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10 Fred. Olsen Southern Caribbean Cruise Reviews

Once we had got over our shock at the age profile of the clientele (first impression was that we had entered a floating retirement home) we were surprised how much fun we had. The all inclusive package for which we paid £6.99 a day each ... Read More
Once we had got over our shock at the age profile of the clientele (first impression was that we had entered a floating retirement home) we were surprised how much fun we had. The all inclusive package for which we paid £6.99 a day each was excellent - Stella Artois and Boddingtons on draught, cans of Strongbow, Carlsberg Export and Heineken etc. etc. , house wines including sparkling, local spirits and a vast array of soft drinks were all "free". You did have to pay half price for cocktails, premium spirits and bottled wine but this still worked out to be a relatively modest charge. In spite of this we saw very little evidence of inebriation. We enjoyed all the ports of call including Panama and Colombia and were impressed with the organisation of the shore tours. Further plus points were the truly fabulous staff and of course 14 glorious days of hot sunshine whilst Britain suffered from ice and snow. Food was generally good especially the buffet lunches. We weren't impressed with the Monarch charter flights. Their planes are old and the entertainment was dire (no choice of films or seatback TV screens). We are not surprised that they are pulling out of long haul. Entertainment was just OK even though a couple of the performers were very talented. The Neptune Lounge in particular is badly designed and no longer fit for purpose. There is no designated venue for entertainment on deck and on a couple of occasions when this was attempted it was curtailed as it was too windy or too hot! Would we book again? Yes probably if the itinerary was right. Judging by the number of people on board booking two and three cruises for next year Fred Olsen will continue to be a very popular brand. There is a very loyal band of followers who regard the ships as a home from home. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
We went on this cruise because we were very attracted by the golf package. We enjoyed playing on 4 different course with the group of 18 golfers. The professional golfer was very pleasant, but several ladies agreed that he should not ... Read More
We went on this cruise because we were very attracted by the golf package. We enjoyed playing on 4 different course with the group of 18 golfers. The professional golfer was very pleasant, but several ladies agreed that he should not have just gone off and played with low handicap men, but spent some time with each group. Suite 7031 was excellent, huge suite and balcony. We had canapes each evening, some very good, some a bit ordinary and stale. We eventually opted for 8.30 dinner, we did not like either choice (6.15 or 8.30)and will always in future only go with cruise that offers free seating. It was rather late to eat and had one 'less than fun' occupant on our table. Food varied. some excellent steaks, sometimes 2 had good meat and 2 had poorly cooked same choice. eg Lobster tended to be a small amount with lots of pasta . At night the boiled potatoes were dark blue and horrid. We had one excellent departure where the group played on the aft deck, but why not for most ports. The aft deck has very large area for smokers which made it less pleasant for non smokers. The one late sailing was from dominica on a sunday, which was total waste of time, NOTHING was open except one very grotty bar. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
The itinerary was very good and we really enjoyed the whole trip because of that, but:1. The ship was very crowded, especially when the weather prevented people from going on deck.2. We had a balcony and a good cabin, but often there were ... Read More
The itinerary was very good and we really enjoyed the whole trip because of that, but:1. The ship was very crowded, especially when the weather prevented people from going on deck.2. We had a balcony and a good cabin, but often there were workmen on our balcony painting and repairing. Also, we overlooked the promenade deck where workmen were often using noisy power tools. The experience was rather like an uncompleted Spanish resort.3. The food was quite good, not exceptional, but we would have liked an alternative menu and restaurant, even if we'd have had to pay a premium.4. The evening shows were good, but the daytime lectures were poor.5. There is only one theatre which has a flat floor which makes viewing from the rear obstructed. There is no cinema.Overall, would we recommend Fred Olsen? Probably not, unless the itinerary was exceptional, and the trip was quite short. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
