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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2019
The main reason was sailing from Liverpool and a return visit to the Fjords. From our arrival at Pier Head all went smoothly. Our Balcony Suite was perfect, spacious, clean plenty of wardrobe and drawer space, met our needs and I ... Read More
The main reason was sailing from Liverpool and a return visit to the Fjords. From our arrival at Pier Head all went smoothly. Our Balcony Suite was perfect, spacious, clean plenty of wardrobe and drawer space, met our needs and I don't travel light. My husband had also requested a table for two and this was met. The Glentanar was a lovely, light, spacious Dining room, the breakfast and lunch buffets were excellent as was the waiter service dinner with excellent menu. We had lovely waiters but there were one or two who were not the friendliest. For our Anniversary Dinner we dined in the Black Watch Restaurant which again of high standard, my husband declared his steak one of the best ever. The ship was spotlessly clean in all areas, the Neptune Lounge especially pleasing.The Captain and Crew helped to make this a very special time for us. Flower Arrangement, bottle of Cava when we arrived and on the Day a lovely card, gift and Cava in Ice Bucket delivered to our suite along with our card from the Queen. In the evening we were presented with a lovely Happy Anniversary cake. These were all done in a very tasteful, no fuss way which we appreciated very much. My husband did have to visit the Cruise Doctor, again efficient attention.All in all this was a most memorable holiday, with wonderful scenery, off shore excursions and very relaxing on board atmosphere. Our first Fred Olsen Cruise but hopefully not our last.Thank you to everyone who helped in making this a very happy memorable occasion. Read Less
5 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: 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
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and were just viewing it as a means of getting to Orkney and Shetland and really were not expecting much. However how wrong we were. We found our inside cabin clean and spacious with a good ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and were just viewing it as a means of getting to Orkney and Shetland and really were not expecting much. However how wrong we were. We found our inside cabin clean and spacious with a good sized shower room. The food was excellent and we found the entertainment some of the best we have come across. We have cruised many many times with Cunard, Holland America, Princess, Carnival, Celebrity and Costa always having had either a suite or balcony so feel I am in a position to give an honest review of the Balmoral. We found the size of the Balmoral easy to walk around especially when in heels of an evening. The crew and staff were very friendly and there was none of the hard sell for good reviews from the restaurant staff or the maitre d. The only thing I would change is the disembarkation/embarkation at ports of call. This is the first ship where both have taken place on the same gang plank but I guess this may be due to size. The ports of call - Invergordon, Kirkwall and Lerwick were good and we were blessed with excellent weather. We toured independently and hired a car for the day in Lerwick through Bolts car hire who had car waiting on quay upon ships arrival at a reasonable price. The age range on board was varied and yes there were some people who had mobility issues and how nice it was that they too could enjoy a lovely holiday. I would definitely consider cruising on the Balmoral again. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2018
From the moment we arrived at Southampton arrived bang on time 1 o’clock like ticket said staff could not be more helpful cases gone in a blink of an eye , no que in the terminal got the cruise card and straight through customs on to the ... Read More
From the moment we arrived at Southampton arrived bang on time 1 o’clock like ticket said staff could not be more helpful cases gone in a blink of an eye , no que in the terminal got the cruise card and straight through customs on to the ship in less then 20 mins and can I just say she is a lovely ship . we didn’t go for lunch instead we headed for the morning light pub to have a pint of Stella and a whiskey and coke they don’t sell Stella here but the staff are more than willing to go and get one from the neptune bar like always can’t do enough for you . cabin ready 2.30 pm couldn’t wait to unpack and start my holiday the cabin no 8004 what can I say, really nice size ,very clean , nice size bathroom with bath plenty of storage space .the balcony is to die for , nothing above apart from blue sky, I worked it out , it is 67 steps from balcony to the observatory bar , no draft but cocktails and cans of largar , the food in the Thistle restaurant was very good as too was the palms cafe , as for the service nothing too much . entertainment was good can’t praise all the staff enough . all of the ship was clean and tidy all of the time , sea days , plenty to do . if you wanted or just lounge about like we did the weather was great , unexpected for that time of year in northern Spain . Passengers mixed ages all up for a laugh . getting on and off the ship at ports was effort less thanks to the stafff.didn’t what to leave but had to ,just like to say ,£15 a day drinks package no brainier thank you Fred Olsen see you soon Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2018
destination good but wouldn't recommend this as ship needs to be replaced by o old. The whole experience of this cruise was as if I had been in an old people's home. The entertainment was geared for this and so we're the ... Read More
destination good but wouldn't recommend this as ship needs to be replaced by o old. The whole experience of this cruise was as if I had been in an old people's home. The entertainment was geared for this and so we're the activities. The destination was appealing but to be given a port that was a coal mining destination Port Richard and get covered in dust isn't my idea of interesting port even captain agreed and told us he had notified the company of this. Must have been a cheap port to go to. The overall staff really very good and helpful, food good, cabins not up to today standards. Entertainment needs to be updated though an older crowd they need to realise we are not one foot in the grave. Lovely table but also of the same opinion. Perference given to people who book Fred Olsen direct. Independence passages required to desembark no later than 10.00 a.m. But Fred Olsen passengers were allowed to stay on board as long as necessary before their flight departure. I hope Fred Olsen take note of these comments Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2018
We booked this very short cruise at exceptionally short notice (book Monday sail Saturday.) We were accommodated in a suite on Deck 9. During the booking procedure I made it clear that we wished to dine at 8-30 pm but were later told that ... Read More
