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225 Fred. Olsen Southampton Cruise Reviews

To keep someone company. More fool me. Good job I like to read. Entertainment was more like a travelling Hi-de-hi camp. Very hard to find somewhere quiet if you only wanted a read for an hour. Music or entertainment everywhere - a bit ... Read More
To keep someone company. More fool me. Good job I like to read. Entertainment was more like a travelling Hi-de-hi camp. Very hard to find somewhere quiet if you only wanted a read for an hour. Music or entertainment everywhere - a bit overdone. Maybe a review of your retired speakers etc needed - appreciate their knowledge but it takes more than that to keep people interested. Food needs a step up in quality etc in the main dining room. Food ready plated with veg and obviously kept warm is not very enticing. Seating needs to be looked at and allowance for people wanting to move tables should be accommodated. Not all people get along sufficiently to be expected to sit together every evening for a whole cruise. People make friends and would rather sit to eat with them. Fred Olsen saving grace is their Cabin, Restuarant and Bar staff - they are amazing. They made the cruise as pleasurable as they could. Without them it would have been a very sad trip. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
rewards for oceans members appalling compared to previously: no fred olsen pens [surely this is a free advert when cruisers leave them around or lend them , miserable selection snacks as only reward for diamond oceans members [one between ... Read More
rewards for oceans members appalling compared to previously: no fred olsen pens [surely this is a free advert when cruisers leave them around or lend them , miserable selection snacks as only reward for diamond oceans members [one between two!!]. guest entertainers very poor. tap dancers may be talented but who want to have to endure two shows of them. comedian OK but other musicians no one wants to see more than once. opportunity for swapping guest entertainers when in same port as black watch was an opportunity that shouldn't have been missed. what else do you want me to waffle about? nothing wrong with the ship. pity to miss morocco and the opportunity to visit funchal on NYE but captain knows best. a few noisy children on board - belonging to crew. crew very helpful dealing with wheelchair . not sure why there were so many 'free' cocktail parties for oceans members when the presents given as rewards for loyalty were so poor Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
There were lots of good things about this cruise. Embarkation and disembarkation were wonderfully swift and painless. there was no pressured up-selling, such as we'd experienced on other, more high-profile cruise lines. The food was ... Read More
There were lots of good things about this cruise. Embarkation and disembarkation were wonderfully swift and painless. there was no pressured up-selling, such as we'd experienced on other, more high-profile cruise lines. The food was good, even for a vegetarian like me; the drink prices on the Balmoral are far cheaper than on other cruise lines; the coffee bar is superb, with prices much cheaper and quality and service immeasurably better than on Celebrity, with whom we'd cruised three months before. Special offers on the chocolates, too, if you bought a coffee package! The staff were, for the most part, friendly and efficient; the entertainments were above average, with the comedian, the memory man and the classical pianist all superb; the ship was comfortable without being showy; and the range of destinations on this Christmas market cruise was ambitious, if not wholly successful. The only real problem we had - but it was a biggie - was noise in our cabin, 4135. I think we must have been over an engine or something related that was noisy when the ship was at sea. We complained but got nowhere for some while (paradoxically, the few unhelpful staff seem to be allocated to guest relations!) and I learnt an important lesson. Go to the top! When I got access to her, Laura, the Guest relations manager, was brilliant. As soon as she could, she allocated us to a quiet cabin. Having never had this problem on a cruise before, we had never appreciated how a noisy cabin can, by stopping you sleeping, wreck an otherwise excellent cruise. Laura turned our cruise around and it's because of her that we've booked another cruise on this ship - but NOT in cabin 4135! Looks like this review will not give me option to comment on destinations, so Ii will do so here. Copenhagen, Oslo and Hamburg were tremendous destinations with brilliant stuff to see and wonderful Christmas atmosphere at the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen and at Hamurg. We did good ship-organised trips at Copenhagen and Oslo. My only moan would be the perennial one of not enough time. I would have traded the other two destinations for more time at these three. Of those other two, Warnemunde/Rostock was OK though not special but Bruges was a total disaster - churning with crowds, a very ordinary Christmas market and, I felt, a major health and safety risk, especially with the horse and carts cutting corners and forcing pedestrian parties ever more tightly onto the pavements. I did not feel safe there. The two less good ship ships that we did were at these less impressive destinations. The Kiel canal transit was beautiful. Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
Chose cruise to visit cities not yet visited in Spain. Because three destinations were cancelled we still have not seen some of them. We were told of bad weather but did not experience much. Seemed premature to cancel two stops. Otherwise ... Read More
