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3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
We sailed on the "Balmoral" on 21 December. The "meet and greet" parking at Southampton was very courteous and efficient. Although the City cruise terminal was being renovated the temporary departure lounge was ... Read More
We sailed on the "Balmoral" on 21 December. The "meet and greet" parking at Southampton was very courteous and efficient. Although the City cruise terminal was being renovated the temporary departure lounge was satisfactory. Boarding was very swift (aided greatly bt membership of the "Oceans Gold" club). The ship looked in good condition as it had only come out of dry-dock two days earlier. We has accommodation on Deck 6 (main deck) which was fine. There was sufficient storage space and the air-condioning was effective. The picture window added to the overall aspect of the cabin. Overall it was in good condition. We were fortunate enough to have calm seas throughtout the whole cruise save on the final day when it was a little choppy. The weather was good which is not always the case in these climes in mid-Winter. The ship was beautifully decorated for Christmas and the "gingerbread town" was a triumph. We selected the Spey restaurant for dinner and the food and service was up to Fred. Olsen's usual standard. We took other meals in the various other restaurants and the standard of food was equally good. The Chinese and Asian speciality nights were particularly enjoyable. The staff and crew on board Fred. Olsen's ships are a key selling point and on this cruise it was no exception. We had port calls in Lisbon, Funchal, Santa Cruz (Tenerife), Las Palmas (Gran Canaria), Arricife (Lanzarote) and Gibraltar. All had their good points but the boat trip in Lisbon and afternoon tea at the gorgeous Reid's Hotel in Madeira were perhaps the best. Christmas Eve was was celebrated with a cabaret show, carol singing and a Holy Communion service at midnight. Christmas Day was also well celebrated althought afternoon was a bit lacking in entertainment and a little flat. Dinner that night was traditional and excellent. New Year's Eve was most enjoyable with an excellent dinner (including haggis and a "wee dram") and a deck party. Although the fireworks in Gibraltar were ok they didn't compare with Madeira. Also it was rather chilly. I don't think this is the ideal port for a New Year call. Although this was a pretty good cruise I do have a few gripes, 1. The ship was just out of dry-dock but there was a great deal of maintenance and painting going on which was, at time intrusive. When the reception was asked why this was necessary we were told that the ship had to be in good condition for the upcoming "long cruise". This is quite unacceptable. 2. The "Balmoral" orchestra plays at every possible occasion eg cocktail parties, receptions and "shows". The volume is so hight that normal conversation is virtually impossible. Thsi is an on-going problem which FOCL really should investigate. 3. As the weather was pretty good it was a pity that the swimming pool on deck 7 was so often closed. 4. The lecture weren't very good with the exception of those concerning millionaires. I would describe most as "minority interest talks. They was certainly not up to the normal standard.   Read Less
Sail Date: December 2013
My husband and I had the worst cruise in 25 years of cruising. We were due to leave Southampton on 20th December but the Captain announced that due to heavy storms we would have to stay in port overnight and leave the following afternoon. ... Read More
My husband and I had the worst cruise in 25 years of cruising. We were due to leave Southampton on 20th December but the Captain announced that due to heavy storms we would have to stay in port overnight and leave the following afternoon. We have subsequently discovered that we believe the delay was due to technical problems with the ship, bearing in mind this ship had a 2 day breakdown on the previous cruise, and a further breakdown on the following cruise. So because we were late leaving, our stop in Madeira was cancelled and our first stop would be Barbados after 11 sea days. We actually sailed past Madeira half a day later than scheduled so we could have had a stop there. The P&O ship Aurora left Southampton on the day we were due to leave so how did that ship weather the storm.? We could have left on time we were sure if the ship was mechanically fit. The first week onboard was a nightmare, the weather was awful and a lot of passengers were seasick, me included, I couldn't wait to reach a port, any port. The captain announced that we were only going to be able to have three and a half days port stops instead of the scheduled seven stops. We emailed Fred Olsen to show our disappointment and eventually the port stops were extended a bit, but still only 4 and a half days, everyone was disgusted. On top of all this people were so upset at having to pay £2 a day to have their dining time changed, it is an absolute ripoff. People should ask for the opposite sitting to the one they want because it is a money spinner for Fred. Then they closed one of the bars for 4or5 daysto redecorate it, can you beleive this. The next bombshell was workmen turned up and started moving a companionway on two decks. There was drilling and sawing all day for days on end, and tarpaulin coverings which looked so shabby, So many people complained that they stopped daytime work and started nightwork on both decks.You couldn't make it up. So many people couldn't sleep with the noise that the workmen went back to daytime work. It was so disrespectful to all the passengers onboard, no compensation was offered, not even a complementary bottle of wine on each table. Can you imagine it, sitting on deck, or eating lunch on deck and looking at men working on your deck and the one below, I could go on and on about our total disappointment with this cruise, the food was very average, not up to previous Fred Olsen cruises. We have cruised with P&O, Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Princess and never ever experienced anything like this. We have used Fred Olsen cruises for years, we are gold members, and have always recommended them as good value for money and really lovely waiters, cabin crew and reception staff, in fact all the crew have always been exceptional, but since old Fred handed over to young Fred it has all gone to pot, it is such a shame. I really think because of all these cutbacks and lack of consideration for their passengers enjoyment that their days are numbered. We are very upset by this and so are many other Fred Olsen passengers that we know. Bring back original Fred please. I would never cruise on the Black watch again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2012
Boarded at Portsmouth in no time and luggage already at cabin.Cabins have been refurbed and it was sufficient for our needs and conveniently positioned near the spa.and lifts. Everyone on board seemed to contract the cabin cough, however, ... Read More
Boarded at Portsmouth in no time and luggage already at cabin.Cabins have been refurbed and it was sufficient for our needs and conveniently positioned near the spa.and lifts. Everyone on board seemed to contract the cabin cough, however, it was probably because we are not used to air conditioning. The crossing over was quite rough,but then it was fine for the rest of the time. Beds comfy, food very good indeed and waiters although they have more tables to deal with than on other cruises it went well and the steaks and fish were very nice. My husband contracted winter vomiting or norovirus on New Years day as well as bronchitis. Fred Olsen do NOT CHARGE for norovirus injections tablets etc but they DO charge for ordinary illness, eg bonchitis.The male nurse, in particular was very good indeed to my husband and we had to stay on board until everyone had left when we docked at Portsmouth. The ship was decorated and there were carol services and a Christmas service, which were well attended with the staff all on stage and the audience taking part. It was nice. There were the usual quoits shuffleboard, quizzes, bridge and various arty things as well as lectures if you wanted them. One thing that is needed for European sailing is heaters outside the lido bar on deck 7 (the only place smoking is allowed) it is freezing trying to smoke in a gale in evening dress. The automatic heaters they use in pub smoking places and Thomson cruises have them on Celebration would be nice and civilised. The entertainment was so, so. The dance crew need new costumes and the comedian and singer were ok, but the panto was absolutely awful, made you embarrasses to look at it, and the seating is bad in the theatre which is really a lounge not a theatre. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
Our first cruise with Fred Olsen and it won't be our last! We liked the Braemar immediately, the decor is lovely. Staff were mostly Philippino and excellent. Our cabin was definitely small, but was not a problem. Our first cabin ... Read More
