We had chosen this cruise because of the ports of call, and from that point of view the cruise was extremely good. Being able to see so many different places in Canada in the one journey was really good and we had some nights in port as ... Read More
We had chosen this cruise because of the ports of call, and from that point of view the cruise was extremely good. Being able to see so many different places in Canada in the one journey was really good and we had some nights in port as well so we could sample the ports by night. The ports included several areas where we could see national parks and the big cities of Montreal and Quebec as well as smaller towns.
Embarkation from Liverpool meant a mere 20 minutes taxi journey for us. We especially like Liverpool as an embarkation point as the cruise terminal is centrally. This means that once you have left your main luggage and checked in, there is no need to just sit and wait like you do in other terminals. Hence we did our usual and, once we had spoken to the staff to find out how long it would be before our embarkation, we made the most of the lovely afternoon by strolling along the river front and sat with a snack and drink from one of the vendors. There are also pubs and hotels very near the terminal. We were told our embarkation would be about 45 minutes time so, as we still had plenty of time before final embarkation, we returned about an hour later and were then able to embark immediately.
Our luggage was waiting for us when we arrived at our cabin (5052) which was a superior outside midship on deck 5. We moved to cabin 5052 a couple of days later. Please see cabin review(s) below for explanation. Both cabin stewardesses were excellent.
We were given our chosen dining arrangements of first sitting and table for two. There are not many tables for two, so this was an advantage of our early booking. Our waiter, Danny and assistant were very good, as were the other restaurant staff. We found the food to be very good overall, but there were two occasions when I had chosen chicken and it was not cooked properly. On both occasions these were replaced swiftly with a completely new meal.
The ship was in fairly good condition for its age and furniture in the restaurants and bars was in good condition, but some aspects were not to our liking. The only bar serving the outside was the Lido on deck 8, with the bar higher up not open on this cruise, even in warm weather. Bar staff did come round the other outside decks, but sometimes it took a while to get a drink outside. We found the Lido bar very confining at night as there was a barrier across the floor and the bar protruded a long way to one side, making the seating area difficult to access at busy times. Apart from a few evenings when we were in the upper reaches of the St Lawrence, the net curtains were always closed in the restaurant, even though it was fully light at the time. We have been able to see out of windows when dining on other ships, including all the other Fred Olsen ships. All windows on the ship were dirty when we embarked, especially our cabin window. The only windows we saw ‘cleaned’ while we were on board were the ones in the Observatory. That must have been with dirty water as they looked much dirtier after ‘cleaning’ than they were before.
The water supply was turned off from 2am until 5am on at least four nights during the cruise. It seems that affected the supply to the whole ship, including public toilets and staff accommodation, so it is lucky and perhaps surprising, that we did not have some sort of illness on board.
We do not take part in many of the daytime activities. but I listened to some of the talks, most of which were not particularly good, apart from those by Mick Testoni who spoke about his time on RNLI lifeboats, which were good. The port speaker was a pleasant person, however, the content of his talks were very confusing in that he flitted from here to there and did not make clear how to get to places he mentioned, or even if they were walking distance from the port or up to twenty miles away. When talking about the trips he was equally vague about what was to be expected and even got details totally wrong at times.
My husband used the gym a few times which he described as ‘massively underused’ so there was plenty of availability of equipment which he found to be good. The one highlight of the daytime cruise entertainment was when a number of senior officers, (including the captain), took to the pool one afternoon for what was called 'Dolphin Racing'. This was extremely funny and like a ‘crossing the equator’ type of event. I think the staff concerned were really good sports for taking part in that.
