. Would also recommend the Flam bakery for lunch or a snack. The aromas of freshly cooked cakes and breads are amazing! After lunch we walked to Flam village (about 1.5 hours round trip). This was a lovely way to see local life and to walk by the crystal clear river. Olden - we took the open top bus that was parked on the quayside. It was good to see the lakes and beautiful scenery, but I think if I were going back I'd take the Olden Adventures bus to the glacier as that had more options for walking. We did our own circular walk from the town centre to the beautiful red Olden Church, crossed the bridge and walked the far side of the water back to town (about an hour). This is a lovely peaceful low level walk with beautiful views. There's not much in Olden town centre so if you are not able to do local walks, then a shore tour would be worth doing. Hellesylt - beautiful place at the end of a stunning fjord. We walked up to the church, then crossed the bridge above it to come down the other side of the waterfall. You get great views here. Our RIB adventure was excellent. Our guide lived on a local farm and told us a lot about farming life and local folklore. Would thoroughly recommend doing this. It's a great way to see the Seven Sisters Waterfalls and the fjord from close proximity. We loved every minute of this cruise and would do it all again. Will maybe do the two week Norway cruise next time! Would certainly recommend Fred Olsen. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2019
We chose to sail from Rosyth which was completely hassle free, on a glorious summer's day. We were happy with our outside cabin and didn't miss having a balcony. Room of a good standard. Always plenty of hot water for showers. ... Read More
We chose to sail from Rosyth which was completely hassle free, on a glorious summer's day. We were happy with our outside cabin and didn't miss having a balcony. Room of a good standard. Always plenty of hot water for showers. All staff were very courteous and friendly. Food was good and I think we were very fortunate dining in the Spey restaurant as the picture windows gave us wonderful views as we travelled the fjords. Nothing anyone can do about the weather but we were so, so lucky.....clear blue skies and glorious sunshine! Evening entertainment was very enjoyable. We chose the drinks package which worked very well for us. Only used one official excursion to a glacier plus lake trip which we thoroughly enjoyed. Would we go again on this same trip? We wouldn't...as this one was so good it couldn't be bettered. What more can I say....we loved it!☺ Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
I enjoyed my visit to Iceland first cruise with Fred Olsen Balmoral. The Balmoral is a nice country feel ship. I liked that it has just over 1000 passengers and not thousands and thousands of people. Saying this I may try the smaller ... Read More
I enjoyed my visit to Iceland first cruise with Fred Olsen Balmoral. The Balmoral is a nice country feel ship. I liked that it has just over 1000 passengers and not thousands and thousands of people. Saying this I may try the smaller Boudicca for my next cruise. Our cabin was 4041. I was quite happy with our twin cabin and liked having the picture window. I would not like a cabin with no window. The ship is kept clean and sanitised and hand sanitizer is used before going in the restaurants. This was my worry about cruising hygiene but I had no worries on board as everything was kept clean. I never once found the toilets dirty and staff were regularly checking and cleaning. Our cabin was cleaned daily too plenty clean towels. The food was very good we had alacarte each evening and the food was delicious. Our waiters were very attentive and friendly. Most of the staff on the ship are really hard working very good service from the staff. The tours were organised well no hassles. Everything was organised great on the ship. It was great on the deck too can always find a quiet spot. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
Sailed from Rosyth, local for Edinburgh Short cruise, just right for a first cruise, staff all charming and nothing was too much trouble. Food was great, ship was very clean, entertainment excellent.. Shore excursions were informative. ... Read More
Sailed from Rosyth, local for Edinburgh Short cruise, just right for a first cruise, staff all charming and nothing was too much trouble. Food was great, ship was very clean, entertainment excellent.. Shore excursions were informative. Sadly weather not great, a bit cold and grey, but the sun appeared at times. Strongly recommend dining in the 'grill' at least once. 6* dining experience. If I went on another cruise I would have an outside cabin, at least one with a porthole. The interior cabins can be a little disorientating (telling night from day). The ship was very clean, the gangway staff were very helpful when the ship could not get into the port. They helped with my wheelchair and were always smiling. The library was a bonus, as I forgot a book and the chocolate and coffee shop was delicious.The shop staff were very helpful. We met some lovely people and being a small world, we met a couple who knew my daughter's in laws and were from the same village! Amazing. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
We booked to go to the Fjords leaving Dover 09 June 2019. We made a little mistake when booking as we went via a Travel Agent. Firstly, the agent was poor but, more importantly, it placed an barrier between us and FO. Any queries we had we ... Read More
