1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2013
Following Major surgery and long recovery for my wife we were looking forward to a relaxing break with our family and embarked on a twelve night Baltics cruise We were in stateroom 7111 a lovely comfortable room with balcony We had two ... Read More
Following Major surgery and long recovery for my wife we were looking forward to a relaxing break with our family and embarked on a twelve night Baltics cruise We were in stateroom 7111 a lovely comfortable room with balcony We had two stewards main one was I Ketut and they were both brilliant nothing too much trouble and also friendly with our family The ship had some lovely features and most importantly, ample and comfortable seating areas The theatre was welcoming and comfortable with some first class evening entertainment shows on a London West End comparison The lifeboat drill at Dover was a bit of a shambles crew members were unsure when and where the drill was to start The instructions given during drill were unclear and captains address over pa system at end of drill was distorted and with insufficient volume Restaurant staff namely table hostess and waitress were very rude necessitating a complaint to dining room manager (something we have never needed to do on any other cruise) The table hostess told us we would need to choose and order meals for following day every evening. My wife was unable to eat some food one evening and the waitress was arguing with her we moved table to another part of dining room and were served by a lovely waiter called Joel. The Buffet restaurant tables were cleared but tables seldom wiped sausages were uncooked and chicken was overcooked.Whilst the stateroom, restaurant and theatre were nice and warm, other parts of the ship were very cold with air conditioning running The ships hotel director was approached and complained to by numerous passengers but the temperature did not improve whilst the ship was in St Petersburg for two days people not on excursions were not allowed off ship There was no entertainment and it was really cold and most people spent day in staterooms On day we did river excursion it was raining (not Carnival fault) but river cruise boats had not been organised very well and we had to get on and off boats trip to shops was too short. our favourite ports were copenhagen Warnemunde (Rostock) tallin and amsterdam (we had done baltics cruise before and been to several other ports also) Kids club was quite well organised and children seemed happy Guest services very helpful although didnt know what to do on final invoices Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2010
We've just come back from a transatlantic repositioning cruise to the Caribbean on Fred Olsen's Braemar. We are fast becoming seasoned cruisers and, having done this cruise with P&O two years ago, can make valid comments ... Read More
We've just come back from a transatlantic repositioning cruise to the Caribbean on Fred Olsen's Braemar. We are fast becoming seasoned cruisers and, having done this cruise with P&O two years ago, can make valid comments comparisons. Overall Fred Olsen is really very good - a bit of thought to some minor niggles and it could be excellent. We had an outside cabin on deck 2 that was kept spotless by our hardworking cabin girl. The cabin was made up, as requested, as a double. But with the dressing table and chair, tub chair and small table there was not enough room to manoeuvre around either side without performing acrobatics so we had it made up as two singles and that gave much more room. There was plenty of storage space and the suitcases slid under the beds. The bathroom was small but adequate with a good shower and, hurrah, a non-clinging shower curtain. Good quality shower gel and hand wash. The beds are quite hard but comfortable and have duvets with good quality bedding. Deck 2 is quite low down and so we spent time just kneeling on the beds watching the waves and enjoying the 'final rinse' when the waves splashed over the windows darkening the whole cabin - frightening the first few times it happened. The lifeboat drill was a bit worrying; we had a roll call and cabin numbers were called out where there appeared to be no occupants while some cabins were missed off the roll call. As the weather was bad we were glad that our meeting point was the library. I was looking forward to enjoying Fred Olsen's service standards as I'd read so much about it - and I was not disappointed! Every staff member was friendly and polite - even the 'known miseries' at reception. The bar staff remembered your name within a day or two and your preferred drink/s - even down to how I like my G&Ts. I think Braemar is beginning to show her age but overall the ship is clean and tidy and very easy to get around and navigate. There are plenty of public loos that have the new Dyson air hand dryers, what a clever invention, to save time, really get your hands dry and reduce paper towel waste. There are plenty of bars and lounges to sit and have a drink or watch the world go by. Our favourite was the Coral Lounge, while we found The Observatory lacked atmosphere. The Neptune Lounge is a nightmare, the seating arrangements are badly laid out and there are too many pillars that limit many of the audience's views. First sitting dinner people are asked only to see one show; but they seemed to see the first show in the Coral Lounge then come to the second house of the Neptune lounge show. This meant many of the second sitting dinner people could not get into the main show. Also, two people took up settees designed for four and others were reserving seats. I think it was a mistake to have dancing in the Neptune lounge between shows as this encourages people to stay in the lounge or hog seats. Sometimes it was difficult to get a seat in the Coral Lounge show due again to first sitting people wanting to catch both shows. Drink prices are the same as UK pub prices. The wine list is excellent and a bottle for dinner was so easily ordered via the interactive section of the TV - as was room service breakfast (that arrived dead on time). Apart