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17 Fred. Olsen Europe Cruise Reviews

it's my first cruise, due to i am a solo traveler. Cruise line who provided solo cabin not many choose: Fred Olsen, P & O and Cunard- Queen Mary 2. I choose Fred Olsen finally because i saw comment with Fred overall is better ... Read More
it's my first cruise, due to i am a solo traveler. Cruise line who provided solo cabin not many choose: Fred Olsen, P & O and Cunard- Queen Mary 2. I choose Fred Olsen finally because i saw comment with Fred overall is better than another two company. Lucky i have made a right choice. i am satisfied my cruise trip. Itinerary: Day 1 : Embarkation at Southampton. I am arrived the QE II Terminal around 14:00, check in and security check process was smooth, it took around 20 minutes.The Palms Cafe and Thistle Restaurant provided lunch. Day 2: Sea Day (formal night) Day 3: Aviles, Spain Day 4: Sea Day Day 5: Bordeaux, France Day 6: Sea Day (British Night) Day 7: Falmouth, UK Day 8: Disembarkation Dining: Thistle Restaurant: Main dining room. Server and manager are friendly. They knew i was suffer in sea sick, they pay attention to assistance me and talking with me. Concern and humor is a good medicine^^ Al de carte menu or set menu during lunch time. 5 course fine dining in dinner. Great foods and good services (server details mind, good manner) Main course have 5-6 choices, usually is fish, beef, british cuisine, local cuisine(the port that you visit), pasta...etc sometimes have theme buffet / cuisine. have a seafood gala buffet: crab, mussel, lobster, sushi, cheese cake, opera cake, chocolate fountain. Supervise that have a ice engraved decoration, and the water melon was engraved as a rose. Palms Cafe: cozy atmosphere. Beverage self service, have cold brewer tea and Red tea, black tea, blend (sleep ) tea. But i did not find mint tea( i thought would provided on cruise ). A chef would make omelette in the morning. Bookmark Cafe: enjoy coffee and chocolate. Shop: Due to it's a small ship, i am not expect have a lot of products. They sell Fine jewelry, costume jewelry, watch, bags , ties, causal clothes and smart causal clothes, skin care and make up products. If you forgot bring clothes you could find essential items. Entertainment: they have live music and show daily. Sometime have magic show too. I am recommend the music show- One Vision. If you love Queen- the greatest rock band in UK. You should not miss the show. Activities: Have quiz, Fit ball, pilates, Nintendo WII bowling, jewelry making course...etc. I was join the jewelry making course. Use gemstone to made a pendant. (cost ten pounds) Shore excursions: I was join a shore excursions in Bordeaux. It's a half day tour(cost 40 pounds), one hour drive to Saint- Emilion. The tour guide introduce and bring us to visit the Great wall and the Cordeliers Cloister, than have 45 minutes to explore yourself. Afterward drive back to the port at 14:00. No complaint about the tour, i wish i could stay longer time would definitely perfect. Tips: Passenger and crew are friendly, it's a small ship and not too much people. You would easily to meet people on the ship. Passenger age from 50-80, they are enjoy and insist the cruise traditional norms: to dress up at night. I am sure you would enjoy and come out the night life with Fred Olsen. Moreover, they have dance host, that's mean if you a solo traveler, don't worry about to find a partner. conclusion: Fred Olsen is a traditional cruise ship, simple stage, a few dancers and singer. BUT they do in great performance. If you like live music , i am sure you would like it. Simple is the best! Read Less
Sail Date September 2019
Saturday, embarkation Upon arrival in Southampton by car ABP parking met us right by the ship. The porters who unloaded us were very slick and in no time we were at arrivals then straight on board. Very efficient. We had no idea ... Read More
Saturday, embarkation Upon arrival in Southampton by car ABP parking met us right by the ship. The porters who unloaded us were very slick and in no time we were at arrivals then straight on board. Very efficient. We had no idea where to go for muster so when we heard the call asked a member of staff who pointed us in the right direction. Until then we didn’t even know what time muster would be. Whilst at muster in the Grampian dining room we saw quite a bit of food on the carpet by the wall where we were sitting. Not a good first impression. Our cabin was fine. We sailed on Black Watch a couple of years back so knew what to expect. People often moan about the plastic shower curtains on Olsen but at least you get flexible hose shower-heads, essential if you have a stoma. Only negative being our air-conditioning was extremely loud and for some reason our double bed was made up with two separate sets of sheets and duvets. Bizarre. This was rectified after the first night so no problem. Tip: If cases won’t fit under the bed ask your cabin steward to put in storage. We went to the theatre where the house performers were excellent. The house coke is not great and there was no prosecco on the all-inclusive list of drinks but the waiters / waitresses were excellent, especially considering the obstacle course of tables and chairs they have to negotiate. The stage is to the side of the ship with too slight a gradient for the seating. To a man everyone was commenting on the incredibly poor layout and two blatantly obvious problems. The revolving seats were higher than the fixed ‘sofa’ seating behind them on each level and at the very back of the theatre Olsen have crammed in extra chairs making it virtually impossible for people to walk behind trying to get further round in the theatre, and if they do they nudge people all the way around totally distracting you from the show. Tip: on Braemar you have to get in theatre earlier than you think to get a decent seat. (There are even seats behind the pillars). Sunday, at sea Lunchtime in the Grampian the ‘daily special station’ had roast sirloin and Yorkshires. The sirloin was to die for, absolutely superb, but many people were asking where were the roast potatoes? 95% of passengers British and no roast spuds. Spent the afternoon on sunbeds which would have been fantastic but for the constant grinding and smell of paint. We had all this previously on Black Watch, Olsen do their maintenance throughout the voyage. It was this night we returned to our room to be met with a note saying our Tuesday tour (through Olsen) was cancelled. Absolutely gutted. The ‘Oyster Route’ in Vigo was the tour I was seriously looking forward to. Upon enquiry it was cancelled because the tour is operated by an outside contractor so if they are a couple of people short – tough. Not impressed. Monday, Aviles ‘Daily Times’ informs us docking times have changed and we leave 1pm NOT 4pm. This turned out to be a recurring theme. So if you had booked your own tours outside Olsen that ended after 12:30pm you were stuffed. We had chosen a trip (with Olsen) to Luanco then a free walking tour of Aviles. Leaving on a coach to Luanco led us through an industrial area but Luanco was a pleasant harbour town. It was brought up many times the fact that there just wasn’t anybody around in the mornings. Literally one woman and her dog. Apparently there is a small flurry of activity in the mornings when what children there are catch their school buses but that’s about it. The young have moved away to the big towns and cities. Sad really but this ghost town has a beautiful church by the coast. We all felt a bit rushed on this trip, no fault of the tour guide, but was enjoyable. No time to shop as promised in the brochure but most places were shut in the mornings anyway. Tip: One member of our party had specific needs for toilet facilities. The only toilet was back at the bus station. There are no public toilets and most bars etc. are closed in the mornings. The local Free Walking Tour that we took on our return to Aviles was very good indeed. Tour guide being excellent. Bit of a tip for the evening. Each day in the Daily Times there is a ‘cocktail of the day’ available within the all-inclusive deal. Directly underneath that there is the days ‘after dinner drink’. Don’t get sucked in, the day’s after dinner drink is NOT included in the all included package. Misleading. Andy and Alit in the Morning Light bar were absolutely superb. The lunch ‘special’ in the Thistle was Indian themed. The food was absolutely excellent. At dinner in the evening we finally had roast potatoes. The food is generally superb but it’s a mainly British passenger ship and they cannot cook roast potatoes. Soft / soggy with a bit of brown on the outside. Really is my and many others only gripe. The food overall is first class. The ‘International Memory Man’ with his Rubik’s cubes was highly entertaining. I didn’t hear anybody that did not enjoy his shows. Tuesday, Vigo As already written our tour was cancelled so we free-styled. Explored the old quarter including the church then onto Oyster Street which I’d been looking forward to so much. Oyster Street still has the old world charm about it but unfortunately now completely commercialised. I ordered my half dozen oysters and was ushered to a table opposite belonging to a restaurant. They obviously wanted you to order drinks for the privilege of sitting there whilst the old woman who sold the oysters came over holding a stretched out 10 euro note asking for her money. The oysters are advertised as 9 euro so watch out for this ploy. Having sat down you are plagued by peddlers and gypsies. Has to be said I was sadly disappointed with taste of said oysters. They were very fresh but nowhere near as tasty compared to what is available in the UK. I since learnt from a couple of sources that these oysters do have a completely different taste, are a bit smaller and not regarded as anywhere near the best worldwide. Shame but at least I tried them and they were super fresh. We climbed the big mound which was steep but well worth it for the view and exercise. Reasonable café and toilets at the top. My wife bought quite a few items on the way back to the ship. A nice place but quite a lot of graffiti. On