We booked this very short cruise at exceptionally short notice (book Monday sail Saturday.) We were accommodated in a suite on Deck 9. During the booking procedure I made it clear that we wished to dine at 8-30 pm but were later told that we must eat at 6-30 pm. It took very many telephone calls to unravel that situation but having paid an extra £12 we were granted our wish. We have sailed in Balmoral on a previous occasion and felt confident that we would enjoy ourselves. The parking arrangements by ABP and the boarding procedure were excellent. Our suite (9028) was large and well decorated if a tiny bit tired. Our cabin stewardess was charming and efficient and worked exceptionally hard. We had asked for a double bed but were provided with 2 singles I expect that this was because I booked so late. The Champagne (Cava,) the fruit and the fresh flowers were a nice touch as were the canapes in the evening. We were assigned a table in the Ballindalloch Restaurant which is large and very noisy. We breakfasted in the Spey Restaurant. Breakfast was a very generous buffet arrangement. Dinner was a five course affair with good variation. Generally we felt that the standard of the food was good to very good without being exceptional, the one exception was the roast beef that was exceptional. The wine was perfectly acceptable if one chose carefully. There was no draught bitter beer apart from Newcastle Brown Ale which is not to everyone's taste. A disappointment! We attended the entertainment in the Neptune Lounge on all three evenings. The dance troop worked tirelessly and with professionalism, the music was not to our taste but it suited most people. The comedian was very sharp and his act in the top flight. We visited Rouen and Honfleur, in both places it rained but we enjoyed wandering about. We chose not to use the organised tours as they seemed to be very expensive. We felt that the service on board was not quite as good as we have experienced on other cruises. It may be that the staff are being worked too hard. All in all this was quite a fun break in a monotonous winter. Will we choose to sail with Fred Olsen again? I am not sure. There are many cruises on offer and the competition is fierce.. We will decide soon. Read Less
15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2018
30th anniversary .spoilt by inferior cabin.not reaching Jamaica.there was unrest but the captain said Ochoa Rios safe but weather was poor this was not the case ,we then had 3 days at sea doing nothing. Santiago unsafe and polluted, ... Read More
30th anniversary .spoilt by inferior cabin.not reaching Jamaica.there was unrest but the captain said Ochoa Rios safe but weather was poor this was not the case ,we then had 3 days at sea doing nothing. Santiago unsafe and polluted, Tortola devastated should not of gone very upsetting . Continually being disturbed by captain announcements whilst resting(unimportant announcements.just like butlins 1970. Jakuzzi not working 3 days no info from guest services after enquiringly several times permanent repairs at sea ,decks closed. Pool closed 2 days . No more Fred Olsen your not on holiday your just bossed around. Could not get a free cup of only on 1 deck and and we were inclusive but nice food and entertainment. Shore excursions very poor no imagination ship left most ports early lack of shuttle buses. Had to have mixers separate as drinks were drowned in cheap post mix. Casino inadequate two tables in a corridor Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
Plenty to do on the Black Watch, throughout the day and plenty excursions to enjoy when in port whether you choose to do it yourself or through one of the organised activities. The ship was very clean considering her age and constant ... Read More
Plenty to do on the Black Watch, throughout the day and plenty excursions to enjoy when in port whether you choose to do it yourself or through one of the organised activities. The ship was very clean considering her age and constant maintenance takes place to ensure this. Our cabin 8005 with balcony was adequate for our week's holiday and it was cleaned and maintained daily by our wonderful young lady who looked after us for that week. Dining was excellent, we requested first sitting and had a table for two, although we were in close proximity of 4 other people whom we struck up good conversation with. The waiters could not do enough to please you, along with bar staff in all the bars. Evening show was well presented and varied with some talented artists. Although there were a high percentage of elderly people on board that did not make the experience less enjoyable, in fact it was nice to see older people enjoying themselves. Trip was so good, we booked for another one next year to the fjords and the port being 5 minutes from our door. Couldn't ask for more. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
Yet another superb cruise – our 7th so far. This was the second time with Fred and Black Watch for my wife and I and we chose this cruise for the ports of call and the fact it departed from a local port. The only slight drawback was that ... Read More
Yet another superb cruise – our 7th so far. This was the second time with Fred and Black Watch for my wife and I and we chose this cruise for the ports of call and the fact it departed from a local port. The only slight drawback was that this cruise seemed to attract much older clientele than previous cruises we’ve been on so there weren’t too many folk our age or younger (we’re early 50s). Sadly we didn’t make Mull (Tobermory) due to weather and anchoring issues but we disembarked at all the other ports and did a variety of walks under our own steam. The Fred Olsen excursions are a bit pricey and we instead used the Walkhighlands website to plan trips. Everything lived up to (or exceeded) expectations so it’s probably best to call out the highlights. 1. Food – everything was top quality and the service invariably good. We had requested a table for two but ended up sharing with a tee-total couple in their 80s. We feared this might not be a good match but ended up having a great laugh with them. 2. Lido Lounge – located aft on Deck 7 it’s the place to go if you want to party a bit on board. You need to seek it out as it’s hidden away. Lovely staff in here and great music too. A special mention for The Secret (Jane and Andrew) who are not only extremely talented musicians but also really nice people. They would take time to stop for a chat and a laugh if you met them on-board or in port. 3. Entertainment – the Show Team performed a number of times over the course of the week and each show just seemed to get better and better. The other evening entertainment (Gerry Graham/Leo Shavers) was decent too. 4. Ports of call – a friendly welcome in all ports and I personally loved them all. Lerwick possibly my favourite and a visit to the museum highly recommended. Loved being back on the (refurbished) Black Watch and we will certainly consider further cruises with Fred. Olsen in future. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
Five nights Norwegian fjords, our first cruise. What a revelation! Self catering holidays are now well and truly in the shade. Impressive organisation from start to finish, friendly efficient service, good food and entertainment, high ... Read More
Five nights Norwegian fjords, our first cruise. What a revelation! Self catering holidays are now well and truly in the shade. Impressive organisation from start to finish, friendly efficient service, good food and entertainment, high standard of cleanliness. Super spacious suite. In short everything ship shape. Couldn't fault any of it. Dined in Spey restaurant at table for 2 by a beautiful circular window. We want one of those at home now complete with waterfall. Lovely waiter and room stewardess looked after us very well. I wasn't expecting to enjoy entertainment and activities but the jolly atmosphere was infectious and ship's company great. Despite the ship being fully booked we never felt crowded. We had booked this cruise to celebrate our 30th Wedding Anniversary and it was a memorable and romantic way to mark the milestone. It was also my husband's birthday so the waiters ended up singing to us twice and presenting 2 celebration cakes. A delightful time was had and we are now converted. Next year's Fred Olsen brochure is open on the coffee table... Read Less
Sail Date: August 2017
We chose this cruise for two main reasons. The Newcastle port of departure and the itinerary. Fred Olsen documentation appears to indicate that port facilities at Newcastle are not as good as other ports. However, we found the arrangements ... Read More
