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736 Fred. Olsen Cruise Reviews

This was our first Fred Olsen cruise, and may well not be our last. Braemar is a comfortable ship, an ideal size and much more attractive than the blocks of flats next door! We flew to Barbados, and cruised various islands before returning ... Read More
This was our first Fred Olsen cruise, and may well not be our last. Braemar is a comfortable ship, an ideal size and much more attractive than the blocks of flats next door! We flew to Barbados, and cruised various islands before returning to Barbados 2 weeks later. The staff were very pleasant, but not 'over friendly' as if seeking tips. We loved our cabin, 7005 balcony suite. Plenty of room, and great to have our balcony. Our cabin was comfortable and quiet. Meals were good, we enjoyed the Thistle restaurant for dinner, and palms for lunch. I have a mobility scooter, and it was easy to use around the ship. The crew were extremely helpful, especially helping us get it on and off the ship. It was a shame that we saw nothing of the captain or senior officers during the cruise. We were first sitting, and for the 2 captain's cocktail parties we were leaving port. The captain did not make himself known around the ship - a shame. We did ask at the start of the cruise if we could have a bridge tour - this only happened after 2 reminders and while we were in port - disappointing. The 3 ladies on shore tours were excellent. Really helpful in making sure I whether I could use my scooter and making arrangements for me when I could. We were disappointed with the entertainment in the Neptune Lounge. The stage is right on top of the front row of the audience - far too close. The entertainment was mixed, the Braemar entertainers were good, but too much unecessary dancing! We had the drinks package as part of our deal - we certainly wouldn't pay for it. Poor quality whisky and gin - you had to pay extra for 'premium' drinks - Bells and Gordons should not be premium. The wine was limited but ok, but you had to pay for liqueurs and spirits. We booked a few shore excursions. The Curacao semi submersible was great - so many fish. Bonaire island tour good, Tortola island tour and boat trip left us wanting to see more of the island. The St Kitts railway was just wonderful - plenty of rum punch and pina colada and a choir! Dominica whale and dolphin watching was very successful. Our main disappointment was Grand Turk. A very dull island, the highlight was 2 cute baby donkeys. Did we really want to be shown the landfill site in the centre of the island? Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and came back with many happy memories and loads of photos! Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
Fred Olsen Balmoral – Xmas/New Year 2018/19 – Canaries All in all, this was a most enjoyable cruise and a great way to spend both the festive season and celebrate my husband’s birthday on Christmas Eve. This was our first time ... Read More
Fred Olsen Balmoral – Xmas/New Year 2018/19 – Canaries All in all, this was a most enjoyable cruise and a great way to spend both the festive season and celebrate my husband’s birthday on Christmas Eve. This was our first time with “Fred”, although we’ve cruised a lot since getting the bug a decade ago. Compared with other lines, we were delighted that there was no constant hard sell, ship wide announcements were kept to an absolute minimum and queueing was practically non-existent. Of course the ship photographers were there as you ate at the gala dinners, but not always as you got on and off the ship - perhaps by the time we disembarked, they were on the excursions looking for material to go on the DVD. We always buy one and are looking forward to watching it on a snowy day – they’re really a great way to remember the cruise. One morning, I saw a photographer having breakfast, so took a photo of him, then told him it would be ready the next day! I thought it was funny, but have no idea what he must have really thought - he simply smiled very politely, then got on with his breakfast! Embarkation was truly straightforward, as was disembarkation (we cannot fathom why people sat on the stairs waiting to get off the ship when there were plenty of places to sit and wait). The only time we could have queued was at the Captain’s Receptions, but even then, we sat nattering to other passengers and waited until the queue had gone down. That really is the beauty of sailing on a smaller ship. I’ll get the one downside (British Night) out of the way so we can concentrate on how lovely everything else was. With the way politics are, perhaps something more neutral might be more appropriate. Why on earth would you travel abroad and bring that horrid jingoistic nonsense with you? We’re there to see the world and be ambassadors for our country, not to tell people we rule the waves! We were on second sitting, and rather tired that night, so watched the show from our cabin. We were astonished that the Boomtown Rats (Irish), Debbie Harry and Meatloaf (both US) were featured as the “Best of British”, not to mention Riverdance! And don’t get me started on the bit where they all dressed up as school children. Anyway, that was the low point of the cruise for us, and I’m sure other opinions are available. I made my own little protest by wearing a blue shirt with a yellow bow tie which surprisingly got some very positive comments from those who had cottoned on to the colours of a certain flag it resembled! I also wore a red, white and blue rosette (or was it perhaps bleu, blanc, rouge?) We bit our tongues on the “B” word and tried to forget that many of our fellow passengers had probably voted for the mess the country has found itself in. Such a shame, as we’ve never met such a friendly bunch on a cruise ship. It is sensible to steer very clear of any mention of politics, not wanting to ruin our holidays, nor anyone else’s! Anyway, before I lose you completely, let’s go back to all the positives, and that must start with the cruise highlight - the pantomime. This will be etched in our memories forever. It was definitely worth Andrew Robley (the Panto Dame) bringing 14 suitcases aboard, even though his mum was found clambering over them in her cabin! The theatre entertainment overall was a high standard and very enjoyable. Inside Cabin 4154 The cabin was small and the L-shaped layout of the beds made the best use of the space available, although the unit housing some drawers and the console for lights, announcements etc went behind one of the beds, just giving an extra shelf (which came in handy for my husband’s birthday cards to be displayed). The console itself had a button to turn off ship announcements, with a handy red light to let you know that one was being made. Our cases were on the very large side, so didn’t fit under the beds, especially as there was a wooden plinth in the middle. One case went in the wardrobe, the other between the chair and the bed. My husband has a habit of bringing extra coat hangers, not always necessary, but it’s not particularly a battle I care to fight. Thirty years together has taught me to agree to disagree, and if packing too many coat hangers is the worst thing, then we’re not doing badly! An extra couple of hangers might not have gone amiss, but he’d managed to pack over 30, so we had far too many! I’m sure they’d have brought us some extra, had we asked… The layout of the cabin meant one bed didn’t have a bedside lamp or table, which was a little bit disappointing – I suppose we could have asked for the bed to be made the other way round, so the drawer unit could be used. Being two men of a certain age, neither of us have much hair, so having not one but two hairdryers in the cabin made us laugh as did the fact that our Christmas crackers both contained combs! Daytime activities (especially after 5) are extremely low key (or non-existent), so we enjoyed the interactive TV’s on-demand film and TV programme options which we were very pleased to find came at no extra charge. The cabin was towards the back (I’m sure there’s a technical term for the blunt end), so when the ship was coming into port, the engine noise was fairly loud – and when moving in high winds, it did tend to creak, so earplugs are very much recommended. Having said this, for most of the trip, it wasn’t a problem. One cabin we would advise avoiding is 5143 – there was a really loud vibration noise outside, not sure if it was audible inside that cabin, though, but it would surprise me if not. We were delighted with the kettle in the cabin. Perhaps a little saucer for used teabags wouldn’t go amiss, but we used one of the glasses to put teabags in. We brought our own redbush teabags, but they were available in the tea station, along with a large selection of other teas and infusions. Our cabin stewardess came from Thailand and was very good and thorough. We didn’t get any towel animals, but perhaps, like the baked Alaska parade, also missing, that’s another thing of the past. We had a couple of very minor issues with the cabin (both of our own making). They were dealt with very speedily, with a short note afterwards to say they’d fixed the problem, but reminding us not to hesitate to get in touch if the problem hadn’t been rectified to our satisfaction, or if there was anything else they could do. A very nice touch, we thought. Dining – Table 301, Spey We’d asked for a table of 8, but were given a table of 6, but were only 5 diners – pleased to say we got on exceptionally well with our fellow travellers, three solo women. We were tucked into the corner by the door and it was very noisy at times, which apparently is unusual for the Spey. Being next to a serving station made it even noisier, cutlery and plates were thrown into bins by the waiters. Once we’d had a word with our servers it was better - we did this a couple of times during the cruise, simply saying that the noise levels had increased again. Had our table mates not been as brilliant as they were, we might well have asked to be moved. Service was impeccable – no problem with menu variations, for example having a starter as a dessert. With a couple of rare exceptions, we were very happy with everything we were served, although