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733 Fred. Olsen Cruise Reviews

Just returned from a 3 nighter to Dublin booked last minute. Went years ago on Black Prince and found it good, but haven't been with Fred since. Our premium twin cabin was spacious and everything worked well. The food was ... Read More
Just returned from a 3 nighter to Dublin booked last minute. Went years ago on Black Prince and found it good, but haven't been with Fred since. Our premium twin cabin was spacious and everything worked well. The food was excellent; better than I have eaten on more expensive cruise lines, and served with a smile. Passenger age mix was wider than we have experienced before. You don't usually get hen parties on Fred Olsen. They were a lovely bunch of girls who enjoyed themselves but respected other passengers. Nice to see children as well. All in all a lovely two full days in Dublin on a comfortable ship. We will travel with the company again. Embarkation was quick and efficient, and disembarkation was amazing! We were asked to vacate the cabin by 8 a.m and we're off the ship by 8.10. Incredibly efficient. Didn't go to the shows but others seemed to enjoy them. Only slight negative was limited choice of T.V channels. No problem for us; we don't go on holiday to watch T.V, but if you want to relax in your cabin there's not a lot except world news to look at. There's a nice little cinema with decent films though. Good experience which we hope to repeat. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
This was a Norwegian Fjords cruise. Embarkation went smoothly and our luggage was in our cabin as we got there. We had stayed B&B in the Holiday Inn, Southampton the night before and parked there as well. So about 12.30pm we walked ... Read More
This was a Norwegian Fjords cruise. Embarkation went smoothly and our luggage was in our cabin as we got there. We had stayed B&B in the Holiday Inn, Southampton the night before and parked there as well. So about 12.30pm we walked our cases to the passenger terminal (102) passing City Terminal on the way, were able to check in and then returned to the hotel as we had a late check out there. We then had another cup of tea and went back with our hand luggage about 2pm and we were able to board the ship straight away. We have stayed in this hotel before and found it good, with great views and convenient location to go into Southampton town for a meal in the evening. We were surprised at our inside cabin as it was bigger than we expected, well laid out and with lots of storage space. The ship had been refurbished a few months earlier and everything was in very good condition. Likewise the rest of the ship pleased us, as it was well presented throughout. The first day, which was at sea, went well and we settled in nicely. Port talks were given and could be seen on the cabin TV. Our cabin stewardess, Wilhelmina, was excellent and we had nothing but smiles and efficiency from her, even though we were fairly late leaving our cabin at times. Likewise our restaurant waiter Bobby and his assistant, Prie, in the Avon restaurant were also excellent and very friendly and the food was also very good. The self service restaurant was big, but there was not much view as the windows looked out onto prom deck and some of the view was obstructed. It was worse than need be as the curtains were never drawn back fully, which was a shame. The meal times, were quite limited, lunch only available form 12.00 – 2.30pm for instance and breakfast finished at 10.00am. This was quite problematic at times. Unusually, we had chosen second sitting for this cruise as there was scenic cruising on the itinerary. We do not regularly go to the shows, but as Fred has started having the shows before second dinner instead of after, we did not attend any, as it was too early for us. We did use the observatory lounge quite a lot and bar service was very good. We took the drinks package and the drinks were of a quite decent quality, even the wines which we had found to be of very poor quality on a previous cruise. We did not purchase any excursions on this cruise. The Captain had warned us there could be some rough seas and he later announced that we would not be able to get into Stavanger the following afternoon, but would go straight on to Bergen arriving late afternoon, instead of the next morning. The sea was a bit bumpy as we passed through the storm overnight but was OK the next day, only catching up with us the first evening in Bergen. The second morning, as we were travelling to Bergen the relaxing cruise turned into a very stressful time. The Captain announced on that morning that there was a gastro enteritis outbreak and that the usual procedures for this would be adopted and we were regularly reminded to wash hands etc. We went into Bergen later that day and took the funicular up the hill, only to find we were asked to wait a while before we got into it as someone had been ill and it had to be cleared up. The real severity of the outbreak became apparent when we went into the restaurant that evening and saw that at least 25% of people were missing from the restaurant, and probably more than that. As I was eating my sweet, someone vomited on a table very near me. At that stage everyone nearby walked out of the restaurant and this left me feeling very wary every time I went to eat for the rest of the cruise. There were obvious signs of ill people in a lot of cabins as the ‘do not disturb’ signs were left out all day, room service trays were left in the corridor in big plastic bags and dirty linens and waste were left in bags in the corridor. Even if we asked no one would tell us how many people were ill and even now Fred will not disclose numbers, but presuming it was on a rolling basis, a large number of people must have been infected. It has to be said though that the staff took their extra duties without complaint, although they were obviously very hard worked at this stage. On the third night of what should have been an 8 night cruise we had a letter to say that the cruise needed to be curtailed because of the infection rate. We would still go to Flam the next day and they would do scenic cruising then, omit Olden the next day and stop at Stavanger instead, hence restoring the call we had missed. We would then arrive back in Southampton one day early, making the cruise 7 nights instead of 8. The scenic cruising originally scheduled on the return journey was also missed. We were never actually told directly that it was norovirus, although one letter did refer to the infection, then in the next sentence went on to say things about norovirus, so it seemed to imply that was the problem. However a news article on this site, (accessible from the news tab above), and dated 11th May, says, ‘a Fred. Olsen spokesperson said the line had a sample tested and it had come back negative for Norovirus’. Also, as we were disembarking, a member of the port staff said, ‘I believe that it is not thought to be norovirus’. I did not think that was the case myself as the normally busy ship on the first day, suddenly became a very quiet ship after that. Fred has been reported as saying that someone was sick on the first day and that she had brought the virus on board. As a biologist, I must say that one person being ill on day one and a very large proportion of people being ill almost 2 days later is not my understanding of epidemiology, especially as people whom we knew were ill did not seem to pass it on to their cabin companions. Although the staff were working hard through the problems, I do not think the company dealt with it well in all ways. A member of staff told me one night that she had been sick that morning. If she was a passenger, she would have had to stay in her cabin for 48 hours after symptoms subsided, yet she was in the public areas of the ship, dealing with passengers. Also the antibacterial hand gels (which do nothing to viruses) were still being used and I only saw two containers of antimicrobial foam that would be effective against viruses. We managed to get back to Southampton without suffering with the infection, but feeling very stressed after the whole experience. We docked at 10.00am in Southampton, so normal disembarkation would have been after midday. We were thankful that as we had a long journey ahead we were given priority disembarkation, so we did not need to stay in a hotel on the way home. Disembarkation was straight forward for us, as we left the ship just after we had to be out of our cabins, which was at 11am. We just want to put the whole experience behind us and are not looking to gain financially but for the record I would like to clarify a couple of points that have been mentioned in the press. The one day’s refund given to passengers on this cruise was actually for the one day’s cruise that we did not get as we returned a day early. Also the vouchers given as a goodwill gesture, were for a few specific cruises, most of which are from embarkation ports which many people would find difficult to reach. There were also other restrictions on the use of the vouchers. We can see a lot of advantage with Fred, given the unusual ports visited and other reasons as well, so I would like to see Fred get this sorted. If not, they will lose our custom as well as that of many other people. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
