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3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2019
Out of Southampton near me. However on 12 day cruise there were only 4 port visits. The visit to Lisbon being only half day. The last 3 days at sea were purgatory. Although the weather was beyond Freds control entertaining their guests ... Read More
Out of Southampton near me. However on 12 day cruise there were only 4 port visits. The visit to Lisbon being only half day. The last 3 days at sea were purgatory. Although the weather was beyond Freds control entertaining their guests was not. All outside decks were locked. There were four entertainment staff apart from Braemar singers and dancers. They could and should have made more effort. A film could have been shown, indoor games organised. Additional karioke or mr mrs type games the list is endless yet we were left to the library or bars. Presumably Fred is cutting back, service very poor lack of waiters very apparent. Also lack of port calls. We were at times almost at standstill waiting for time slot to dock. Have done similar cruise on CMV where staff always going extra mile. Finally the quality of food in Thistle. Very poor, with evidence of lunch menu items appearing in the evening menu. No disguising the representation of dishes in different guise. I went with Fred on Boudicca last Xmas and loved everything. Unfortunately had already Booked Braemar for this Christmas before going on this one. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2019
Every thing was so easy. Arrived at Queen Elizabeth terminal and cases were collected from us and car taken to be parked. Walked straight into arrivals with no queue. Quick check in, told cabin was ready for us and lunch was been served in ... Read More
Every thing was so easy. Arrived at Queen Elizabeth terminal and cases were collected from us and car taken to be parked. Walked straight into arrivals with no queue. Quick check in, told cabin was ready for us and lunch was been served in Grampian restaurant. The food throughout the cruise was excellent. Portions are not huge in the restaurant but meal is 5 courses so you are never hungry. Buffet style restaurant also available and you can get as much as you like. The whole ship was so clean and all the staff were attentive and friendly. There was a range of onboard activities. The library was popular and had a good selection of books and board games. The age range of the cruisers varied. We are early 50’s and were certainly not the youngest. Yes there are some older people onboard but it was no means a care home. If you are looking for disco type entertainment and casino setting this isn’t the ship for you. If you want good food, good company, be able to relax read, have a glass or two of wine, chill and visit great ports (Braemar is able to get into smaller ports which means closer to centre of towns so no coach or tender needed which was so easy) then this is the ship for you. We travelled with our 13 year old son. There were 25 children on board who had designated staff to entertain them throughout the sea days. This was more for the younger children 4 to 10 years. If you are looking for crèche/children’s area this is not available on this ship but all the children appeared happy and our son said he would definitely cruise again. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
We choose this cruise for the destination and size of ship, it was a very special occasion for our friends, their golden wedding anniversary we are all fast approaching 70, young at heart and outgoing but this was like a care home for the ... Read More
We choose this cruise for the destination and size of ship, it was a very special occasion for our friends, their golden wedding anniversary we are all fast approaching 70, young at heart and outgoing but this was like a care home for the eighties, and we were all treated likewise, in fact we felt like cargo. The ammount of maintenance work going on was unbelievable the continuous smell of paint was awful, we were woken before 8.00 one-morning to the sound of a drill above our cabins. The keys to our cabin door did not work and we had to change this 3 times, but couldn’t get anyone to come and look at the lock. Towards the end of holiday we were due to cruise through the Fjords but due to windy weather the previous day and not being able to get out of port we had to come straight back to Southampton, we didn’t get to see the scenery we really went for We would all agree that the food was very good, as were the staff in dinning room. We have been on many other cruise ships before and have never had to complain, this is the worst ever. We would not recommend Fred Olsen cruises to anyone unless of course you need a care home.. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
Saturday, embarkation Upon arrival in Southampton by car ABP parking met us right by the ship. The porters who unloaded us were very slick and in no time we were at arrivals then straight on board. Very efficient. We had no idea ... Read More
Saturday, embarkation Upon arrival in Southampton by car ABP parking met us right by the ship. The porters who unloaded us were very slick and in no time we were at arrivals then straight on board. Very efficient. We had no idea where to go for muster so when we heard the call asked a member of staff who pointed us in the right direction. Until then we didn’t even know what time muster would be. Whilst at muster in the Grampian dining room we saw quite a bit of food on the carpet by the wall where we were sitting. Not a good first impression. Our cabin was fine. We sailed on Black Watch a couple of years back so knew what to expect. People often moan about the plastic shower curtains on Olsen but at least you get flexible hose shower-heads, essential if you have a stoma. Only negative being our air-conditioning was extremely loud and for some reason our double bed was made up with two separate sets of sheets and duvets. Bizarre. This was rectified after the first night so no problem. Tip: If cases won’t fit under the bed ask your cabin steward to put in storage. We went to the theatre where the house performers were excellent. The house coke is not great and there was no prosecco on the all-inclusive list of drinks but the waiters / waitresses were excellent, especially considering the obstacle course of tables and chairs they have to negotiate. The stage is to the side of the ship with too slight a gradient for the seating. To a man everyone was commenting on the incredibly poor layout and two blatantly obvious problems. The revolving seats were higher than the fixed ‘sofa’ seating behind them on each level and at the very back of the theatre Olsen have crammed in extra chairs making it virtually impossible for people to walk behind trying to get further round in the theatre, and if they do they nudge people all the way around totally distracting you from the show. Tip: on Braemar you have to get in theatre earlier than you think to get a decent seat. (There are even seats behind the pillars). Sunday, at sea Lunchtime in the Grampian the ‘daily special station’ had roast sirloin and Yorkshires. The sirloin was to die for, absolutely superb, but many people were asking where were the roast potatoes? 95% of passengers British and no roast spuds. Spent the afternoon on sunbeds which would have been fantastic but for the constant grinding and smell of paint. We had all this previously on Black Watch, Olsen do their maintenance throughout the voyage. It was this night we returned to our room to be met with a note saying our Tuesday tour (through Olsen) was cancelled. Absolutely gutted. The ‘Oyster Route’ in Vigo was the tour I was seriously looking forward to. Upon enquiry it was cancelled because the tour is operated by an outside contractor so if they are a couple of people short – tough. Not impressed. Monday, Aviles ‘Daily Times’ informs us docking times have changed and we leave 1pm NOT 4pm. This turned out to be a recurring theme. So if you had booked your own tours outside Olsen that ended after 12:30pm you were stuffed. We had chosen a trip (with Olsen) to Luanco then a free walking tour of Aviles. Leaving on a coach to Luanco led us through an industrial area but Luanco was a pleasant harbour town. It was brought up many times the fact that there just wasn’t anybody around in the mornings. Literally one woman and her dog. Apparently there is a small flurry of activity in the mornings when what children there are catch their school buses but that’s about it. The young have moved away to the big towns and cities. Sad really but this ghost town has a beautiful church by the coast. We all felt a bit rushed on this trip, no fault of the tour guide, but was enjoyable. No time to shop as promised in the brochure but most places were shut in the mornings anyway. Tip: One member of our party had specific needs for toilet facilities. The only toilet was back at the bus station. There are no public toilets and most bars etc. are closed in the mornings. The local Free Walking Tour that we took on our return to Aviles was very good indeed. Tour guide being excellent. Bit of a tip for the evening. Each day in the Daily Times there is a ‘cocktail of the day’ available within the all-inclusive deal. Directly underneath that there is the days ‘after dinner drink’. Don’t get sucked in, the day’s after dinner drink is NOT included in the all included package. Misleading. Andy and Alit in the Morning Light bar were absolutely superb. The lunch ‘special’ in the Thistle was Indian themed. The food was absolutely excellent. At dinner in the evening we finally had roast potatoes. The food is generally superb but it’s a mainly British passenger ship and they cannot cook roast potatoes. Soft / soggy with a bit of brown on the outside. Really is my and many others only gripe. The food overall is first class. The ‘International Memory Man’ with his Rubik’s cubes was highly entertaining. I didn’t hear anybody that did not enjoy his shows. Tuesday, Vigo As already written our tour was cancelled so we free-styled. Explored the old quarter including the church then onto Oyster Street which I’d been looking forward to so much. Oyster Street still has the old world charm about it but unfortunately now completely commercialised. I ordered my half dozen oysters and was ushered to a table opposite belonging to a restaurant. They obviously wanted you to order drinks for the privilege of sitting there whilst the old woman who sold the oysters came over holding a stretched out 10 euro note asking for her money. The oysters are advertised as 9 euro so watch out for this ploy. Having sat down you are plagued by peddlers and gypsies. Has to be said I was sadly disappointed with taste of said oysters. They were very fresh but nowhere near as tasty compared to what is available in the UK. I since learnt from a couple of sources that these oysters do have a completely different taste, are a bit smaller and not regarded as anywhere near the best worldwide. Shame but at least I tried them and they were super fresh. We climbed the big mound which was steep but well worth it for the view and exercise. Reasonable café and toilets at the top. My wife bought quite a few items on the way back to the ship. A nice place but quite a lot of graffiti. On our return to the ship, to rub salt into the wounds there was a ‘Shore Tour Survey’ left on our bed to review our cancelled shore tour. Not a good move. Wednesday, at sea The lunch special today was pasta. Now I am not big into pasta but the whole thing was absolutely superb. Chilled out on the loungers in the afternoon but grab a towel from the changing room to lay on your lounger because of all the sweat and suntan lotion that has gone before you. Loungers are very comfortable though. Cocktail of the day much the same as yesterday’s pina colada – chi chi. Coconut and pineapple (always wedged on the glass rim) were prevalent throughout the cruises cocktails of the day. Thursday, Seville day 1 Needed an early start so went for breakfast in cabin. Need a bit more choice i.e. boiled eggs, porridge or even toast. There was nothing cooked available. We walked a couple of