4 Dover to France Fred. Olsen Braemar Cruise Reviews

Our first cruise with Fred Olsen for many years, the last was in 2006 (Boudicca) and before that 2004 (Black Prince), we enjoyed travelling on Braemar. The ship has a compact cosy feel about it and if like us you regard a cruise as a means ... Read More
Our first cruise with Fred Olsen for many years, the last was in 2006 (Boudicca) and before that 2004 (Black Prince), we enjoyed travelling on Braemar. The ship has a compact cosy feel about it and if like us you regard a cruise as a means of transport rather than a vacation in itself then we found it a pleasurable experience and recommendable. As for the cruise experience itself, we hardly spoke to other passengers and nobody made any effort to speak with us to start the ball rolling, so cannot comment on whether most people were friendly. Some people have what it takes to launch into conversation with total strangers only to create the impression within minutes of having known one another for years, we don't. Perhaps it's that we appear younger than we are, or as I joked with my wife maybe we were thought to be newly-weds so best left well alone! Anyway, after our experience in 2006 of sharing a table in the restaurant, we opted for sitting by ourselves and doing our own thing. The crew, apart from a few waiters in whom we detected facetiousness, were charming, friendly and obliging. A special mention well-deserved for the excellent service to the staff in the Observatory who made our customised Afternoon Teas extremely enjoyable. Unlike previous cruises, we weren't inspired to attend any of the shows, instead after second-sitting evening meal in the Grampian restaurant we retired to our cabin; early to bed early to rise maketh man healthy, wealthy and slim! As discerning vegetarians, our dietary requirements are specific and Braemar catered for us adequately, no complaints there. Otherwise, the bottled water we found unpalatable and at £1.50 a bottle a rip-off. Since we don't mix with others on a daily basis, it was a real eye-opener just how many people start their day with a cup of coffee and continuing drinking stimulants thereafter; still, no accounting for taste, different people and all that. My wife had a massage in the spa which she found thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing. I relaxed by going to the gym a few times for weightlifting. Of the 4 tours we'd pre-booked, one was cancelled. We went on tours in La Rochelle and Isle de Re, Briere National Park & Guerande, and in Rouen. For reasons that I won't go into, the French-speaking guide for Guerande took up my wife's suggestion the tour make a detour to visit the salt marshes which from the sound of some people in the coach was a real treat for the twitchers in the group. We chose the tours carefully by reading reviews, etc and were pleased they proved good value and stimulating, all guides making a real effort to impart information. Where Braemar went wrong for us was Norovirus. A few days before the end of the cruise, the captain announced an outbreak. We'd not experienced norovirus before and were unprepared for how it's tackled. Sanitising went into over-drive. It was on Boudicca that we'd first experienced having to rub sanitising fluid on our hands before entering a restaurant so it was no big deal to do that on Braemar, but there's a difference between the volume of liquid that one rubs on one's own hands for oneself, and the powerful lingering acrid putrid smell that pervades the corridors from a mass disinfectant. I guess it was left to us to find out more about norovirus if we wanted; all that the captain told us was to step up our use of the sanitising fluid and wash hands before eating, also that the self-service buffets at breakfast and lunch would become waiter service only. The Daily Times mentioned two symptoms, diarrhoea and vomiting, so I decided that whatever I was suffering was not norovirus and no need to say anything. Since I rarely get ill, my diagnosis based on a feeling of nausea (not sea-sickness) was a mild food poisoning from something I'd eaten off ship or possibly a bottle of water that I'd bought on board which tasted off when I opened it. I treated it with homoeopathy, reduced my food intake, kept away from the restaurant for evening meals, avoided public rooms wherever possible, and got plenty of sleep and rest. On the penultimate day of the cruise, I felt a sore throat in the making, hardly surprising given the stale air in our cabin (Deck 6), the fumes from the crew re-painting cabin doors nearby, carpet sealant, and the smell of diesel outside on deck. My wife's eyes were watering and feeling prickly. Having shaken off the worst before returning home, I am now, some 2 weeks later, almost getting over a dry cough and cold. What amazed us was just how protective Fred Olsen