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13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
All in all an excellent first ever cruise for us. That is apart from an irresponsible passenger who decided to abandon the Barcelona tour and make his own way back to the ship without telling anyone. He caused a 40 minute delay whilst a ... Read More
All in all an excellent first ever cruise for us. That is apart from an irresponsible passenger who decided to abandon the Barcelona tour and make his own way back to the ship without telling anyone. He caused a 40 minute delay whilst a search for him was conducted which in turn caused the abandonment of the highlight stop on the tour. Not Fred's fault I know, but very very annoying. Boarding at Dover was a breeze, we were aboard before we knew it. Our suite, 5015 on the Main Deck was very comfortable and well serviced as was the rest of the ship. No sign of the dreaded Noravirus. There were sanitisers everywhere. All the passengers appeared to use them as a matter of course which was good to see. The food was excellent. Somehow I managed to maintain my weight. Goodness knows how. Disembarkation was pretty quick although there was a slight delay due to fork lift activity around the dock. We enjoyed the experience so much we re-booked on board for the Amalfi Coast Cruise aboard Boudicca in April 2017 Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
Having worked for four years in P&Os iconic ss Canberra, including her farewell cruise in 1998 prior to her being decommissioned, I have always avoided the temptation of a cruise holiday; party because I had 'been there and done ... Read More
Having worked for four years in P&Os iconic ss Canberra, including her farewell cruise in 1998 prior to her being decommissioned, I have always avoided the temptation of a cruise holiday; party because I had 'been there and done that' albeit from a different perspective, and also because I feared I would spend too much time complaining that 'it isn't like it used to be...' However a partner keen to cruise, a twenty year time gap and a curiosity to see how things had changed, combined to weaken my resolve. What I thought they did well: Firstly, the crew. I know it's a cliché, but the mainly Indian, Filipino and Thai crew could not have worked harder or done more to make our cruise enjoyable. They were friendly, engaging, always appeared happy and managed to remember our names and our favourite drinks. I really could not fault them. Our cabin: we booked a modest deck 2 outside cabin, which was surprisingly spacious and well appointed, though slightly dated decor-wise. The cabin was clean and our cabin steward(ess) (Kitty) was a delight. Even a severe flood requiring a cabin change on the last night was well-handled, with housekeeping staff appointed to help us pack and move. A letter of apology and a £50 credit to our on-board account to apologise for the inconvenience was a nice way to defuse any irritation we may have felt. Food: I thought the food was absolutely first rate. Every day I ordered breakfast from the menu rather than the buffet, and I could not fault it if I tried. The galley even made a slight adjustment to their kedgeree recipe to suit my spicier palate. Lunch as usually taken in the buffet or shore-side when alongside. The buffet was good with plenty of choice. Afternoon Tea (only taken twice) was perhaps the weakest offer - sandwiches were tasty but a but clunky and unrefined, the cake selection was limited, the scones were not the best (a bit dry) and served with UHT whipped cream, which as a shame given we were in port six of ten days so obtaining fresh stores should not have been a problem. Dinner, however, was the highlight of the day; we were lucky to have 4 great table companions whose company we enjoyed and who each added a different perspective to the conversation. Our Head Waiter (Xavier) and the Commis Waiter (Ryan) were efficient, charming and friendly. Each night we had a five course menu, with three to six choices of each. In total we had ten meals on board and I don't think I once left the restaurant unhappy. Full marks and thank you to all concerned. Guest entertainers: we had some super guest entertainers, including Leo Shavers (musician) whose impromptu jazz session was superb. The classical pianist was good, though I would like to have heard more of him, as was the Welsh baritone singer - both of whose names have slipped my mind (sorry). I also greatly appreciated the bridge lessons, which has whetted my appetite for the game. The Braemar Orchestra and the cocktail pianist were also super. Disembarkation: this morning we woke at 7am, were showered and packed by 7.45am and we're in our car on the way home by 8.45am. It could not have gone better. What I didn't like: Having been effusive in my praise for what I felt was done well, I will be equally honest in highlighting what I didn't like. Braemar Show Company: in fairness, a few of them put their heart and soul into the shows, but generally I thought their productions were uninspiring and badly choreographed and the team were very young and lacked believe-ability. Sadly I felt most of them didn't really want to be there and made little effort to hide the fact. Reception (Purser's Desk): I had little dealing with the front desk, apart from towards the end of the cruise when I noticed a billing error. We had upgraded to the 'all inclusive' drinks package for an additional £10 per person per night, this