miles to a huge flea market. If you enjoy flea markets you’ll love this one. Thursdays only though. Followed up with a bit of shopping therapy then lunch back on board. This was a Spanish buffet on the swimming pool deck. Later that day we had booked a walking tour of Santa Cruz. What an amazing area – a must see. Friday, Seville day 2 Got up early to meet for early pre-booked tour however the ship had moved docks during the night due to forecast high winds and the narrow bridge we had to go back through. So we were first off the ship and had to wait 30 minutes for a police escort to take us to the gates which, having found someone with keys were then unlocked. We had chosen Amigo Tours for this joint early entrance Alcazar tour followed by the Gothic cathedral. Bucket list stuff. Tour guide was excellent and WELL worth the early start. Alcazar was a fabulous building full of history (a game of thrones venue as well). Having done a lot of research I knew that by doing the cathedral tour straight after there would not be a lot of time to spend in the Alcazar gardens. This proved to be the case but the tours were excellent, worth the trade-off for getting in before the crowds. Alcazar – a must do. Louisa Park opposite docking area is a nice place to chill. Leaving Seville you go back through a lock. On deck you can get right to the front of the Braemar, the perfect viewing platform but . . . going through the lock there was no visible difference between the water levels when opening the gates which caused much mirth amongst fellow shipmates. I’m guessing the tides must have something to do with this. Tried the cheeseboard again at lunchtime but exactly the same boring cheeses. Come on Olsen let’s have some variety. A big disappointment was the lack of local entertainment on board i.e. Flamenco dancers. Big problem with Olsen is if you are doing an activity and are late back missing dinner you have to wait until the Supper Club begins at 11pm. No food available between times. Saturday Cadiz We had booked a free walking tour with Cadizfornia. An excellent tour and the host Pedro couldn’t have been better. An entertaining local who knew all the history and gave great shopping / restaurant advice. Thoroughly recommended. Really liked Cadiz. The fish market has to be seen to be believed and there is a good general market. We found a very good cheap supermarket in a backstreet behind the market square. Eg. Bottles of water .15 cents each. Coming out of the port nobody initially knew which way to go, it would have been useful for a member of staff to be positioned at the exit to help people. Tip: There are colour coded lines on the roads / paths which take you different routes. We bought our duty free tobacco to take home from the duty free here. About 50 euro’s for 10 x 50gm pouches of Golden Virginia but when we were here it was cash only. A criticism from several passengers was that leaving at 3pm was too early because if you were on a tour there was not enough time for shopping or trying out the local tapas (Cadiz being the home of tapas). It also meant missing lunch. The Thistle closed at 2pm which meant a rush to the buffet which closed at 3pm. Particularly annoying because a lot of people would have liked to try the ‘Asian special’ at lunchtime. Come on Olsen, if you leave at 3pm keep the Thistle open the extra hour to feed all the people that have been rushing around trying to max the short time available in Cadiz before leaving so early. Sunday at sea Lunchtime saw roast at the ‘station’ in the restaurant. Perfect roast, Yorkshires . . . but no roast spuds. Just Cajun something or other and new potatoes. Need more veg. options was the general criticism. Lovely afternoon spent lounging on deck 8. Wind kept most away from sunbeds but there is nearly always a sheltered spot, and there was today. Tip: Good idea to put towels on the very comfy sunbeds as some were showing signs of days of sun cream and sweat. There are plenty of spares in the changing rooms near the pool. Then leave in ‘bins’ in same area when finished with. Saves carrying up and down from cabin. And drink plenty of water with your cocktails on the sunbeds. Dinnertime saw more frantic activity on the curtain front in the Thistle. Apparently since day one waiting staff have wrestled with pegs and all sorts to stop diners by the windows being blinded by the sun. It took several attempts to hold the non-drawing curtains across most of the window. Our waiters confirmed this is an ongoing and very annoying problem that could easily be resolved. Monday at sea Very unusually second day of slow service. Something amiss in kitchen apparently. The Moonlight bar is an excellent chill out / meeting area with 2 outstanding characters, Andy and Alit. AKA Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Entertainment wise ‘Memory Man’ was most excellent. A £12 laundry offer appeared tonight. Actually a very good deal. Tuesday Bordeaux A very nice vibrant city with Braemar in the perfect parking spot. Again, NOT ENOUGH TIME here. Overnight should give you 2 full days, you really need them here. Leaving early morning the second day before the shops even opened was just a waste. Very hot! Again, no local French entertainment on board. Not even an accordion player. No food available on board, even the buffet was shut when we came back to drop shopping off and grab something to eat before heading out again. We had to hang around an extra hour and a half before we could eat. Wife’s note: why have only grapes with seeds and where are the strawberries and raspberries? We were treated to a spectacular natural light show from the deck early evening. Continual forked lightning flickering all around Bordeaux for a good half hour scattering all the students who meet up on the riverbanks. There was an incredibly bad reverberating noise in our cabin which continued down the corridor at night. We were forced to ring reception who obviously knew of the problem as they immediately offered an inside cabin but on the same deck so no use at all. Turns out according to bar tender the noise is caused when the (tidal) river level in Bordeaux lowers, the engine noise bounces back off the riverbank walls we are moored against. Big gripe. We had no time to do anything in morning as ship left at 9am NOT 10.30am as advised. The man at reception tried to tell me we supposed to have left at midnight! The young lady there however blamed the early departure on the tide. Tides are known years in advance. I had all the port arrival and departure times direct from Olsen HQ before we left specifically to double check private tour timings. Time in port was cut a few times. Call me sceptical but would reduced time in port equate to less expense? I only have experience of Celebrity and their advised port times were spot on every time. With Olsen if you have booked a tour using their arrival / departure times issued from HQ you could lose your tour fee if time was cut short or miss the ship. Wednesday at sea Really pleasant cruise back up river to the sea passing through a fascinating vertical lift bridge. The crew show was excellent. Barkeeper Andy’s number 2 in the Moonlight bar had an incredibly good voice but the poor guy had to sing twice, returning straight to the bar after each performance. Thursday at sea Found a lovely sheltered sunbed spot again. The Grand Gala lunch and seafood buffet was excellent as was the Cockleshell Heroes talk. Retrieved our suitcases from storage and sadly began packing. I do wonder what will happen when the current crop of septuagenarians and octogenarians who choose Fred Olsen fade away. Will the younger cruisers currently used to ‘modern luxury’ lines such as Celebrity choose Fred Olsen’s ‘traditional’ cruising on older ships as they get on in years or the more modern ‘boutique’ cruisers such as Saga? (Whose smaller ships can reach the same destinations as Olsen). Don’t get me wrong we enjoy Olsen but it is tiresome getting the smell of paint up your nose every day on the sundeck along with continuous drilling, grinding and sanding somewhere on the ship most of the time. Exactly the same experience as we had on Blackwatch. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
I chose this cruise because it went from the port of Southampton, I could get a cabin for single use and it went to the countries I wanted to see, which were all wonderful and very clean. Some difficulty getting off the ship if you could ... Read More
I chose this cruise because it went from the port of Southampton, I could get a cabin for single use and it went to the countries I wanted to see, which were all wonderful and very clean. Some difficulty getting off the ship if you could not walk too far, quite a walk to get out of the docks and onto coaches if you have booked trips. The drinks package I purchased worked out at £19 per day bought online at point of booking. One of my dining companions purchased a drinks package onboard and said she paid £29 per day. I have cruised before on other ships and the drinks package covered everywhere on the ship but not on the Braemar. I am sorry to say I found it to be a rip-off. Embarkation and disembarkation went very smoothly and all staff and crew at Fred Olsen were very helpful and professional. I had to use the outdated computer in the outdated library to send an urgent email, which costs £26 per hour. I was unable to get any reception on my mobile at the time. The computer was so slow and I had to send two emails that ending up costing me £52. Dining was okay, but the portions were really so small. Similar to the size of meal you would receive if you were in a care home. The crew were fantastic but everything else on board was poor. The entertainment was average and the activities were like those found in care and retirement homes. A kind of lets make do and mend mentality. I personally felt it was old fashioned and outdated. Every time the sea was a bit rough you were tossed around. I felt the ship was not that stable, specially if you were elderly and most people were using walkers, mobility scooters, sticks and wheelchairs. A few people suffered from sea sickness because of the movement of the ship. The Braemar was not the ship for me but I might enjoy it better if it is still sailing when I am in my eighties. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
Isn't It Good? Day One, 18 May 2019. This cruise is to Norway, hence the cryptic title. Brilliant arrangements for boarding the Braemar. We arrived at noon, were met and greeted by the car parkers and porters, strolled straight ... Read More
