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Sail Date: November 2013
First ever cruise and we were very happy overall. We selected Fred Olsen as the passengers seemed to be of the age group that suited us best. I would say the best way to describe the cruise would be "comfortable with a little splash ... Read More
First ever cruise and we were very happy overall. We selected Fred Olsen as the passengers seemed to be of the age group that suited us best. I would say the best way to describe the cruise would be "comfortable with a little splash of luxury". It was amusing to be in the library and hear the daily symphony of snoring, or see that false teeth were not an obstacle to eating, sadly worrying was that it was like looking at your future. There was a slight air of nursing home. All that said it was clean and with good staff. Plenty to do all day long, and generally well organised. Highlight for me was seeing Des O`Connor, an excellent entertainer. I did find that you go on a cruise to cruise. I really don`t think you can honestly say you see much of the places you visit, with shore excursions being a bit expensive. The one sad thing was at the end of the cruise the organising did appear to break down a little. One passengers wife was taken to hospital in Tenerife and he appeared to have had little help from the port agent and minimum from Fred Olsen at the time we spoke to him. I did not like this, especially as ever noon the captains broadcast reminded us "to take care of one another" , and these are overall elderly passengers. Be warned, shop around to get the best price for any cruise. The old sea dogs we spoke to bagged the same cruise as us in a better cabin, paying 50% less for a drinks package for half what we paid for the cruise, transfers and return journey!! No wonder they slept so contentedly. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2013
Just returned from my first and probably last cruise. Norway itself, the scenery, the inner passage and most of the tours were wonderful, unfortunately the cruise experience itself was not good -- particularly due to the poor condition of ... Read More
Just returned from my first and probably last cruise. Norway itself, the scenery, the inner passage and most of the tours were wonderful, unfortunately the cruise experience itself was not good -- particularly due to the poor condition of our 'superior' outside cabin and the fear of contracting norovirus (almost half of the passengers came down with it). In addition the only reason for us going on this cruise was to see the northern lights and we were disgusted that more was not done by the ship to assist us in this aim. CABIN. (Superior outside, deck 5). Reasonable size. Condition poor. It may have been 'superior' 20 years ago but is decrepit and rather dingy now. Dread to think how we would have coped if we had contracted norovirus and been banged up in it for 4 days, as some folk were (you had to stay in your cabin for the length of the illness + a further 48 hours after the last symptoms occurred). Rather like living in an old run down caravan that someone else has had the sense to scrap. NOROVIRUS. The ship blamed the passengers for bringing this on board and for spreading it. No responsibility was taken for the fact that the previous cruise had also suffered from norovirus and only a few hours were devoted to carrying out a 'deep' clean before we boarded. There was no way that sufficient time was allowed to effectively clean the ship before we boarded -- were the carpets steam cleaned and the curtains and bedspreads all washed? No. I am certain this virus was present on the ship (carried on fittings and in the ventilation system) when we boarded and this was the major cause of our outbreak. The continual spraying of passenger hands was probably ineffective as alcohol based sprays do not work against norovirus - apparently chlorine based ones are better, but we would have been able to smell this in the spray if chlorine had been used. In addition at no time did I see any of the staff spraying their hands and the bad practice of waiters handling used crockery and cutlery and then handing out food to passengers would have caused cross contamination (no plastic gloves used). So, Fred Olsen stop blaming the victims for this awful outbreak. NORTHERN LIGHTS. To see these was the sole reason for us booking this cruise, I quite accept that they are a natural phenomenon and no guarantees can be given but I did not expect the captain to put the smooth running of the evening meal above the passengers desire to see the lights. On the evening that we left Tromso there was apparently a brilliant display of the lights above the ship. Unfortunately we were on the late sitting for dinner and one of the last tables to be served, no announcement was made in the dining room so we completely missed seeing the lights that night. If we had been told as soon as desert had been served we could have skipped coffee and seen the display. We finally got a good sighting of the lights on the night before we got into Kristiansund. Unfortunately we struggled to see them as all the deck lights had been left on and the crew refused to switch them off ... as the captain was asleep and no-one else had the authority to do so! Great! Fred Olsen should think a bit more about what customers want from this cruise -- it would have been quite safe to turn off the deck lights on the upper decks only and to have left them on around the stairways and lower decks -- as was done on other nights. We also went on 2 of the 3 evening tours arranged by the cruise to search for the northern lights. I would not recommend these -- passengers were taken on approx. 4/6 overheated coaches a long distance (90 mins +) from the ship, this was not only to get away from light sources (not much of a job was made of this -- one night we were near a lot of houses and another night we were next to a busy, for Norway, road) but mainly to take us to a large field where a lot of coaches could be parked and a small amount of infrastructure such as a large tent provided and bonfires could be lit. You would be much better advised to use the local information centre and book a tour with a local guide, in a minibus. Other passengers used these and they reported a very good experience with the guide taking them to many different vantage points and really having a good knowledge of where and what to look for. They did not have to endure a long trek out of Tromso or Alta and the price was similar for the local guide as for the cruise tour. DOG SLEDDING and ICE HOTEL tours. These I cannot praise enough. Both were excellent. I would recommend booking the dog sledding privately just so that you can go for a longer period than the cruise tour allows - also try out driving the sled yourself, it's great fun. TOILET BLOCKAGES. Several passengers (including us) suffered from this at different times on the cruise (and no we did not flush anything we should not have done!). Not a good experience when you do not want to use the public loos in case of contracting norovirus and no one contacts you to say the problem has been fixed (the engineers work on it outside of your room); you have to ring Reception back to ask. Some passengers also suffered from very poor water pressure. One night we had no water at all for a while, we were told this had affected several other cabins. All problems you don't need when norovirus is present and you are trying to be hygienic. So now you can see why this is likely to be my last cruise! Certainly my last one with Fred Olsen. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2013