our return to the ship, to rub salt into the wounds there was a ‘Shore Tour Survey’ left on our bed to review our cancelled shore tour. Not a good move. Wednesday, at sea The lunch special today was pasta. Now I am not big into pasta but the whole thing was absolutely superb. Chilled out on the loungers in the afternoon but grab a towel from the changing room to lay on your lounger because of all the sweat and suntan lotion that has gone before you. Loungers are very comfortable though. Cocktail of the day much the same as yesterday’s pina colada – chi chi. Coconut and pineapple (always wedged on the glass rim) were prevalent throughout the cruises cocktails of the day. Thursday, Seville day 1 Needed an early start so went for breakfast in cabin. Need a bit more choice i.e. boiled eggs, porridge or even toast. There was nothing cooked available. We walked a couple of miles to a huge flea market. If you enjoy flea markets you’ll love this one. Thursdays only though. Followed up with a bit of shopping therapy then lunch back on board. This was a Spanish buffet on the swimming pool deck. Later that day we had booked a walking tour of Santa Cruz. What an amazing area – a must see. Friday, Seville day 2 Got up early to meet for early pre-booked tour however the ship had moved docks during the night due to forecast high winds and the narrow bridge we had to go back through. So we were first off the ship and had to wait 30 minutes for a police escort to take us to the gates which, having found someone with keys were then unlocked. We had chosen Amigo Tours for this joint early entrance Alcazar tour followed by the Gothic cathedral. Bucket list stuff. Tour guide was excellent and WELL worth the early start. Alcazar was a fabulous building full of history (a game of thrones venue as well). Having done a lot of research I knew that by doing the cathedral tour straight after there would not be a lot of time to spend in the Alcazar gardens. This proved to be the case but the tours were excellent, worth the trade-off for getting in before the crowds. Alcazar – a must do. Louisa Park opposite docking area is a nice place to chill. Leaving Seville you go back through a lock. On deck you can get right to the front of the Braemar, the perfect viewing platform but . . . going through the lock there was no visible difference between the water levels when opening the gates which caused much mirth amongst fellow shipmates. I’m guessing the tides must have something to do with this. Tried the cheeseboard again at lunchtime but exactly the same boring cheeses. Come on Olsen let’s have some variety. A big disappointment was the lack of local entertainment on board i.e. Flamenco dancers. Big problem with Olsen is if you are doing an activity and are late back missing dinner you have to wait until the Supper Club begins at 11pm. No food available between times. Saturday Cadiz We had booked a free walking tour with Cadizfornia. An excellent tour and the host Pedro couldn’t have been better. An entertaining local who knew all the history and gave great shopping / restaurant advice. Thoroughly recommended. Really liked Cadiz. The fish market has to be seen to be believed and there is a good general market. We found a very good cheap supermarket in a backstreet behind the market square. Eg. Bottles of water .15 cents each. Coming out of the port nobody initially knew which way to go, it would have been useful for a member of staff to be positioned at the exit to help people. Tip: There are colour coded lines on the roads / paths which take you different routes. We bought our duty free tobacco to take home from the duty free here. About 50 euro’s for 10 x 50gm pouches of Golden Virginia but when we were here it was cash only. A criticism from several passengers was that leaving at 3pm was too early because if you were on a tour there was not enough time for shopping or trying out the local tapas (Cadiz being the home of tapas). It also meant missing lunch. The Thistle closed at 2pm which meant a rush to the buffet which closed at 3pm. Particularly annoying because a lot of people would have liked to try the ‘Asian special’ at lunchtime. Come on Olsen, if you leave at 3pm keep the Thistle open the extra hour to feed all the people that have been rushing around trying to max the short time available in Cadiz before leaving so early. Sunday at sea Lunchtime saw roast at the ‘station’ in the restaurant. Perfect roast, Yorkshires . . . but no roast spuds. Just Cajun something or other and new potatoes. Need more veg. options was the general criticism. Lovely afternoon spent lounging on deck 8. Wind kept most away from sunbeds but there is nearly always a sheltered spot, and there was today. Tip: Good idea to put towels on the very comfy sunbeds as some were showing signs of days of sun cream and sweat. There are plenty of spares in the changing rooms near the pool. Then leave in ‘bins’ in same area when finished with. Saves carrying up and down from cabin. And drink plenty of water with your cocktails on the sunbeds. Dinnertime saw more frantic activity on the curtain front in the Thistle. Apparently since day one waiting staff have wrestled with pegs and all sorts to stop diners by the windows being blinded by the sun. It took several attempts to hold the non-drawing curtains across most of the window. Our waiters confirmed this is an ongoing and very annoying problem that could easily be resolved. Monday at sea Very unusually second day of slow service. Something amiss in kitchen apparently. The Moonlight bar is an excellent chill out / meeting area with 2 outstanding characters, Andy and Alit. AKA Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Entertainment wise ‘Memory Man’ was most excellent. A £12 laundry offer appeared tonight. Actually a very good deal. Tuesday Bordeaux A very nice vibrant city with Braemar in the perfect parking spot. Again, NOT ENOUGH TIME here. Overnight should give you 2 full days, you really need them here. Leaving early morning the second day before the shops even opened was just a waste. Very hot! Again, no local French entertainment on board. Not even an accordion player. No food available on board, even the buffet was shut when we came back to drop shopping off and grab something to eat before heading out again. We had to hang around an extra hour and a half before we could eat. Wife’s note: why have only grapes with seeds and where are the strawberries and raspberries? We were treated to a spectacular natural light show from the deck early evening. Continual forked lightning flickering all around Bordeaux for a good half hour scattering all the students who meet up on the riverbanks. There was an incredibly bad reverberating noise in our cabin which continued down the corridor at night. We were forced to ring reception who obviously knew of the problem as they immediately offered an inside cabin but on the same deck so no use at all. Turns out according to bar tender the noise is caused when the (tidal) river level in Bordeaux lowers, the engine noise bounces back off the riverbank walls we are moored against. Big gripe. We had no time to do anything in morning as ship left at 9am NOT 10.30am as advised. The man at reception tried to tell me we supposed to have left at midnight! The young lady there however blamed the early departure on the tide. Tides are known years in advance. I had all the port arrival and departure times direct from Olsen HQ before we left specifically to double check private tour timings. Time in port was cut a few times. Call me sceptical but would reduced time in port equate to less expense? I only have experience of Celebrity and their advised port times were spot on every time. With Olsen if you have booked a tour using their arrival / departure times issued from HQ you could lose your tour fee if time was cut short or miss the ship. Wednesday at sea Really pleasant cruise back up river to the sea passing through a fascinating vertical lift bridge. The crew show was excellent. Barkeeper Andy’s number 2 in the Moonlight bar had an incredibly good voice but the poor guy had to sing twice, returning straight to the bar after each performance. Thursday at sea Found a lovely sheltered sunbed spot again. The Grand Gala lunch and seafood buffet was excellent as was the Cockleshell Heroes talk. Retrieved our suitcases from storage and sadly began packing. I do wonder what will happen when the current crop of septuagenarians and octogenarians who choose Fred Olsen fade away. Will the younger cruisers currently used to ‘modern luxury’ lines such as Celebrity choose Fred Olsen’s ‘traditional’ cruising on older ships as they get on in years or the more modern ‘boutique’ cruisers such as Saga? (Whose smaller ships can reach the same destinations as Olsen). Don’t get me wrong we enjoy Olsen but it is tiresome getting the smell of paint up your nose every day on the sundeck along with continuous drilling, grinding and sanding somewhere on the ship most of the time. Exactly the same experience as we had on Blackwatch. Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
the time was right and some good places to visit and trip was good and food and service excellent good value for money. the cruise director had a snuffly cold and was announcing things over the tannoy and you could hear her sniffles ... Read More
the time was right and some good places to visit and trip was good and food and service excellent good value for money. the cruise director had a snuffly cold and was announcing things over the tannoy and you could hear her sniffles (not a good impression ) the toilets had no hot water in them and when we told the desk they said they would look into it. needless to say it was not fixed and as everywhere notices were posted about washing your hands to avoid the novo virus this should have been rectified. overall the ship was neat and catered for disabled guests the food excellent and the staff were very helpful and were quick to remember what you had ordered before so proving how attentive they were there was a change of ports due to the yellow jackets being in Bordeaux so we missed them but this did not affect us and it was done with safety in mind Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Not many people post about Fred Olsen, maybe because so many passengers are returning guests, on this cruise over half those on board had silver Oceans club membership or above, so Fred must be doing something right. We were on our fifth ... Read More