Isn't It Good? Day One, 18 May 2019. This cruise is to Norway, hence the cryptic title. Brilliant arrangements for boarding the Braemar. We arrived at noon, were met and greeted by the car parkers and porters, strolled straight through check in and security, and were eating lunch by 12.15. Cabins were ready for 1 pm, luggage waiting outside. Don't you just hate airports? We spent a leisurely 20 minutes peering over the balcony watching ship's provisions coming off the back of vast lorry and being shuttled about by forklift. Also observing the arrival of passengers who had followed instructions not to get to port before 1.30. The Heavy Brigade were engaged in a valiant charge up the gangplank. Stormed at with shot and shell, boldly they strode and well. They boarded, but not, not the six hundred (Alfred Lord Thomason). One poor soul was borne away in an ambulance, accompanied by concerned companions. Better than cruising around the fjords in the ship's morgue. On Fred Olsen, dinner seating is fixed for the trip. We are on a table for six and if the company is dire, you have the option of taking another roll of the dice by changing restaurants. Fortunately, we deem this to be unnecessary. However, we will not know until tomorrow whether the other four decided that we are dire! Day Two Anthea does not get the cryptic title of this travelogue. Her soul must be made of rubber. Made it to the gym by seven this morning, despite the clocks going forward and a smidgeon of over indulgence on day one. They seem to have added more equipment or maybe my equipment has diminished. We do not arrive in port until tomorrow, so we could go line dancing, listen to a classical concert, or win a quiz. Instead, we opt for a general acclimatisation day, i.e. boozing, snoozing and shmoozing Tonight the dress code is formal in the main restaurant and the overwhelming majority of cruisers are happy to go along with that, leaving the tracksuit two club to order another ten rounds of Newcastle Brown. The Romanian captain quips his way merrily through his welcome cocktail party and introduces his executive team. In matters maritime, Croatia and Bulgaria rule the waves, leaving the Welsh and Scots to boss the galley slaves. I am happy to report that all our dining companions showed up, so we can't be that bad. Day Three Our first stop in Norway is the city of Kristiansand, on the Skagerrak Sea. Its most attractive feature is a 17th Century quarter called Kvadraturen. White clapperboard houses line the grid planned streets, the last survivors of city wide fires which eventually prompted the city authorities to require all new builds to be in brick. The clapperboard houses are roofed with orange tiles from the Netherlands, the trade exchange being one lobster for one tile. We then move on to the Vest Adger County Museum. Here they have re-assembled a 16th century farmstead, complete with turfed roofs. One of the grain stores has a removable section in the wall to enable the storage of bodies of those who died in winter when the ground was too hard to dig. The smoky dark interiors of the houses accommodated up to fifteen people in two rooms, but if you were young and healthy you slept with the pigs and cows. A woman's most attractive feature was considered to be weight lifter calves for lifting buckets. At first sight modern Norwegian living appears to be very functional and politically correct. The Greens call the shots, beer is £12 a pint, 58% of all new cars bought are electric, and income tax is over 50%. Suddenly, those smokey dark interiors with a wood fire and a bucket of mead don't seem so bad, especially with a flash of bulging calf! Day Four We rise early to watch our progress along the 100 kilometre Oslo Fjord, a route which takes us past the house of the Olsen family. Our boat is followed in by the larger Balmoral, the new rigid inflatable boats (RIBS) make up the rest of the flotilla and a special flag is run up in salute of the company founders when we pass the small village they came from in the 1840's. The scenery is very attractive on a sunny morning and crew bustle around with early morning tea, coffee, hot chocolate, Buck's Fizz, pastries and bacon, sausage and mushroom butties. Breakfast comes later. There are just 5.2 million Norwegians but civic pride looms large in the architecture and layout of Oslo. The decision to have a royal family was made by referendum in the early 20th century. A splendid avenue leads up to the palace, bordered by elegant anti terrorist devices consisting of large metal saucers full of flowers. Norway has the largest public reserves in the world derived from its oil revenues, and this is reflected in grand scale building projects such as the 'glacier styled' opera house. But the highlight of the trip so far is a visit to Vigiland Sculpture Park. Gustav Vigiland was commissioned by the city authorities in the late 19th century to produce statues for public spots. He somewhat over-delivered and there are now over 200 groups of these in a beautiful landscape. Made in iron, bronze and granite they are a exhilarating expression of the human form and experience from cradle to grave. Some are in simple repose, contrasting with others which are engaged in extreme contortions. High above the city is the Holmenkollen Ski Centre. A new ski jump and biathlon arena are under construction and testify to the obsession this country has with the sport. What an excellent obsession! The word 'ski' is Norwegian for flat plank. Ancient carvings depict folk on skis, presumably Nords winning the Bedrock Downhill. Day Five The approach to Arendal is reputed to be one of the most scenic in the world, and very pretty it is. We berth close to the town centre adjacent to a steep cliff with houses on top. A footpath zig zags to the top. Along this and in the garden of the house about three dozen school children perform a dance to a piece from 'Frozen'. This has not been announced on board but all the cruisers with starboard cabins or taking a deck stroll give an enthusiastic round of applause when the performance has finished. A great way of showing of the best side of ŷour culture. Norwegiansare still deeply wounded by the massacre of the children by the right wing nutcase in 2011. The guy responsible is never named and is referred to simply as 'the traitor'. We take a small boat ride around channels and skerries of the archipelago. The hills and coastline are covered with beautiful forests and white clapperboard houses. Apparently the place has won the European award for the best maintained properties. Almost every house has a boat and this is a very popular summer resort. Today, the misty waters are very calm and the gulls and cormorants have it to themselves - apart from us! We go along with the suggestion to dress up for British night. Escapist patriotism and mythical identities run riot in the sing song featuring national twaddle songs, and there is no hint of Xenophobia, even though folk are balling "Red, white and blue What does it mean to you Surely you're proud Shout it out loud." Harmless enough. Probably. Day Six Into the fjords proper this morning covering Maurangsfjord, Fureberg Waterfall and Hardangerfjord. Isn't it good, Norwegian Wood, hums Anthea, the Penny having dropped. All very epic. The minimisation of humans and the omnipresence of nature bring on a serious case of pseuds corner, an overload of awe and wonder, and a swelling of the numinous. It is rumoured that some passengers have had to retreat to their cabins and lie down until scenic sickness abates. Not this one. In the afternoon we get up close to the elements by boarding a RIB. We don bright yellow thermal floatation suits, goggles and gloves and wizz around Eijefjord at up to 40 knots. At one end of the water there is a hydro electric power station big enough to power the city of Bergen. Hardly any of it is visible, as the pipes and turbines have been inserted into the cliffs. On a plateau 400 meters high is an old farm, and in former times the children had to go up and down a footpath to school. "Late again Ibsen. What's the excuse this time?" Norway had universal literacy much earlier than the U.K. And it was one of the reasons why the small nation was economically successful even before the discovery of oil. Before we return to the ship our driver takes us close to the bottom of a tumbling waterfall, and we really feel we've earned a tumbler of Bailey's. Day Seven We go into the Lysefjord during the morning, regarded by those who are supposed to know these things to be the ultimate expression of fjord topography. Royal Caribbean would get wedged in the first bend! High vertical cliffs on port and starboard give way to stretches of open water with mountains receding in rows to a vanishing point. Don't try to paint the scene unless you have mastered perspective. We pass the famous Pulpit Rock and the world's longest wooden staircase (4,444 steps ) which has something to do with another hidden power station. It has become a tradition to bring over a Gang of Sherpas once a year to repair and maintain stone footpaths used by hikers. They have celebrity status, which probably means feature articles in 'Hikey Hikey Ho' magazine. The second and final formal night of the trip concludes with the ever popular crew show, which demonstrates that the workers have considerately more talent among them than we would ever guess over the breakfast table. As I have said in a previous report it is an ingenious way of stirring up the feel good factor all round. The status of the crew is elevated, while the guests feel they're making a small contribution to world social mobility. Indeed, during the final song, in the little bubble of suspended reality that is the Neptune Lounge , "We Are The World". Day Eight The day of the gala buffet. Being new to Olsen, our dining companions can't quite believe their taste buds as they range across sumptuous seafood, the finest cold meats and a giant cooked gammon in a shortcrust pastry, an overwhelming display of cakes and pastries, not to mention the chocolate fountain. "Oh the buzzing of the bees, in the cigarette trees...."etc. We have now left Norwegian waters and are churning our way through the North Sea back to Blighty, the land we love, but also the land of blubbing bungling ministers, broken promises, and Brexit Bollocks. That said, would you really want to live in a land of welfare economics, equality of opportunity way beyond the U.K. model, the highest Human Development Index in the world, the top spot in the World Happiness Report, the Better Life Index and the Index of Public Integrity and Democracy? Perhaps not. But we might like to take a closer look at it! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
Embarkation went very smoothly from 101 berth in Southampton, the cabin was ready when we boarded which was great, so we could leave our things there, explore the ship and have a bite to eat. The cabin was quite spacious and very clean, ... Read More
Embarkation went very smoothly from 101 berth in Southampton, the cabin was ready when we boarded which was great, so we could leave our things there, explore the ship and have a bite to eat. The cabin was quite spacious and very clean, comfy bed and a reasonable amount of wardrobe space. The one negative was the size of the bathroom, see cabin review. We were booked in for first sitting in the Thistle restaurant which was light and airy on a table for eight. Lovely company for the cruise and fairly good service though the standard of the food was very variable. Had to send back food that was either overcooked or dried up. The standard of presentation was also lacking at times. We usually cruise with Celebrity whose food and presentation is a whole lot better. They could produce nice meals, both formal nights the food was excellent as was the buffet lunch on the last sea day, which made the 'off' days all the more unexplainable. The entertainment was, on the whole, good. The Braemar troupe were excellent and the shows they put on in the Neptune Lounge were very enjoyable, a couple of the guest entertainers were not to our taste so we avoided them as well as the singer, guitarist in the pub area who made every song sound the same and just sang in a monotone drone, so depressing. Service was excellent on the whole especially in the Coral Club and the Observatory. We had occasion to report a non flushing loo, that was fixed within the hour, very impressed. Good ports of call though the order was different to the advertised cruise due to adverse weather conditions. We did visit them all though, the highlight being Seville. As the Braemar is a shallow draught ship we sailed up the river and docked in the heart of the city, a cruise in itself! Beautiful city and we were there for the last day of the annual fair and the fireworks, very memorable. Add to this Cadiz, lovely Lisbon, Porto and La Coruna, some very interesting destinations. We took two shore excursions, a tour round Seville and a visit to the Alcazar palace which was excellent with a very well informed and interesting guide, worth the money. The other was a coach to Porto from Lexios where we were docked. Total rip off £30 each for what in the end was a lot less than the three hours we were promised. Do not go on this trip, we found out, too late, you could get a local bus there for just a few euros. Check with the local tourist office for details, they are just outside the dock gate and you get a free bus from the ship to the gate! Braemar is a very comfortable small ship, we never had problems finding a seat in the bars or a Sun bed on the pool deck, and the lack of music blaring out there was bliss, so relaxing. Would certainly consider a future cruise on her. Back to Southampton and debarking at 102 which was a tent, not a nice end to a lovely cruise. Felt so sorry for people in wheel chairs and the way they had to get off the ship via a temporary gang way rather than a smooth air bridge. Considering all the money the port gets from cruise passengers this really is not good enough, time to spend some I think, come on Southampton. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