we did wonder why the rather tasty soup called borscht didn’t contain any beetroot! On the one night things really weren’t to our taste (the burnt nut roast incident), alternatives were found very quickly. We immensely enjoyed a late breakfast in the buffet sitting outside by the pool (heaters were on when it was cooler) – and rarely used the Ballindalloch main restaurant. One tip - for breakfast and lunch, all three restaurants have both a waiter served menu and a very similar buffet, but the menu items aren’t available in the main buffet. At breakfast, I very much liked the selection of nuts (Brazil, cashew and walnut) along with the goji berries. We didn’t partake of the sparkling wine at breakfast on formal nights, but I poured the orange juice into champagne flutes to give a sense of occasion! Much to my husband’s disgust (being on second sitting we’d not long had dinner), I liked to have a “look” at the midnight buffet, which was varied and certainly not at all leftovers from dinner! Needless to say, this “look” generally turned into something landing on a plate and into my mouth… Portions at dinner were on the meagre side - I’m sure double portions were available but we never asked - a couple of times we had two main courses, or an additional one to share. There’s no way anyone could go hungry! Christmas/New Year The ship was wonderfully decorated throughout and at guest services, we thought it was a lovely touch that you could help yourself to satsumas and nuts. Christmas Eve had a carol service after which port, sherry and mince pies were served in abundance. We got back to the cabin to find that instead of a chocolate on our pillows, we had a small bag of chocolates to share. Christmas Day had a deck party in the morning, with a free egg nog station, which helped things along rather nicely! Lunch was just a normal sea day – they actually forgot the lunch I’d ordered from a waiter – I asked several times over 30 minutes - but I did get a free glass of wine to compensate! I just thought it was hilarious as we were on an all inclusive package. But as they say, worse things happen at sea, and I certainly didn’t go hungry for long! In the afternoon, my husband had a sleep and I went to see the Queen’s speech which we all ended up listening to, as something was wrong with the technical setup. I very much applauded her sentiments against tribalism and the need to get on with ones neighbours, but bit my tongue! The entertainment team then played a game of charades, which was quite funny. We slept the rest of the afternoon until it was time to dress for the Captain’s reception. One of the entertainment guys was dressed up as Santa in the Captain’s parade on the way in, so I told him “all I wanted for Christmas is EU”, in quite a loud voice! It was Christmas, and I was well behaved for the most part! We thought our waiters seemed a bit rushed on Christmas Day, until we understood that they were all trying to synchronise and sing a few Christmas carols, which was another nice touch. We were very surprised to see that cocktail parties for certain loyalty level guests made up the main entertainment on Boxing Day, leaving very little to do for first time guests like us, or people who didn’t want to drink at 11am, but it did mean we got seats at the quiz, which was usually oversubscribed if you didn’t get there early enough. New Year’s Eve was great. There were two alternatives – one in case of rain, one for dry weather. The weather wasn’t too kind and we were glad to have brought rain ponchos with us which we put over our dinner suits. It’s a very comfy cruiseline and there isn’t any obvious stuffiness and pretentiousness we’ve found a couple of times on other lines. We were comfy and enjoying ourselves, so that’s what mattered! After dinner, we went to the show, then before we knew it, champagne (well, fizz) was flowing and the fireworks started which were absolutely fantastic and every bit as good as Sydney where we were lucky enough to see them on our honeymoon. One thing we didn’t hear, however, was a countdown, that’s not to say it didn’t happen. The festivities lasted long into the night and I knew it was time for bed when the conversation turned to football and all I could think to say on the subject was that some years ago, we’d really enjoyed seeing the Beverley Sisters – one of whom was married to a footballer. As I said, it was well and truly time for bed! I was very fragile the next day (one of the waiters even asked a couple of days later if I was still fragile!), we finally surfaced and went to brunch in the Spey at around 11.45am, after watching the ex-policeman’s talk on airport security on our cabin telly. We were surprised that it wasn’t really a brunch, but breakfast simply morphed into lunch at mid-day. After lunch, we went back to the cabin and watched a great film called What I Did Last Summer. After paying a visit to the future cruise desk, we sat at the back of the ship with a cuppa watching the most magical sunset, in a nice warm spot thanks to the outdoor heaters. Ports We’d been to most of the ports before - and all of them were very easy to walk to from the ship, as long as you’re able bodied. None of the ship excursions took our fancy, but we were most impressed with the booklet and maps that came before the cruise, although they could have done with a little more information about the ports themselves. The destination guide, Graeme, did a good job of giving some hints and tips and not being too centred on the excursions. However, his appalling pronunciation of place names left a lot to be desired! As a linguist I picked up on this and his pronunciation would probably have confused local people if you were asking for directions. For some reason, exact docking timings weren’t given until the day before, which made it a little difficult to plan too much in advance, but having said that, we did seem to be in port for longer than other cruises we’d been on. Lisbon We did a Free Walking Tour (you just pay a tip at the end) of the Alfama and Mouraria districts – you can easily book in advance online – they did stipulate a €2 deposit for not showing up, but were very accommodating when I said we were on a cruise ship and it depended on the weather if we could dock. The tour was excellent, even though we’ve been to Lisbon countless times, and I’d even spent a month here in the 80s, we learned quite a lot from our guide. The tour ended near to the Church of Graça, where there is an amazing panorama of the city, along with a wonderful little outdoor café serving light snacks and sandwiches, the ideal antidote to the fancy meals we were having onboard. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Our extended stay let us go a little further under our own steam. We went to Vegueta, the old town, on the number 12 bus for a couple of Euros, taking about 20 minutes. The architecture around the main shopping street, Triana, is beautiful and rather reminiscent of some parts of Old Havana. We visited the Museum of the Canaries which was a bit old fashioned and apart from a room full of skulls, not overly interesting. After a nice lunch, we went to the Christopher Columbus Museum (my Yorkshire upbringing and infantile humour still makes me giggle when I see the word “Colon”, his Spanish name)… It’s a fascinating place, with lots of old maps of how people thought the world looked, and housed in a beautiful old building. Highly recommended. After getting back, we still had time to go for a walk along the beach front and have a quick look around town, and even to the shopping centre by the port. One little tip – the port wifi reached into the ship, so on returning, I had a quick look at my emails, although we had taken advantage of free EU roaming earlier in the day. Gran Tarajal (Fuerteventura) It was too windy to dock, so we diverted to Puerto del Rosario, the capital. Not the prettiest of places, and with the exception of a very small museum dedicated to a philosopher who escaped from Franco and a shopping centre, we didn’t find too much to do here, so went back to the ship for lunch. Santa Cruz de Tenerife Once again, we were in port until very late evening, so we went by tram to the charming little town of La Laguna (the tram stop is called Trinidad and at the end of the line, making it very easy). After visiting a museum, we went for lunch at an old Canarian Restaurant (Patio Canario) which is housed in an old building. Far from being a tourist trap, most of the clientele were Spanish - the food and service were excellent, as were the prices. The tram ride cost a couple of Euros and was a very pleasant journey taking about 20 minutes. San Sebastian – La Gomera We hadn’t been here before, and I was intrigued that they have a whistling language, so was delighted to see that a local troupe do a demonstration of this, along with local dancing. Apart from that, we didn’t really find much else to do – we were only docked for the morning, so enjoyed a coffee in the main square with two of our table mates before heading back to lunch on the ship. Funchal - Madeira All aboard was 4.30pm which still left us time for a leisurely breakfast. With 11 cruise ships in port, we were very lucky to dock at the most convenient location possible. Funchal was understandably busy, and our attempt at visiting a Madeira wine lodge was thwarted by hoards of people. This was the only day where the weather was unkind with rain on and off, but we still managed to have a walk round. When it threw it down, we had a simple lunch (forgetting how large Portuguese portions were!) Walking round, we found parks wonderfully decorated for Christmas, and stopped by the lovely Christmas market, where we just had to have a ginjinha (cherry liqueur) in a chocolate cup, followed by a Madeira wine in a chocolate cup, then another just in case. And perhaps another, but I can’t really remember. We got back to the ship and slept it off until it was time for the Captain’s Reception and Gala New Year’s Eve dinner! La Coruña This is the one place I’d love to have spent some more time exploring. I’ve never really understood why you’d want to be off the ship for 8am when shops don’t tend to open until 10am or so, although if you’re on a tour to