Our first cruise with Fred Olsen and it won't be our last! We liked the Braemar immediately, the decor is lovely. Staff were mostly Philippino and excellent. Our cabin was definitely small, but was not a problem. Our first cabin was 3069 and after 2 nights we asked to move as the noise from the floor above was not good. It turned out to be an air conditioning unit on the deck above. We were moved to the port side and all was well. The food was really excellent all the time and one thing that I noticed particularly having sailed with P&O 4 times was the buffet. On Fred O you don't get a tray, get your food and then try to find a table. You wait to be called, not more than a minute or so, then go and get your food. Also, all tables have white tablecloths and napkins. Really nice. Entertainment was pretty good, although my one reserve about Braemar would be that the theatre is very small and not well raked, so if you are in the middle, you have to crane your neck to see. However she is a small ship, and we had a similar situation on Artemis. this cruise was Choirs at Sea and we joined that, although I have not sung since I was 14! It was such fun and we gave two performances on the third last evening at sea. I have put our ports under Madeira as they don't exist on the list. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2012
This review will be quite detailed and is only my opinion but, as I'm a bit of a compulsive note taker, I have recorded information on the ship and ports which may be useful to others so here goes........... Background This was our ... Read More
This review will be quite detailed and is only my opinion but, as I'm a bit of a compulsive note taker, I have recorded information on the ship and ports which may be useful to others so here goes........... Background This was our first Fred Olsen cruise but our 30th ocean cruise...... can you tell we like cruising? My husband and I are in our mid 60s and I have some mobility problems. My husband and I are from the Midlands in the UK and we chose this cruise because it was very reasonably priced and fitted in with our holiday dates. Travel arrangements We travelled down by car from our home on the day before the cruise and stayed at the Premier Inn Central in Basingstoke which is roughly 30 miles from the dock in Southampton. I booked this hotel well in advance and got a room at a very reasonable rate (£36). The hotel is conveniently situated about 1mile from the town centre and within a leisure park with cinema and chain restaurants. Car Parking We pre-booked car parking with 'Cruise Parking' which is situated a 20 minute mini bus drive from the port area. The cost once again, was reasonable, especially compared to the port 'on site' car parks. The whole process was very straight forward. We drove into the site, handed over our keys and transferred our cases onto the mini bus trailer. From drop off to arriving at the port terminal took no more than 30 minutes. On arrival back in port we saw a representative from the company standing right outside the customs clearance area and he directed us to a waiting coach. Once again, it was approximately 30 minutes from getting out of customs to getting into our car. We will certainly use this company when cruising from Southampton. Boarding Unlike many other cruise lines, it is not worth arriving early at the terminus as the ship did not start boarding until just after 2.00p.m. We had been given 2.30p.m. as our embarkation time and we actually got on board at 2.45p.m. - Check-in was fairly quick -- about 20 minutes from arriving at the terminal (cases were whisked away) to completing the security checks and sitting down in the lounge. - There is a magazine stand just outside the departure lounge with many free travel and concept magazines. - There is plenty of seating inside the departure lounge together with toilet and snack facilities. - There was a stand advertising 'silver service afternoon tea' at £6.50pp. The same food is available without charge in the Palms Buffet. - Passengers are given a boarding number and groups of 20 are called to go through. This prevented a mad rush to get on board. - Once on board we were directed, not shown, to our cabin. Balmoral - the ship. My husband and I actually sailed on this ship in 2005 when it belonged to NCL and was Norwegian Crown. When it was sold to Fred Olsen the ship was stretched to add extra cabins and some new facilities. It was good to see that some of the original features still remained and we recognised the dining room, rear pool and buffet area. Balmoral is 43,500 tonnes with 1,300 passengers and 500 crew so a relatively small ship in comparison with many of today's liners. I felt it was geared towards the more mature passenger and had a definite British ambiance although there were a few guests from other countries on board and, as it was half term for many UK schools, there were over 50 children who appeared to be well catered for by the designated crew members. Muster Drill This took place immediately prior to sail away and the muster stations were all indoors. We took our life jackets, listened to the safety talk and then were asked to put on our life jackets. Dining options Palms Buffet - Food is not available 24 hours in the buffet. - The set times for breakfast 07.00 -- 09.30 Lunch 12.00 -- 14.30 Afternoon tea 15.30 -- 16.30 Dinner 18.30 -- 21.00 - IMHO the food was generally good with a fair variety of hot and cold dishes. - I did like the fact that the tables were set with a flower decoration, table mats, fabric serviettes, side plates and the correct amount of cutlery. Dining rooms - Evening Dining is traditional set times and tables -- early sitting is 6.15p.m. and late sitting is 8.30p.m. - Breakfast and Lunch servings are open seating in all 3 main dining rooms. Breakfast 08.00 -- 10.00 and Lunch 12.00 -- 14.00 - There are 3 dining rooms -- the largest, Ballindalloch Restaurant, is on deck 6 and the 2 smaller ones, Avon and Spey, are on deck 10. - There are several tables for 2 available. - I found the service to be efficient without being intrusive. - The menus were varied and always included a 'British traditional favourite'. - Food quality varied but I never had a bad meal. There are no speciality restaurants. Entertainment - There is no casino but there were a couple of Roulette and Black Jack tables available in the evening in one corner of the Lido Bar on deck 8. - The 'Morning Light Pub' was the main bar with comfortable seats and musical entertainment in the evenings. - There is a large Library with comfortable chairs, a good selection of books available to borrow, British news paper each lunch time and quizzes, crosswords and Sudoku challenges each day.- There is an internet room with computers but we didn't use it so I can't provide any information. - There were a few shops selling jewellery, clothes, cosmetics, alcohol, cigarettes and general items etc. - The Marquee lounge and the Observatory lounge on deck 11 provided quiet areas with good views. - The Neptune Lounge on deck 7 was the main show lounge and had sofas, swivel chairs and small tables. There was a fairly large dance floor which rose up to form a stage for the shows. My DH and I are keen ballroom dancers and we were in heaven.....there was ballroom and sequence dancing every evening and there were dance hosts (4 gentlemen and 1 lady) for people who needed a dance partner. - There were 3 production shows which I thought were among the best I have ever seen on a ship, a comedian who had most of the audience laughing (me included), a singing magician who, in my opinion, was poor and a terrific 'crew talent' show......definitely the best I have seen afloat. - There were 2 formal evenings where probably 70% of the passengers wore formal/semi-formal clothes plus a 'tropical' night and a 'rock and roll' night where approximately 30% of passenger dressed up. - There was a Captain's welcome and a Captain's farewell reception with free drinks and canapes. - There were quizzes, lectures, recitals, card competitions, craft classes, cookery demonstrations, dance lessons etc on sea days. Launderettes Wow!.......I know it is a bit strange to get excited about launderettes but, with creased clothes, modern airline baggage weight restrictions and longer cruises, I find the launderette particularly useful and the 2 on Balmoral are the best I have come across on cruise ships. - There are 2 launderettes -- 1 on deck 3 and 1 on deck 9. - They are both quite spacious rooms and fitted out in a similar pattern. - Each room has 8 front loading washing machines and 8 driers. - Deck 9 has 2 irons and deck 3 has 3 irons. - A wash costs £2 (tokens available from the reception desk) and that includes detergent which is automatically dispensed onto the clothes at the push of a button as the wash cycle starts. - Driers and irons are free. Remember to empty the water condenser at the top left corner of the drier to make drying more efficient. - If the washer door has been closed on an empty machine, there is a yellow tag to pull down on the left corner of the washing machine. - Opening hours are from 08.00 to 23.00 Cabin 5218A inside superior (deck 5 mid-ship) We were pleasantly surprised with the size, layout and comfort of the cabin. We knew when we booked this grade of cabin that the beds would be arranged in an 'L' shape so were quite happy with that. - I found the bed to be reasonably comfortable and the pillows were soft and fluffy which I like. - I found the duvet to be on the heavy side but my DH thought it was a perfect weight....everyone to their own! - I loved the fact that there was a kettle with coffee and tea sachets provided along with sugar, sweetener and milk cartons. It was lovely to have our early morning cuppa and I really don't know why the American cruise lines do not offer this facility on all their ships. - There was ample storage with plenty of drawers and hanging space in the wardrobes. - There was a bucket style chair and small glass table along with a large dressing table. - The safe was in the wardrobe