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133 Fred. Olsen Cruise Reviews

Me and my partner went on the Australasian leg of the Black Watch World cruise 2104. We boarded the ship in Sydney March 15, 2014. When we had boarded we learnt from some of the fellow passengers that there had been a newspaper article ... Read More
Me and my partner went on the Australasian leg of the Black Watch World cruise 2104. We boarded the ship in Sydney March 15, 2014. When we had boarded we learnt from some of the fellow passengers that there had been a newspaper article about the previous legs of the cruise.The ship had broken its propeller and had it be repaired. Also we were informed that a passenger had jumped off the ship and committed suicide. Well onboard we found our cabin on deck 5, said to be a deluxe cabin. Couldn't find out where the luxury was. After a week we were informed that we had to move because of an emergent maintenance. This was informed to us through a letter under our cabin door at 10 pm! No personal information. No explanation. They wanted to move us to a cabin on deck 4 with portholes. And, as a gesture of good-will they offered us 320 British pounds in compensation! This was just what we had paid extra for not having portholes! Then they offered us a cabin on deck 8 and told us that we had to move the next day after we came back from a tour. Next day, when inspecting that cabin, we found out that they repaired the bathroom so we could not move in there. At this stage our patience with the ships staff was running out. But finally it ended with them offering us another cabin on deck 8 with a great balcony, some sort of suite. OK, it ended fine for us. But how do they treat their passengers that do not argue with them? The food onboard is very British! No real highlights. I would say... just average. You do not travel with Black Watch for the food! I would say perhaps a 2,5-3 out of 5. Definitely not more. How can they serve canned litchies when you are in ports where they have so much fresh fruit? We got the answer the last day in Singapore. They captain then announced that the ship had to wait in port for at least one more day due to a late incoming container ship from England. This ship should deliver three containers of food from - England!!! All food onboard so far had been brought from the beginning of the journey, from England. Can't British people eat other food than British? Fred Olsen do what they can do make money. So, for example you have to pay 5 pounds for the shuttle buses. 1 pound for 50 cl water on excursions which are heavily overpriced! Fellow passengers? Mainly British lower middle class/working class people in their late 70s and up. Perhaps even older than that. Not all passengers were using wheelchairs or rollator walkers but many, many. I don't know how many who died during the cruise out of old age, but it has to be quite a few. The ship priest died in Cairns. Even if not all passengers are British so do Fred Olsen treat all passengers as if they were. All entertainment on the ship catered to the British. On tv they just had British channels. If you were not British you were more or less out. We, not British, didn't really matter to them! The ship has some formal nights, but it looked more like a masquerade. Formal did not really mean formal to mane passengers. Also they had some theme nights. One of them is British! What on earth is that? How do you dress when you are not British? The ship in itself? Well, from the outside she is a beauty. But on the inside she is an old wreck, like the passengers. The water in the taps was brown/yellow from rust (?). They had close the water system quite often for maintenance. The rust on the outside showed in so many places. I just wonder how she looks on the inside. Or perhaps I don't want to know. In short: The crew saved the cruise! The captain Age Danielsen did a good job with telling us stories etc about the places we visited. The staff in the Garden Café did a very good job under the management of the Captain waiter. Would I go again with Fred Olsen? Hard to think so. Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
We have cruised 20 plus times before on both small and larger ships but I have to say Fred Olsen is our least favourite Cruise Line to date. There were many people on board who have never sailed with any other cruise line, had done many ... Read More
We have cruised 20 plus times before on both small and larger ships but I have to say Fred Olsen is our least favourite Cruise Line to date. There were many people on board who have never sailed with any other cruise line, had done many cruises with Fred Olsen and were very happy but everyone has different expectations and opinions. Firstly the good points, our cabin attendant was brilliant and kept our cabin very clean. Our waiters at dinner in the Grampian restaurant were also first class. The Braemar Singers and Dancers were excellent with their display of talent and enthusiasm and we enjoyed all their shows. The food, particularly at dinner was well cooked and presented and was of a good standard. We were aware it is an old ship but that did not bother us. We were not expecting it to be glitzy. Now for the things we were not happy with. Our cabin on deck 4 forward was small and very noisy. The pool deck could at times be very grubby with piles of soot blown into corners. One day after walking on the pool deck the soles of my feet were black. The sun beds were also dirty and had seen better days. Many times when we decided to walk on the promenade deck parts of it were closed off for maintenance. Painting was also carried out at various times within a foot of people sunbathing on the pool deck, thus causing a very unpleasant smell.This happened on a sea day when the deck was busy. The meal times in the buffet seemed to be shorter than we have previously experienced and it was closed at various times. There was not enough seating if the weather was bad particularly at teatime which only lasted for 45 minutes. On one occasion we ended up eating tea outside in a chilly high wind barely able to keep the food on the plate as there were no vacant seats inside. Not an experience I would wish to repeat. The problem of seating inside on a bad weather day was ongoing. Although this is a small ship there just seemed to be too many people on it. On larger ships there seems to be less crowding and it is usually possible to find a quiet corner. This seemed impossible to do on the Braemar. We decided against eating Breakfast or Lunch in The Palms Buffet as whenever we looked there always seemed to be a queue waiting to be seated. Most days we ate lunch in The Grampian Restaurant. The choices from the menu always