Did not stay at a hotel. Sailed from Dover, embarkation was swift as the ship was only 75 per cent full. Cabin was clean. we have cruised with Fred Olsen before but this was the first time on the Boudicca. We have avoided this ship in ... Read More
Did not stay at a hotel. Sailed from Dover, embarkation was swift as the ship was only 75 per cent full. Cabin was clean. we have cruised with Fred Olsen before but this was the first time on the Boudicca. We have avoided this ship in the past as it hit the National Press for being struck down with Norovirus. We should have known better than to risk it. Within 3/4 days the infection started on board and when my husband got it, I was asked to stay confined to the cabin with him to protect other people. Having agreed to this, it ensured that I contracted it from him. We missed two ports of call and were isolated until we docked at Dover. Keeping us separated on disembarkation, we were able to see approx 60/70 suitcases with ours indicating many more victims. It was common knowledge that the ship was only 75% full - we are lrft to wonder why. We suggest FredOlsen examines their food preparation as not once did we receive hot food - at best it was warm and at worst it was tepid. We have read in today's paper that the Balmoral has been similarly affected. Olsens need to give this matter priority as it seems immoral to keep selling cruises knowing the very high risk they are putting people at. The entertainment was good, the performers worked hard especially with a much reduced audience both from the number of people sick, but also because the ship was not full. Dining was a mixed bag, due to the self service being discontinued and staff hard pushed to serve. Disembarkation was swift as we were held back for all the healthy people to go off first. We have returned from our "holiday" in far worse health than when we left and we have paid financially for the doubtful privilege of it. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
Embarkation couldn't have been any easier..our first time on a cruise I was a nerves reck but once on board and unpacked cases I was fine the ship is very stable nothing like I thought it would be..this was a special 80th birthday ... Read More
Embarkation couldn't have been any easier..our first time on a cruise I was a nerves reck but once on board and unpacked cases I was fine the ship is very stable nothing like I thought it would be..this was a special 80th birthday ELVIS CRUISE..!!! And what great fun..there were two acts on board plus the ships singers dancers band and comedian.quiz nights film shows and talks by the two Elvis E T A'S dance lessons bingo ..there was a coffee and a cocktail of the day every day..we were lead to believed drinks were very pricey on board..NO they are not..a beer was about £3-80p and a cocktail £5 or £6 it did very a little but you could pay more in your local pub at home..cabins are not huge but they are OK.you have tea and coffee in there all the time and a hair dryer..beds are very comfy..the ship is kept spotlessly clean all staff a so sweet and very attentive..the food is fabulous very very tasty each night the them of the menu was changed..again the entertainment was fantastic..we had a couple of tours one to Randers Graceland..not a copy of Memphis Graceland ..the out side is the inside is a shop cafe' and museum and there is a huge room upstairs which is used for talks and concerts..the food in the cafe is great..and the owner Henrik is such an amazing man so down to earth a real people person..our only let down was because of the nature of the cruise the entertainment lounges just weren't really big enough..and left people having to stand through the shows..at different times through the cruise photos were taken at £5 each we felt this was not a bad price..you can also buy frames if you wish to..there is duty free shops on board but you can not buy ciggys or alcohol ..and so I went from being scared stiff of getting on board to NOT wanting to get off..!!!! Thank you so much Fred Olsen and you amazing staff on the Braemar....hope if our pennies allow to be back on board in the future.. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
Embarkation couldn't have been any easier..our first time on a cruise I was a nerves reck but once on board and unpacked cases I was fine the ship is very stable nothing like I thought it would be..this was a special 80th birthday ... Read More
Embarkation couldn't have been any easier..our first time on a cruise I was a nerves reck but once on board and unpacked cases I was fine the ship is very stable nothing like I thought it would be..this was a special 80th birthday ELVIS CRUISE..!!! And what great fun..there were two acts on board plus the ships singers dancers band and comedian.quiz nights film shows and talks by the two Elvis E T A'S dance lessons bingo ..there was a coffee and a cocktail of the day every day..we were lead to believed drinks were very pricey on board..NO they are not..a beer was about £3-80p and a cocktail £5 or £6 it did very a little but you could pay more in your local pub at home..cabins are not huge but they are OK.you have tea and coffee in there all the time and a hair dryer..beds are very comfy..the ship is kept spotlessly clean all staff a so sweet and very attentive..the food is fabulous very very tasty each night the them of the menu was changed..again the entertainment was fantastic..we had a couple of tours one to Randers Graceland..not a copy of Memphis Graceland ..the out side is the inside is a shop cafe' and museum and there is a huge room upstairs which is used for talks and concerts..the food in the cafe is great..and the owner Henrik is such an amazing man so down to earth a real people person..our only let down was because of the nature of the cruise the entertainment lounges just weren't really big enough..and left people having to stand through the shows..at different times through the cruise photos were taken at £5 each we felt this was not a bad price..you can also buy frames if you wish to..there is duty free shops on board but you can not buy ciggys or alcohol ..and so I went from being scared stiff of getting on board to NOT wanting to get off..!!!! Thank you so much Fred Olsen and you amazing staff on the Braemar....hope if our pennies allow to be back on board in the future.. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
PRE CRUISE. I saw this deal and thought it might be nice to do. I was on this ship in 1994 on my very 1st cruise then known as "CROWN DYNASTY" Running for CUNARD LINE, I went to ALASKA. I booked a single inside guarantee ... Read More
PRE CRUISE. I saw this deal and thought it might be nice to do. I was on this ship in 1994 on my very 1st cruise then known as "CROWN DYNASTY" Running for CUNARD LINE, I went to ALASKA. I booked a single inside guarantee cabin and paid £210. I got my e ticket and documents a week before the cruise. Then I heard from others going on cruise the Embarkation time had changed! I never got the email and, then got a letter by post explaining they had a GASTRIC VIRUS on the previous cruise. So had to do MAJOR CLEAN of the ship, So embarkation was 1630hrs. I got train from my local station to STRATFORD but had to wait ages to buy a ticket/. So had to catch a later train to HARWICH INTERNATIONAL PORT. EMBARKATION. I entered the TERMINAL to CHECK-IN it took ages to get through to check in. Gave me my CRUISE CARD and showed my Card to use to pay the bill. Had my picture taken and board the ship. I was not shown my cabin but found it myself I had been given the number when I got my ticket 2079 on deck 2. CABIN. It was a single cabin not a twin that I had on my 1st cruise. 1 SINGLE BED, a chair, safe,small tv. The bathroom was good with cabinets to put things as well as the sink. Also a shower. Lots of drawer space and wardrobes. DINING. I had booked 1st sitting which I prefer but had got GRAMPIAN RESTAURANT which is a newer one. I had found a few people on the cruise but they had 2nd sitting. I did try to change sittings but this cost £4 and as there were no seat left I didn't bother. I changed restaurant to the THISTLE RESTAURANT which I had on my 1st CRUISE and was at a singles table. DINNER was good a good selection of dishes and wine list was good too. SERVICE was quick too and were out by 8pm. Had breakfast here as well but waiters had to put the buffet food on our plate which took a while. Afternoon tea was really disorganised as it took so long and long queues. ENTERTAINMENT. Saw 2shows "MICKY ZANY" the comedian who was very good. 2nd night was SWING with singers and dancers who were good as well. PORT OF CALL. AMSTERDAM in Holland was our only port of call I had done ANNE FRANK'S house and canal before. So I walked off the ship and asked where the MARITIME MUSEUM was. It was quite a walk but well worth it. Went onboard a sailing ship and 4 floors of maritime stuff. An interesting idea was you couldn't take any backpacks around but had to put them into a locker. This was very easy to do. DISEMBARKATION. This was very quick despite me not get any info on when we could disembark and had to ask for one. I used my old label and put my suitcase outside my room. Next morning after breakfast we left the ship at 8am and found my luggage and made my way home. PHOTOS. I always like buying pictures so got quite a few including the same view I did on my 1st CRUISE. They had a dvd of AMSTERDAM and the ship as well and quite reasonable. SHOPS. Quite a few shops but usually like the souvenir one. They had hats,t shirts but none with the ship on. No special key rings either. I bought a ship model which was good and a dvd of "MICKY ZANY". SUMMARY. A good cruise and enjoyed it despite it being hard work with not touching any plates which did make it hard. Would love to do it again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