We arrived at the airport very exited and then wondered what we had done. The age of the waiting passengers appeared much older than us. But our fears were unfounded there was a mixed age range on the ship from a few young children through ... Read More
We arrived at the airport very exited and then wondered what we had done. The age of the waiting passengers appeared much older than us. But our fears were unfounded there was a mixed age range on the ship from a few young children through a couple of teenagers all the way up to the very elderly. The flights were dreadful it ended up with a 3 hour delay and a very cramped and uncomfortable seat and we were in premium. However transfer to the Braemar was good straight from the plane to the ship no need to collect bags or do immigration it was all taken care of by Fred Olsen. The wait for ships card was very short and we were all given a cool drink by a smiling waitress. Our cabin was a balcony suite which was quite spacious clean and comfortable with a double bed but be aware they give you 2 single duvets as is the Norwegian style, we asked for a double and were given it by the time we had finished dinner.Our cabin stewardess introduced herself and escorted us to our cabin which I thought was a nice touch, on other cruises we have had to find our own way. We were assigned to the grampian restaurant which is by far the best restaurant on the ship our wine waiter was great and always had our wine ready for when we arrived for dinner you can order via the interactive TV or just tell him the night before. The service in the restaurant was a little slow our table was always the last served but then I guess someone has to be last and we were a very chatty table as we all got on very well. We had an officer on our table for formal night which was great as we didn't have to pay for wine or liqueurs on any of our 3 formal nights and the conversation was interesting. The Thistle restaurant is much larger and apparently hotter although the same food is served many people opted for the Grampian for breakfast and lunch as it has greater ambiance. The Palms cafe is OK buffet for all meals we only tried it once as we prefer table service but you can eat outside for lunch and breakfast Sunday lunch of roast beef was served there every Sunday and afternoon tea everyday although we only made it once as we always seem to be busy. If you wanted it there was plenty to do all day quizzes, bowls, bridge lessons, health classes, Pilate's and exercise. The only think I thing they could do with is some sort of cinema for sea days they did plan one film showing under the stars but this was cancelled due to this being scheduled for the only day it rained.There was a small casino but due to Norovirus this was cancelled which was a shame as I do like to have one go every time I cruise this is the only time I ever gamble and I won't win masses as I only ever spend £10 but I do enjoy it. I had a couple of spa treatments but I won't go back it wasn't bad but simply not up to the standard I have had in Asia and they gave you no time to relax afterwards all part of being pampered to me also she was very quick to point out how I could pay a gratuity never had that before the spa lady was the only person that mentioned this. There were 2 shows every night for each sitting the crew shows were the best although the others were OK but not stunning they also had a singer playing in one of the bar who wasn't great but didn't hurt your ears music I think could do with being updated a little. There was a steel drum player on the outside areas for most nights and a piano player/singer in the observatory bar each evening. This was our favorite bar for after dinner drinks it was peaceful with a great view. They also had a young group who were pretty awful however I think it was more to do with the old fashioned music they played 20 somethings playing Matt Monroe just didn't go together at all. We had sail away parties at 4 ports which were very enjoyable the first time I have experienced this as our previous cruises just didn't do it. The itinerary was great this is what attracted us to the cruise in the first instance. Grenada; We did the ships rhum runner trip it was a laugh and the crew were great they had us all up limbo dancing reasonably priced as well. Santiago De Cuba' This was interesting we did a city tour with the ship there were some inconsistencies with which bus you were on as some buss es stopped where we didn't but a worthwhile experience I have never seem so many people happily doing nothing but chat and play music, although the poverty was evident. We again did a trip with the ship in Turks and Caicos we went snorkeling and played with stingrays it was fabulous they are such gentle creatures again good value for money. St Lucia was not so enjoyable people trying