Santiago de Compostela, you would need to set off quite early to make it worthwhile. It’s a real shame we left La Coruña so early at 1.30pm as it was a lovely place for a wander around. We found a very quirky café and I enjoyed a black coffee while my husband had the most delicious thick hot chocolate. No wonder he didn’t have room for the midnight buffet! Walking round, it looked like there were a lot of interesting places for lunch which hopefully we’ll try next time. Ship activities We’d both been very busy before the cruise, so were very glad of time to relax. To be honest, we didn’t see too much of the daytime entertainment staff – there were no napkin folding/cookery demonstrations etc, but we did enjoy the talk with the dancers and singers explaining how things worked backstage. What daytime activities there were had a tendency to clash, for example the quizzes and the speakers. Most evenings there was very little to do after 5pm until dinner - that said, bridge players or dancers were probably very well served. That said, one night, there was a Mr & Mrs competition. We were going to join in, but by the time my husband said yes, we were pipped at the post by another couple. Probably just as well. Our meals meant that we missed the 10pm quiz, as it would have been too much of a rush to get to the theatre show afterwards. I’ve already mentioned Andrew Robley, who not only was brilliant as the Panto Dame, but also entertained us a few times during the cruise (both on and off the stage as he was around and about the ship quite a lot). There was also a comedian, a singer and a magician (to whom I joked that the passengers do a brilliant magic act – they can make food disappear at an amazing rate!) One thing we were surprised at was the suggested themes weren’t adopted by the waiting staff – we thought they should also wear a touch of red, tartan etc. We had a lovely and relaxing time and we’ve already put down a deposit on a future cruise, so that says it all, and we’d have no hesitation in recommending our cruise to the right demographic of mainly over 50s. It’s definitely more hip-op than hip-hop, Fred Olsen definitely know who their clientele is and look after them exceptionally well. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
We have always wanted to spend Christmas cruising the Caribbean and decided to go with Fred Olsen on the Braemar on the 20th December 2018. This was the biggest mistake we have ever made. The cruise started badly due to the drone fiasco at ... Read More
We have always wanted to spend Christmas cruising the Caribbean and decided to go with Fred Olsen on the Braemar on the 20th December 2018. This was the biggest mistake we have ever made. The cruise started badly due to the drone fiasco at Gatwick. It took two days to get to Barbados where we were due to board the ship. We were all day at Gatwick and then was forced to travel to Manchester by coach, which took five hours, where we were supposed to catch a plane to Barbados. When we arrived at Manchester there was no pilot to fly the plane which was loaded with our luggage. We were force to retrieve our luggage because we would not be flying that evening. We underwent the worst treatment imaginable from the security staff at Manchester airport who showed no empathy and treated us like criminals. We had to pass through security a total of three times being searched every time. We were given a cheap hotel to spend the night and no food was provided. We did not arrive on the Braemar until the evening of the following day. Thereby we lost two days of our cruise. Most of this was not Fred Olsen’s fault but it laid the foundation of what I can only describe as a nightmare beginning. The ventilation in the cabins was appalling. You were either too hot or too cold. A cheap duvet to cover you. The food started out good and then deteriorated rapidly. It was either too salty or overcooked. There was an outbreak of the coughing virus and they tried to cover it up. I was ill for the last week of the cruise. Wherever you sat someone was either coughing, sneezing or spluttering. The entertainment was recycled. They had three main artist, a comedian, a singer and a violinist. They used the three of them regularly throughout the cruise. We were supposed to go to The Grand Turk but the captain claimed that due to poor weather it was not safe to go there. He then announced that we would be going to Santo Domingo the capital of Dominica Republic instead. At the same time it was rumoured that one of the senior manager’s wife had recently given birth to a baby and lives with her other children in Santo Domingo. It was rumoured that he had not seen his new baby. When we arrived at Santo Domingo the wife and their new baby plus their other children came aboard and the children were seen playing in the ship’s swimming pool. Make of this what you will. Many guests commented on this and like me felt we had been deceived. We were so looking forward to snorkeling in the Grand Turk and a three hour tour of Santo Domingo which in my opinion is a hovel, was a poor substitute. I did not spend a fortune to eat poor food, pay a fortune for intermittent WiFi at a cost of £26 an hour, use a small swimming pool filled with sea water, have elderly people who are obviously unable to care for themselves being let lose on excursions which were totally unsuitable for them ( Hato Caves ) just to get their money and to go down with a severe viral cough. When I got home I saw a medic and the viral cough had developed into a chest infection. I am now very poorly and on antibiotics. This is the first time I have been on a Fred Olsen cruise and it will be my last. If you have high standards steer clear of this second rate cruise company whose apparent aim is to save money wherever they can by cutting standards. Never again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
I have to praise Fred Olsen for handling the problem with the drones at Gatwick so well. With NO notice they arranged transport to Manchester where unfortunately the crew ran out of hours so we were put up overnight (and big shout out ... Read More
I have to praise Fred Olsen for handling the problem with the drones at Gatwick so well. With NO notice they arranged transport to Manchester where unfortunately the crew ran out of hours so we were put up overnight (and big shout out to the Last Drop Inn in Bolton will def go back at a happier time - fabulous breakfast and staff!) then flew out arriving a day late. What the previous reviewer didn't mention was that Fred Olsen - without any request - reimbursed a 14th of the cost of our cruise. They didn't have to and IT WASN'T THEIR FAULT but they still did this which I thought was incredibly generous. That wasn't a pleasant start to the holiday, yes we all acknowledge that but you have to chalk that up to experience and set off to enjoy your holiday. Overall I really enjoyed the holiday; yes I had a truly wonderful cabin with a huge balcony which I loved and was kept tip top by Maic the fabulous cabin attendant. The food was very good and mostly the service was good. I was disappointed that we didn't visit Grand Turk (and was rather shocked that the Hotel Manager's wife and children were on board and clearly (and noisily) enjoying the pool and jacuzzi) I would suggest that the more gregarious people enjoyed the Christmas festivities the most. I'm looking forward to my next cruise on the lovely Braemar but AFTER Christmas next time! Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Staff – some good some bad, certainly not at the level across the board of the more expensive cruise lines but a lot of the staff where great. Drinks – the drinks package includes so little variety I ended up always paying the top ... Read More
Staff – some good some bad, certainly not at the level across the board of the more expensive cruise lines but a lot of the staff where great. Drinks – the drinks package includes so little variety I ended up always paying the top up to have different drinks however it wasn’t very pricey to top up to nicer drinks. Swimming pools and recreation activities - They have very little and much of what they have is catered to their older clients. Knowing in advance this was a smaller ship with older patrons we took a PS3 with us, on day one the reception staff refused to set the TV up for us so we could plug it in (it needed a different controller to the one supplied as they have their own system that doesn’t allow other HDMI channels) however we asked different staff on day two and they sorted it for us. As this was a Christmas time cruise we avoided pools as did pretty much everyone else as it was to cold. Quizzes and shows – you could turn up pretty much as the shows were starting and still get a seat a big change on the larger ships however the shows were very low budget versions of what you get on larger cruise ships they were mildly entertaining at best. With the quizzes we were lucky if we found one per day so we spent quite a bit of time in our room with the entertainment we brought with us. Photo's & other items to purchase – we didn’t get any pictures done really so didn’t investigate this price. Bathrobes – not available to purchase ☹ Anything extra you may want to pay for was reasonably priced. Food - Breakfast Breakfast in room was ok, not much in the way of queues for the buffet and we didn’t try the sit down breakfast. Food - lunch, snacks and late night food. Buffet not too busy but variety was very low although quality was very good. Food - dinner Sit down meal was largely good quality but amount of food was limited and my husband who is a picky eater struggled to find food at dinner time. Food - room service Food was pretty good and was included in the price which is unusual and nice however it was very much snacks no meals available. Fred Olsen were a good low budget cruise line where the quality is good but variety is limited however the price of this trip was similar to we paid on P&O so I don’t feel the price reflected the fact they are a budget cruise line. Would happily sail with them again but I want the cost to be dramatically lower than the mid range cruise lines like P&O and Royal Caribbean Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