and you input your own number. - The cabin had very good lighting which could be varied to make it darker or lighter. - There is a flat screen TV with BBC news, Sky news and sports channel, a film channel, bridge cam and interactive options -- pay films and access to your OB account. - There are plenty of plug sockets but they are US/European style. I brought an adapter and 4gang extension and this worked well. - I thought the bathroom was a reasonable size compared to our experiences with standard cabins on other cruise lines. - The best thing is the largish shower stall which had ½ glass wall/ ½ shower curtain so NO sticking curtain. The shower power was good and hot water was plentiful. - Toiletries were basic but reasonable quality -- liquid soap on the counter and liquid body wash in the shower. You could request things like shower caps, solid soap etc. - Towels and wash cloths were changed on request. Ports and ships tours. Our ports of call were -- La Rochelle, Getxo (for Bilbao), Aviles and La Coruna We had already visited all the ports except for Aviles. We decided to do 1 ship's tour and that was to Ile de Re just outside La Rochelle. We chose this one because a French friend holidays there regularly and we wanted to see the places he talked about. We also chose this one because it did not have 'compulsory walking' (Fred Olsen's description of their tours contains this information) and I have some mobility problems. - A set of port maps was left in each cabin during our 1st sea day. I thought this was a nice touch. - Ship's tours departed from the Neptune lounge. - All ports were industrial areas La Rochelle The dock is approximately 5 miles from the centre of La Rochelle and is a controlled area. - There was a free shuttle bus to the dock gates but there is nothing to see there and it is a very long walk from there into the town. - There is a small terminal building with a shop, toilets and tourist information desk. - FO ran a shuttle bus into the centre of La Rochelle for £10pp with unlimited transfers. These run from the car park outside the terminal building - The town is easily walkable with some pretty streets, an interesting small harbour area, outdoor cafes and many shops. Unfortunately, many things were closed or opened late as it was the end of the holiday season. - The Ile de Re tour was quite interesting. We saw the best of what was on offer including the Monastery ruins and some pretty fishing villages - La Flotte, Sainte-Marie-de-Re and Saint-Martin-de-Re were the most notable. There was 45 minutes free time in Saint-Martin-de-Re which was definitely not enough to explore the quaint streets and pretty harbour. Getxo and Bilbao Getxo is a thriving suburb of Bilbao and has its own charm. - Again it is an industrial port area so, although you could walk out of the port, it was a long way to the town centre. - There is a small terminal building with a shop, toilets and tourist information desk. - There were maps available in there. - FO ran unlimited return shuttle buses into the centre of Getxo for £5pp. The bus stopped 100 metres from the metro station where there are frequent trains into Bilbao. - There is a very nice beach just at the edge of the port. - There is a shopping complex just outside the port. - Getxo centre has cafes and shops. - There are some beautiful and imposing villas along the coast road. We had been to Bilbao twice before when I was more mobile and we had seen the main attractions already -- the Guggenheim Museum, the river front promenade and the Old Town -- so we decided not to do a ship's tour but to get the metro and then make our mind up what to do when we got into town. The metro was easy to use: - Ticket machines have an option to have information displayed in English. - It was €3.20pp return for the 20 minute journey. - We decided to get off at 'Abando' station which was nearest to the Old Town and was a short walk across the river. After coffees and a croissant at a pavement cafe (€3.50 which we thought was extremely good value) we caught the tram (€1.40pp single journey) along the river front to the Guggenheim Museum where we got off and sat in the sun in the park area for a while just enjoying the sunshine and people watching. - We caught the metro back from the San Marmes station We had a lovely few hours for a very reasonable price. Aviles Aviles was a revelation and turned out to be, by far, our favourite port. The old town area was very attractive with some most unusual cafes, little food shops and fabulous arcades. This is a relatively new destination and, I believe that Balmoral was the first cruise ship to use the port earlier in the year. There is a lot of building work going on to extend the dock area. - You cannot walk directly from the ship so there was a free shuttle bus to terminus at the edge of the old town. - The terminus is just a tent with a few chairs and tourist information. - It is quite a long walk from the drop off to the town as you have to cross the river and the railway line by bridge first. - There is a very helpful Tourist Information centre at the beginning of the street which takes you to the Town Hall square. - The streets which radiate from the square are all quaint and there are some beautiful buildings, speciality food shops and gardens. - The newer town is to the right of the old town and has a nice food market and a shopping Mall. - We had beautiful weather and enjoyed sitting out in a cafe and people watching. La Coruna Unfortunately, the weather changed as we got to La Coruna and it became cold and overcast with torrential rain showers. It was also November 1st which is a national holiday in Spain the vast majority of shops and many restaurants were closed. These 2 factors combined to make it a disappointing port for many passengers. Fortunately we had visited La Coruna before and remember it in better weather and as a bustling shopping centre. - The ship docks in walking distance of the town centre. - There is a small terminal building with a shop, toilets and tourist information desk. - 2 minutes from the terminal building is a huge shopping mall with cinema, restaurants and upper market shops. - There are lovely walks around the promontory and a beautiful beach at the other side of the peninsula which can be reached by walking about ½mile through the town centre. - The Old Town has a large Town Hall square with many cafes and restaurants. It's approximately 10 minutes walk from the ship. And finally We were so impressed with the Fred Olsen product as a value for money option that we have booked 2 more cruises with them. Balmoral was not the glitziest or most modern ship we have been on but she was one of the friendliest and had many things that we really enjoyed. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2011
We booked this cruise extremely last minute as the cruise we had originally booked on was cancelled a few days before we were due to sail!! Boudicca was sailing in and out of Portsmouth and within easy distance to our home, managed to get ... Read More
We booked this cruise extremely last minute as the cruise we had originally booked on was cancelled a few days before we were due to sail!! Boudicca was sailing in and out of Portsmouth and within easy distance to our home, managed to get a superior cabin (which glad we chose)and one of the stops was Madeira - for the fireworks (something that has been on our must-do list) Embarkation was easy, we did arrive a bit earlier than stated, but found did not have to queue to check-in, although did have to wait about an hour before we were called to embark. Once aboard we went directly to our cabin which was on the Lido deck, and first time ever, our luggage was there :-) We did expect that we would have found some sort of lunch available - even tho it was a bit late for that.A disappointment! But we went to the Secret Garden and had Tea with a roll etc. which we managed to survive till 8.30 (second sitting.) The ship we found was easy to get around, as we were on the Lido deck (7),reception, shops on 5, the Neptune lounge, dining rooms,swimming pool etc. being one below on 6, library, Internet and Lido lounge on 7, Observatory "lounge" which we used a lot on 9. The ship being a "mature" lady we found her similar to a welcoming comfortable friend, like an old English established hotel, with regular clientele - it has apparently been "upgraded" beginning of 2011, not quite sure what, apparently the gym was on deck 4 and now top of the ship!! New carpets, not sure about that, but reserve judgement. We did find her rather "tired" but that is our humble opinion. Our cabin was a very good size (200 sq ft)An extremely comfy mattress, the shower was over the bath, personally would have just preferred a shower cubicle! Our windows looked out to the Promenade, but did have a coating on the windows. The food, we feel, was the best we have had on any holiday - and we have travelled quite extensively. To have Beef of such a wonderful quality in the dining room!!! The was a very good choice for Vegetarians, fish eaters etc. The entertainment was pleasantly acceptable, a very good Jazz sextet, Classical guitarist, Male & female singer, comedian, together with various pianists trios, duos round the ship, together with 7 young dancers/singers who also doubled as "cruise helpers" round the ship. We enjoyed the ports the first being Casablanca and then 5 islands of the Canaries and finally Madeira. We found the port info given was not good enough, yes I know all cruise companies want to sell their tours, but today many more passengers, like to do their own thing. To offer shuttles at ports at £5 per head, when able bodied people can easily walk, is not on. Yes offer the shuttles for those who want them, but.... We only used the shuttle at Casablanca, but then needn't have!! Unfortunately the crossing of the Bay of Biscay upon our return I found a bit too uncomfy, and were grateful for the tablets I had taken - that can happen on any ship! The day before we were due to return, we were advised by the captain that we would be returning to Southampton and not Portsmouth, as the weather was not good and too windy etc. etc For us it was not a problem. All passengers were offered a free 5 min call or Internet access to change arrangements. Those passengers who had left their vehicles in Portsmouth were coached back complimentary. Most of the passengers we chatted to we found only travel Fred Olsen and are a mature age, but still knew how to enjoy themselves. Constructive criticism, no Tea Pots , we don't like Tea poured out of a "Thermos" Even tho we had an enjoyable and restful cruise, not sure we would sail with FO again, maybe just a bit too old fashioned for us. Would definitely recommend the ship for the "food" - great Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2011