allowed complimentary 'house' drinks and 50% discount on branded drinks, cocktails and wine. When I checked my account on day 8 I noticed they had charged for all drinks. I raised this with the front desk, and rather than apologising and promising to investigate the error, I was asked if I could 'prove' we had paid for the all-inclusive package. I informed the receptionist that I was able to do so as I had just checked my online bank statement and I could see the £200 additional payment leaving my account. Having insulted me once by asking me to prove my case, she then insulted me again by asking how I was able to access my account as the ship's satellite wasn't working (for the record I had international data roaming and was able to access via my Blackberry). Having convinced her I was telling the truth I was then told that they would have to re-enter all our purchases with the relevant discount and we shouldn't order any drinks until this was done. Given this was an error wholly of the company's making, to have a member of staff twice infer I was lying and then to cause me further inconvenience whilst they sorted out an error of their own making, was a poor show. I honestly do not think they could have handled the situation more badly than they did. Show timings: it was also a slightly irritating that passengers on second sitting (8.30pm) had to watch the cabaret at 7.30pm (before dinner) with first sitting passengers watching the cabaret at 8.30pm. Personally, I like to relax with a glass of champagne or a cocktail and chat with my partner/friends pre-dinner - which I couldn't do unless I missed the cabaret. Nor did I particularly want to watch a jazz show or a comedian at 7.30pm before eating. I understand second sitting passengers usually watch a later show and it had been changed for this cruise. If so, I don't think it worked very well. Visibility of Senior Officers; my final gripe was the total lack of visibility of the 4 stripe officers on board. This might be a throw-back to my P&O days, but I would have expected to see the ship's senior management out and about in public areas most evenings, even if only for an hour pre-dinner. Apart from the welcome aboard Cocktail Party I didn't see the Captain, First Officer or Purser once during the whole cruise, which I thought was surprising and disappointing. Overall, despite the above complaints we had a super time. Would I cruise again? Much to my surprise, the answer is yes. And I would also happily cruise with Fred. Olsen in Braemar again. However the bar tenders, the stewards and the waiters were far better ambassadors for the company than the ships' officers and deserve to be acknowledged as such. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2014
Norway - Rivers and Railways cruise. First time cruisers so make of this what you will. Service, was good throughout though the pronunciation of English, yes, we know it is a world language, really was hard to follow sometimes - and we ... Read More
Norway - Rivers and Railways cruise. First time cruisers so make of this what you will. Service, was good throughout though the pronunciation of English, yes, we know it is a world language, really was hard to follow sometimes - and we are well-used to multicultural London. The numbers were well-managed at breakfast times when everyone arrived at 9am we thought. The all-inclusive drinks package was only just about worth it for us two though one of us was getting over an operation, the other about to have one and loosing weight. The floor shows reminded us of the end of the pier show at Cromer pier which many rave over but not us. A clean and well-painted and well-polished ship. Getting off the ship in Stavanger was not well-managed as cruisers were left standing on the main staircase for up to an hour without any expiation for the delays. The shore tours which we booked a number of and spent about £600 on were not all that well finessed with pretty disengaged entertainment staff roped in as somewhat reluctant tour leaders. The Bergen steam railway tour began as a sort of anticlimax, a pre-climax as the station (and shop?) were not opened for us. There was loose talk of coffee which never arrived and the visit fizzled out beside a busy main road, not even a group picture. The follow-on tour of Bergen city centre in a max size 3-axle coach was we thought an inappropriate way to sight-see a small city centre, in the rain. With only four elevators (lifts) for the elderly passengers when one of then broke down, as it did, there was real inconvenience. We paid extra for white glove Afternoon Tea but the staff were flustered when we arrived at the correct time and this was the only time that service standards slipped really, as far as we were concerned. It didn't help the occasion that scruffy passengers wandered in and out of the bar around us in essentially beach wear. A lot of men did not make much effort to dress appropriately for the two formal dinner nights. We are thinking of booking with Fred.Olsen again but wonder if the organisation isn't a tad blind to it shore tour shortcomings? Read Less
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
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
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: 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: 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
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
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