to sell you something every few feet we did this one independently not a place I would rush back to but glad I've seen it. Barbados still my favorite Island we did the farewell trip here as we didn't want to stay on the ship waiting for the flight home, we are glad we did it as we visited the plantation house something I have always wanted to do but never managed to when I have stayed there. St Maarten was a big disappointment very commercialised not a place I would recommend although the shops are on the beachfront its all Jewelry but most shops have the same stock and it didn't look great quality but each to his own. All in all we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and have no hesitation to recommend it to others it was so relaxing the ship for us was the perfect size not too big and not too small we had no complaints about food or service. In fact we enjoyed it so much we have booked for a different itinerary next year. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
We picked this cruise as it departed out of Bridgetown so we wouldn't have to wait for cases etc at the airport it makes for a much more pleasant start to a holiday . The embarkation process was smooth and organized .We where shown to ... Read More
We picked this cruise as it departed out of Bridgetown so we wouldn't have to wait for cases etc at the airport it makes for a much more pleasant start to a holiday . The embarkation process was smooth and organized .We where shown to our cabin and our cases arrived shortly afterwards . The Cabin on Bridge Deck (9017) was lovely , a complimentary bottle of Champagne & fruit basket waiting for use when we arrived .The suite had loads of hanging space,ample drawers ,a double settee and two easy chairs .We did hear lots of people on deck 8 complaining about not being told about the restricted views from their balconies so would recommend taking care if booking that deck . We where in the Tintangle Restaurant for evening meal, if Fred Olsen has made any cost savings ,this is where it showed , not in the quality of the food but in the service .Waiters seem to have one or two tables too many ,which meant that you had to wait quite a long time between courses . The entertainment is the normal Fred Olsen stuff , a small dance troupe ,the odd guest entertainer ,quizzes and pianists.Maybe its time for Fred to be alittle more adventurous ,how about a late night movie in the Neptune lounge(show something different to the in cabin T.V)., let the comedian do a late night spot.or how about a sports bar with Sky T.V. Excursions we took 5 and all were well executed ,staggered departures so less chaos in getting your "spot" . Over all the Boudiccia has no "wow" factor , no grand stair case ,no row of glitzy shops ,what she does have is a nice calm, gentile feel ,a ship who's crew know how to deliver a first class service. For the record yes the Captain does play his trumpet ,not only at his cocktail parties he has been known to make a late night appearance in the Lido bar and play with the band . Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
Travel Arrangements Outbound Journey The police closure of the A14 for 6 hours due to heavy snow resulted in our missing the Stansted flight to Miami and subsequently being unable to join the ship as planned. We fully accept this was ... Read More
Travel Arrangements Outbound Journey The police closure of the A14 for 6 hours due to heavy snow resulted in our missing the Stansted flight to Miami and subsequently being unable to join the ship as planned. We fully accept this was our responsibility, however......... Unbelievably, Fred Olsen did not appear to have a clear protocol in place to handle such occurrences and support offered by the company was negligible. We had to make our own arrangements to fly out to pick up the ship at her first port of call. The whole experience was horrendous -the head office staff were most defensive - afraid any show of sympathy or offer of help could be interpreted as admission of liability. When they eventually offered some travel options, the cost for the same flights we had sourced ourselves was some £200.00 more expensive than we had paid. Inbound Journey The (chartered) flight back home was delayed for 6 hours due to an error on the aircraft manifest. The original schedule of airports for collection of passengers had been amended which meant that the American authorities would not accept the aircraft. The plane had to abide by its stated manifest and fly from Manchester. This additional flight time meant that a new aircrew had to be found. The Aircraft had been on an exclusive charter to Fred Olsen therefore the mix up with the manifest must lay with them. My husband asked for an explanation from the reception staff and was misled by a statement that there had been technical difficulties with the