A superb cruise itinerary 13 to 27 March with most time spent up at Troms and Alta. Lots of superb snow and with good weather Captain Stein Bjrheim guided the ship along a spectacular scenic route in the inner fjords. The weather was ... Read More
A superb cruise itinerary 13 to 27 March with most time spent up at Troms and Alta. Lots of superb snow and with good weather Captain Stein Bjrheim guided the ship along a spectacular scenic route in the inner fjords. The weather was kind with clear sky and we were treated to a most spectacular northern lights display viewable from the deck on departure from Tromso on 20 March. Ship entertainment was really good. My wife & I much enjoyed the performances of the Boudicca Show Company. All Staff worked very hard and were cheerful except for one day when the seriousness of a norovirus epidemic was apparent. The final total over the whole fortnight was 300+ of the 900 passengers infected with this rather nasty gastric virus. I spent two days in my cabin quarantined after a particularly uncomfortable night. In some ways I did not notice this lost time because the illness left me feeling so tired I slept much. Fred Olsen appear to have addressed the situation robustly. From first boarding we were all subject to a hand disinfection routine whenever moving between public areas -- like the dining room or lounges etc. The importance of hand washing was reinforced by daily announcements. Also they delayed the next sailing from Portsmouth by a day to enable the whole ship to be cleaned and fumigated but will this be enough? I am now interested to hear from anyone on the current cruise to Lisbon and the Iberian Peninsula. Has the cleanup worked? Read Less
Sail Date: January 2013
We hadn't cruised before, being under 50 we really thought that cruising was for older people. That's certainly true for the Braemar but many guests told us about other cruise lines who cater for a younger audience so I'm ... Read More
We hadn't cruised before, being under 50 we really thought that cruising was for older people. That's certainly true for the Braemar but many guests told us about other cruise lines who cater for a younger audience so I'm happy to stand corrected. My husband is terrified of water and to get him to go I had to book a cabin with a balcony above a lifeboat! Within a couple of days he was quite comfortable with being at sea, not seeing land and his constant fear of drowning so if anyone reading this has a reluctant partner - be reassured, it's worth the effort of getting on board. I have a gluten free diet and really struggle to get food when I go on holiday unless I cook everything myself. This cruise was an absolute godsend to me - I've never had so much choice before, the food and the waiters were amazing. I can't praise them enough. The Braemar is a relatively small ship with around 950 passengers and 350 crew which meant we were quickly recognised by staff and guests, making for a very welcoming atmosphere. The staff couldn't be faulted - we started off in the Grampian Restaurant but weren't keen on the atmosphere there and were quickly moved to the Thistle Restaurant which was much more vibrant and where guests wanted to talk to you.The cabaret acts were pretty average and targeted at the older audience. The Braemar Show Team on the other hand were outstanding, particularly James, Jane and Kirsty and worked incredibly hard putting on 9 different shows in 11 nights and popping up doing all sorts of unexpected duties throughout the day from serving cake at the Tea Dance to dolphin racing. Not having been on a cruise before I didn't have anything to compare them with but I lost count of the number of other guests who said they were by far the best show group they had seen on a cruise and many of the guests had been on over 30 cruises. Ricky the Cruise Director was great, I think he could do with a day off though - he seemed to work from early in the morning to very late at night with few gaps in between and always with a smile on his face. We met some lovely guests on board although we also met a significant number of pretentious people they they were usually older and from a certain part of the country. The staff were incredible and I found the latter guests clicking fingers at waiters distasteful to say the least, however the few guests that spoiled things were hugely outnumbered by the lovely guests we met. Our cruise was for 11 nights and by the 9th I have to confess we'd had enough of getting dressed up for every evening meal, we could have opted out and dined more casually in the Palms Restaurant but we didn't feel it was fair in the staff to keep moving about when I had special dietary needs. Others did use this option and it seemed to be appreciated.We called at Dakkar Senegal, Banjul Gambia, Praia Cape Verde and Mindelo Cape Verde. If you want winter sun and are not bothered about ports this is great, if you don't mind third world countries and a bit of hassle from locals it's fine otherwise leave these ports for a few years until they become more developed. Mindelo was the best port and even that was basic with no toilets on a 4hr tour. The weather was great though and staff on board were phenomenal. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2012
We were encouraged to try a cruise after friends visited the Fjords last year and loved it. So as a sort of last holiday with older teenagers, us and 4 other families-17 people in total decided on a western Mediterranean trip for 14 nights ... Read More
We were encouraged to try a cruise after friends visited the Fjords last year and loved it. So as a sort of last holiday with older teenagers, us and 4 other families-17 people in total decided on a western Mediterranean trip for 14 nights departing Southampton. We all booked separately through The Liverpool Cruise Club-and despite reviews I have read, they were very accommodating and helpful in that we were all sited near to each other on board, had the same time dinner sitting in the same restaurant on the same or adjoining tables with a wonderful view of the sea through huge portholes. TLCC were cheaper than booking direct and we made interim payments. We booked a year in advance due to the size of our party and are governed by school holidays, although better deals can be had if you are able to book at the last minute which many of our fellow travellers seem to have done and paid far less for better cabins. As we are a family of 5 and the cabins only sleep up to a max of 4 (there are 2 pull down wall bunks)we had the extra expense of 2 cabins so paid full price as if for 4 adults instead of just 2. Despite this and the cabins being fairly spacious it would have been quite cramped with 4/5. Prices vary on which deck you are on-the higher up the dearer it is and also varies on inside/outside cabins. We were on Coral Deck 4 in inside cabins. They are dark so lamps are needed at all times. Next time I would have an outside cabin as I did miss seeing outside, especially on waking. Embarkation at Southampton is painless and efficient. Lovely men take your luggage and the next time you see it is in your cabin. One of our cases did get damaged. We were given free parking vouchers but didn't use them as we all travelled together by coach. There was a bit of waiting around but nothing to moan about. Each person is issued with a cabin account card. When swiped this contains your personal details and photograph. This is also your room key and for getting on/off at stops. All purchases are made using this and can be viewed on your cabin interactive TV so keeping a check on your spending is useful especially with children. Mostly you just tell