We chose this cruise for two main reasons. The Newcastle port of departure and the itinerary. Fred Olsen documentation appears to indicate that port facilities at Newcastle are not as good as other ports. However, we found the arrangements to be pleasant and relaxed with a smooth embarkation, giving no cause for concern. Disembarkation was a little slow but our luggage was available for collection in the car park, which was helpful The cruise itinerary was very interesting taking us to areas that we had not visited before, and including some river sailing, down to Hamburg and also right down to Bremen. The shore excursions are a little expensive, but did include some good choices. There were also opportunities for some free time whilst the ship was in port. All ports were directly accessible by the ship, but the first visit at Kiel was especially impressive with airport style walkways direct to the ship. We have travelled on this ship before and generally enjoyed our experience. We are not a fan of very large cruise ships. We did feel on this cruise that the standard of restaurant service, whilst very good, had reduced very slightly. The "all-inclusive" drinks option was limited to "singles" this time, where previously "doubles" had been permitted. However, this did not cause us any difficulty. The cabin was the same category as our previous cruise, and again we were very satisfied. The cleaning was also good and reliable. There is an annoying feature in the Marquee Bar on the highest deck. The doors are automatic and cause an uncomfortable gale when the entrance onto the open deck and entrance from the inside of the ship are both open. As this tends to be used as a through route, this occurs frequently. Our overall experiences to date have encouraged us to book another short cruise from Newcastle on this ship for 2018. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
We enjoyed a cruise on Fred Olsen last year and like the smaller ships. The staff and the ship are good BUT the food was so disappointing. Very small amounts in the evening in the dining room and nothing special at all.We had a meal ... Read More
We enjoyed a cruise on Fred Olsen last year and like the smaller ships. The staff and the ship are good BUT the food was so disappointing. Very small amounts in the evening in the dining room and nothing special at all.We had a meal one evening which was not unlike a frozen Findus dinner from years ago. A dry piece of pork covered in very burnt breadcrumbs and a few frozen diced carrots and peas and again frozen chips.Yuk, even the Head Waiter agreed it was rubbish. There was no sign of steak or lobster and having sailed with several other lines, these items usually make an appearance especially on a Gala night. The buffet between 11pm and midnight seemed to have more interesting and hot dishes and we went down there regularly for cheese and biscuits as we were hungry, (a first for us on any previous cruise) All in all not good value as we had paid over £4000 for 7 days!! Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
This cruise was for Bermuda and the Azores. We've both always wanted to see the Azores and my wife wanted to go to Bermuda. As this was her 50th birthday and the year of our 25th anniversary, as well as leaving Liverpool less than an ... Read More
This cruise was for Bermuda and the Azores. We've both always wanted to see the Azores and my wife wanted to go to Bermuda. As this was her 50th birthday and the year of our 25th anniversary, as well as leaving Liverpool less than an hour away from our house, it was the perfect fit. I thought 26 days was too long for a first cruise but I now know that it's not enough. The staff couldn't possibly do more to ensure our trip was first class, there was a very wide variety of excellent food and the drinks were good; we went all-inclusive. This doesn't cover everything by the way so beware. Every aspect of the ship's hygiene is spot on, it is cleaner than any hospital I've visited... NHS could learn from it. Although she isn't any spring chicken any more, Boudicca is very well maintained and we found her to be a beautiful ship. We found that there was so much to do, shows, meals, concerts, gym with good equipment, deck walks, dolphin and whale spotting, shopping, swimming, hot tub, reading and sunbathing were a few things on the menu. The bars are great with their own character and the staff so very friendly: thanks to Allen and his team, Caterina and her team to mention but a few. Restaurant staff also excelled and again there would be so many names I can't mention them all but people like Tom and Wetter became friends. We could honestly say that it's the best holiday we've had together. Cabins on decks lower than 7 are a little small but ingeniously set out and soon felt big enough for the short time we spent there each night. There are excellent laundry facilities, if you don't want to do it you can have it done for you! There is a good room service. Beds, rooms and linen are without fault, there is a good shower (you are on a ship and the pressure won't blast you against the wall) and towels are changed when you wish. There are also towels supplied separately for the pool area and gym use. Sea days offer much to do. The excursions are a little expensive and some are frankly not worth the money, a local taxi tour can work out cheaper especially if you share like we did with like-minded people. Only one island required a tender service which is well organised. A but tricky for those with moderate or more mobility issues but staff are very attentive and helpful and a number of cruisers took wheelchairs ashore! Fred Olsen often attracts a more mature clientele and people can be put off a little. We were a decade or two younger than most on board but that didn't detract in any way from the cruise. Most people were really friendly, very active and really knew how to have a good time. We were sometimes surprised. Of course some of the activities are tailored to a mature age group, which is normal since they are the majority and some things didn't suit us. All you need is a little imagination to find other things to do, or, if the worst comes to the worst (I doubt) you could always go through the bar list! We loved it, enjoyed all of the destinations and enjoyed having our hotel right by us when on land. We were treated like kings! Thanks Fred! Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
On Saturday 30th April my partner and I travelled with Fred Olsen on Balmoral to Norway. My partner and I are in our early 20's, so much younger than most travellers. We found that the design of Balmoral was quite dated and feel that ... Read More
On Saturday 30th April my partner and I travelled with Fred Olsen on Balmoral to Norway. My partner and I are in our early 20's, so much younger than most travellers. We found that the design of Balmoral was quite dated and feel that it could do with a make-over, new carpets, chairs etc. but no problems with the facilities so we couldn't complain. We arrived at Dover at 12pm (the times given were between 12pm and 2pm) and check in was smooth and fast. We did have to wait until 2pm before they started embarkation which was a bit of a pain as we expected to get straight on as I did in my previous cruise with Cruise and Maritime Voyages. Once we were invited to the ship we were directed straight to our room where our luggage was waiting for us outside - very fast service. We asked for a table of 2 in the restaurant as we were hoping for a romantic holiday together as it was our first, and we were given this! We were in the main (Ballindalloch) restaurant which was very spacious and waiters were great. With dinner you are given a choice of wine, beer or water, but no choice for soft drinks. As we had paid for the all inclusive package and expected to have soft drinks available to us with our dinner, as advertised, but when we asked we were informed that we would have to pay for our soft drinks. Aside from this there was a lot of variety of food available and waiters were very fast in taking orders, and serving food. Very nice people. The drinks... As mentioned above we had paid for all inclusive when we booked with Fred Olsen. With the all inclusive you are offered a variety of house wines and spirits, and selected beers and ciders. Cocktails are NOT included in the AI which I feel should have been. The cocktail selection was not great either. Having the AI package you receive a 50% discount on cocktails and branded drinks, which is better than nothing and understandable with branded alcohol. Tea and coffee are only available from the restaurants and if you wish to have them from the bar you are asked to pay which is not acceptable. There were no self service machines either so you couldn't go and help yourself when you want one. The waiters serve you tea and coffee after your meals but there is no selection of tea or coffee, you just get what you are given. The entertainment and Activities provided on board was phenomenal. Fantastic staff and incredible shows every night to end the day on a good note. The Balmoral Show Company, who were new to the cruise were amazing and had incredible voices, Barnaby (the ship comedian) was very funny and Matt Cairnes (another vocalist) was fab too. 4th Dimension, who played in the Lido Lounge every night, were great and always got the crowd up dancing of an evening. The waiter service in the bars was good, fast service and always quick to take orders. We waited a max of 20 minutes but was understandable as the Lounge was very busy during the show. The Excursions provided at the Port of Calls were great. In Bergen we went to the Fløibanen funicular which was a great day out, in Olden we visited the Briksdal Glacier on Nordfjord which was beautiful and in Flam we travelled on the Flam Railway which was a little bit disappointing at this time of year. Overall, we had a fantastic cruise with Fred Olsen and would recommend travelling on Balmoral. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
We chose this cruise because of the convenience of a Newcastle departure,we live in the north of England and wanted to avoid flying. Check in was easy and boarding was well organised. We had a cabin in the forward section on the 4th ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the convenience of a Newcastle departure,we live in the north of England and wanted to avoid flying. Check in was easy and boarding was well organised. We had a cabin in the forward section on the 4th deck,lots of storage and kept nice and clean by housekeeping. When we sailed away the sun was shining and temperatures made us feel as if in the med ,not Tyneside! The ship was a good size,and although full we always found little quiet spots. I made use of the pool and Jacuzzis as the sun shone throughout. We ate dinner in the Ballindalloc restaurant most evenings though enjoyed a delicious Asian buffet in the Palm cafe on last night. We loved the group 4th dimension in Lido lounge which got going after the show in the theatre. We had a drinks package that we took full advantage of! It was great to be able to explore Bergen independently,very easy as we docked in the centre. Likewise with Eidefjord,where we took a scenic walk along the river up to some Viking graves,with good views on the way back. The ship then sailed along the beautiful scenery. We felt sad to be leaving. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
After seeing the fjords of Norway on a previous cruise, we wanted to go further afield and see the fjords of Greenland too! We had a suite on Deck 9. Departure from Liverpool a bit odd -- the building is temporary and I think they are ... Read More
After seeing the fjords of Norway on a previous cruise, we wanted to go further afield and see the fjords of Greenland too! We had a suite on Deck 9. Departure from Liverpool a bit odd -- the building is temporary and I think they are building a proper one soon. A bit delayed, but Fred not to blame for the triathalon and road closures. Gorgeous weather as we left. We would have really appreciated it if they had opened the pool and jacuzzis given that it was glorious weather, and seemed a shame not to watch Liverpool receding from the jacuzzi. Weather stayed glorious the whole trip. The Faroes was interesting, with lovely scenery as we left and a well-planned route so we could appreciate it. We had a nice coach trip, saw some typical villages, beaches, a wide selection of scenery from sounds and fjords to the tops of hills and wonderful panoramas. Reykjavik, Iceland we went on another coach trip, got to see lava fields and boiling mud, plus a viking museum. Very good coach tours at both ports, a nice wide range of scenery and good guides. There is a limit to how much you can see in just a day or an afternoon, but I felt they were well thought-out, and the guides were enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Greenland and Prince Christian Sound were absolutely amazing! The scenery at points was so stunning you felt you couldn't take anymore, and needed to go inside for a little lie down with the curtains closed! Good narration and lectures on the ship. Overall, absolutely stunning, things I will remember for many years. And on top of all that, we had a stunning display of northern lights one night (unusual for summer). We were very, very lucky with the weather, both terrestrial and solar! Port visits in Greenland were very good too, although facilities very limited since it is Greenland, we got to see real working ports and met some real people! Cabin was very nice. We went for formal dining and the food was really excellent. But best of all were the staff (waiters, cabin stewardess etc) who did a really marvelous job. A few niggles as regards opening the pools and keeping them open until the scheduled time, and lack of waiting staff near the pools (I don't think they thought so many people would be in the pool whilst we sailed around Greenland!). A fabulous cruise route, amazing scenery and if you are very lucky with the weather................... Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2016
We have been on Balmoral before, and we have been to Norway lots of times before - but who could ever tire of Norway? We chose the "Fred's Favourite Fjords" cruise because the departure port was from Newcastle, which is ... Read More
We have been on Balmoral before, and we have been to Norway lots of times before - but who could ever tire of Norway? We chose the "Fred's Favourite Fjords" cruise because the departure port was from Newcastle, which is very handy for us in Durham. Embarkation was straightforward and efficient, and we found ourselves on board by about 2.30pm. We had wanted to sit out on deck with a cold cocktail, but the grey and drizzly Newcastle weather made this impossible. It was, however, the only grey and drizzly weather we saw, because there wasn't a cloud in the sky once we reached the fjords. We were allocated cabin 4125, a spacious outside cabin with a large window and two single beds in an L-configuration. There was ample wardrobe and drawer space, tea and coffee making facilities, a flat screen TV and a small-but-adequate bathroom with a shower stall. Not the Ritz, but certainly enough to ensure we would have a comfortable cruise. I like the Balmoral (indeed, all the FO ships) because they actually look like ships and not like floating apartment blocks like some of the RCI monstrosities. Balmoral is the flagship of the FO line with 1350 passengers, and is just a nice size to ensure there is plenty to do on board without being overcrowded. We ate in the Ballindalloch restaurant on the 6.15pm sitting and the food was the high standard we have come to expect on Fred cruises. Service was quick and done with a smile. We were travelling on the all inclusive package and this is well worth the money if, like us, you enjoy a drink. Even premium brands and cocktails were half-price. Entertainment was very good; the Balmoral Show Company put on original, lively performances and the guest entertainers included a funny comedienne and an amusing comedy magician. I must also mention John Smithson, the resident entertainer in the Morning Light pub, who played the keyboard, guitar and violin (not all at the same time) and had everyone's feet tapping and hands clapping with his lively fiddle tunes each night. The cruise itself was fantastic. As I mentioned, the weather was perfect and the scenery, cruising along through the beautiful fjords, was stunning. Think of the Lake District but on a grander scale - all mountains, waterfalls, mirror-like water and glaciers; absolutely beautiful. We did an excursion in most of the ports and these were expensive (aren't they always?) but well organised, with the exception of Hellesylt, where the cruise director made the mistake of announcing that the gangway was open, leading to a massive bottleneck as 1350 passengers all tried to disembark at once, leading to our tour starting over an hour late. This was the only blip, however, and everything went to plan after that. Our only complaint on this week-long cruise was that it wasn't long enough! We could easily have managed another week. Everything was spot-on and I cannot understand the negative reviews I have read here - it's hard to believe those people were on the same cruise. We are looking forward to our next one, and would advise anyone who hasn't been to Norway to go there at once; if there is a Heaven, it must look how the Norwegian fjords look. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