seemed good and we rarely used the buffet section. The problem with this and The Thistle Restaurant was that as both buffet and al la carte meals were being served at the same time. That coupled with the fact that you could be seated at a table with people who were at different stages of their meal made life very difficult for the waiters who were all working very hard. We also could not make out why there would not be a menu for each person supplied at breakfast or lunch. These had to be passed around the table and looked well thumbed. We have not encountered these things on any other ship. Also, sometimes at breakfast or lunch the milk jugs did not look very clean, with a line of congealed stale milk around the rim. This was a off putting. Our main reason for taking this cruise was a short break away from the atrocious U.K. weather and this one fitted the bill. We did our own thing at all the ports of call and enjoyed the places we visited apart from El Heirro which seemed to have little to offer. We would have preferred to have visited Gran Canaria instead. We did think the £5 charge for shuttle buses at various ports a little steep. Especially at Lanzarote as basically it just took you to the outside of the dock area. We did not use it ourselves but thought that taking into account the age a physical capabilities of some of their passengers Fred Olsen could have supplied buses free of charge to all cabin grades as many other cruise lines do. Fred Olsen obviously has a very loyal following but I am afraid it is not for us. In our opinion we found Braemar to be very noisy, crowded and not very relaxing.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
Back again after 2 years attracted by intinerary which included Panama and Colombia. First mistake was not to book cruise only and fly out BA. The Monarch charter was poor to say the least even in the premium cabin. Old, scruffy planes, ... Read More
Back again after 2 years attracted by intinerary which included Panama and Colombia. First mistake was not to book cruise only and fly out BA. The Monarch charter was poor to say the least even in the premium cabin. Old, scruffy planes, poor food, no movies ...... no surprise that they are retiring the A330s and focussing on short haul. Cabin ok although a/c was tempremental. Probably the oldest fellow passengers yet and as they were determined to enjoy at all costs Fred was able to get away with reduced standards in all areas except dinner in the Grampian. We had second sitting, the food was very good and nothing too much for our waiters. Thankfully they let us mix the choices and on the nights where the standard options were limited stil managed to get a good result. Breakfast ok although buffet was the same every day - including tinned peaches (why?) Hey Fred we are in the Caribbean so where were the local fruits that grow in abundance on every island we visited? Very English menu most nights with the occasional Indian or Cajun option. I guess this caters for the over 75s who predominate. New Venus Coffee Shop - excellent Observatory Bar and Coral Club good service and atmosphere but forget the pub and Neptune Lounge (apart from Crew Show). Featured acts apart from the violin man were very poor especially the out dated comedian Bob Taylor who had the same routine as 4 years ago. We gave him the benefit if the doubt but to no avail - again the old folks must really like him. Best entertainment was Enrique in the Observatory (as always) and In Tune in the Coral witheir talented kead guitarist Lee who saved the day for us. Regarding the bar, total confusion about the all-inclusive option. Why limit it to house brands? Why have different charges depending on when you book? Come on Fred do the right thing add an extra £100 per week and have proper premium brand all-inclusive charging extra only for wine by the bottle and water in the room. After all the clientele hardly fits the profile of those that will drink themselves stupid every night. Paid for some shore excursions in advance. The Panama Railway was £95 and an absolute shambles. No literature, no pa in our railway carriage, poor description of the trip that did not highlight the amount if time soent looking at vegetation or the visit to the run down marina. We complained and got a £10 refund? Cartagena again was hit and miss with a visit to a lowcgrade shopping mall taking up 20% of the trip. In Santa Marta our coach did not have a crew member to shepherd the party resulting in a confused and beligerent passenger somewhat unfairly loudly berating our guide. Disembarkation is always a nightmare wasted day. We were actively dissuaded from making our own transfer plans in case we got lost and delayed the flight - please!! 5 hours waiting on board ship, 1 hour on a coach and then 2 hours at the airport. Health and safety is always a priority and while everyone had clean hands (no norovirus thankfully) the same people forgot themselves when it came to coughs and sneezes. Airborne germs had a field day, people who should have been confined to quarters or at least used the box of free tissues in their cabin let the side down. For me never again. Too English (no not British) for my liking. Too many people settling for mediocrity meaning things are unlikely to change.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
Very different from our previous cruises with Fred Olsen. Embarkation, a queue backed up onto the top of an escalator so that people coming up were falling over one another; need someone at the top of the escalator to prevent that ... Read More
Very different from our previous cruises with Fred Olsen. Embarkation, a queue backed up onto the top of an escalator so that people coming up were falling over one another; need someone at the top of the escalator to prevent that happening. Weather was atrocious but that was not their fault. Very opportunistic, Even proper coffee chargeable! Some junior male staff chauvinistic and rude. Others polite and helpful. Daytime entertainment on port days for those unable or unwilling to go ashore was abysmal. Arranged Bridge for port days myself, provided score sheets and obtained cards with difficulty. Tipping automatically added to bill though one could opt out. This fact need to be made more noticeable in literature. Cabin maids very good but appeared overworked. Watched safety drill for crew when in port one day. Crew gathered at muster points but saw no evidence of instruction on how to evacuate obese, disabled people, people with walking difficulties or those who are generally slow. Plenty of those on board! Food not up to previous standard. New years eve, Haggis as main dish option - one small scoop haggis, one small scoop mashed potato, one small scoop mashed swede and a dribble of whisky! Unlikely to travel with FO again! Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
