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67 Fred. Olsen Canary Islands Cruise Reviews

First the negatives. Passengers were very old with many needed walking aids. A bit like a floating care home. The ship is older and small and the cabins are small too. Entertainment and facilities are basic. But all these were in my mind ... Read More
First the negatives. Passengers were very old with many needed walking aids. A bit like a floating care home. The ship is older and small and the cabins are small too. Entertainment and facilities are basic. But all these were in my mind counteracted by the excellent staff, food and friendliness of all aboard. We ate in the Grampian on the top deck with first class views. Drinks prices throughout are good and our all inclusive deal worked very well. We loved the Observatory for pre dinner drinks. The Gala Buffet and special afternoon tea were fabulous! But overall if it is glitz that you want this is not for you. The Neptune Lounge seating is very poor so get there early! Our entertainment was average overall but the dance group were excellent. Power Supply band in the Coral Club were poor. Shore tours were good except for Fuertaventura which has little of interest. Would we go again? Yes we would! Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Fred Olsen Balmoral – Xmas/New Year 2018/19 – Canaries All in all, this was a most enjoyable cruise and a great way to spend both the festive season and celebrate my husband’s birthday on Christmas Eve. This was our first time ... Read More
Fred Olsen Balmoral – Xmas/New Year 2018/19 – Canaries All in all, this was a most enjoyable cruise and a great way to spend both the festive season and celebrate my husband’s birthday on Christmas Eve. This was our first time with “Fred”, although we’ve cruised a lot since getting the bug a decade ago. Compared with other lines, we were delighted that there was no constant hard sell, ship wide announcements were kept to an absolute minimum and queueing was practically non-existent. Of course the ship photographers were there as you ate at the gala dinners, but not always as you got on and off the ship - perhaps by the time we disembarked, they were on the excursions looking for material to go on the DVD. We always buy one and are looking forward to watching it on a snowy day – they’re really a great way to remember the cruise. One morning, I saw a photographer having breakfast, so took a photo of him, then told him it would be ready the next day! I thought it was funny, but have no idea what he must have really thought - he simply smiled very politely, then got on with his breakfast! Embarkation was truly straightforward, as was disembarkation (we cannot fathom why people sat on the stairs waiting to get off the ship when there were plenty of places to sit and wait). The only time we could have queued was at the Captain’s Receptions, but even then, we sat nattering to other passengers and waited until the queue had gone down. That really is the beauty of sailing on a smaller ship. I’ll get the one downside (British Night) out of the way so we can concentrate on how lovely everything else was. With the way politics are, perhaps something more neutral might be more appropriate. Why on earth would you travel abroad and bring that horrid jingoistic nonsense with you? We’re there to see the world and be ambassadors for our country, not to tell people we rule the waves! We were on second sitting, and rather tired that night, so watched the show from our cabin. We were astonished that the Boomtown Rats (Irish), Debbie Harry and Meatloaf (both US) were featured as the “Best of British”, not to mention Riverdance! And don’t get me started on the bit where they all dressed up as school children. Anyway, that was the low point of the cruise for us, and I’m sure other opinions are available. I made my own little protest by wearing a blue shirt with a yellow bow tie which surprisingly got some very positive comments from those who had cottoned on to the colours of a certain flag it resembled! I also wore a red, white and blue rosette (or was it perhaps bleu, blanc, rouge?) We bit our tongues on the “B” word and tried to forget that many of our fellow passengers had probably voted for the mess the country has found itself in. Such a shame, as we’ve never met such a friendly bunch on a cruise ship. It is sensible to steer very clear of any mention of politics, not wanting to ruin our holidays, nor anyone else’s! Anyway, before I lose you completely, let’s go back to all the positives, and that must start with the cruise highlight - the pantomime. This will be etched in our memories forever. It was definitely worth Andrew Robley (the Panto Dame) bringing 14 suitcases aboard, even though his mum was found clambering over them in her cabin! The theatre entertainment overall was a high standard and very enjoyable. Inside Cabin 4154 The cabin was small and the L-shaped layout of the beds made the best use of the space available, although the unit housing some drawers and the console for lights, announcements etc went behind one of the beds, just giving an extra shelf (which came in handy for my husband’s birthday cards to be displayed). The console itself had a button to turn off ship announcements, with a handy red light to let you know that one was being made. Our cases were on the very large side, so didn’t fit under the beds, especially as there was a wooden plinth in the middle. One case went in the wardrobe, the other between the chair and the bed. My husband has a habit of bringing extra coat hangers, not always necessary, but it’s not particularly a battle I care to fight. Thirty years together has taught me to agree to disagree, and if packing too many coat hangers is the worst thing, then we’re not doing badly! An extra couple of hangers might not have gone amiss, but he’d managed to pack over 30, so we had far too many! I’m sure they’d have brought us some extra, had we asked… The layout of the cabin meant one bed didn’t have a bedside lamp or table, which was a little bit disappointing – I suppose we could have asked for the bed to be made the other way round, so the drawer unit could be used. Being two men of a certain age, neither of us have much hair, so having not one but two hairdryers in the cabin made us laugh as did the fact that our Christmas crackers both contained combs! Daytime activities (especially after 5) are extremely low key (or non-existent), so we enjoyed the interactive TV’s on-demand film and TV programme options which we were very pleased to find came at no extra charge. The cabin was towards the back (I’m sure there’s a technical term for the blunt end), so when the ship was coming into port, the engine noise was fairly loud – and when moving in high winds, it did tend to creak, so earplugs are very much recommended. Having said this, for most of the trip, it wasn’t a problem. One cabin we would advise avoiding is 5143 – there was a really loud vibration noise outside, not sure if it was audible inside that cabin, though, but it would surprise me if not. We were delighted with the kettle in the cabin. Perhaps a little saucer for used teabags wouldn’t go amiss, but we used one of the glasses to put teabags in. We brought our own redbush teabags, but they were available in the tea station, along with a large selection of other teas and infusions. Our cabin stewardess came from Thailand and was very good and thorough. We didn’t get any towel animals, but perhaps, like the baked Alaska parade, also missing, that’s another thing of the past. We had a couple of very minor issues with the cabin (both of our own making). They were dealt with very speedily, with a short note afterwards to say they’d fixed the problem, but reminding us not to hesitate to get in touch if the problem hadn’t been rectified to our satisfaction, or if there was anything else they could do. A very nice touch, we thought. Dining – Table 301, Spey We’d asked for a table of 8, but were given a table of 6, but were only 5 diners – pleased to say we got on exceptionally well with our fellow travellers, three solo women. We were tucked into the corner by the door and it was very noisy at times, which apparently is unusual for the Spey. Being next to a serving station made it even noisier, cutlery and plates were thrown into bins by the waiters. Once we’d had a word with our servers it was better - we did this a couple of times during the cruise, simply saying that the noise levels had increased again. Had our table mates not been as brilliant as they were, we might well have asked to be moved. Service was impeccable – no problem with menu variations, for example having a starter as a dessert. With a couple of rare exceptions, we were very happy with everything we were served, although we did wonder why the rather tasty soup called borscht didn’t contain any beetroot! On the one night things really weren’t to our taste (the burnt nut roast incident), alternatives were found very quickly. We immensely enjoyed a late breakfast in the buffet sitting outside by the pool (heaters were on when it was cooler) – and rarely used the Ballindalloch main restaurant. One tip - for breakfast and lunch, all three restaurants have both a waiter served menu and a very similar buffet, but the menu items aren’t available in the main buffet. At breakfast, I very much liked the selection of nuts (Brazil, cashew and walnut) along with the goji berries. We didn’t partake of the sparkling wine at breakfast on formal nights, but I poured the orange juice into champagne flutes to give a sense of occasion! Much to my husband’s disgust (being on second sitting we’d not long had dinner), I liked to have a “look” at the midnight buffet, which was varied and certainly not at all leftovers from dinner! Needless to say, this “look” generally turned into something landing on a plate and into my mouth… Portions at dinner were on the meagre side - I’m sure double portions were available but we never asked - a couple of times we had two main courses, or an additional one to share. There’s no way anyone could go hungry! Christmas/New Year The ship was wonderfully decorated throughout and at guest services, we thought it was a lovely touch that you could help yourself to satsumas and nuts. Christmas Eve had a carol service after which port, sherry and mince pies were served in abundance. We got back to the cabin to find that instead of a chocolate on our pillows, we had a small bag of chocolates to share. Christmas Day had a deck party in the morning, with a free egg nog station, which helped things along rather nicely! Lunch was just a normal sea day – they actually forgot the lunch I’d ordered from a waiter – I asked several times over 30 minutes - but I did get a free glass of wine to compensate! I just thought it was hilarious as we were on an all inclusive package. But as they say, worse things happen at sea, and I certainly didn’t go hungry for long! In the afternoon, my husband had a sleep and I went to see the Queen’s speech which we all ended up listening to, as something was wrong with the technical setup. I very much applauded her sentiments against tribalism and the need to get on with ones neighbours, but bit my tongue! The entertainment team then played a game of charades, which was quite funny. We slept the rest of the afternoon until it was time to dress for the Captain’s reception. One of the entertainment guys was dressed up as Santa in the Captain’s parade on the way in, so I told him “all I wanted for Christmas is EU”, in quite a loud voice! It was Christmas, and I was well behaved for the most part! We thought our waiters seemed a bit rushed on Christmas Day, until we understood that they were all trying to synchronise and sing a few Christmas carols, which was another nice touch. We were very surprised to see that cocktail parties for certain loyalty level guests made up the main entertainment on Boxing Day, leaving very little to do for first time guests like us, or people who didn’t want to drink at 11am, but it did mean we got seats at the quiz, which was usually oversubscribed if you didn’t get there early enough. New Year’s Eve was great. There were two alternatives – one in case of rain, one for dry weather. The weather wasn’t too kind and we were glad to have brought rain ponchos with us which we put over our dinner suits. It’s a very comfy cruiseline and there isn’t any obvious stuffiness and pretentiousness we’ve found a couple of times on other lines. We were comfy and enjoying ourselves, so that’s what mattered! After dinner, we went to the show, then before we knew it, champagne (well, fizz) was flowing and the fireworks started which were absolutely fantastic and every bit as good as Sydney where we were lucky enough to see them on our honeymoon. One thing we didn’t hear, however, was a countdown, that’s not to say it didn’t happen. The festivities lasted long into the night and I knew it was time for bed when the conversation turned to football and all I could think to say on the subject was that some years ago, we’d really enjoyed seeing the Beverley Sisters – one of whom was married to a footballer. As I said, it was well and truly time for bed! I was very fragile the next day (one of the waiters even asked a couple of days later if I was still fragile!), we finally surfaced and went to brunch in the Spey at around 11.45am, after watching the ex-policeman’s talk on airport security on our cabin telly. We were surprised that it wasn’t really a brunch, but breakfast simply morphed into lunch at mid-day. After lunch, we went back to the cabin and watched a great film called What I Did Last Summer. After paying a visit to the future cruise desk, we sat at the back of the ship with a cuppa watching the most magical sunset, in a nice warm spot thanks to the outdoor heaters. Ports We’d been to most of the ports before - and all of them were very easy to walk to from the ship, as long as you’re able bodied. None of the ship excursions took our fancy, but we were most impressed with the booklet and maps that came before the cruise, although they could have done with a little more information about the ports themselves. The destination guide, Graeme, did a good job of giving some hints and tips and not being too centred on the excursions. However, his appalling pronunciation of place names left a lot to be desired! As a linguist I picked up on this and his pronunciation would probably have confused local people if you were asking for directions. For some reason, exact docking timings weren’t given until the day before, which made it a little difficult to plan too much in advance, but having said that, we did seem to be in port for longer than other cruises we’d been on. Lisbon We did a Free Walking Tour (you just pay a tip at the end) of the Alfama and Mouraria districts – you can easily book in advance online – they did stipulate a €2 deposit for not showing up, but were very accommodating when I said we were on a cruise ship and it depended on the weather if we could dock. The tour was excellent, even though we’ve been to Lisbon countless times, and I’d even spent a month here in the 80s, we learned quite a lot from our guide. The tour ended near to the Church of Graça, where there is an amazing panorama of the city, along with a wonderful little outdoor café serving light snacks and sandwiches, the ideal antidote to the fancy meals we were having onboard. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Our extended stay let us go a little further under our own steam. We went to Vegueta, the old town, on the number 12 bus for a couple of Euros, taking about 20 minutes. The architecture around the main shopping street, Triana, is beautiful and rather reminiscent of some parts of Old Havana. We visited the Museum of the Canaries which was a bit old fashioned and apart from a room full of skulls, not overly interesting. After a nice lunch, we went to the Christopher Columbus Museum (my Yorkshire upbringing and infantile humour still makes me giggle when I see the word “Colon”, his Spanish name)… It’s a fascinating place, with lots of old maps of how people thought the world looked, and housed in a beautiful old building. Highly recommended. After getting back, we still had time to go for a walk along the beach front and have a quick look around town, and even to the shopping centre by the port. One little tip – the port wifi reached into the ship, so on returning, I had a quick look at my emails, although we had taken advantage of free EU roaming earlier in the day. Gran Tarajal (Fuerteventura) It was too windy to dock, so we diverted to Puerto del Rosario, the capital. Not the prettiest of places, and with the exception of a very small museum dedicated to a philosopher who escaped from Franco and a shopping centre, we didn’t find too much to do here, so went back to the ship for lunch. Santa Cruz de Tenerife Once again, we were in port until very late evening, so we went by tram to the charming little town of La Laguna (the tram stop is called Trinidad and at the end of the line, making it very easy). After visiting a museum, we went for lunch at an old Canarian Restaurant (Patio Canario) which is housed in an old building. Far from being a tourist trap, most of the clientele were Spanish - the food and service were excellent, as were the prices. The tram ride cost a couple of Euros and was a very pleasant journey taking about 20 minutes. San Sebastian – La Gomera We hadn’t been here before, and I was intrigued that they have a whistling language, so was delighted to see that a local troupe do a demonstration of this, along with local dancing. Apart from that, we didn’t really find much else to do – we were only docked for the morning, so enjoyed a coffee in the main square with two of our table mates before heading back to lunch on the ship. Funchal - Madeira All aboard was 4.30pm which still left us time for a leisurely breakfast. With 11 cruise ships in port, we were very lucky to dock at the most convenient location possible. Funchal was understandably busy, and our attempt at visiting a Madeira wine lodge was thwarted by hoards of people. This was the only day where the weather was unkind with rain on and off, but we still managed to have a walk round. When it threw it down, we had a simple lunch (forgetting how large Portuguese portions were!) Walking round, we found parks wonderfully decorated for Christmas, and stopped by the lovely Christmas market, where we just had to have a ginjinha (cherry liqueur) in a chocolate cup, followed by a Madeira wine in a chocolate cup, then another just in case. And perhaps another, but I can’t really remember. We got back to the ship and slept it off until it was time for the Captain’s Reception and Gala New Year’s Eve dinner! La Coruña This is the one place I’d love to have spent some more time exploring. I’ve never really understood why you’d want to be off the ship for 8am when shops don’t tend to open until 10am or so, although if you’re on a tour to Santiago de Compostela, you would need to set off quite early to make it worthwhile. It’s a real shame we left La Coruña so early at 1.30pm as it was a lovely place for a wander around. We found a very quirky café and I enjoyed a black coffee while my husband had the most delicious thick hot chocolate. No wonder he didn’t have room for the midnight buffet! Walking round, it looked like there were a lot of interesting places for lunch which hopefully we’ll try next time. Ship activities We’d both been very busy before the cruise, so were very glad of time to relax. To be honest, we didn’t see too much of the daytime entertainment staff – there were no napkin folding/cookery demonstrations etc, but we did enjoy the talk with the dancers and singers explaining how things worked backstage. What daytime activities there were had a tendency to clash, for example the quizzes and the speakers. Most evenings there was very little to do after 5pm until dinner - that said, bridge players or dancers were probably very well served. That said, one night, there was a Mr & Mrs competition. We were going to join in, but by the time my husband said yes, we were pipped at the post by another couple. Probably just as well. Our meals meant that we missed the 10pm quiz, as it would have been too much of a rush to get to the theatre show afterwards. I’ve already mentioned Andrew Robley, who not only was brilliant as the Panto Dame, but also entertained us a few times during the cruise (both on and off the stage as he was around and about the ship quite a lot). There was also a comedian, a singer and a magician (to whom I joked that the passengers do a brilliant magic act – they can make food disappear at an amazing rate!) One thing we were surprised at was the suggested themes weren’t adopted by the waiting staff – we thought they should also wear a touch of red, tartan etc. We had a lovely and relaxing time and we’ve already put down a deposit on a future cruise, so that says it all, and we’d have no hesitation in recommending our cruise to the right demographic of mainly over 50s. It’s definitely more hip-op than hip-hop, Fred Olsen definitely know who their clientele is and look after them exceptionally well. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
We had been on two cruises with Fred Olsen before, not on the Balmoral, and we had noticed a slight reduction in quality between the first and second cruise. However we felt the standard had plummeted this time as corners were visibly cut ... Read More
We had been on two cruises with Fred Olsen before, not on the Balmoral, and we had noticed a slight reduction in quality between the first and second cruise. However we felt the standard had plummeted this time as corners were visibly cut particularly with the food. The ship hasn't been refitted for over 8 years and it showed. The smell of diesel was so strong at times you could smell it from the lounges when a great cloud of it was blown in from the door to the outside deck. The smell was constant in the pool area. The biggest disappointment to us was the food. The standard had really dropped. For example we had "potted shrimps" which were just prawns in butter. We had tough inedible meat and disgusting fish. The desserts, with one exception, were disappointing and the cheese selection down to 3 cheeses only. Only the soups were good and we suspected that those came out of a tin. Salads were served without dressing and main courses without vegetables to speak of (although we could order extra). On one occasion my wife had pink uncooked chicken served to her. Maybe the "norovirus" on previous trips was down to that sort of thing plus poor plumbing in the cabins (more below). Service was often very slow in the main restaurants, we felt that the staff level seemed much lower than before. On the final night I got the wrong main dish served to me, which I realised after I'd got it and when replaced with the steak pie I'd ordered, I found the pastry wasn't cooked. It's ridiculous to pay so much for coffee in the bars, I really think non-alcoholic drinks should be included in the fare. We are sure that the all-inclusive fare would have been very poor value as at £10 per person a night (if you book in advance) it only includes the revolting house wines although you get half-price on other drinks. Entertainment was variable - there was a rock band and dancers which were superb - saying that as someone who's not a rock fan. However the show I went to with crew singing was boring. One major issue for me was the Internet service which had gone from £30 paying for 24 hours of time to £41 paying for 2 hours of time.. Given how slow the service was, this time soon ran out. The only plus side was that it was usable in the cabins rather than at points throughout the ship. We had thought that tips were included as before but they were back again for this trip unless you ask for them to be taken off. We liked Madeira, La Palma and Lisbon but not so much the other places in the Canaries. We opted to just get off the ship and wander round rather than the excursions which seemed massively overpriced. Afraid that Fred won't be seeing us back again unless he really gets his act together again drastically. So disappointed. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
I had the Cruise booked for me by my Daughter, direct with Fred Olson. I had never been on a cruise before, except across the Mersey and to the Isle of Man once, many years ago. Arrived at Southampton to be kept waiting whilst ... Read More
I had the Cruise booked for me by my Daughter, direct with Fred Olson. I had never been on a cruise before, except across the Mersey and to the Isle of Man once, many years ago. Arrived at Southampton to be kept waiting whilst 'Green and Yellow Boarding cards were embarked first, I had a white one. One on board everything was fine, until I went to Dinner in the Ballindoch Restaurant, table 111 on second sitting. The soup was cold with a layer of grease on top, the main course was also cold (turkey with veg) although it was not supposed to be a salad. I walked out in disgust, I was on a table set for 8 only 3 of us were sat at the table. I later found out that the other 5 people (all single travellers had eaten in the Palm Cafe, after being warned). The cabin I was allocated 9034 was termed a 'Superior Inside Single' As someone whom has worked with the Hotel Industry, in Kenya, Greece, Austria and Portugal as a 'House Manager' there is NO WAY this cabin was 'Superior', it was very roomy and had 2 wardrobes, the Bathroom had a shower over the bath, I could forgive the chipped mirrors on the vanity unit doors. BUT there was no reading lamp over the bed, No Radio (BBC World Service) There was BBC World News T.V., Sky News and ITV Choices. But no Radio only 3 channels of low end supermarket pipped musac. To turn OFF the bedside light was a challenge, that I lost, I had to unscrew the two bulbs to get some darkness in the cabin There was only 1 thin pillow, when I asked for a second, the reply was 'You are a single - no, so why need 2 pillows. The second day I went to the singles coffee morning it was there that I was informed of the Palm Cafe, where I had taken breakfast that morning. The Palm Cafe is the jewel on this ship without any doubt, by Third day I had to queue to get a seat in the Palm Cafe, it was so popular, even my two table companions from my first night ended up eating in the Palm Cafe. Not only was the food excellent and there was always a make up your own salad every lunch time and evening, the Chef would cook omelets, on demand for breakfast lunch and even dinner, each Sunday there was a carvery. This Palm Cafe became my home on the Balmoral, so much so that the waiters all knew me and the headman reserved a table for a party of us at each meal time. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
My wife and I sailed to the Canaries for some winter sun and we had superior suite 9047. Lovely cabin , perfect size and a lovely balcony on the starboard side. On the very first evening I sat out there whist my wife was getting ready ... Read More
My wife and I sailed to the Canaries for some winter sun and we had superior suite 9047. Lovely cabin , perfect size and a lovely balcony on the starboard side. On the very first evening I sat out there whist my wife was getting ready , and I noticed a strange smell engulfing the balcony. I called my wife and we saw the passenger next to us smoking a pipe and the smoke was coming our way. Went out for the evening and next day every we tried to use our balcony again but this guy was out there smoking his pipe. We retreated inside BUT ..the smoke followed into our cabin! This happened every day and after a week we spoke to Jo in guest relations to see if she could move us but the ship was full and guests on all Fred Olsen ships are allowed to smoke on balconies. Fred Olsen are stuck in the old days with this. Only 2 or 3 cruise lines allow this so beware if you are a non smoker. They already have an outside area on deck 7 for this plus almost anywhere around the deck so this is completely unnecessary in our view. We paid good money for this suite but Fred Olsen would much rather look after smokers and upset premium passengers. We have contacted Fred Olsen since our return and customer relations have told us they have no plans to change the smoking policy and were very unsympathetic. In other words..tough luck! We also found that too many cuts are effecting the customer service with them now. Our waiter was rushing around because he had too many tables to serve. We also found the quality of food is suffering too, during the two week cruise not once was steak on the menu. Very disappointing. We have sailed with Fred Olsen many times but alas , this will be the last. What is the point of having a balcony you cant use ? Also because the ship was full, there was no seats available anywhere and the library is now a coffee shop . All in all, an awful cruise and we will not be sailing with them again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
This cruise on Fred. Olsen’s ‘Balmoral’ (‘Canaries & Madeira Winter Sun’) was the third of a ‘three-for-the-price-of-two’ offer and followed voyages on the ‘Boudicca’ and the ‘Braemar’ – all in the space of nine ... Read More