them your cabin number then sign the chit, but obviously you should keep it with you at all times. We had £140 on board credit for each cabin but this was used up by end of the first week. The card is also printed with lifeboat number and assembly info. You will need sterling for playing bingo £2 per board, and the dolphin/greyhound racing-£1 per bet. (They are only cardboard dolphins!) On the last day the bingo costs £5 per board but some lucky chap won £635! Cabins have huge storage space (cases fit under the beds) TV, air con, a self-combination safe, nice en suite with shower and only hand/shower gel in dispensers. There is a hairdryer fixed to the wall which is very slow so if you have long hair or get ready in a hurry, take your own. A european 2-pin plug is needed. Towels are provided as well as deck towels for sunbathing and can be changed for fresh at any time. However, you will need your own towels if you want to go to the beach at any of the stops. Beds are very comfy! There is very minimal noise from adjoining cabins. You have your own allocated hard working housekeeper who makes up your bed and turns it down each evening leaving you a chocolate on the pillow. There are tea/coffee making facilities and a large bottle of water which if you open, it is charged for. The crew and staff are mainly Philippine's, very friendly, polite and hard working although there is a grumpy waiter in Ballindalloch restaurant who we avoided. The waiters and waitresses (especially Layla in the 'observatory' and Mary in the 'Lido')are wonderful with great senses of humour and can remember your name, drink and cabin number after only a few days. Don't miss the 'crew show' at the end of your holiday. You are sort of expected to pay and charged to your account, 'tips' to your housekeeper and dinner waiter averaging £4 each per day from each person in your party which added up is quite costly (£40 per day for us which you wouldn't pay at home!) This can easily be removed by visiting reception during the first couple of days and telling them you wish to pay them directly at the end of your cruise. It's then up to you what you value their service at. On board and during the first couple of days of sailing when its still too cool to sunbathe there is plenty going on (even for teenagers). We enjoyed the nightly shows in the Neptune, the show company are talented, young and enthusiastic and also around and about doing various activities during the day. 10/10 for them! A mention also to comedian Taffy Spencer who had us in stitches. We had 3 formal evenings-black tie/evening dress, 3 theme nights which hardly anyone bothers with dressing up, hence only all our 'men' in grass skirts and coconut bra's on Hawaiian night! We had a laugh but very strange looks from others. 'Sail-aways' are fun. Informal nights still require jacket or tie, 'smart casual' you can wear jeans but no shorts/crops-this the men found tough especially when it got hotter the further south we sailed. As already mentioned an a la carte dinner is served you each night in the same restaurant, same time, same table. There is a good choice on the menu (these are posted outside during the day) and a children's menu. If you are a couple then you will be placed on a table with others. We were in Spey, Deck 10 at 8.30pm. The earlier sitting is 6.30pm or you can opt to go to the food themed evenings in Palms Cafe which is open seating. We enjoyed Indian and Chinese. All restaurants are open seating during the day. We loved supper club in Palms between 11.30pm and 12.30am. There is also morning tea/biscuits served as well as afternoon cakes/rolls and room service if you wanted it! We could not find fault with any of the food served anywhere on this ship (hence a 71b weight gain!) although talking to others they felt standards had dropped due to cost saving. Sara Sipek, the english executive chef and her team are amazing in that the same quality of food came out each time. Our restaurant waiters were Made (said Maddy) and Toddy who has the loveliest smile. They are whizzes at their jobs and Made was very entertaining with his after dinner tricks and posers. Unfortunately there was an outbreak of Gastroenteritis on Day 7 so self service was withdrawn which did slow down the process. You had to wait a while for toast or milk/sugar to go in your hot drinks. Even with the extra workload the staff were still polite and friendly. Sanitising your hands is a constant must! Stops included Gibraltar (a 10 minute walk in to town) then a 15 minute walk to the bottom of the 'rock'. We paid a local guide 20E each for the tour up to the top, this included the 'cave' tour. Taking the cable car costs 18E excluding the cave tour. The views are amazing but watch don't touch the apes! Barcelona, catch the free courtesy bus from the port. We did the open top city tour which takes 1-2hrs and costs again 20E each. Palamos, the beach is a 5/10 min walk from the ship. Mahon-you dock right on the edge of the town, alas sunday so very few shops open but a small market at the port. Saw lots of dolphins and 2 small whales between here and Portimao-This is an anchor port and you are tendered in which if there is a strong swell takes an age. Not a lot to entice you here though some did get a taxi to the beach. Lisbon is lovely, loads of shops and we went up the tower with fantastic views over the city. Cost 5E pp. We did not pay for any of the organised ship excursions. There is lots of info in your cabin about each stop and The Daily Times delivered each evening is essential to what's going on next day and where, dress code, entertainment etc. Cruise director Joanne Haley and deputy Jamie Clarke are great assets to the Fred Olsen company. We really enjoyed hearing the ship's Master, Robert Bamberg's daily announcements from the Bridge. On board there is a Spa with many treatments, beauticians, hairdressers, fully equipped, popular gym overlooking the ocean, launderette Deck 3(tokens £2 from reception, just press the button on the front for 5 secs for automatic liquid detergent dispensing)also free tumble dryers/ irons etc. There is a disco nightly in the observatory, Deck 11, which goes on quite late if your cabin is on or below that forward deck. There are also a jewellers (free to look and wish), a shop if you forget essentials or fancy a bit of choccy, a boutique and duty free with daily offers. Library and card/games room. Reception is expertly manned or I should say womanned and euro's can also be purchased here. Cabin accounts can be settled the day before by cash or euro's and the remainder taken automatically by credit card (this is registered when you board). Smoking is allowed in several places and on cabin balconies. You can use the free telephones around the ship to phone your's or other cabins. Loads of toilets on the decks and in all the right places. Disembarkation. Suitcases are left out the night before-take a holdall for overnight. This is done by Deck, starting at the top, but is quick and stressless, don't pack your cabin card as you need this. Cases can then be found in a set area by deck number. A few warnings: Loungers get snapped up very early around the pools on Deck 7 and 11. The pools are salt water and several times had to be emptied twice daily due to children being sick in them. The photographers are everywhere and catch you at your worst and best and not particularly bothered if they get somebody else in them too. We soon learned to always stand as a family rather than individually. They then charge you £6.50 for the small and £14.95 for the large prints. You are under no obligation to buy them. There was a mixed age range on board from a group on a lads only holiday, youngsters and elder teenagers with parents, up to the quite elderly. We did hear a few grumbles in passing from them about how many children were on board (only 77 up to age 16 out of 1350 passengers!)but hey ho our money is as good as theirs and they can go any time out of school holidays! In general we found most friendly, chatty and fun. Duty Free is limited to 1 ltr strong liqueurs, or 2 ltrs of fortified wine or 4 ltrs of still wine, 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco. Customs staff are vigilant and were stopping many going through the green channel. It's your risk! For our maiden voyage, Balmoral was everything we hoped for and more, we thought this was a last holiday with our boy's but they and the friends we travelled with loved it and all want to go again....guess we'd better start saving! And from the Bridge......'All is well'. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2012