We booked this cruise at the last minute, we paid a lot for the trip. I was in a single room which was located on deck 2 at the front, the room was very nice being an inside cabin, well equiped and the bed was very comfortable, good shower ... Read More
We booked this cruise at the last minute, we paid a lot for the trip. I was in a single room which was located on deck 2 at the front, the room was very nice being an inside cabin, well equiped and the bed was very comfortable, good shower and plenty of space with loads of storage for clothes. The dowside to this room and I express this to any one looking to travel on any Fred Olsen ship, the room is located above the bow thrusters which means during docking the rooms vibrates and the noise is undiscibable, I you have a heart proplem this is not the room to have. Fred Olsen should warm guests that this room has problems and at 1.00 in the morning being jolted out of a sleep is not good. The rest of the ship is OK for its size, comfotable but limeted. food very good with the down side of only being available at certain times during the day, as on other ships food is on tap 6.00 - 2.00. The entertainmant is OK very well put together. I would thing twice about going with Fred Olsen, you can get better for the same money on other cruise companys. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
We chose Fred's Braemar as a short break and the opportunity to try out a different cruise operator. Braemar is a well laid out ship in good overall condition for its age, they are currently doing an upgrade to install a RIB as have ... Read More
We chose Fred's Braemar as a short break and the opportunity to try out a different cruise operator. Braemar is a well laid out ship in good overall condition for its age, they are currently doing an upgrade to install a RIB as have the other ships in the fleet. This is being done during normal operation of the ship, so one area of deck and exit route from the services desk was out of bounds. The staff, food, lounges and dining areas were all good. Entertainment from the onboard team was good. At the start of the trip there were only 2 dancers but that did not detract from the spectacle. The last show has 4 dancers which for the last show made it a full stage. If staying on deck 2 starboard side window rooms mid ship, you may incur the sound of the steam heating pipes for the swimming pools banging from around 07:00 through to 17:00. The staff are aware of the noise, we were offered a change of room. I believe the steam hammering is caused by either an unsecured pipe or a defective condensate trap (yes I'm an engineer and know what steam hammer is !.) They have not fixed the hammering so if you stay in this area of the ship listen out for it. It will wake you and can become annoying. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2019
We choose this cruise to celebrate our 40th wedding Anniversary and the special offer price was too attractive to turn down. We were let down by Guest Services in Suffolk regarding this but the staff on board more than made up it. Stephen ... Read More
We choose this cruise to celebrate our 40th wedding Anniversary and the special offer price was too attractive to turn down. We were let down by Guest Services in Suffolk regarding this but the staff on board more than made up it. Stephen and Gustie in the Thistle were great. The food was better than expected with lots of choice. Our Cabin stewardess Patti offered service above expected and James in the Observation Lounge remembered our cabin number after the second visit to the bar. Jeffery in guest services sorted out head offices issues! In my opinion the art works left a lot to be desired. The one in our cabin was awful. It would have been useful to know that all the museums but one were closed In Lisbon on a Monday and Cadiz was closed on Sunday (the days we visited). The drinks package was good for adults but for anyone aged between 12-17 years it was a waste of money unless you were prepared to rot your child's teeth with at least 9 fizzy drinks a day. Yet you had to pay adult prices for the children if you had anyone of this age in your cabin. Very unfair Fred Olsen. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
the time was right and some good places to visit and trip was good and food and service excellent good value for money. the cruise director had a snuffly cold and was announcing things over the tannoy and you could hear her sniffles ... Read More
the time was right and some good places to visit and trip was good and food and service excellent good value for money. the cruise director had a snuffly cold and was announcing things over the tannoy and you could hear her sniffles (not a good impression ) the toilets had no hot water in them and when we told the desk they said they would look into it. needless to say it was not fixed and as everywhere notices were posted about washing your hands to avoid the novo virus this should have been rectified. overall the ship was neat and catered for disabled guests the food excellent and the staff were very helpful and were quick to remember what you had ordered before so proving how attentive they were there was a change of ports due to the yellow jackets being in Bordeaux so we missed them but this did not affect us and it was done with safety in mind Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We chose this cruise, our first with 'Fred', entirely on price as ridiculously cheap at £45 per night.pp. We have visited all the destinations before which made it quite relaxing. For the price you really can't complain ... Read More
We chose this cruise, our first with 'Fred', entirely on price as ridiculously cheap at £45 per night.pp. We have visited all the destinations before which made it quite relaxing. For the price you really can't complain about anything. The staff are fantastic to a tee. Ever single one we met was polite,courteous, smiley and friendly. The food is superb, as good as any we have been on including Cunard and P and O. Exception being afternoon tea which we felt a little lacking. It irks a bit being asked to pay to change dinner sitting. Most other cruise lines are helpful and try to do this for free. Not a good first impression. We particularly liked the way the buffet restaurant opens out onto the open back decks allowing al fresco dining with great views. Many modern ships lack this with rear decks reserved for cabins. Entertainment in the theatre is absolutely superb, great acts all the way through, very polished and a great live orchestra for every show. The theatre seating though is awful. The mix of sofas and swivel chairs just doesn't work. The levels are all wrong and getting past is difficult. Many drinks spilt from silly table design. Replacing the swivel chairs with another row of sofas would be far better. And why oh why must they serve drinks during performances? It is bad enough with inconsiderate guests and unfortunately some staff members, (good to see the comedian laying into one of the repeat staff offenders!) getting up and moving around or talking during performances, with waiters taking orders too it is so disruptive. Surely people can survive for 45 minutes without ordering a drink and if one is that incontinent surely it is polite to sit at the back? Some polite reminders needed at the start of the show perhaps? Other bars were of mixed quality entertainment. The string quartet were superb, we felt they needed a 'quiet zone' so that they could be fully appreciated.. The ship itself is mixed. Inside areas: Some areas have been revamped and look great such as the observation and lido bars and the library/card room. We didn't use the spa/gym but this looked superb with the best views on the ship. Much of the ship though is dated and has a bit of a motorway service station come care home vibe. There is no 'wow factor', However it is all comfortable with plenty of lounge areas and does the job. Outside decks: We love the 'stacked' rear decks. Plenty of space and often sheltered on sea days. However, excepting the revamped lido lounge, it is all rather tired looking with rust stains around the pool etc. The sunbeds are ancient and well past their sell by date. There are plenty of them though. What really disgusted us was the way too many people lay with sweaty bare skin direct on the fabric with no towels. Yuk! There really need to be pool towels handed out on deck, not just in the cabin and some signage encouraging their use. Our man gripe would be cleanliness. We were pleased that there was enforcement of hand gel use at the entry to restaurants. There were however, too many sticky and smeary surfaces throughout the ship. It didn't gleam like other cruise lines we have been with. Chairs in the lounges with sticky wooden arms. When you pick up a chair in the restaurant your hand would stick to the back. Tables not wiped down when resetting in the buffet etc. This really needs attention. Getting on and off the ship was flawless and we liked the way that independent travel is not discouraged as with some other lines. Bus pick up points etc are advertised. All in all though fantastic value and a very frienldly down to earth ship. With the October refit hopefully addressing some of the issues and some attention to cleaning standards we would certainly use Fred Olsen again. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
Previous wonderful experience with Fred Olsen over the past fifteen years. Sadly, will go with them no more unless they get back to their previous excellence. It appears that the ' Bean Counters ' have taken charge. Cruise prices ... Read More
Previous wonderful experience with Fred Olsen over the past fifteen years. Sadly, will go with them no more unless they get back to their previous excellence. It appears that the ' Bean Counters ' have taken charge. Cruise prices have rocketed by up to 70% ( beware ' Anchor Fares ' you will be second class guests even having to pay a large sum for a couple of clicks on a computer to change your unfavourable dining time ). Quality of food has fallen dramatically, they used to have the very best food, now the meat is tough ( pork steaks, veal etc. ) Food in the self service buffets is always no more than very lukewarm, cold bacon, uncooked vegetables, far less than al dente, just dipped in warm water. The breakfast marmalade and jams are cheap, bulk bought and tasteless in open dishes rather than the tasty individual sealed packs and immediately adjacent to wheat bearing bagels so the crumbs can contaminate the jams with gluten. Scrambled eggs very cool and so runny they could be poured; horrid. Never once was steak or prawn cocktails on offer, unlike other cruise lines where they are staple every dinner. A New Maitre D' needed, bring back Mr Angel. Same guest artists twice each in 7 nights. Good theatre company, though. No interesting guest speakers Captain waiter in Palms never once spoke to us, not even a greeting. We ate there over 30 times. Dirty looking, food ingrained table mats in Palms restaurant, no doubt bacteria bearing. Mentioned this but they were only ever wiped over with a damp cloth, and, to think, cruise lines worry about Norovirus !! Only place where good food available is The Grill, at £20,00 per person extra, but even that is over priced, no soup on menu. Only good coffee on the ship in there. We have recommended Olsen to many friends and obtained many customers for them but we can no longer do so as there is far better value on other cruise lines. We have three further cruises booked, none of them with Fred Olsen. Only consolation of this cruise was the wonderful staff (mostly ) Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We knew we had made an expensive mistake with this cruise when we saw the other passengers at Southampton - we are in our late sixties/early seventies but we felt like teenagers compared with the rest of the passengers. During the course ... Read More