This cruise on Fred. Olsen’s ‘Balmoral’ (‘Canaries & Madeira Winter Sun’) was the third of a ‘three-for-the-price-of-two’ offer and followed voyages on the ‘Boudicca’ and the ‘Braemar’ – all in the space of nine months. The ‘Balmoral’ compared very favourably with the other two (smaller) ships, not having the tired appearance of the ‘Boudicca’ and being more elegant that the ‘Braemar’. On all three ships we were located in a Superior Suite, but Cabin 9059 on the ‘Balmoral’ was the most ‘superior’ of the trio. The Starboard-side suite was spacious, well-appointed, and had plenty of storage space. The bathroom had a bath with an excellent shower which consistently provided plenty of hot water. The toilet, however, did not always flush thoroughly, but overall this was an excellent bathroom facility. Despite having the two ‘Scandinavian’ duvets, the double bed provided a very good night’s sleep, aided by the fact that there was little extraneous noise. The lounge area had a large table with a settee and two comfortable chairs. The adjacent balcony was of an adequate size and was equipped with a small table and two chairs. There was often a smell from the ship’s engines on the balcony and, if frequent use of the balcony is important, it would probably be better having a similar grade of cabin farther forward. The servicing standard of the cabin was very disappointing. In contrast to our other cruises with Fred. Olsen, we saw little of the stewardess, servicing levels were minimalistic and not very efficient. It may have been that the cabin staff had too much to do, as this was also the impression in the dining room where the waiting staff seemed to have too many tables to attend to – although our waiters were very courteous, attentive, and pleasant. The maitre d’ was charming and always helpful. We had requested a table for two, but found on the first evening that Table 326 was laid for four. This was a very small table, but fortunately, no other diners ever appeared and the table was subsequently only laid for two. Except for one incident when the roast beef was inedible, the food was excellent with the huge choice that we have previously experienced with Fred. Olsen. All our evening meals, and most breakfasts and lunches were taken in the Avon/Spey pair of restaurants on the Tenth Deck. These restaurants were spacious and civilised places to eat, with large windows providing an excellent ambience. In contrast, our limited use of the Ballindalloch restaurant and Palms Café proved to be crowded and noisy experiences. The standard of entertainment in the Neptune Lounge was very high, both from the Balmoral Show Company and the individual artists. The appreciation of the shows was enhanced by the fact that the stage of the Neptune Lounge was raised for these presentations – thus dealing with the poor viewing standards of the ‘Balmoral’s’ sister ships where this facility does not exist. The final night’s show (‘The Best of the Entertainment’s Team’) was excellent but it would have been better to see this at the commencement of the cruise so as to be able to appreciate what entertainment was available throughout the ship. There were also some excellent lectures and guitar concerts. Embarkation and disembarkation at Southampton were handled efficiently and swiftly, the latter a benefit of booking a suite. All ports of call were reached, in contrast to our previous cruise with Captain Victor Stoica who failed to get us to two ports on the schedule. We had pre-booked four excursions, one on each of the four islands in the Canaries. The first of these, at La Palma, was cancelled at the last minute due to lack of support. This was an eight hour tour when the ‘Balmoral’ did not get into port until about 1pm – so much of this ‘sightseeing’ excursion would have been in the dark. The other three excursions were good, and it was easy to explore independently in Madeira and Lisbon. Overall, an enjoyable cruise that would have been better if some of the staff had been able to devote more attention to providing a personal service. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
Chose this cruise because it sailed from Liverpool. We were asked to arrive at 2pm we were swiftly checked in and were on board by 2.25pm Same can be said for disembarkation which was just as quick and efficient with porters to help ... Read More
Chose this cruise because it sailed from Liverpool. We were asked to arrive at 2pm we were swiftly checked in and were on board by 2.25pm Same can be said for disembarkation which was just as quick and efficient with porters to help getting luggage to taxi. We had a balcony suite which was a good size and kept to a high standard of cleanliness. Tintagel restaurant was chosen because we had that restaurant when we sailed before in 2010 and we had a table for two by the window. The food was excellent with good choice and restaurant staff brilliant. Entertainment staff worked hard and guest speakers were quite good to listen to. Staff from all aspects of the ship were polite and pleasant and nothing was a bother. We didn't use shore excursions as most ports of call were a fifteen minute walk away and we were happy to stroll around. However, we saw lots of passengers taking the tours. The Boudicca is an elderly ship like most of our fellow passengers were. We thoroughly enjoyed Christmas and the happy atmosphere on board. Must give the firework display on New Years eve in Madeira a mention it was amazing..... Will definitely be booking with Fred again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
In early October I received an email offer from Fred Olsen for a November 20th sailing on the Boudicca for a 21-day cruise to the Canary Islands and Cape Verde. The price was quite good at less than 100 GBP per day although it was for ... Read More
In early October I received an email offer from Fred Olsen for a November 20th sailing on the Boudicca for a 21-day cruise to the Canary Islands and Cape Verde. The price was quite good at less than 100 GBP per day although it was for what Fred Olsen terms an Anchor Fare (i.e. a guaranteed cabin with no choice in assigned dining time). When I went to book I discovered that Fred Olsen now uses a different American booking agent and the change is not a good one. They used to use Borton Overseas Travel based in Minneapolis which is a very good company, but now they are using something called World View Travel based in New York and they are terrible. They rarely answered emails or the phone and knew almost nothing about the cruise line; my cruise documents barely arrived in time and then only after I left phone messages asking where they were. It’s a pity that Americans cannot book directly with Fred Olsen as it would be so much easier. However, this itinerary was so interesting and the Liverpool departure location meant the opportunity to visit relatives in the area so I could not pass up the chance. And I was fortunate to snag some last minute frequent flyer tickets to the U.K. so I was off! I expected travel to the embarkation port in Liverpool to be a breeze from Altrincham where I was staying, but I did not take into account last minute rail works, which altered my itinerary, nor the surprise that some 30,000 crazed rugby fans would also be making their way to Liverpool that same morning for a world’s final match between Australia and New Zealand! Nothing says “adventure” like fighting your way onto a two-carriage Northern train at Manchester Piccadilly with hundreds of others while carrying two large suitcases and then standing the whole way to Liverpool holding onto your cases one stacked upon the other. Once at Liverpool Lime Street the station taxi cue barely moved as fans ran out to the street and snagged many of the available taxis there. Those of us left in the cue started finding fellow Boudicca passengers and joined up to share whatever taxis we could find. Once at the port, though, things went very smoothly. Luggage disappeared out of the taxi before I even alighted and was already waiting in my cabin when I boarded about an hour later. Check-in was already in progress when I arrived at 1:30 pm and at 2 pm embarkation began by group starting with the upper class cabins and those with elite status. The Liverpool terminal is fairly basic, but had plenty of seating for all of us. Toilets were in a separate trailer-like building just outside. The walk to the ship was a bit long and covered at least most of the way; however, it would not have been a pleasant walk, though, had it been raining. I believe assistance was provided to those passengers who needed help getting to the ship. My second unwelcome surprise that day came when I arrived at my cabin. When sailing on the Black Watch this past summer I had been told by the Future Cruise Consultant that the Boudicca was a sister ship, meaning they had the same layout. Since I booked exactly the same cabin category (category N, inside solo cabin) and even was assigned the same cabin number (4107) on this voyage I expected the same cabin facilities. However, instead of the nice wide bed I had on the Black Watch, I had a bed that was all of 30 inches wide—something I would provide for a child, not a full grown adult. And in place of a desk with drawers, there was a small triangular shelf that held a phone, small lamp and barely room for anything else. Even the closet was smaller with only about 16 inches of hanging space. The Black Watch bathroom had nice counter space and a real medicine cabinet, whereas this Boudicca bathroom had a pedestal sink with just a single shelf along the bottom of the mirror. Even the door hit the toilet which meant you had to sit sideways unless the door was fully closed. I went to the service desk immediately to ask about changing cabins, but was told I would need to speak to someone else who was not readily available. The staff person did, however, get on the phone, and within 20 minutes a crew member turned up with a nice small three-drawer cabinet to add to my cabin which provided me with enough additional storage to unpack. I think that had I booked a Freedom Fare (regular cruise fare) I might have had a chance to change cabins to something larger as the ship was not sailing full. On the plus side I love this location on the ship as it’s very quiet and convenient to both the mid-ship stairs/elevators leading to the dining and public areas as well as the aft stairs/elevator that lead to the pool area and laundry room. Fred Olsen ships are older ships without the glamour of the newer behemoths that many cruise lines have launched, but the ship is very comfortable and just the right size at 800 passengers for me. All the necessities are provided (pools, gym, both formal and informal dining spaces, bars, a library, etc.) as well as lots of places to sit both inside and out, with the exception of the promenade deck which could use a few more chairs. Smoking is contained to two outside aft locations and to private balconies. There is a full wrap-around promenade deck as well as additional walking space on the top deck. Indeed, walking seems to be one of the most popular activities on Fred Olsen ships. One of my favorite locations is the Bookmark Café where you can order up hot drinks as well as select from a variety of chocolates while browsing the library collection of books and then sitting in a comfortable armchair with a nice sea view. Those folks who are sun worshippers could choose from quite a number of lounge chairs on several decks. The major public space on the ship is the Neptune Lounge where lectures, entertainment and some activities such as dance classes were scheduled. The layout here is not ideal as it’s all mostly on one level with just one step up to a second level around the sides and back of the space. They do provide some video monitors on this upper level to assist those in back to see the screen or stage area. Some of us early on figured out the best place to sit and would just arrive extra early to grab our favorite seat for any even we wanted to attend. The dining experience on Fred Olsen is decidedly British with a significant emphasis on seafood and geared towards night folk rather than morning people like myself. Breakfast began at 7:30 or 8:00 am, depending on dining venue, except on some port days when one of the venues would open at 7:00 am. Prior to that, the coffee/tea area would be set up at 6:30 am. This was another change from the Black Watch which had a 24-hour coffee/tea area. Lunch began at noon and tea with snacks was served at 3:45 pm. The dining room had two fixed-seating services, one at 6:15 pm and the other at 8:15 pm. For the main dining room there were some designated formal nights, although I noticed that many passengers dressed up a bit for diner here even on regular nights as well. The informal Secret Garden café provided buffet style dinner at 6:30 pm. At 11:30 pm each evening an additional supper would be served, usually with a theme meal. As a morning person and one, whom for medical reasons cannot eat much of anything after 6 pm, this schedule provided quite a problem. To compensate I would try to find something to eat at tea time or put together a sandwich from items on the breakfast buffet to save for later. The ship does provide room service from 11 am to 10 pm, but it is a very limited menu of soup, a few salads and cold sandwiches only. I called and tried to just get a bowl of ice cream one evening and was told that was not possible. I ended up just ordering a glass of milk each night. Except for that standard breakfast every morning the menus varied daily and did provide some gluten-free and sugar-free options for those that needed them. I found the overall quality of the food on this sailing not quite as good as on the Black Watch this past summer. I’m not sure why this was the case. The activities on board are geared toward the general age group that Fred Olsen attracts which is the over 60s. There was a small gym on the top deck, but I found some of the equipment rather old and was quite turned off by the horrible metallic rock music played by the gym attendant. Why he possible thought our older generation wanted to listen to that music was beyond my understanding. He also offered some deck games during the day on the promenade deck. There were two saltwater pools, an exercise pool, and some hot tubs—all wonderfully heated to just the right temperature. As I mentioned before, though, walking the deck seemed to be the most popular physical activity on this sailing. The ship also offered trivia games, dance lessons, a passenger choral group, and painting and craft classes. My preferred activities were the lectures. We had a port lecturer who was quite good, but they limited him to only 45 minutes per port—not enough time really. We also had three other very good lecturers, but I was surprised on their topic choices (Hollywood stars, 18th Georgian England, and assorted political/historical topics). Aside from a lecture on Columbus none of these lectures had any connection to our itinerary, unlike our summer Arctic cruise where we had nature and maritime history lectures that fit the bill. The entertainment on board such a small ship is limited because of facilities. We had a few musicians who played at tea time and there were two scheduled shows in the evening, none of which I attended as they were so late. The cabins had small televisions with terrible speakers; it