We booked to go to the Fjords leaving Dover 09 June 2019. We made a little mistake when booking as we went via a Travel Agent. Firstly, the agent was poor but, more importantly, it placed an barrier between us and FO. Any queries we had we were referred back to the agent. My advice - book direct. The boarding in Dover was seamless. We live near Dover so booked a taxi. Straight into the port up to terminal, bags taken from boot by porters, we were on-board within 15mins and our luggage arrived in our cabin 20mins after we did. Well done FO. A minus point for FO. As first time cruisers we booked the ship tour on our first day at sea. FO told us that all would be in our cabin when we got on-board... nothing. Never mind, we did our own tour... the lay out of the ship is quite easy and it was fun bumping into things ! Our cabin (7039 balcony with clear view. A must in the Fjords) was exactly as advertised. No issues with the cabin at all or our cabin steward (Moo) who worked her socks off to keep us happy (I did take a tip off YouTube and gave Moo a little bag of bits {no more than £6} on the first day which may have made a difference but maybe not !!!). The ship was a little tired in places altho' it was always well presented, clean and shining. Staff were excellent throughout the ship. Food was lovely (every day). We tried things we have never had before which is good for our betterment ! You must keep an eye out for the Gala Lunch (ours was on the last day at see) and take your camera ! The Formal nights were good with lots of bling altho' I did change after the meal into more casual wear. We paid for the drinks package @ £15 per day. I think this has gone up now to £19pd. You need to give this some thought. Me - I drink a lot of beer and a can Spitfire was £3.80 so I was happy with my lot. My wife tried their house wine and found it 'undrinkable'. The cocktails were very sweet. She then moved onto spirits and mixer. This she was happy with but sometimes the bar staff forgot to put the spirit in (pressure of work maybe !). To combat this we ordered the spirit and mixer as separate items. The drink came to about £6. Add these drinks to your wine at lunch and dinner and it may appeal to you. Beware that it is only for drinks from the bar. No cans of pop, no tea or coffee (posh type) and no bottled water. There is a filtered water machine and tea & coffee machine in a small drinks station. Normally this is quite clear but avoid end of meeting, talks or presentations as there is a queue before and after these sessions. Entertainment is on every night. The on-board crew do put a lot of effort into their shows and one of their shows was outstanding. There are guest entertainers: a duo who played many instruments (first time - good. Second time - not so good), a comedian - spent most of his time picking on members of the audience to the level of embarrassment - not good. In the main bar is a guitar duo who were very good and they went in turns with a pianist who is not very happy with his lot !!! There were talks given by an ex Bank Manager - Prison Guv'nor. His first talk was very good, cannot remember his second talk and his third talk was about Porridge and real prison life. I got the impression that this was pushed onto him and he knocked it together at short notice. There is quite a big gym on the top deck with a great view. I did not get there but it looked very good. There is a set 1 mile walk around the ship ( 5 x 1 mile). Did this prior to breakfast. There is an organised walk at about 0800 but the guy who runs it may have been trained to get 20 something's to walk fast rather than members of U3A ! We only did this walk once. We went solo after that. We did our own shore excursions. FO is very expensive. Most of our trips we booked from UK before we boarded and the others were taken from shore-side when we went alongside. For us, the best we did was the funicular railway in Bergen and a 5km walk around the top (huge queues at bottom but they do go down quite quickly) and we booked a Twizo electric car in Flam. Expensive but BRILL. We booked 2 hrs (11-1300). We got into Flam just before 1000. We went over to the car hire ( you will see it as you get off the tender) to show him our paper work prior to 1100. After a bit of a chat I asked if we could take it early (with a big smile). He agreed so we had 3 hrs for the price of 2 ! You have a choice where to go and we wanted the viewing platform at the top of the mountain. The SatNav looked after us and it was great fun. Top Tip, after the platform, go a little further were the SatNav will tell of a great viewing point. In short, book your own, its a lot cheaper. A fine example - there was a fishing trip that FO was charging £45. When we docked it was next door to the ship and was advertised at £30 (that's your £15 drinks package paid for on that day!!!). Disembarkation was as easy as getting on. We were called by deck and the bags were waiting for us in the departure lounge with many porters waiting to take you outside. Overall, we loved it. We would go again and yes, with FO. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
Isn't It Good? Day One, 18 May 2019. This cruise is to Norway, hence the cryptic title. Brilliant arrangements for boarding the Braemar. We arrived at noon, were met and greeted by the car parkers and porters, strolled straight ... Read More
Isn't It Good? Day One, 18 May 2019. This cruise is to Norway, hence the cryptic title. Brilliant arrangements for boarding the Braemar. We arrived at noon, were met and greeted by the car parkers and porters, strolled straight through check in and security, and were eating lunch by 12.15. Cabins were ready for 1 pm, luggage waiting outside. Don't you just hate airports? We spent a leisurely 20 minutes peering over the balcony watching ship's provisions coming off the back of vast lorry and being shuttled about by forklift. Also observing the arrival of passengers who had followed instructions not to get to port before 1.30. The Heavy Brigade were engaged in a valiant charge up the gangplank. Stormed at with shot and shell, boldly they strode and well. They boarded, but not, not the six hundred (Alfred Lord Thomason). One poor soul was borne away in an ambulance, accompanied by concerned companions. Better than cruising around the fjords in the ship's morgue. On Fred Olsen, dinner seating is fixed for the trip. We are on a table for six and if the company is dire, you have the option of taking another roll of the dice by changing restaurants. Fortunately, we deem this to be unnecessary. However, we will not know until tomorrow whether the other four decided that we are dire! Day Two Anthea does not get the cryptic title of this travelogue. Her soul must be made of rubber. Made it to the gym by seven this morning, despite the clocks going forward and a smidgeon of over indulgence on day one. They seem to have added more equipment or maybe my equipment has diminished. We do not arrive in port until tomorrow, so we could go line dancing, listen to a classical concert, or win a quiz. Instead, we opt for a general acclimatisation day, i.e. boozing, snoozing and shmoozing Tonight the dress code is formal in the main restaurant and the overwhelming majority of cruisers are happy to go along with that, leaving the tracksuit two club to order another ten rounds of Newcastle Brown. The Romanian captain quips his way merrily through his welcome cocktail party and introduces his executive team. In matters maritime, Croatia and Bulgaria