Tried a FO cruise for the first time but won't be back unless it's a very short, cheap cruise to a must see destination. Having cruised with RCI, P&O and Thomson, FO seemed sub-standard and basic. The best thing about this ... Read More
Tried a FO cruise for the first time but won't be back unless it's a very short, cheap cruise to a must see destination. Having cruised with RCI, P&O and Thomson, FO seemed sub-standard and basic. The best thing about this cruise was the suite we occupied which was very nice and the ports of call. The ship is old and past it's sell by date. The meal times were like being at school with set times with nothing open in between. For example, afternoon tea lasted for 45 minutes from 3.45 to 4.30 pm, which meant after arriving back on the ship from a day in port it had usually ended. The only option then was the limited selection off the room service menu. When on holiday one likes to eat when it suits not be driven by a timetable. Missing the afternoon tea means a long wait until second seating at 8.30 pm. The dining room staff always seemed to be in a rush and not up to the standard we have experienced with other cruise lines, they forgot orders, mixed orders up and were not very talkative. The food was ok but nothing more. Lunchtime in the Grill was not very good. They ran out of food too. The ship stopped at La Palice which is a 20 minute bus journey from La Rochelle. There was a shuttle from the ship to the port gate as it is forbidden to walk to the port gate. You can then get the number 1 bus into La Rochelle for €1.30. The bus stops in the bus station and near the harbour. The same for the return journey. However FO were charging the outrageous amount of £25.00 for this return journey, which we did for €2.60 each. Don't fall for it the bus was easy to do even though it was crowded on the outward journey with cruise passengers filling it. The bus runs about every 20 minutes. FO is clearly aimed at an older market but I think they deserve better than what is on offer currently. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
After cruising with Royal Caribbean, Cunard & P & O (never had any problems) some "acquaintances" persuaded us to give Fred Olsen a try. So we thought, a quick 7 day "Easter Getaway", across the North Sea & ... Read More
After cruising with Royal Caribbean, Cunard & P & O (never had any problems) some "acquaintances" persuaded us to give Fred Olsen a try. So we thought, a quick 7 day "Easter Getaway", across the North Sea & up a couple of rivers, what could go wrong ! A letter arrived just before departure stating; "Some F/O Braemar passengers have been affected by mild Gastric Flu, therefore there will be a delay in departing". I phoned their office and was told "some people had taken on-board viral gastric flu from grandchildren, but no one had been positive tested for noro-virus". Fred O Ipswich told us that no Car Park booking paperwork was required as APNR was in place at Harwich, I queried this, as we needed it when sailing from Harwich before and were told we were incorrect. We arrived at the car park - no ANPR was ever in place, this caused additional delay as well as embarkation due to fumigation. Finally on board, access to our cabin was prohibited as we had to carry our hand luggage & wear the lifejackets for the Evacuation Drill. Breakfast & lunch were taken from the cordoned off open buffet containers by serving, non fluent waiters. Food requested and quantities misunderstood. At all meals salt & pepper packets, butter, sugar etc. had to be repeatedly requested. The waiters were overwhelmed and often did not return with the requested items before the food, tea/coffee was cold. All this took a considerable time, with no additional time allowed for consumption. We were regularly rushed to leave the restaurants, closing at, say 9.30 a.m. didn't mean last orders - they wanted you out the door by then. No fresh milk whatsoever available through out the cruise. Inclusive draught mixers were always flat; bottles & tins were available at additional cost. Despite the heighted hygiene measures with all the disinfectant spray (causing rough & swollen hands) menus were handed from passenger to passenger, and with each drink order a signature was required - using the same, possibly infected pen (we used our own). Identical food (under another description) was served from buffet lunch to dinner. All guests were forced to sit very close together yet dozens of tables were empty (with less guests each time as the "Gastric Flu" clearly spread). When asked by us where their "partner" was, we were regularly told "they're got a cold or flu", one guest (with a straight face) said her husband got sunstroke (in cold, 5 degree Hamburg the previous day!). Maybe the Ships Doctor had told them not to admit to any possible Gastro Problems. Often when noticed a new red sticker over an open door, we could see the poor patient laying in bed, no bunk beds in there - the reason for a red sticker often used to denote additional beds.. There were large red bins marked "Gastro" parked in the corridors, the cabin On the only sunny afternoon, we could not sit in certain deck areas because of "cleansing protection, for our passengers wellbeing". The Captain updated the situation every day, blaming the passengers, but they were fine for the first couple of days. His final comment was always "Look after each other". We purchased hand wipes, for use each time we touched door handles etc. I saw no Male public toilets with urinals, consequently queues of men formed to use the single WC, toilet rolls rolled around the floor. After two days the Captain requested everybody to return to their cabin if they needed the toilet. When berthing the ship's bow thrustors shuddered & rattled so much that decorations fell over. The Captain often chose this time to make his announcements, and his comments were drowned out and any useful information lost. Two days in Amsterdam consisted of arriving very late afternoon (dinner at 6.15pm) and leaving next day at 3pm. After arriving at the Church in Hamburg on Easter Monday, access was not possible as it was restricted to the regular Worshippers. The entry to Hamburg miniature railway world was delayed because F/O did not purchase the entry tickets in advance or advise the tour operator the numbers. The cruise was so stressful & rushed, upon returning home we are paranoid and still won't touch anything & are constantly washing our hands. I went to put my hand on the bannister and quickly recoiled, before I realised I was home. In contrast, my only reasonable experience were the evening meals served in the Grampian Restaurant. All in all a complete waste of money and a wasted week of our lives. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
As soon as your car arrived in the drop off area, porters would immediately take your luggage and it was in your cabin after we had checked in. Embarkation was delayed as the ship was a little late in arriving at Liverpool, due to the ... Read More
As soon as your car arrived in the drop off area, porters would immediately take your luggage and it was in your cabin after we had checked in. Embarkation was delayed as the ship was a little late in arriving at Liverpool, due to the bad weather; many people could be heard complaining to each about the delay and how cold it was. Even though we were late in departing from Liverpool due to gales, the rest of the cruise was fault less. The weather for the rest of the cruise kept on improving. The crew were wonderful always polite and friendly and worked extremely hard. The drinks waiters always remembered what you liked to drink and your name - how they can remember with so many aboard, I'll never know. Food was excellent, we only ate one breakfast and lunch in the Glantanar restaurant, but dined there most evenings with full waiter service. We had our breakfast and lunch in the "Garden" restaurant, self service buffet, you could choose anything and any amount. The entertainment was good, but trying to get a seat in the main theatre lounge was difficult, so we usually went up to the Observatory and then to the Lido lounge. The ship was very clean, in all areas and naturally the painting of the hull was ongoing when we were in port. We went on a few ships tours, these were well organised, very informative and gave you a chance to see the interesting area of the various places. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