We booked on-line after seeing an offer. We were attracted by the price. We booked a superior outside cabin and were allocated cabin number 5045 on the 'main deck' (deck 5) We travelled from 5th-19th January 2012. The ... Read More
We booked on-line after seeing an offer. We were attracted by the price. We booked a superior outside cabin and were allocated cabin number 5045 on the 'main deck' (deck 5) We travelled from 5th-19th January 2012. The catalogue price was in excess of £1500 per person. We paid £899. I like to think we got a bargain, but I couldn't bring myself to ask other passengers what they had paid. The destinations included Madeira, La Gomera, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Agadir, and Lisbon. Most of which we had visited previously. This was mostly a trip to find out whether we liked cruising. The first 4 nights and 3 days were spent travelling to Madeira, across the bay of Biscay. We thought the crossing was quite rough, with the ship bobbing around so much that it was almost impossible to walk with holding on tightly to what was fixed down. I don't know what we would have done without travel sickness pills. The rest of the cruise went fairly smoothly. The good points were numerous. Boarding and eventual disembarkation went very smoothly. The staff were all friendly, smiling, and helpful. Making us feel very welcome. The food was varied and of excellent quality. The evening entertainment, though of quite good quality, was definitely aimed at the older age groups. My wife and I are in our 60's and were amongst the youngest passengers. A few days in there was a minor outbreak of some sort of stomach upset, with some passengers being confined to cabin for several days. They crew appeared to cope very well with this and the only way in which passengers were affected was by the suspension of all self service breakfast and lunchtime buffet meals. We had to wait to be served by staff members wearing blue plastic gloves. Despite the extra work load, the staff continued to serve us with a smile. Nothing was too much trouble. A few of the passengers complained about the restrictions (perhaps they would have preferred to catch the bug?) Most of us appreciated the efforts of the staff and just took it it our stride. We had one problem with our cabin, 5045, the shower temperature was 'erratic'. One could be having a lovely warm shower when, suddenly, the water flow dropped, and so did the water temperature. We became friends with the couple in 5043 and found that they were having the same problem. The only way to avoid this was to shower 'off peak'. Did we enjoy the experience? YES. Would we cruise again? Definitely YES. Would we go to Morocco? NO. I've not reviewed the ports of call because I don't know what say say about them. We've been previously several times to each of the Canary Islands, and to Madeira. They are quite convenient for a short winter break from the UK weather. We didn't like Agadir. It has no character. Outside of the tourist area we were Harassed by people wanting us to give them money in exchange taking a picture of their camel. In the Souk every time we stopped moving the sellers would be waving their goods at us, trying to harass us into buying something. Had they left us alone to browse, we would almost certainly have bought some souvenirs. As it was we left with nothing. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2011
Various friends keen on cruising had suggested that we try it and so, after years of travelling abroad by plane and car, we chose Fred Olsen's Christmas and New Year trip on the Balmoral to Madeira and the Canaries to dip our toes in ... Read More
Various friends keen on cruising had suggested that we try it and so, after years of travelling abroad by plane and car, we chose Fred Olsen's Christmas and New Year trip on the Balmoral to Madeira and the Canaries to dip our toes in the water, as it were. In short, I have to say we both found it simply excellent. We stayed at the De Vere New Place hotel, 10 miles outside Southampton, the night before our embarkation and found their cruise package very good. It included dinner, bed and breakfast, 16 nights car parking and taxi transfers to and from the terminal before and after the cruise and we would certainly stay there again. At the terminal the check-in and embarkation process was trouble-free and we were delighted with our Superior Suite on deck 9. Our cabin stewardess, Ellen, was a delight, as were our two evening waiters. The food and entertainment was suitably varied and of high quality throughout our time onboard and what struck us most was just how friendly all staff were, from the Master down. It really was a happy ship. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day were simply superb thanks to the staff's efforts. We, in our mid 50s, were probably some of the youngest passengers aboard, but the age mix was not a problem for us as we made some good friends along the way. We tended to do our own thing whan ashore, but found the mix of land and sae days fine. Disembarkation was just as impressive, particularly compared to passing through airports. We enjoyed this trip so much that, whilst we will still look forward to other forms of overseas holidays, we will definitely look to cruise again and more than likely with Fred Olsen. In short, Fred and his team on the Balmoral made this the best Christmas and New Year we have ever had, and we are already eyeing up a trip for the same time this year. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2011
After extensive research I chose Fred Olsen and the BALMORAL Canaries Cruise departing Southampton 17.11.11 due to it being our first cruise and being advised to go on a smaller cruise ship so as not to be overwhelmed with too many ... Read More
After extensive research I chose Fred Olsen and the BALMORAL Canaries Cruise departing Southampton 17.11.11 due to it being our first cruise and being advised to go on a smaller cruise ship so as not to be overwhelmed with too many passengers. What my research did not tell me was that the average age would be 75+ or so it would appear. Never have I seen so many walking sticks, frames and mobility scooters in such an enclosed environment before! The cruise was advertised as Music and Laughter - I must have missed the bit about the sequence dancing and bingo. Every day prior to the shows x 2 there was approx an hour whereby Gentleman Hosts danced with single ladies both ballroom and latin - these ladies booked the cruise solely for this entertainment but as stated I must have overlooked this snippet of info. There was nothing on the cruise during the day for my husband and I to do whilst at sea - we are in the age bracket 50 -59 and felt totally out of place. We are not interested in patchwork, card making, bingo etc and the resident guest speakers were of no interest - only giving info on places we were to visit which had already been researched. That said, the cabin, food, service and prices at the bar were more than satisfactory. What was needed from our point of view was a sports bar where we could watch European/Domestic Football Cricket Tennis Golf etc or a Cinema/Theatre. The evening entertainment was sufficient but would have been better has second sitting guests, 8.30 been able to watch the show prior to eating maybe the shows starting at 7.00pm rather than not being able to see the shows until 10.45 whereby we were never able to go to bed until midnight as did not want to miss evening entertainment. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2011