rule the waves, leaving the Welsh and Scots to boss the galley slaves. I am happy to report that all our dining companions showed up, so we can't be that bad. Day Three Our first stop in Norway is the city of Kristiansand, on the Skagerrak Sea. Its most attractive feature is a 17th Century quarter called Kvadraturen. White clapperboard houses line the grid planned streets, the last survivors of city wide fires which eventually prompted the city authorities to require all new builds to be in brick. The clapperboard houses are roofed with orange tiles from the Netherlands, the trade exchange being one lobster for one tile. We then move on to the Vest Adger County Museum. Here they have re-assembled a 16th century farmstead, complete with turfed roofs. One of the grain stores has a removable section in the wall to enable the storage of bodies of those who died in winter when the ground was too hard to dig. The smoky dark interiors of the houses accommodated up to fifteen people in two rooms, but if you were young and healthy you slept with the pigs and cows. A woman's most attractive feature was considered to be weight lifter calves for lifting buckets. At first sight modern Norwegian living appears to be very functional and politically correct. The Greens call the shots, beer is £12 a pint, 58% of all new cars bought are electric, and income tax is over 50%. Suddenly, those smokey dark interiors with a wood fire and a bucket of mead don't seem so bad, especially with a flash of bulging calf! Day Four We rise early to watch our progress along the 100 kilometre Oslo Fjord, a route which takes us past the house of the Olsen family. Our boat is followed in by the larger Balmoral, the new rigid inflatable boats (RIBS) make up the rest of the flotilla and a special flag is run up in salute of the company founders when we pass the small village they came from in the 1840's. The scenery is very attractive on a sunny morning and crew bustle around with early morning tea, coffee, hot chocolate, Buck's Fizz, pastries and bacon, sausage and mushroom butties. Breakfast comes later. There are just 5.2 million Norwegians but civic pride looms large in the architecture and layout of Oslo. The decision to have a royal family was made by referendum in the early 20th century. A splendid avenue leads up to the palace, bordered by elegant anti terrorist devices consisting of large metal saucers full of flowers. Norway has the largest public reserves in the world derived from its oil revenues, and this is reflected in grand scale building projects such as the 'glacier styled' opera house. But the highlight of the trip so far is a visit to Vigiland Sculpture Park. Gustav Vigiland was commissioned by the city authorities in the late 19th century to produce statues for public spots. He somewhat over-delivered and there are now over 200 groups of these in a beautiful landscape. Made in iron, bronze and granite they are a exhilarating expression of the human form and experience from cradle to grave. Some are in simple repose, contrasting with others which are engaged in extreme contortions. High above the city is the Holmenkollen Ski Centre. A new ski jump and biathlon arena are under construction and testify to the obsession this country has with the sport. What an excellent obsession! The word 'ski' is Norwegian for flat plank. Ancient carvings depict folk on skis, presumably Nords winning the Bedrock Downhill. Day Five The approach to Arendal is reputed to be one of the most scenic in the world, and very pretty it is. We berth close to the town centre adjacent to a steep cliff with houses on top. A footpath zig zags to the top. Along this and in the garden of the house about three dozen school children perform a dance to a piece from 'Frozen'. This has not been announced on board but all the cruisers with starboard cabins or taking a deck stroll give an enthusiastic round of applause when the performance has finished. A great way of showing of the best side of ŷour culture. Norwegiansare still deeply wounded by the massacre of the children by the right wing nutcase in 2011. The guy responsible is never named and is referred to simply as 'the traitor'. We take a small boat ride around channels and skerries of the archipelago. The hills and coastline are covered with beautiful forests and white clapperboard houses. Apparently the place has won the European award for the best maintained properties. Almost every house has a boat and this is a very popular summer resort. Today, the misty waters are very calm and the gulls and cormorants have it to themselves - apart from us! We go along with the suggestion to dress up for British night. Escapist patriotism and mythical identities run riot in the sing song featuring national twaddle songs, and there is no hint of Xenophobia, even though folk are balling "Red, white and blue What does it mean to you Surely you're proud Shout it out loud." Harmless enough. Probably. Day Six Into the fjords proper this morning covering Maurangsfjord, Fureberg Waterfall and Hardangerfjord. Isn't it good, Norwegian Wood, hums Anthea, the Penny having dropped. All very epic. The minimisation of humans and the omnipresence of nature bring on a serious case of pseuds corner, an overload of awe and wonder, and a swelling of the numinous. It is rumoured that some passengers have had to retreat to their cabins and lie down until scenic sickness abates. Not this one. In the afternoon we get up close to the elements by boarding a RIB. We don bright yellow thermal floatation suits, goggles and gloves and wizz around Eijefjord at up to 40 knots. At one end of the water there is a hydro electric power station big enough to power the city of Bergen. Hardly any of it is visible, as the pipes and turbines have been inserted into the cliffs. On a plateau 400 meters high is an old farm, and in former times the children had to go up and down a footpath to school. "Late again Ibsen. What's the excuse this time?" Norway had universal literacy much earlier than the U.K. And it was one of the reasons why the small nation was economically successful even before the discovery of oil. Before we return to the ship our driver takes us close to the bottom of a tumbling waterfall, and we really feel we've earned a tumbler of Bailey's. Day Seven We go into the Lysefjord during the morning, regarded by those who are supposed to know these things to be the ultimate expression of fjord topography. Royal Caribbean would get wedged in the first bend! High vertical cliffs on port and starboard give way to