We boarded the Balmoral on 30 March 2015 in Singapore after spending 2 nights in a lovely hotel in Singapore. After waiting 3 hours for my luggage I went in search of it only to find it was in security because I had approx half a bottle of ... Read More
We boarded the Balmoral on 30 March 2015 in Singapore after spending 2 nights in a lovely hotel in Singapore. After waiting 3 hours for my luggage I went in search of it only to find it was in security because I had approx half a bottle of whisky in my luggage which was subsequently confiscated! I can understand that Fred would like everybody to purchase drinks off the boat but I had already purchased a drinks package at £340 so it was petty to confiscate my drink. As a 68 year old I wasn't going to have a rave up in my cabin with half a bottle of Whisky! A gentleman before me had also bought a special bottle of wine (wife's favourite) for his 50th Anniversary which was also confiscated. A bit spiteful and pedantic! I could not get my head around the maid coming in the cabin and making the bed in the morning only to find in the evening the bed quilt folded up again and the cover removed, talk about 'double handling'. As a 69 year old we were probably one of the youngest on the ship with very little to do unless you wished to learn Ballet, Bridge, Crafts and painting, there were also wonderful darts competitions!!!! I may have another cruise if and when I reach 80 but certainly not before! Disappointing that no information was available about Southampton trains or coach timings at disembarkation and we were going to be charged £30 to find out (admin charge). Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
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
We (2 couples) chose this cruise due to the itinerary - Northern Lights, Eclipse etc - all interested in astronomy, and also keen to see scenic Norwegian cruising. We saw 'the lights' and experienced much of the eclipse, though ... Read More
We (2 couples) chose this cruise due to the itinerary - Northern Lights, Eclipse etc - all interested in astronomy, and also keen to see scenic Norwegian cruising. We saw 'the lights' and experienced much of the eclipse, though we missed the corona due to a cloudy sky - a little disappointing, but hardly the ship's fault as the Captain and crew tried hard to manoeuvre us to the optimum position. What we saw was memorable nevertheless. None of us had sailed with Fred.Olsen, though we had all had been on several cruises before with other lines including Cunard, Princess, Celebrity, Disney, Royal Caribbean etc. We were a little apprehensive due to some negative reviews, but I have to say we enjoyed the cruise immensely. The Braemar is a lovely and attractive smaller/medium sized ship with a great staff, very comfortable and well furnished public rooms, choice of restaurants, good food, and efficient friendly service. The cabins (standard outside) are a little on the small size, especially the bathrooms - so if cabin size and specification matters to you this may not be the ship for you. To us, a cabin is somewhere to sleep - beds and bedding were comfortable, clean and the cabins had enough storage space for cold weather, casual and formal wear clothing. The itinerary was great. The lectures were informative and varied. The entertainment was not Disney or Celebrity standard - taking place in a cabaret lounge rather than a theatre, but the singers, dancers etc were excellent and fun and gave their all. If the aim of entertainment is to entertain, they did it! Throughout the day there were quizzes, bingo (not our scene), darts, deck quoits, golf etc. If you preferred to relax and read quietly the library was well furnished and spacious. The 'Pub' was great as was the coffee & chocolate lounge. You could always get a comfortable seat and the service and company of other passengers was very pleasant. We particularly enjoyed cocktails in the Observatory each evening - an elegant bar with wonderful views and a tinkling grand piano. The service in here was so friendly - waitresses always ready to chat about the day, remembering your name and your drink of choice. After hours (11.00 - 2.00) there was generally a supper buffet (we were always too full) and entertaining cabaret or music in the Coral Lounge. We enjoyed every meal in the Cambrian Restaurant - choice of 2 starters, 2 soups, 2 salads, 5 or 6 mains, and 3 or 4 desserts. Not too fussy, always well cooked and served promptly. Wine was very reasonably priced - starting about £15 for the 'house', but only £24 for a Puilly Fume, not bad for a restaurant - and well chosen. Drinks in the bars were also reasonably priced. I enjoy a pint of beer and well kept Boddingtons on draft was £3.25 - cheaper than my local! Cocktail of the day was approx. £4.50 and always arrived with fruit, olives, umbrellas etc - cheaper than London or Manchester prices. We were in cabin 2061 - about the worst on the ship in some eyes - bottom deck! On our previous cruise with Disney we had an aft suite with a wraparound rear balcony. OK - no comparison, but we enjoyed Braemar just as much to be honest. I think their brochures say it's more like a country house hotel than a Las Vegas experience - well, we enjoy both! 2061 gets the waves lashing at the double port holes and some noise, so go higher if you want to avoid that - did not bother us. On the other hand it is mid-ship and does not roll as much as the front and back of the ship (which does rock and roll a bit more than others we have been on). In summary I would say great smaller ship for good sailors not after a deluxe experience. You will meet friendly people and staff, have good food and drink and a memorable holiday in very pleasant surroundings. Our group was aged 55-65 and we were among the younger passengers, so if you want an 18-30s crowd it may not be for you. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
We wanted to see the Solar Eclipse, Northern Lights, Arctic Circle etc. It was fantastic! The talks were informative and useful; staff marvellous and the food was really well presented and varied. We met some wonderful people and ... Read More
We wanted to see the Solar Eclipse, Northern Lights, Arctic Circle etc. It was fantastic! The talks were informative and useful; staff marvellous and the food was really well presented and varied. We met some wonderful people and visited great places. The eclipse was the highlight and thanks to the excellent captain and the scientists on board we got a great view of it. All the trips we did we were well organised and provided experiences that were truly memorable. The husky dog trip and the ice hotel were particularly excellent. The cabin was creaky and noisy but the staff moved us to a better cabin and were really helpful.Although we were low down in the ship the journey was fine and we were very grateful for our cabin when we passed through a hurricane! The entertainment was first class and we enjoyed playing table tennis and taking part in the daily quiz. All together it was one of the best cruises ever! Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
My thoughts on MS Braemar. Cabin 3116 The cabin was quite small by modern standards and the air con was woefully inadequate so the temperature varied from warm to hot regardless of how the thermostat was set. The bed was narrow but very ... Read More
My thoughts on MS Braemar. Cabin 3116 The cabin was quite small by modern standards and the air con was woefully inadequate so the temperature varied from warm to hot regardless of how the thermostat was set. The bed was narrow but very comfortable and it was nice to have the facility to make a cup of coffee. The public rooms The Braemar Room, Morning Light Pub, Corel Club and Thistle Restaurant were nicely decorated but the Neptune Lounge was in need of a refit and some new carpets. The Palms Café was nice but too small for the number of people trying to use it. Food Breakfast and lunch were ok but nothing special and the choice was quite limited. The buffet lunch included chips and rice every day. The puddings were much of a muchness and very basic. Most of the dinners were very good and I must give special mention to the beef wellington which was fantastic. The entertainment in the Neptune Lounge was excellent including the singers an dancers of the show company. The level of service in the bars and at dinner was very good and all of the staff were friendly and helpful. Although the ship was quite well maintained there were cracks in the steelwork at the corners of many of the windows on deck 5. This was quite off putting. Braemar has recently undergone a refit where the Card Room and some of the ships were moved. However, for reasons best known to Fred Olsen, they did not bother to change the signs around the ship to reflect the changes. To me this is just incomprehensible.   Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