As a regular and loyal Fred Olsen cruiser I would like to add my comments about this cruise. I chose this cruise to celebrate our 40th wedding Aniversary. It was booked last year at the full brochure price. Embarkation was smooth and the ... Read More
As a regular and loyal Fred Olsen cruiser I would like to add my comments about this cruise. I chose this cruise to celebrate our 40th wedding Aniversary. It was booked last year at the full brochure price. Embarkation was smooth and the itinery was fantastic with excellent weather. We were last on this ship 10 months ago and in our opinion it has changed not for the better. Gone has the happy feel good factor and it does seem that corners and cuts are being made. In the main restaurant the food was mixed with mundane boring starters and sweets, quantity varied every night. Lunches were not to previous standards and gone was the lovely fish dishes, although breakfast was up to the usual high standard. Entertainment was very mixed. The live orchestra has gone so there is no atmosphere in the theatre ( this does not include the Braemar Show Group who where fantasic). Drink prices have been hiked up and we think the reason for this is to subsidise the free or £10 drink packages. At times the drink waiters became a nuisance pushing drinks. The last week of the cruise was ruined when we were informed that a few cars had suffered minor damage on the car park on Dovers cruise terminal. (this turned out to be approx 118 alone from this Ship.) Although this was nothing to do with Fred Olsen Cruise Line it did have a big impact on the holiday mood as information only dribbled through about the situation. When sailing from Dover I usually use Reylon for parking but having recently bought a nearly new car I decided to pay the extra £60. Dover Port flout their Park Safe status. No where does it mention the exposed location and that it could be subjected to sea water damage. The disembarkation was chaotic due to faulty gang way equipment. Eventually we got off to be faced with the carnage of our cars. The holiday was finally ruined when the Insurance company met us to say that our car was a total write off leaving us thousands of pounds out of pocket. My warning to anyone sailing out of Dover. DO NOT USE THE PORT OF DOVER'S CAR PARK as it is not fit for purpose and you may also feel mugged as we and many more felt. They claim that you park entirley at your own risk. Finally we still have 2 more cruises booked with Fred so will make up our minds to see if the standards that we have enjoyed on previous cruises return. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
We booked the cruise in Sep 12 having been offered All Inclusive as an incentive. The cabin grade we were after was "Sold Out" and the cheapest we could get was a D Grade cabin on Deck 4 (We had already booked a Transatlantic for ... Read More
We booked the cruise in Sep 12 having been offered All Inclusive as an incentive. The cabin grade we were after was "Sold Out" and the cheapest we could get was a D Grade cabin on Deck 4 (We had already booked a Transatlantic for a few weeks earlier on another liner so this was a Bonus Cruise). At the time of booking there was only one price range offered. A few months later we noticed that FO had introduced 2 price ranges and ours was on offer for £400 less and the lower grade room we were told were sold out were being offered even cheaper. We tried a number of times both direct and via the Agent to rectify this to no avail. The day before the sailing we were informed that our embarkation had been delayed by a few hours due to decontamination of the ship from a Norovirus outbreak the cruise before. During the 7 days we witnessed several individuals being sick in public areas, unable to control their actions. The Captain had ordered all public facilities closed and passengers had to use there own cabin facilities. This had 2 effects - firstly people who use their own toilets are less likely to wash there hands after than those in a public toilet. Secondly, its no fun if you are trying to consume "All Inclusive" drinks on Deck 9 and the toilet is on Deck 4. It saved the company a fortune on Drinks! All Self Service facilities were withdrawn and the staff (Entertainers included) had to man the Serveries. This was a disaster as they cordoned off the facilities and the staff served from inside the cordon. Passengers could not see what was on offer and had to accept the crews portions. Also the staff would only serve "their Patch" so if you wanted a variety you could end up queuing 4 times for 1 meal. It saved the company a fortune on Food! The actions taken did not slow down the virus so how was it moving through so many passengers. Not being a medical person I could not make a professional comment but as a passenger I would point out that on more than one occasion I noticed that everyone who was drinking was signing for their drinks with the same pen!!! Luckily neither I nor my wife were taken ill, neither were we ever intoxicated! 3 Days after my cruise I weighed less than when I boarded. This has never happened before. As a bonus we could not sleep on the first night due to a loud buzzing noise. The pursers staff said it was normal. A senior engineer then said it was not normal and it was from the refrigeration unit. A junior engineer set to fix it couldn't and we spent the next 6 nights with earplugs which the shop just happened to have on sale. Other cabins in the same area did not have the noise ! I would add that the Ports were excellent and would recommend Norway Cruising to anyone   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
We have recently returned from a Fred Olsen four night mini-cruise on the Braemar from Dover to France, Belgium and Holland. Last year, we went to the Norwegian fjords on the larger Olsen ship, the Balmoral. I quite liked the Braemar ... Read More