Spending Christmas with the Queen of the Iceni ? Don't worry, no time travel required just a delightfully smooth train journey to Portsmouth Harbour where a complimentary shuttle was waiting to whisk us to the sparkling Cruise Ferry ... Read More
Spending Christmas with the Queen of the Iceni ? Don't worry, no time travel required just a delightfully smooth train journey to Portsmouth Harbour where a complimentary shuttle was waiting to whisk us to the sparkling Cruise Ferry Terminal where we first caught a glimpse of our final destination, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines' M.V. Boudicca. It is so nice to be taken care of. Apart from dragging my over-packed bag off the train to shuttle bus, from there it was taken care of only to reappear in my cabin. After a hassle free check-in I strolled around the light and airy terminal building, met up with my two travelling companions and had a nice 'cuppa' while we waited to board. When our group were called to board there was an orderly rush for the boarding gate. While in the inevitable queue to stride up the gangway it was great to be personally greeted by our Cruise Director, Stein Dyb. It is these little touches that enhance Fred. Olsen's reputation for friendliness. Once onboard and, having been processed, we made our way to our Deck 4 cabins. After fighting my pals for wardrobe space (ladies -- please don't worry, there is plenty of hanging space) we set out to discover the geography of our floating hotel. Boudicca has 9 'public' decks (10 if you count the golf nets and putting green). The Beauty Salon was on our deck but all of us were beyond repair. On Deck 5 -- Main Deck were the shops, reception, tours desk and future cruise sales office. Deck 6 was where all the restaurants were situated together with lounges, the show lounge and swimming pool, Jacuzzis and lap pool. Deck 7 was home to the Internet Cafe (6 units), library, card room, gambling tables and the Lido Lounge. Deck 8 was the Bridge deck and Deck 9 housed the Observatory ( perched above the Bridge and offering a great 180 degree view) and aft (towards the blunt end) was the Marquee 'Fine Weather' Snack Bar and a plunge pool. Not that we crossed its threshold but up on Deck 9 was the Gym. To make the dining facilities feel more cozy the area has been divided into 3 semi-separate areas and also includes an alternative dining restaurant 'The Secret Garden'. The ship was in full festive mode with Christmas trees laden with decorations abounding and holly, bells and baubles glistening everywhere. With the dulcet tones of Christmas songs issuing from every broadcasting orifice how could we not embrace the spirit of Christmas? Our cruise was to take us to Casablanca for a quick visit to Rick's Bar (for our slightly older readers), all the Canary Islands and, to finish off with a flourish, New Year's Eve in Funchal, Madeira where, I have to tell you, the firework display was quite fantastic. Anyone who wonders where the variety show has disappeared to, it has grabbed it's passport and joined the plethora of cruise ships that now sail the many seas. Boudicca is no exception and boasted a good selection of acts to keep the full complement of passengers amused. These include an excellent crooner, Geoff Taylor who brought to life greats like Frank Sinatra, Matt Monroe and Sammy Davis Junior to name a few, Gabor Podhorszki, a classical guitarist who held his audiences in rapture during his afternoon recitals and Rikki Jay, a comedian who built up his act as the cruise progressed until he had the audience in stitches on the last night. Day time fun included reindeer racing, deck quoits, shuffle board, table tennis (in a force 9), putting, carpet bowls and for less excitement but full of interest, port talks, enhancement lecturers and Gillian Slade's Flower and Spice Craft 'classes'. This is definitely the way to spend Christmas and New Year. No washing up, six opportunities a day to eat, interesting ports of call with a nice range of tour options if you want explore beyond the ports and Fred. Olsen's super friendly girls and boys to take care of you. Even your social calendar is filled to capacity with the Captain's Welcome and Farewell cocktail parties, formal nights, Caribbean nights, an international night and, of course, special meals to celebrate Christmas Day and New Year's Eve. Add to that the fun of several sail away deck parties and you get the picture -- a great time was had. My sincere thanks go to Captain Robert Bamburg (It used to be that you felt old when policemen looked young but now, even masters of cruise ships look young) and his crew for a thoroughly enjoyable experience with special mentions for Hotel Manager Clive Ramshaw, Cruise Director Stein Dyb, the Tours Team of Adela & Derrick and finally, our favourite supplier of cocktails in the Observatory, 'Princess' Paula. Don't miss out - to make sure you grab your place on one of this year's Christmas and New Year cruises. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2011
Smooth and well organised embarkation, nice welcome from staff as we entered the ship. The cabin was spacious with ample storage, we had a wardrobe each with space for shoes & suitcases, the cabin was clean & tidy and the beds were ... Read More
Smooth and well organised embarkation, nice welcome from staff as we entered the ship. The cabin was spacious with ample storage, we had a wardrobe each with space for shoes & suitcases, the cabin was clean & tidy and the beds were really comfortable, the cabin steward made up our beds and cleaned the cabin whilst we were at lunch & dinner. The highlight for me was the standard and quality of the food served at all meals, our table waiter (Danzil)was first class friendly & very professional what we really liked was that the staff had time to stop and chat unlike the P&O staff on our last cruise who were surly and too busy to care.The soups served at lunch & dinner were hot extremely tasty and well presented, the meals were good sized portions and were always hot and well presented (unlike the lukewarm effort one gets with P&O). Entertainment wasn't always to our choice but the 3 shows we did choose to watch were excellent, I would say that the majority of passengers went to most of the nightly shows. The weather wasn't always good enough to have a sail away party when leaving ports but the one we did have was great fun and we were even given complimentary rum punch unlike P&O who charge an average of £3.50 per drink. Disembarkation was as smooth as embarkation we were driving out of Dover within 1 hour of getting up and we even had time for breakfast! We will certainly be going with Fred.Olsen again they seem to have everything right, the ships are not the huge liners that one sees these days but for quality of service, food and the right balance of all day entertainment small is definitely beautiful. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2011
We began our holiday at Southampton City cruise terminal. The car parking was slightly different from what we are used to. In the past we have sailed from the Mayflower terminal where they seem to have got it together better in as much ... Read More