stretches of open water with mountains receding in rows to a vanishing point. Don't try to paint the scene unless you have mastered perspective. We pass the famous Pulpit Rock and the world's longest wooden staircase (4,444 steps ) which has something to do with another hidden power station. It has become a tradition to bring over a Gang of Sherpas once a year to repair and maintain stone footpaths used by hikers. They have celebrity status, which probably means feature articles in 'Hikey Hikey Ho' magazine. The second and final formal night of the trip concludes with the ever popular crew show, which demonstrates that the workers have considerately more talent among them than we would ever guess over the breakfast table. As I have said in a previous report it is an ingenious way of stirring up the feel good factor all round. The status of the crew is elevated, while the guests feel they're making a small contribution to world social mobility. Indeed, during the final song, in the little bubble of suspended reality that is the Neptune Lounge , "We Are The World". Day Eight The day of the gala buffet. Being new to Olsen, our dining companions can't quite believe their taste buds as they range across sumptuous seafood, the finest cold meats and a giant cooked gammon in a shortcrust pastry, an overwhelming display of cakes and pastries, not to mention the chocolate fountain. "Oh the buzzing of the bees, in the cigarette trees...."etc. We have now left Norwegian waters and are churning our way through the North Sea back to Blighty, the land we love, but also the land of blubbing bungling ministers, broken promises, and Brexit Bollocks. That said, would you really want to live in a land of welfare economics, equality of opportunity way beyond the U.K. model, the highest Human Development Index in the world, the top spot in the World Happiness Report, the Better Life Index and the Index of Public Integrity and Democracy? Perhaps not. But we might like to take a closer look at it! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
We chose the cruise for the Christmas Markets in Europe. The Balmoral crew had made a splendid effort to make the ship festive. Lovely decorations throughout.There were beautifully made gingerbread houses in some spots on the ship. A ... Read More
We chose the cruise for the Christmas Markets in Europe. The Balmoral crew had made a splendid effort to make the ship festive. Lovely decorations throughout.There were beautifully made gingerbread houses in some spots on the ship. A lovely festive dinner and very good entertainers and speakers. Enjoyed the orchestra, piano player, string quartet and guitarist, talks and quizzes. Formal nights with lovely food but good food throughout the trip. Lots of work goes on to make a voyage successful, but the crew including those we don't see are very discreet. Because of being December with unpredictable weather and fog the itinerary had to be altered but as we had been to Germany and Denmark on another Fred Olsen cruise we had been fortunate to see the Rivers and Kiel Canal in good weather ad daylight. Others may have been disappointed, but it is winter. The Christmas markets were amazing. The Tivoli Gardens at Christmas with 'snow' looked wonderful. The shopping streets in Copenhagen were full of people and lights. A lovely experience. Hamburg had a Father Christmas flying overhead on zip wires at the Christmas market. There were sprinkles of snow. Bremen is a lovely town, our third visit. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and were just viewing it as a means of getting to Orkney and Shetland and really were not expecting much. However how wrong we were. We found our inside cabin clean and spacious with a good ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and were just viewing it as a means of getting to Orkney and Shetland and really were not expecting much. However how wrong we were. We found our inside cabin clean and spacious with a good sized shower room. The food was excellent and we found the entertainment some of the best we have come across. We have cruised many many times with Cunard, Holland America, Princess, Carnival, Celebrity and Costa always having had either a suite or balcony so feel I am in a position to give an honest review of the Balmoral. We found the size of the Balmoral easy to walk around especially when in heels of an evening. The crew and staff were very friendly and there was none of the hard sell for good reviews from the restaurant staff or the maitre d. The only thing I would change is the disembarkation/embarkation at ports of call. This is the first ship where both have taken place on the same gang plank but I guess this may be due to size. The ports of call - Invergordon, Kirkwall and Lerwick were good and we were blessed with excellent weather. We toured independently and hired a car for the day in Lerwick through Bolts car hire who had car waiting on quay upon ships arrival at a reasonable price. The age range on board was varied and yes there were some people who had mobility issues and how nice it was that they too could enjoy a lovely holiday. I would definitely consider cruising on the Balmoral again. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
We've long wanted to visit Iceland, so this was the perfect choice- sailing out of Newcastle is easier for us than Southampton, and we were on Balmoral the previous autumn, so knew that she was a sturdy little ship, with excellent ... Read More
We've long wanted to visit Iceland, so this was the perfect choice- sailing out of Newcastle is easier for us than Southampton, and we were on Balmoral the previous autumn, so knew that she was a sturdy little ship, with excellent food and service. The itinerary was all Iceland- some cruises add other islands, or Norway, but that's not what we wanted. The check in was simple, and everything is so well organised for you to reach your cabin with ease. The ship has had a refurbishment since our last cruise on her, which included full make over of cabins- ours was spacious and very attractve. In the main dining room, the food was as excellent as last time, when we were able to say that it was the best food we've had on any cruise line- good choices;well served; good ingredients. Because the dining rooms are much smaller than on many ships the noise was minimal; large dining rooms on big ships often are quite noisy. The buffet is small, although we ate there rarely,as there are other options for breakfast and lunch. We did like to go there for a cream scone