Not many people post about Fred Olsen, maybe because so many passengers are returning guests, on this cruise over half those on board had silver Oceans club membership or above, so Fred must be doing something right. We were on our fifth cruise and third with Olsen, also our second on the Balmoral The itinerary to the Canaries was similar to our previous time but we did not mind because we like most of the ports and the purpose was to celebrate a big birthday somewhere warm and at sea. It turned out to be a special experience. On the birthday morning the ship docked in Lisbon which we think one of the most beautiful arrival settings in the world and the sun was shining to give us a great day out with lunch on a restaurant terrace. Back on the ship in the evening there was the traditional Fred Olsen birthday cake and greetings at dinner. I had been advised when booking to have my birthday treat package on a sea day, so the champagne breakfast came the next morning complete with smoked salmon, fresh fruit and all the trimmings. Also included is a photo session with the ship’s photographers which resulted in some lovely photo memories to bring home and we have them on CD so can print all that we want. I would recommend a Fred cruise to anyone with a special anniversary or birthday to celebrate. Back to the practicalities: embarkation was the easiest we have ever had, parked in sight of the ship and were on board by 1.30 with all the luggage. The only down side at the beginning was that we were assigned the 8.30 dinner which we tried once but it really does not work for us. So top marks to the maitre d’ and his assistant for giving in to my pestering and reassigning us not just to the 6.15 sitting but also to the (as I think nicer) restaurants on deck 10. I have to say I think the quality of food is not as high as it used to be, on our first cruise back in 2012 on the Black Watch we were really impressed but not this time. There were 3 new port calls for us (but in the event only two as one was dropped at the last minute): the Unesco biosphere island of La Palma where we went on the excursion to the magnificent volcanic crater. A spectacular visit, just marred by the guide having to hurry us all the time, as the ship only had half a day in La Palma. On the way back the call was A Coruna in northern Spain, a stylish Spanish city in a beautiful setting. The other port calls we had been to before (Tenerife, Las Palmas, Madeira, Puerto Rosario on Fuerteventura), so for those who like to make their own port arrangements, here were our ideas this time: Madeira: walked along a levada; Tenerife: shopped in El Corte Ingles; Las Palmas: hired bikes to cycle along the prom; Fuerteventura: wandered into town for a coffee (again only half a day but you wouldn’t want any more). As before with onboard entertainment, we rate the ship show company and orchestra really highly. We often find the regular bands better than the featured artistes, but this time were impressed by trumpet player Leo Shavers, and also by some good classical concerts. I’m not sure if Fred Olsen has given up on sail away parties, but there weren’t any, and we missed the fun of those occasions. Finally disembarkation, the speediest ever, we were back in the car and on our way out of southampton by 8.45. In summary, the cruise more than met our hopes and expectations. Ps there was a problem with norovirus cases but generally special arrangements were dealt with graciously and effectively by the crew. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
This was the first time on this ship having sailed previously many time on Breamar and Black Watch. My wife has limited mobility and we did not find the ship user friendly.b The steps onto the external deck are steep and the ramp ... Read More
This was the first time on this ship having sailed previously many time on Breamar and Black Watch. My wife has limited mobility and we did not find the ship user friendly.b The steps onto the external deck are steep and the ramp placed over part of them is too steep. The disabled toilet being placed with the door on one side of a ‘porch’ like access does NOT have an electric door opener and hand button to actuate. Result is that access is not easy. Debarking is complicated by the fact that the waiting lounges are on deck 7 whilst gangway access is on deck 6 resulting for disabled people having to use only two local lifts resulting in congestion and delays. Overall the ship is good certainly brought up to a high level by the crew who are, as with other Fred ships, excelptional. Every member contacted was polite and very helpful indeed. The food was the usual Fred high standard but could have been presented on hotter plates. Overall and enjoyable holiday. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
I wanted a trip that my young nephews could go on and so could older members of the family through Saga. The average age of passengers was probably 70 but there were a few younger folk. The ship ran a 'Young Skippers Club' ... Read More
I wanted a trip that my young nephews could go on and so could older members of the family through Saga. The average age of passengers was probably 70 but there were a few younger folk. The ship ran a 'Young Skippers Club' which catered for children 5-11 and this worked very well even though there were only 10 in it the 2 staff worked very hard. The ship itself could do with a bit of an update some of the carpets were threadbare and sometimes there were the odd strange smells (possibly sewage and petrol or cleaning fluid). My cabin was a single inside one so no porthole. It was quite small but adequate. Air conditioning actually worked in fact I couldn't turn it down but that was ok for me and it was quite noisy. Food was very good and the small swimming pools and hot tubs were a hit with the kids. There were shuttle buses running to and from the ports every 15 mins which were a great help. Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
Been on Balmoral numerous times and always enjoyed it, This time was no different. The itinerary was great. Sweden is a beautiful country and the ports of call were good, especially Visby and Stockholm. The ships crew are wonderful, ... Read More
Been on Balmoral numerous times and always enjoyed it, This time was no different. The itinerary was great. Sweden is a beautiful country and the ports of call were good, especially Visby and Stockholm. The ships crew are wonderful, very friendly and helpful. They really go that extra mile to make sure everthing is OK for you The entertainment was mixed. The visiting acts were run of the mill, the shows put on by the dancers were good,but I miss the theme nights.Our cabin was very comfortable and the beds and pillows made for a good nights sleep. The food was varied, always hot and tasty and because of dietary requirements the chef went out of his way to provide me with food I could eat. I enjoy dancing and there is always some dancing before and during the evening entertainment. Dance hosts are there as partners for solo travellers.The fully equipped gym is very good and classes are held for various activities although most incur an extra charge. Quizzes go on throughout the day and Howard in the light morning lounge provides very enjoyable easy listening. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
we were intending to visit Spain this month and when this last minute fly cruise to Spain and Portugal came up we jumped at it. I was a little nervous as Fred. Olsen has a bit of a fuddy duddy image and some reviewers have been positively ... Read More
we were intending to visit Spain this month and when this last minute fly cruise to Spain and Portugal came up we jumped at it. I was a little nervous as Fred. Olsen has a bit of a fuddy duddy image and some reviewers have been positively unkind about the older cruisers it attracts. Its true the clientele are mostly middle aged to senior but they were the sprightly kind, who scrub up well and a pleasant, active bunch. There were some smart people on board. After my experience on Brittania last year the complete absence of children was welcome. There wasn't anyone who was too elderly and/or infirm to enjoy the cruise on the ship. We had dreadful weather and were unable to visit 2 of the scheduled ports which was unfortunate but not Fred. Olsens' fault. The Captain explained the situation very clearly during the first Cocktail Party and the ship handled the rough seas well. Boudicca is a smallish ship and its very easy to orientate yourself. It is not glamorous but is extremely comfortable, pleasant and well kept. Cleanliness is an absolute priority and the anti-norovirus procedures are stringent - they do everything they possibly can to prevent an outbreak. The food was outstanding, we had some delicious meals, roast duck, filet mignon, steak bernaise, dover sole and some excellent puddings, including crepe suzette and creme brulee. Drink prices are about the same as in a good pub or restaurant on shore and hairdressing, beauty treatments etc are not expensive. I enjoyed the 2 cocktail parties - the Captain was very entertaining in his dry way and we all felt he was a consummate professional. The ship was pleasantly warm inside. The swimming pool and jacuzzis on deck are kept well heated and people were using them even in the chillier weather. The gym is well equipped with great views as it is right at the top. There were talks, crafting, bridge and dancing lessons to keep you occupied. The dance hosts were very pleasant, mostly a bit older and genuinely interested in helping anyone who wanted to learn a dance or improve their skills. I thought the live music onboard was good and the shows were excellent, songs from the current musicals in London etc. and well known, lively favourites. There is a late night buffet and dance scene later on for those interested - didn't experience it but saw the ice sculptures etc. being wheeled up on the last night. We really enjoyed our holiday and are Fred. Olsen converts. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