The evening entertainments were mixed, with some cabaret artists being very good and others not so good. Some shows were good, but many were designed for people who were in their seventies or beyond. Ballroom dancing was extremely well catered for, but as we have found more recently on Fred Olsen cruises there was no option for a disco style of dancefloor unless you stay up until after midnight! This always irritates us as there are two lounges with dancefloors and we do not see why they both have to be used for ballroom dancing, to the exclusion of more modern styles. In the past we have known music requests to be allowed, but not on our more recent cruises. Fred has even stopped the sixties night, yet that was the era when people who are now in the sixty to seventy age range were teenagers (and a lot of them cruise). It seems to us Fred has no wish to encourage anyone under about seventy onto their ships, unless they have ballroom dancing as a hobby.
Some of the entertainment staff did cabaret style singing in the evenings and while some were OK, I cannot say that sort of thing is particularly to our liking. The staff all worked hard though. The crew show was excellent as usual. The first evening we were in Quebec there was a group of local musicians brought onto the ship and they were exceptionally good.
We found the observation lounge to be about the best place to sit on the ship, both during the day and at night. There was a Rosario trio playing there. This was the best Rosario trio we have heard on any of Fred's ships.
As well as the excellent, restaurant, bar, reception and cabin staff, we found the vast majority of the other staff to be extremely good as well, with the notable exception of the shore excursion staff who we found to be unhelpful and rude. In Charlottetown as we went ashore we walked into the cruise terminal, which was opposite the disembarkation point. The senior shore tours member of staff was there and asked if we were on tour, we said, 'no', and she immediately pointed to the door on our left and said, ‘Out that door and turn right to the town’, in a very brusque manner. If we had done what she told us, we would have been denied access to the very helpful local people who were in the port terminal to greet and advise us and who could be clearly seen just ahead! Needless to say we went straight ahead.
We had researched the ports before the cruise and had booked four excursions, mainly to some very good national park locations which we could not have easily seen independently. None of these excursions went according to plan, the one to Louisbourg Fort from Sydney, being particularly bad. We have done a lot of trips on four different cruise lines previously, (including two with Fred in Greenland) and they were better organised than the majority of the ones on this cruise. I will cover these trips fully in port reviews below if possible, or will post them on the 'ports of call' forum for Canada if not.
Fred’s planning of this cruise could have been improved on. Although we know port times can always be changed, we did not get notification that we would be leaving Montreal two hours earlier, (and hence missing our late night), until about 10.00pm the night before our arrival. It seems that Fred’s office had miscalculated the travelling times in the river, so we had to leave early to reach Quebec the next day.
Details of the port times had not been properly researched either. We were constantly assured that there would not be a time change the night before we reached Corner Brook, even though a number of people had queried it. The next morning the Captain woke us up at what we thought was 7am to tell us it was actually half past eight! I was subsequently told by the cruise director that the Captain knew about this mistake by half past ten the night before, yet not even people who were still in the public areas of the ship were told about it until the next morning. Most of the staff were not told either, which was unfair to them. A one and a half hour difference is a lot.
It was good to visit the area of Canada at this time of year, as it was before the main season started and we were the first ship of the season in a number of ports, so many places were very quiet. The temperatures were as expected for this time of year, with the maritime regions being still fairly cold, with some mist which is common there in spring, but luckily it did not rain in most ports and there were only a couple of days affected by mist, so we did well. The weather was quite summery in the Quebec and Montreal area, as expected there at this time of year. The sea was kind to us the whole time and the ship kept steady, but dull breezy weather followed us back across the Atlantic, so it was not really an out on deck journey. We made all ports which was lucky, as a few ships had missed their calls to St John’s because of sea ice prior to our visit. In fact the Maritime areas had only been free of sea ice about 3 weeks before we arrived and we were sailing through areas where there were icebergs around, but not near enough to be seen.
Disembarkation went smoothly although the retracting handle on one piece of our luggage was not working properly when we picked it up. Luckily the manufacturer was prepared to replace the bag, but it is the third time we have had a retractable luggage handle damaged by Fred in our last seven cruises. Hence we are beginning to think it must be a speciality of theirs.
Overall, a successful cruise and I would even like to repeat with something similar, but probably later in the summer or early autumn and preferably as a fly cruise. We would be looking for another ship as well. Read Less