We chose this as it was my husband’s first experience of cruising although I’ve been on several. The duration and itinerary were ideal, as was the ambience of a small ship. Food and service were very good and we particularly enjoyed ... Read More
We chose this as it was my husband’s first experience of cruising although I’ve been on several. The duration and itinerary were ideal, as was the ambience of a small ship. Food and service were very good and we particularly enjoyed hearing Adam Reece playing in the Observatory Bar. Embarkation was very well organised and we both felt we benefitted from the relaxation of the cruise. Luckily, we were on a dining table with two other couples with whom we had some most lively conversations over dinner. Our waiters showed great patience over the fact that we were last to leave each evening. One disappointment was caused by the itinerary being changed, resulting in only one day on the Kiel Canal instead of two. Nevertheless, my husband is happy to try another cruise and it is likely that we shall opt for Fred Olsen next time. We didn’t go on any shore excursions, preferring to be independent, but we did choose to book the drinks package and it was well worth it. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
We chose the cruise for the Christmas Markets in Europe. The Balmoral crew had made a splendid effort to make the ship festive. Lovely decorations throughout.There were beautifully made gingerbread houses in some spots on the ship. A ... Read More
We chose the cruise for the Christmas Markets in Europe. The Balmoral crew had made a splendid effort to make the ship festive. Lovely decorations throughout.There were beautifully made gingerbread houses in some spots on the ship. A lovely festive dinner and very good entertainers and speakers. Enjoyed the orchestra, piano player, string quartet and guitarist, talks and quizzes. Formal nights with lovely food but good food throughout the trip. Lots of work goes on to make a voyage successful, but the crew including those we don't see are very discreet. Because of being December with unpredictable weather and fog the itinerary had to be altered but as we had been to Germany and Denmark on another Fred Olsen cruise we had been fortunate to see the Rivers and Kiel Canal in good weather ad daylight. Others may have been disappointed, but it is winter. The Christmas markets were amazing. The Tivoli Gardens at Christmas with 'snow' looked wonderful. The shopping streets in Copenhagen were full of people and lights. A lovely experience. Hamburg had a Father Christmas flying overhead on zip wires at the Christmas market. There were sprinkles of snow. Bremen is a lovely town, our third visit. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
This was our first Fred. Olsen experience, a repositioning cruise from Southampton to Barbados ending just before Christmas. Perhaps it was for that reason that the ship was only 2/3 full. We had picked just the right time to get caught up ... Read More
This was our first Fred. Olsen experience, a repositioning cruise from Southampton to Barbados ending just before Christmas. Perhaps it was for that reason that the ship was only 2/3 full. We had picked just the right time to get caught up in the Gatwick drone chaos - but we anticipate. Read on for The Case of the Disgruntled Bridegroom. The deck plans for Braemar show no facilities for children or teens. This was rather a plus point as we are both in our early 70s and like a quiet life, but it was a bit startling to discover within a very few hours that the ship was essentially a floating old folks' home. We were well on the youthful end of the spectrum. Interestingly, there was a surprising number of singles. Embarkation was totally painless: 20 minutes after arriving, both we and the cases were in the cabin. This was pretty basic (hand wash dispenser, 2-in-1 in the shower is as much as you get in the bathroom) and at the lower end of the range for space, but clean and perfectly adequate. The food was excellent. We've cruised with half a dozen other lines and this was the best we've ever had. It's fixed time dining only in the Thistle and Grampian restaurants, there is also the Palms buffet which we used infrequently. The service from the staff was as attentive and efficient as we've had anywhere - there was the occasional misunderstanding but you can get that with any line. Another first-class aspect was the ship's song-and-dance team - only 4 singers and 4 dancers, but they had people on their feet applauding with a Queen-themed evening. We took 3 ship's tours and they were a bit of a curate's egg: the basic coach tour of Lisbon was just not particularly interesting; at St Maarten, Someone Had Blundered - it took us an hour to get the mile to a beach bar because the water-taxi we were promised didn't start till noon on Sunday; on the other hand, the St Kitts Scenic Railway was a great experience. Having given the basic facts, let's turn to the overall experience, and it seemed to us that Fred. Olsen inhabit a faintly surreal alternative universe that gave a unique flavour to the cruise: - we found tea-making facilities in the cabin - but they live in the wardrobe; - the cabin TV information system was a delight. When we boarded (Monday) it was showing the activity programme for last Thursday; the ship locator shows either the entire world, a patch of blue about 20 miles across or (apparently) a line of buoys in the Amazon or River Plate. Ship's time and TV time are not always the same thing. - dining in Thistle when the ship is manoeuvring in port is an experience not to be missed: the engines thunder, everything shakes, the glass and cutlery chink and rattle. Shut your eyes and pretend you're Jim Lovell taking off in Apollo 13. - if you want to change table or sitting, they will CHARGE YOU (if you're Anchor class, viz. you've got a cheap deal). - whatever you do, watch the video on how to put disembarkation labels on your cases BEFORE trying to do it yourself. I could go on. The fact remains, we had a thoroughly enjoyable cruise: the weather and seas were good, there were plenty of sunbeds, I put on 6lb ... With disembarkation, they rose to the occasion. Half the guests were due to fly back to Gatwick, but couldn't because the outcoming flight was cancelled thanks to drones. We were given reallocated cabins for an extra night on board. The empty cabin we were allocated had wedding bells and a Do Not Disturb sign ready for the arriving couple. The trouble was, they were already in residence when we tried to get in ... Someone Else Had Blundered. They got us away effectively 24 hours late, and I think they handled it as well as anyone could reasonably expect. Not an enjoyable experience but not their fault. One last point about the flight back: apparently Fred. Olsen charter a Thomas Cook Airbus. As one can, I went on the TC website and paid for extra legroom seats. Apparently they take no notice of this because the boarding passes we were given were for quite different, standard, seats. However, all's well that ends well: we raised this with the cabin staff and they put us in 2 spare Premium seats. Had the flight been full, though ... worth thinking about. A good trip. Would we go again? Definitely. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
I had only been on one cruise previously. It was on Braemar and I enjoyed it so much that I decided I would go on Braemar again in December. The destination wasn't important. It was the Carribean and it was a wonderful experience. ... Read More
I had only been on one cruise previously. It was on Braemar and I enjoyed it so much that I decided I would go on Braemar again in December. The destination wasn't important. It was the Carribean and it was a wonderful experience. The most important thing in my opinion was the wonderful staff and the great food on the Braemar. Entertainment was good - but wouldn't be really important to me. The lovely staff and the great people I met on Braemar was amazing. One thing which really impressed me about Fred Olsen was the way they dealt with the problem of Gatwick airport being closed. I took the Farewell Barbados tour on the last day of my holiday, December 20. It left us off at the airport. When it was discovered that Gatwick was closed we were transferred back to the ship, given our original cabins, dinner, breakfast and lunch the next day before being returned to the airport. They could easily have left us at the airport the previous evening. Needless to say we were all so very grateful. So thanks Fred Olsen! Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Saw this advertised on our first ever cruise last April, and we were not disappointed. The Panama canal was awesome, and the South Pacific a lifetime experience. The lectures especially Peter on port excursions was funny and to the ... Read More
Saw this advertised on our first ever cruise last April, and we were not disappointed. The Panama canal was awesome, and the South Pacific a lifetime experience. The lectures especially Peter on port excursions was funny and to the point. James Fraser and the photography lectures were excellent my husband and I learnt such a lot, now I know how to use my camera on the phone, tablet and hand held camera. Please can he join our next cruise in July. We enjoyed the trip dispite the noisy neighbours in the next cabin so much that we rejoined the ship in Dubai 3 weeks after leaving in Brisbane, Australia. So we travelled section 2 and 4 of the world cruise. The other guests were delightful especially on our dinner table for both segments. The stewardess for cabins, bar and restaurant were helpful and friendly. A huge Thank you to the chaplain rev Richard frost and Jill his wife, the morning service on cruise days were always thoughtful. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We chose this cruise to see the South Pacific and avoid much of the English winter. We have cruised a lot, including with Fred, so knew the pitfalls, which were mainly that this is an old ship with the sort of problems it may throw up. ... Read More