was so difficult to hear without turning up the sound but then you worried about disturbing your neighbors. Channels included BBC News, Sky News and an ITV station with an occasional show from some other mystery station. There were also two movie channels but the Daily Times often had errors in the schedule so I often found I missed a movie I wanted to see. And I really question the movie selection on this sailing as there were a large number of very old movies while the newer movies tended to be about aliens and/or Marvel comic heroes—not really of interest to the older passengers. Again this differed from the Black Watch cruise on which we had some really good recent movie selections. Service is one area in which Fred Olsen really stands out from many other cruise lines. The majority of their staff has been with the company for many years and has the most amazing ability to remember passengers’ names and preferences-even passengers who have sailed with them before. My cabin attendant was a very sweet and quiet young woman who kept my cabin spotlessly clean and had no difficulty with my requests upon arrival to remove several items from the cabin to reduce clutter/improve storage space. When I mentioned to one of the ship’s photographers that Cape Verde would be my 100th foreign country visited, he made a special effort to follow me around that day to get pictures of me with the little sign I made for the occasion. And I cannot say enough good things about Hannah in the Shore Tours office. She was just great and the best provider of any information I needed while on board. Fred Olsen offers a good range of shore tours in ports and they are, in general, more reasonably priced compared to many other cruise lines. I booked tours in the all the ports and was only really disappointed in two of them--Mindelo (too many people booked for the accommodations) and Santa Cruz de Tenerife (poorly run tour). The one major negative aspect and one very frustrating for me is Fred Olsen’s refusal to provide specific port times in advance for any of its cruises. They provide only vague information such as “Early AM arrival” which can mean anything from 5 am to 9 am. Even if you ask for port times once on board, they refuse to provide them until they appear in the Daily Times the night before saying “things can change”. What good is that? It’s too late to make any adjustments to shore tour bookings or make any independent arrangements. And in the case of this cruise, twice the “Early AM” information was not correct. Our “Early AM” arrival in Lisbon turned out to be planned for 12 noon. I’ve sailed with nine other cruise lines, both British and American, and they have all provided ports times at the time of booking. Cruise companies have to pre-book specific times with the port authorities and with their on-shore tour companies so they do know the times in advance. And, sure, anyone who has sailed before knows that occasionally sea conditions, port staffing issues, or medical emergencies, etc. can cause a change in port times, but at least you do get to plan your port time in advance. I will say the frustration with this lack of information was the one reason that kept me from booking a future cruise deposit with them while on board. Disembarkation at Liverpool went very quickly and smoothly. Breakfast was served starting at 6:30 am and we were told to be out of our cabins by 8 am. We docked at 7 am and disembarkation began about 7:45 am once luggage had been off-loaded. As usual those guests in the upper deck suites and balcony cabins were called first followed by the other decks downward. This is another advantage of sailing on a smaller ship as the luggage was easy to find in the terminal and the cue for taxis outside was almost non-existent. I was off the ship, in a taxi, and at my hotel by 8:45 am. Although I’ve pointed out a number of negatives on this Canary Island/Cape Verde cruise on the Boudicca, in particular in comparison to the wonderful Arctic cruise on the Black Watch this past summer, I still believe that the Fred Olsen cruise line is a good company to sail with. Their smaller ships and level of personal service really make them stand out from the crowd. And what, to me, is the truly outstanding feature is the people—you really feel you have become a resident in a wonderfully charming English village with all the marvelous characters one might encounter there. Passengers are very friendly and really care for one another. Even though I’m an American, my mother was English so I feel a part of that heritage. I never had a chance to meet my English grandparents but talking to one retired Cumbrian railroader at early morning coffee with his crazy stories made me feel as if I’ve “found” my grandfather, whom I was told was himself a great story teller. Helping my elderly neighbor up a steep ramp or the memory-challenged gentleman across the hall locate his cabin upon occasion or getting an invitation to stay at their home from the charming couple I met at breakfast—these were all wonderful connections, the type of connections I’ve rarely found on any other cruise ship except perhaps on Swan Hellenic, another small ship British company. So, yes, I expect to be back again on Fred Olsen; I just beg their home office to reconsider providing passengers with port times in advance and please let Americans book directly with your office. Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
We were on board Braemar from the 7th November until the 8th December 2016 on back to back cruises. Embarkation at Southampton was swift (we are gold members and had booked freedom fare, so had priority. Also the sea was kind to us ... Read More
We were on board Braemar from the 7th November until the 8th December 2016 on back to back cruises. Embarkation at Southampton was swift (we are gold members and had booked freedom fare, so had priority. Also the sea was kind to us throughout. We love Braemar and have travelled on her a lot over the last couple of years and on each occasion there were no problems with fumes. However, this time there was a lot of very problematic fumes around the ship. Parts of the ship, including our first cabin, (6071) became uninhabitable as the cruise progressed. We did inform the guest relations lady, Geraldine, when it became particularly bad, and she was very kindly able to transfer us to a cabin which was much better (6051). It was still obvious that the fumes were present in various parts of the ship though, including the corridor by our first cabin and some staff did say that it had got worse over the last few months. Fred has done a lot to improve the appearance of his ships over the last year or two, so we just do not understand why something like this is being ignored, when it should clearly be repaired. We had been given various excuses for the fumes by senior staff, including that the inlet for the mid ship air con is by the inlet for fuel when bunkering. If this was the case it should be moved, though we do not see this can be the problem as the fumes appeared at different times, even when at sea for a couple of days, so not just when bunkering. Also, we had been on the ship previously (23 nights late 2014, 28 nights late 2015 and 8 nights in May 2016) and it was not noticeable on any of those occasions. Regards the other aspects of the ship and the staff on board the cruise was a good as ever. Esel, Victor and Patrick were as usual very personable and highly efficient at managing their respective restaurants, indeed all restaurant staff were excellent. The food was also very good throughout the cruise, (though I do wonder if I should be complaining to the chef because of my weight gain). At this stage I cannot remember the names of our cabin stewards, but both were extremely pleasant and helpful as well as being highly efficient. Apart from the problem with fumes, both cabins we were in were very good with quite a decent view out of the “fully obstructed” windows as the cabins were by the end of the respective lifeboats, so there was diagonal view as well as over the top of the lifeboats. We do not go to the shows and other entertainment/activities often, though we were fairly happy with the ones we did attend. My main complaint regards entertainment is that there was a classical musician on board for much of the cruise, but he/she was always scheduled for very late afternoon. These performances are something I would have loved to attend, but as we were on first dinner, starting at 6.15pm it was never possible for me to do so. There were no musicians on in the show lounges at night, which was a great shame, as we have previously enjoyed musicians billed as cabaret artists, (flautists etc.). Sadly there is no longer a Rosario Trio on this ship, which left the Bookmark café area really quiet and almost eerie in the evenings. There was a pianist in the observation lounge who was OK, but the guitarist in the Morning Light Pub, Luke Palmer, was nothing short of appalling and we were not the only people to comment on that. Out of the Cabaret artists I would say that Geoff Taylor stood out as being much better than the others over both cruises. There was a speaker, David Parkin, who did some talks about birds and was very good, but sadly his number of talks were cut down, so he did not have time to give a double session talk on migration which he had planned and prepared. My husband was particularly annoyed about that and I would have liked to hear those talks as well. Not sure what replaced his missing lecture slot(s), but it was nothing that interested us. From our point of view, the best entertainers, on board were undoubtedly “The Revolverlites” who played in the Coral Club. They did a really good selection of more modern music and performed far better than we would normally expect on a cruise ship. They were also very pleasant people when seen around the ship. I took a particular liking to Natasha, who was the singer with that band. The ports were good, which is largely why we choose Fred Cruises at times and we were particularly pleased to be able to visit El Hierro this time. We hired a car there (from CICAR), which we booked on the internet before the cruise and the day went very well, despite the weather, which sadly was not the best on that day. The return flight to Manchester was badly delayed. We were kept on the ship longer to allow for part of that delay, but Fred got us to the airport far too late for the revised flight time, (I suspect they did not want to pay for coaches to wait a long time at the airport for the new arrivals). Hence we were being called to the gate as we cleared security, so there was no time to have a drink in an airport café as we were not sure when we would be called to board. However, there was quite a delay at the gate, which was fine for us as we just sat down. However, some people decided to stand in a queue at the gate, even before being called to board and chose to complain about having to stand later. There were plenty of empty seats to sit on by the gate so it was just silly to stand in a queue at that stage. The flight did take a long time to embark the people who needed assistance (not surprising considering Fred's age demographic), but once premium were called they boarded very quickly and likewise when the rest of the passengers were called. Unfortunately there was a further delay after we boarded for a technical reason, which meant we arrived in Manchester more than three hours late. This was the second time we have used Fred’s flights and the second time there had been problems, which is not a good track record. Overall, the cruise still had a number of plus points, but the fumes were such a bad problem to the extent that we feel it spoilt the whole cruise and would not book this ship again unless we understood the problem to have been fully repaired. Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
My wife and I have sailed with Fred Olsen on the Boudicca before and enjoyed it, so thought we'd like to try one of Fred's other ships. The cabin was just about adequate in terms of living space although storage and wardrobe ... Read More
My wife and I have sailed with Fred Olsen on the Boudicca before and enjoyed it, so thought we'd like to try one of Fred's other ships. The cabin was just about adequate in terms of living space although storage and wardrobe space was fine. The one thing which spoilt the cruise for me was the vibration in our cabin which was persistent and very noticeable. I will come back to this later in the review. We chose the cruise because it went to a warm destination at a time of year which we thought wouldn't be too stormy, sadly we were proved wrong, but this wasn't the fault of the ship or Fred Olsen. As a result of bad weather we couldn't dock at Funchal so missed a chance to visit that lovely island. The Dining Room was well lit and clean and the food well presented. The food on the the cruise was very good. The choice on the menu and the quality of the food was exceptional. We were on the Drinks Package which was limited in choice but more than acceptable. The onboard lectures were limited and on very similar topics which sadly did not appeal to us. Daytime entertainment was fine especially the quizs and Bridge. Evening entertainment was varied and "entertaining". The vocalists in the bars were exceptionally good. The service from all of the crew was fantastic and couldn't be faulted. Embarkation and disembarkation went without a hitch. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
I boarded the ship at Doper which is the most convenient cruise port for me. I parked my car in the port which efficiently organised. After check-in I boarded immediately and my luggage followed only a few minutes after. It was one of the ... Read More