at tea time! Small ships don't have all the activities of the big ones, but there were plenty of lectures, along with traditional ship board games, quizzes and entertainment.The evening shows were good, with the usual song and dance routines, plus comedians, magicians and musicians. The lat time we were on Balmoral,it was an adult only cruise- this time, being in the middle of the summer holidays, there were some children cruising- perhaps 30 or so, and they always seemed to be busy with their leaders. Iceland itself was absolutely wonderful, from the long sail past the glacier, volcano and Westman Islands on the evening before arrivng at Reykjavk, to the final sailing down the last fjord, whale watching. There was a commentary for all these times, explaining much of what we were seeing,or what had happened in the past (Eyjafjallajokull eruption; Heimaey life; whale spotting). We took the cruise for the itinerary, but the ship was also a pleasant part of that itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2018
Always wanted to visit the Scottish Islands and this cruise gave us a great taste of what was available should we want to go back for longer visits. We took one of the organised trips but for the rest of the time opted to do our own ... Read More
Always wanted to visit the Scottish Islands and this cruise gave us a great taste of what was available should we want to go back for longer visits. We took one of the organised trips but for the rest of the time opted to do our own thing. As always we were very well looked after by the staff. The staff in the restaurants were attentive and always willing to help. The food was excellent, we used the buffet for breakfast and lunch, when on board and the Ballindalloch Restaurant for fixed dining in the evenings. Staff in the bars were also very good and always on hand. The evening entertainment was most enjoyable and of a high standard and there was always something to do during the days at sea. Interesting talks and recitals. We were more than happy with our room which was very comfortable and larger than we had expected. Overall, an excellent experience which we look forward to repeating hopefully soon!! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
This was for me, a rare opportunity to visit Orkney, Shetland and Lewis and I was not disappointed. The ship was as excellent as expected (I have grown to love Balmoral) and the itinerary wonderful. Wonderful restaurant and bar staff, ... Read More
This was for me, a rare opportunity to visit Orkney, Shetland and Lewis and I was not disappointed. The ship was as excellent as expected (I have grown to love Balmoral) and the itinerary wonderful. Wonderful restaurant and bar staff, good choice of vegetarian food and everyone very friendly, as always expected from Fred. I particularly enjoyed the visits to the ancient archaeological sites on each of the islands we visited, which gave a really good insight into how people lived thousands of years ago. In Kirkwall we took a DIY excursion by taxi and our Driver Kenny was wonderful, full of enthusiasm for his homeland and giving every bit as good an experience as a professional tour guide. In Shetland we had the very cheerful Melvyn, who has such a gleeful personality that our time there just flew by. I cannot wait for my next cruise with Fred. - next Spring! Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
Never on a cruise before; staff, entertainment, food, service, hygiene and gym all superb. Cabin was excellent, well appointed and serviced. The staff were very attentive and worked tirelessly. Food options were very good with a high ... Read More
Never on a cruise before; staff, entertainment, food, service, hygiene and gym all superb. Cabin was excellent, well appointed and serviced. The staff were very attentive and worked tirelessly. Food options were very good with a high standard of presentation. It was particularly welcome that you could get a late snack and an afternoon tea beyond the time of lunch (handy if you were out). The gym was well kitted out and the weather was also good enough to go out on the top deck pool. The atmosphere was excellent in all the bars, in particular the observatory. The selection of ports was good and it was welcome that shuttle buses were on hand at Lerwick and kirkwall. Embarkation was very efficient. We got a freedom fare which made it exceptional value for money. Limited selection of beers and ciders would be a minor criticism. Overall, an excellent experience and certainly recommended. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2018
We travelled by Evesway coach from Chester. Although we had 2 coach changes everything went smoothly. Embarkation went well and we boarded quickly, greeted by friendly staff and the usual photographer who took our photos as we boarded. The ... Read More
We travelled by Evesway coach from Chester. Although we had 2 coach changes everything went smoothly. Embarkation went well and we boarded quickly, greeted by friendly staff and the usual photographer who took our photos as we boarded. The ship a traditional older style suited myself and my husband and we enjoyed the freedom of moving from deck to deck outside. We had cabin 5019 junior suite. This is the third time we have travelled o and Boudicca. We have always been on deck 5 and find it an ideal deck location for the main activities and restaurants. The entertainment was good we enjoyed a new Boudicca Show Company, although the singer was a little dated for my liking. Other entertainers and dancing hosts were very good. We also enjoyed the lectures. Cabin very comfort and our hostess looked after us very well. We went on several tours, although not included in the initial cruise price, such tours I consider excellent as you travel in a group and you are likely to visit places you wouldn't do on your own. We went as a personal choice to see Bergen Belsen, Berlin, Lubeck, and superb Brenem. We had an excellent guide in Brenem. A special thank you to the waiters. I fact the waiter David also waited on us on the ship 3 years ago when we went to see the Solar Eclipse. One point it does seem a same that when you are asked to complete a form a couple of days into the cruise Fred Olsen will donate a 1p,yes 1p to the RNLI!!!! Why so little Fred? I would certainly recommend Fred Olsen. Although I was probably in the youngest 10%on board the ship suited me and being a smaller ship ideal for River Cruising. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2018