was of the crew at the expense of the passengers. Why weren't passengers offered face-masks and gloves? Why did we have to breathe fumes unnecessarily? Packing up and unloading the ship came over as a sorry affair and within hours of disembarkation at Dover, Braemar sailed to Harwich where it was deep cleansed and got ready to greet the new group of passengers embarking for the next cruise. Norovirus we have since discovered is rife and not only on cruise ships, but how Fred Olsen managed the situation did not impress us. Not knowing the procedure I assumed Fred Olsen would alert the authorities, but to be on the safe side I did too. The several organisations I contacted were all very helpful and forwarding my email to the right department. I received a reply from a Food and Health and Safety adviser at Tendring District Council who said they take outbreaks on board very seriously and do everything they can to assist the ship. It wasn’t that I thought Fred Olsen would have hushed anything up, but I wanted to notify the authorities that we weren’t impressed with the standard of cleanliness of some of the glassware, cutlery and plates given to us, with grubbiness and fingermarks galore. Also, it concerned me that whereas some foods were covered up, most weren't, particularly bread. Of all the foodstuffs on display, bread has probably been handled and touched by any number of people before it reaches your hands. We heard others say their holiday had been ruined. It didn't ruin our holiday, we achieved our objective, namely to revisit France, but Fred Olsen spoiled their cruise, reminding us too just how challenging it can be to share travelling arrangements with old people. Since we were in good health before the holiday, having to remedy ourselves as a consequence of a virus on a cruise ship is not my idea of fun. I've read that regular cruisers are philosophic about norovirus but a cruise ship is not an experience we want to repeat. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
My partner were on our first cruise. The car parking and check-in at Dover were excellent; we were given clear directions to the car-park, porters took our luggage from the car and it next turned up outside our cabin. We had a forward ... Read More
My partner were on our first cruise. The car parking and check-in at Dover were excellent; we were given clear directions to the car-park, porters took our luggage from the car and it next turned up outside our cabin. We had a forward cabin on deck 4 (picture window, not portholes); comfortable beds, plenty of hanging space, a little short of drawer space. Decent size towels and changed as required; hand and shower wash toiletries supplied. Duvet covers changed daily. A full tea/coffee making tray provided. We had failed to noet that. although it is a UK ship, the electrics are continental 2 pin! Reception loaned us 2 adaptors for the trip, for a small returnable deposit. The structure of the cabin creaked and groaned a bit on the two nights when the sea was a bit rough but were excellently sound proofed The staff were all cheerful, polite and competent - dining-room, bar, reception and cabin. There are two sittings for dinner 6.15 and 8.15 pm with tables for 2,4,6, or 8. Choose time and number when you book. There are three restaurants where one can have breakfast and lunch but the menu is the same in each. The food was excellent with a wide selection; good food, nicely cooked and presented,,on hot plates and as good as you would eat in any up market holiday hotel. Drinks prices were on a par with UK bar/hotel prices, but we found that the £8 per person/day All Inclusive package represented good value and, even at the £10 it has gone up to it is still worth doing. A gin and tonic and a pint of draught bitter is about £8.60 and wine is around £4 a glass so spending your daily allowance involves normal holiday drinking and nothing excessive! There was an outbreak of noro-virus, almost as soon as we sailed. Strict health precautions were enforced which basically meant that whenever you entered or left a public room you were required to sanitise your hands with an alcohol based gel. People who got the virus were treated free by the ship's doctor and anyone who accepted the request to stay in their cabin for 48 hours was give a pro-rata 2 day refund on their fare.. There was a huge range of onboard activities including talks, demonstrations of art and craft, dancing, bridge, truly something for almost everyone.. We did not attend any of the evening entertainments but heard good reports of them from those who did. The shores excursions in Nantes, La Rochelle, and Bordeaux were excellent but seemed a bit pricy at £49 per person for a 1/2 day. There were about 8 excursions offered at each port and the full range can be seen on the Fred Olsen website. The arrangements of getting on and off the boat for these tours was poor, bordering on shambolic! Many passengers had a range of mobility issues which made them a bit slow, the gangways were steep and at one time there were 300 passengers who had got off tour buses, trying to get back on board via a one-way gangway with 300 passengers trying to get off and board the coaches! Disembarking and baggage collection were speedy enough and efficient. Overall, my idea of a good cruise, Braemar was full but did not seem to be (900+ passengers) and I was sufficiently impressed that I booked a cruise on the same boat for next year, while I was on-board! 5% discount too! Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