We chose this cruise to see the South Pacific and avoid much of the English winter. We have cruised a lot, including with Fred, so knew the pitfalls, which were mainly that this is an old ship with the sort of problems it may throw up. In the event, we got away with one episode of arcon failure, when some of us slept on deck, but were rewarded with a £75 sweetener. On the plus side, this was about as cheaply as we would be able to visit the remote islands of the South Pacific. Lectures were excellent, we played bridge on sea days and the ship was well run. Our biggest grumble - and this is a recurring theme with Fred - is their refusal to bring in what is now the industry standard of open seating for dinner. To stick with the old system of two sittings, in this case 6.15 or 8,30, is absurd, in fact the maitre d' admitted his job would be easier if they had open seating, as almost all other cruise lines do. If there is a sudden rush,just give people a pager and ask them to sit down for a few minutes, works a treat and we've never had to wait long. Apart from having to eat either too early or too late, the other big disadvantage with set seating is that you are stuck with the same table companions for the duration; if you want to do so,that's fine, but many of us like to meet a variety of guests. So come on Fred, join the rest of the world! In spite of the above grumbles, we had a great cruise and saw lots of interesting places in generally good weather. If you want a completely trouble-free cruise, go up-market - and pay the price! Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
This was our first Fred Olsen cruise having previously sailed with Royal Caribbean and P&O. Not long after booking we got a call offering us a tour of the ship, I asked the lady to call back the next day as I needed to discuss with the ... Read More
This was our first Fred Olsen cruise having previously sailed with Royal Caribbean and P&O. Not long after booking we got a call offering us a tour of the ship, I asked the lady to call back the next day as I needed to discuss with the wife. No call back. Later we had a recorded message telling us that our dining room had been changed with no reason/explanation given. When we went to check in they couldn’t find our reservation eventually we were told that our cabin had been changed. I said that our luggage labels had the original allocated cabin and was told that this would be known and sorted. It wasn’t our cases were put outside the original cabin. We were not advised of our dining table number and had to wait on the first evening whilst this was found out for us. We had a nice large cabin but the ship was smaller than we are used to so we always knew we were at sea. The shower/bath towels were small and thin in fact the towels in the cabin for use when sunbathing were of better quality. The entertainment during the day was mixed, the entertainment staff were rather young and immature considering the age of the passengers. The evening entertainment was poor with only one show in fact the best show was the one put on by the crew rather than the on board “professional team”. The British Night was very good. On the plus side the food (particularly the evening menu) was excellent and the staff were very friendly and courteous speaking to us by name straight away. Having a buffet breakfast was disappointing having been used to a waiter service from P&O. Fred Olsen seem to have a very loyal customer base with most of the passengers we spoke with regular FO travellers. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
Chose this cruise for a last bit of sun before the winter. We had previously been on the Braemar and really liked the fact that it is a small ship with an intimate feel. It was incredibly good value and I wanted to work with the fitness ... Read More
Chose this cruise for a last bit of sun before the winter. We had previously been on the Braemar and really liked the fact that it is a small ship with an intimate feel. It was incredibly good value and I wanted to work with the fitness instructor, Pat who is the best yoga teacher I have encountered again. Having now been on the Boudicca as well, the layout of the Braemar works far better. It is logical and has an intimate feel, although some of the decor is starting to look a little tired. Embarkation was very quick. Picked up key card and walked straight on. Although we arrived quite late the restaurant was still open with hot food available. The general service, activities and port excursions were all good, and the room, though on the small side was comfortable, however I spent very little time in it other than to sleep! There were a few surprises I did not expect that made this the best cruise experience I have had. Firstly Fred Olsen appointed a new executive chef and the same food went from mediocre to superb compared with the previous trip on Braemar I had in August. Secondly my companion and I found friends on board with whom we had a greatest laugh ever. Lastly the quality of the music and humour provided by Brendan Kidulis, the musician in the Morning Light Pub made it a truly enjoyable experience. A shame the shows weren't of the same standard, however. We enjoyed all the port visits. We chose not to do many tours as the Canary stopovers were all to accessible interesting towns. They one we did do was whale watching on Tenerife which was fantastic. The Cape Verde islands were a fascinating snapshot of Africa and very different from the Canaries. Can't imagine why they have 'green' in the name - brown and windy was more accurate. The overall experience was great, the service superb, and I would not hesitate to book another cruise on the Braemar. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
Mystery cruise was great fun ,no idea where we were going until we entered port .very well organised and the crew kept the secrets well .Fellow passengers were annoying in their determination to tell you they knew where we were going . I ... Read More
Mystery cruise was great fun ,no idea where we were going until we entered port .very well organised and the crew kept the secrets well .Fellow passengers were annoying in their determination to tell you they knew where we were going . I did not want to know and told them so .Way to many passengers were doing cruise price paid comparisons which I never understand , if you booked you must have been happy with the price you paid otherwise you would not book surely ?I think the price of extras in the ships general shop are excessive as in £5 for a standard size bar of Cadbury’s milk chocolate ,silly .service in the pub lounge was poor but the observatory bar was brilliant . The single travellers get together at the start of the cruise was a shambles and served no purpose . Balmoral is a great small ship well maintained and nicely appointed. Shame about some of the passengers !The food is 4 star country house hotel food nicely presented and good choices daily with good main course portions .The shows were very mixed but that is subjective I suspect . The classic piano recitals were superb . Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
The background for choosing this cruise, was a family bereavement. The purpose was to have a relaxing cruise to somewhere new. The Braemar cruise of "cruising the Seine" to Rouen then down to Honfluer, prior to return to ... Read More
The background for choosing this cruise, was a family bereavement. The purpose was to have a relaxing cruise to somewhere new. The Braemar cruise of "cruising the Seine" to Rouen then down to Honfluer, prior to return to Southampton, we thought would fit the bill. How wrong can you be. We booked via a travel agent, a suite on a guarantee bases at what we thought was a good price, then came the extras, 1st sitting and a drinks package. The requirement of a table for 2 we were told would have to arranged with the Maitre d' once on board. It was only after the booking was made I was informed we were on Anchor grade by Olsen. The luggage labels arrived 2 weeks prior to embarkation day, allocated 7008, port side near the bridge. Then 2 days before the cruise Olsen sent blank luggage labels, with no covering letter to explain why. On the booking in at Southampton we were told our cabin was one of several that were being refurbished in that area. Suite 7002 was our new suite allocation, which turned out to be a large sitting area with a small windowless bedroom. We were moved next door to a cabin with twin beds. But adjacent to the suites [including 7008] being refurbished. Dinner was the 1st sitting in the Grampian restaurant, and this started the nightmare. On entering the Grampian no Maitre d' to show us to a table, so we sat down at a table for 2 , only to be told you can't sit there. After handing my cabin card to the staff four times, I was told we were not on "the manifest". We were then put on a table for 6.The staff were not properly trained. When asked what was the fish of the day, he did not know and came back later to say it was Catfish. The house Pinot wine was corked, and declined and were informed it could not be, as it was a new bottle. After a plain uneaten main dish, we went to the rather nice bar for a nightcap, before we went back to the suite. The suite had a large bedroom come lounge area and what looked like a large balcony. I say looked because possibly of the adjacent refurbishing it was locked. The bathroom was tiny and for me, a 6 footer too small a toilet and shower. The shower was useless no pressure. The mattresses were hard and the pillows too soft, I like it the other was round. Sleep was not forthcoming the hardness of the mattress and poor air quality prevented a relaxed sleep. Next day we asked why we were treated so badly in the Grampian at diner. To be told that as we were on on Anchor fares we were not entitled to have pre-allocated table and that our table number would be in the cabin, but was not. No did we know beforehand this was the procedure. I explained that the reason we declined a large table was my partner did not want to have to go through the questioning of " how many children etc." The main dinning room had a table which we could have for diner for 2. This turned out to be by the entrance with the only outlook onto the table for disabled. Too depressing and declined. Diner for the next 4 nights was in the Palm canteen. At least we had a table for 2. The "Palm" had the worst food of the cruise. The only good point for me was the cheese. We also had to pay extra for a decent wine. The best meals were breakfast, good if you like bacon eggs and potatoes. Not good if you want anything but melon as a healthy start to the day, where was the Strawberries, Raspberries and blueberries etc? We never saw the usual cruise dishes of Lobster, Steak or fresh fish such as Salmon. To provide some interest we would dine in the ports for lunch, the L'Alcyone in Honfluer is worth a visit. To finish the cruise, the sea on way back to Southampton was a little rocky, but what kept us awake was the continual banging of the wardrobe doors swinging open and closing. I have gone into great detail on why it was a very disappointing.. Perhaps I was expecting more and was comparing to the 4,5 and 6* cruises we have enjoyed over the years., but I would grade the ship 2* max. Poor accommodation, uncomfortable bed, poor shower. Poor dinning, cheap and limited menus, making in my judgement a not successful cruise experience, and certainly not worth the over £360 per day for the suite. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We have just returned from a trip with Fred Olsen, I hesitate to call it a cruise because as far as we were concerned (and other passengers) this was not a cruise, we booked this quite late as we had some A/L to use up and this fitted the ... Read More