Chose cruise to visit cities not yet visited in Spain. Because three destinations were cancelled we still have not seen some of them. We were told of bad weather but did not experience much. Seemed premature to cancel two stops. Otherwise cruise was just as good as previously especially the food! Entertainment with a singer and comedian very good but ships company only average I would say. The breakfasts were good apart from the very well done streaky bacon which wouldn't stay on your fork. The waiters were very attentive. Lunch on the last day was very special with loads of seafood including lobsters and jumbo prawns.As last two stops were cancelled we had five continuous days at sea which got rather boring as the weather got colder as we got nearer home. I did have a good book thank goodness. Got fed up watching tv in cabin and saw some truly weird films! Only seven out of ten for this one Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
We had really been looking forward to this cruise since we had booked it for a small fortune on a special loyalty members’ booking day almost two years earlier! Fred’s promo promised “some of the most unique and authentic sights ... Read More
We had really been looking forward to this cruise since we had booked it for a small fortune on a special loyalty members’ booking day almost two years earlier! Fred’s promo promised “some of the most unique and authentic sights and experiences Greece has to offer, this outstanding itinerary features an extensive array of highlights. Cultural gems, ancient archaeological treasures, postcard-perfect scenery and much more” including “fabulous food – all day, every day,” “dining with sophistication and style” on a ship where “timeless style flows throughout the interior,” a “tour to picturesque Alhambra Palace from Malaga” and lots, lots more! But Fred overpromised, overcharged and underdelivered. It was a real pity that our first experience on board this cruise was the poor service in the Thistle Restaurant for lunch. Although there weren’t many people seated and a large area of the restaurant was “mothballed”, there was just too few waiters. They just couldn’t cope with filling water glasses, clearing plates or laying tables. Sadly it was the same in every restaurant, every day at breakfast and lunch. The service at dinner was sometimes excruciatingly slow with second sitting queueing through the ship and up the stairs because restaurants just didn’t open on time. While the “Fred Olsen Difference” is supposed to be “service with a smile,” we saw one waiter running about serving dinner wiping the sweat from his brow on the sleeve of his jacket. The service in the bars was slow as well. The staff in the line-up at the captain’s farewell drinks looked frightened. The “tour to picturesque Alhambra Palace from Malaga” didn’t happen because we were late into Malaga. The excuse was ‘headwinds, currents, etc.” So many disappointed people! We were at first pleasantly impressed by the food offering and sirloin steak was really pretty good for mass catering on an Olsen ship but as the cruise went on, the food offering became pretty mundane. While there’s nothing wrong with bangers and mash, fishcakes, or “spag. boll” for a quick mid-week supper, it’s not what we had paid thousands and thousands of pounds for. We could have used the “speciality dining area” of the grill on the outside aft deck, at times when the weather wasn’t too cold, too windy, too wet or the sea was too rough but we couldn’t see why we should pay and extra £40 for something that’s included in the price of Fred’s competitors. The entertainment, including the show company, guest entertainers and lounge musicians was pretty good. Although, we did sit next to one chap who had seen a comedian so many times that he was able to tell his wife almost every single punch-line before the “comedian” was able to utter it. The real problem with entertainment is the lack of decent seating in the Neptune Lounge and in the Coral Club. Higher chairs are put in front of lower couches, and so many chairs have been crammed in that these areas have become painfully uncomfortable. The least movement is really difficult, sight-lines are seriously affected by pillars and despite having a thrust stage with the majority of the audience to the far left and far right the entertainers have to perform to a camera in the very front. We wouldn’t pay for uncomfortable seating, obstructed views and being seated almost behind performers in any venue on land. Excursions were often eye-wateringly expensive and sometimes the arrangements seemed to take us further and further away from the excursion bus. First it was a long walk along the length of the ship to pick up a sticker in the Neptune Lounge and then back again the length of the ship to the gangway and then back along the quay the length of the ship and… then a bit more to get to the bus. It seems so pointless to make passengers walk back and forward and back again when Fred’s competitors issue excursion passes at the top of the gangway and busses are often located at the foot of the same gangway. We’d paid a pretty high price for our cruise and for the same daily rate we could have booked into a decent country house and enjoyed far, far better accommodation, a fabulous dinner every night with a bottle of decent wine. In fact we could also have afforded theatre tickets for shows of the standard that Fred put on. On the other hand, we could also have travelled with one for Fred’s closest rivals in a far superior cabin, enjoyed immensely better food and been able to watch stunning shows in comfortable seats with unrestricted views in a proper theatre. Fred’s ticket price for this cruise was just the start. Hefty “Gratuities” are automatically added to cabin accounts... at the end of the first week about £280 was added to our bill and