My husband and I are in our late 50's and early 60's and had reservations about going on a Cruise that we had been informed consisted mainly of older clientele, however we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and have booked again for ... Read More
My husband and I are in our late 50's and early 60's and had reservations about going on a Cruise that we had been informed consisted mainly of older clientele, however we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and have booked again for 2018. Embarkation and luggage handling was speedy and faultless and our luggage arrived at our Cabin only minutes after we embarked. The Cabin was as described, spacious, spotless and with air conditioning and Tea and coffee facilities provided. We were pre booked onto the early Dining sitting at 6pm but could chose to go to the open Buffet restaurant if we preferred. The food was always plentiful, excellent choice and served hot, nothing was too much trouble. The evening entertainment was outstanding. We have been to many London West End Shows but the quality of the Singing and dancing whilst on board the Balmoral far surpassed some of the West End Shows we have seen. The variety of the Shows was excellent and we managed to see 3 full shows whilst on board for the 8 nights. The Shows were performed twice nightly and we enjoyed the shows so much that we watched both performances. The Show Team consisted of 10 performers, 3 main female dancers, 3 main male dancers, 2 female singers and 2 male singers. Their performances and professionalism at all times were faultless and they were all outstanding and worked so hard and well together as a team, they were a pleasure to watch. I don't think people realise how much time and energy is spent rehearsing in order produce such amazing quality shows.My only criticism would be that the 2nd Show was very late in the evening which I think restricted people coming to watch, however this did not put us off watching both shows. We thought that the entertainment during the sea days could have been a little more varied and was geared towards the older generation with Bingo and "Dolphin "racing, however the Quiz sessions were very good, but further variety would have been more interesting. The Service by everyone on board was excellent. We did not book any Tours but due to the close proximity of the places we visited, it was easy to make our own itinerary. In summary we thoroughly enjoyed our Cruise and if we had to chose one outstanding thing it would have been the excellent quality of the dancing and singing from the Balmoral team, with such amazing choreography and costume design. Finally disembarkation was also very quick and well organised. We have booked again in 2018 for another Cruise on board the Balmoral. Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
We chose this cruise for two main reasons. The Newcastle port of departure and the itinerary. Fred Olsen documentation appears to indicate that port facilities at Newcastle are not as good as other ports. However, we found the arrangements ... Read More
We chose this cruise for two main reasons. The Newcastle port of departure and the itinerary. Fred Olsen documentation appears to indicate that port facilities at Newcastle are not as good as other ports. However, we found the arrangements to be pleasant and relaxed with a smooth embarkation, giving no cause for concern. Disembarkation was a little slow but our luggage was available for collection in the car park, which was helpful The cruise itinerary was very interesting taking us to areas that we had not visited before, and including some river sailing, down to Hamburg and also right down to Bremen. The shore excursions are a little expensive, but did include some good choices. There were also opportunities for some free time whilst the ship was in port. All ports were directly accessible by the ship, but the first visit at Kiel was especially impressive with airport style walkways direct to the ship. We have travelled on this ship before and generally enjoyed our experience. We are not a fan of very large cruise ships. We did feel on this cruise that the standard of restaurant service, whilst very good, had reduced very slightly. The "all-inclusive" drinks option was limited to "singles" this time, where previously "doubles" had been permitted. However, this did not cause us any difficulty. The cabin was the same category as our previous cruise, and again we were very satisfied. The cleaning was also good and reliable. There is an annoying feature in the Marquee Bar on the highest deck. The doors are automatic and cause an uncomfortable gale when the entrance onto the open deck and entrance from the inside of the ship are both open. As this tends to be used as a through route, this occurs frequently. Our overall experiences to date have encouraged us to book another short cruise from Newcastle on this ship for 2018. Read Less
Sail Date August 2017
We chose this cruise as it was sailing from Newcastle. This avoided the journey from Yorkshire to a South Coast port before and return after the cruise. The ports of call and the small number of days at sea also contributed to the ... Read More
We chose this cruise as it was sailing from Newcastle. This avoided the journey from Yorkshire to a South Coast port before and return after the cruise. The ports of call and the small number of days at sea also contributed to the decision. We have not travelled on this ship before and enjoyed our experience. The embarkation was excellent, although disembarkation was slightly slow. . The range of dining arrangements and entertainment was generally very good, with two sittings for dinner. We did get the impression that the later sitting was becoming less popular. We have travelled with Fred Olsen before and felt that the food and service standards on this cruise were generally not quite as good as on previous occasions. There were of course some individual exceptions to this. The selection of shore excursions were good and we took advantage of these at each port. Disembarkation arrangements for these were well organised. The "future cruise" booking desk was understaffed during the cruise causing frustrating delays and queues to see the member of staff involved. A large number of passengers were elderly and we were surprised over the selfish behaviour of a small number. The number of activities available each day catered well for most tastes, without any pressure to participate if you did not wish to. It did seem strange that the cruise actually visited ports on the west coast but passed Gothenberg to travel round the Southern tip of Sweden to Stockholm, before returning to visit Gothenberg halfway up the west coast prior to returning to the UK. Nevertheless we did enjoy the cruise overall. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
Taste of Iceland (and Faroes). Third F.O cruise. We have gradually moved up decks each cruise and travelled paying near top-price for a suite this time. Four negative experiences took the edge of an otherwise excellent cruise. ... Read More
Taste of Iceland (and Faroes). Third F.O cruise. We have gradually moved up decks each cruise and travelled paying near top-price for a suite this time. Four negative experiences took the edge of an otherwise excellent cruise. They were: 1. F.O's paper map (and website) detailed the approach to the Rosyth port as via the town from the north. Like others including taxi drivers we found this was out of date - a barbed wire perimeter fence is erected across F.O's map! Actual port access is two miles to the east via a new flyover and roundabout (much closer to the M90/Forth bridge in fact). Should have trusted the car's GPS and ignored the cruise operator's information. Admittedly the basic nature of Rosyth as a cruise terminal was described in advance but the bomb site-like nature of the long stay car park was not. We unloaded our luggage like all the others in the open and left it there with a promise it would be collected. We hoped so. A bus to the terminal and another bus to the ship worked reasonably well though. It would have been soaked if it had been raining on embarkation or disembarkation. 2. Two examples of really snappy and rude catering staff this time, unlike before. We pad the extra for the Afternoon Tea but were greeted by someone in charge who clearly was rattled by not being ready for us/tea. We sat in an overcrowded lounge with other non-tea taking passengers who not unreasonably wanted to enjoy the views of leaving the Faroes. They/he was just not ready to serve tea. The scones are a minuscule mouthful by the way, someone saving half a penny per passenger? Second was a disbelieving steward in the Orchid Room restaurant (a rather pointless annex off the main dining room we thought) who demanded to see the paper proof we were entitled to eat in there in front of the guests and left us standing while he checked up on someone's error. We were right, settings had to then be provided. Did he say sorry? Fortunately our table partners were excellent company for the nine days. 3. Service in the Orchid Room came nowhere near the high standards we enjoyed on the previous two cruises: indifferent, error-prone, lacking any meaningful contact with the guests, what a difference. No extra tip this time. 4. Shore tours. In summary, these were rushed, time at advertised destinations minimal and in one case not as advertised. We booked for five, one at each port. The first one to the Skalanes Nature reserve (tour D), was advertised with a half page picture of running reindeer and a description including the 45 types of bird on the reserve. When we eventually got there after an unnecessary tour of the port town and a forced change of buses (to a fwd one), we saw ten domesticated ducks and a labrador dog. No host in sight, no wildlife, no information to hand - a case of riding the Icelandic tourism boom? Take the money and…The refreshments were pleasant but slight