plane, however we were allowed to wait on board the Braemar and provided with food and drink. This was greatly appreciated. The problems arose when we finally arrived at Miami airport to check in. I understand that, had the flight been on time, 15 check in desks would have been available to process the 300 passengers, with at least 1 desk designated to fast track Premium passengers such as ourselves. In reality, there were only 5 check in desks to cope with all 300 passengers. There was no fast track desk and we queued for 2 hours to check in; only to be allocated seats which were not together. I have a serious medical condition which makes travel in general difficult for me. We therefore paid the supplement to avoid exactly this type of situation. Our experience certainly does not merit the £600 supplement paid. The Ship We found the ship disappointing. The ship sailed through force 6 seas on a few occasions and felt very unstable. The recent extension resulted in some very strange and alarming noises coming from the ship itself during medium seas. The public rooms and pool deck were crowded; it was difficult to get a seat or sun bed. The food was average at best, poor on a couple of occasions. My husband sent back a chicken dish which was raw in the middle and dishes were sent back by our dinner companions on several occasions as the food was cold. The menus were unexciting and generally fell short of what we expected. The entertainment was second rate, I would class it on a similar level to a holiday camp. Our cabin was 'tired' looking. When maintenance work was done on our balcony one day, we returned to our cabin (after 5 pm) to find the sun beds tipped on end, sawdust still on the furniture and floor. The toilet did not work one morning, and the water was turned off one evening for a short while. The laundry room was well equipped, but one iron was broken - leaving the remaining iron for 900 passengers! The Good Points The itinerary was excellent. With the exception of Santo Domingo we enjoyed all the places we visited. The organized tours were interesting and fairly priced. Drinks were also fairly priced. The port details provided were very helpful. The staff on board, especially the steward and waiting staff were very good indeed and a major asset to the company. Summary Our holiday has been disappointing and I would summarize my observations as follows: ? Poor support from head office when things go wrong. ? Tired ship - the extension hasn't worked satisfactorily ? lack of space and feeling of crowding ? Below average food and entertainment ? Excellent crew - probably the lowest paid staff (stewards and waiters) are propping up the rest of the company. We were amazed by the number of FO fans who cruise with this company time and again. Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion, however we can only surmise that either we were very unlucky, or others haven't had the benefit of experiencing the level of service we have previously enjoyed with other companies. I wrote to FO immediately upon our return from holiday - I received a holding letter but since then the silence has been deafening. We will not use FO again and will return to the reliability of Cunard - which offers much better service at a similar cost Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
M V Braemar Christmas Caribbean Cruise 22/12/08 - 08/01/09 Gatwick was typical chaos but Miami was surprisingly problem free, taking only 1 hour from plane to transfer bus. We joined a ship that had been extended in the ... Read More
M V Braemar Christmas Caribbean Cruise 22/12/08 - 08/01/09 Gatwick was typical chaos but Miami was surprisingly problem free, taking only 1 hour from plane to transfer bus. We joined a ship that had been extended in the middle and generally upgraded everywhere in Summer 2008. It had been on several bedding down cruises since then but there was little comment on cruise review web sites as to how these changes had been received. Fred Olsen seems to get very little web comment and it's internet room on board was virtually empty on all my visits - may be something to do with the abnormally high average age of it's passengers. The weather in the Northern Caribbean was stormy force 6 with a 3 meter swell and overcast for the first week. This had it's affect on health and moral. Poor weather restricts deck activities as well as the head count at dinner. Several injuries were recorded. The first ports of call where Nassau (the town itself was very disappointing) and Montego Bay (Not a nice place). The main sunbathing deck with very small pools was totally overcrowded when the sun came out - we retreated to our balcony. The weather in the second week improved a bit - force 4 and 2 meter swell. Unfortunately for many, the Flu outbreak worsened. It also included two of the best ports of call, Aruba and