We have recently returned from a Fred Olsen four night mini-cruise on the Braemar from Dover to France, Belgium and Holland. Last year, we went to the Norwegian fjords on the larger Olsen ship, the Balmoral. I quite liked the Braemar although it is showing its age and our cabin, particularly the bathroom,was in need of some refurbishment. The television had a mind of its own and only worked when it felt like it. I don't think anybody would ever describe this cruise as luxurious but more like a 1960's holiday camp on the high seas. I found that the cruise director's way of making his announcements, as if we were rather slow children, was a bit patronising but I can understand that his job would drive a lot of people the same way! This is no more than a feeling but my impression is that Fred Olsen is watching every penny and is charging for everything. If they could, I think they would have charged for the air we breathed! Check in at Dover was excellent as was disembarkation on our return In my opinion the main drawbacks were: There were definitely not enough restaurant staff and those they did have seemed stressed and rushed. They allowed queues to form outside the restaurants even when it was plain to those queuing that, inside, were empty, set-up tables. That said, the two waiters who attended to us were always courteous; At breakfast time, which was largely a buffet arrangement, there was usually a shortage of food and utensils, particularly glasses. One morning I had the worst coffee in my life!; The food, overall, was no more than moderate with an occasional good dish. It was mass catering and felt like it! It might have been better to have simplified the dinner menu by reducing it from five courses to three and putting a bit more quality into them; I know this seems an odd comment, but I lost sympathy with Olsen after attending the lifeboat drill which seemed to be a poor attempt to impress everyone with a bit of drama. We were told that in the event of an evacuation we were to walk in a crocodile with our right hands on the shoulder of the person in front of us, reminiscent of the scenes shown on war newsreels of injured and blinded soldiers returning from France. With sizeable numbers of very young children and of elderly people with severe walking difficulties, this would have been unrealistic. It certainly was not required on the Balmoral last year and I have been unable to find anything which says it is required legally. If I am wrong and it is a legal requirement then it is a very stupid one which most other shipping lines are disregarding; In this bizarre fashion we had to go outside to our respective lifeboats where we were given a further talk by a crew member with an electric megaphone rendered totally inaudible by the noise of the air conditioning outlet! This was not impressive and in our group helped reduce the whole drill to a matter for derision. Later in the cruise some passengers were spotted walking along each with their arm on the shoulder of the person in front of them, to the general merriment of their friends; In writing this review it is not my intention to dissuade anyone from cruising with Olsen (we have no plans to cancel a cruise already booked on the Boudicca for next year) but to warn any readers not to expect pampering; This company is geared to processing large numbers of passengers and to keeping them under control; it does not attempt to provide traditional service. If you think of their quite nice old ships as a good way of avoiding airports and not having to struggle with luggage then you'll find it OK. At the end of the day you get what you pay for.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
We stayed in Balcony Suite 7033 which was excellent. The cabin was large, bathrobes, slippers, fruit basket and canapes were a luxury touch. the balcony had a large overhang which obstructed the sun unless it was first thing in the ... Read More
We stayed in Balcony Suite 7033 which was excellent. The cabin was large, bathrobes, slippers, fruit basket and canapes were a luxury touch. the balcony had a large overhang which obstructed the sun unless it was first thing in the morning but this did not prevent our enjoyment of our own bit of space. We ate on the balcony in a morning and late afternoon. There can always be found a sunbed on deck, and the hot tubs and pools were good, nice and warm. Bar service could be a little slow at times. Food in the restaurant in an evening was excellent and could not be faulted. Entertainment left a lot to be desired and was geared up for the older people on board. There were a lot of elderly people on this cruise and we found it to be a little bit old fashioned. This is not a ship for young people and all we heard were people trying to out do each other a to where they had been before on a cruise, who they had been with and what cabins they had. Some people could also moan for days about everything, if they did not like the cabin or the service they should have paid a little more. Would we go again, maybe but not to the Canaries in February. This is definately a ship for the elderly. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
We have just returned from our Cape Verde cruise on board the Braemar, this was our second with Fred Olsen, the last one on the Boudicca. We have cruised around seven times with Thomson, and been on all their ships, so we thought we would ... Read More
We have just returned from our Cape Verde cruise on board the Braemar, this was our second with Fred Olsen, the last one on the Boudicca. We have cruised around seven times with Thomson, and been on all their ships, so we thought we would give Fred another go, the first one being slightly disappointing. Firstly,the ship is lovely I cannot fault her at all, always plenty of space.Food was excellent, much improved from my last trip with Fred,Itinerary was very good although I would have preferred less sea days.The disembarkation was excellent they take your bags and book them in so you are not lugging them around checking in at the airport, straight to security,wonderful. We found the passenger mix very good and the conversations and laughter made the long sea days bearable, no problems with the formal nights although three is perhaps one too many on an eleven night cruise. Now for the bad bit, the staff especially the bar and waitress staff are terrible, they never smile and can be rather surly, I have never experienced this on any cruise before and was really shocked by their attitude, they also seemed to be short staffed which may account for the attitude. The so called all inclusive is nothing of the kind, the cocktails,special coffees etc are not included although are at half price. There is only one brand of whisky included and that is a very inferior Spanish whisky. The entertainment, apart from the show team who I enjoyed was poor to average, the Welsh singer was the worst I have heard in a long time. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
Following two recent cruises with Celebrity (reviewed here on Cruise Critic), my wife and I returned to Fred Olsen's Boudicca for an In Search of the Northern Lights cruise. Obviously these two cruise-lines are very different, but we ... Read More