We've just returned from this cruise to Durban. Some of the places we visited were very different from the normal cruising destinations and were enjoyable as a result. Great if you like sea days too (a few too many for our liking - ... Read More
We've just returned from this cruise to Durban. Some of the places we visited were very different from the normal cruising destinations and were enjoyable as a result. Great if you like sea days too (a few too many for our liking - hence the 4 and not a 5* review). We visited Oporto, Madeira & Tenerife which were as one would expect from Europe, lovely. The Cape Verde islands were interesting but a contrast to Europe, underdeveloped and really not geared up for tourism, therefore interesting but with not much to see or do. We then visited St. Helena, what a treat as not many people get to go here! A charming little island but again not a tourist destination. However, the island appears very safe and friendly. Next we made two stops in Namibia, Walvis Bay & Luderitz. We did a ship's excursion in Walvis Bay as we weren't sure what tourist opportunities would be available. We really enjoyed visiting Dune 7, the desert for the Welwichia plants and the town of Swarkopmund, which incidentally was very lovely. In Ludertiz we simply toured the town ourselves. Such a shame that since diamond mining has moved off shore, the town is in rapid decline, although homes from a bygone age can still be seen and in some cases visited inside. Possibly the highlight of the trip was Cape Town and all that this involves. We then visited Port Elizabeth which was decidedly a sad sort of place with not a lot to do outside of game drives. We concluded with a brief visit to Durban which looked okay, with standards somewhere between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. We really enjoyed the trip but we happy to be disembarking and not going full circle, although doing the second part could possibly be on another agenda for the future. Read Less
30 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
Background: My wife and I (aged 60 & 62) are new to cruising - we took a Last Minute Budget All Inclusive Mediterranean 7 Day Cruise in June 2014 to see if this type of holiday suited us before committing to a more expensive and ... Read More
Background: My wife and I (aged 60 & 62) are new to cruising - we took a Last Minute Budget All Inclusive Mediterranean 7 Day Cruise in June 2014 to see if this type of holiday suited us before committing to a more expensive and sophisticated version over Xmas and New Year (18/12/15 to 05/01/16). We booked (3 weeks before departure in the Black Friday Sale) the Balmoral sailing to the Canaries and Cape Verde Islands. I gambled that I would be 'signed off' by the hospital physiotherapist on 4th December after a hip replacement operation - I need not have worried! The main attraction of the cruise was a) Winter Sun and b) visits to 6 ports over 18 days to give a decent balance of sea days and visits. We actually visited only 4 ports and spent 14 days at sea - not what we signed up for! Travel to Embarkation: We drove from Fife, Scotland whilst the Forth Bridge was closed so had to leave at 03:30. We had booked the Marriott Meon Valley Overnight Stay, Free Parking (up to 28 days), Evening Meal (extra charge), Breakfast and free taxi to/from Southampton Cruise Terminal. Total cost £212.88 compared to £136 for only the Port Parking - £76 for Dinner, B&B and taxi transport for 2 adults was very good value for money and the entire operation was smooth. friendly and professional. Ship Information: 1300 berth stretched 27 year old vessel - not a modern tower of flats at sea by any means - 'shabby chic' is a reasonable description - care worn but serviceable. The ship is very clean and the Norovirus protection regimes is borderline obsessive - a good point - with two auto dispensers and two serving staff in support, armed with manual 'squeegee' antiseptic dispensers. The cruise brochure says that Fred doesn't bother with climbing walls etc - just as well since the average passenger age is about 70 (with a fair few in the late 50s/early 60s age range and a lot of 80 years+ passengers). The Reception Area (Deck 6) on embarkation afternoon resembled a Mobility Support Convention - buggies, zimmerframes, crutches and walking sticks in all sizes and hues - until everyone had found their cabins. About 6 shops on Decks 6 & 7 - watches, perfumes and a decent range of clothing & accessories, especially bearing in mind the space constraints - we only used the clothing shop (needed the next size of shirt after 12 days of cruise dining ...) and the service was excellent. There is a promenade on Deck 7 (4 laps for a mile) where the Daily Walk (led by Hristov from the Gym) takes place at 09:15 - not well attended because most people were either eating breakfast or undertaking other activities. Throughout the day, a hardcore of power walkers and a couple of joggers were steaming around - the deck width is just comfortable for two strollers side-by-side so it is necessary to squeeze in when the 'Scuse me ...' cry goes up as the more athletic zoom by. Most entertaining when the overtaking occurs on the slalom sections where the walkers and joggers have to dodge the crew who are on permanent repainting duty (more of which later). Don't wear your best jeans or shorts when walking unless you want a free white stripe on the right leg. The poolside furniture is plentiful as are the seats on the promenade deck - but all is well worn with yellowing rubber support straps for the seating/reclining portions - careworn but serviceable. Pools (seawater) and jacuzzis are on Deck 7 (rear of Palms Cafe) and Deck 11 (can be reached by both internal and external stairs - good exercise). The Daily Newsletter became something of a joke - no proofreading undertaken. Crosswords were printed without corresponding clues - make up your own answers ... and details of one port of call for Cape Verde was a straight 'cut & paste' from an earlier voyage, referring to a port in the Azores! Cabins: We booked the Anchor Fare Inside Cabin and were allocated number 5031 on Deck 5 - about six cabins short of the prow of the ship - like sleeping on a roller coaster during the Bay of Biscay section in each direction. Wardrobes, between-bed chest of drawers and dressing table were worn and a catch was missing from the chest of drawers and one from the wardrobe. Only a problem in the Bay of Biscay where drawers flew open every 20 minutes or so and after the chair we jammed against the drawers travelled some 6 feet down the cabin, we gave up and lived with the cacophony. The furniture quality was 'decent charity shop' standard - usually advertised at up to £35 each unit. Cabin cleaning and bedmaking/turning down was excellent every day, despite the staff having more cabins to clean than on previous years (according to other passengers). The cabin crew and serving staff are really superb and should be the standard that other areas of the operation aspire to. Towels were changed regularly and the bathroom kept spotless - a lot of work since the washbasin is quite shallow and the 'Off to Full Power' settings on the tap were very fine, resulting in the mirror being spottled with splashes each time it was used. The shower was very powerful but the hot to cold setting was very fine - a challenge not to burn or freeze. There was no waiting time for the water to heat up - less than 5 seconds. Dining: Formal dining in the Ballindalloch (Deck 6) and Avon and Spey restaurants (Deck 10) whilst Palms