The highlights of the cruise were to see the Northern Lights and the total eclipse and I saw both, but the experience didn't stop there. The service provided by the crew was excellent and the staff were, with only one or two ... Read More
The highlights of the cruise were to see the Northern Lights and the total eclipse and I saw both, but the experience didn't stop there. The service provided by the crew was excellent and the staff were, with only one or two exceptions, very friendly. I would have to say that the captain did a heroic job steering the ship into a patch of good weather with absolutely immaculate timing - it was cloudy just before the total eclipse and just after but for the main event it was perfect, almost like the ship had rolled away the curtains before and back afterwards. Absolutely fabulous once in a lifetime view. Even without that I would have enjoyed the trip. The food was superb, there were plenty of on-board interests and activities of just unwinding and reading. My wife had been with me on a previous cruise with another company and really hated it, but my description of this one made her seriously consider flying out to join me at Tromso. They would have let her but she chickened out at the last minute, but after my description of the eclipse wishes she had now. However she got me to book a further cruise this year also on the Boudicca. The only thing that spoiled it was that I sprained my foot falling down the stairs early on but that wasn't really anyone's fault. I was unable to go on two of the planned trips which involved a lot of walking. If I were going again I wouldn't take a pre-paid excursion as they don't refund them even for medical reasons if you can't go. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
This was a a relocation cruise back from winter in the Caribbean to Dover. The first week was a cruise round the islands. The flight out from Gatwick on a Monarch Airbus was cramped and we were in the premium seats!. The hot meal was ... Read More
This was a a relocation cruise back from winter in the Caribbean to Dover. The first week was a cruise round the islands. The flight out from Gatwick on a Monarch Airbus was cramped and we were in the premium seats!. The hot meal was inedible tasteless rubber chicken. Just hand out some good sandwiches! At least we were on time but the Manchester passengers were four hours late and were plunged straight into the emergency drill. The crew were excellent but passenger tempers and nerves were frayed. Balcony cabin on deck 8 was comfortable though cramped. Everything worked and the cabin was kept immaculate by the friendly stewardess. Meals were very good with meat and fish excellent. Decent cheese too but dreary overcooked veg. Please, no more broccoli. Certainly not fresh but mainly out of a big packet. Waiter service in the Grampian was fine but Captain Waiter not good at keeping an eye on things. If I order an expensive bottle of red wine in advance I expect it to be opened and St room temperature. I did not appreciate his attempt to divert the blame onto the over stretched table waiters. Tours were uniform ally good and the tours people lacked the arrogance that is sometimes seen on Balmoral. Good value for money, too. Cruise Director Ricky Jermy excellent and a good comedian and excellent RAF Red Arrows chap gave nine talks. Pat in the Fitness a Centre also engaging and helpful. Captain Bamberg is lightening up and conveys a calm confidence and a sense of humour. Thanks to all of them. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
My wife and I have cruised with a number of different companies before and had decided to try a cruise with Fred. Olsen lines - what a mistake!! Never again!! Nearly 4,000 pounds wasted in my opinion in hindsight !!! From start to finish ... Read More
My wife and I have cruised with a number of different companies before and had decided to try a cruise with Fred. Olsen lines - what a mistake!! Never again!! Nearly 4,000 pounds wasted in my opinion in hindsight !!! From start to finish we encountered both good and extremely poor treatment whilst cruising on the Braemar during our last trip just finished. First off we turned up at Manchester Airport in plenty of time for our scheduled departure on Monarch Airlines. Now when your handed a letter from Monarch whilst waiting to book in doesn't exactly bode well for the start of your cruise experience. The letter stated that the original plane had developed a technical fault but that another airplane had been found and that our 11.00 am boarding time would still be going ahead - great. However at the appointed departure time we were still waiting o board the aircraft. No announcements were made to tell us why and eventually, when we did board the aircraft, we found ourselves on a Hi-Fly ? chartered plane with a mixed origin crew who looked anything like professionals. What followed then beggared belief as we were then subjected to a wait of over two and a half hours delay on the ground whilst they sorted out provisioning the plane with food and drink. Why they didn't do this when they already knew they had to change planes three hours previously at check in, I don't know. They shouldn't have bothered!!! Not only were rationed to what food we got (some people had ordered vegetarian food and were told " no we don't have anything over than chicken - take it or leave it" ) but also we were only given a quarter of a cup of wine (a third of a small bottle) to boot with the first of two meal breaks. Then to top it all they ran out of food and drink during the second meal serving - and my wife and I and others in our immediate seating area suffered the same fate - absolutely amazing!! Still things had to improve surely to goodness!! Then just when we thought things couldn't get any worse - they did!! When we did eventually touch down in Barbados - now nearly 3 hours behind schedule and a might puckish and thirsty, we were told to wait on the apron - not the arrivals lounge as we thought safest - till transport arrived. This did not happen till nearly 50 mins after disembarking from the aircraft and we were shuffled around from place to place whilst avoiding airport ground vehicles, until eventually some small 18 seater coaches did arrive. Now considering there were over 300 passengers to transport from the airport to the port, this did seem to me to smack of a bit of a logistical cockup. Whilst waiting patiently to get from airport to port we were offered nothing in the way of water and were told that we would not be allowed to visit the toilets in the main arrivals lounge - the excuse being "your transport will be here directly and we don't want you to delay the other passengers now do we". Yes folks the story does get worse when the small bus we were on developed a puncture - and more delays ensued whilst another coach was sourced. Needless to say that when we did arrive at the ship we not in the best of moods only to then find out that the scheduled departure drinks had been cancelled and that we also had run out of any time to see Barbados as the ship was now departing for its next port of call. Now you could say that some delays are inevitable, but when they happen to you, that there has been little or no apologies given as to why you've been delayed, that clearly some people were distressed and inconvenienced and prevented from visiting the toilets, that you've been left standing on the runway aprons for almost an hour without any water in the heat, and then subjected to transport on unsuitable vehicles for the size of the party - well that to me smacks of unprofessionalism on the part of Fred.Olsen to ensure any delays are minimized and that people caught up in these are looked after during them. When we did eventually arrive at our cabin - which we had paid to have upgraded, we found that the cabin was both very cramped and that there were two single beds made up rather than the double we'd requested. I know that the ship was not the largest afloat but this cabin was the smallest we've ever had the pleasure of sleeping in. To be fair the rest of the cruise went off without too many other hitches that certainly are not worth mentioning here. Suffice to say that we had taken the opportunity to avail ourselves of the 10 pound a day drinks package before the start of the cruise, knowing how expensive some refreshments can be during the hot weather, and can recommend this action to anyone not wanting a mega bill at the end of the cruise. Most drinks seemed okay. the limited choice of drinks (beers ? wines / spirits etc.) wasn't a problem and we managed to get our money worth - just. As for the rest of the ship - and the Braemar is a small cruise ship - make no mistake - the décor looked faded, the on board entertainment was so so, the acts a bit dated and the two "pools" (and I use that term lightly) - small and dingy. The ship is extremely noisy when arriving at its ports of call and due to its small size any movement of the ship is greatly amplified. All in all - the ships company were pleasant enough, the serving attendants were somewhat efficient, the cruise locations were reasonable - albeit the stays a little too short for my liking - however I would not travel on this ship again. After note - having written to Fred. Olsen lines on our return to complain about the delays / changes in a positive manner - we received a nice apologetic letter basically telling us how good their transport arrangements / companies normally are and oh yes tough titty, no we don't see any reason to give you anything in the way of something more for your trouble. THANKS FRED !! Guess we will vote with our feet and spend our money with someone else next time!! Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