Curacao in the Dutch Antilles off the coast of Venezuela. Delightful ports with gaily painted buildings designed in old Dutch style, well presented shops and both places that we will return too. Santa Marta in Columbia was also interesting. No evidence of their famous drug trade! The weather continued to improve a little bit as the week went on. St. Georges in Grenada has improved enormously over the last decade, despite or due to two bad hurricanes. A new marina and Harbour have been built and also a new relocated cruise terminal and shopping centre. Avoid the water taxis to Grand Anse Beach in choppy weather as they are very difficult to climb into and they try to pack 16 people in to a small boat and delay leaving until full which can involve a wait of over half an hour both ways. The smell of leaking petrol cleared my sinuses. Bridgetown Barbados has a well organized Cruise Terminal and Port and taxis are available for the mile or so trip into town. The private buses are great fun on which to travel about. 1 US$ gets you a trip up the west coast with the locals to Hole Town. Also, sharing taxis is commonplace but not as cheap as you think. Bargain hard! This west coast is well developed to quite a high density and rather commercialized but the local roads can barely cope resulting in many traffic jams - which gives plenty of opportunity to gaze at all the famous hotels. Castries St Lucia and St. John's Antigua were forgettable experiences, the latter due to the very restricted 4 hour stop. We have been to Antigua before and Nelsons Dockyard , on the other side of the island is a must if time permits and circumnavigation of the island by catamaran is an unforgettable experience if you get time. So, last few days at sea with sun and reasonably calm seas cruising up to Key West, a lovely Port at the bottom end of Florida with a super town centre and well worth the visit. Finally, an early morning arrival back at Miami with 20 hours of travel (and waiting around) to look forward to. First the plus points ... It's cheap to cruise this The Fred Olsen Line with all the bargains available, including free upgrades. We landed up in a suite and Premium economy aircraft seats for £2300 each for this 18 day Christmas cruise although don't expect 'luxury'. The prices on board were in British pounds, an advantage over the Dollar charging ships when the £ only buys $1.43. This rate, charged for cash changing on the ship stayed the same every day, even when the Dollar sank to $1.35 to the £. Bar prices and restaurant wines (£13 for a decent bottle) were cheap compared with others we have been on. You could also buy English bottled beer - Spitfire and draught Stella Artois. The Filipino staff are a delight - always smiling, greeting you by name, remembering what you drink, making you feel important. They made our holiday. What an asset to the company! Unfortunately, the bad points outnumber but many of these were not down to Fred Holstein or the Bromide crew. The average age was noticeably higher than we have experienced in the past, even at Christmas - 75% of passengers was 70+. The Fred Olsen 78 - 90 club! We thought that elderly American cruise passengers were rude on previous trips (Insignia & Diamond Princess) - until we experienced a few days a sea with the British counterpart. We suspected that whole community centers for the elderly had been forcibly removed from Basildon and placed on this ship. Seriously, the heavy pre-Christmas discounting seemed to have attracted some strange people! Statistically, a third of the passengers where from Lancashire, a third from Yorkshire and 50 % from Essex (Well it felt like it!). This ship had more cruise snobs and moaners per deck than any other we have experienced. - those that holiday once a year on a cruise, moan about everything, swear that they will not come again - and then announce that this is their 5th. time on the ship. - those that have sailed with all the top notch lines in the best cabins, although are mysteriously camping out in a basic inside cabin on deck 2 One of the reasons for choosing this cruise line was due to recommendations from some friends and the thought that, with 18 days at sea, they would serve some good traditional British food occasionally. i.e. Roast Beef. We were rather disappointed. The food is adequate 'Torquay Hotel food', prepared by mass catering chefs in conjunction with their checked accountants. For example, chicken and pork were always available because they are cheap and were often reheated (sometimes with an additional sauce). Beef was rarely available in any form. The one steak was part 'cooked' in the basement main kitchen, reheated in the holding kitchen on deck 8 and served ... In this time, it had lost it's will to please and totally lacked any normal British accompaniments i.e. chips, onions, roasted vegetables