Buffet on Deck 7 served breakfast, morning coffee (and cakes), lunch, afternoon tea (and cakes), evening meal, Supper Club (and cakes) which explains why I bought a larger shirt ... We were allocated Ballindalloch restaurant for Dinner (2nd sitting, which we requested so that we could have maximum time in port - sore point). The serving staff in all restaurants are excellent and are probably a major reason for Fred's loyal customer base; the sight of a waiter (humming 'Here Comes the Bride'), carrying two bowls of soup at the same time as supporting two quite frail elderly ladies who clung onto his arm as we crossed the Bay of Biscay in really heavy seas, was a joy to behold. Yosi ('You see' phonetically) and Jonathan were superb - remembered names, preferences etc faultlessly - and were endlessly cheerful in the face of some rude comments from other diners. They are a credit to Fred (as is Ruby-Ann in the Morning Light Pub). Serving staff in the Palms were a little more relaxed but still looked after passengers excellently. We took lunch in the Ballindalloch (and breakfast on 2-3 days) and also in the Avon and Spey restaurants (but not when crossing the Bay of Biscay - the sway was too much!) and were delighted with the service, quality and range of food - I am a picky eater and valued the ability to choose from the Menu and then forage in the buffet area to produce some quite eclectic food combinations that would probably have caused chef to despair. Other meals were taken in the Palms where the talents of the pastry chef were always evident - consistently superb. Entertainment: Meets the needs of the client group - safe. clean and gentle. The comedian was the most 'edgy' but kept to mildly naughty so very difficult to be upset. The nightly shows in the Neptune Lounge (Deck 7) were well produced - a couple of strong singers, from the in-house company, carried those whose voices were weaker or a little off-key. The crew panto was very energetic, rich in slapstick and generated lots of belly laughs - deserved for the amount of work that had gone into rehearsal. Not Broadway or West End - but it never claimed to be - and a pleasant way to pass the evening. Quizzes, Art & Crafts Classes, Bridge Classes, Line Dancing and Guest Speakers completed the line up. Some Guest Speakers were very good, others were very bad (one sent me to sleep - and other passengers suffered the same fate). The Elvis impersonator never appeared on stage although he was spotted wandering around the Decks from time to time. I believe these are volunteer Speakers who receive a free cruise for their efforts so it is unfair to expect experts in their field. The Rosario Trio played at least twice each day (violin, double bass and guitar) and had a really good and broad repertoire - jazz. classical, Spanish guitar etc. Very popular with the audience. The scheduled shows were changed on at least 3 occasions because of staff illness so the Entertainment Cancellations alternated with the Port Cancellations to keep the passengers guessing. Excursions: This is where matters fell apart with a vengeance. The itinerary was Funchal, Arrecife, Cape Verde (Mindelo and Praia), Las Palmas and Tenerife. At the Captain's Welcome Party (queued 15 minutes to meet him but then told 'just enter the Lounge at the other entrance when we declined to be photographed - grrr!), he said that there was an exciting new project - we had left Southampton with a white hull but would return with a new grey version. Our visit to Funchal was then cancelled (via the 'Daily Cancellation Broadcast' at noon each day), allegedly because of delays crossing the Bay of Biscay. In the absence of hard information from the Captain, rumours circulated that there were engine problems and that the power was inadequate after the new section of ship was added some years ago, meaning that the timetable was too tight for the plod across the Bay of Biscay, unless it was 'like a millpond with a good downhill slope' as one passenger eruditely described matters. Our first port visit was to Arrecife, Lanzarote was 23rd December after 5 days at sea. A 5 minute trip to the town in modern coaches that operated a smooth 15 minute shuttle service. This was the port where the Guest Speaker had sent me to sleep so everything was a pleasant surprise - the old castle and port area were very pleasant as was the small mini-pontoon where small private boats were moored and the circumference was occupied by market traders selling belts, wallets etc - the standard range. The town centre was pleasant in a low key fashion - we just wandered around and took photos (second objective of the cruise - wander, take pictures, drink coffee at an internet cafe, then repeat after lunch ...). It was nice to be on terra firma again. Christmas Eve and Day at sea - the atmosphere was a little muted with mutterings of discontent - 'It wouldn't be Fred if he didn't cancel at least one port - and this is our 4th cruise with him!' was one remark we overheard. Boxing Day was spent at Mindelo, Cape Verde. The tour buses were real museum pieces (40 years old oil burners - could have come from a film set!) - no air conditioning, seat belts and Anchor fare passengers were charged £5 each for the 10 minute ride to town). Mindelo town is a very poor area but we were stopped 3 times by locals who were very keen to practice spoken English and to tell us where to get the best photographs. We found a side street cafe (as did about 4-5 other passengers from the cruise) and spent a very pleasant hour or so amongst local residents, drinking huge mugs of capuccino and using the free WiFi - all for the princely sum of €2.30! On the walk back towards the tour bus, we were approached twice by beggars/pickpockets who were quite persistent - kept walking, tightened grip on camera and raised monitoring until we were back in the Town Centre. The Town Beach is quite charming - fishermen working, females taking the catch direct from the small boats and the running the length of the street trying to sell the fish to the cafes and restaurants. Numerous dogs on the beach, none of whom are toilet trained, so be careful if you need to step back to capture that important photograph. Mindelo is a developing area and I had to remind myself that my 'charming/quaint' photograph was someone else's daily poverty. Well worth the visit - although we seemed to be the only passengers who thought so! The island and its residents are working hard to develop tourism but it is very raw and basic - we hope to see it again before it becomes too commercialised. Next day was Praia, Cape Verde where we took the 2 hours minibus and Colonial Walk Tour with Eugene, a very erudite and entertaining guide who told us about his family and daily life for the Verdeans. Excellent pace - we have been on similar tours where the duration was crammed into 1-1.25 hours; Eugene left plenty of time for the photographers so we didn't miss any of the information at the next point of interest and we finished with a 30 minute cafe break for a coffee and a meat pie of unknown origins - it might have part of a rodent control team in a former life - who knows - but it tasted OK. 2 hours was probably a wee bit padded but it allowed a gentle pace and we felt we had received good value for our £25 per head charge for the excursion. The only downside was an attempted pickpocketing on my wife by a small 'blind' boy (no white stick and walked with far too much pace and direction to be visually impaired - no coincidence that his contact point was my wife's purse but her hand had reached it first). We left Praia early because, according to the Captain, quote 'This is not a safe place to be after dark' unquote. It would have been nice to have been advised of this earlier! Next came the Captain's Cancellation Message - Tenerife had been cancelled because he was expecting more bad weather (a staff member whose parents were on board had predicted this some 48 hours earlier ...) BUT, as a bonus (!), we would have more shore time in Las Palmas. We were pretty cynical by this time and had heard that Fred has a large operation in Las Palmas (tour buses, inter-island ferries) and so has a little more