We have just returned from a trip with Fred Olsen, I hesitate to call it a cruise because as far as we were concerned (and other passengers) this was not a cruise, we booked this quite late as we had some A/L to use up and this fitted the dates, when I booked I was told that we would be getting the 'Anchor fare' and therefore we were getting it cheap, they went on to explain that because of that we could not choose our cabin, dinner sitting and we would be excluded from certain 'perks' to be honest it was only for 5 days so we said fine, I was once again told I was 'getting it cheap', after the 3rd time of being told this I finally managed to book it, all the info was emailed through telling us again that as this was an 'Anchor fare' and we were getting it cheaper we would be excluded from any offers, at this point I was getting a bit sick of hearing this!! Embarkation was smooth and efficient, we had a cabin on the 3rd deck, it was small but served its purpose, we were given first sitting at dinner, bit early for us but we were after all getting it cheap, we had to pay for the shuttle service, which was really required for both ports, a total of £30, we were not invited to meet the Captain, but again we were not to worried, it was rather strange when we were talking to some people about the price of the shuttle service we were told ( by a couple who were passengers) it was our own fault we should have paid full price like they had, anyway back to the 'Cruise' it was titled 'Cruising the Seine' or words to that effect, we left Southampton at 8pm so it was overnight crossing the channel, we arrived at Rouen at mid morning, so we saw very little of the Seine, that was on the Sunday, we left Rouen at 8pm on the Tuesday, and arrived at Honfluer early Wednesday morning, so the actual cruise was mainly in the dark at night, Fred Olsen's cruise Itineraries are very basic, they do not give you times of departure or arrivals it is just early/late am or early/late pm, we felt this trip was just to keep the ship moving and fill an empty time slot, there were no meet the crew or formal night, not port lectures no port maps, no guest speakers, no art/crafts, infact not a lot was going on, we have sailed with Fred Olsen on a few occasions in the past and had a great time, but this for us was our last trip with Fred Olsen, ourselves and other 'Anchor fare' passengers were made to feel like second class passengers, what is even worse we were not looking for a bargain, just a nice break from work. On a scale of 1 to 10 we would say a 4, this would be for the nice staff, nice food and very good couple of shows. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
This was the first time on this ship having sailed previously many time on Breamar and Black Watch. My wife has limited mobility and we did not find the ship user friendly.b The steps onto the external deck are steep and the ramp ... Read More
This was the first time on this ship having sailed previously many time on Breamar and Black Watch. My wife has limited mobility and we did not find the ship user friendly.b The steps onto the external deck are steep and the ramp placed over part of them is too steep. The disabled toilet being placed with the door on one side of a ‘porch’ like access does NOT have an electric door opener and hand button to actuate. Result is that access is not easy. Debarking is complicated by the fact that the waiting lounges are on deck 7 whilst gangway access is on deck 6 resulting for disabled people having to use only two local lifts resulting in congestion and delays. Overall the ship is good certainly brought up to a high level by the crew who are, as with other Fred ships, excelptional. Every member contacted was polite and very helpful indeed. The food was the usual Fred high standard but could have been presented on hotter plates. Overall and enjoyable holiday. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
we have travelled on the fred olsen ship Balmoral over 10 times and we joined her again in October 2018 in Southampton for our yearly cruise to the Canaries. As soon as you step on the Balmoral 's carpet you feel as if someone has ... Read More
we have travelled on the fred olsen ship Balmoral over 10 times and we joined her again in October 2018 in Southampton for our yearly cruise to the Canaries. As soon as you step on the Balmoral 's carpet you feel as if someone has put their arm around you and says come on in we will give you a really good time. The weather on this cruise was not good but the crew always did their best to entertain us. The crew are so friendly and the entertainment is of a very high standard, particularly the show company . The daily activities are fun and varied and Alex and Duncan were great and organised the games and quizzes really well. The food is excellent and the service extremely efficient . Our waiters were so kind and attentive and accommodated any request which deviated from the menu. Our fellow diners were charming which is important as you are allocated set tables for the evening meal. You are of course at liberty to visit the self service palms cafe if you wish to dine more informally. The embarkation ran very smoothly and we can't wait to see her again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
Local port , easy transport, weather very rough on sea days, food & staff excellent, apart from the restaurant Maitre D , who was most unhelpful, we asked to change our dining time as my husband is diabetic, we were told we would have ... Read More
Local port , easy transport, weather very rough on sea days, food & staff excellent, apart from the restaurant Maitre D , who was most unhelpful, we asked to change our dining time as my husband is diabetic, we were told we would have to pay extra. Fred Olsen want extra money all the time, 10 pounds each for shuttle bus in Lanzarote, 16 pounds for 5 cappuccinos. My husband had a fall & was helped by a member of the bar staff, an officer walked by & ignored us. Same happened to a very frail lady, the Hotel manager just walked past her. We had been to all the ports before so didn't take any trips, which like all cruises are hugely overpriced. cabin was very comfy, we paid extra for a window, & we were well looked after by our lovely stewardess. The sea water swimming pool was lovely, nice & warm, a bit deep at 7 ft 1 end & nearly 6 at shallow end. Arriving back in Liverpool, was great, we were home within 45 minutes, a big bonus. Overall a good cruise, the weather could have been better. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
My wife and I recently took our first cruise. We travelled on Deck 5 in an outer, windowed cabin, on Fred Olsen's Balmoral to the North German ports of Bremen, Hamburg and Kiel dep Newcastle 19 November. To say it was grossly ... Read More
My wife and I recently took our first cruise. We travelled on Deck 5 in an outer, windowed cabin, on Fred Olsen's Balmoral to the North German ports of Bremen, Hamburg and Kiel dep Newcastle 19 November. To say it was grossly disappointing would be to ignore the few highlights, but even they are too few to persuade us to repeat the experience. The worst aspect was the selfish and uncouth behaviour of most of the passengers. Billed as 'adults-only' this should have been subtitled, 'ideal for greedy, self-centred and rude elderly people'. The experience began as soon as we got on board where we discovered what the 'Olsen Regulars' already knew - that the light afternoon tea of finger sandwiches and cakes were laid out self-service style. Because the staff made no attempt to serve the passengers, the Olsen Regulars who charged on board at the first opportunity had emptied the single tray of roast beef sandwiches leaving just the egg mayonnaise and other lesser fillings for the others. Mind, that didn't stop the Olsen Regulars pushing, (actually 'forcing' would be more accurate), their ways past those who boarded later to wreck and largely waste the cake display. So greedy were these people they misused the serving tools and instead of serving themselves a single portion of cake they destroyed one or two others which they left for the lesser mortals behind them and helped themselves to a third or even fourth undamaged cake. I'm told by more experienced travellers that this is normal behaviour on cruise ships, especially Olsen. If so the solution is within the cruise lines' control, ie serve these teas so all passengers get a fair share. Hardly rocket science. It was a coincidence that one of the films showing in the cabins was The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - not only an excellent film but also very apposite. In the open sequences the character played by Dame Maggie Smith explains to an American