We began our holiday at Southampton City cruise terminal. The car parking was slightly different from what we are used to. In the past we have sailed from the Mayflower terminal where they seem to have got it together better in as much as dropping off the car seemed much smoother. This time we had to drop off the luggage and then drive back to the entrance and leave our car. However, both being able bodied the short walk from the car to the Terminal with hand luggage was no problem. Just an observation. Unfortunately there were long queues for checking in and boarding. Much of this seemed to be due to the Xray machine and it wasn't until we were well into the queue that the port authority decided to open another one. Once through we then waited to go onto the ship. The whole process took an hour and three quarters so that we missed lunch arriving in our cabin number 8020 at around 2.30pm. We were pleasantly surprised with our cabin which had a bath and all the amenities. It had a restricted view but this didn't upset us unduly. After unpacking we went to the Neptune Lounge where sandwiches, tea, coffee and cakes were being served. Again there was queueing. We have been on the Balmoral before in 2008 but couldn't recall there being as much queuing,this seemed to be for most things this time. We are easy going and it wasn't the end of the world but some people complained. We had remembered that the food was quite good both in the main restaurant and in the buffet and again were not disappointed this time. We were looked after everyday by our waiter Alvin who was very attentive and good humoured. Nothing was too much trouble when we deviated from the menu, bringing us extra food such as icecream and cheese. The food was of excellent quality, there was even champagne available with breakfast if that was what you required. It was a bit early for us! At dinner in the main restaurant we had a table for 6. We felt very lucky as we had really pleasant company and had a good laugh. The ports Hamburg, Bremerhaven and Antwerp were fine although we were disappointed not to go into Amsterdam due to technical problems. Perhaps we could have been allowed to spend the afternoon in Bremerhaven instead of waiting on the ship in port for 5 hours. However it didn't really spoil our holiday as we found plenty to do. We didn't go on the arranged tours, preferring to find our own way round the ports shopping, sightseeing etc. It is true that the Christmas Markets were not open, but to be honest we have done them before and seem to be full of tinsel and sickly sweets (not our thing). Again we were not disappointed and had not gone on this cruise for them anyway. On reflection we met some nice people, it was relaxing enjoying good food all washed down with a nice glass of wine and beer. Disembarkation was fine although again queueing was the norm, but we were soon on our way home smoothly and efficiently. So to sum up we found the whole experience a pleasure and good value for money. We would recommend the Balmoral if a smaller ship is for you. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2011
For this cruise to the Red Sea for Petra in Jordan ,we travelled to the NEC Cruise Show in October 2010.We were informed the ship was almost full and we were offered a total of 4 cabins to choose from.We thought we received a reasonable ... Read More
For this cruise to the Red Sea for Petra in Jordan ,we travelled to the NEC Cruise Show in October 2010.We were informed the ship was almost full and we were offered a total of 4 cabins to choose from.We thought we received a reasonable discount on brochure price until in February 2011 we were given an additional fuel charge ,this almost wiped out the discount from the cruise show. Seemingly there were many cancellations for this cruise presumably because of the unsettled situation in the middle east,therefore there became available many late deals.Yes i am aware that shipping Co's must try and fill available cabins as they don't wish to sail with empty space,i also know that cabins were sold for half the price we paid .This is not my main gripe but the additional fuel charge still rancour's ,i know for a fact that the late Booker's despite the reduced price for the cruise did not pay this additional fuel charge,and those who did were subsidising these half price travellers. CAN THIS BE RIGHT? That off my chest,This Cruise was Fantastic and everything we had expected There was some doubt as to whether we would be able to stop at the planned ports in Egypt.The Captain gave us updates as we sailed towards Alexandria,as after we had left the UK there was the COPTIC MASSACRE.However we were assured that the tours planned would be undertaken. Our tours were in ALEXANDRIA,CAIRO and GIZA,LUXOR and VALLEY of the KINGS,and from Sharm El Sheikh a Trip to ST CATHERINES MONASTERY.On all these coach tours we were accompanied by an Armed Plain Clothes Policeman,in Alexandria we had in addition Police Motorbike Outriders who preceded us and stopped traffic to let us pass.To Cairo [from PORT SAID]we went in convoy of 5 coaches with additional forces in jeeps interspersed between the coaches to the outskirts of the area ,however there were plenty of security present at Giza Pyramids and Cairo Museum,also at the Temples of Karnak ,Luxor and the Valley [FRom SAFAGA]. No we did not feel intimidated at all and felt that we were being taken care of under special circumstances existing [i have been to Egypt Twice Before].Lucky for us we managed to get to Petra in Jordan which was the main reason in booking this cruise and one to mark off "our to do list",and it was well worth our expectation. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2011
I booked this cruise originally with SHIPS MONTHLY MAGAZINE as a group cruise. But due to not enough numbers we did it on own at their reduced price but without organiser or bridge visits or free excursions. GETTING TO PORT Cruise left ... Read More
I booked this cruise originally with SHIPS MONTHLY MAGAZINE as a group cruise. But due to not enough numbers we did it on own at their reduced price but without organiser or bridge visits or free excursions. GETTING TO PORT Cruise left from NEWCASTLE so went from LONDON KINGS CROSS to NEWCASTLE, i went down a day early to meet someone(but they never turned up) i stayed in MORPETH. The following day i got train MORPETH to NEWCASTLE. the PORT was quite a way from NEWCASTLE. The PORTLINK bus run by FRED OLSEN was 15 each way!! not going to pay that!(sure it used to be FREE!) I asked about a taxi but they said 18! so i got the METRO to NORTH SHIELDS for 1!! and a bus to near the port. EMBARKATION I got there at 1330 and met mike who i was sharing the cabin with, he got there at 1100. He had number 10 ticket while mine was 246. Then i checked in which took 10mins got my ticket and waited to be called. Mike went about 40mins before me. Was not asked for a card to use onboard(a bit strange i thought!) BOARDING I showed my card and was told where my cabin was on ATLANTIC DECK. CABIN As i managed to get an upgrade from inside cabin to outside it was a much larger cabin. 1 single bed and another (a sort of sofa bed made up to another bed.) 1 chair, small tv, 2 portholes and a good sized bathroom with shower.The picture i saw of inside cabin looked really close together. I 1st went on this ship as the "GOLDEN PRINCESS" in 1996 from HAWAII to TAHITI and had cabin 338m an inside i shared but it was quite large, it was now called 4140 and managed to look inside it at the end of the cruise. RESTAURANTS There were 3 restaurants, we were given 4 SEASONS restaurant the largest one. this is the only one really apart from the buffet one. MENU'S were quite good choice and wine list quite good i ordered a carafe of ROSE some days at 5.95 not bad. The waiters all did a really good job. very efficient and never had to wait long for courses to arrive. we had 6 on our table including ours. Both of the others were from DURHAM and were really nice and on so well with them.For breakfast there was a buffet or you could order from the menu, i liked this idea as i could get my favourite "SWISS MUESLI" there. Lunch was the same MENU or a buffet. ENTERTAINMENT Went to all of the shows and they were very good. The dancers were so good as were the comedians.not greatly happy about the size of the showlounge as it was not that large. we usually went down about 5mins before the start and ended up on the side(not a bad view but need to get there early for a good front row seat) PORTS OF CALL 1st was OSLO in norway we only booked excursions in ST PETERSBURG(RUSSIA) as we were docked right in town and just had a walk out to the OPERA HOUSE which looked a bit like SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE i thought. 2nd port was supposed to be HALMSTAD in SWEDEN it would have been a 1st call by BOUDICCA but due to rough seas and the channel was very narrow, The captain decided to miss it out. we never got another port and just seem to go slow to the next port arriving at the same time as in the itinarary. 3rd port was TURKU in FINLAND i had never been here so was interested what it was like. we were docked way from the town so we had a FREE! shuttle bus to take us into town.(unlike HALMSTAD where we were going to be charged 5!! for the shuttle bus!) I read a ship "KRISTINA REGINA" was here as a HOTEL/MUSEUM as the "BORE" so i was determined to go and see her. It sure was a long walk but we made it and went aboard to take a few pictures. Only when we boarded the shuttle bus back we realised that where the "BORE" was moored was very close the the ship. 4TH PORT was HELSINKI in FINLAND a place i have been before, again we were docked a way from town and were charged 5 for the shuttle bus(but never asked to show our tickets!) We walked around the harbour, sadly it was raining so not great walking weather. after walking around the harbour and taking a few pictures got the shuttle bus to the ship. 5TH PORT was ST PETERSBURG(RUSSIA) This was the highlight of the cruise despite being here 8years ago on the "SUN BAY 1" so long ago could not even remember what i saw, i remember booking the "SWAN LAKE BALLET" and it being cancelled as not enough people were interested and doing the FOLKLORIC show including the COSSACK DANCING. This time we booked an independant tour rather than the much more expensive ships tours. I found out about this from others on the roll call on CRUISE CRITIC and my FRIEND who had just done the same tour. It was $300 each for 2 days including admission and lunches which was a great price! i was a bit worried as we had no visa and FRED OLSEN made a point in telling us if we had no visa we would not get into RUSSIA. But as my friend just walked through customs i was hoping for the best. We met 2 of the others on our tour and another 2 outside the customs so there was 6 of us altogether. It was a mini bus which was good, we saw everything, ALLA TOURS are such a good company we had a great time. 6TH PORT was COPENHAGEN in DENMARK. We were docked in LANGALINE a good place a ittle way from town, but i had been here before. We walked around in NYHAVN and came back to ship for LUNCH. Later i went off again to the supermarket to get some BEERS. I wanted to see if they took them of me(they did not, even though i told them it was beer! despite them always saying they take ALCOHOL off you and keep it till the last day of the cruise I HAVE NEVER HAD ANY TAKEN! in 53 cruises!!! TIPS These were added to your account at 2 for WAITER and the same for CABIN STEWARD. personally i like this idea it saves trying to get cash to put in envelopes. ALL IN ALL I really enjoyed this cruise we really had the best time and met a lot of really nice people. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2011