etc. However, in fairness, their Beef Wellington was good. Desserts were mostly disappointing, with excessive use of Creme fresh cream, Jelly, Moose. No Apple pie or other traditional desserts, no custard, rarely any ice cream. But they did have bread & butter pudding several times - to use up the old bread. Christmas and New Year dinners lacked style, substance and flavor and served with miniscule portions, both sadly disappointing. The smell of diesel oil, particularly on deck 5 Starboard and often in the air conditioning in our cabin was very noticeable and unpleasant. So Fred Olsen, my scores out of 5. Food 2.5 Sometimes quite good but often disappointing Food Service 4.5 Restaurant excellent. Palm Cafe mediocre Cabin Comfort 4.0 Most normal cabins are disappointingly small but comfortable. Balcony suite was good. Cabin Service 3.5 OK Free champers & fruit on arrival for us Bar Service 4.75 Always good to the point of brilliant Entertainment 2.5 Have experienced far better. My own appearance in one show was brilliant Both lectures were boring! Internet 0.5 Don't bother. Too slow. No wi-fi connections TV 2.0 Poor world news, poor daily info Cruise info / daily letter 2.0 Poor, amateurish and cheaply sourced Tours 2.0 Only did one which put me off. Used taxis Laundry 4.5 Dry cleaning very efficient Summery A cruise line for those on a budget, offering good value for money. Very popular with the elderly and those from the Northern Counties and Essex. Despite extension and refurbishment, the ship falls well behind P & O, Princess and others in terms of amenities and comforts but it does charge much cheaper prices and leaves tipping to the discretion of it's passengers. It's relatively small size - 988 passengers - is an attraction. Choose your cruise itinerary carefully, as many Caribbean ports are scruffy and uninteresting. Coach tours are typically pricey and rarely offer good value. Have the guts to hire a taxi (very affordable with 4 people) and do your own thing with the drivers help and knowledge. Do not bother to smuggle your own spirits on board. The cabin prices are duty free .i.e. £15 for a liter of Jameson's Irish whiskey! Bring plenty of books and treat yourselves to a balcony cabin to avoid the crowds. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My partner and I were a little apprehensive when reading reviews after booking our cruise from the local newspaper.  We were a little concerned that it appeared to be mainly enjoyed by the older generation - but our worries were unfounded ... Read More
My partner and I were a little apprehensive when reading reviews after booking our cruise from the local newspaper.  We were a little concerned that it appeared to be mainly enjoyed by the older generation - but our worries were unfounded as everyone was so friendly and easy to get along with.I thoroughly enjoyed my holiday aboard the Boudicca visiting 9 carribean different islands. I was most impressed with the helpfulness of the staff who did everything to ensure that the holiday went smoothly.My partner and I were a little apprehensive when reading reviews after booking our cruise from the local newspaper.  We were a little concerned that it appeared to be mainly enjoyed by the older generation - but our worries were unfounded as everyone was so friendly and easy to get along with.We had an outside cabin on deck D. It was a descent size with plenty of storage space. We had both a shower an a bath tub in the bathroom. Tea and coffee making facilities with walkers biscuits topped up twice daily. We had two single beds which were quite comfortable The downside was that it was quite noisy and I did invest in some earplugs, but by the end of the cruise I think I was used to the noise -(a humming noise). The cabin was kept spotlessly clean by our sweet cabin attendant. Everything was so well organised and extra help was always available to people who needed it. The meals wherever we decided to eat were of excellent quality with plenty of choice. The majority of the passengers were British. Due to the fact that Boudicca is a small cruise ship we seemed to get to know everyone and made lots of new friends. The entertainment was adequate but would not be ideal for children or teenagers etc. As it was after visiting so many islands we were quite happy to have our evening meal- see the evening show - have a drink in one of the bars and then retire to our room as we knew we would be up and out again next morning. I would not reccommend this cruise to young families and teenagers etc as it is more geared to 35 yrs and upwards. Overall I found the cruise excellent value for money and am looking forward to booking my next Fred Olson Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