and it seemed somewhat comical having 35 people wandering around a domestic house and grounds looking for a toilet…Our local tour guide was otherwise very good though. (£88 each). Second tours fault - rushed - we had a bare 45 minutes in the hot volcanic spring pools at two locations, spent hours getting there on the coach and could easily have set off earlier with proper planning. A mere 45 minutes in the Blue Lagoon after allowing for the rigorous changing room procedures out of a port stay of over nine hours just isn't good enough. (£72 each). Similarly, a visit to an interesting botanical garden (not the oldest one as the F.O guide says, we discovered), was honed down to 20 minutes out of three hours, and eight of those minutes were taken up walking to/from the separate coach park. Pretty poor really. One cruise highlight. The captain stopping (near enough) in the fjord leaving Akureyri to watch for whales, who duly obliged, one Ridgeback surfacing right alongside the ship just below us on the open boat deck. Fantastic. Saved £70 each on a whale-watching boat trip. Of the elderly ship, all is spotless and one would be hard-pressed to find a single dent, scrape or paint blemish. Imagine having to mildly grumble about the smell of polish on the handrails. The ship's company show was again the best feature of the organised evening entertainment we thought. Unlike the previous two cruises, the photographer made noticeably less effort to be creative/take money off us! Not even one attempt to sell us some expensive picture frames! The coffee shop inserted into the library lounge on this and the other ships provided excellent coffees at not unreasonable prices with exquisite attention to detail from the staff. Good while it lasts. This ship had suffered a fire and lost a cruise earlier this summer. One wishes the F.O formula will go on forever but maybe the supply of retired Brits will diminish as the four old or ageing ships reach withdrawal dates? We booked another cruise while on board. Make the most of it while it lasts. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
Cabin 7020 is a large cabin that has been created by joining two cabins. Cabin 7022 is missing from the deck plan. Though big there is a lot of waste space. The cabin that would be the original 7020 has no window but an angled outer wall ... Read More
Cabin 7020 is a large cabin that has been created by joining two cabins. Cabin 7022 is missing from the deck plan. Though big there is a lot of waste space. The cabin that would be the original 7020 has no window but an angled outer wall leaving a recess that is unfurnished and of no use. Though there was a lot of space to use the design is unimaginative and the bathroom that juts into the cabin between the two original ones is minute even though there was enough to create something more appropriate for the suite that would also improve the layout of the room. In the bathroom you have to breath in to close the door. That is not quite true but toweling yourself dry after a shower is a restrained exercise. There is no bath. There were no loose amenities but soap and body lotion by Cole and Lewis, London, (no, me neither) are in bottles fixed to the wall and in the shower there is also some shampoo. There is a very large balcony that has an interesting shape and is furnished with recliners, chairs and a table. It is an attractive feature. The deck above overhangs the whole of the balcony so it will be shaded for much of the day. The room is silent and free of all engine noise and vibration. Very few sounds are heard from elsewhere. It was a northern cruise in cool weather so the open deck above with pools and loungers,was not used but occasional footfalls were heard and they could be more persistent in warm weather. The beds were comfortable though the pillows are very soft without much bulk. Loads of electrical outlets are scattered about. Storage is generous with plenty of drawer and hanging space and more hangers than could be used. The TV is wall mounted quite high up alongside the bed. It is a small screen, about 23" though not measured, and viewed from the opposite side of the double cabin the distance is too great for really comfortable viewing. Though the design is unimaginative and the bathroom pokey it is a comfortable room and we would be happy to use it again. FOOD The menus are attractively put together and you can eat well but not entirely consistently. The variability reduces the best grade to four star. The chef's strong point is soups and meats and we enjoyed good Beef Wellington, duck, lamb shank and liver cooked Berlin style, as well as steak sandwiches. These were up to five star cruise standard. Fish was not so successful and on the two occasions I tried it was overcooked. Salads were excellent, crisp, bright and interesting with well made dressings. Vegetables were variable and often overcooked, broccoli which seemed to feature on most main dishes, was cooked until it had lost its colour and become limp and tasteless. Mashed potato was a mystery that shouldn't be allowed. It was part of many evening main courses and was consistently left untouched without any of the staff asking why. The baker produced wonderful croissants and good breads. The scones get only a 3/10. Maybe a only British housewife who makes just a small batch at a time can make the perfect one. On board, they were over mixed, dense and leaden, smooth and shiny buns and to make matters worse were served with jam and a white substitute cream. My best guess is that it was made with milk powder and a little water frothed up with nitrous oxide gas.Dreadful. Pastries were rather hit and miss. We enjoyed some fine tarts for desserts but the Sherry Trifle served on British Night was disowned by all the Brits on the table. The pastry lid for the rather fine steak and Guiness pie was an under cooked dough. Tea during breakfast and after the other meals was served from flasks. Refills were frequent and were always hot. The tea served was Twinings made with tea bags. There was a good selection of tea bags if you preferred to make your own. We did not purchase a drinks package but bought wine by the glass from the list. The list was a five star creation of wines by the bottle or by the glass and the prices were modest. We had some good stuff. People on the drinks package could purchase wine from the list at half price. LIFTS There were two lifts forward and two aft. A total of four in all. One or other lift was frequently out of service and very occasionally both lifts forward or aft were out together. PASSENGERS The cruise out of Dover to the German Hanseatic Ports was sold as an Adults Only one. The ship seemed fully booked and most if not all the passengers were from Britain. They were also quite elderly and I spotted maybe four or so who might have been under forty. Most were well over that and mobility aids were in good use. They put a high demand on the available lifts. CREW The hotel staff is 80% Filipino and without exception the ones we met in the room, restaurants and bars were as pleasant and accommodating as any we have met on any other cruise. LECTURES I missed the first two lectures on the ports that were to be first on our itinerary. They were in the morning about 10am. We had two full sea days before the first port and with the clock going forward soon after sailing I though it was an opportunity to take things easy. Also, even though it was not stormy, the North Sea was lumpy and the ship's motion on day one was unpleasant. I heard that the first lecture was delivered seated. I preferred a more horizontal position myself with a late breakfast in the room but nevertheless the theater was full for the lectures. No bio of the lecturer was published in the ship's daily programme so I have no idea who he was. The talks had good practical information including help for those who were inclined towards DIY visits avoiding the organised tours. PA ANNOUNCEMENTS At sea these were limited to the Captain's noon report. A very good arrangement that some other companies might take note of. SAFETY DRILL DOT sports, the muster drill, was briefed in detail on how to enter the lifeboats and what to expect. There would be 150 on board each and they would be crowded but there would be a seat for all. Soon after launching a seasick pill would be issued to all on board. Once one person threw up it would be followed by more. The briefer was asked what the pills were but was not able to answer. Some of the older passengers said that they were unlikely to take unknown medication, presumably because they were on a complex regime already. PORTS The cruise began with two sea days and dinner was formal on the second night. In the Grampian Restaurant (the smaller of the two restaurants) at the second sitting almost all the men were in black tie. The first port was Flensburg which sits on the border between Germany and Denmark. The berth was about 3k from the town centre and two shuttle buses were laid on (fee). Boarding cards for the bus departing the ship were issued and passengers were called when theirs was loading. It took about an hour for us to get away after we were ready. Flensburg is a compact Northern German town that could be explored easily in two or three hours. From its time as one of the important Hanseatic ports it is proud of its association with rum from the West Indies. Most of the restaurants serving lunch seemed to be cafes and fast food outlets so it would have been a good idea to have done some research beforehand if something more formal or German was preferred. Travemunde is a small seaside town at the mouth of the River Trave and is now a suburb of Lubeck. The ship moored in the centre of town and it was a ten minute walk to the rail station. There was an hourly train into Lubeck (22 mins) but alternatively there was a half hourly bus (40 mins). The Old Town of Lubeck is a UN World Heritage site. It sits on an island in the river and is a ten minute walk from the station and the bus terminal. When Germany was divided into East and West the line ran through the Old Town. The pedestrian signals at various traffic lights were still a mix of former East or West German