First timer's so should we stay close to home or go for it. We looked at booking the Hebridean Princess but for the same money we could visit places we had never seen; so we went for it. North Wales to North Shields went better ... Read More
First timer's so should we stay close to home or go for it. We looked at booking the Hebridean Princess but for the same money we could visit places we had never seen; so we went for it. North Wales to North Shields went better than we thought by car, well until we got to North Shields, then spent an hour or so going round in circles. Luckily we decided to stay the night so not a great problem and we were right beside the Port. After a walk around North Shields in the morning we set off to the Port. Parking was easy as was dropping off the bags but the terminal ... what a dump and the sinks were not working in the gents. The wait wasn't to long and after the Gold Members boarded so did the rest of us. Up the plank and aboard we were, we did have to ask where to go but we were told. Pleased to see that everything worked well and all the bags we in the cabin. The cabin was a good size and we had a great view of the Life Boat although we were warned, but we had a balcony which was great. Not so great was finding the last guests half drunk fizz and nibbled snacks in the fridge, but it was cleared away. We had two large wardrobes lots of cupboards and mirrors and a bottle of fizz (unopened). The bathroom had a bath with shower cupboard space and all was nice and clean and a pair of bathrobes with slippers and toiletries. We opted for 2nd seating for dining and we shared a table with some lovely people and the quality of food was always very good and more than enough although breakfast was a bit of a muddle which I put down to fitting 2 sittings into a single space. There was the option of eating at the Secret Garden Restaurant but it always looked mobbed to me but we tried it once and the quality was the same. The entertainment covered a large range from deck games quiz's and bingo during the day to cabaret and dancing in the evenings. Dancing was everything from formal to disco. Personally I think they should keep this but also look to introduce say a bit of Tamla/Northern Soul or maybe Jazz to reflect that young folk like are getting older and starting to go on cruises. TV Radio was rubbish. Organised trips reflected was there was to see. St Petersburg was fantastic because it is. Turku had a fire way back and that is what you are going see and hear about. There are talks about where to visit on board but its a bit late if the tours are full. Didn't get to Sweden as it was blowing a gale. But all in all very good. Dressing up for formal nights and the themed nights we great fun and kept my wife shopping for weeks before we went. Staff are very good and very attentive. Small point. They started referbing on the 9th floor above my head it sounded like. Called reception who said it would stop, it did not. Next day it started again, I went to see the Guest Relation person who genuinely appeared surprised and came to look, she was shocked and said that it would stop. It did and she called the next day to make sure. It started again after her call but softly. Back to Blighty and we packed our bags the night before and they had been collected. We were asked to vacate our cabins and wait in the public rooms to disembark, which we did. It was a shame that a lot of the tables and chairs were stacked up as the carpet was being replaced. But we were called to disembark after a very short wait and coached to the terminal (what is the point of the coaches)where the bags were placed in rows between the seats making it very difficult to get to. Out to the car and then home. All in all CAN NOT WAIT TO GO AGAIN and yes with Fred Olsen Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2011
SWMBO had been pestering me to go on a cruise for years. She has been on several without me due to various work commitments. However she pinned me down to this one. What was i expecting, not to sure tbh. Embarkation was steady and ... Read More
SWMBO had been pestering me to go on a cruise for years. She has been on several without me due to various work commitments. However she pinned me down to this one. What was i expecting, not to sure tbh. Embarkation was steady and organised, and the meet and greet was good. In fact, for me the highlight of the trip was the level of service we received from the staff, which was top rate. Food came a close second, with a variety of excellent meals available in the evening, breakfast and lunch were mainly a buffet/as much as you can eat arrangement, but still good. The ship itself had all the restaurants at the stern, which meant a long trek for the Father-in-law from the cabin for every meal, and the Ship got kicked about quite badly in the North Sea, so much so that some travellers elected to fly home rather than face it again. The night time entertainment was good, with a variety of acts from a world class cellist to an easy listening trio. The on-board drinks were reasonably priced (certainly compared to Norway). I was a bit disappointed with the 'buy this photo or DVD' at nearly every turn, but as a no frills deal, it was only to be expected. Overall, would i go again? possibly not as it's not my thing, however SWMBO was happy and that's what counts. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2011
We booked an 8 night cruise to the Norwegian Fjiords and I was really looking forward to it and my husband was going to "make the best of it" We found boarding at Southampton a relatively easy proceedure with care being taken to ... Read More
We booked an 8 night cruise to the Norwegian Fjiords and I was really looking forward to it and my husband was going to "make the best of it" We found boarding at Southampton a relatively easy proceedure with care being taken to ensure that passengers did not all rush at once causing log jams. Our cabin was as expected a BA grade with balcony and had masses of storage room. The bathroom was a little dated but everything was spotlessly clean and well equipped. We went to our first dinner on a shared table for 6 there was one man on his own so we were only 5 and luckily we all got on famously and are still in touch. The food was excellent throughout and the waiters wonderful we both only drink de-caf coffee and he never forgot to bring it for us. There was an excellent choice every day and we alternated the cafe for breakfast with the Spey dining room and having it in our cabin. How anyone could complain about the food on this ship is quite beyond me! It was my birthday during the trip and we had booked the celebration package at £65 which included breakfast in the room of Lobster, champagne, fresh fruit a card and a present and in the evening we noticed there was a curry night in the Palms cafe and decided with our table mates to go there instead of the dining room and they insisted I should still have my cake which was brought along with guitars and singing waiters and candles. I visited the spa once and found it delightful it is necessary to book early as they are very popular. We intended to visit the gym and didn't but will next time as with all this wonderful food it is really necessary! Disembarking was also made easy and done in stages and I can't wait to go again. Highly recommended to those who want a cruise that has no gimmicks just good old fashioned service done with style. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2011