I boarded the ship at Doper which is the most convenient cruise port for me. I parked my car in the port which efficiently organised. After check-in I boarded immediately and my luggage followed only a few minutes after. It was one of the quickest start to a cruise I have experienced and I have taken 40+ cruises. Our cruise took us to three of the islands in the Azores, Madeira, Lisbon and Oporto. The "Balmoral" is a fine ship and looks to be in a very good condition. I still have some difficulty in recognizing the the grey hull livery. I expect I will accept it in due course. I had a single outside cabin on deck 4 which is ideal fro my needs. It had a picture window, effective air conditioning and was spacious. There was plenty of storage, in fact enough for two on this relatively short cruise. The safe and the tea/coffee facilities was additional benefits. The cabin was serviced twice daily and kept in good condition. I dined in the Avon restaurant on deck 10 which is an ideal place. The food was very good as was the service. I ate in the Spey and Ballindalloch restaurants for the occasional lunch and breakfast. The Palms Cafe was ideal for coffee, afternoon tea and the occasional speciality night, sadly only one on this cruise. The daytime activities followed the normal pattern. Some of the lecturers were very good indeed. The occasional classical concerts were first class. The evening cabarets in the Neptune lounge were very good with the Balmoral Show Company performances and, of course, the Crew Show outstanding. One of the strong points of Fred. Olsen cruising is the high quality of their staff.They are efficient, friendly and cheerful. I booked excursions for all ports of call. Those in the Azores and Madeira were excellent mainly because I chose take 4x4 (Land Rover) trips which meant there was a driver cum guide and 3 or 4 passengers. We visited sites which were inaccessible to coaches and taxis so we saw something of the real life of these islands. We sailed from the UK in warm sunshine but sadly on the voyage South the weather was disappointingly damp, grey and windy. The sea was occasionally choppy but nothing to upset all but the inevitable few. The weather in the Azores was mixed but didn't spoil the visit. In Madeira, Lisbon and Oporto we rediscovers the sun. The return voage to dover was on calm seas. Overall, it was a good cruise on my favourite ship. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
We chose this cruise as it stayed overnight in Madeira for the Flower Festival and what a treat that was, we could not believe that we were the only cruise ship that stayed overnight. Celebrity left on the day of the flower festival and ... Read More
We chose this cruise as it stayed overnight in Madeira for the Flower Festival and what a treat that was, we could not believe that we were the only cruise ship that stayed overnight. Celebrity left on the day of the flower festival and the MSC and Aida both arrived the day after - well done Fred Olsen and thank you. As always we found the food and staff to be the same excellent standard as we have experienced in the past. There was plenty of choice both at lunch time and in the evenings and no meals were repeated. Indeed we were on the Balmoral in January, and the meals were quite different. All the staff from the waiters, to the entertainment staff to the Show Company were outstanding, especially as they did have to cope with the dreaded Norovirus and all the extra work that it entails for all on board. They were still cheerful and always had time to talk to you. It doesn't help when passengers who are infected with norovirus leave their cabins and go into the shops, spreading the disease further, and one lady refusing to use soap after visiting the toilet - then we wonder why these incidents keep happening. Perhaps the people should be banned from cruising and thrown off the ships. We look forward to returning to the Balmoral in July and are very pleased that we will have the same Show Company who were outstanding - can't wait to see the shows again. Anyone that doesn't know that Fred Olsen caters for the more mature passenger, hasn't done their homework! Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
Fred Olsen ships go to really interesting places so we wanted to like cruising with them. The cruise we went on was a last minute booking as we needed the break and it was one of the few going from the UK to anywhere warm, and back again. ... Read More
Fred Olsen ships go to really interesting places so we wanted to like cruising with them. The cruise we went on was a last minute booking as we needed the break and it was one of the few going from the UK to anywhere warm, and back again. We booked on a guaranteed cabin basis and a few days before sailing received the documentation which had a cabin number - but not the grade we had booked. Promptly got in touch with Fred Olsen and came back with a new cabin of the right grade, but we didn't get any documentation as there was no time. At check in Fred Olsen only had the original cabin for us - which we were not going to accept. After some time we were given our correct cabin - but as if this was a favour, rather than our right - and we boarded. The cabin was fine with lots of storage space. When we unpacked we went to get something to eat (not having eaten since the night before as we don't do breakfast) and were very surprised that there was nowhere on the ship to get any food apart from a few biscuits at 4.00 - this is the first ship we have been on where no food was available in the buffet restaurant for fairly long periods of time during the day. We were on late sitting so were quite peckish by that time! There was no real daily program for the day of embarkation so no activities - we spent the time exploring the ship, which didn't take long as it is quite small. All seemed fine - clean and well maintained, but very dated. Maintenance was an on-going activity with crew painting or replacing windows at all times of the day and night. As the sea days went on we became bored - again, a first for us on a cruise. We play bridge so went to the Improvers classes at 11.00, which were excellent, and therefore missed the one guest speaker who was a military historian. Apparently he was very interesting but the topic is a bit limiting. The only other 'speaker' was a photographer who taught photography - again, interesting if you want to learn all about photography, but limiting. In the afternoons we played bridge until about 4.30 at which point we had missed the one opportunity to get any food after lunch and before dinner. We were late arriving in Madeira for some unknown reason. The Bay of Biscay had been 'exciting' but no more than usual. We had been followed out of Southampton by Black Watch which went into Lisbon for a day and arrived in Madeira not long after we did. The ports visited were on a variety of islands with excursions offered in each one. For do-it-yourself travellers there was no transport to the towns at any of the ports visited. Given the average age of the passengers this was a surprise - the towns were some distance away for anyone with walking difficulties. Yet again, a first on a cruise for us not to have a shuttle bus available, even if not free. There was a bit of excitement during a crew drill when a lifeboat made a bid for freedom and hung nose down from the davits. That side of the ship was closed to passengers while the crew worked out how to get it back. Eventually it was lowered into the sea, scraping the side of the newly painted ship as it went, and eventually found its way onto the front of the ship. The front of the promenade deck was out of bounds for days so it couldn't be seen, except via the ships camera on TV! Generally there was a feeling of penny pinching everywhere. A cafe (with specialty teas and coffees which were not free) had been put into the Library, which became a rather noisy cafe with a few books rather than a quiet place for reading and contemplation. As a result tables for people to do jigsaws or play boardgames were not available anywhere except the Card Room, which was fine if there was no lecture/class going on or a bridge session - all of which were on the daily programme. It seemed rather odd to bother to engage a specialist to teach bridge and to conduct bridge sessions but not provide a dedicated area for them to do so. Some of the people playing games while lectures were being conducted were extremely rude and made no effort to lower their voices. I doubt if they would have talked and laughed through a lecture in any other venue of the ship - but maybe I'm wrong about that. There was a 'Specialty' restaurant available on a few nights - The Grill, with a steak and seafood menu - but in a cordoned off area of the Palms Cafe. Not very inspiring and at £20 a head somewhat expensive. Not a patch on the Specialty restaurants on other ships we have been on which are generally cheaper and in dedicated rooms with some atmosphere. We tend not to go to the Shows on cruises - just not our thing - but as there was nothing to do after 10.30 in the evenings except the Shows or a disco we did go to some of them - generally not brilliant and too many crew shows - very cheap. More penny pinching. The one thing I can praise was the food in the main restaurants - usually excellent with a good choice, both at lunch and dinner. The Palms cafe food was sometimes lukewarm and the staff not as friendly and helpful as in the main restaurants but the specialty nights such as the Indian buffet were good. Generally we were so disappointed with the experience and are very unlikely to cruise with Fred Olsen again. They have a group of very loyal passengers who seem to love everything Fred does but we are not among them. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
The cruise was some what spoilt by the need to up date the cabins we could see that the chairs could do with a good cleaning or throwing out. The chairs in the library are very hard to get out of for older people. The pillows in cabins and ... Read More
The cruise was some what spoilt by the need to up date the cabins we could see that the chairs could do with a good cleaning or throwing out. The chairs in the library are very hard to get out of for older people. The pillows in cabins and quilts could also do with throwing out and start again Getting on and of ship was no problem for fit people but for people with disabilities it was harder for them but staff did do there best with a smile on there faces. Entertainment is very mixed the show company could do with a big shake up very very boring it just the same all the time. The comedian we had on was so out dated it was bad. The rest of the entertainers were very good Olger the lady who played the piano and Kim who sang in the afternoon where great. Really enjoyed taking part in the Christmas pantomime that we did and the guess the killer. The ships crew night was great entertament Dining . I'm afraid not as good as other times. Some days it was great then the next it seemed to be cut back day but overall it was ok. Staff. The staff are always smiling and look happy and always happy to give a willing hand where ever they can All in all it was a very good Christmas cruise Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
Background: My wife and I (aged 60 & 62) are new to cruising - we took a Last Minute Budget All Inclusive Mediterranean 7 Day Cruise in June 2014 to see if this type of holiday suited us before committing to a more expensive and ... Read More
Background: My wife and I (aged 60 & 62) are new to cruising - we took a Last Minute Budget All Inclusive Mediterranean 7 Day Cruise in June 2014 to see if this type of holiday suited us before committing to a more expensive and sophisticated version over Xmas and New Year (18/12/15 to 05/01/16). We booked (3 weeks before departure in the Black Friday Sale) the Balmoral sailing to the Canaries and Cape Verde Islands. I gambled that I would be 'signed off' by the hospital physiotherapist on 4th December after a hip replacement operation - I need not have worried! The main attraction of the cruise was a) Winter Sun and b) visits to 6 ports over 18 days to give a decent balance of sea days and visits. We actually visited only 4 ports and spent 14 days at sea - not what we signed up for! Travel to Embarkation: We drove from Fife, Scotland whilst the Forth Bridge was closed so had to leave at 03:30. We had booked the Marriott Meon Valley Overnight Stay, Free Parking (up to 28 days), Evening Meal (extra charge), Breakfast and free taxi to/from Southampton Cruise Terminal. Total cost £212.88 compared to £136 for only the Port Parking - £76 for Dinner, B&B and taxi transport for 2 adults was very good value for money and the entire operation was smooth. friendly and professional. Ship Information: 1300 berth stretched 27 year old vessel - not a modern tower of flats at sea by any means - 'shabby chic' is a reasonable description - care worn but serviceable. The ship is very clean and the Norovirus protection regimes is borderline obsessive - a good point - with two auto dispensers and two serving staff in support, armed with manual 'squeegee' antiseptic dispensers. The cruise brochure says that Fred doesn't bother with climbing walls etc - just as well since the average passenger age is about 70 (with a fair few in the late 50s/early 60s age range and a lot of 80 years+ passengers). The Reception Area (Deck 6) on embarkation afternoon resembled a Mobility Support Convention - buggies, zimmerframes, crutches and walking sticks in all sizes and hues - until everyone had found their cabins. About 6 shops on Decks 6 & 7 - watches, perfumes and a decent range of clothing & accessories, especially bearing in mind the space constraints - we only used the clothing shop (needed the next size of shirt after 12 days of cruise dining ...) and the service was excellent. There is a promenade on Deck 7 (4 laps for a mile) where the Daily Walk (led by Hristov from the Gym) takes place at 09:15 - not well attended because most people were either eating breakfast or undertaking other activities. Throughout the day, a hardcore of power walkers and a couple of joggers were steaming around - the deck width is just comfortable for two strollers side-by-side so it is necessary to squeeze in when the 'Scuse me ...' cry goes up as the more athletic zoom by. Most entertaining when the overtaking occurs on the slalom sections where the walkers and joggers have to dodge the crew who are on permanent repainting duty (more of which later). Don't wear your best jeans or shorts when walking unless you want a free white stripe on the right leg. The poolside furniture is plentiful as are the seats on the promenade deck - but all is well worn with yellowing rubber support straps for the seating/reclining portions - careworn but serviceable. Pools (seawater) and jacuzzis are on Deck 7 (rear of Palms Cafe) and Deck 11 (can be reached by both internal and external stairs - good exercise). The Daily Newsletter became something of a joke - no proofreading undertaken. Crosswords were printed without corresponding clues - make up your own answers ... and details of one port of call for Cape Verde was a straight 'cut & paste' from an earlier voyage, referring to a port in the Azores! Cabins: We booked the Anchor Fare Inside Cabin and were allocated number 5031 on Deck 5 - about six cabins short of the prow of the ship - like sleeping on a roller coaster during the Bay of Biscay section in each direction. Wardrobes, between-bed chest of drawers and dressing table were worn and a catch was missing from the chest of drawers and one from the wardrobe. Only a problem in the Bay of Biscay where drawers flew open every 20 minutes or so and after the chair we jammed against the drawers travelled some 6 feet down the cabin, we gave up and lived with the cacophony. The furniture quality was 'decent charity shop' standard - usually advertised at up to £35 each unit. Cabin cleaning and bedmaking/turning