This was my first cruise alone, first cruise in an inside cabin and first time that I didn't actually know where I was going! I travelled down to Dover with Eavesway and they were excellent as always. We had to wait about 40 ... Read More
This was my first cruise alone, first cruise in an inside cabin and first time that I didn't actually know where I was going! I travelled down to Dover with Eavesway and they were excellent as always. We had to wait about 40 minutes to embark but I didn't feel that was too bad. Boudicca was just out of a refit and I have to say that the public areas and cabins are looking great with lovely furnishings and colour schemes but some of the outside areas do still need attention. Unfortunately all of the refit work hadn't been quite finished and the pool was out of bounds but Fred had given everyone a £50 on board credit so that was felt to be a good move all around. I believe that some cabins had an issue with their hot water but I had to say that I had no problems at all and had lashings of hot water for my shower. So we set off on our five night mystery cruise which was to call at three ports. I had 'guessed' at four ports from the excursion descriptions and was pleased that I had guessed correctly. The ports were not confirmed to us until we actually arrived and everyone had lots of fun guessing where we were going. First port was Ghent where we had a whole day - lovely city with beautiful medieval buildings and canals - and lots of chocolate! I had booked a walking tour excursion and this was good, although it would have been easy to do this independently had I known the destination. Boudicca was berthed 20/30 minutes drive from the city centre and there was a shuttle bus provided for passengers not booked on excursions. On the second day we arrived in Amsterdam late morning and would stay until 8am the following day. It was an easy 15 minute walk from the berth into Amsterdam although there was a tram for people who didn't wish to walk. Unfortunately, being Easter Saturday, Amsterdam was too crowded for comfort - the streets were absolutely packed and you could only 'go with the flow' and there wasn't really a pleasant atmosphere. If only I had known, one of the pre-booked excursions was to the Kurkenhoff gardens and I think I would have enjoyed that. Fortunately I had booked a canal boat excursion at night and that was really lovely, well worth doing, and improved my impression of Amsterdam. Easter Sunday was spent largely at sea until we arrived in Rotterdam at 6.30pm where we would stay until 6pm the next day. I have to say I didn't have great expectations for Rotterdam, knowing that it is a huge port but I was pleasantly surprised. The city itself has lots of interesting modern architecture and we were berthed right by the stunning Erasmus bridge. The Markt Hall is definitely worth a visit for an amazing selection of food - not that you need any extra food when you are travelling with Fred! I also did an excursion to Gouda which was a delightful town and a place I would be happy to return to. We sailed overnight to arrive back in Dover at 6am the next morning. The passengers on Fred were a good mix with the usual large percentage of 'seniors' but all seemed to get around well and I wasn't aware of any problems - everyone was very friendly as I find is usually the case on Fred's ships and even though I was travelling alone I was never short of someone to chat with if I wished. This was actually an extra cruise for me this year so I was trying to be frugal and so booked an inside cabin - 4128. I was actually very pleasantly surprised, it was clean, comfortable and well decorated. With being an inside cabin it was actually very dark at night and I slept really well - had to set the alarm on the cabin phone to ensure I didn't oversleep! My cabin girl, Donna, was lovely and looked after me very well. This cabin did not have other cabins at either side so there was very little noise. The food on Fred was excellent as always - I think there really is something for everyone and the entertainment was good too. With hindsight, for me personally, I don't think I would do a mystery cruise again as I am the sort of person that likes to plan what I am going to do in port, but having said that, this was a really good experience thanks to the great Fred staff and crew, interesting itinerary, good food and friendly fellow passengers. I look forward to travelling with Fred again later in the year. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
Plenty to do on the Black Watch, throughout the day and plenty excursions to enjoy when in port whether you choose to do it yourself or through one of the organised activities. The ship was very clean considering her age and constant ... Read More
Plenty to do on the Black Watch, throughout the day and plenty excursions to enjoy when in port whether you choose to do it yourself or through one of the organised activities. The ship was very clean considering her age and constant maintenance takes place to ensure this. Our cabin 8005 with balcony was adequate for our week's holiday and it was cleaned and maintained daily by our wonderful young lady who looked after us for that week. Dining was excellent, we requested first sitting and had a table for two, although we were in close proximity of 4 other people whom we struck up good conversation with. The waiters could not do enough to please you, along with bar staff in all the bars. Evening show was well presented and varied with some talented artists. Although there were a high percentage of elderly people on board that did not make the experience less enjoyable, in fact it was nice to see older people enjoying themselves. Trip was so good, we booked for another one next year to the fjords and the port being 5 minutes from our door. Couldn't ask for more. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
We chose to cruise with Fred Olsen primarily because of the close proximity of Edinburgh to their Rosyth embarkation port. Also, we had cruised with Fred Olsen twice previously and knew them to be a solid, reliable operation giving ... Read More