We are the sort who holiday in the quietest, remotest areas so we were nervous but decided this was the way to see the fjiords. What a revelation! Booking a suite with a balcony was definitely the way to go and worth every penny. I spent ... Read More
We are the sort who holiday in the quietest, remotest areas so we were nervous but decided this was the way to see the fjiords. What a revelation! Booking a suite with a balcony was definitely the way to go and worth every penny. I spent hours just sitting in privacy watching the mountains and rivers go by. We had no noise problems from other cabins nor at night which surprised us. We could be as private or involved as we wanted to be and the staff on the Black Watch were all wonderful without exception.We enjoyed the smaller size of the Black Watch and have decided we wouldn't like anything much bigger, especially after seeing one or two around the fjiords.Our only criticism was that it did seem silly to stop at Stavanger, where there were more shops, on a Sunday when all was closed, instead of a week day when we stopped at small places with very few shops but that might not be up to the cruiseline.We found Fred Olsen staff helpful and had absolutely no problems.Put it like this - we have already booked another one for 2012! We have even found one from the north of england which saves us going down to Dover although we had no problems with any of that either. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
After considering many options decided to go for Fred Olsen as it has a reputation for old fashioned British style cruising. We took the mini-cruise as taster - just in case - as not been on anything more than a channel ferry in the past. ... Read More
After considering many options decided to go for Fred Olsen as it has a reputation for old fashioned British style cruising. We took the mini-cruise as taster - just in case - as not been on anything more than a channel ferry in the past. Found the booking process - direct with FO at the Telegraph Cruise show quick & easy. All documentation & tickets arrived on time. Booked parking through APB - again quick & easy. Didn't get the email from FO about the delay - so rolled up at Soton about 1230 - where the car was taken away before we we told there would be several hours to wait. would have been nice to know before we handed over the keys. The staff seemed in total disarray - got different stories about check in times depending on who you spoke to. Once through security spent 3 hours or so in a warehouse type lounge with one small expensive cafe/bar. Would have been a good gesture if FO had laid on some free refreshments at this stage. Not a good introduction. Once onboard things improved. Being on deck 9 had it's advantages - as we were amongst the first to board. Having got through the ID photo but we were told the cabins were available so we went straight there. All but one bag was waiting for us. Cabin was roomy, clean & bright. Dumped the stuff and headed for the Lido bar for a drink - service was polite & quick. Last bag was waiting at cabin on our return. Balcony cabin was as spacious and well equipped as many hotel rooms - could easily have spent a much longer cruise in there. Everything worked - although TV channels a bit limited and reception poor. Tends to vibrate a bit when ship is docking - probably as right at the back. However view (side&rear) from balcony compensates for this. Staff in general very polite & attentive. Found all bar staff to be helpful and unlike other reviewers never had to queue or wait for drink. Agree Lighthouse pub not very inviting. Dined in Ballindoch on second sitting. Food was good - some dishes better that others - served quickly and efficiently. Not piping hot - but plenty warm enough. Pre-ordered wine was waiting on the table. Took breakfast in the Palms - once again never had to queue and buffet was plentiful and of good quality. Only lunched on board once - went to the Spey restaurant - where we were ignored by the staff! Left after 5 mins - went back to Ballindoch were we greeted and the buffet layout explained a soon as we sat down. Afternoon tea in the Palms of same standard as breakfast. Shows/entertainment were as you would expect but good fun when taken in context. Didn't have cause to use the gym or other public rooms but all looked well equipped. Pool areas were nice if small - but noticed prople did tend to hog the jacuzzis. Daily news was very helpful. Going ashore a very organised process. On the last day we barely had time for breakfast before disembarking - all bags waiting for us, car just round the corner, so we were away from the dock in no time at all. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2011
Myself and my husband are brand new to cruising and thought we would try a mini cruise to 'test the water'. Fred Olsen was recommended by (an older) relative, as it is a smaller ship and not overun by kids.Perhaps our ... Read More
Myself and my husband are brand new to cruising and thought we would try a mini cruise to 'test the water'. Fred Olsen was recommended by (an older) relative, as it is a smaller ship and not overun by kids.Perhaps our expectations of a cruise were too high, but speaking with other new cruisers who were doing the same as us on this 'taster weekend', I don't think so. This was Fred Olsen's opportunity to capture a new market and they failed miserably.Firstly admin: I had to call Fred Olsen twice to tell them that we hadn't received our tickets and in the end were issued with an e-ticket. They managed to send the bill to the right address so why not the tickets?The ship was delayed getting into port so embarkation was delayed by 3 hours. Fortunately we were emailed by FO to alert us to this so didn't leave home until later in the day, but many passengers didn't or couldn't. Needless to say check in was horrendous - lengthy queues and disorganisation ruled the day. This set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Queues and lengthy waits for everything including breakfast seating and drinks just made what should have been a relaxing break into alot of frustrating hard work.We booked a superior outside cabin which was reminiscent of a ferry cabin, and though it was clean, was very shabby and in much need of decoration and a new bathroom.We were booked into the Spey restaurant for dinner and even though on second sitting, we felt rushed all the way through. Waiters were surly and it was very difficult to attract their attention particularly at breakfast time when it was hard to get coffee and toast served in time to go with the rest of the meal.On the third morning we went into the Ballindalloch restaurant for breakfast and have to say that service was marginally better in there.Food could hardly be called 'fine dining'. It was adequate 'function catering' if rather boring - alot of it was based on roast meat and veg, starters