hotel employee who's just served her a mug with a tea bag and a flask of warm water that 'tea is a dried herb that's brought back to life by infusion in boiling water, not the lukewarm piss you've served'. That's exactly what every cup of tea served on Balmoral tasted like, grey, tepid urine. And the coffee's not much better unless you pay extra for it when they actually use real coffee. Again the solution is within Olsen's control, either teach your staff how to make tea and coffee or subcontract to Costa or Café Nero. Like un-monitored pre-school children, guests were allowed to behave as they wished regardless of the inconvenience they caused other passengers. For instance couples spread themselves and their knitting and newspapers right across a four-seat settee and refused to make space for other passengers wanting to sit down and buy a coffee. Far too many passengers using their own powered wheelchairs used the public areas like raceways to the detriment of everyone else. As we were disembarking at Newcastle the queue refused to budge for one elderly man trying to back out of a lift pulling his wife in a wheelchair, while at the same time another, obese man using a walking stick was trying to force his way into the same lift and complaining volubly because the wheelchair was in his way. God knows how many would have died due the selfish attitudes of passengers towards others if the ship had sunk. Now for some due praise. The cabin service was excellent, flawless. The girls deserve a raise for if anyone comes back it will be in large part due to them. True, the corners of the bathroom could do with steam cleaning with an industrial machine but that's a small point. The serving staff in the Ballindalloch restaurant were also generally excellent and are due similar praise though a little more attention to the cleanliness of glassware wouldn't go amiss. Sadly the quality of the staff didn't extend to the so-called premier restaurants, Spey and Avon. On two days my wife and I took lunch in these restaurants. On the first day we chose self-service, on the second we selected from the menu. That day we shared our table with a courteous and polite solo passenger. After our meal we were offered coffee and all of us accepted. The waiter brought two coffee cups, one saucer and a pot containing half a cup of lukewarm coffee. When we pointed out his omissions the waiter shrugged his shoulders and walked away. Other deficiencies we noticed in these restaurants were that waiters removed plates before diners had fully digested their last mouthful and plates were removed from one diner in a party who had finished eating before the others had completed their meal. There is little point in having an industrial toaster if the waiter operating it pre-toasts the bread and places this hot toast on a plate (albeit inside a napkin) so it's ready cooled for the next customer. This is idiocy. In general the food was adequate though occasionally tastes and flavours were rather too subtle and indiscernible. This comment applies especially to desserts, for instance lime and lemon cream item that's bright coloured but almost flavourless. My wife and I took the speciality Indian meal. We assumed that the kitchen does not include a tandoor oven but that really was no excuse for naan bread tasting more like cake. The spice in the curries was very muted and completely unrepresentative of Indian food that most passengers would know. A very poor extra. We purchased the All-in bar supplement but frankly this was not a good idea. Bar staff served erratic measures and didn't always get the right drink e.g. gin and vodka were often confused. Furthermore they constantly urged passengers to order doubles which obviously saved them work but was in contrast to the rigidly-enforced rule that passengers mustn't be served a second drink was the first is on the table. The maitre d' and the charming couple running the bridge sessions need to get some balls. In the case of the maitre d' it is not acceptable when the majority of passengers have observed the dress code for the two formal nights to have to suffer passengers seated on the same or nearby tables who have refused to conform for their own personal reasons. The code is well published and if any diner doesn't wish to observe it they should be obliged to eat elsewhere. Frankly the dress code is unimportant to the men but a courtesy to the ladies who can choose to dress up a bit if they wish. The same criticism must be levelled at the couple who run the bridge sessions. My wife and I were looking forward to learning to play bridge but our experience was completely spoiled by another couple who turned up at the beginners session despite being very experienced players. Their objective was simply to impress us with their expertise (and conversely our mediocrity) and furthermore to criticise the explanation and teaching being given by the experts. In contrast, although my wife and I were only observers, the dance tutors and hosts performed in an absolutely exemplary manner. They were not only skilled but courteous and polite and frankly a credit to whoever employs them. There is an air of parsimony in many cases throughout the ship. For example, doctors regularly recommend the elderly to drink a litre of water per day. For Olsen to charge £1.50 for a bottle in the cabin shows the company in a very poor light The entertainment offered on-board varied from first-class to puerile. The three headline acts, Geoff Taylor, Andy Eastwood and Paul Broadwood were excellent. The second level entertainers were adequate and Howard Johnson deserves special mention. Adam Reece on the other hand needed to practice. Having said that, playing music for others to talk through is a thankless task. However there is no excuse for the frankly paltry concert party. It was amateur, the singers were often out of tune and frankly Bolton amateur operatic society (with which I have no connection) would have done a better job. A number of guests who had sailed on Balmoral earlier in the season told us they had already seen the concert party performances and they were no better even after practice. If shows are contracted over a season and customers are likely to find themselves seeing the same shows twice or more they should at least be warned. For readers with young children around them the leader was reminiscent of the very talented Mr Tumble - though completely devoid of talent, charm, stagecraft or ability. He couldn't sing either. Although only six piece, the house band in the Neptune lounge was terrific. The same cannot be said of the Lido quartet who needed a considerably wider repertoire. Despite the description printed regularly in the ship's newspaper, Amy Winehouse is not representative of music of the 60s 70s or 80s. The music that was performed was too often music to slit your throat to. Even worse was the indulgence by the Olsen company of the leader of the concert party with a solo performance one evening the purpose of which he was quite open about was to provide him with a video for his CV. Again his comments revealed that his parents and possibly his grandmother were also on board and a number of people sitting near us wondered aloud how much discount they'd received. Of course staff discounts may be extended to their family but I suggest Olsen reviews the publicity staff are allowed to give this perk and treat them in the same way as British Airways staff are required to do, ie don't draw attention to your family. Of course cruise passengers realise that itineraries may have to be varied according to the vagaries of the weather. In our case it required us to remain a second day in Hamburg and all passengers were impressed by the announcement that tickets on the shuttle buses on the second day would be free in contrast to the £5 round-trip ticket charge the day before. The gesture was, of course, completely hollow since the queue to get on a bus into the city involved a 90 minute wait in line on the dockside and a 60 minute wait in the Hamburg street for the return journey. Bearing in mind how many passengers needed walking sticks and other aids the parsimony was a disgrace. You urgently need a competent cruise director who knows that his job is organising things like adequate numbers of buses and not replacing the compere at the Palladium. He needs also to be taught to speak clearly not gabble. Clearly Olsen is terrified of Norovirus. I have no experience of it but I do know that the way you handle the refusal of the captain and his crew to touch passengers even at a formal reception needs a serious review. By all means replace the receiving line with a pleasant, personal welcome and presentation but to word it in the way it was unnecessarily proscriptive. Additionally, on that subject, all the chairs in the dining rooms need a serious cleaning – the wooden arms and lower frames of most chairs were sticky. Again, most of the Dyson hand dryers in the men's toilets need urgent servicing. They only dry the backs of the hands - almost no air comes out of the palm elements. A final note of praise: the selection of films available on the televisions in the cabins was varied and should have appealed to most tastes. Overall, I would define our experience with Fred Olsen lines and Balmoral as a better-than-average holiday camp afloat. It had all the disadvantages of an all-inclusive hotel holiday without the single benefit that you can always walk out the door and into town. On the evidence of this cruise, once you've seen one German port you've seen the lot. We took advantage of the two days in Bremen to take a train to Lübeck and spend a delightful and informative – if a little wet – day in a fascinating city, but this was an exception. Our experience with Fred Olsen has ensured that we shall not be cruising again nor going to the pantomime in Billingham on Teesside where the majority of the concert party have apparently been hired to perform. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
The reason for choosing this cruise were many One the embarkation and disembarkation port was only half hour from home so we did not have any extra travel to join the ship.TwoThe ship Balmoral, we have sailed on this ship in the past and ... Read More