styles and give the visitor some idea what the town was like before reunification. The town is renowned for Marzipan and Niederegger's shop in the Market Place is a must-see. The marzipan is a paler shade than the more yellow paste seen in the UK and has a less intense almond flavour. The Marienkirsch , also in the same area, is one of the most beautifully impressive medieval churches in Europe. The Ratskeller, below the Town Hall, is a warren of cubicles where you can get a good, if simple, lunch. They had an English menu and the big thing was schnitzels and also asparagus. No sausages nor saurkraut of any description on this menu and nor were they seen on any in Flensburg. I thought sausages were a staple of all German restaurants. Lubeck has a community-wide free WiFi service with a good signal in most places (Not in the Ratskellar) Thirty hours in Hamburg saw us alongside at the Cruise Terminal that is well served by a U-Bahn station and two bus routes. The full day was on a Sunday that was also May Day and the City was quieter than usual. The final port was Bremen which is several hours cruise up river from Bremerhaven. The berth was in an industrial area about twenty minutes by frequent tram from the Old Town. A shuttle bus connected the berth to the tram. Lubeck (from Travemunde) followed closely by Bremen were our two best ports. The long stopover in Hamburg coincided with a Sunday that was also a Public Holiday so lacked some of the buzz of a working city and put extra pressure on the attractions that were open. Flensburg is very compact and it was the one port where we might have benefitted from an organised tour. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
Overall a good cruise, but we will not be tempted to sail anywhere from Dover in the future! It's access and the lack of decent hotels and taxis in the area is an absolute nightmare. As we were travelling down by train the day before ... Read More
Overall a good cruise, but we will not be tempted to sail anywhere from Dover in the future! It's access and the lack of decent hotels and taxis in the area is an absolute nightmare. As we were travelling down by train the day before the cruise we wanted a hotel in Dover, and we booked a sea view room at the Best Western as it was the only way we could be assured that we would not have a trail of lorries outside our window all night. We did not have the lorries but we did have a cars wizzing along the promenade every few minutes (presumably to avoid the busy road to the rear of our hotel). The hotel was also very hot with no air conditioning, so we had to endure either the noise or the extreme heat, so I only got about 4 hours sleep. Our express train to London on the return had people standing from Ashford as there were not enough seats. Also, we had to get a rail replacement bus between Dover and Folkestone and the only way we knew about that is because it was announced on Fred's website - our tickets gave times and journeys to/from Dover with no mention of a bus and different times! The replacement busses were chaotic, being overcrowded with no proper storage space for luggage and there were no directions from the station to the bus stop (and vice versa), yet the bus did not stop outside the station in Folkestone so was very difficult to find. We got a taxi to the port and embarkation worked efficiently as we were prioritised as gold oceans members on freedom fare, so we were soon on board. We have travelled on this ship a number of times before and it is our favourite Fred ship. Luckily the seas were calm as this ship it is not very stable in rough seas, though we had booked a very central cabin in case of that. The staff were excellent as usual and it was good to be back on board what we always find to be a very happy ship, as the staff just continue to work hard and remain happy and pleasant at all times. I would like to particularly mention Somkhit, our cabin stewardess, who kept the cabin spotless and worked very hard throughout the cruise. I would also like to mention Chaider, from the Palms restaurant who is always working hard whenever we saw him on this and previous cruises, yet he always has a friendly smile and greeting for us. Unfortunately we could not book the Grampian for dinner this time, but we were well served in the main restaurant by the staff, many of whom we have met previously and they remembered us. Rommel runs a well organised restaurant service. The public areas of this ship are well maintained and it has a lighter more airy feel than the other Fred Olsen ships as it is slightly more modern. We had booked an inside cabin on deck 4 for this cruise, which I will review below though it was hotter than we would have liked most of the time. There were quizzes and other daytime activities, but we did not partake. We do not often go to the shows either, but we saw part of one by the comedian/magician (Aidan Murphy) on our cabin TV and were not impressed. There was a pianist in the observation lounge and musician in the Morning Light Pub, yet the large seating space in the Bookmark cafe was eerily silent because the Rosario Trio who used to be there is sadly no longer present on this ship. They were always our favourite musicians on board so they were sadly missed by us. The young band, called ‘The Revolverlites’ who played in the Coral were extremely good and were happy for us to use that dancefloor for ‘disco’ style dancing whilst they were playing, so all venues were not taken over purely by the Ballroom dancers as often happens on Fred’s ships. The hot food was disappointing this time, especially compared to what we have previously experienced on Fred’s ships, although the cold buffets for breakfast and lunch were still pretty good. We were on early sitting, but we wanted to eat later on two days because of port times and unfortunately those days were the ones when the Asian and Indian buffets were being served in the Palms restaurant. This meant we had to book ahead for the set time of 8.30pm to eat there rather than just go in as we wished. The food for those special buffets could only be described as bad – we have never had such poor offerings for Indian and Oriental food and it bore no resemblance to food we have eaten either in those countries, or in restaurants in the UK. The only saving grace was the papadoms and the sweets, (apart from the banana fritters which would have been better called Banana soggys). We had taken the AI package this time which, despite the limitations, we found to be adequate for us. We thought the bar service may have been slow as the ship was very full for that cruise, but found it was quite promt, so were pleased about that. There were problems getting served in some areas out on deck, but we have found that to be the case on all Fred Olsen cruises. This was a Maiden Port Mystery Cruise and we had booked because the ports were all maiden calls. I had done a lot of searching the internet and thought I had got all ports identified, but I only got two, which were Wismar and Fredericia. The only ship’s excursion we did was a seal watching boat trip from Lysekil and that was excellent. I got 'seeking seals' right but not the port! The set up was that the ports had always been referred to as "mystery port 1-6" and the trips were known as "mystery trip A to M". We were given a daily sheet as usual the night before, which gave "mystery port x" or a sea day. The trip departures and their meeting times were denoted as "mystery trip x". As we arrived in port, it was either the captain or the cruise director who announced the port name and usually the country, although we had to wait a bit longer for the country one day. The trips were still referred to as "mystery trip x" and we were not told we were looking for seals on our trip until they were sighted – a real mystery trip! A sat nav used on the open decks to determine co ordinates before retiring to bed and a photocopy taken from our atlas of the area around Denmark was also useful from our point of view! I was fairly certain we were going to that area, given the 'clues' we had been given regarding number of countries, UNESCO sites, trip descriptions and Fred's brochures for the next two years showing ports to be visited subsequently. We were obviously heading for Sweden from Fredericia for the last port as we still needed our fourth country and we were going north. We also knew we were in port the next day, with the final day being a sea day . As the ports were all maiden calls for Fred and most were rarely, if at all done by other cruise companies, I will review each port here in detail:- Larvik, Norway This was a bit of a a problem as Fred sent their shuttle busses to the centre of town, which was a shopping area, rather than the sea front which was the tourist area. We also we had no useful tourist information. The sea front area was very pleasant for people who could walk down the steep hill to the sea front and back up to the shuttle bus point as there were things of tourist interest and a couple of bars/restaurants there. There was also a view point and lovely woodland area nearer to the shuttle drop. When we returned to the town centre there was a band playing in the square, so we bought an ice cream from a kiosk and sat in the sun for a while. We enjoyed the port a lot once we found our way round - but we are able bodied, unlike many of Fred’s passengers. If the ship’s shuttle bus had stopped at the sea front and if we had been given good tourist information, I believe many people would have liked this port, but with the circumstances as they were, many people were not happy. It was also a couple of weeks prior to the main tourist season, so a number of tourist facilities were not open, though we liked that as it meant the town was quiet and peaceful. Hundested, Denmark The people of Hundested have to be given 10/10 for trying. They put on displays of Viking fighters and gave us a really good send off with singing, a cannon firing and lots of waving. It was just a shame the facilities are not there to accommodate 800+ cruise passengers at one time. The small local shuttle bus was not easily accessible because there were too many people wanting