leverage. Because, staying until 23:00, the majority of the hull repainting was completed in port. Did Funchal and/or Tenerife refuse permission for a badger-coloured vessel to dock? The next Captain's promise was to 'try and dock off Funchal for the New Year's fireworks - we can't dock because there are no berths but I have a plan ...' This involved the ship circling in the outer reaches of the port for about 3 hours - great views of the fireworks display but going round in circles is not the same as a full day visit! A passenger was taken ill during the night and we had to return to Funchal at about 04:00 for a hospital transfer; later that day, we had to turn back towards Funchal for about 45 minutes to enable a helicopter evacuation of a sick passenger but this was aborted - we heard later that the passenger had died. Despite these delays, we managed to stay ahead of schedule for the rest of the voyage, despite slowing down to a 'pootle' speed for over 30 hours - we still arrived in Southampton some 2 hours ahead of schedule despite a real 'force majeure' Bay of Biscay storm that led to a string of injuries and the closure of the public areas of the ship to passengers one evening. The difference in distance between Tenerife-Southampton and Las Palmas-Southampton is only some 150 nautical miles and, had we maintained a normal speed, instead of dawdling for over 30 hours, we could have made Tenerife for the scheduled visit. This is supported by the fact that the Black Watch was in Funchal at the same time as the Balmoral but was still able to reach Liverpool before we made Southampton on the same day! Why doesn't Fred stay with the published itinerary - or at least refund the Port Taxes that the fare includes? Disembarkation: Smooth and quick after breakfast that was served from 06:30. We were waiting for our taxi back to Marriott Meon Valley Hotel at about 08:15 to collect our car - perfect! Conclusion: We booked the cruise because of the destinations - to cancel 2 from 6 is shoddy, as was the manner in which the reasons were given. The changes to the Entertainments at short notice and the Daily Newsletter/Misinformation sheet merely compounded the problem. The superb service by the serving and cabin staff was spoiled by the senior operational Managers who really should lead by example. Fred appears to have become cynical and complacent, trading on the ageing client group who value/need these elements. We may need to be guided to our seat and have our food fetched in 10-15 years' time - we have no intention of cruising with Fred until we reach that state. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
On board the Black Watch is like stepping back in time. The decor and fittings are very 1970s although clean, there is no WOW factor anywhere on the ship. This was our first cruise and based our poor experience it could be our last. ... Read More
On board the Black Watch is like stepping back in time. The decor and fittings are very 1970s although clean, there is no WOW factor anywhere on the ship. This was our first cruise and based our poor experience it could be our last. The boarding process at the port was one of the worst travel experiences I have had. Hundreds of passengers crammed into a hangar waiting their numbers to be called and we waited for 1hr 50 minutes and were the last to board even though we arrived exactly at the time we were instructed to on our boarding instructions. There was no explanation given just occasional apologies. So we arrived at our cabin fighting disappointment at our introductory experience with Fred Olsen. The next blow was that we learned that we would not be stopping at our first port of call, la Coruna, due to some mechanical problem. This port and the onshore trip to Santiago was the reason I booked the trip. The food was good. The alcohol reasonably priced and the service of a high standard with one or two surly exceptions. The shows were unoriginal. There was a very good comedian. The onboard activities were ok. The highlight of the trip was the Observatory Lounge where we enjoyed lovely cocktails while listening to an excellent trio. We met people who we will keep in touch with. Overall we both feel we spent a lot of money on a poor holiday and that same sum could have got us a luxury hotel for longer. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
This was our second cruise with Fred. Olsen, our first was aboard Boudicca last year. Braemar's friendly staff and quality of cuisine lived up to the high standard we experienced on Boudicca. We chose the smaller Grampian Restaurant ... Read More
This was our second cruise with Fred. Olsen, our first was aboard Boudicca last year. Braemar's friendly staff and quality of cuisine lived up to the high standard we experienced on Boudicca. We chose the smaller Grampian Restaurant on Deck 8. With exemplary waiters and large areas of glass, it offered stunning evening sunsets that provided an unforgettable ambiance. There were a range of activities and entertainment to suit most people’s tastes. In the evenings, we alternated between The Observatory Lounge on Deck 8, with the very talented pianist Enrique Cabilina playing our choice of relaxing music, and the Morning Light Pub on Deck 5 with Kieron Cox providing a livelier selection of guitar music and song. Our only visit to the Neptune Show Lounge on Deck 5 was to Braemar’s Crew Show…and what a show the crew put on. The girls (all amateur) dancing dressed in their national costumes from the Philippines and Tailand were exquisite. They were followed by the lads, dressed in naval costumes…they had a ball; their versions of In the Navy, and YMCA, had us in tears. You could see on their faces how much they genuinely enjoyed entertaining us. Finally, tears of a different kind could easily be shed in Gerard’s moving sand animation using sand and music to illustrate a story on a projected screen that ended with the scheme of the crucifixion. A massive brownie point for the cruise was the beautiful city of Bordeaux. A number of regular Fred. Olsen cruisers told us the organised shore trips were a waste of time and money; it was far better to arrange something yourself…fine, if you were offered a free shuttle bus, otherwise try to share a taxi between four of you, and see how much money you’d save…how right they were! FortunatelyBordeaux made up for the disappointment we experienced in our two shore trips costing us £174.00. There was so much to enjoy here. A delightful city in daylight, with majestic fountains and immaculate gardens was transformed after sunset. A breathtaking panorama of coloured lights along four kilometres of waterfront led the eye to distant mystical lights along Napolean’s Pont de pierre bridge. It was lovely to see families sat in the park alongside Braemar giving us a wave as they enjoyed their picnics. We were tempted to join them. No wonder the city is described: Little Paris. Our first tour: The River Erdre – Gateway to the Loire Valley. We circumnavigated Nantes’ city centre on at least three occasions, past the fortress walls and Giggs Irish Pub, our ears being bombarded with a constant flow of uninteresting names and dates by our French tour guide. One early stop to take photographs was so uninspiring half the passengers stayed aboard the coach. The second at the Cathedral, I’ll agree was worthwhile, allowing us to light a couple of candles and offer a silent prayer then crane our necks to wonder at the height and majesty of the arched roof. After two hours on the coach, and a visit to the WC, we boarded our boat. The lower deck was full; the passengers on the upper deck with the odd vacant seat here and there were packed together like sardines on plastic garden chairs. I spent the whole of the cruise three rows behind my wife who was sitting alongside two stony faced women who ignored her for the whole cruise. We were later told that the second boat that followed us was only half full. Yes, the river was beautiful, but the tour brochure states: Several castles and elegant manors. There were several elegant manors...but I cannot remember any castles. When we commenced the cruise, we immediately passed a sign prohibiting creating waves and