We knew we had made an expensive mistake with this cruise when we saw the other passengers at Southampton - we are in our late sixties/early seventies but we felt like teenagers compared with the rest of the passengers. During the course of the voyage we saw a few passengers younger than us - but that was it - a few! Embarkation and disembarkation was extremely efficient and we cannot fault anybody for that. The crew were fantastic and really helpful and we both really enjoyed the food. However, there were a lot of sea days and there was nothing to do. There was an ex BBC producer who gave some very good talks but after that it was all extremely boring if you didn't play bridge. The entertainment was amateur - there was one guest male singer who was very good and we enjoyed the crew show but otherwise we were very unimpressed. We went often in case it improved but we sat at the back so we could get out when we had had enough - we generally didn't last long. There were a couple of good pianists in the bars though. What really finished us off was not having enough time in port - particularly Lisbon. The itinerary said we would leave 'late pm' and we were looking forward to having a whole day there. However we had to be back on board by 15:30 - on what planet does half past 3 in the afternoon equate to 'late pm'? We were really disappointed. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
Care of the customer seems to have become secondary to profit. A92 yr old pensioner had to be admitted to hospital in Cherbourg but was released as fit a few hours later. We saw him at 1pm sitting in the drafty embarkation shed having been ... Read More
Care of the customer seems to have become secondary to profit. A92 yr old pensioner had to be admitted to hospital in Cherbourg but was released as fit a few hours later. We saw him at 1pm sitting in the drafty embarkation shed having been refused entry to the ship despite the fact the hospital had discharged him as fit to travel, he was 50 meters from the ship,and the ship was not due to sail until 7.30pm. Having made a noisy protest at customer services whose only response was 'we cannot tell you anything' he and partner were finally allowed back on board. All we could do was to mention the Press and hope for the best. They were 12 hrs from Southampton but were expected to get a taxi and three trains to get to the port in the UK to get their luggage which was still on the ship. A truly disgraceful way to treat anyone. Ports and excursions left a lot to be desired. We apparently did not always get our normal births so shuttle buses were used, these dropped you off where they felt like rather the centre of towns, lots of walking on rough pavements. Lisbon was cancelled due to the weather, whose bright idea was Cherburg as a replacement? Entertainment was very good, the new dancing troupe were excellent. Food was adequate but small portions and not as good as before. Restaurants appear to be understaffed. My wife was confined to the cabin for over 30 hours following something she ate, and received a letter saying how grateful they were that she obeyed the guidelines, and as a reward she was offered £71 - off the next cruise booking within the next 12 months. We are speechless. Needless to say, we will not be using their offer. Our disappointment at the whole episode, which should have been a happy break, is now a very miserable experience, not to be repeated. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
I wish I’d seen several of the recent comments before I booked on Black Watch. There is so little to merit this ship apart from a very loyal and overworked crew. I have no idea why it has such an apparently loyal following from ... Read More
I wish I’d seen several of the recent comments before I booked on Black Watch. There is so little to merit this ship apart from a very loyal and overworked crew. I have no idea why it has such an apparently loyal following from passengers, although maybe I will when I’m in my 80s which seemed to be the average age on board! The itinerary seemed good when I booked but we spent the minimum amount of time in several ports which seemed to be to save money rather than give passengers a real chance of seeing anywhere. They then sailed slowly to the next port to save money on fuel I guess? I wasn’t the only one who felt this! The food is only just above average unless you like traditional bland food. The fixed dining is out of date – we were allocated the 8.30 sitting which is far too late and the earlier sitting would have been too early! Thankfully they do have a café style restaurant Brigadoon which was generally very good and rarely crowded in the evening. It was packed by day especially as this is the only place to get afternoon tea! The coffee on board is terrible unless you pay for a coffee in one of the numerous bars. We chose the wrong fare so paid an exorbitant amount but even on one of the ‘drinks included’ packages, we were told by fellow passengers that it doesn’t include coffees! Come on, there is no reason not to have a decent coffee machine using actual coffee beans as all catering companies and other cruise lines such as P & O do! I also felt Fred were encouraging people to drink far too much alcohol especially spirits as well as wine and beer with all meals which is contrary to modern advice about drinking. I didn’t purchase a drinks package because of this and found their Freedom fare is no such thing, especially if you book late because it doesn’t even include the gratuities! The entertainment was very predictable and repetitive. The speakers were knowledgeable but their delivery was very poor. The only good classical concerts (of which there were only 2 in 14 days) were from a privately booked group. Many activities such as craft and some fitness classes have a supplementary payment which seems outrageous given the high prices. I have never known this on other cruise ships. The air conditioning was terrible in our very noisy cabin. I guess it is set high for an old people’s home which is what it felt like. The only cool place on the ship (apart from outside) was the Observatory so we spent lots of time there. To be fair, they do have lots of lounge space unlike many other boats but some areas especially near the theatre are very dated and gloomy especially at night. I am used to being able to walk around Promenade decks but don’t try this on any day with a glimpse of sunshine because you cant walk round the back of the ship without negotiating those in a bar who move their chairs to block the route! It seems the only way to get value from a Fred cruise if you can stand their very old fashioned approach is to book one of there 3 for 2 cruises packages but as I never want to go on one of their boats ever again, I have to live with very poor value! I very much agree with the comment about charging a 5* price, and delivering at best a 3* product, in fact it was more like 2*! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We chose this cruise for the chance to see LA and San Francisco. what did we see . More sea than expected. All went well until we exited the Panama canal then an argument with a fishing net ( we lost) reduced our speed to 8 knots and ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the chance to see LA and San Francisco. what did we see . More sea than expected. All went well until we exited the Panama canal then an argument with a fishing net ( we lost) reduced our speed to 8 knots and our itinerary was lost as well , missed ports, reduced time in port and more tendering . LA no chance ,San Francisco 3 days down to 1and a half , We went to El Salvador a port I would have liked to have missed reminded me of Aden in the 60s only thing missing was the gunfire. Management seemed very reluctant to tell the paying customers what was going on. No news being good news I suppose. This would have been the time for the cruise director and onboard show company to shine but no they didn't rise to the occasion, The onboard activity was sparse ,the art class was in the hands of two lady ex teachers who thought they were still at kindergarten . I'm afraid I didn't stay the course due to the constant arguments , not the passengers the teachers. The craft class was good The food was good as was the restaurant service , cabin cleaning seems to have taken a down turn, balcony's not cleaned and windows dirty, we came back one day to a line of dirty footprints across our carpet ,not ours and housekeeping was very reluctant to clean it. We returned home to a letter apologising for all the problems and offering 10% off our next cruise provided we booked direct and within a year. Fat chance my money will now go elsewhere. I've had many cruise's with Fred in the past, most times things have gone wrong one way or another but this time they surpassed themselves and sadly they don't seem to care. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2019
We usually travel with P&O during the January - March period to escape the British winter but they had nothing new this year so we thought a return to Fred Olsen with a different itinerary would be different. We travelled on ... Read More
We usually travel with P&O during the January - March period to escape the British winter but they had nothing new this year so we thought a return to Fred Olsen with a different itinerary would be different. We travelled on Balmoral 10 years ago and she has been sympathetically updated since and is very well maintained. The problem we had last time still exists unfortunately - she is just not up to maintaining her itinerary in heavy weather. Whereas P&O ships maintain 18 - 20 knots, we were down to 11-15 most of the time. This adds to the length of any passage; 6 days on the Atlantic rather than five for example. We missed 2 ports owing to this and our time in many ports was often reduced to little more than a half day. As we actually visited 13 ports in 62 nights, it was lucky that we enjoyed sea days! Fortunately the Atlantic was kind to us both ways so we lost no time there. Unfortunately the ship picked up a fishing net in the Pacific (not anyone's fault despite popular opinion) and we were reduced to 10/11 knots maximum. Fortunately we were able to fix the problem in San Diego. All credit to the captain (and the excellent Cruise Director Elliot Taylor) who ran two forums for the passengers to explain the issue and its implications. He didn't have to do it and it was much appreciated. As a result, tours to Los Angeles had to run by coach from San Diego which was not viable for many. An unexpected side effect of the change to the itinerary was that in retrospect our days in the US ports co-incided with the few days of good weather during a cold wet period there. The original itinerary would have meant our visits would have quite bad weather. So it wasn't all bad luck! The crew, as always on Fred, were terrific. The Filipinos particularly appear to be a joyous and optimistic people and are so friendly and accommodating. On 'special' nights, the bar girls were often allowed to dress up in all their finery which made some of the passengers feel very old indeed! The crew shows are always a 'Must Do' on a Fred ship. The entertainment, particularly the Show Company was pretty good, as was the lecture programme (which included two submarine historians strangely). Violinist Michael Bacala was the star of the cruise for us - and it was good to see Captain Henrik Mattson keeping up the Fred tradition of getting involved by being thrown in the pool on one 'Pirate' event! One thing that did disappoint a little was the quality of the meals; the dinners in particular. They were often unimaginative and not very well done which was not usual in our Fred experience. On P&O the same meals are served up in different combinations to add a bit of variety but on Balmoral the menus were fixed - and appear to have been so for several years in some cases. The two Canal transits were well commentated, in good weather and full of interest. We actually did the transit four times - twice by ship, once by coach and once on the Panama Railway heritage train which is 'must do' tour. The ship had around 900 fellow passengers aboard - well below the ship's capacity. This was probably because we had many singles (who were well catered for) and nearly always good mixers. Inevitably the age profile was older but we found most people to be pretty friendly and they were nearly all frequent Fred travellers ; we were surprised by the loyalty everyone expressed. Fred really is a family concern. Whenever we encountered a big cruise ship in port, universal revulsion was expressed! Interesting since so few of our fellow passengers had ever sailed on a bigger ship! Fred does deservedly well to keep such a loyal following - hopefully they have a business strategy to cater for when we all die of old age! It was a good cruise that rolled happily along with lots to entertain us on the may sea days. Maybe people who are more interested in destinations would have been disappointed by our progress but we enjoyed it. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