down was excellent every day, despite the staff having more cabins to clean than on previous years (according to other passengers). The cabin crew and serving staff are really superb and should be the standard that other areas of the operation aspire to. Towels were changed regularly and the bathroom kept spotless - a lot of work since the washbasin is quite shallow and the 'Off to Full Power' settings on the tap were very fine, resulting in the mirror being spottled with splashes each time it was used. The shower was very powerful but the hot to cold setting was very fine - a challenge not to burn or freeze. There was no waiting time for the water to heat up - less than 5 seconds. Dining: Formal dining in the Ballindalloch (Deck 6) and Avon and Spey restaurants (Deck 10) whilst Palms Buffet on Deck 7 served breakfast, morning coffee (and cakes), lunch, afternoon tea (and cakes), evening meal, Supper Club (and cakes) which explains why I bought a larger shirt ... We were allocated Ballindalloch restaurant for Dinner (2nd sitting, which we requested so that we could have maximum time in port - sore point). The serving staff in all restaurants are excellent and are probably a major reason for Fred's loyal customer base; the sight of a waiter (humming 'Here Comes the Bride'), carrying two bowls of soup at the same time as supporting two quite frail elderly ladies who clung onto his arm as we crossed the Bay of Biscay in really heavy seas, was a joy to behold. Yosi ('You see' phonetically) and Jonathan were superb - remembered names, preferences etc faultlessly - and were endlessly cheerful in the face of some rude comments from other diners. They are a credit to Fred (as is Ruby-Ann in the Morning Light Pub). Serving staff in the Palms were a little more relaxed but still looked after passengers excellently. We took lunch in the Ballindalloch (and breakfast on 2-3 days) and also in the Avon and Spey restaurants (but not when crossing the Bay of Biscay - the sway was too much!) and were delighted with the service, quality and range of food - I am a picky eater and valued the ability to choose from the Menu and then forage in the buffet area to produce some quite eclectic food combinations that would probably have caused chef to despair. Other meals were taken in the Palms where the talents of the pastry chef were always evident - consistently superb. Entertainment: Meets the needs of the client group - safe. clean and gentle. The comedian was the most 'edgy' but kept to mildly naughty so very difficult to be upset. The nightly shows in the Neptune Lounge (Deck 7) were well produced - a couple of strong singers, from the in-house company, carried those whose voices were weaker or a little off-key. The crew panto was very energetic, rich in slapstick and generated lots of belly laughs - deserved for the amount of work that had gone into rehearsal. Not Broadway or West End - but it never claimed to be - and a pleasant way to pass the evening. Quizzes, Art & Crafts Classes, Bridge Classes, Line Dancing and Guest Speakers completed the line up. Some Guest Speakers were very good, others were very bad (one sent me to sleep - and other passengers suffered the same fate). The Elvis impersonator never appeared on stage although he was spotted wandering around the Decks from time to time. I believe these are volunteer Speakers who receive a free cruise for their efforts so it is unfair to expect experts in their field. The Rosario Trio played at least twice each day (violin, double bass and guitar) and had a really good and broad repertoire - jazz. classical, Spanish guitar etc. Very popular with the audience. The scheduled shows were changed on at least 3 occasions because of staff illness so the Entertainment Cancellations alternated with the Port Cancellations to keep the passengers guessing. Excursions: This is where matters fell apart with a vengeance. The itinerary was Funchal, Arrecife, Cape Verde (Mindelo and Praia), Las Palmas and Tenerife. At the Captain's Welcome Party (queued 15 minutes to meet him but then told 'just enter the Lounge at the other entrance when we declined to be photographed - grrr!), he said that there was an exciting new project - we had left Southampton with a white hull but would return with a new grey version. Our visit to Funchal was then cancelled (via the 'Daily Cancellation Broadcast' at noon each day), allegedly because of delays crossing the Bay of Biscay. In the absence of hard information from the Captain, rumours circulated that there were engine problems and that the power was inadequate after the new section of ship was added some years ago, meaning that the timetable was too tight for the plod across the Bay of Biscay, unless it was 'like a millpond with a good downhill slope' as one passenger eruditely described matters. Our first port visit was to Arrecife, Lanzarote was 23rd December after 5 days at sea. A 5 minute trip to the town in modern coaches that operated a smooth 15 minute shuttle service. This was the port where the Guest Speaker had sent me to sleep so everything was a pleasant surprise - the old castle and port area were very pleasant as was the small mini-pontoon where small private boats were moored and the circumference was occupied by market traders selling belts, wallets etc - the standard range. The town centre was pleasant in a low key fashion - we just wandered around and took photos (second objective of the cruise - wander, take pictures, drink coffee at an internet cafe, then repeat after lunch ...). It was nice to be on terra firma again. Christmas Eve and Day at sea - the atmosphere was a little muted with mutterings of discontent - 'It wouldn't be Fred if he didn't cancel at least one port - and this is our 4th cruise with him!' was one remark we overheard. Boxing Day was spent at Mindelo, Cape Verde. The tour buses were real museum pieces (40 years old oil burners - could have come from a film set!) - no air conditioning, seat belts and Anchor fare passengers were charged £5 each for the 10 minute ride to town). Mindelo town is a very poor area but we were stopped 3 times by locals who were very keen to practice spoken English and to tell us where to get the best photographs. We found a side street cafe (as did about 4-5 other passengers from the cruise) and spent a very pleasant hour or so amongst local residents, drinking huge mugs of capuccino and using the free WiFi - all for the princely sum of €2.30! On the walk back towards the tour bus, we were approached twice by beggars/pickpockets who were quite persistent - kept walking, tightened grip on camera and raised monitoring until we were back in the Town Centre. The Town Beach is quite charming - fishermen working, females taking the catch direct from the small boats and the running the length of the street trying to sell the fish to the cafes and restaurants. Numerous dogs on the beach, none of whom are toilet trained, so be careful if you need to step back to capture that important photograph. Mindelo is a developing area and I had to remind myself that my 'charming/quaint' photograph was someone else's daily poverty. Well worth the visit - although we seemed to be the only passengers who thought so! The island and its residents are working hard to develop tourism but it is very raw and basic - we hope to see it again before it becomes too commercialised. Next day was Praia, Cape Verde where we took the 2 hours minibus and Colonial Walk Tour with Eugene, a very erudite and entertaining guide who told us about his family and daily life for the Verdeans. Excellent pace - we have been on similar tours where the duration was crammed into 1-1.25 hours; Eugene left plenty of time for the photographers so we didn't miss any of the information at the next point of interest and we finished with a 30 minute cafe break for a coffee and a meat pie of unknown origins - it might have part of a rodent control team in a former life - who knows - but it tasted OK. 2 hours was probably a wee bit padded but it allowed a gentle pace and we felt we had received good value for our £25 per head charge for the excursion. The only downside was an attempted pickpocketing on my wife by a small 'blind' boy (no white stick and walked with far too much pace and direction to be visually impaired - no coincidence that his contact point was my wife's purse but her hand had reached it first). We left Praia early because, according to the Captain, quote 'This is not a safe place to be after dark' unquote. It would have been nice to have been advised of this earlier! Next came the Captain's Cancellation Message - Tenerife had been cancelled because he was expecting more bad weather (a staff member whose parents were on board had predicted this some 48 hours earlier ...) BUT, as a bonus (!), we would have more shore time in Las Palmas. We were pretty cynical by this time and had heard that Fred has a large operation in Las Palmas (tour buses, inter-island ferries) and so has a little more leverage. Because, staying until 23:00, the majority of the hull repainting was completed in port. Did Funchal and/or Tenerife refuse permission for a badger-coloured vessel to dock? The next Captain's promise was to 'try and dock off Funchal for the New Year's fireworks - we can't dock because there are no berths but I have a plan ...' This involved the ship circling in the outer reaches of the port for about 3 hours - great views of the fireworks display but going round in circles is not the same as a full day visit! A passenger was taken ill during the night and we had to return to Funchal at about 04:00 for a hospital transfer; later that day, we had to turn back towards Funchal for about 45 minutes to enable a helicopter evacuation of a sick passenger but this was aborted - we heard later that the passenger had died. Despite these delays, we managed to stay ahead of schedule for the rest of the voyage, despite slowing down to a 'pootle' speed for over 30 hours - we still arrived in Southampton some 2 hours ahead of schedule despite a real 'force majeure' Bay of Biscay storm that led to a string of injuries and the closure of the public areas of the ship to passengers one evening. The difference in distance between Tenerife-Southampton and Las Palmas-Southampton is only some 150 nautical miles and, had we maintained a normal speed, instead of dawdling for over 30 hours, we could have made Tenerife for the scheduled visit. This is supported by the fact that the Black Watch was in Funchal at the same time as the Balmoral but was still able to reach Liverpool before we made Southampton on the same day! Why doesn't Fred stay with the published itinerary - or at least refund the Port Taxes that the fare includes? Disembarkation: Smooth and quick after breakfast that was served from 06:30. We were waiting for our taxi back to Marriott Meon Valley Hotel at about 08:15 to collect our car - perfect! Conclusion: We booked the cruise because of the destinations - to cancel 2 from 6 is shoddy, as was the manner in which the reasons were given. The changes to the Entertainments at short notice and the Daily Newsletter/Misinformation sheet merely compounded the problem. The superb service by the serving and cabin staff was spoiled by the senior operational Managers who really should lead by example. Fred appears to have become cynical and complacent, trading on the ageing client group who value/need these elements. We may need to be guided to our seat and have our food fetched in 10-15 years' time - we have no intention of cruising with Fred until we reach that state. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
Fred Olsen are having to advertise greatly. Are they losing customers for the way in which they treat customers sailing ' Anchor Fare ' ? Yes, the fares are a bit cheaper but you are treated as second class. As members of ... Read More
Fred Olsen are having to advertise greatly. Are they losing customers for the way in which they treat customers sailing ' Anchor Fare ' ? Yes, the fares are a bit cheaper but you are treated as second class. As members of Fred Olsens ' Gold Oceans Club ' ( which, in fact means nothing on anchor fares ) we were forced to pay £52 just to change our dining times from late evening to a civilised 6.15pm, even though I have a medical dietary problem which rules out late dining. The dining room at 6.15 was half empty and all it cost Fred Olsen for us to change times was a stroke on the computer by the Maitre D' Also, anchor fares cannot change cabins. We had a cabin no larger than a large cupboard, we did not even have room to hand our cruise clothing, including smart and formal wear. The staff at the customer relations desk took one look at our on board cards and turned their noses up as we were ' anchor fare ' Four complaints about the lack of television reception produced no solution. I had to fix it myself, it was a loose cable ! We had to pay outrageous costs for a simple bus shuttle. £10 for the two of us to travel a short distance and £15.000 for Madeira, for no more than a mile. We used to love Fred Olsen cruises and have been loyal to the brand but these anchor fares are making us rethink and perhaps we will take our custom to another cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
This was my 2nd trip with F.O. first on Braemar. It was excellent !. My previous voyage on Boudicca. My wife's first cruise with Fred, not to sure what to expect. But she was pleasently surprised. Braemar was in very good condition ... Read More
This was my 2nd trip with F.O. first on Braemar. It was excellent !. My previous voyage on Boudicca. My wife's first cruise with Fred, not to sure what to expect. But she was pleasently surprised. Braemar was in very good condition and spotlessly clean throughout. Late deal on an Anchor fare which was excellent value. The food would be my highlight for the entire fortnight. Special mention to Christian, Senior/Head Chef Palms Cafe, Many Thanks. Cabin 3044 comfortable, with an excellent peaceful nights sleep on an excellent mattress. L shape configuration, giving plenty of space. Bars in particular, Morning light our favourite well run by Gerrard and his team, Cheers !. Entertainment budget needs attention, Brenda Collins and Anthony Stuart Lloyd performed with great flair, Bravo. Lounge act, In Tune Band also provided great entertainment. Met some great people on our table in the Thistle 2nd sitting. Many Thanks for making our cruise so memorable ! . Served impeccably by Philber and Ritish, Many Thanks. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
We have cruised with FOCL many times, several times on Braemar. Thomas Cook chartered flight from Gatwick two hours late so not a great start! Embarkation fine though. Cabin OK, but don't expect the space or luxury of larger ships. ... Read More
