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