The reason for choosing this cruise were many One the embarkation and disembarkation port was only half hour from home so we did not have any extra travel to join the ship.TwoThe ship Balmoral, we have sailed on this ship in the past and have had a wonderful time . The food,entertainment and ports of call had always been good. The size off the ship was also to our liking, friendly yet spacious but there was always things to keep you occupied whether it be energetic or a quiet spot to do a jigsaw or sit with coffee and loose your self in one of the many books in the very good library. The talks during the day also give a change of interest or where some of the guests took advantage and had a sleep. If you needed help there was always one of crew around willing to give you a hand. We did have a problem with the cabin on this cruise in the shower and the toilet, later we had debris blowing from the ventilation we where offered a change of accommodation but told no guarantee that the same thing would not happen, so we declined. All of the problems were attended to soon after they were reported. We now look forward to our next cruise with Fred Olsen Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
This was our first cruise with Fred Olsen and we chose it because of the itinerary. Both embarkation and disembarkation were efficient and we were pleased with our cabin`s position and size. There were only 600 on board so the ship felt ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Fred Olsen and we chose it because of the itinerary. Both embarkation and disembarkation were efficient and we were pleased with our cabin`s position and size. There were only 600 on board so the ship felt very comfortable but might have felt cramped with another 200 guests. Our cabin was fine, with a large window and our stewardess was efficient and unobtrusive .It was very useful to have a laundry room with ironing boards, washers and dryers and a bag of washing could be laundered at a very reasonable £12. We started by having dinner at second sitting but, finishing our meal at about 10.30 made it late getting to the show and impossible to get to the quiz so we changed to first sitting on a table for two. Dinner at 6.15 is too early so we realise that, in future, we would find a cruise offering one or open sitting. The food was consistently good with an excellent breakfast and lunch buffet and a good choice at dinner although the food was sometimes of variable quality at dinner. Entertainment was good with a very hard-working team. The captain, Mikael Degerlund,is the star of the ship - very hands-on with excellent management skills and clearly appreciated by all staff. He hosted two cocktail parties and the crossing of the equator with considerable flair and humour. The staff worked hard to make everyone feel happy and, as there is quite an elderly clientele on board, they go out of their way to make everyone feel comfortable and looked after. On the minus side, certain areas of the ship looked very shabby - the pool area on deck 6 is in urgent need of re-grouting of tiles and varnishing of paintwork. Soot continually fell from the funnel and onto clothes, decks and seating - I had some clothing washed free of charge but this shouldn`t happen. There was also a continuous smell of fuel which made sitting on deck unpleasant at times. The drinks package did not include bottled water for trips nor even the cocktail of the day. The wine by the glass was of variable quality - I was told that there was no Sauvignon Blanc at all, despite it being listed, so changed to Chenin Blanc only to be told there was no more of that. When I complained at the information desk I received an apology and a box of chocolates and the wine reappeared. The cava was appalling and must have been the cheapest possible - many people were drinking it but it felt as though it was burning on my tongue! The choice of beer was also poor - in future, I would not buy the package and would choose my own drinks. The tours were VERY expensive. The ports in the Maldives were poor and gave little indication of how beautiful these islands really are. The trip to Moyenne Island in the Seychelles was overcrowded and, with only one zodiac to transfer 60 people to the island, some people were left waiting for almost an hour. Unfortunately, due to heavy seas, we couldn`t dock at Praslin where we had planned two days of snorkelling. We were also surprised that some exercise classes were charged for as these are usually included on other ships There was no zumba class and only two line dancing classes so, with several days at sea, there was not much in the way of exercise classes although there were plenty of craft and dancing classes. Would we go again with Fred Olsen? - there were people on board who had cruised with "Fred" multiple times but we would probably only go if we got a good deal as we were not happy to see our cruise advertised at a 40% reduction only 2 weeks before we embarked. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
Mainly itinerary and the time of year, less crowded places. Embarkation swift and efficient at the Port of Tyne. Very lucky with the weather for the time of year apart from Gothenburg and Helsinki. The food was of good quality and ... Read More
Mainly itinerary and the time of year, less crowded places. Embarkation swift and efficient at the Port of Tyne. Very lucky with the weather for the time of year apart from Gothenburg and Helsinki. The food was of good quality and varied, breakfast lunch and dinner. Service in the bars and restaurants was excellent although a little slow in the self service cafe. The crew and staff always seemed happy and smiling, friendly and efficient. Cabin although on deck 3 was adequate with plenty of wardrobe and drawer space, comfortable beds and a good shower. The two shore excursions we took in St. Petersburg were excellent with very knowledgeable guides. All other ports we explored by ourselves and found that easy using the maps provided. We only experienced two shows , one of which was the crew show, very enjoyable. We really loved the whole experience and booked while on board for next year. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
Its been 14 years since we did a Fred Olsen Cruise as we have mainly sailed with 5 Star Cruise Lines, but this cruise was from the Tyne and a short 15 minute taxi ride from our home and visiting some ports we had not visited before. So we ... Read More
Its been 14 years since we did a Fred Olsen Cruise as we have mainly sailed with 5 Star Cruise Lines, but this cruise was from the Tyne and a short 15 minute taxi ride from our home and visiting some ports we had not visited before. So we thought we would give them a try. So glad we did! Balmoral although an older ship is remarkably well maintained, far better than some lot newer ship we have travelled on. Staff service and friendliness leaves most other lines trailing in thier wake, Good food particulary in the Avon Restaurant and Made and Mark our waiters made this cruise. Weather was very good with only lght rain in Gothenburg and low lying mist in Helsinki all other ports fine a sunny and autuum colours in trees especially in St. Petersburg a real treat. We did our own thing in most ports but in Copenhagen and on the Evening in St.Petersburg we did Fred Olsen Tours, during the 2 days in St.Peterburg we did a independent small group tour with Cruising Excursions all tours were very good. Will we sail with Fred Olsen again ? YES and we will not be waiting another 14 years. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
I believe FO first time on this itinerary to India and initial visa problems should iron out as its definitely a wonderful country to visit. The ship IS getting old and the first two nights it was like sleeping on a Power plate the ... Read More
I believe FO first time on this itinerary to India and initial visa problems should iron out as its definitely a wonderful country to visit. The ship IS getting old and the first two nights it was like sleeping on a Power plate the vibration was so bad (although after the safety officer dined with us and we complained - it stopped!). Problems with toilet drainage (my cabin in particular wasn’t totally solved) was evident. LOTS of black soot from funnel made me towns and cossies dirty - be warned. The show company were absolutely superb - top class entertainment, well choreographed and super singers (who also ran the singing for fun which was great!) - the little blonde Niamh disappeared the last few nights but hope she’s okay. Guest entertainers, Simon the comedian, Jo the saxophonist and singer along with Aiden the magician were very good also and the last show they did where they worked together was hilarious - nice to see how well they got on Big shout out to the destination desk, the lovely ladies Alex and Jen were SO helpful in altering plans and changing shore tours without flapping at all. Customer services - its probably a cultural thing but the young ladies there were coolly professional but totally without empathy; so when you’re cabin card didn’t work 3 times in succession a bland ‘I’ll print you another’ truly isn’t sufficient when you’d actually like an “Oh I’m so sorry about that” - this aspect was commented on by several guests and I believe needs addressing by FO on the staff training side Cabin, you get what you pay for and my balcony suite was good (apart from loo problems!) and kept spotless by Miac. The food was lovely throughout and despite the rather unfriendly waiting staff in the poolside restaurant, I often used it for breakfast as the eggs benedict and fruit plate were superb. The ship was only half full so our table at dinner only had 4 out of 6 people but we all got on well and the waiting staff were very nice and efficient. (We ate in four seasons) The excursions with one exception (Zeebop by the sea) were excellent and I’d recommend them esp the Tuk tuk rides!! I did enjoy the cruise, loved the ports we called at (will def visit Sri Lanka for a full visit) and this boat comes 3rd out of 4 of the Freds for me. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
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