After an unscheduled overnight stay in Southampton due to technical problems with a lifeboat and its certification (why is there never an inspector on 24 hour call outs,surely the cruise company fraternity can give someone a good wage to ... Read More
After an unscheduled overnight stay in Southampton due to technical problems with a lifeboat and its certification (why is there never an inspector on 24 hour call outs,surely the cruise company fraternity can give someone a good wage to facilitate such matters).So,this meant no stop off at the French port of Hendaye,disappointment for some but i was okay with it specially as F.Olsen had reimbursed us £50pp of OBC,which took care of my bar bill! Pleasant weather most of the time, though a bit rough for some as we sailed through the Bay of Biscay,lots of sick bags available on this day plus we heard the doc's surgery was busy handing out sea sickness jabs (always take your own pills).After a couple of days sailing we eventually got to Lisbon,a wonderful vibrant city.Took the Big red bus tour here (15 euro pp) rather than a ships tour of the city (£40pp) and the bus stop is right outside the terminal gate,they did not advertise that in the brochure and only at the very end of the port talk (wonder why). However we did take a ships tour in Vigo,our next port of call. Seeing it was Sunday and all but the cafes were closed though the main attraction today was the Aircraft carrier, Spain's Juan Carlos was in town and the Spanish public were queuing for literally miles to get on it as it was open to them today. Our trip was okay though as usual way too overpriced for a view of the harbour and city from a high vantage point and a trip to Bayona were we saw some ancient castle/fortress which now houses a 4* hotel (with 5* prices for drinks,2.80 euros for a small coke!) Next up was La Coruna,did our own thing again, a free shuttle bus through the port to the port entrance was laid on,then we took a leisurely walk around the quaint old town,then into the shopping district where we stopped off for a coffee and watched the world go by.Next day was the port of Getxo for Bilbao,took a ships tour here,again our first stop was to a high vantage point to get a panoramic view of the city,this view was quite spectacular.A couple of stops in the city to a sacred church and then into the old town centre,again quaint, and very picturesque finishing off with a look only at the carbuncle of a building that is the Guggenheim museum. After each trip the weather was very good for a spot of R&R on deck 11 with its warm Pool and even warmer jacuzzis and if you did not fancy a 4 course lunch there was soup and sandwiches. We dined in the Spey restaurant were the food was excellent,service slow at times,as the waiters had a "lot on". Breakfast taken mainly in the Palms self service,they do a wonderful ham omelette,cooked fresh to your liking here. Entertainment, could not fault the visiting "pro" acts though the Balmoral singers and dancers were ordinary,probably the worse we've seen on a cruise but hey. The other entertainment staff were good,thought Juliet had a great voice in the wonderful crew show. All in all a very good cruise would recommend to anyone. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2010
We've just come back from a transatlantic repositioning cruise to the Caribbean on Fred Olsen's Braemar. We are fast becoming seasoned cruisers and, having done this cruise with P&O two years ago, can make valid comments ... Read More
We've just come back from a transatlantic repositioning cruise to the Caribbean on Fred Olsen's Braemar. We are fast becoming seasoned cruisers and, having done this cruise with P&O two years ago, can make valid comments comparisons. Overall Fred Olsen is really very good - a bit of thought to some minor niggles and it could be excellent. We had an outside cabin on deck 2 that was kept spotless by our hardworking cabin girl. The cabin was made up, as requested, as a double. But with the dressing table and chair, tub chair and small table there was not enough room to manoeuvre around either side without performing acrobatics so we had it made up as two singles and that gave much more room. There was plenty of storage space and the suitcases slid under the beds. The bathroom was small but adequate with a good shower and, hurrah, a non-clinging shower curtain. Good quality shower gel and hand wash. The beds are quite hard but comfortable and have duvets with good quality bedding. Deck 2 is quite low down and so we spent time just kneeling on the beds watching the waves and enjoying the 'final rinse' when the waves splashed over the windows darkening the whole cabin - frightening the first few times it happened. The lifeboat drill was a bit worrying; we had a roll call and cabin numbers were called out where there appeared to be no occupants while some cabins were missed off the roll call. As the weather was bad we were glad that our meeting point was the library. I was looking forward to enjoying Fred Olsen's service standards as I'd read so much about it - and I was not disappointed! Every staff member was friendly and polite - even the 'known miseries' at reception. The bar staff remembered your name within a day or two and your preferred drink/s - even down to how I like my G&Ts. I think Braemar is beginning to show her age but overall the ship is clean and tidy and very easy to get around and navigate. There are plenty of public loos that have the new Dyson air hand dryers, what a clever invention, to save time, really get your hands dry and reduce paper towel waste. There are plenty of bars and lounges to sit and have a drink or watch the world go by. Our favourite was the Coral Lounge, while we found The Observatory lacked atmosphere. The Neptune Lounge is a nightmare, the seating arrangements are badly laid out and there are too many pillars that limit many of the audience's views. First sitting dinner people are asked only to see one show; but they seemed to see the first show in the Coral Lounge then come to the second house of the Neptune lounge show. This meant many of the second sitting dinner people could not get into the main show. Also, two people took up settees designed for four and others were reserving seats. I think it was a mistake to have dancing in the Neptune lounge between shows as this encourages people to stay in the lounge or hog seats. Sometimes it was difficult to get a seat in the Coral Lounge show due again to first sitting people wanting to catch both shows. Drink prices are the same as UK pub prices. The wine list is excellent and a bottle for dinner was so easily ordered via the interactive section of the TV - as was room service breakfast (that arrived dead on time). Apart from the problems with the lounges the entertainment was really good - a good idea to have two shows at night. The resident Braemar band and 4th Dimension group were excellent. Lee Carroll was the comedian - I'd heard the jokes all before but he was funny. Anthony Stuart Lloyd was a brilliant singer - and a lovely person. The Braemar show were very good - the shows are not our type of thing but seeing them on the TV cruise programme showed how talented they were. Jackie Probert, the assistant cruise director, has a lovely voice and she's a great personality. It was lovely to see Dong the lighting/technical guy being allowed to show his singing talent - certainly miles better than the resident's band singer! The speakers were awful; no presentations skills at all - death by very bad PowerPoint. Anthony Borradaile was the cruise director and was very good - not full of himself like others we have experienced. Hurrah for Fred - the buffet was not a rugby scrum. People waited to be seated at laid tables so you could settle yourself prior to diving in! This made for people actually having conversations with the people on your table. This was also good for making return visits to the serving stations. Waiters were quick to clear plates and pour/top up water. The Thistle restaurant was my favourite of the two main ones and we were allocated to it for dinner. We tried the Grampian for breakfast and lunch but found it lacked atmosphere. Given there was a choice of soups for lunch and dinner in all restaurants we did not have soup spoons. This is the best food we have ever had on a cruise. I think Fred's secret is to have less choice which means better cooking and the quality is very good. I have never eaten so much beef; all of it so, so tender and the slow roasted