We have cruised with FOCL many times, several times on Braemar. Thomas Cook chartered flight from Gatwick two hours late so not a great start! Embarkation fine though. Cabin OK, but don't expect the space or luxury of larger ships. Food in Thistle Restaurant was great, breakfast lunch and dinner. Far better than we have had on other cruise lines. P&O last year was awful! All staff, without exception, were brilliant. Friendly, helpful nothing too much trouble - even reception staff. All inclusive package worked well and very quick service which is just as well as drink prices are very expensive (£3.95 for a small glass of cheap wine). Ports were good, and where required free shuttles were included. Tender service at Porto Novo in Cape Verde was challenging due to very heavy swell! On Board activities were very poor, worse than any of our previous cruises on this ship. Sea days were pretty boring. Too few staff? Entertainers were very average and the Neptune Lounge is an awful venue, with little seat banking and difficult to get in/out. The In-Tune Band in the Coral Bar were fantastic, especially Steve the lead guitarist. Pity they have done away with the Marquee Bar at rear of ship as this used to be a lovely venue. Flight home poor as Thomas Cook apologised for giving us a small plane with little legroom, but reasonably on time. Our luggage was taken from our cabin and loaded directly on the plane, which was excellent. Let's be honest the passenger profile is mainly older and infirm people (no children!) so if you are a party animal go Thompson. If you want a relaxing cruise on a small ship with lovely food and staff Braemar gets our vote. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
This was our first Fred Olsen Cruise although we have cruised previously with P&O. The food was excellent and superior to any we have had before from the point of view of variety, quality, temperature and service. Although ... Read More
This was our first Fred Olsen Cruise although we have cruised previously with P&O. The food was excellent and superior to any we have had before from the point of view of variety, quality, temperature and service. Although people's opinion of food can be rather subjective we could not fault it in any way. The waiters were efficient, cheerful and friendly as were the rest of the crew who almost invariably made a greeting when passing by. The ship appeared clean and well maintained. Our cabin on 3 deck was small but adequate however we did find it rather warm and stuffy. The portholes did not open of course so the only ventilation was a faint air flow through the one vent. Other passengers also commented on this and some complained to reception but it seemed to have no effect. The narrow single bunks are also a factor if one is used to sleeping together in a double bed. The cabin stewardess kept the cabin spotless. We were part of a walking group so often had two showers a day and the towels were then all changed twice daily even though we did not request it. On one occasion our cabin WC ceased to flush from the early hours of the morning until just after breakfast. I reported this to reception twice, once each by phone and by personal visit. On each occasion I was met with inscrutable politeness but little information. When I asked if any WCs were working I was directed forward to the Neptune Lounge when it turned out that they were working right there by reception! I served as a chief engineer at sea and I am well aware of the difficult and unpleasant nature of sewerage system faults but a little more information at the time would have helped. The Captain's subsequent announcement was rather after the event. The drinks prices were at the top end of reasonable. We did not have the drinks package at £10/person/day and overall our drinks bill worked out almost the same as if we had. This is obviously depends on one's consumption and some people on the package got their money's worth! We prefer to drink less but better quality wine and this started out at about £17/bottle upwards. The house wine was £3.95 for a 175 ml glass and was OK but the cost of nearly £8 for 2 glasses meant that when we fancied a glass each with lunch we often didn't bother. The entertainment in the Neptune Lounge was very good and we enjoyed the cabaret and the theatre company whose enthusiasm and professionalism was self evident. The lounge itself is not brilliant as the seating is cramped and there are pillars blocking some views of the stage but the staff worked hard to find everybody a seat. We only had 750 passengers and if the ship had been fully loaded I think it would have been very crowded. Our fellow passengers were nearly all affable and easy to get on with. We are in our sixties and were at the younger end of the age spectrum so at times it seemed a little like being in a care home but that was probably our problem. Watching the crew attempting to get some very frail and disabled passengers onto the shore tenders in a heavy swell was interesting. Overall would we go again? Yes but only if we upgraded to a better cabin. The Fred Olsen brand based on a providing for elderly UK passengers with friendly staff and high standards but a lack of pretentiousness works for us. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
The flight out was total chaos. We arrived at Manchester airport at 6.30am for our 9.30am flight with Condor (Thomas Cook group). Check in had commenced, yet we stood in the queue for an hour before we reached the check in desk and the ... Read More
The flight out was total chaos. We arrived at Manchester airport at 6.30am for our 9.30am flight with Condor (Thomas Cook group). Check in had commenced, yet we stood in the queue for an hour before we reached the check in desk and the queues got even longer during that time. Soon after we were through security the flight was soon showing as delayed for half an hour (10.00am). We were called to the gate 6 at 9.10 am yet boarding did not commence until 10.20am. We have flown from Manchester many times and have only ever seen a gate like that used when landing, not for starting a flight. There were not the usual rows of seats, but just a long corridor with a few seats here and there along the sides. Hence, most people had to stand for over an hour and the resulting queue stretched back to gate 4 so when announcements eventually started, they could not be heard at the end of the queue. However, there were no announcements during the first hour we were there. The plane eventually pushed back at 11.00am, one and a half hours late and almost two hours after we were called to the gate. The flight itself was OK and on arrival in Tenerife we went straight to the coaches as the luggage was to be taken straight to the ship. After the last person got on our coach we were then left sitting there for another 40 mins before the coach left the airport. There was absolutely no information as to why, until 10 mins before we left when someone came on the coach to say they did not want to take us to the port as there would then be big delays at check in. Yet we would have had access to drinks and toilets at the check in area in the port and people could still have waited on the coach there if they wished. We never wish to fly outbound with Fred again because of this treatment. The return flights were OK as check in was done on board and we were only called off the ship when the coaches were ready. We were on board the ship for 4 weeks as we did two back to back cruises starting on 12th November. Both cruises visited Cape Verde and the Canary Islands. Braemar is our favourite Fred Olsen ship and we were not disappointed this time. It is an extremely happy ship and all the staff are happy in their work and were very efficient and helpful at all times. I have to give particular mention to Eshel, who manages the Grampian restaurant impeccably and Ricky who was our waiter in The Grampian for the first cruise and who we often saw at lunch times in the Thistle during our second cruise. Chaider was in charge of the tea and coffee station outside main mealtimes for all 4 weeks and was both extremely hard working and friendly throughout that time. Kerry, the future cruise salesperson has a good knowledge of the fleet and is very helpful when making bookings. The only downfall we encountered was our first cabin 4108 as the air conditioning was not working properly, so it reached 26C at times during the night. After three failed attempts to repair it, we were moved to an obstructed view, outside cabin on deck 6 (6089) which was fine. We booked 4091 for the second cruise and that was fine apart from the shower, as a grab rail had been positioned in the only part large enough to stand and my arm was badly bruised as it was impossible not to knock it when using the shower – and that was in calm seas! We also needed a couple of visits by plumbers in 4091 as the shower thermostat was not working. It was replaced and worked fine after that. The bar service was good indoors, although the bar staff rarely walk around the sunbed area to offer drinks and were hardly ever seen on the upper deck. We did not take the AI as we are not big drinkers, and we prefer to drink what we want, rather than what is on the package. Hot drinks ordered in the bars do not even qualify for half price on the package. Food and the service in all restaurants was very good as always. The speakers we saw were OK when we saw them, but the subjects covered were not really of interest to us. The port talks were good. Some classical musicians and lounge entertainers were good, particularly the In Tune Band who played in The Coral. We did miss the Rosario Trio who are not on board at present and who may not return unless they are asked for by passengers. We think it is a great mistake to discontinue the quiet lounge music they provided and the Braemar lounge seems strange being so quiet. The show company were the worst we have ever seen so we tended to go into the Coral or another bar instead. The cabaret artists were generally good, but the “comedian” on the first cruise was in bad taste at times, (skitting at the locals in Cape Verde because it was a poor society is not humour in my opinion) and he was not particularly funny at other times. We do not take part in daytime entertainments. I am constantly bemused by people who complain about the very small charges made for shuttle buses and to choose dining time, if they book an Anchor (late booking) fare. These fares can be greatly discounted and Fred makes it quite clear what is, and what is not, covered by each fare type. Hence the choice is for each person to make. There is no hidden charge whatsoever. We did not book anchor fares on this occasion and had the choice of the Grampian restaurant, table for two and complimentary shuttle tickets in Agadir (one call) and Lanzarote (two calls) during our four week cruise. Lanzarote was walkable for active people and taxis could be picked up from near the ship at both of those ports. The ship and furnishings are in good condition and there is plenty of outside space on this ship. One thing we did not like was that there were very large chairs and settees, with cushions on them, taking up almost half of the sun deck. The settees were regularly occupied by people who were sprawled out with their feet on the cushions. Very rarely did people use towels so the cushions were also stained by sun tan lotion and sweat. Because of these chairs/settees there was not enough room for the sunbeds, which were placed so close together that it is not possibly to get onto them unless some are piled on top of each other. There were quite a lot of sunbeds on the upper deck, but that is often closed due to wind when sailing. There was some work taking place at the rear of the ship. The rails around the decks were being replaced with panes of glass. The work did not have a lot of impact on the cruise as the ship was not full, but we felt the work was a mistake as the glass got dirty and restricted the view from the decks. We had only one excursion booked and it was cancelled so we went ashore independently in all ports. The ports were all excellent, especially the Cape Verde ports. In fact we did a similar itinerary last year and we still found things to do on our 2nd and 3rd visit to those ports. In Mindelo we walked into the town last year, so on the first call this year we walked to the beach area and on the second we got a taxi up Monte Verde and to see the local highlights of the Island. In Praia we went into the town last year, so we got a taxi to Cidade Velha and the nearby fort on our first visit this year and got a taxi further afield to the mountainous centre of the Island and then back along the coast road, on our second visit. From Porto Novo, we had walked through the town to a hotel were we lingered for a couple of drinks last year, and for our only visit this year we shared a jeep with another couple and went over the spectacular mountainous inland road and back along the coast road, having had a lovely lunch at a seaside restaurant on the north coast of the island. We saw some wonderful scenery on all these unspoilt islands and stopped were we wanted. On all the taxi trips we tended to come across people who were on ship’s trips who had a set itinerary and were crowded into minibuses when travelling, so we are very glad we used taxis. There of course is always a risk that we may not have made it back to the ship, but we made sure we had a long time spare in case of problems to minimise that risk. Overall a good cruise and one we intend to repeat. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
This our third time on this cruise ship and it gets better each time ,We have cruised many times with other companies is Thompson,P @ O Cunard,We like this ship because of its smaller size and find the clientele a little older as we are ... Read More
This our third time on this cruise ship and it gets better each time ,We have cruised many times with other companies is Thompson,P @ O Cunard,We like this ship because of its smaller size and find the clientele a little older as we are retired its nice to be with people of our age group.The service.food .and the care given by all members of staff on this ship we found to be first class the attention to detail on board is fantastic never have we seen so much help and attention given to senior passengers as on this vessel.E very where is kept spotlessly clean Any problems that may occurs are dealt with straight away The guest relations lady was absolutely fantastic with us when we had a small problem and dealt with it emediatley The entertainment on board was fantastic .There was something going on all day long if you wanted to be part of it is,pub quiz.deck quouts,lots of other deck games .we would definatley recommend this ship and will be going again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
As soon as your car arrived in the drop off area, porters would immediately take your luggage and it was in your cabin after we had checked in. Embarkation was delayed as the ship was a little late in arriving at Liverpool, due to the ... Read More