Not many people post about Fred Olsen, maybe because so many passengers are returning guests, on this cruise over half those on board had silver Oceans club membership or above, so Fred must be doing something right. We were on our fifth ... Read More
Not many people post about Fred Olsen, maybe because so many passengers are returning guests, on this cruise over half those on board had silver Oceans club membership or above, so Fred must be doing something right. We were on our fifth cruise and third with Olsen, also our second on the Balmoral The itinerary to the Canaries was similar to our previous time but we did not mind because we like most of the ports and the purpose was to celebrate a big birthday somewhere warm and at sea. It turned out to be a special experience. On the birthday morning the ship docked in Lisbon which we think one of the most beautiful arrival settings in the world and the sun was shining to give us a great day out with lunch on a restaurant terrace. Back on the ship in the evening there was the traditional Fred Olsen birthday cake and greetings at dinner. I had been advised when booking to have my birthday treat package on a sea day, so the champagne breakfast came the next morning complete with smoked salmon, fresh fruit and all the trimmings. Also included is a photo session with the ship’s photographers which resulted in some lovely photo memories to bring home and we have them on CD so can print all that we want. I would recommend a Fred cruise to anyone with a special anniversary or birthday to celebrate. Back to the practicalities: embarkation was the easiest we have ever had, parked in sight of the ship and were on board by 1.30 with all the luggage. The only down side at the beginning was that we were assigned the 8.30 dinner which we tried once but it really does not work for us. So top marks to the maitre d’ and his assistant for giving in to my pestering and reassigning us not just to the 6.15 sitting but also to the (as I think nicer) restaurants on deck 10. I have to say I think the quality of food is not as high as it used to be, on our first cruise back in 2012 on the Black Watch we were really impressed but not this time. There were 3 new port calls for us (but in the event only two as one was dropped at the last minute): the Unesco biosphere island of La Palma where we went on the excursion to the magnificent volcanic crater. A spectacular visit, just marred by the guide having to hurry us all the time, as the ship only had half a day in La Palma. On the way back the call was A Coruna in northern Spain, a stylish Spanish city in a beautiful setting. The other port calls we had been to before (Tenerife, Las Palmas, Madeira, Puerto Rosario on Fuerteventura), so for those who like to make their own port arrangements, here were our ideas this time: Madeira: walked along a levada; Tenerife: shopped in El Corte Ingles; Las Palmas: hired bikes to cycle along the prom; Fuerteventura: wandered into town for a coffee (again only half a day but you wouldn’t want any more). As before with onboard entertainment, we rate the ship show company and orchestra really highly. We often find the regular bands better than the featured artistes, but this time were impressed by trumpet player Leo Shavers, and also by some good classical concerts. I’m not sure if Fred Olsen has given up on sail away parties, but there weren’t any, and we missed the fun of those occasions. Finally disembarkation, the speediest ever, we were back in the car and on our way out of southampton by 8.45. In summary, the cruise more than met our hopes and expectations. Ps there was a problem with norovirus cases but generally special arrangements were dealt with graciously and effectively by the crew. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We wanted to get away for some summer sun in January but didn't want the hassle of flying so a cruise from Southampton to Madeira and the Canary Islands sounded perfect, and it was. We couldn't believe how smooth embarkation ... Read More
We wanted to get away for some summer sun in January but didn't want the hassle of flying so a cruise from Southampton to Madeira and the Canary Islands sounded perfect, and it was. We couldn't believe how smooth embarkation was. On arrival at Southampton a member of staff was ready to whisk our bags away before we had even parked and within minutes of arrival we were sat in the Observation Lounge with a G&T. The crew were friendly, helpful and very efficient. The ports we visited were all interesting and the days at sea gave us a chance to relax. We were very lucky with the weather as the Bay of Biscay was calm. There was an outbreak of Norovirus (only to be expected) and full marks to the crew for stepping up to all the additional duties with a smile. Bottom of the class were the passengers we saw taking plates of sandwiches from the cafe back to their room, eating them on their way and then touching the handrails - hardly hygienic; the partner of a quarantined passenger who was determined to go on his booked tour excursion even though the captain had said he was not allowed ashore and the passengers who refused to use the hand gel. Only downside was the decision to ban jogging outside. The gym was hot and running machines are not good for knees. There are many responsible joggers who like to run in the fresh air and are always considerate to fellow guests. Come on Fred you could have some 'jogging time' on deck when other passengers could be warned to keep an eye out for runners. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
Fred Olsen Balmoral – Xmas/New Year 2018/19 – Canaries All in all, this was a most enjoyable cruise and a great way to spend both the festive season and celebrate my husband’s birthday on Christmas Eve. This was our first time ... Read More
Fred Olsen Balmoral – Xmas/New Year 2018/19 – Canaries All in all, this was a most enjoyable cruise and a great way to spend both the festive season and celebrate my husband’s birthday on Christmas Eve. This was our first time with “Fred”, although we’ve cruised a lot since getting the bug a decade ago. Compared with other lines, we were delighted that there was no constant hard sell, ship wide announcements were kept to an absolute minimum and queueing was practically non-existent. Of course the ship photographers were there as you ate at the gala dinners, but not always as you got on and off the ship - perhaps by the time we disembarked, they were on the excursions looking for material to go on the DVD. We always buy one and are looking forward to watching it on a snowy day – they’re really a great way to remember the cruise. One morning, I saw a photographer having breakfast, so took a photo of him, then told him it would be ready the next day! I thought it was funny, but have no idea what he must have really thought - he simply smiled very politely, then got on with his breakfast! Embarkation was truly straightforward, as was disembarkation (we cannot fathom why people sat on the stairs waiting to get off the ship when there were plenty of places to sit and wait). The only time we could have queued was at the Captain’s Receptions, but even then, we sat nattering to other passengers and waited until the queue had gone down. That really is the beauty of sailing on a smaller ship. I’ll get the one downside (British Night) out of the way so we can concentrate on how lovely everything else was. With the way politics are, perhaps something more neutral might be more appropriate. Why on earth would you travel abroad and bring that horrid jingoistic nonsense with you? We’re there to see the world and be ambassadors for our country, not to tell people we rule the waves! We were on second sitting, and rather tired that night, so watched the show from our cabin. We were astonished that the Boomtown Rats (Irish), Debbie Harry and Meatloaf (both US) were featured as the “Best of British”, not to mention Riverdance! And don’t get me started on the bit where they all dressed up as school children. Anyway, that was the low point of the cruise for us, and I’m sure other opinions are available. I made my own little protest by wearing a blue shirt with a yellow bow tie which surprisingly got some very positive comments from those who had cottoned on to the colours of a certain flag it resembled! I also wore a red, white and blue rosette (or was it perhaps bleu, blanc, rouge?) We bit our tongues on the “B” word and tried to forget that many of our fellow passengers had probably voted for the mess the country has found itself in. Such a shame, as we’ve never met such a friendly bunch on a cruise ship. It is sensible to steer very clear of any mention of politics, not wanting to ruin our holidays, nor anyone else’s! Anyway, before I lose you completely, let’s go back to all the positives, and that must start with the cruise highlight - the pantomime. This will be etched in our memories forever. It was definitely worth Andrew Robley (the Panto Dame) bringing 14 suitcases aboard, even though his mum was found clambering over them in her cabin! The theatre entertainment overall was a high standard and very enjoyable. Inside Cabin 4154 The cabin was small and the L-shaped layout of the beds made the best use of the space available, although the unit housing some drawers and the console for lights, announcements etc went behind one of the beds, just giving an extra shelf (which came in handy for my husband’s birthday cards to be displayed). The console itself had a button to turn off ship announcements, with a handy red light to let you know that one was being made. Our cases were on the very large side, so didn’t fit under the beds, especially as there was a wooden plinth in the middle. One case went in the wardrobe, the other between the chair and the bed. My husband has a habit of bringing extra coat hangers, not always necessary, but it’s not particularly a battle I care to fight. Thirty years together has taught me to agree to disagree, and if packing too many coat hangers is the worst thing, then we’re not doing badly! An extra couple of hangers might not have gone amiss, but he’d managed to pack over 30, so we had far too many! I’m sure they’d have brought us some extra, had we asked… The layout of the cabin meant one bed didn’t have a bedside lamp or table, which was a little bit disappointing – I suppose we could have asked for the bed to be made the other way round, so the drawer unit could be used. Being two men of a certain age, neither of us have much hair, so having not one but two hairdryers in the cabin made us laugh as did the fact that our Christmas crackers both contained combs! Daytime activities (especially after 5) are extremely low key (or non-existent), so we enjoyed the interactive TV’s on-demand film and TV programme options which we were very pleased to find came at no extra charge. The cabin was towards the back (I’m sure there’s a technical term for the blunt end), so when the ship was coming into port, the engine noise was fairly loud – and when moving in high winds, it did tend to creak, so earplugs are very much recommended. Having said this, for most of the trip, it wasn’t a problem. One cabin we would