to use it, and there were no taxis available in the town if you could not get on the shuttle bus. There was also a lack of good bars/cafes, (or even drinks kiosks), were they were needed, (particularly by Knud Rasmussen’s house). Ramussen was an explorer and we paid entrance to the house, but felt there was very little there for the price paid and what information boards were available were mainly in Danish. We had eventually been able to get the shuttle bus to there and after our visit, we walked on to Kikhavn, (an old fishing village), where one of the residents had kindly opened their garden to provide tea and cakes for the Braemar passengers with just a contribution box present. The walk was along a pleasant coastal path and indeed a few people had walked there from the cruise dock. Had we known facilities would have been so limited we would have taken a lot of water or other drinks/snacks with us, but we found our small bottles of water were not enough and there were not even any shops to buy drinks – even at Ramussens house, though there were toilets. Hence we spent much of the day feeling incredibly thirsty as it was a hot day. The immediate port area was an old industrial location which had been developed with craft workshops, a micro brewery and a couple of restaurants. It was heaving with people, which was worse because it was a sunny Sunday with lots of Danish day trippers as well as our ship mates from Braemar. Hence we did not linger in that area. We were the first cruise ship to dock in the new cruise dock, so I expect things will improve in the future, but meanwhile the port is not really suitable for a ship full of cruise passengers – even a small one like Braemar. There was nothing in the town at all for tourists. Nyborg, Denmark This was an exceptionally good port and in our opinion the best of the cruise. It was a beautiful historic town, with many characteristic buildings and also a lovely moat and lake that could easily be accessed from the town by walking through a tunnel under a grass mound by the castle. There was a path along the moat and also plenty of seats so we bought some food from a local shop and returned with a picnic lunch to this lovely area. We also had a couple of drinks in local cafes, all of which were very pleasant. The people in the city had really gone out of their way to make us welcome by opening attractions that are normally closed on the day we visited and letting us have free entry to them. There was a Castle, Water Tower and a really interesting museum. The normal entry charges to those places were not high, so even with payment I would suggest a visit to all or at least some of them would be worthwhile. A special program was printed for us with details of the city and the places I have mentioned. It also had details of walking tours of the city and/or the Castle which we could use if we wanted. Instead we chose to use the comprehensive walking guides which had been made available to us and just stroll around. So there were lots of things to do in the city and it was compact, so it was easy to relax and just enjoy that day, which we did immensely. The people in this city were also very friendly and helpful at all times and there was even free wifi by the tourist information office. I can see it becoming a very popular cruise port in the future, so it was nice to visit now before it gets over run. Wismar, Germany This was quite a touristy, old, Hanseatic city, with a large central square and numerous historic buildings. It was busier and more touristy than Nyborg, but none the less it was a very pleasant place and we had an enjoyable day there. It was easy to pick up tourist information and we visited a couple of churches, which are the main tourist attractions. One old church, which was largely a shell, had a lift to the top of the tower, (which we accessed for a small fee), to get views of the city and the area around. One church had been demolished as the city was in East Germany before the wall came down, so funding had not been available to maintain and renovate it. Despite that recent history, the city as a whole was in very good condition and buildings well maintained now. We visited the ‘Alter Schwede’ bar/restaurant in the square, (which dated from a time when the city was Swedish), and it was impressive. We also went to the ‘Brauhaus am Lohberg zu Wismar’, which is a micro-brewery, not far from the port. As we were due to sail out of the port we were serenaded by a local male choir, (I think with sea shanties), and then a display of soldiers in old costumes firing of a mini cannon. Fredericia, Denmark This was a maiden call for Fred Olsen, but has been visited by some fairly large ships previously. Again a pleasant town, though more a mix of old and new. We followed the walking route we had been given of the town, which also involved walking along some of the grass mounds and along part of the moat which originally formed defences for the city. Hence it was again a chance to be in a city, yet enjoy some pleasant natural areas around. We climbed the White Water Tower for a small charge to get views around, then returned to the town for a drink before returning to the ship. This port was walkable from the ship, so no shuttles needed. Another good send off with an even smaller miniature cannon being fired by soldiers in costume and lots of waving. Lysekil, Sweden This was the port were we went on the excursion which had been billed as a ‘boat trip searching for curious marine mammals’. We were fairly sure it was seals as they are reputed to be curious, (about things), so we went armed with binoculars and a good camera. It was well worth having the binoculars as we got some really good detailed views of the seals. They would still have been visible by eye alone, but not in detail. The boat trip was very good indeed with small, picturesque, rocky islands all around and the captain gave a good commentary both as we were going and quietly when we were within view of the seals. After a quick lunch on board Braemar, we caught the shuttle bus into the town, which was a very pleasant, small town in a picturesque location. Disembarkation was earlier than usual as the ship was then sailing on to Southampton to pick up passengers for the next cruise, so we had to vacate cabins by 7am. As we were so early and there were queues for taxis, we walked back into the town and had a second light breakfast in a café to the side of the Best Western Hotel, before strolling up through the town of Dover to the train station. So overall the cruise was very good and we were pleased with the choice and variety of ports which included a selection of towns, but also quieter, scenic locations. The main reason we sail is for the ports and we do like this ship, so we will undoubtedly sail on her again. We just hope the disappointments, such as the food will regain some of it's previous quality. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
This was our second cruise with Fred. Olsen, our first was aboard Boudicca last year. Braemar's friendly staff and quality of cuisine lived up to the high standard we experienced on Boudicca. We chose the smaller Grampian Restaurant ... Read More
This was our second cruise with Fred. Olsen, our first was aboard Boudicca last year. Braemar's friendly staff and quality of cuisine lived up to the high standard we experienced on Boudicca. We chose the smaller Grampian Restaurant on Deck 8. With exemplary waiters and large areas of glass, it offered stunning evening sunsets that provided an unforgettable ambiance. There were a range of activities and entertainment to suit most people’s tastes. In the evenings, we alternated between The Observatory Lounge on Deck 8, with the very talented pianist Enrique Cabilina playing our choice of relaxing music, and the Morning Light Pub on Deck 5 with Kieron Cox providing a livelier selection of guitar music and song. Our only visit to the Neptune Show Lounge on Deck 5 was to Braemar’s Crew Show…and what a show the crew put on. The girls (all amateur) dancing dressed in their national costumes from the Philippines and Tailand were exquisite. They were followed by the lads, dressed in naval costumes…they had a ball; their versions of In the Navy, and YMCA, had us in tears. You could see on their faces how much they genuinely enjoyed entertaining us. Finally, tears of a different kind could easily be shed in Gerard’s moving sand animation using sand and music to illustrate a story on a projected screen that ended with the scheme of the crucifixion. A massive brownie point for the cruise was the beautiful city of Bordeaux. A number of regular Fred. Olsen cruisers told us the organised shore trips were a waste of time and money; it was far better to arrange something yourself…fine, if you were offered a free shuttle bus, otherwise try to share a taxi between four of you, and see how much money you’d save…how right they were! FortunatelyBordeaux made up for the disappointment we experienced in our two shore trips costing us £174.00. There was so much to enjoy here. A delightful city in daylight, with majestic fountains and immaculate gardens was transformed after sunset. A breathtaking panorama of coloured lights along four kilometres of waterfront led the eye to distant mystical lights along Napolean’s Pont de pierre bridge. It was lovely to see families sat in the park alongside Braemar giving us a wave as they enjoyed their picnics. We were tempted to join them. No wonder the city is described: Little Paris. Our first tour: The River Erdre – Gateway to the Loire Valley. We circumnavigated Nantes’ city centre on at least three occasions, past the fortress walls and Giggs Irish Pub, our ears being bombarded with a constant flow of uninteresting names and dates by our French tour guide. One early stop to take photographs was so uninspiring half the passengers stayed aboard the coach. The second at the Cathedral, I’ll agree was worthwhile, allowing us to light a couple of candles and offer a silent prayer then crane our necks to wonder at the height and majesty of the arched roof. After two hours on the coach, and a visit to the WC, we boarded our boat. The lower deck was