advising an 8 kph speed limit. Reaching the limit of the cruise the sign was a distant memory as the charge for home began with the second boat in hot pursuit. To me, the most memorable sight was the countless number of low flying cormorants that crisscrossed the boat or flew past on either side. I was surprised by the elegance of their flight and beautiful lines of their bodies. Returning to Braemar after another circuit of Nantes, we were forced to queue for over half an hour while the crew assisted a large number of elderly passengers aboard up a very steep ramp. Eventually, someone must have read my mind, when with about thirty or so passengers remaining, a second ramp was provided. I dread imagining the mood of the passengers if it had been raining. Surely, with a tide table to hand this problem could have been foreseen beforehand and a second ramp provided on arrival. With due respect to some lovely people we befriended – each with heart-rending problems – Braemar attracts a large number of infirm passengers, so be prepared for similar delays. Also I wouldn’t recommend it to families with young children. Our second tour: The ‘Must Do Green Venice Tour. This was equally disappointing. Yes, it was a tranquil experience, but the waterways passed uninteresting fields, the most notable event, one duck and a number of cattle; the only burst of colour: the flowers and shrubs in the gardens of an occasional fishermen’s cottage. Disembarking, the appalling WC facility was an experience! At least the coach journey to and from the main event was pleasurable passing fields of sunflowers and variety of other crops. Think very carefully before you book any tour. I’d advise you to consult seasoned passengers on board before you do so. I recall somewhere a mention that Braemar had a degree of refurbishment in 2014…this obviously didn’t include our cabin. The power sockets were archaic; I cannot remember when I last needed adaptors for our toothbrushes and hair styling equipment. Furthermore, there was some kind of junction box attached to the dressing table with a conglomeration of dangling cables that served the kettle and hair drier. Returning to our cabin after an enjoyable evening in the Observatory Lounge, I was annoyed to read the following note left on our bed: Dear Guest, As part of our commitment to improve the standard of our cabins onboard the MS Braemar, we courteously advise you that we will be changing the wash basin drain in your cabin tomorrow…between 1300h and 1600h. If you have any objections, please contact the Reception desk. Thank you in advance for your kind understanding… I rang early the following morning and refused them access. Later, I was told other passengers had had an identical request and had agreed for them to carry out the work. I accept access dealing with an emergency must be allowed… however, it appears that Fred. Olsen was (at the expense of their guest's comfort) adopting a regime to upgrade the vessel while at sea. We spent our last day at sea sunbathing with alfresco lunch and dolphins on our port side bidding us ‘‘au revoir.’’ Bliss... The on board All-Inclusive Drinks Package was a real value for money. Without overindulging yourself, it was very easy to overtake the £10.00 per day levy. With a total of 68 miles sailing along the uninspiring River Loire to and from Nantes, I feel the cruise would be greatly enhanced if this was removed from the itinerary and a third night spent in Bordeaux. I would be interested to learn comments from fellow passengers to this suggestion. Finally, Eavesway Travel’s coaches need special mention. The coaches were so comfortable, with unbelievable leg room, reclining leather seats and for anyone needing relief between comfort stops, an onboard WC. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2015
We had requested a disabled room with a walk in shower, We could not fault the room, lovely bedding ( quite a few people had commented on this to us also) everything we wanted, lovely balcony we were on floor 7 and did not have any ... Read More
We had requested a disabled room with a walk in shower, We could not fault the room, lovely bedding ( quite a few people had commented on this to us also) everything we wanted, lovely balcony we were on floor 7 and did not have any problems. Yes a little noise from the shipmates but they have to clean the decks before everyone is up. We did not get into The Faroe Islands this was because of rough weather but I would rather be safe than risking docking, the captain explained the reason correctly and it wasnt because another ship was in our place. The food was amazing and so much, we are younger travelers in our fifties and found the fellow travellers we spoke to were lovely. It was so nice to be on holiday and everyone said hello and always chatted ( yes there were a few moaners but most people avoided them) I would definately reccomend the Black Watch if you want a smaller ship and lots to do. The organised trips were excellent and again we found them very disabled friendly if you needed extra help always there (reserved space on a coach or a taxi if required). We went on the flight ICE AND FIRE GLACIERS AND VOLCANOES yes more expensive but if like me you cannot walk to see these places just an unforgettable experience. The pilot made sure you got to see everything. The Spa dept were very good Elise organised a personal physio session for me to help with my mobility. She was truely wonderful and wrote it all down for me to continue when I got home. If you want a holiday were you lose track of time visit amazing places with lovely company, with great talks, shows as good as The West End singers and dancers who were so approachable and seemed to have lots of other activities they helped with and ( it was nice that the a lot of the main staff ate in the buffet restaurant so you were able to chat to them over lunch or afternoon tea. Also if you had any food allergies they went out of their way to assist. A VERY ENJOYABLE HOLIDAY Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2011
Various friends keen on cruising had suggested that we try it and so, after years of travelling abroad by plane and car, we chose Fred Olsen's Christmas and New Year trip on the Balmoral to Madeira and the Canaries to dip our toes in ... Read More
Various friends keen on cruising had suggested that we try it and so, after years of travelling abroad by plane and car, we chose Fred Olsen's Christmas and New Year trip on the Balmoral to Madeira and the Canaries to dip our toes in the water, as it were. In short, I have to say we both found it simply excellent. We stayed at the De Vere New Place hotel, 10 miles outside Southampton, the night before our embarkation and found their cruise package very good. It included dinner, bed and breakfast, 16 nights car parking and taxi transfers to and from the terminal before and after the cruise and we would certainly stay there again. At the terminal the check-in and embarkation process was trouble-free and we were delighted with our Superior Suite on deck 9. Our cabin stewardess, Ellen, was a delight, as were our two evening waiters. The food and entertainment was suitably varied and of high quality throughout our time onboard and what struck us most was just how friendly all staff were, from the Master down. It really was a happy ship. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day were simply superb thanks to the staff's efforts. We, in our mid 50s, were probably some of the youngest passengers aboard, but the age mix was not a problem for us as we made some good friends along the way. We tended to do our own thing whan ashore, but found the mix of land and sae days fine. Disembarkation was just as impressive, particularly compared to passing through airports. We enjoyed this trip so much that, whilst we will still look forward to other forms of overseas holidays, we will definitely look to cruise again and more than likely with Fred Olsen. In short, Fred and his team on the Balmoral made this the best Christmas and New Year we have ever had, and we are already eyeing up a trip for the same time this year. Read Less
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