What could be better; we sailed to 10 destinations in 2 weeks! Barbados, Tobago, Curacao, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Tortola, BVI, St. Lucia, Antigua, The Grenadines. Not too much for the children to do on the ship during the day ... Read More
What could be better; we sailed to 10 destinations in 2 weeks! Barbados, Tobago, Curacao, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Tortola, BVI, St. Lucia, Antigua, The Grenadines. Not too much for the children to do on the ship during the day except be with other kids, but who cares - every day we went to the beach almost! Kids club on board was mainly for the under 10s. However the teenagers managed to 'Find' each other at night time and headed for the Skylark nightclub. Service on Braemar is 2nd to none. Absolutely brilliant. Food excellent. Entertainment very very good. Fabulous cruise directors and entertainment staff - all knew our names by the end of the cruise. Cabins very spacious and well appointed. Not luxury but very clean and the best beds! Scandinavian quilts, chocs on pillow at night. cabins cleaned at least twice a day. Sports deck great fun. Organized games every day. Quizzes, bingo and numerous lectures. Fred Olsen Lines certainly have something very special to offer their guests. I cannot really find fault with their product at all. Small ship cruising at its best. Braemar is only 19,000 tonnes and only carries about 700 when full. Good deal of single cabins and family 4 berths, but lacks the balcony cabins like the newer vessels. Excursions very well organized by very efficient staff and plenty to chose from. We swam with stingrays and dolphins. Give it a try! Give it a try - !! Read Less
Sail Date March 2006
The Braemar is one of three ships operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines. She entered service in 1992 she has sailed under various names such as Norwegian Dynasty, Crown Majesty, Cunard Dynasty and Crown Dynasty before transferring to Fred ... Read More
The Braemar is one of three ships operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines. She entered service in 1992 she has sailed under various names such as Norwegian Dynasty, Crown Majesty, Cunard Dynasty and Crown Dynasty before transferring to Fred Olsen in 2001 after a major re-fit. The ship is 163.81m in length and has a width of 163.81m. The maximum speed of the vessel is 21.0 knots. The ship is kept in an immaculate condition and one would tend to think that it had just been built recently and had just entered service. Somewhat smaller, than most of today's cruise liners, there is a warm friendly atmosphere on board, more akin to a fine country house hotel. The atmosphere on board can best be described as elegant and captivating without being snooty. The ship sails in Northern Europe, the Mediterranean and Canary Islands in the summer and transfers to the Caribbean and Amazon away from the cold wet British winters. Fred Olsen operate a series of fly/cruise from various regional UK airports during the Caribbean season. Their arrangements in this regard can only be described as outstanding. You check your luggage in at the airport and you next see it in your cabin. On arrival by air at the departure port, coaches meet guests at the bottom of the aircraft steps and transfer them directly to the ship, thus avoiding the associated airport hassles. At the end of the cruise, Immigration procedures are carried out on board the vessel, as is the airline check-in - luggage is security tagged on board and transferred directly to the aircraft's hold. At the airport passengers enter through a special airport security screening area directly into the departure lounge. THE SHIP - Braemar is 19,098 tons, has seven passenger decks, carries 727 passengers (standard occupancy) - maximum 819 and has a multi-national crew of 320. There are an assortment of cabins - there are a number of cabins for single guests. Cabins are somewhat small (approximately 140 square feet) but are extremely comfortable and feature television, hairdryer and safe. There is limited drawer space. Soft furnishings, the use of mirrors and discreet lighting tends to make them seem larger. En-suite shower rooms are compact but adequate. There is good shower pressure and piping hot water. High quality soaps and shower lotions are provided but no shampoo. Bathrobes are not provided in the lower grade cabins. Towels are large and fluffy. No ice is provided in the cabin nor is drinking water, though one can purchase bottled water. They say that it is perfectly safe to drink the tap water. There is also a very limited room service menu which is not available 24 hours a day or on the days of embarkation or disembarkation. Bed coverings are by means of duvets. There are two restaurants on board, the formal Thistle Restaurant and the informal Palms Cafe. Both are open for breakfast. lunch and dinner whilst the Palms Cafe is also open for the mid-night snack. In both restaurants it was