As a birthday present to ourselves, my husband and I booked our very first cruise experience with Fred.OLSEN departing on 23 February for 16 nights. The voyage was a plane journey from London Gatwick to Bridgetown Barbados where we joined ... Read More
As a birthday present to ourselves, my husband and I booked our very first cruise experience with Fred.OLSEN departing on 23 February for 16 nights. The voyage was a plane journey from London Gatwick to Bridgetown Barbados where we joined the MS Braemar. After visiting St Lucia, Antigua, St Kitts and St Maarten, followed by six days cruising, we'd arrive in Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal before heading home for the port of Dover. With a full daily programme whilst at sea, from the minute we rose till going to bed time, there was little opportunity of being bored. I indulged in beginners' dance classes with Mike & Jan, read numerous books, either brought on board, or borrowed from the Braemar library. This holiday, was after all, an occasion of not only celebration of a significant life landmark, but also a chance to wind down and recharge our batteries. Learning seafaring terminology ie aft, stern, port and starboard, monkey fists, and enjoying the ship's captain's daily bulletin over the tannoy at 12.00 noon, became part and parcel of our daily conversations, as my husband has sailed for many years, and shared this part of his hobby with me. Our fears of being seated with fellow passengers at dinner with whom we had nothing in common were totally unfounded - we enjoyed tales of previous cruises taken by our fellow diners, and a whole host of amusing life tales. True, we were a motley 'crew' but diversity of lives contributed to a 'festival' of true stories in glorious technicolor. The Braemar's chef produced a feast for the eyes, with daily lunch time salad buffets and hot meals (including fish, meat, pasta choices and roast), as well as afternoon tea, and late night suppers - too much for us to manage, but which other fellow passengers eagerly feasted upon. All were supervised and served by friendly Thai and Philippine crew, who also turned their hands to a joyful rendition of 'Happy Birthday to You' or 'Congratulations' when the occasion demanded! Our visits ashore offered a taster of the particular island when we arrived in port - my particular favourites were St Maarten and Sao Miguel - whether I'll return at some future point is unclear - but a sense of their past, culture, beauty and people will abide with me for ever. On board the beauty salon offered daily 'specials' and I must admit, my first ever reflexology session was a revelation. Deck games, art and craft lessons, napkin folding, an impressive fitness room which my husband visited daily, lectures and of course, chats with fellow passengers made our 16 nights on MS Braemar a holiday to remember. As 'first-timers' our experience was surpassed by the many people we met who were cruising for the umpteenth time. Janet was about to complete her 24th! One of my fears had been crossing the Atlantic, but as it happened, we had a superb crossing, with a force 3-5 on most days. I didn't even have to reach for sea/motion sickness tablets once. We cruised an average 15 knots per hour, but made such good progress that our speed slowed down in the English Channel so we wouldn't arrive too early in Dover. Will we cruise again? Yes, most probably, and almost certainly with Fred.Olsen. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
First time aboard a Fred Olsen ship and overall, I would say it is good value for money but it depends what your expectations are. I would also say that the crew - with only a few exceptions - are outstanding and deserve some recognition ... Read More
First time aboard a Fred Olsen ship and overall, I would say it is good value for money but it depends what your expectations are. I would also say that the crew - with only a few exceptions - are outstanding and deserve some recognition for their tireless work & infectious happiness...particular thanks to Jean, Christine, Gerome & all in the Lido Bar for putting up with us! There are many ships where the crew to passenger ratio is a lot higher but the service does not necessarily go up accordingly; this crew work very hard to deliver good service - they remember your cabin number within a day, your name..your children's names, everything! The consensus is that Fred ships are floating retirement homes - not entirely untrue but in the event, I will take a Fred Olsen ship as mine - far cheaper for sure. As we were amongst the youngest, we did receive quite a few bemused stares for the first couple of days but soon managed to pally up with some people reasonably close to our age and some far older - we met some really lovely folks so don't let the 'nursing home' jibes put you off too much; some of these elders had far more stamina than me and were hilarious fun. Unless of course you particularly want a 'proper' disco & steamed up Brits every night... CABINS: We were Deck 3 midships- totally fine; not noisy, beds comfortable & attended to twice a day by a lovely cabin steward named Na. DINING: For the most part, great. We were on a 2nd seating dinner so hunger often meant we hit the Secret Garden buffet at 6.30 rather than wait. The Secret Garden staff were the big let-down for me & I'm not sure what the deal is here - are they working up the ranks until they become fit for the main dining rooms I wonder? At first I thought maybe it was just us they did not particularly care for but having discussed with others, it seemed to be not just us - sort of thankfully! The actual maitre de of the whole place by far had the worst attitude, thus setting the standard for all the staff under him & this needs a close inspection by Olsen Corps I personally think.... But main dining room fab by night, waiters were wonderfully sweet - Suwat & Oliver spring to mind. Extremely busy at breakfast & lunch mind you. Food on the whole was great all over. I was told that the £20 surcharge for the Grill at night was not worth it but never tried myself - you can sit there during lunch for no surcharge & the burgers are really good. ENTERTAINMENT: Well I think there is something for everyone, tailored to the particular age group. Bridge, the usual shuffleboard etc,, daily quizzes & bingo, classes & talks. The evening shows can be hit & miss; some fall flat and some are pretty good - we were lucky to have Brenda Collins on board who looks more like Cilla Black than even Cilla herself, and she did some very funny shows. The resident musicians are all reasonable with the only exception being the 'Timeline Duo' who seem to have only the most depressing songs known to man in their set list! I heard more complaints about them than anything else which meant they got happier one night, but the following night it was back to morose. The actual entertainment staff - as in the singers & dancers - could do more, there are a couple of blinding singers amongst them, but I think they do so much during the day that it doesn't leave much scope for night. ON BOARD SERVICES: Gift shop, Photographer & Salon are OK but as usual, it's slightly inflated so none do particularly well. The 'Casino' - one roulette, one BJ - is staffed by two very miserable & bored girls. Sauna & steam rooms were great; I was always the only one in them. The gym is actually very sufficient - everything works and after midday, you have it pretty much to yourself. The reception & staff are great - I quietly watched them a few times; they take the full frontal and are very patient indeed. SMOKING FACILITIES: For those that do, this is where it falls down. Presently, one can only smoke on the Deck 7 starboard aft wing overlooking the pool area & on the small Deck 8 area. I don't need to be told that the habit is filthy & we shouldn't do it but nonetheless, I feel that there should be 'reasonably' comfortable & safe areas to do it in - neither of these areas being the case. Apparently, it used to be that Deck 7 outside the main Lido bar was smoking - makes sense, being outside the main bar - but was terminated due to the 'lappers' (Deck 7 is the only deck where you can do the 'mile') complaining & general folk who were sitting there during the day...perfectly understandable complaints. But by night, the only people that venture out of those doors are smokers to get to their designated areas. I have no issue with compliance