We chose to cruise with Fred Olsen primarily because of the close proximity of Edinburgh to their Rosyth embarkation port. Also, we had cruised with Fred Olsen twice previously and knew them to be a solid, reliable operation giving value for money with the staff impeccable in every sense. Seven days was an ideal duration for us, too. in current circumstances. Another stop (we went to Heligoland, Hamburg and Bremen) would have been welcome but there was more than enough to occupy us on board. A typical day comprised sightseeing or Scrabble, cinema, gym., drinks, dinner and a show. Perfect. Worth mentioning in addition was the fact the Black Watch is small enough to ensure clients are more than "ships that pass in the night" and over the week we enjoyed re-engaging with various fellow travellers something that would not have been as likely on a vastly bigger vessel. Nothing is ever 100 per cent, however, and the coffee/tea served in the dining room was lacking although in the specialised coffee areas normal high standards prevailed at reasonable prices. Roll on our next Fred Olsen cruise. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
I booked this cruise about a month before departure date. Price and value are the most important factors when I book a cruise for myself. I booked a Single Interior Guarantee cabin for a great price. I didn't think too much about ... Read More
I booked this cruise about a month before departure date. Price and value are the most important factors when I book a cruise for myself. I booked a Single Interior Guarantee cabin for a great price. I didn't think too much about the itinerary, although I of course realized it would be cold. I have lived in a warm climate almost my entire life. Normally, I would prefer an extra month of summer as opposed to an extra month of winter. In this case, though, I made the reverse trade-off. I bought two pairs of heavy socks and a fleece neck warmer. I brought them and other appropriate clothing with me. While we did get lucky with the temperatures and the weather, it was nonetheless cold, although it was never an issue for me. In fact, I often went into the open-air jacuzzis and laid out on deck (as did others) when the sun was shining. The bathrobe I rented for GBP 10 came in quite handy. Because almost everything was so wonderful, areas with room for improvement were conspicuous. I simply can't mention everything that was great, but I will mention and describe the areas with room for improvement. Choosing rate types and finding the best rate on the Fred.Olsen website is one of the areas with room for improvement. In fact, because my credit card payment did not go through (see below), I called Fred.Olsen to book the cruise. Initially, the representative did not find the Anchor Fare I saw on the website and I had to describe how and where I saw it. Another note is that the cruise line only has a UK office and phone numbers. Those were intercontinental calls for me. As noted, I was unable to use my non-UK credit card to book the cruise. I was also unable to use it to purchase travel currency through City Forex, Fred.Olsen's partner. It eventually turned out that I did not understand the relationship between my credit card limit and my bank account credit limit, but I did see, read, and hear misleading information on the Fred.Olsen website, the City Forex website, in emails and during phone conversations. For example, an email from City Forex informed me that their website does not accept MasterCard, contradicting an error message I had seen. The fact is the website does not accept non-UK credit cards, so an expensive bank transfer was necessary. Fred.Olsen was eventually able to charge my credit card for the cruise, albeit manually over the phone. After I had resolved the credit limit issue, it is likely I would have been able to use the card on the website. Back to the cruise itself. I was assigned Single Interior cabin 5085. For more information about the cabin, see the associated cabin review. The one organized tour I took was also an area with room for improvement. Up until this cruise, I never booked or participated in an organized tour or shore excursion. A day or two before we docked at Reykjavik, I decided to book The Golden Circle tour, which included Gullfoss (the Golden Waterfall), the Geysir area, and Thingvellir National Park. The tour was one of three throughout the cruise line designated Must Do, and it was a popular one, with passengers filling up six buses, I think. My bus drove first to Thingvellir National Park. Unfortunately, we were only provided 30 minutes to walk from one parking lot to another. I would have liked (a lot) more time there. We then drove to Gullfoss. We were given about 35-40 minutes to walk to the waterfall before lunch at the visitors center. Again, I felt it was not enough time to walk both available paths. Breathtaking waterfall, though, and the sit-down lunch was very good, too, with soup and fish (salmon?). After lunch, we drove to the Geysir area. Again, we were given about 30 minutes to walk around before we had to be back on the bus. The tour was advertised as lasting 8-8 1/2 hours. The tour started at around 10:00. When we got back on the bus at 15:00 in the Geysir parking lot, we had already seen the Big Three. The only other item on the tour description was a short comfort stop at the village of Hveragerði. As far as I could tell, the ship was no more than an hour's drive away from the Geysir area. So, besides driving, what would we be doing for the next three hours that didn't appear in the tour description? Well, the bus took what I think is the long way back to Reykjavik. We saw some nice scenery, with commentary from the tour guide. Not bad, but I still would have traded that time for more time at the Big Three. Then, we actually drove past where the ship was docked and went to the Perlan (Pearl) Museum. The museum is made up of former water tanks, sits on a hill, and has a fourth-floor observatory that provides a 360-degree view of Reykjavik and the surrounding area. Nice. However, the guest elevator/lift was out of service, and I decided not to walk up and down via the stairs. We were only given 20 minutes there, anyway. So, instead, I walked around the building, which I enjoyed. Nonetheless, I again would certainly have been happy if we had not gone to a place that did not appear in the tour description. I would have gladly traded the time there and the time it took to get there and back to the ship in favor of more time at the Big Thee natural phenomena. Even though this tour allowed me to see these stunning natural phenomena, it was nonetheless an area of the cruise with room for improvement. Another minor area with room for improvement were discrepancies in the daily newsletter. For example, one night, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was supposed to be screened in the Marina Theatre. They screened The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by