pleasing to find spotless starched linen tablecloths on the tables for all meals accompanied by well starched napkins in the Thistle Restaurant. The food in both restaurants was varied, well presented, wholesome and plentiful - hot food was indeed hot and salads crisp and fresh. However the quality of the tea served left a lot to be desired. Service was quick and efficient but could not be described as discreet or subtle - this is an area that needs some fine-tuning. In saying that the waiters were always friendly and eager to please. Tables are mainly for 6, 8 or 10 guests with a limited number for 2. Afternoon tea is served daily either on deck (weather permitting) or in one of the lounges - these were disappointing and lacked imagination and variety. There are three lounges on board, the Neptune Lounge - the main entertainment lounge - the Braemar Lounge and Coral Club. Additionally there is a night club/lounge - the Skylark Club. Seating in the Neptune lounge is close together, there are a number of pillars that block the line of sight to the stage. The Braemar Lounge is relaxing, spacious and stylish. The Coral Club is mainly used for dancing and for quizzes. Entertainment on board is varied but limited owing to the size of the vessel. There is a young and enthusiastic entertainment team on board whose aim is to try to please everyone. Don't expect Broadway or Westend style production shows as seen on larger cruise ships - they just do not have the space or the staff to present same. However, they do try hard and the standard of entertainment is certainly acceptable. Other areas for guests include a fitness centre, a beauty salon, and Internet Centre - though prices for the use of this facility are expensive, a card room, library and well stocked shop/boutique. There are also two gaming tables, some slot machines and a children's room. There is a large amount of deck space, a heated seawater swimming pool, and two whirlpools. There are ample sun loungers though the majority of these are badly stained and are in need of a good cleaning. Other than this the whole ship was spotless both inside and outside. Some loungers have padding though the majority do not. Tables and chairs abound and one of the most delightful areas on the ship is the terraced areas to the aft. Guests should note that there is noticeable vibration to the aft of the vessel, especially when the ship is maneuvering in and out of port. There are numerous bars on board offering an extensive beverage menu - the cocktails lacked quality, quantity and were grossly over-priced. Some of the bar waitresses tended to be aggressive in their approach to sales. There was however an excellent reasonably priced wine list. (Care should be taken not to have individual bar sales targets displayed in passengers' view). The currency used on board is the GB pound (sterling). 15% is included in the cost of drinks from the bar or wine in the restaurant. A gratuity to the cabin attendant and dining room waiter is suggested at £2.00 per person today. On this cruise, the BM068R (10 - 24 November 2003) - Braemar visited the following Caribbean Islands - Barbados, Bequia, St Lucia, Dominica, St Kitts, Antigua, Tortola, Dominican Republic, Curacao, Grenada and Trinidad. Professionally produced and coloured port information leaflets were available for most of the ports of call. These were most informative - there was also a guest port lecturer on board. The itinerary was port intensive with only two days at sea during the 14-day cruise. One point to note is that in many ports of call, there is a very steep inclination on the gangway. On ports where tenders operated, these operated efficiently, with very little waiting times. Braemar operated a full excursion programme at most ports of call. These were somewhat expensive and reports suggested that they lacked quality and content. I was disappointed in the tours that I took from the ship, so much so, that I cancelled a numbers of tours and obtained better quality tours quayside in most of the ports. Guests on board tended to be in the age range of 60 plus, with a sprinkling of those of lesser years. In saying that all were very friendly and certainly knew how to enjoy themselves, the young and the old mixed well together and the ambience on board was more like an extended family rather than just cruise ship passengers. There were no children on board on this particular cruise. In summary, this ship is a "gem". It's the sort of ship where you just stand after that first exploration after you come on board for the first time, in disbelief that such a ship actually exists in this age of the mega liners. You feel totally at ease - you feel at home here - It's friendly, welcoming and different - I will be back and soon I hope. Read Less
Sail Date November 2003
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