and desserts were OK if generally tasteless. It's a pity that 'hot' food arrived at the table tepid, and cold food really was very chilled. We ate once in the Palms cafe - afternoon tea on the day of embarkation - after that we avoided it like the plague. It was noisy, tables were dirty, glass seating dividers were smeared with grease and upholstered seating was badly stained... not nice.The Captains Welcome Cocktail party was a joke - more rugby scrum mentality and shockingly bad service. The party took place in the Neptune lounge. It took us 30 mins to get a drink and no canapes got as far as the area in which we and 40 others were sitting. To us, it just felt like a 'hard sell' for tours, future cruises and of course the obligatory photo with the captain.Outside sitting areas were generally tidy and there appeared to be enough loungers and chairs, but then it was a bit breezy so maybe not everyone wanted to be outside. It did became quite difficult to move around when everyone sprawled out on loungers and grouped them together. It was also worrying to see passengers sitting in jacuzzis holding drinks in glasses, despite their being notices displayed forbidding it. Staff didn't seem to care. We will probably try cruising in the future, but definitely not with Fred Olsen. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2011
Although first impressions are good I was very disapointed overall in my experience as a first time cruiser on the Balmoral. My cabin, a superior single on the Lido deck, may be described as 'tired'. Surfaces worn, a drawer ... Read More
Although first impressions are good I was very disapointed overall in my experience as a first time cruiser on the Balmoral. My cabin, a superior single on the Lido deck, may be described as 'tired'. Surfaces worn, a drawer chipped and the bathroom poorly patched up (when I entered the cabin there was a rust hole at the bottom of the metal bath panel which was dealt with at some time during the voyage). I was particularly concerned about the position of the television and its tangle of wiring in relation to the only possible place to use the electric kettle.I may also say that the position of the bedside light in relation to the way the bed was laid out (pillows at the far end of the bed adjacent to the outside door) meant that the bed was fine during the day for lounging or watching television but in order to read in bed I had to set the bedding out the other way round at night.The door to the balcony wouldn't remain completely closed since, even though locked, the catch would slip and there was considerable wind noise, which was rather disturbing.I had expected excellent food in the Spey restarant, this surely is one of the high spots of any cruise. I have to say that in some cases it was hardly better than superior school dinners! Neither pork nor the chicken tasted of anything. I did have some acceptable meals there but the quality was very uneven. The Palms Cafe was better, at least one could see in advance what was on offer and choose accordingly. In addition the service at times was rushed. On the penultimate night plates were being removed from our table and the next course brought while some of us were still eating. The waiters also clearly forgot to ask for our orders for pudding. The restaurant was also very noisy. I have good hearing but at times it was difficult to have a conversation because of the noise from other tables. My elderly father who is rather deaf (I was travelling with my parents) found it impossible.I also have to say that the whole dressing up in DJs for men on four evenings was completely unnecessary and pretentious. I just looked in on the entertainment since nothing appealed. The ports' lecturer was terrible. I could have done better with a quick look at Wikipedia and other internet sites. He was really just advertising the excursions. The guest lecturer, a retired MEP was a bit better. Excursions were generally ok but highly priced and most satisfactory were the trips out I made on my own in Tallin and elsewhere. It was a waste of money to do both the coach panorama trip around St Petersburg and the Waterways tour but the trip to the Palaces of the Romanovs with the opportunity to see the suburbs and countryside around St Petersburg was good and the restoration work after the destruction by the Germans, extremely impressive.I was surprised by just how elderly and infirm many passengers were and at 65 I was one of the younger ones. It is clear that this ship or this cruise line appeals to the Daily Mail reader. That was the daily internet produced newspaper paper available and the paper that headed the list in the survey of passengers. I left the comedian's performance when he started telling jokes about immigrant benefit scroungers.This trip was my first experience of cruising. There were many things that I enjoyed about the experience but most of those are not related to the ship or its facilities. In all this cruise cost me getting on for £4,500 including the fuel surcharge. I don't regard that as good value for money and I will certainly not be recommending Fred Olsen cruise lines to friends.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
This was the 1st time my husband and myself had been on a cruise. So we thought we would enjoy a smaller ship, but that was a mistake. Small and friendly to us after we had done the cruise represented cramped and forced to speak to ... Read More
This was the 1st time my husband and myself had been on a cruise. So we thought we would enjoy a smaller ship, but that was a mistake. Small and friendly to us after we had done the cruise represented cramped and forced to speak to people. The experience of boarding the ship at Dover, which has been repeated on many of your reviews, was without doubt a very good experience. We had an alloted time to check in and everything went smooth. The taxi dropped us off, the porter took our cases, and we didnt see them again until we boarded the ship and they were in our cabin. The 1st few days the weather was poor and there were insufficient seats inside without squashing on tables with people. When the sun came out it was not quite so bad, but you still sometimes had to share. I think this is where I realise perhaps cruising is not for me. I like to read my book, but that was impossible as the minute someone sat at your table they felt they had to talk incessently which got on my nerves. At breakfast in the Thistle restaurant two people could not sit alone, you always had to share, and always had to sit opposite you were not allowed to sit side by side. I do mean not allowed, when I expressed that I did not want to sit in the middle of a table of 10 the waiter shrugged his shoulders and beckoned the next couple over, leaving us no choice but to go to another restaurant for breakfast. Not a treatment expected as they bill themselves as a 5star country house hotel style. As other people have pointed out the drinks were reasonably priced, the choice of wines was excellent Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
We chose to cruise on the Braemar for our first ever cruise as the dates suited, we loiked the idea of no flying and I thought the weather would be kind!!! Embarkation at Dover was a breeze, as suite customers we walked straight into ... Read More