to the rules but for most nights during our cruise the wind was howling. Had anyone gone over to smoke on the wing - bear in mind the tables & ashtrays had been removed due to rough weather - they may have been blown clean off & no-one would've been any the wiser, since it's barely lit. OR, you can try & get up the stairs to Deck 8 where it is effectively like being in a wind tunnel! I tried in vain to mention these points to a very agitated security man who was called because my 87 yr old friend was smoking outside the bar when there was no-one else present - the deck was 2 inches deep in water from the rain, we were in the Bay which was rough and yet, even though she needs a stick to walk, we were told (quite aggressively) that she must go to that wing with no tables or ashtrays present or try & climb the stairs to Deck 8 Wind Machine!! Really? As I said, I know smokers are lesser human beings but since they pay the same money, there should be provisions for it to be at least safe for someone not so good on their feet?! I would say many were quite disgruntled, around 50 smokers, of which at least 20 said never again on Fred - not a drop in the ocean financially speaking. SUMMARY: Generally great value for money; things are not as polished as on other cruise lines but you get what you pay for; no more, no less. I would recommend it for ages 50 and above, definitely. I think the crew are the jewel in Fred's crown and some of them make the whole trip change from mediocre into something very comical. Fred, if you're reading, Jean & Christine deserve Employee of the Month, well, for as long as they're with you!   Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
As with other reviewers, we picked the Black Watch cruise to South America for the itinerary. However, we were not prepared for the poor quality of a ship we had happily cruised on 10 years earlier. The embarkation at Southampton was the ... Read More
As with other reviewers, we picked the Black Watch cruise to South America for the itinerary. However, we were not prepared for the poor quality of a ship we had happily cruised on 10 years earlier. The embarkation at Southampton was the first let down, as the area was under refurbishment and looked and felt like a building site. The ship itself, despite being described as recently refurbished, appeared in need of a complete overhaul.There were rust patches and jagged metal edges which had just been painted over.Everything was old fashioned from the yale key access to the tiny "staterooms" and safe, to the lack of a fridge. As mentioned by a previous reviewer, norovirus broke out almost immediately, with the crew constantly suggesting that the passengers were to blame due to their lack of personal hygiene. This was obviously impossible as we were all made to apply anti-bacterial handwash at every entrance, especially wherever food or drink were involved. This altered the dining experience completely as the buffet and tea station were now roped off, and everything had to be served by a member of staff involving long queues. This also meant that public areas such as the laundry room and fitness centre were also closed. Anyone who displayed symptoms of sickness was confined to their cabin for 48hours and treated like a criminal, which affected my husband who suffered an undiagnosed heart attack and had vomited.After a more serious attack, the medical centre looked after my husband until we reached Rio de Janeiro and we were repatriated ashore for medical treatment. The medical staff on board were very good, but once ashore the Olsen Port Agent is supposed to care for passengers until the Insurance company take over. This did not happen and we were left to cope in a foreign country all on our own. Another couple was also put ashore for medical treatment at this time and were similarly abandoned by Fred Olsen and the Port Agent. This was a very frightening time for us all, and we felt very let down by the company we had placed our trust in. Having complained to Olsen's the attitude was uncaring and patronising. Passengers beware - if you get ill and are put ashore, Fred Olsen will just sail away and you will be left chasing up everyone for help and advice. You will be on your own. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
I boarded the balmoral on jan 4 in southampton as a solo traveller , going thru passport control and the embarkation was nice and easy well organized. I had a nice cabin ( my home for the next 4 months ) it was an inside cabin but no ... Read More
I boarded the balmoral on jan 4 in southampton as a solo traveller , going thru passport control and the embarkation was nice and easy well organized. I had a nice cabin ( my home for the next 4 months ) it was an inside cabin but no matter, my plan was to spend as much time around the ship doing things as possible. I chose to eat in the Psalms the self service restaurant, there was a great amount of different types of food for everyone. In the morning there fresh baked rolls and pastries were excellent. The entertainment was good and varied and lots of talks in the, you could learn to paint, sing in a choir, dance lessons, lots of games and a gym. I feel its a very happy well run ship all the staff on the ship are polite and well mannered and a pleasure to deal with at whatever level. For me all the service was first class. The one problem on this is the "Balmoral cough" from the day I arrived untill the day I left it was on the ship. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
REVIEW OF FRED OLSEN'S BLACK WATCH, 6th JAN- 16th MARCH 2015 BACKGROUND This was our first cruise with Fred Olsen and we did it in style with a 69 day cruise called South American Discovery. We've cruised with various lines ... Read More
REVIEW OF FRED OLSEN'S BLACK WATCH, 6th JAN- 16th MARCH 2015 BACKGROUND This was our first cruise with Fred Olsen and we did it in style with a 69 day cruise called South American Discovery. We've cruised with various lines over the last 8 years including P&O, Celebrity, Princess, Cunard and RCCI to a wide range of ports and although we'd read less than positive reviews about the ship we chose the cruise on the basis of the itinerary. I was one of the youngest passengers having recently retired and my OH is a few years older. EMBARKATION As usual we stayed overnight at the Premier Inn West Quay as it's so convenient for the city centre and cruise terminals. We left the hotel at 1:30 and arrived just before the advised time of 2:00 p.m. It was fairly chaotic at the City Cruise Terminal where refurbishment was taking place so it was an uncomfortable and cold wait till we boarded about an hour later. On a positive note we chatted with some of our fellow cruisers as we waited and we also saw the CD and DCD greet previous cruisers. FIRST IMPRESSIONS As we boarded we immediately noticed how dark the ship was and this feeling didn't change throughout our cruise. The outdated anaglypta wallpaper, 1980s colours and poor lighting were to blame for that. We had a partially obstructed balcony cabin on deck 8 and we must say the bookings people at FO very helpfully emailed us photos to allow us to choose the balcony with the least obstruction. As we looked out from the small balcony, to our right a couple of cabins along was a lifeboat and to our right a rack of liferafts and of course Deck 7 with its promenaders lay below us. The cabin was like a box room measuring 21 feet by 8 feet so there was very little floor space. As we entered, the shower room was to our left and two large fitted cupboards to our right. There was a single bed against the bathroom wall on the left then a dressing unit. On the other side, was an easy chair then the second single bed / sofa , close to our balcony doors, but with no headboard wnich was a problem. The balcony was in very poor condition and towards the end of the cruise a programme of refurbishing all the Deck 8 balconies took place with much noise as the paint was drilled off. There was no fridge as standard equipment as we had expected but when we requested one a brand new model was delivered within the hour. DINING The dining options were the MDR (Glentanar room or Orchid Room for those in suites) or the Garden Cafe. Food wasn't available throughout the day as it had been on previous cruises which took a bit of getting used to but once we did we found the quality of the food to be very good. We dined almost exclusively in the MDR and our waiter was very efficient if a bit formal but our Assistant waiter was friendly and fun. We had requested a table of 6-8 but were allocated a table for 2, although this had been remedied by day 2. For dinner there was always a choice of 2 starters, 2 / 3soups 2 salads, 5 mains and 4 desserts. There were always alternative mains if nothing on the menu took our fancy and they included omelette, pasta with tomato sauce, grilled chicken or fish of the day. The steaks and roast beef were always exceptional and the highlight for us, although only available occasionally. They were also fairly flexible in mixing and matching from the menu which was another plus. We had breakfast most days in