advise avoiding is 5143 – there was a really loud vibration noise outside, not sure if it was audible inside that cabin, though, but it would surprise me if not. We were delighted with the kettle in the cabin. Perhaps a little saucer for used teabags wouldn’t go amiss, but we used one of the glasses to put teabags in. We brought our own redbush teabags, but they were available in the tea station, along with a large selection of other teas and infusions. Our cabin stewardess came from Thailand and was very good and thorough. We didn’t get any towel animals, but perhaps, like the baked Alaska parade, also missing, that’s another thing of the past. We had a couple of very minor issues with the cabin (both of our own making). They were dealt with very speedily, with a short note afterwards to say they’d fixed the problem, but reminding us not to hesitate to get in touch if the problem hadn’t been rectified to our satisfaction, or if there was anything else they could do. A very nice touch, we thought. Dining – Table 301, Spey We’d asked for a table of 8, but were given a table of 6, but were only 5 diners – pleased to say we got on exceptionally well with our fellow travellers, three solo women. We were tucked into the corner by the door and it was very noisy at times, which apparently is unusual for the Spey. Being next to a serving station made it even noisier, cutlery and plates were thrown into bins by the waiters. Once we’d had a word with our servers it was better - we did this a couple of times during the cruise, simply saying that the noise levels had increased again. Had our table mates not been as brilliant as they were, we might well have asked to be moved. Service was impeccable – no problem with menu variations, for example having a starter as a dessert. With a couple of rare exceptions, we were very happy with everything we were served, although we did wonder why the rather tasty soup called borscht didn’t contain any beetroot! On the one night things really weren’t to our taste (the burnt nut roast incident), alternatives were found very quickly. We immensely enjoyed a late breakfast in the buffet sitting outside by the pool (heaters were on when it was cooler) – and rarely used the Ballindalloch main restaurant. One tip - for breakfast and lunch, all three restaurants have both a waiter served menu and a very similar buffet, but the menu items aren’t available in the main buffet. At breakfast, I very much liked the selection of nuts (Brazil, cashew and walnut) along with the goji berries. We didn’t partake of the sparkling wine at breakfast on formal nights, but I poured the orange juice into champagne flutes to give a sense of occasion! Much to my husband’s disgust (being on second sitting we’d not long had dinner), I liked to have a “look” at the midnight buffet, which was varied and certainly not at all leftovers from dinner! Needless to say, this “look” generally turned into something landing on a plate and into my mouth… Portions at dinner were on the meagre side - I’m sure double portions were available but we never asked - a couple of times we had two main courses, or an additional one to share. There’s no way anyone could go hungry! Christmas/New Year The ship was wonderfully decorated throughout and at guest services, we thought it was a lovely touch that you could help yourself to satsumas and nuts. Christmas Eve had a carol service after which port, sherry and mince pies were served in abundance. We got back to the cabin to find that instead of a chocolate on our pillows, we had a small bag of chocolates to share. Christmas Day had a deck party in the morning, with a free egg nog station, which helped things along rather nicely! Lunch was just a normal sea day – they actually forgot the lunch I’d ordered from a waiter – I asked several times over 30 minutes - but I did get a free glass of wine to compensate! I just thought it was hilarious as we were on an all inclusive package. But as they say, worse things happen at sea, and I certainly didn’t go hungry for long! In the afternoon, my husband had a sleep and I went to see the Queen’s speech which we all ended up listening to, as something was wrong with the technical setup. I very much applauded her sentiments against tribalism and the need to get on with ones neighbours, but bit my tongue! The entertainment team then played a game of charades, which was quite funny. We slept the rest of the afternoon until it was time to dress for the Captain’s reception. One of the entertainment guys was dressed up as Santa in the Captain’s parade on the way in, so I told him “all I wanted for Christmas is EU”, in quite a loud voice! It was Christmas, and I was well behaved for the most part! We thought our waiters seemed a bit rushed on Christmas Day, until we understood that they were all trying to synchronise and sing a few Christmas carols, which was another nice touch. We were very surprised to see that cocktail parties for certain loyalty level guests made up the main entertainment on Boxing Day, leaving very little to do for first time guests like us, or people who didn’t want to drink at 11am, but it did mean we got seats at the quiz, which was usually oversubscribed if you didn’t get there early enough. New Year’s Eve was great. There were two alternatives – one in case of rain, one for dry weather. The weather wasn’t too kind and we were glad to have brought rain ponchos with us which we put over our dinner suits. It’s a very comfy cruiseline and there isn’t any obvious stuffiness and pretentiousness we’ve found a couple of times on other lines. We were comfy and enjoying ourselves, so that’s what mattered! After dinner, we went to the show, then before we knew it, champagne (well, fizz) was flowing and the fireworks started which were absolutely fantastic and every bit as good as Sydney where we were lucky enough to see them on our honeymoon. One thing we didn’t hear, however, was a countdown, that’s not to say it didn’t happen. The festivities lasted long into the night and I knew it was time for bed when the conversation turned to football and all I could think to say on the subject was that some years ago, we’d really enjoyed seeing the Beverley Sisters – one of whom was married to a footballer. As I said, it was well and truly time for bed! I was very fragile the next day (one of the waiters even asked a couple of days later if I was still fragile!), we finally surfaced and went to brunch in the Spey at around 11.45am, after watching the ex-policeman’s talk on airport security on our cabin telly. We were surprised that it wasn’t really a brunch, but breakfast simply morphed into lunch at mid-day. After lunch, we went back to the cabin and watched a great film called What I Did Last Summer. After paying a visit to the future cruise desk, we sat at the back of the ship with a cuppa watching the most magical sunset, in a nice warm spot thanks to the outdoor heaters. Ports We’d been to most of the ports before - and all of them were very easy to walk to from the ship, as long as you’re able bodied. None of the ship excursions took our fancy, but we were most impressed with the booklet and maps that came before the cruise, although they could have done with a little more information about the ports themselves. The destination guide, Graeme, did a good job of giving some hints and tips and not being too centred on the excursions. However, his appalling pronunciation of place names left a lot to be desired! As a linguist I picked up on this and his pronunciation would probably have confused local people if you were asking for directions. For some reason, exact docking timings weren’t given until the day before, which made it a little difficult to plan too much in advance, but having said that, we did seem to be in port for longer than other cruises we’d been on. Lisbon We did a Free Walking Tour (you just pay a tip at the end) of the Alfama and Mouraria districts – you can easily book in advance online – they did stipulate a €2 deposit for not showing up, but were very accommodating when I said we were on a cruise ship and it depended on the weather if we could dock. The tour was excellent, even though we’ve been to Lisbon countless times, and I’d even spent a month here in the 80s, we learned quite a lot from our guide. The tour ended near to the Church of Graça, where there is an amazing panorama of the city, along with a wonderful little outdoor café serving light snacks and sandwiches, the ideal antidote to the fancy meals we were having onboard. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Our extended stay let us go a little further under our own steam. We went to Vegueta, the old town, on the number 12 bus for a couple of Euros, taking about 20 minutes. The architecture around the main shopping street, Triana, is beautiful and rather reminiscent of some parts of Old Havana. We visited the Museum of the Canaries which was a bit old fashioned and apart from a room full of skulls, not overly interesting. After a nice lunch, we went to the Christopher Columbus Museum (my Yorkshire upbringing and infantile humour still makes me giggle when I see the word “Colon”, his Spanish name)… It’s a fascinating place, with lots of old maps of how people thought the world looked, and housed in a beautiful old building. Highly recommended. After getting back, we still had time to go for a walk along the beach front and have a quick look around town, and even to the shopping centre by the port. One little tip – the port wifi reached into the ship, so on returning, I had a quick look at my emails, although we had taken advantage of free EU roaming earlier in the day. Gran Tarajal (Fuerteventura) It was too windy to dock, so we diverted to Puerto del Rosario, the capital. Not the prettiest of places, and with the exception of a very small museum dedicated to a philosopher who escaped from Franco and a shopping centre, we didn’t find too much to do here, so went back to the ship for lunch. Santa Cruz de Tenerife Once again, we were in port until very late evening, so we went by tram to the charming little town of La Laguna (the tram stop is called Trinidad and at the end of the line, making it very easy). After visiting a museum, we went for lunch at an old Canarian Restaurant (Patio Canario) which is housed in an old building. Far from being a tourist trap, most of the clientele were Spanish - the food and service were excellent, as were the prices. The tram ride cost a couple of Euros and was a very pleasant journey taking about 20 minutes. San Sebastian – La Gomera We hadn’t been here before, and I was intrigued that they have a whistling language, so was delighted to see that a local troupe do a demonstration of this, along with local dancing. Apart from that, we didn’t really find much else to do – we were only docked for the morning, so enjoyed a coffee in the main square with two of our table mates before heading back to lunch on the ship. Funchal - Madeira All aboard was 4.30pm which still left us time for a leisurely breakfast. With 11 cruise ships in port, we were very lucky to dock at the most convenient location possible. Funchal was understandably busy, and our attempt at visiting a Madeira wine lodge was thwarted by hoards of people. This was the only day where the weather was unkind with rain on and off, but we still managed to have a walk round. When it threw it down, we had a simple lunch (forgetting how large Portuguese portions were!) Walking round, we found parks wonderfully decorated for Christmas, and stopped by the lovely Christmas market, where we just had to have a ginjinha (cherry liqueur) in a chocolate cup, followed by a Madeira wine in a chocolate cup, then another just in case. And perhaps another, but I can’t really remember. We got back to the ship and slept it off until it was time for the Captain’s Reception and Gala New Year’s Eve dinner! La Coruña This is the one place I’d love to have spent some more time exploring. I’ve never really understood why you’d want to be off the ship for 8am when shops don’t tend to open until 10am or so, although if you’re on a tour to Santiago de Compostela, you would need to set off quite early to make it worthwhile. It’s a real shame we left