As soon as your car arrived in the drop off area, porters would immediately take your luggage and it was in your cabin after we had checked in. Embarkation was delayed as the ship was a little late in arriving at Liverpool, due to the bad weather; many people could be heard complaining to each about the delay and how cold it was. Even though we were late in departing from Liverpool due to gales, the rest of the cruise was fault less. The weather for the rest of the cruise kept on improving. The crew were wonderful always polite and friendly and worked extremely hard. The drinks waiters always remembered what you liked to drink and your name - how they can remember with so many aboard, I'll never know. Food was excellent, we only ate one breakfast and lunch in the Glantanar restaurant, but dined there most evenings with full waiter service. We had our breakfast and lunch in the "Garden" restaurant, self service buffet, you could choose anything and any amount. The entertainment was good, but trying to get a seat in the main theatre lounge was difficult, so we usually went up to the Observatory and then to the Lido lounge. The ship was very clean, in all areas and naturally the painting of the hull was ongoing when we were in port. We went on a few ships tours, these were well organised, very informative and gave you a chance to see the interesting area of the various places. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
First time aboard a Fred Olsen ship and overall, I would say it is good value for money but it depends what your expectations are. I would also say that the crew - with only a few exceptions - are outstanding and deserve some recognition ... Read More
First time aboard a Fred Olsen ship and overall, I would say it is good value for money but it depends what your expectations are. I would also say that the crew - with only a few exceptions - are outstanding and deserve some recognition for their tireless work & infectious happiness...particular thanks to Jean, Christine, Gerome & all in the Lido Bar for putting up with us! There are many ships where the crew to passenger ratio is a lot higher but the service does not necessarily go up accordingly; this crew work very hard to deliver good service - they remember your cabin number within a day, your name..your children's names, everything! The consensus is that Fred ships are floating retirement homes - not entirely untrue but in the event, I will take a Fred Olsen ship as mine - far cheaper for sure. As we were amongst the youngest, we did receive quite a few bemused stares for the first couple of days but soon managed to pally up with some people reasonably close to our age and some far older - we met some really lovely folks so don't let the 'nursing home' jibes put you off too much; some of these elders had far more stamina than me and were hilarious fun. Unless of course you particularly want a 'proper' disco & steamed up Brits every night... CABINS: We were Deck 3 midships- totally fine; not noisy, beds comfortable & attended to twice a day by a lovely cabin steward named Na. DINING: For the most part, great. We were on a 2nd seating dinner so hunger often meant we hit the Secret Garden buffet at 6.30 rather than wait. The Secret Garden staff were the big let-down for me & I'm not sure what the deal is here - are they working up the ranks until they become fit for the main dining rooms I wonder? At first I thought maybe it was just us they did not particularly care for but having discussed with others, it seemed to be not just us - sort of thankfully! The actual maitre de of the whole place by far had the worst attitude, thus setting the standard for all the staff under him & this needs a close inspection by Olsen Corps I personally think.... But main dining room fab by night, waiters were wonderfully sweet - Suwat & Oliver spring to mind. Extremely busy at breakfast & lunch mind you. Food on the whole was great all over. I was told that the £20 surcharge for the Grill at night was not worth it but never tried myself - you can sit there during lunch for no surcharge & the burgers are really good. ENTERTAINMENT: Well I think there is something for everyone, tailored to the particular age group. Bridge, the usual shuffleboard etc,, daily quizzes & bingo, classes & talks. The evening shows can be hit & miss; some fall flat and some are pretty good - we were lucky to have Brenda Collins on board who looks more like Cilla Black than even Cilla herself, and she did some very funny shows. The resident musicians are all reasonable with the only exception being the 'Timeline Duo' who seem to have only the most depressing songs known to man in their set list! I heard more complaints about them than anything else which meant they got happier one night, but the following night it was back to morose. The actual entertainment staff - as in the singers & dancers - could do more, there are a couple of blinding singers amongst them, but I think they do so much during the day that it doesn't leave much scope for night. ON BOARD SERVICES: Gift shop, Photographer & Salon are OK but as usual, it's slightly inflated so none do particularly well. The 'Casino' - one roulette, one BJ - is staffed by two very miserable & bored girls. Sauna & steam rooms were great; I was always the only one in them. The gym is actually very sufficient - everything works and after midday, you have it pretty much to yourself. The reception & staff are great - I quietly watched them a few times; they take the full frontal and are very patient indeed. SMOKING FACILITIES: For those that do, this is where it falls down. Presently, one can only smoke on the Deck 7 starboard aft wing overlooking the pool area & on the small Deck 8 area. I don't need to be told that the habit is filthy & we shouldn't do it but nonetheless, I feel that there should be 'reasonably' comfortable & safe areas to do it in - neither of these areas being the case. Apparently, it used to be that Deck 7 outside the main Lido bar was smoking - makes sense, being outside the main bar - but was terminated due to the 'lappers' (Deck 7 is the only deck where you can do the 'mile') complaining & general folk who were sitting there during the day...perfectly understandable complaints. But by night, the only people that venture out of those doors are smokers to get to their designated areas. I have no issue with compliance to the rules but for most nights during our cruise the wind was howling. Had anyone gone over to smoke on the wing - bear in mind the tables & ashtrays had been removed due to rough weather - they may have been blown clean off & no-one would've been any the wiser, since it's barely lit. OR, you can try & get up the stairs to Deck 8 where it is effectively like being in a wind tunnel! I tried in vain to mention these points to a very agitated security man who was called because my 87 yr old friend was smoking outside the bar when there was no-one else present - the deck was 2 inches deep in water from the rain, we were in the Bay which was rough and yet, even though she needs a stick to walk, we were told (quite aggressively) that she must go to that wing with no tables or ashtrays present or try & climb the stairs to Deck 8 Wind Machine!! Really? As I said, I know smokers are lesser human beings but since they pay the same money, there should be provisions for it to be at least safe for someone not so good on their feet?! I would say many were quite disgruntled, around 50 smokers, of which at least 20 said never again on Fred - not a drop in the ocean financially speaking. SUMMARY: Generally great value for money; things are not as polished as on other cruise lines but you get what you pay for; no more, no less. I would recommend it for ages 50 and above, definitely. I think the crew are the jewel in Fred's crown and some of them make the whole trip change from mediocre into something very comical. Fred, if you're reading, Jean & Christine deserve Employee of the Month, well, for as long as they're with you!   Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
I took my wife on our first cruise to see if she could be treated like a lady. British hotels are going to the dogs, in general, as far as style and service are concerned, being run by indifferent staff to any old standard. Fred Olsen took ... Read More
I took my wife on our first cruise to see if she could be treated like a lady. British hotels are going to the dogs, in general, as far as style and service are concerned, being run by indifferent staff to any old standard. Fred Olsen took my booking knowing how important these issues were to me, and in spite of understanding how important a table for two was to me. Having paid in full for a premier suite I gathered a table for two was not only not guaranteed but unlikely. I protested but bit my lip. As it turned out we had not only a table for two but the finest professional waiter I have ever encountered bar one. The suite was astounding and the housekeeper obliging and, also, professional. The food was to the highest standard I've encountered in spite of the quantities being served. The menu was imaginative. However, if fine dining and service is your bag, think before booking with Fred Olsen. Nothing to do with Fred ! There was a lot of interpretive license taken on the definition of "smart casual" with varying degrees of conduct and manners to go with it. One could easily have a T-shirt and jeans clad dining companion with table manners and language to match. NOT IN EVERY CASE....before I get edited out. Breakfast and lunch was a total shambles. One reviewer likened it to Asda. It was plain the normally professional waiters were fed up with the mob-like behaviour of the passengers when jostling for tables. This behaviour proves the demand for tables-for-two. Many more two seater tables could be provided with simple splitting of four-seater tables. On occasions we were able to dine and breakfast on the deck, in the secret garden or with cabin service. This changed my days absolutely as breakfast and lunch times were to be "got over with" as opposed to being enjoyed with anticipation as was the evening meal. A fair percentage of the passengers matched the standards set by the Boudicca crew and a small percentage were badly behaved. The greater percentage were somewhere in between. The lounges accommodated people fly-catching,others with feet up on the furniture or tables. Scruffy track suite bottoms were in abundance. I was subject to abuse and ridicule in a lift from a party not appropriately dressed on a formal night. Remarks were passed in this vain more than once. "you make me look like a tramp" was one such comment. We were once big fans of hotels now taken over by the Britannia group and visited three of them before we realised they had set their stall out accommodating cheap coach parties, some including drinks packages. The very reason I've gone on a cruise instead. Meal times put me in mind of these establishments. Fred Olsen standards are high. However, the things that were important to me were nullified. The entertainment was o.k and the daytime activities and choice of environment was prolific. All would have found something.The preset gratuity system sat very uncomfortably with me. I saw it as some kind of manouvre to adjust the Olsen payroll. However, I reluctantly let it stand and, in fact, felt the need to tip further to our evening meal waiter and others otherwise excluded from the set system.Lastly, I got the feeling we were being dumped and got rid of on disembarking morning. The boat had to be empty by 8.00a.m, breakfast betwixt 6a.m & 8a.m with the cushion covers being removed the evening before together with cases in the corridor before 1.00a.m following a formal dress evening. The efficient helpful parking attendants/luggage handlers on arrival were notable by their absence on departure. I'll be doing a lot more research before I book my next cruise. Fred Olsen couldn't do more. (by the way, this ship is as about as stabilised as the waltzers, in case you want to know. It didn't bother us, though.) Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
Having done a similar cruise last year on the braemar and had a really lovely time, I decided to book a similar one which also took in the Cape Verde Islands. This turned out to be a mistake, largely because of a vile sewage stench which ... Read More
Having done a similar cruise last year on the braemar and had a really lovely time, I decided to book a similar one which also took in the Cape Verde Islands. This turned out to be a mistake, largely because of a vile sewage stench which pervaded my superior suite cabin on and off throughout most of the cruise and which was never resolved. On the next to the last night, the sewage smell was replaced by fuel fumes which were so strong that I could taste them and had to stay out of my cabin for several hours until they cleared. Add to this disappointment with my cabin in comparison to the one I had last year, quite a poor standard of entertainment (except for the show team who were consistently good) and a general feeling of cost cutting. I paid £40 for 24 hours of wifi which I never got chance to use up because it was rarely working or was up and down so often it was so frustrating you just gave up. On embarkation day, after an early start from the UK, we arrived on board about 4pm to find no food available until the evening dinner and for those of us on late sitting at 8.30pm that was a long time to wait. In one of the Cape Verde Islands and against my better judgement, I'd booked a full day ships excursion.it was a tender port and the transfer from ship to shore was truly awful because of the big swell. Had our tender not been full of people going on an excursion I don't think it would have run because the rise and fall of the tender was huge and it kept being bashed against the ship's side. People were being sick or getting hurt from being thrown around by the movement and it was dreadful. I don't usually find tender transfers a problem but this was the pits. And the second half of the excursion wasn't good either. 45 minutes sat in a petrol station and a visit to a completely deserted school were among the afternoon's highlights. What was very evident this year was the huge push to sell future cruises. Too much of a push I thought and judging by the quotes I got at the beginning of the cruise, the prices have been inflated to take account of the the discounts being offered. I could go on but I'm sure you get the picture. To be completely fair to Fred Olsen I ought to say that I've done several cruises with them and that this one is the first time I've ever had cause for complaint. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
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