full; the passengers on the upper deck with the odd vacant seat here and there were packed together like sardines on plastic garden chairs. I spent the whole of the cruise three rows behind my wife who was sitting alongside two stony faced women who ignored her for the whole cruise. We were later told that the second boat that followed us was only half full. Yes, the river was beautiful, but the tour brochure states: Several castles and elegant manors. There were several elegant manors...but I cannot remember any castles. When we commenced the cruise, we immediately passed a sign prohibiting creating waves and advising an 8 kph speed limit. Reaching the limit of the cruise the sign was a distant memory as the charge for home began with the second boat in hot pursuit. To me, the most memorable sight was the countless number of low flying cormorants that crisscrossed the boat or flew past on either side. I was surprised by the elegance of their flight and beautiful lines of their bodies. Returning to Braemar after another circuit of Nantes, we were forced to queue for over half an hour while the crew assisted a large number of elderly passengers aboard up a very steep ramp. Eventually, someone must have read my mind, when with about thirty or so passengers remaining, a second ramp was provided. I dread imagining the mood of the passengers if it had been raining. Surely, with a tide table to hand this problem could have been foreseen beforehand and a second ramp provided on arrival. With due respect to some lovely people we befriended – each with heart-rending problems – Braemar attracts a large number of infirm passengers, so be prepared for similar delays. Also I wouldn’t recommend it to families with young children. Our second tour: The ‘Must Do Green Venice Tour. This was equally disappointing. Yes, it was a tranquil experience, but the waterways passed uninteresting fields, the most notable event, one duck and a number of cattle; the only burst of colour: the flowers and shrubs in the gardens of an occasional fishermen’s cottage. Disembarking, the appalling WC facility was an experience! At least the coach journey to and from the main event was pleasurable passing fields of sunflowers and variety of other crops. Think very carefully before you book any tour. I’d advise you to consult seasoned passengers on board before you do so. I recall somewhere a mention that Braemar had a degree of refurbishment in 2014…this obviously didn’t include our cabin. The power sockets were archaic; I cannot remember when I last needed adaptors for our toothbrushes and hair styling equipment. Furthermore, there was some kind of junction box attached to the dressing table with a conglomeration of dangling cables that served the kettle and hair drier. Returning to our cabin after an enjoyable evening in the Observatory Lounge, I was annoyed to read the following note left on our bed: Dear Guest, As part of our commitment to improve the standard of our cabins onboard the MS Braemar, we courteously advise you that we will be changing the wash basin drain in your cabin tomorrow…between 1300h and 1600h. If you have any objections, please contact the Reception desk. Thank you in advance for your kind understanding… I rang early the following morning and refused them access. Later, I was told other passengers had had an identical request and had agreed for them to carry out the work. I accept access dealing with an emergency must be allowed… however, it appears that Fred. Olsen was (at the expense of their guest's comfort) adopting a regime to upgrade the vessel while at sea. We spent our last day at sea sunbathing with alfresco lunch and dolphins on our port side bidding us ‘‘au revoir.’’ Bliss... The on board All-Inclusive Drinks Package was a real value for money. Without overindulging yourself, it was very easy to overtake the £10.00 per day levy. With a total of 68 miles sailing along the uninspiring River Loire to and from Nantes, I feel the cruise would be greatly enhanced if this was removed from the itinerary and a third night spent in Bordeaux. I would be interested to learn comments from fellow passengers to this suggestion. Finally, Eavesway Travel’s coaches need special mention. The coaches were so comfortable, with unbelievable leg room, reclining leather seats and for anyone needing relief between comfort stops, an onboard WC. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
We had requested a disabled room with a walk in shower, We could not fault the room, lovely bedding ( quite a few people had commented on this to us also) everything we wanted, lovely balcony we were on floor 7 and did not have any ... Read More
We had requested a disabled room with a walk in shower, We could not fault the room, lovely bedding ( quite a few people had commented on this to us also) everything we wanted, lovely balcony we were on floor 7 and did not have any problems. Yes a little noise from the shipmates but they have to clean the decks before everyone is up. We did not get into The Faroe Islands this was because of rough weather but I would rather be safe than risking docking, the captain explained the reason correctly and it wasnt because another ship was in our place. The food was amazing and so much, we are younger travelers in our fifties and found the fellow travellers we spoke to were lovely. It was so nice to be on holiday and everyone said hello and always chatted ( yes there were a few moaners but most people avoided them) I would definately reccomend the Black Watch if you want a smaller ship and lots to do. The organised trips were excellent and again we found them very disabled friendly if you needed extra help always there (reserved space on a coach or a taxi if required). We went on the flight ICE AND FIRE GLACIERS AND VOLCANOES yes more expensive but if like me you cannot walk to see these places just an unforgettable experience. The pilot made sure you got to see everything. The Spa dept were very good Elise organised a personal physio session for me to help with my mobility. She was truely wonderful and wrote it all down for me to continue when I got home. If you want a holiday were you lose track of time visit amazing places with lovely company, with great talks, shows as good as The West End singers and dancers who were so approachable and seemed to have lots of other activities they helped with and ( it was nice that the a lot of the main staff ate in the buffet restaurant so you were able to chat to them over lunch or afternoon tea. Also if you had any food allergies they went out of their way to assist. A VERY ENJOYABLE HOLIDAY Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
PRE CRUISE. I saw this deal and thought it might be nice to do. I was on this ship in 1994 on my very 1st cruise then known as "CROWN DYNASTY" Running for CUNARD LINE, I went to ALASKA. I booked a single inside guarantee ... Read More
PRE CRUISE. I saw this deal and thought it might be nice to do. I was on this ship in 1994 on my very 1st cruise then known as "CROWN DYNASTY" Running for CUNARD LINE, I went to ALASKA. I booked a single inside guarantee cabin and paid £210. I got my e ticket and documents a week before the cruise. Then I heard from others going on cruise the Embarkation time had changed! I never got the email and, then got a letter by post explaining they had a GASTRIC VIRUS on the previous cruise. So had to do MAJOR CLEAN of the ship, So embarkation was 1630hrs. I got train from my local station to STRATFORD but had to wait ages to buy a ticket/. So had to catch a later train to HARWICH INTERNATIONAL PORT. EMBARKATION. I entered the TERMINAL to CHECK-IN it took ages to get through to check in. Gave me my CRUISE CARD and showed my Card to use to pay the bill. Had my picture taken and board the ship. I was not shown my cabin but found it myself I had been given the number when I got my ticket 2079 on deck 2. CABIN. It was a single cabin not a twin that I had on my 1st cruise. 1 SINGLE BED, a chair, safe,small tv. The bathroom was good with cabinets to put things as well as the sink. Also a shower. Lots of drawer space and wardrobes. DINING. I had booked 1st sitting which I prefer but had got GRAMPIAN RESTAURANT which is a newer one. I had found a few people on the cruise but they had 2nd sitting. I did try to change sittings but this cost £4 and as there were no seat left I didn't bother. I changed restaurant to the THISTLE RESTAURANT which I had on my 1st CRUISE and was at a singles table. DINNER was good a good selection of dishes and wine list was good too. SERVICE was quick too and were out by 8pm. Had breakfast here as well but waiters had to put the buffet food on our plate which took a while. Afternoon tea was really disorganised as it took so long and long queues. ENTERTAINMENT. Saw 2shows "MICKY ZANY" the comedian who was very good. 2nd night was SWING with singers and dancers who were good as well. PORT OF CALL. AMSTERDAM in Holland was our only port of call I had done ANNE FRANK'S house and canal before. So I walked off the ship and asked where the MARITIME MUSEUM was. It was quite a walk but well worth it. Went onboard a sailing ship and 4 floors of maritime stuff. An interesting idea was you couldn't take any backpacks around but had to put them into a locker. This was very easy to do. DISEMBARKATION. This was very quick despite me not get any info on when we could disembark and had to ask for one. I used my old label and put my suitcase outside my room. Next morning after breakfast we left the ship at 8am and found my luggage and made my way home. PHOTOS. I always like buying pictures so got quite a few including the same view I did on my 1st CRUISE. They had a dvd of AMSTERDAM and the ship as well and quite reasonable. SHOPS. Quite a few shops but usually like the souvenir one. They had hats,t shirts but none with the ship on. No special key rings either. I bought a ship model which was good and a dvd of "MICKY ZANY". SUMMARY. A good cruise and enjoyed it despite it being hard work with not touching any plates which did make it hard. Would love to do it again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
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