La Coruña so early at 1.30pm as it was a lovely place for a wander around. We found a very quirky café and I enjoyed a black coffee while my husband had the most delicious thick hot chocolate. No wonder he didn’t have room for the midnight buffet! Walking round, it looked like there were a lot of interesting places for lunch which hopefully we’ll try next time. Ship activities We’d both been very busy before the cruise, so were very glad of time to relax. To be honest, we didn’t see too much of the daytime entertainment staff – there were no napkin folding/cookery demonstrations etc, but we did enjoy the talk with the dancers and singers explaining how things worked backstage. What daytime activities there were had a tendency to clash, for example the quizzes and the speakers. Most evenings there was very little to do after 5pm until dinner - that said, bridge players or dancers were probably very well served. That said, one night, there was a Mr & Mrs competition. We were going to join in, but by the time my husband said yes, we were pipped at the post by another couple. Probably just as well. Our meals meant that we missed the 10pm quiz, as it would have been too much of a rush to get to the theatre show afterwards. I’ve already mentioned Andrew Robley, who not only was brilliant as the Panto Dame, but also entertained us a few times during the cruise (both on and off the stage as he was around and about the ship quite a lot). There was also a comedian, a singer and a magician (to whom I joked that the passengers do a brilliant magic act – they can make food disappear at an amazing rate!) One thing we were surprised at was the suggested themes weren’t adopted by the waiting staff – we thought they should also wear a touch of red, tartan etc. We had a lovely and relaxing time and we’ve already put down a deposit on a future cruise, so that says it all, and we’d have no hesitation in recommending our cruise to the right demographic of mainly over 50s. It’s definitely more hip-op than hip-hop, Fred Olsen definitely know who their clientele is and look after them exceptionally well. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
Staff – some good some bad, certainly not at the level across the board of the more expensive cruise lines but a lot of the staff where great. Drinks – the drinks package includes so little variety I ended up always paying the top ... Read More
Staff – some good some bad, certainly not at the level across the board of the more expensive cruise lines but a lot of the staff where great. Drinks – the drinks package includes so little variety I ended up always paying the top up to have different drinks however it wasn’t very pricey to top up to nicer drinks. Swimming pools and recreation activities - They have very little and much of what they have is catered to their older clients. Knowing in advance this was a smaller ship with older patrons we took a PS3 with us, on day one the reception staff refused to set the TV up for us so we could plug it in (it needed a different controller to the one supplied as they have their own system that doesn’t allow other HDMI channels) however we asked different staff on day two and they sorted it for us. As this was a Christmas time cruise we avoided pools as did pretty much everyone else as it was to cold. Quizzes and shows – you could turn up pretty much as the shows were starting and still get a seat a big change on the larger ships however the shows were very low budget versions of what you get on larger cruise ships they were mildly entertaining at best. With the quizzes we were lucky if we found one per day so we spent quite a bit of time in our room with the entertainment we brought with us. Photo's & other items to purchase – we didn’t get any pictures done really so didn’t investigate this price. Bathrobes – not available to purchase ☹ Anything extra you may want to pay for was reasonably priced. Food - Breakfast Breakfast in room was ok, not much in the way of queues for the buffet and we didn’t try the sit down breakfast. Food - lunch, snacks and late night food. Buffet not too busy but variety was very low although quality was very good. Food - dinner Sit down meal was largely good quality but amount of food was limited and my husband who is a picky eater struggled to find food at dinner time. Food - room service Food was pretty good and was included in the price which is unusual and nice however it was very much snacks no meals available. Fred Olsen were a good low budget cruise line where the quality is good but variety is limited however the price of this trip was similar to we paid on P&O so I don’t feel the price reflected the fact they are a budget cruise line. Would happily sail with them again but I want the cost to be dramatically lower than the mid range cruise lines like P&O and Royal Caribbean Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
We chose this as it was my husband’s first experience of cruising although I’ve been on several. The duration and itinerary were ideal, as was the ambience of a small ship. Food and service were very good and we particularly enjoyed ... Read More
We chose this as it was my husband’s first experience of cruising although I’ve been on several. The duration and itinerary were ideal, as was the ambience of a small ship. Food and service were very good and we particularly enjoyed hearing Adam Reece playing in the Observatory Bar. Embarkation was very well organised and we both felt we benefitted from the relaxation of the cruise. Luckily, we were on a dining table with two other couples with whom we had some most lively conversations over dinner. Our waiters showed great patience over the fact that we were last to leave each evening. One disappointment was caused by the itinerary being changed, resulting in only one day on the Kiel Canal instead of two. Nevertheless, my husband is happy to try another cruise and it is likely that we shall opt for Fred Olsen next time. We didn’t go on any shore excursions, preferring to be independent, but we did choose to book the drinks package and it was well worth it. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
We chose the cruise for the Christmas Markets in Europe. The Balmoral crew had made a splendid effort to make the ship festive. Lovely decorations throughout.There were beautifully made gingerbread houses in some spots on the ship. A ... Read More
We chose the cruise for the Christmas Markets in Europe. The Balmoral crew had made a splendid effort to make the ship festive. Lovely decorations throughout.There were beautifully made gingerbread houses in some spots on the ship. A lovely festive dinner and very good entertainers and speakers. Enjoyed the orchestra, piano player, string quartet and guitarist, talks and quizzes. Formal nights with lovely food but good food throughout the trip. Lots of work goes on to make a voyage successful, but the crew including those we don't see are very discreet. Because of being December with unpredictable weather and fog the itinerary had to be altered but as we had been to Germany and Denmark on another Fred Olsen cruise we had been fortunate to see the Rivers and Kiel Canal in good weather ad daylight. Others may have been disappointed, but it is winter. The Christmas markets were amazing. The Tivoli Gardens at Christmas with 'snow' looked wonderful. The shopping streets in Copenhagen were full of people and lights. A lovely experience. Hamburg had a Father Christmas flying overhead on zip wires at the Christmas market. There were sprinkles of snow. Bremen is a lovely town, our third visit. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
This was our first Fred. Olsen experience, a repositioning cruise from Southampton to Barbados ending just before Christmas. Perhaps it was for that reason that the ship was only 2/3 full. We had picked just the right time to get caught up ... Read More
This was our first Fred. Olsen experience, a repositioning cruise from Southampton to Barbados ending just before Christmas. Perhaps it was for that reason that the ship was only 2/3 full. We had picked just the right time to get caught up in the Gatwick drone chaos - but we anticipate. Read on for The Case of the Disgruntled Bridegroom. The deck plans for Braemar show no facilities for children or teens. This was rather a plus point as we are both in our early 70s and like a quiet life, but it was a bit startling to discover within a very few hours that the ship was essentially a floating old folks' home. We were well on the youthful end of the spectrum. Interestingly, there was a surprising number of singles. Embarkation was totally painless: 20 minutes after arriving, both we and the cases were in the cabin. This was pretty basic (hand wash dispenser, 2-in-1 in the shower is as much as you get in the bathroom) and at the lower end of the range for space, but clean and perfectly adequate. The food was excellent. We've cruised with half a dozen other lines and this was the best we've ever had. It's fixed time dining only in the Thistle and Grampian restaurants, there is also the Palms buffet which we used infrequently. The service from the staff was as attentive and efficient as we've had anywhere - there was the occasional misunderstanding but you can get that with any line. Another first-class aspect was the ship's song-and-dance team - only 4 singers and 4 dancers, but they had people on their feet applauding with a Queen-themed evening. We took 3 ship's tours and they were a bit of a curate's egg: the basic coach tour of Lisbon was just not particularly interesting; at St Maarten, Someone Had Blundered - it took us an hour to get the mile to a beach bar because the water-taxi we were promised didn't start till noon on Sunday; on the other hand, the St Kitts Scenic Railway was a great experience. Having given the basic facts, let's turn to the overall experience, and it seemed to us that Fred. Olsen inhabit a faintly surreal alternative universe that gave a unique flavour to the cruise: - we found tea-making facilities in the cabin - but they live in the wardrobe; - the cabin TV information system was a delight. When we boarded (Monday) it was showing the activity programme for last Thursday; the ship locator shows either the entire world, a patch of blue about 20 miles across or (apparently) a line of buoys in the Amazon or River Plate. Ship's time and TV time are not always the same thing. - dining in Thistle when the ship is manoeuvring in port is an experience not to be missed: the engines thunder, everything shakes, the glass and cutlery chink and rattle. Shut your eyes and pretend you're Jim Lovell taking off in Apollo 13. - if you want to change table or sitting, they will CHARGE YOU (if you're Anchor class, viz. you've got a cheap deal). - whatever you do, watch the video on how to put disembarkation labels on your cases BEFORE trying to do it yourself. I could go on. The fact remains, we had a thoroughly enjoyable cruise: the weather and seas were good, there were plenty of sunbeds, I put on 6lb ... With disembarkation, they rose to the occasion. Half the guests were due to fly back to Gatwick, but couldn't because the outcoming flight was cancelled thanks to drones. We were given reallocated cabins for an extra night on board. The empty cabin we were allocated had wedding bells and a Do Not Disturb sign ready for the arriving couple. The trouble was, they were already in residence when we tried to get in ... Someone Else Had Blundered. They got us away effectively 24 hours late, and I think they handled it as well as anyone could reasonably expect. Not an enjoyable experience but not their fault. One last point about the flight back: apparently Fred. Olsen charter a Thomas Cook Airbus. As one can, I went on the TC website and paid for extra legroom seats. Apparently they take no notice of this because the boarding passes we were given were for quite different, standard, seats. However, all's well that ends well: we raised this with the cabin staff and they put us in 2 spare Premium seats. Had the flight been full, though ... worth thinking about. A good trip. Would we go again? Definitely. Read Less
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