Following two recent cruises with Celebrity (reviewed here on Cruise Critic), my wife and I returned to Fred Olsen's Boudicca for an In Search of the Northern Lights cruise. Obviously these two cruise-lines are very different, but we decide who we travel with purely on destination and value for money. We have no particular loyalty, although we are now at Gold Level with Fred Olsen, and Elite Level with Celebrity. Fred Olsen are an enigma to me, they must spend a fortune marketing themselves as the friendly cruise-line but that message does not appear to have reached all of their staff, either on their ships or at their H.Q. One example of this is that on that three occasions I have written to them I have been ignored twice and fobbed off once. On a more positive note their ships may be older, but they have a certain charm and character that often can't be found on larger, newer ships. I should mention as I review this In Search of the Northern Lights cruise, I have spent a great deal of time talking to as many of my fellow passengers as I possibly could in an attempt to ensure the review is as representative as possible. One last thing before I begin the review. We booked this cruise over a year ago in advance on another Fred Olsen cruise and were told then that there were very few cabins left (sound familiar?). Actually there were lots of empty cabins, I guess we should not be so naive. Embarkation Process We phoned Fred Olsen's H.Q. in the morning to ask when we could check in. We were told because of our low deck level this would not be until 3.30. Actually, it was a smooth, hassle free check in and boarding process, and we were on board and in our cabin by 2.30. The terminal at Portsmouth is new and consists of a large seating area upstairs with a Costa Coffee and small bar. It says on their website they have wi-fi, but they do not, and according to the staff we talked to, people are always complaining about it, but nothing gets done. There is a small outside viewing area, and the bar serves a very nice Italian Chardonnay. Here is a useful tip, we stayed in the Port Solent East Premier Inn, which was approximately fifteen minutes away, and we got free parking for the duration of the cruise. Our Cabin We always choose a lower grade cabin because it means we can afford to cruise more frequently, but they do seem smaller on Fred Olsen. However our cabin was spotlessly clean and comfortable, although it was a bit chilly, even after a maintenance man came in and adjusted the heating for us. A lot of our fellow passengers who we talked to also remarked on their cabin temperature. We had to change cabins after a few days because every time we were in port, there was always a lot of noise from the maintenance work. To be fair to the staff, this was remedied quickly and we were able to change cabins with no problem. In Room Entertainment This was extremely poor, with very limited TV channels and on occasions, virtually none at all. The Discovery Channel worked most of the time, something called an E Channel appeared it work all the time. BBC News was fairly consistent, as was Eurosport, but Sky News and Sky Sports News (the ones we really wanted) were intermittent. There was also a limited movie option which was fine if you were not one of the poor people struck down with a Gastro-intestinal problem, commonly referred to as the Noro Virus, in which case you were confined to your cabin for a couple of days, and must have been bored stiff. In the twenty-first century there is really no excuse for such a poor in room entertainment system. On the subject of Noro Virus, you really cannot blame any cruise-line for the presence of this bug, in winter it is rife everywhere, but personally I do not think it is unreasonable to expect to be compensated for a lack of amenities Put it this way, if you were checking into a hotel/spa resort and were told the jacuzzis and sauna were closed, there is a fair chance you are going to get sick and have to stay in your room for a few days, and by the way, the few limited tv channels we have will not work all the time, and you cannot play cards or any board games WOULD YOU STILL WANT TO STAY THERE and would you expect to pay the same price, as if all of these options were open to you ? The Boudicca is tired in places, but she is a very clean ship, with plenty of space and welcoming lounges for all of her passengers. The waiters in the main restaurants are friendly and helpful, sadly the same could not be said for some of the staff in the Secret Garden. On the subject of restaurants, I think the food on the ship was of good quality, well presented, and with a good variety, although a little more of a problem if like my wife, you are a vegetarian. Also I made the mistake of going to the late night supper club one night. I say a mistake, because the food was delicious and I ate far too much! Overall I think Fred are pretty good on food. One of the areas I used most on the ship was the gym. Fortunately it was not in great demand, I say this because when we boarded the ship in Portsmouth two of the cardio machines were not working, and this remained the case for the whole cruise. Added to this, one of the only three working treadmillls mysteriously disappeared towards the end of the cruise. Also, they had a ridiculous rule that you could not use the cardio equipment if a Pilates or yoga class was taking place, but to be fair, when I complained to the guest services manager about this, those classes were moved, so again a problem was instantly dealt with and no fuss. As always there were plenty of activities on board, and a wide variety of enrichment talks. Whilst the speaker who gave the port talks was clearly very knowledgeable, unfortunately his speaking style was not very engaging, but Jane Ann Davey the expert on Norway, was by far the best speaker we have ever come across. She was both informative and amusing, and easily able to hold your attention. There was an astronomer on board who was a good listen too. The lounge entertainment is always of a good quality on Fred Olsen, as was the ship's show company. I can't comment on the guest performers as none were of interest to us. We chose this cruise because the itinerary was good, visiting Molde, two nights in Tromso, Alta, Kristiansund, and Bergen, in addition to cruising the fjords. We were very disappointed with the attitude of the man on the tours desk who we never saw smile once in the whole cruise, and who wasn't very helpful. As with many cruises, the tours were a little expensive and did not really represent value for money, and the best excursion we did was one we booked privately in Tromso, where we went out both nights with Artic Explorers, and were fortunate enough to see the beautiful northern lights for seven and a half hours, they were exhilarating to watch as they danced across the sky, forming a kaleidoscope above our heads. Oystein, the