more was to come. WIFI would have cost another £300. On other ships ice-cream is included but Fred even changes extra for that. Spa treatments are in the region of £1 a minute. The drinks package offered onboard would have cost another £1,450. Fred’s “all inclusive” drinks package isn’t all-inclusive… I mean coffee is extra, branded spirits are extra, decent beers are extra, cocktails are extra, all bar one of the ciders are extra and even most of the modest wines on the list are all extra. A lasting memory of the Corinth Canal…. Being offered a couple glasses of champagne as we stepped back from the ship’s rail at the end of the transit. It was a very nice gesture we thought… but then, after we had sipped half of the bubbles, we were handed the bill. It was well over £20. Fred doesn’t miss a trick! Even my local posh gastro-pub doesn’t charge that much for proper champers! After having enjoyed so many cruises with Fred in years past, it is so, so sad and disappointing to now see that he’s charging so much more for so much less. Read Less
Sail Date September 2019
it's my first cruise, due to i am a solo traveler. Cruise line who provided solo cabin not many choose: Fred Olsen, P & O and Cunard- Queen Mary 2. I choose Fred Olsen finally because i saw comment with Fred overall is better ... Read More
it's my first cruise, due to i am a solo traveler. Cruise line who provided solo cabin not many choose: Fred Olsen, P & O and Cunard- Queen Mary 2. I choose Fred Olsen finally because i saw comment with Fred overall is better than another two company. Lucky i have made a right choice. i am satisfied my cruise trip. Itinerary: Day 1 : Embarkation at Southampton. I am arrived the QE II Terminal around 14:00, check in and security check process was smooth, it took around 20 minutes.The Palms Cafe and Thistle Restaurant provided lunch. Day 2: Sea Day (formal night) Day 3: Aviles, Spain Day 4: Sea Day Day 5: Bordeaux, France Day 6: Sea Day (British Night) Day 7: Falmouth, UK Day 8: Disembarkation Dining: Thistle Restaurant: Main dining room. Server and manager are friendly. They knew i was suffer in sea sick, they pay attention to assistance me and talking with me. Concern and humor is a good medicine^^ Al de carte menu or set menu during lunch time. 5 course fine dining in dinner. Great foods and good services (server details mind, good manner) Main course have 5-6 choices, usually is fish, beef, british cuisine, local cuisine(the port that you visit), pasta...etc sometimes have theme buffet / cuisine. have a seafood gala buffet: crab, mussel, lobster, sushi, cheese cake, opera cake, chocolate fountain. Supervise that have a ice engraved decoration, and the water melon was engraved as a rose. Palms Cafe: cozy atmosphere. Beverage self service, have cold brewer tea and Red tea, black tea, blend (sleep ) tea. But i did not find mint tea( i thought would provided on cruise ). A chef would make omelette in the morning. Bookmark Cafe: enjoy coffee and chocolate. Shop: Due to it's a small ship, i am not expect have a lot of products. They sell Fine jewelry, costume jewelry, watch, bags , ties, causal clothes and smart causal clothes, skin care and make up products. If you forgot bring clothes you could find essential items. Entertainment: they have live music and show daily. Sometime have magic show too. I am recommend the music show- One Vision. If you love Queen- the greatest rock band in UK. You should not miss the show. Activities: Have quiz, Fit ball, pilates, Nintendo WII bowling, jewelry making course...etc. I was join the jewelry making course. Use gemstone to made a pendant. (cost ten pounds) Shore excursions: I was join a shore excursions in Bordeaux. It's a half day tour(cost 40 pounds), one hour drive to Saint- Emilion. The tour guide introduce and bring us to visit the Great wall and the Cordeliers Cloister, than have 45 minutes to explore yourself. Afterward drive back to the port at 14:00. No complaint about the tour, i wish i could stay longer time would definitely perfect. Tips: Passenger and crew are friendly, it's a small ship and not too much people. You would easily to meet people on the ship. Passenger age from 50-80, they are enjoy and insist the cruise traditional norms: to dress up at night. I am sure you would enjoy and come out the night life with Fred Olsen. Moreover, they have dance host, that's mean if you a solo traveler, don't worry about to find a partner. conclusion: Fred Olsen is a traditional cruise ship, simple stage, a few dancers and singer. BUT they do in great performance. If you like live music , i am sure you would like it. Simple is the best! Read Less
Sail Date September 2019
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
Sail Date August 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
Sail Date July 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
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
Sail Date June 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
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
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
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
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
Sail Date May 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
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
Sail Date April 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
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
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
Sail Date March 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
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
Sail Date February 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
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
Sail Date January 2019
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