mistake. A few days later, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel appeared in the daily newsletter, and they screened that movie again. Finally, at Tromsø, Norway, the cruise line's port agent provided a paid shuttle bus to the city center. When I asked Guest Services whether there is public transportation nearby, the woman told me there isn't. Therefore, I bought a ticket for the shuttle bus. However, in a tourist information tent on the pier, I saw information about public bus services and the nearby stop. So, I went back onto the ship, returned the shuttle bus ticket, got a refund, and used public buses for the day. Again, let me stress that these areas with room for improvement are conspicuous because of how great everything else was. Even after paying a low price for the cruise and only GBP 4 per day gratuities, I discovered more and more ways the cruise line provides value as the cruise went along. One example is the GBP 10 bathrobe. Another example: Alcohol. In addition to reasonable alcohol prices at the ship's bars, a couple of days into the cruise, I noticed a form and a display for ordering alcohol for on-board consumption. The prices were higher than duty free, but you can't consume duty free alcohol on board. Over a four-week cruise, I ordered a few bottles of whisky and that's what I drank on-board except for the first couple of days and a few drinks with glacier ice (!). So what that I had to ask bartenders for glasses of ice a couple of times a day? A few of them soon remembered my "regular" drinks of either glasses of ice or water and offered one or the other when I approached the bar. Final example of value for money: Self-service laundry for GBP 2 per load, and free use of the dryers. Many ships don't even offer self-service laundry. This was a phenomenal cruise in almost every way. Only a few weeks after this one ended, I booked myself on another four-week Fred.Olsen cruise! Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
Recently cruised from Rosyth to France, Sapin and Portugal. I found the whole thing to be the best holiday I ever had. ALL the staff greeted you with a genuine smile unlike some airline staff who put on a "painted" smile. More ... Read More
Recently cruised from Rosyth to France, Sapin and Portugal. I found the whole thing to be the best holiday I ever had. ALL the staff greeted you with a genuine smile unlike some airline staff who put on a "painted" smile. More importantly you were called by your name so you felt more of a person rather than just being a number. Houskeeping staff attended to the cabin twice a day and the waiting staff were efficient and could not do enough for you. The entertainment was top class and there was plenty organised activities throughout the day. Yes, the Black Watch may be an older ship compared to the mammoth ships sailing today, but this just added to the friendliness amongst the crew and passengers. I have booked with the Black Watch for 2018 and intend to do so for as long as I can. Long may the Black Watch continue to sail the seas from Rosyth! Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
Iceland and the Faroe Islands Cruise this year on Black Watch was an experience of a lifetime. Having read some previous reviews was not sure about Black Watch. BUT nothing wrong, the ship is being refitted in November which will update a ... Read More
Iceland and the Faroe Islands Cruise this year on Black Watch was an experience of a lifetime. Having read some previous reviews was not sure about Black Watch. BUT nothing wrong, the ship is being refitted in November which will update a lot but I found it to be clean, comfortable and the food is still great, what more could I ask for. Iceland is beautiful and the Faroes unexpectedly a great place....all in all I was very pleased with this cruise. All transport on trips were well arranged and the guides marvellous, embarkation, disembarkation very smooth, no worries. Yes I will sail again with FRED on any ship......sometimes I wonder exactly what the people who criticise are talking about, or is it just that they are unhappy people ? cheer up and go on a cruise with Fred Olsen and enjoy life. I will add that I am a single traveller and now feel part of the FRED FAMILY, which gives me confidence to travel anywhere in the world, and I will continue to do so. Thanks..... Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
This was one of the best, most relaxing cruises I have been on. The highlight was cruising along the Seine, to and from Rouen. We also cruised inland to Bordeaux, and that is a beautiful city. Evening entertainment was very good, and we ... Read More
This was one of the best, most relaxing cruises I have been on. The highlight was cruising along the Seine, to and from Rouen. We also cruised inland to Bordeaux, and that is a beautiful city. Evening entertainment was very good, and we were always able to find a seat for the 2nd sitting show. We were seated at a table for 4 and the couple we shared with, Edna and Peter were excellent company. The food was of a very high standard - much better than I experienced on the Queen Mary 2 in October last year. Daytime entertainment for me (57) and my mum (92 but very fit) centred mostly around the quizzes. These were made extra entertaining by the staff who ran them but especially Thomas, who, at the age of 26, was funny and entertaining and really brightened up the day. Only problem was that the quizzes were very popular, and so Fred needs to re-think the venue - the Morning Light pub simply isn't big enough. I also used the gym and was often the only person in the pool - it was a chilly April, but the pools were heated and lovely. Our cabin was lovely and quiet - we were on deck 4 with a picture window. The queues sometimes to get off and on the ship were a bit of a pain, but when when you have several slightly disabled octagenarians it's only to be expected. On the whole our fellow guests were a lively lot and out to have a good time. This cruise was quite expensive, but worth every penny. I'd definitely do the same one again, but it would be even better in the summer! Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
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
18 Helpful Votes
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
3 Helpful Votes
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
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 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
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