This was the maiden voyage down the Loire followed by a further river trip down the Garonne to Bordeaux. Someone came on board with the dreaded Norovirus which meant that on 4 of the 7 days cruise we were in lockdown which spoiled the ... Read More
This was the maiden voyage down the Loire followed by a further river trip down the Garonne to Bordeaux. Someone came on board with the dreaded Norovirus which meant that on 4 of the 7 days cruise we were in lockdown which spoiled the trip. No quibble with the captains decision, but the restrictions took most of the pleasure out of the cruise and the constant handwashing and antibac. 'squirters' resulted in a nasty dose of eczema of the hands. Recommend the tour of Green Venice in Bordeaux though, very serene and relaxing. Beware disembarkation at both Nantes and Bordeaux, very very steep gangway from level 5 to quayside due to local conditions/tides which created long delays getting both on and off the ship and would be very taxing to anyone with disabilities although help was on hand - heart conditions would be a bit worrying. Cannot comment on fitness facilities, gym was closed for most of the trip. Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
Right from the start this inaugural river cruise was beset with problems. From the second day we had the Norovirus which wiped out a lot of on-board activities and amenities including any self-service restaurant meals and closed all the ... Read More
Right from the start this inaugural river cruise was beset with problems. From the second day we had the Norovirus which wiped out a lot of on-board activities and amenities including any self-service restaurant meals and closed all the public toilets, so there was a lot of toing and froing back to the cabin. Our cabin was on the No. 2 deck and was just on the water-line along with the cabins of some of the crew. Given a choice I would rather not take a cruise again at such a low level and would rather book another ship. The cabin itself was looking rather worse for wear and I do wonder if it is usually used by the crew. Also we found the cabin cold and could not warm it up with the heating control. The ports of call were also problematic with Nantes being the worst. Our pre-booked city tour on a road train was a disaster as the commentary was French! The coach to take us back to the ship was over half an hour late and then there was the delay in getting back on the ship as the tide affected the gang way and it had to be fixed to another deck. Because of the delays we missed the Readers Offers cocktail party that we had invitations to. La Pallice (for La Rochelle) was just an industrial port and some distance from La Rochelle which was somewhere we have been and enjoyed several times before. The only problem here was the same as Nante - the only view was of the concrete dock side - so we would have been better off with an inside cabin at a cheaper price. Beautiful Bordeaux was slightly better as we did start of with having a view out of the port holes, but later on we sank again below the parapet! Again our vineyard excursion was a disappointment with thimble size tastings and nowhere to sit which certainly did not provide value for money. We did receive some compensation for the road train commentary, but overall the whole cruise was very shambolic and poor value for money. Surely as an inaugural River Cruise, you would have thought that all elements would have been out to impress and that everything had been checked and double-checked thoroughly. My next problem is that we have already booked River Cruise No. 2 to Germany next June also on the Braemar. I do hope that lessons have been learned and that the Germans are far better prepared. Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
Braemar Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 3.7
Dining 4.0 4.2
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 5.0 3.9
Fitness Recreation 5.0 3.7
Family 2.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 5.0 3.5
Enrichment 3.0 3.3
Service 4.0 4.4
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 3.8

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