the Glentanar but mainly ate from the plentiful buffet rather than order from the menu. We also particularly liked the MDR buffet at lunchtimes which was much better than any we had experienced on P&O, Cunard etc and we definitely preferred the Glentanar atmosphere over the Garden Room which we found noisy and the chairs uncomfortable. We occasionally had lunch in the Grill and can particularly recommend the Outback Wedge Salad and the crispy fries! ENTERTAINMENT AND SPEAKERS There was a wide range of entertainment during the day with the usual quizzes and deck games, dancing lessons, bridge and whist etc. Occasionally more unusual classes took place with, for example, ballet lessons or ukelele (bring your own ukelele!) There was a guest choir mistress onboard and this is definitely something other cruise lines should consider. Margaret Rae was expert in improving the choir's performance but also making it great fun being in the choir. The performances were very well attended The show company were very good but greatly restricted in what they could do due to the lack of a stage. This also meant you had to be early to get a seat with a good view. The company singers also did occasional cabaret in the Lido Lounge and this was always very popular. On other nights the Lido could be almost deserted which was a crying shame because Glen Monie (pianist) and Sam and Andy (instrumentalists / vocalists) were outstanding and deserved better. Ronald Apora played well in the Braemar but we were less keen on the Rosario Trio in the observatory. The guest entertainers in the Neptune were of varied quality, ranging from excellent to dreadful so no different to other lines, with the comedians being the least popular. We were disappointed that with so many sea days there was no films (other than on cabin television) during the day. Films were usually shown in the Marina in the early evening when there were better things on offer. I must also mention the Black Watch Orchestra which consists easily of the worst musicians we have heard at sea, especially the trumpeter and guitarist who wouldn't have made it into a school band – honestly! I would however praise the number of local acts who came to perform for us and which provided us with an insight into the Arts culture in quite a few ports. We watched the port presentations on the cabin TV and felt there was too much emphasis on the history of the port / area .as the presenter struggled to fill the allotted 45 minutes. There were also numerous factual inaccuracies for independent explorers like us and his style of presentation was very dull and repetitive. Guest speakers were generally aimed at an older audience (bearing in mind the average age on this cruise was 74!) but it would have been good to see these on Cabin TV as well because there was a limited number of channels to view. ITINERARY What can I say other than the itinerary was absolutely amazing and we cannot recommend it highly enough. We left home just after the New Year and now it's nearly Easter but the time passed so quickly. We had most looked forward to Rio, the Chilean fjords, Cape Horn and seeing penguins and these didn't disappoint. However other highlights were Buenos Aires, one of the most beautiful cities we've visited, Lima which blew us away, the amazing wildlife and desert at Paracas (General Saint Martin) and quirky Valparaiso. I'm going to write a review of what we actually did in the ports where we mainly organised things ourselves before we set off, but included some ship's tours which were on the whole excellent and very good value. On the down side however we felt cheated by the time we were given in some ports. For example “Early morning” as per the brochure could mean 10:00 a.m.; late p.m. generally meant all aboard by 4:30; and there was no late night in Antigua as promised in the brochure. OVERALL Fred Olsen has very, very many die-hard cruisers who have never cruised with any other line. The line offerS great itineraries and other pluses for us were the fact that on a small ship we were able to see a glacier close up, excellent weather , the food, the great people we met, the staff being responsive to any issues we raised and the versatility of the staff e.g. entertainers serving food in the MDR during the Norovirus outbreaks. However the ship is well past its 'best-by' date and its poor condition provides a breeding ground for the bugs which created the Norovirus outbreaks and the chest infections / bronchitis which were rife for several weeks during this cruise. There was a constant smell of fumes from the funnel or paint in our cabin. The wifi (although fairly cheap) was extremely frustrating for the many people using tablets and only available in three hot spots. The evenings were a particular let-down with virtually no-one in aNy of the lounges after 10:30. The idea that the staff are friendlier than on any other lines is, IMO, simply not true as we have met outstanding staff on every line and the first captain we had was probably the least people-friendly we've come across. We never say never but particularly because of the high level of illness (from which we're still recovering) it's unlikely we'll cruise with Fred Olsen again. If they are attract the next generation of cruisers they must offer more than just a very old small ship with an interesting itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
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
I have enjoyed very special times on the good ship that is the Braemar but my last cruise was such a big disappointment in so many ways, the company to me has changed so much and I have to say not for the better. The Fred Olsen policy to ... Read More
I have enjoyed very special times on the good ship that is the Braemar but my last cruise was such a big disappointment in so many ways, the company to me has changed so much and I have to say not for the better. The Fred Olsen policy to me now seems pack em' in and get as much money as possible from each and every one. The present management that has taken over has changed the Fred Olsen company to one that does not in anyway compare to the one I enjoyed when I started cruising. The whole staff ethics to me has changed and I will never travel with Fred Olsen cruise Line ever again. Yes the ship is smart most things were indeed ship shape, but seemed to me over crowded, the food was good in the Grampian restaurant but, the staff were so over worked the service they were giving was extremely poor which is such a shame as they have to work so very hard. The Braemar used to be for me so very special I will remember for ever the past happy times on board ......... but sadly no more. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
Just completed a Car'bean cruise on the Braemar, the flights both ways were pretty good with Monarch but have flown charter with F/O before and think Tui was much better particularly the in flight food. The cruise itself was great, ... Read More
Just completed a Car'bean cruise on the Braemar, the flights both ways were pretty good with Monarch but have flown charter with F/O before and think Tui was much better particularly the in flight food. The cruise itself was great, embarkation at Manchester and Barbados very good, ports good but Cuba a little dissapointing not being at Havana, but not a major issue. The food excellent and service good on most occasions but if eating in the Palms cafe at night (outside) the new "Grill " section which has taken over most of the outside of that area seems to take priority over outside Palms Cafe. The extra £20 you pay for "The Grill" seems to over ride the Palms outside service. (nothing effected inside). Many of us like to eat outside at night in the warm. We had to clear our own tables as plates etc were mounting up., go and find waiters for various needs, was a bit of a continuous theme. We know its self service but normal Palms service it was not. There didn't seem to many takers for the grill and waiters and chefs were stood about on the occasions we were outside. Service generally very good. Cabin cleanliness excellent, staff always pleasant and helpful. The entertainment was the best we've seen for years, (both artists and show group ) Having been a F/O cruiser for many years you do tend to see the company eat away at the edges of what they provide, yes I know times are hard but simple things like the Port maps and info were awful, pretty u/s, with little info like the old style, any info such as it was, in the Daily Times making passengers take two documents instead of one. No cabin TV/Film schedule, no port itinerary. The little things sometimes make a difference to passengers and Fred is eating away at it. The Oceans bags for members are getting poor, last time we got items out of sell by date, this time a a bag of olives among the items which were punctured. Loyalty seems to mean less and less, note I don't say nothing. We have booked a Christmas cruise with F/O last year but I think we might start to look around . Sorry Fred!   Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
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