from the problems with the lounges the entertainment was really good - a good idea to have two shows at night. The resident Braemar band and 4th Dimension group were excellent. Lee Carroll was the comedian - I'd heard the jokes all before but he was funny. Anthony Stuart Lloyd was a brilliant singer - and a lovely person. The Braemar show were very good - the shows are not our type of thing but seeing them on the TV cruise programme showed how talented they were. Jackie Probert, the assistant cruise director, has a lovely voice and she's a great personality. It was lovely to see Dong the lighting/technical guy being allowed to show his singing talent - certainly miles better than the resident's band singer! The speakers were awful; no presentations skills at all - death by very bad PowerPoint. Anthony Borradaile was the cruise director and was very good - not full of himself like others we have experienced. Hurrah for Fred - the buffet was not a rugby scrum. People waited to be seated at laid tables so you could settle yourself prior to diving in! This made for people actually having conversations with the people on your table. This was also good for making return visits to the serving stations. Waiters were quick to clear plates and pour/top up water. The Thistle restaurant was my favourite of the two main ones and we were allocated to it for dinner. We tried the Grampian for breakfast and lunch but found it lacked atmosphere. Given there was a choice of soups for lunch and dinner in all restaurants we did not have soup spoons. This is the best food we have ever had on a cruise. I think Fred's secret is to have less choice which means better cooking and the quality is very good. I have never eaten so much beef; all of it so, so tender and the slow roasted belly of pork was to die for (all you could hear from out table that night was the ooing and ahhing of delighted people). The puddings are lovely; they must be I am usually a cheese and biscuits person and think I only had that twice. The pool area was nice and large - but suffered the usual sun-bed blocking. The pools and jacuzzis were refreshing and cleaned/topped up often. The changing room was a good idea; and came into its own on disembarkation day for a post sunbathing shower and freshen up before the journey home. We were late out of Dover as the weather was awful (and we could not pass Balmoral who was berthed in front of us). The weather for the whole crossing was excellent and the rather smooth (got to 4-5 max. last time we had about 7-8s). The weather was excellent for the crossing too (cool and windy for the first day or two down to Madeira but we could sit out in a jumper). We hit the Caribbean on the back of hurricane Thomas so the seas were choppier than expected and the weather was changeable for the first few days. We had to miss out first Caribbean port of call, St Maarten, as the sea was too choppy and windy to berth or tender. After 7 days at sea that was a bit of a downer! But we pushed onto Tortola in awful weather and arrived in a downpour to overnight. Not many people went ashore that night as it was dark and tipping down and people were unsure of their surroundings. The sail away parties were fun - especially the British night out of Tortola with the people in the massive Norwegian Dawn enjoying our party. But, and for me this is a big but, the sailaways are at the back of the ship and there is not room for everyone to see the entertainment and/or join in. There is so much room on deck 9 (loose one of the golf net thingies to make even more) that the band can be up there with people partying on the sun deck (deck 8). I was not the only person disappointed with the tropical night - on a sea day and with no deck party. I felt so let down as on our previous repositioning cruise this was the highlight of the cruise - it was all rather flat on Braemar. There was loads to do if you wanted to. The dolphin racing was a laugh and the crew tug of war was great fun. The spa was OK with reasonable prices. There is a good sized, well stocked library. The photographers were a bit in-your-face (I am not one for having my photo taken when I am eating!) but you were not pressed at all to buy any photos and they were a reasonable price. There was a good balance of formal/informal/casual nights. But we were told in our pre cruise information that there was only three formal nights; onboard we found out there was four - a nightmare for us ladies! Most people dressed up to the nines on formal nights but some people's idea of informal is my idea of casual and their ideas of smart casual is my slobbing out! We took a couple of excursions that were good - but I think we'd do them independently in future. It was good to be able to book/pay online in advance. Our flight home was delayed; by, at first three hours, then four. I was delighted as this gave us an extra day and meant we did not arrive home at some ungodly hour of the day. This is where Fred really stepped up, keeping us fully informed, we were kept on board and an early evening buffet was provided. I am sure an afternoon tea was provided as I saw some people with sandwiches and cakes during the afternoon. When we finally disembarked we were only at the airport about forty minutes until boarding. This is the second time I have paid for an upgraded flight - even with the additional extra baggage weight and leg room it is not worth the additional money and I will not bother again. This is the second time I have paid for an upgrade and I felt the same on our previous flight - this confirmed it is a waste. Overall a great cruise and we will cruise with Fred again, picking them over another company if there was a choice given the itinerary/dates. If the niggles can be sorted out I would've given 5*. The niggles are not a show-stopper but little things that stop a great cruise being outstanding. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2010
First timers with Fred Olsen Line This was our 12th cruise and the first one with Fred Olsen on the Balmoral.We selected this cruise because we wanted to sail from Dover/Southampton and avoid the present problems associated with flying. ... Read More