owner of the company was passionate about the lights, and it wasn't the case of a six to eight hour trip, and finish, regardless of aurora activity, he allowed us to stay out as long as we wanted. In the second night he picked us up at 5pm and we didn't return till 5.30 the next morning! Prior to the trip he took us to his warehouse, and kitted us out in thermal suits, boots, hats and mittens, and allowed us to choose our food etc. My tip is if you want to go out in search of the northern lights, choose a small group tour like this, rather than going out with a bus load of your fellow cruise passengers. The other highlight for us was the Norwegian captain and his clear passion for his country, who unlike many of his officers, who we hardly ever saw, the Captain, Stein Bjorheim, was highly visible. He went that extra mile to ensure that the passengers were able to see all the awesome views. At one point he stopped the ship, and did a 360 degree turn, to ensure that everyone got a great view of a glacier, and we loved the way that in sub-zero temperatures he was often to be seen in his shirt sleeves! The man is a legend! The disembarkation process was as smooth as embarkation, though the luggage collection point was a little cramped, surprising considering it is such a new terminal. Overall, we enjoyed our cruise, though we were disappointed with so many of the facilities being closed due to the Noro Virus, and it does tend to affect your cruise when you are worried about catching it. Another tip would be to avoid buying anything in Norway as it is so expensive. But we set out to see the Northern Lights, and that's exactly what we did, and on many nights they were also visible from the ship. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
My wife and I are relatively new to the cruising scene. Most certainly when many of our previous fellow passengers appeared to spend most of their leisure time on board some cruise ship or other. We have previously enjoyed four Cunard ... Read More
My wife and I are relatively new to the cruising scene. Most certainly when many of our previous fellow passengers appeared to spend most of their leisure time on board some cruise ship or other. We have previously enjoyed four Cunard cruises, starting with the late lamented QE2 and including the maiden voyage of the Queen Elizabeth. My wife let it be known that she would like to spend her landmark birthday on a cruise visiting the Norwegion Fjords. Not a problem. Cunards Queen Victoria and Fred Olsens Balmoral were both visiting and, as Cunard prices seemed to be on an upward spiral, we looked at Balmoral. We duly booked at the Cruise Show, and were sold on the idea that due to Balmorals smaller size, she would be able to get into ports that larger liners couldn't. We were also sold on the 'excellent customer service' Anyway, come departure day, passengers were assembled in a less than salubrious terminal, for reasons which later became apparent. Boarding Balmoral up the steeply inclined ramp was not a problem for us, but for those less physically able, a different story. Our cabin was well located in the newer part of the ship and nicely appointed with a big picture window offering splendid views. The ship herself, whilst obviously not in the first flush of youth, was always clean and well cared for, but some of the public rooms were a bit 'ordinary'. The food however was always good, with lots of choice. Restaurant service however, ranged from good (our evening waiters) to dire. Where was the acclaimed Fred Olsen passenger experience? Most of the waiting staff gave the appearance of wishing to be elsewhere. On board entertainment was obviously 'homegrown', and no problem with that. Drinks waiters were attentive and friendly. We didn't take any of the arranged tours as we prefer to do our own thing. However, our table companions,(all cruise newbies) praised them with glowing terms. Over the week, we met up with Queen Victoria, but were surprised to find that despite "our smaller ships get into ports that large ships can't", Victoria always seemed to take prime position, leaving Balmoral at anchor and resorting to tendering ashore, with many physically impaired passengers remaining onboard. Some cynics wondered if the Captain was choosing option two as it obviously saved money! Not many children on board as you would expect, fellow passengers being of an older generation. Disembarkation was quick and trouble free. To sum up, perhaps we've been spoilt with our previous cruises. But this wasn't, for us at least, a 'cheap cruise'. Were we made to feel special? No, we weren't. Would we do Fred Olsen again? Probably not. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
We (my wife and I) flew out to Peru to catch the last leg of the world cruise back to Southampton, and almost literally pushed the boat out to take a Premier Suite (their top suite). We expected superb service, but that was in part a big ... Read More
We (my wife and I) flew out to Peru to catch the last leg of the world cruise back to Southampton, and almost literally pushed the boat out to take a Premier Suite (their top suite). We expected superb service, but that was in part a big let-down. I'm disabled, and asked for assistance at the airport and ship. The airport was great with this. Coming from oop north, we stayed at the Hilton (package included parking) the previous night, and it was probably a good job we did. The rumour mill on the ship said that some 16 passengers missed the flight (a charter by Fred Olsen) due to a car crash on the Gatwick approach road, though I believe they did catch up with the ship at a later port. The hotel was OK but no better, but they arranged wheelchair assistance for me from the hotel right through to boarding the aircraft. For reasons unknown, they don't actually advertise this, and we found out only by accident. But a superb service it is, and they should make more of it. The flight was with Pullmantur, and I'd never heard of them (a small, Spanish charter company). We were on a 747-400, and had upgraded seats. These seats were on the upper deck, and were full business class seats and service. Service (and comfort) was excellent, and a lot of passengers (including the standard class passengers) were congratulating the crew on providing such good service. I'd certainly fly with them again! Unfortunately, the ship did not do as well. It provided no help for me (a wheelchair was required) for embarkation (nor for disembarkation). Not an impressive start! However, check-in was pain-free, so the embarkation was not a real problem. Taken to our cabin, our cabin attendant (CA, named Beth) greeted us and vanished. She came back with some sparkling wine, but only ran