belly of pork was to die for (all you could hear from out table that night was the ooing and ahhing of delighted people). The puddings are lovely; they must be I am usually a cheese and biscuits person and think I only had that twice. The pool area was nice and large - but suffered the usual sun-bed blocking. The pools and jacuzzis were refreshing and cleaned/topped up often. The changing room was a good idea; and came into its own on disembarkation day for a post sunbathing shower and freshen up before the journey home. We were late out of Dover as the weather was awful (and we could not pass Balmoral who was berthed in front of us). The weather for the whole crossing was excellent and the rather smooth (got to 4-5 max. last time we had about 7-8s). The weather was excellent for the crossing too (cool and windy for the first day or two down to Madeira but we could sit out in a jumper). We hit the Caribbean on the back of hurricane Thomas so the seas were choppier than expected and the weather was changeable for the first few days. We had to miss out first Caribbean port of call, St Maarten, as the sea was too choppy and windy to berth or tender. After 7 days at sea that was a bit of a downer! But we pushed onto Tortola in awful weather and arrived in a downpour to overnight. Not many people went ashore that night as it was dark and tipping down and people were unsure of their surroundings. The sail away parties were fun - especially the British night out of Tortola with the people in the massive Norwegian Dawn enjoying our party. But, and for me this is a big but, the sailaways are at the back of the ship and there is not room for everyone to see the entertainment and/or join in. There is so much room on deck 9 (loose one of the golf net thingies to make even more) that the band can be up there with people partying on the sun deck (deck 8). I was not the only person disappointed with the tropical night - on a sea day and with no deck party. I felt so let down as on our previous repositioning cruise this was the highlight of the cruise - it was all rather flat on Braemar. There was loads to do if you wanted to. The dolphin racing was a laugh and the crew tug of war was great fun. The spa was OK with reasonable prices. There is a good sized, well stocked library. The photographers were a bit in-your-face (I am not one for having my photo taken when I am eating!) but you were not pressed at all to buy any photos and they were a reasonable price. There was a good balance of formal/informal/casual nights. But we were told in our pre cruise information that there was only three formal nights; onboard we found out there was four - a nightmare for us ladies! Most people dressed up to the nines on formal nights but some people's idea of informal is my idea of casual and their ideas of smart casual is my slobbing out! We took a couple of excursions that were good - but I think we'd do them independently in future. It was good to be able to book/pay online in advance. Our flight home was delayed; by, at first three hours, then four. I was delighted as this gave us an extra day and meant we did not arrive home at some ungodly hour of the day. This is where Fred really stepped up, keeping us fully informed, we were kept on board and an early evening buffet was provided. I am sure an afternoon tea was provided as I saw some people with sandwiches and cakes during the afternoon. When we finally disembarked we were only at the airport about forty minutes until boarding. This is the second time I have paid for an upgraded flight - even with the additional extra baggage weight and leg room it is not worth the additional money and I will not bother again. This is the second time I have paid for an upgrade and I felt the same on our previous flight - this confirmed it is a waste. Overall a great cruise and we will cruise with Fred again, picking them over another company if there was a choice given the itinerary/dates. If the niggles can be sorted out I would've given 5*. The niggles are not a show-stopper but little things that stop a great cruise being outstanding. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2010
First timers with Fred Olsen Line This was our 12th cruise and the first one with Fred Olsen on the Balmoral.We selected this cruise because we wanted to sail from Dover/Southampton and avoid the present problems associated with flying. ... Read More
First timers with Fred Olsen Line This was our 12th cruise and the first one with Fred Olsen on the Balmoral.We selected this cruise because we wanted to sail from Dover/Southampton and avoid the present problems associated with flying. The checking in procedure was brilliant, we were invited for lunch on the Balmoral prior to departure which was a lovely touch and were in our junior balcony suite with our luggage waiting by 2.30pm. The size (more cupboard and drawer space than any other ship ever),decor,cleanliness and layout of the cabin was very good and the bath tub with shower was an added bonus. The balcony also was larger than most of the ones on other ships. Our stewardess was very helpful on the few occasion's we asked for something and the fresh flowers and fruit placed in our cabin made us feel special. Although the in-service cabin menu had a limited selection, when we did order food it was delivered very quickly and was excellent. In cabin tea and coffee making facilities was another great service not often supplied by cruise liners Our request to change our evening dining to 2nd sitting and to have a table for 2 was done immediately. We dined in the Avon restaurant which had wall to ceiling windows which made the outlook breathtaking. The food was very good,the menu changed daily and there was sufficient variety to suit everyone.This high quality food was served in all three restaurants. Our waiters (Nestor and Roland) were from the Philippines and they gave excellent service, were courteous,efficient and sometimes very funny. The main reason we selected this cruise was the itinerary as there were many ports of call we had never visited especially the ones in Scotland. We booked our excursions prior to departure via the internet. All excursions started and finished on time and were good value for money. My husband and I are in our early 70's and are both in good health, it appeared that over half the passengers were aged over 60 years and a number had mobility problems. Fred Olsen crew were marvelous to those passengers who needed assistance on the excursions especially when the trips needed tenders to get off and on the Balmoral. No wonder many of the passengers are repeat cruisers. The evening entertainment was excellent and as well as the two formal evenings there was also a "western evening" where the crew put on a show and a "British evening" with a sing a long and lots of flag waving. There was no casino as such on board just one blackjack table and a roulette table but these did not appear to be very popular anyway. This is the only cruise line we have travelled with who have not automatically deducted gratuities from your on-board account but allow the passenger to decide the remuneration. This in fact resulted in us giving more to the ones who had given us a good service. Also all drinks were as cheap as chips!. What wonderful value for money Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
As a regular cruiser with Fred. Olsen having taken several longer cruises eg sectors of the world cruise I decided to take a festive short cruise to escape the Winter weather in the UK. It was my third cruise on the "Balmoral" ... Read More
As a regular cruiser with Fred. Olsen having taken several longer cruises eg sectors of the world cruise I decided to take a festive short cruise to escape the Winter weather in the UK. It was my third cruise on the "Balmoral" and it still impresses me as a real ship compared with the floating blocks of flats which seems to be the model for modern cruise ships. The ship is well maintained although, being an old vessel, it occasionally has its problems. Getting to Dover to board the ship had its problems due to the closure of the Channel Tunnel and the consequent traffic problems on the motorway leading to the port. The ship was tastefully decorated for the Christmas season and the atmosphere was really festive. Christmas was very traditional with carol services, a visit from Santa Claus (mainly for the children on board !) and festive fare in the restaurants. New Year was equally enjoyable. On New Year's Eve there was a splendid banquet which included haggis and a "wee dram". After this meal there was an entertaining cabaret in the Neptune Lounge. Towards midnight the deck party really came to life with champagne flowing, lots of music and general enjoyment to welcome the year 2010. The ship's first port of call was scheduled to be Leixoes (Oporto) but due to rough seas the port was closed and the call cancelled. In succession we visited Funchal (Madeira), Santa Cruz (La Palma), Fuerteventura, Las Palmas (Gran Canaria), Arrecife (Lanzarote) and Santa Cruz (Tenerife). We were blessed with fine weather, warm enough for the odd swim in the sea as well as in one of the ship's pools. In the early days of the cruise the seas were relatively smooth as we crossed the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay. As we sailed down the coast of Portugal we were met with some rough Atlantic weather. The ship rode the waves pretty well. The cruise was enhanced by the performance of the crew and the staff. The Captain led the way with enthusiasm and he mixed well with the passengers. The Cruise Director worked hard and kept the entertainment going. The "domestic" staff, as usual, were great. They come from the Third World, mainly Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and India and with their courtesy, efficiency and smiling faces make it a pleasure to travel with them. The entertainers were good and I was particularly impressed by most of the performances of the Balmoral singers and dancers. The crew show (which I did not attend) was, apparently, as good as ever. On the downside, the ship had a serious outbreak of the gastro-bug (Norovirus) which struck down more than 200 people. From speaking to some of the sufferers they were treated by the medical staff with great professionalism. Overall I enjoyed the cruise and look forward to joining the "Black Watch" (and possibly the "Balmoral") in 2010. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2008