We chose to cruise on the Braemar for our first ever cruise as the dates suited, we loiked the idea of no flying and I thought the weather would be kind!!! Embarkation at Dover was a breeze, as suite customers we walked straight into lunch in the Thistle restaurant then up to our suite. Loved 7043, the suite is L shaped and you can partition off the sleeping area with a curtain. Large balcony and being mid to rear seemed well placed. Lots of wardrobe space. Bathroom small but excellent shower and efficient loo! Friends had 7010 which was lovely and bright but just one room and their balcony was smaller. They were very near the front of the ship and you could feel the difference. As other posts say the first three days were rough! We did not realise how bad it was until more seasoned travellers and the crew put us right. Our friend was very poorly. At this time I thought the ship was really spacious but soon realised everyone was in bed! Gym small but good equipment. when we finally got to dry land it rained, the first week was a washout but the second week was lovely and I can see why people cruise.The sailaways were great but short and a free drink would not have gone amiss! The Braemar is a lovely ship, small but we liked that. We ate in the Grampian restaurant, 2nd sitting and were very impressed with the quality of the food and the service. Drinks reasonably priced too Entertainment was good, resident band and show company were excellent but by the end of the fortnight had heard some of the songs a few too many times...Knock three times anyone? I am nearly 50 and I doubt if there were ten people younger than me on the cruise so maybe the entertainment was set accordingly. We won a few bottles of fizz at the evening quizzes, there was a lot going on during the day as well but this seemed geared for the older element. The mobility of a lot of passengers was impaired - this was not a problem for us but there was always a queue for the lifts. In an emergency people would not be able to get out. We ended up helping quite a few people up and down steps etc as well. We explored the ports independently but friends did the tours and thought they were good. Will definitely cruise again but not for a while...would love to do the Fjords and cruisers I know say this is Fred's forte Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2010
Balmoral! Where do I begin,!? My husband and I had never done a cruise till this one.We had booked another one due to sail with another company in August,but had to cancel due to Trev my husband having suffered a heart attack.Once we got ... Read More
Balmoral! Where do I begin,!? My husband and I had never done a cruise till this one.We had booked another one due to sail with another company in August,but had to cancel due to Trev my husband having suffered a heart attack.Once we got the all clear for Trev we booked Balmoral,we were not dissapointed. I had always wanted to cruise but nerves always got in the way,now we were to taste the water (so to speak )! When the day arrived I stood at the gangway as Trev said to me look at Balmoral she will be your home for the next 22 days,I was shocked at her size,speechless and motionless for quite a few moments until I caught my breath ,Nervous very,Amazed Totally but once I embarked Balmoral I knew she would keep me safe.She was warm inviting and very very elegant.She gave Trev and I a joyous time sailing and when our cruise was over we were elated with the complete experience. The Crew were second to none our cabin was kept spotless every day,the food was excellent ,the entertainment fantastic ,and the other cruisers who were all more experienced than us were truly nice people.We did have a fellow cruiser who had to airlifted off Balmoral due to the fact this chap was ill,we also lost an engine which to be quite honest didnt make a lot of difference to us as we had everything on Balmoral that you could want,ok we did miss 2 ports of call but at the end of the day it is not the end of the world.We are saving as fast as we can to get booking our second cruise on Balmoral.ROLL ON . Read Less
Sail Date: November 2009
Our first cruise was almost four weeks long and covered ten ports in the Mediterranean. Our cabin was clean, roomy and comfortable with ample storage space in both wardrobes and drawers. The bathroom was spotless and toiletries were all ... Read More
Our first cruise was almost four weeks long and covered ten ports in the Mediterranean. Our cabin was clean, roomy and comfortable with ample storage space in both wardrobes and drawers. The bathroom was spotless and toiletries were all supplied. We didn't actually book any of the ship's tours on shore as this was an Ancient Wonders of the World cruise and being in our sixties we see enough ancient wonders every day when we look at each other. However, we did go ashore and do our own thing in every port, walking for miles and finding plenty of interest locally. These ports included Almeria, Spain; Villefrance, France; Katekolon and Pireaus in Greece; La Goulette and Sfax in Tunisia; Limassol, Cyprus, Cittiavechia, Italy and Lisbon, Portugal. The only place we stayed on deck was in Alexandria, because by the time we had sunbathed for a while and done a bit of reading, coffee drinking and cake eating, earlier passengers were already returning to the ship saying "Don't Do It". They were apparently all being accosted at the port gates not only by sellers of Egyptian "antiquities" (mostly stuffed camels) but the taxi drivers were severely harassing passengers and one elderly lady was lifted off her feet and placed inside a taxi, having to be rescued by other British guests. The ships officers had to call the police to remove the offenders from the port gates. The entertainment on board surpassed our expectations. The Show Company were brilliant, putting on excellent shows which we really enjoyed. We also had a comedian, Don Reid, who is a very funny man with clean humour, and in addition a Magician. We very much enjoyed going up to the Crow's Nest at the end of every day where Jackie, a lovely pianist with a beautiful voice played soft jazz songs and ended our day on a very pleasant note. There was also a jazz band on board who performed in their own shows, but often joined Jackie in the Crow's Nest and played some impromptu numbers accompanying her singing. The whole of the top deck of the Balmoral is devoted to swimming pool, spa pools and sunbeds, so there is plenty of room for everybody to get a suntan and there was an additional pool and large sunbathing area at the back of the ship on Deck 9. The cuisine on board was probably not what I would call 4* and was a little repetitive, for example after the Tropical Night, when we had coconut deserts etc, we then had several days where coconut appeared at every meal in some disguise, even once appearing as pink coconut soup! The meals could definitely be improved, but we certainly didn't go hungry and there was plenty of choice. The buffet restaurant, Palms Cafe, was excellent, serving delicious breakfasts, wonderful lunches and themed evening meals (eg. curries, or chinese). Virtually all the staff on board were Philippino and were wonderful. Cheerful, charming, funny, helpful, hardworking and tireless. There isn't a huge shopping area on the Balmoral, but then we weren't looking for Regent Street. Our Captain was Norwegian and he was a real treat of the day. He often walked around the ship, mixing with the guests, he ate his lunch in the Palms Cafe, he was approachable and entertaining. Each morning at 9.00 am and each evening at 6.00 pm, he would address the passengers over the tannoy and his little speeches were a delight. Everyone went quiet in order to listen to him and he was a very well respected man. We would recommend the Balmoral to anyone looking for a pleasant, relaxing cruise and would certainly cruise with Fred Olsen again when the opportunity arises. Read Less
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