through the facilities when we asked her to (there were several things that were not obvious). Unfortunately, that was the start of poor service that went on almost every day for the rest of the trip. She cleaned OK, but it was done at her convenience, not ours. If there was a separate category for the CA, it would have a zero rating. The cabin was huge (about 550 sq ft, or 50 sq mtrs), though quite a lot of that space was dead because of the design (essentially two long cabins with a partial partition between them). It was still a great deal more space that we were used to, and it was pleasant to be able to sit in there. There was also a decent balcony, which was very good when we were in South America and the Caribbean but of no use when crossing the Atlantic! We got this cabin because of the length of the cruise, and it was well worth it for us. However, the smaller suites were probably better value for money. That first night, we were too late for the first sitting at dinner (which is the sitting we'd asked for), so we ate in the buffet restaurant. That was a bit of a mistake, as the quality was rather poor, and we didn't eat there again in the cruise. Overall, then, we'd not had a good introduction to the cruise. We mainly ate in the main dining room, with waiter service. The waiters, on a couple of occasions, asked me to move once I'd sat down, though at considerable inconvenience to myself. Apparently, they'd have had to go slightly further to walk round me if I hadn't moved. Never met that before! There was lots available for breakfast, but the theme of the food for me was the lovely, fresh bread rolls -- I'm missing that now I'm home. Food generally in the main restaurant was good, though not excellent. My wife struggled, as things she liked were often paired with things she disliked. Not a problem with separates (like veg), but a real problem with sauces and the like. Still, she didn't starve. The meat chef must have been on holiday, though. Medium steak would come out rare, really well done would be medium rare, and rare came out sometimes rare and sometimes uncooked. There were quite a few comments about this. And portion sizes were so variable. Roast chicken was half a chicken as a main course; garlic mushrooms as a starter comprised 4 small (about 12mm, or half an inch, across) mushrooms -- thank goodness I didn't sneeze! Someone in the reviews has mentioned fine dining, but it was a long way from that. The only thing that reminded me of fine dining was the small size of some of the dishes! One thing I can recommend: the fish and chips from the Marquee Bar. The fish was really sweet, and turned out to be an Asian river fish (no, I can't remember the name). This dish was excellent, and very popular. The waiters, once you'd been there a couple of days, were excellent. Our regular (dinner) waiter kept an eye open for us at the other meals, and waved us over to a suitable table. He served us well, and anticipated many of our likes and dislikes as well as my mobility problems. But the best part was that he (and others) involved themselves in our foibles! I'm a Daffy Duck fan, and it was DD's "birthday" on 17th April (he was 75!). I arranged a party for him at dinner that night, and everyone entered into the spirit of it. Our waiter sat a Jester puppet of Daffy on a wine glass; we had the usual song of "Happy Birthday to Daffy" sung by 6 or so waiters and a couple of officers; and they shook Daffy's hand at the end! I've never enjoyed a birthday so much. And after that, I was called Mr Daffy (or just Daffy) by a number of the waiters. (And yes, Daffy enjoyed his party as well.) I'm not a great one for shows -- I'm particularly picky about singers -- but I went to watch a magician and comedian (Mandy Muden) and watched bits of a couple of shows on the inboard TV system. The one I went to was truly excellent, and I would willingly have paid to go to see her (that says a lot for me!). The singers I watched on TV, though, I didn't like at all, though my wife enjoyed them. What was strange was that only part of the shows were put on TV. Some were not shown at all, while some were broadcast missing the first few (up to 15) minutes. And no mention was made of this "feature". We did have a longish bout of what the Captain called "stomach flue" but what everyone thought was norovirus, and a stupid film kept being played over and over again about washing hands, and why it was important; and this took precedence over a lot of the televised shows. There were other oddities, such as the mobile network going down for 2 days or so and not announced, but incredibly tall tales being given when I queried this; and our ship position being given on screen as Antigua right through to our arrival in Southampton. But generally the ship was a nice experience, though as others have said the passengers had a lot of infirm people amongst them (including me). As for trips, we didn't go on many, as we'd been to the Caribbean before. My wife was really impressed with Lima, and loved the city tour. She would like to go back there again. Manta (Ecuador) was interesting, and we went on a tour that took us to a market that sold, among other things, the panama hat. I had no idea that these came in multiple grades, basically from coarse to fine, with prices that ranged from $30 or so up to $300 or so. The other highlight was the Tagua (nut) factory, where they created sculptures out of these nuts (which are often called "vegetable ivory"). These were very nicely done, and we bought several of them. On a previous cruise, we had bought one at St Maarten, but they were much cheaper here. Next came the main feature for us: the transit of the Panama Canal. I'm not going to try to describe it, because I couldn't do it justice. While the first couple of miles of the canal itself looked like (and was, I think) a mining operation, perhaps partly because they are enlarging the lock gates to take bigger ships, the real scenery started in the Gatun Lake. It was worth the trip just to see this. Our next trip was a horse and carriage ride in Cartagena, Columbia. This was very interesting, though I was disappointed with the standard of English of our driver. The combination of the carriage and the street surfaces made it difficult to take photos, though. St Maarten was a bit of a let-down, as it was Sunday and a lot of places were closed. Even the shops at the terminal had a lot closed! Still, I managed to get a couple of bottles of rum, so the important souvenirs were obtained! Our last tour was at Ponta Delgada, which my wife did on her own. The place looks very nice, and my wife absolutely loved it. She now wants to go there for a week or two to look round properly. My one standard moan (for all cruise ships so far) is that the activities provided are boring, and I don't bother with them. This makes 23 nights on a ship about a week too long, and I'd think twice about going on another long cruise like this one. Having said that, we chatted to several people who'd been on the full 106 days of the world cruise, and no-one had cut their own throat. There must be a knack to surviving that length of time! Once we arrived in Southampton, we had the usual hassle of getting off the ship. I should have had wheelchair assistance, but that wasn't provided. And it was a very long walk from the ship to the point where we picked up a coach to Gatwick (to collect our car for the drive north). Fred Olsen really does need to sort itself out with regard to helping passengers who ask for wheelchair assistance. Overall, then, the cruise was interesting, though Beth's poor performance made it quite disappointing. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