M V Braemar Christmas Caribbean Cruise 22/12/08 - 08/01/09 Gatwick was typical chaos but Miami was surprisingly problem free, taking only 1 hour from plane to transfer bus. We joined a ship that had been extended in the ... Read More
M V Braemar Christmas Caribbean Cruise 22/12/08 - 08/01/09 Gatwick was typical chaos but Miami was surprisingly problem free, taking only 1 hour from plane to transfer bus. We joined a ship that had been extended in the middle and generally upgraded everywhere in Summer 2008. It had been on several bedding down cruises since then but there was little comment on cruise review web sites as to how these changes had been received. Fred Olsen seems to get very little web comment and it's internet room on board was virtually empty on all my visits - may be something to do with the abnormally high average age of it's passengers. The weather in the Northern Caribbean was stormy force 6 with a 3 meter swell and overcast for the first week. This had it's affect on health and moral. Poor weather restricts deck activities as well as the head count at dinner. Several injuries were recorded. The first ports of call where Nassau (the town itself was very disappointing) and Montego Bay (Not a nice place). The main sunbathing deck with very small pools was totally overcrowded when the sun came out - we retreated to our balcony. The weather in the second week improved a bit - force 4 and 2 meter swell. Unfortunately for many, the Flu outbreak worsened. It also included two of the best ports of call, Aruba and Curacao in the Dutch Antilles off the coast of Venezuela. Delightful ports with gaily painted buildings designed in old Dutch style, well presented shops and both places that we will return too. Santa Marta in Columbia was also interesting. No evidence of their famous drug trade! The weather continued to improve a little bit as the week went on. St. Georges in Grenada has improved enormously over the last decade, despite or due to two bad hurricanes. A new marina and Harbour have been built and also a new relocated cruise terminal and shopping centre. Avoid the water taxis to Grand Anse Beach in choppy weather as they are very difficult to climb into and they try to pack 16 people in to a small boat and delay leaving until full which can involve a wait of over half an hour both ways. The smell of leaking petrol cleared my sinuses. Bridgetown Barbados has a well organized Cruise Terminal and Port and taxis are available for the mile or so trip into town. The private buses are great fun on which to travel about. 1 US$ gets you a trip up the west coast with the locals to Hole Town. Also, sharing taxis is commonplace but not as cheap as you think. Bargain hard! This west coast is well developed to quite a high density and rather commercialized but the local roads can barely cope resulting in many traffic jams - which gives plenty of opportunity to gaze at all the famous hotels. Castries St Lucia and St. John's Antigua were forgettable experiences, the latter due to the very restricted 4 hour stop. We have been to Antigua before and Nelsons Dockyard , on the other side of the island is a must if time permits and circumnavigation of the island by catamaran is an unforgettable experience if you get time. So, last few days at sea with sun and reasonably calm seas cruising up to Key West, a lovely Port at the bottom end of Florida with a super town centre and well worth the visit. Finally, an early morning arrival back at Miami with 20 hours of travel (and waiting around) to look forward to. First the plus points ... It's cheap to cruise this The Fred Olsen Line with all the bargains available, including free upgrades. We landed up in a suite and Premium economy aircraft seats for £2300 each for this 18 day Christmas cruise although don't expect 'luxury'. The prices on board were in British pounds, an advantage over the Dollar charging ships when the £ only buys $1.43. This rate, charged for cash changing on the ship stayed the same every day, even when the Dollar sank to $1.35 to the £. Bar prices and restaurant wines (£13 for a decent bottle) were cheap compared with others we have been on. You could also buy English bottled beer - Spitfire and draught Stella Artois. The Filipino staff are a delight - always smiling, greeting you by name, remembering what you drink, making you feel important. They made our holiday. What an asset to the company! Unfortunately, the bad points outnumber but many of these were not down to Fred Holstein or the Bromide crew. The average age was noticeably higher than we have experienced in the past, even at Christmas - 75% of passengers was 70+. The Fred Olsen 78 - 90 club! We thought that elderly American cruise passengers were rude on previous trips (Insignia & Diamond Princess) - until we experienced a few days a sea with the British counterpart. We suspected that whole community centers for the elderly had been forcibly removed from Basildon and placed on this ship. Seriously, the heavy pre-Christmas discounting seemed to have attracted some strange people! Statistically, a third of the passengers where from Lancashire, a third from Yorkshire and 50 % from Essex (Well it felt like it!). This ship had more cruise snobs and moaners per deck than any other we have experienced. - those that holiday once a year on a cruise, moan about everything, swear that they will not come again - and then announce that this is their 5th. time on the ship. - those that have sailed with all the top notch lines in the best cabins, although are mysteriously camping out in a basic inside cabin on deck 2 One of the reasons for choosing this cruise line was due to recommendations from some friends and the thought that, with 18 days at sea, they would serve some good traditional British food occasionally. i.e. Roast Beef. We were rather disappointed. The food is adequate 'Torquay Hotel food', prepared by mass catering chefs in conjunction with their checked accountants. For example, chicken and pork were always available because they are cheap and were often reheated (sometimes with an additional sauce). Beef was rarely available in any form. The one steak was part 'cooked' in the basement main kitchen, reheated in the holding kitchen on deck 8 and served ... In this time, it had lost it's will to please and totally lacked any normal British accompaniments i.e. chips, onions, roasted vegetables etc. However, in fairness, their Beef Wellington was good. Desserts were mostly disappointing, with excessive use of Creme fresh cream, Jelly, Moose. No Apple pie or other traditional desserts, no custard, rarely any ice cream. But they did have bread & butter pudding several times - to use up the old bread. Christmas and New Year dinners lacked style, substance and flavor and served with miniscule portions, both sadly disappointing. The smell of diesel oil, particularly on deck 5 Starboard and often in the air conditioning in our cabin was very noticeable and unpleasant. So Fred Olsen, my scores out of 5. Food 2.5 Sometimes quite good but often disappointing Food Service 4.5 Restaurant excellent. Palm Cafe mediocre Cabin Comfort 4.0 Most normal cabins are disappointingly small but comfortable. Balcony suite was good. Cabin Service 3.5 OK Free champers & fruit on arrival for us Bar Service 4.75 Always good to the point of brilliant Entertainment 2.5 Have experienced far better. My own appearance in one show was brilliant Both lectures were boring! Internet 0.5 Don't bother. Too slow. No wi-fi connections TV 2.0 Poor world news, poor daily info Cruise info / daily letter 2.0 Poor, amateurish and cheaply sourced Tours 2.0 Only did one which put me off. Used taxis Laundry 4.5 Dry cleaning very efficient Summery A cruise line for those on a budget, offering good value for money. Very popular with the elderly and those from the Northern Counties and Essex. Despite extension and refurbishment, the ship falls well behind P & O, Princess and others in terms of amenities and comforts but it does charge much cheaper prices and leaves tipping to the discretion of it's passengers. It's relatively small size - 988 passengers - is an attraction. Choose your cruise itinerary carefully, as many Caribbean ports are scruffy and uninteresting. Coach tours are typically pricey and rarely offer good value. Have the guts to hire a taxi (very affordable with 4 people) and do your own thing with the drivers help and knowledge. Do not bother to smuggle your own spirits on board. The cabin prices are duty free .i.e. £15 for a liter of Jameson's Irish whiskey! Bring plenty of books and treat yourselves to a balcony cabin to avoid the crowds. Read Less
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