First timers with Fred Olsen Line This was our 12th cruise and the first one with Fred Olsen on the Balmoral.We selected this cruise because we wanted to sail from Dover/Southampton and avoid the present problems associated with flying. The checking in procedure was brilliant, we were invited for lunch on the Balmoral prior to departure which was a lovely touch and were in our junior balcony suite with our luggage waiting by 2.30pm. The size (more cupboard and drawer space than any other ship ever),decor,cleanliness and layout of the cabin was very good and the bath tub with shower was an added bonus. The balcony also was larger than most of the ones on other ships. Our stewardess was very helpful on the few occasion's we asked for something and the fresh flowers and fruit placed in our cabin made us feel special. Although the in-service cabin menu had a limited selection, when we did order food it was delivered very quickly and was excellent. In cabin tea and coffee making facilities was another great service not often supplied by cruise liners Our request to change our evening dining to 2nd sitting and to have a table for 2 was done immediately. We dined in the Avon restaurant which had wall to ceiling windows which made the outlook breathtaking. The food was very good,the menu changed daily and there was sufficient variety to suit everyone.This high quality food was served in all three restaurants. Our waiters (Nestor and Roland) were from the Philippines and they gave excellent service, were courteous,efficient and sometimes very funny. The main reason we selected this cruise was the itinerary as there were many ports of call we had never visited especially the ones in Scotland. We booked our excursions prior to departure via the internet. All excursions started and finished on time and were good value for money. My husband and I are in our early 70's and are both in good health, it appeared that over half the passengers were aged over 60 years and a number had mobility problems. Fred Olsen crew were marvelous to those passengers who needed assistance on the excursions especially when the trips needed tenders to get off and on the Balmoral. No wonder many of the passengers are repeat cruisers. The evening entertainment was excellent and as well as the two formal evenings there was also a "western evening" where the crew put on a show and a "British evening" with a sing a long and lots of flag waving. There was no casino as such on board just one blackjack table and a roulette table but these did not appear to be very popular anyway. This is the only cruise line we have travelled with who have not automatically deducted gratuities from your on-board account but allow the passenger to decide the remuneration. This in fact resulted in us giving more to the ones who had given us a good service. Also all drinks were as cheap as chips!. What wonderful value for money Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
As a regular cruiser with Fred. Olsen having taken several longer cruises eg sectors of the world cruise I decided to take a festive short cruise to escape the Winter weather in the UK. It was my third cruise on the "Balmoral" ... Read More
As a regular cruiser with Fred. Olsen having taken several longer cruises eg sectors of the world cruise I decided to take a festive short cruise to escape the Winter weather in the UK. It was my third cruise on the "Balmoral" and it still impresses me as a real ship compared with the floating blocks of flats which seems to be the model for modern cruise ships. The ship is well maintained although, being an old vessel, it occasionally has its problems. Getting to Dover to board the ship had its problems due to the closure of the Channel Tunnel and the consequent traffic problems on the motorway leading to the port. The ship was tastefully decorated for the Christmas season and the atmosphere was really festive. Christmas was very traditional with carol services, a visit from Santa Claus (mainly for the children on board !) and festive fare in the restaurants. New Year was equally enjoyable. On New Year's Eve there was a splendid banquet which included haggis and a "wee dram". After this meal there was an entertaining cabaret in the Neptune Lounge. Towards midnight the deck party really came to life with champagne flowing, lots of music and general enjoyment to welcome the year 2010. The ship's first port of call was scheduled to be Leixoes (Oporto) but due to rough seas the port was closed and the call cancelled. In succession we visited Funchal (Madeira), Santa Cruz (La Palma), Fuerteventura, Las Palmas (Gran Canaria), Arrecife (Lanzarote) and Santa Cruz (Tenerife). We were blessed with fine weather, warm enough for the odd swim in the sea as well as in one of the ship's pools. In the early days of the cruise the seas were relatively smooth as we crossed the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay. As we sailed down the coast of Portugal we were met with some rough Atlantic weather. The ship rode the waves pretty well. The cruise was enhanced by the performance of the crew and the staff. The Captain led the way with enthusiasm and he mixed well with the passengers. The Cruise Director worked hard and kept the entertainment going. The "domestic" staff, as usual, were great. They come from the Third World, mainly Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and India and with their courtesy, efficiency and smiling faces make it a pleasure to travel with them. The entertainers were good and I was particularly impressed by most of the performances of the Balmoral singers and dancers. The crew show (which I did not attend) was, apparently, as good as ever. On the downside, the ship had a serious outbreak of the gastro-bug (Norovirus) which struck down more than 200 people. From speaking to some of the sufferers they were treated by the medical staff with great professionalism. Overall I enjoyed the cruise and look forward to joining the "Black Watch" (and possibly the "Balmoral") in 2010. Read Less

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