I was lucky to win this cruise in the magazine Cruise International. I was aware beforehand not to expect any facilities for children but still decided to take my daughter and, almost 3 year old, granddaughter. I had problems getting a ... Read More
I was lucky to win this cruise in the magazine Cruise International. I was aware beforehand not to expect any facilities for children but still decided to take my daughter and, almost 3 year old, granddaughter. I had problems getting a cabin and then its suitability. Please go to the end of the review if you are interested in the details. Leaving from Dover we were able to hop on a high speed train from St Pancras and use Fred Olsen's shuttle service to get to the dock. Checking in and boarding through security was tedious and took about an hour and a half. We were unfortunate in the weather, at least at the start of the cruise, as we were sailing into a deep depression forming in the Bay of Biscay. So for the first day and a half it was dull, rainy, windy and rough. Tough for all the family. The cabin was bigger than we expected and well furnished. As were the public rooms and the rest of the ship. Plenty of wooden deck space for walking and jogging and a large pool deck with Jacuzzis. Mostly deserted during the cruise my daughter and granddaughter enjoyed both on the slightly warmer days. We avoided the main dining room on the formal nights as I had neither dinner jacket or dark suit and found the designation old fashioned and frankly silly. Although many passengers were happy to accept the code. We also found it easier some nights to use the buffet so that my granddaughter could get a plate of food she found acceptable. I was disappointed that no effort was made by the dining room staff to help in providing suitable food or generally bring her something she could cope with. We even had to ask for a suitable glass for water instead of the large, slim stemmed glasses provided. I can understand why Fred Olsen might not feel the need to provide children's' facilities on the Braemar but the dining room could, and should, have done better. The food itself varied from OK to some good courses and the general service was only adequate (worse that any of my previous cruises). I should tell you here that all the staff on board were very friendly and it wasn't long before it seemed that they were all greeting my granddaughter by name. The other public rooms were all well appointed and comfortable but got a bit crowded on 'at sea' days due to the weather. We didn't visit the main show room but did go into the cabaret room on 3 nights to listen to an excellent 4 piece group called 4th Dimension. My granddaughter and 2 friends had a wonderful time on the dance floor which had very few other dancers. We arrived in La Pallice, a short free coach transfer into La Rochelle. The weather was dry and quite pleasant. The next two days would be the same until we reached A Coruna when it became cold and rainy. They have a new aquarium there which was great fun and well worth a visit. We also had lunch which was way better than you might expect at a tourist attraction. Worth trying even if you don't want to go to the aquarium. The small harbour - La Vieux Port - was very picturesque, as was the surrounding streets and buildings. Next day we were in Getxo for Bilbao. We didn't fancy the hour round trip into town so got out our bucket and spades and went to a beautiful broad beach 5 minutes walk from the ship. The next port of call, Aviles, was the best. It turns out that we were the first ever cruise line to dock at the new terminal right in the centre of town. As we approached up a narrow channel both sides were lined by people welcoming our arrival and more were at the quayside. We were next to the impressive new Centro Cultural Internacional Oscar Niemeyer and then a short walk across an amazing bridge into the old town. We strolled through charming squares, cobbled streets and a lovely park ending up in a pavement cafe in the Plaza de Espana drinking a cafe solo. And at our departure the crowds waving goodbye were huge. Lots of waving and sounding of the ship's horn. A Coruna was disappointing for us due to the cold, rainy weather so we weren't ashore for long. The weather on the trip back to Dover was cold, windy and overcast but the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel were fairly calm. Two highlights of this part of the voyage were the schools of Dolphins we saw on our penultimate evening and a very traditional afternoon tea served by white gloved staff in the Observatory bar with its large picture windows overlooking the bow. The tea was a very reasonable £6+. Overall the cruise was disappointing. The weather didn't help of course but I would rate the food and restaurant service as average, certainly worse than my previous cruises. The cabin was good (except for the particular problems below) and cabin service very good. Two bonuses were very few tannoy announcements and we weren't pestered by the photographers. The general atmosphere was old fashioned/traditional with quite a high average age for the passengers. If this suits you then you might enjoy the Braemar. [Finding a suitable cabin was difficult. My prize was an outside cabin which unfortunately could not accommodate an extra bed so it was either a case of upgrading for over £500 or going to an inside cabin and a bunk bed but still paying and extra £150. I chose the latter.] There were still 2 basic problems with the cabin. My granddaughter wasn't used to a bed yet and tended to roll off so we had to put one single bed against the wall and then push the other against it. And the ladder to access the upper berth was only designed to be used at the side of the bunk so any double bed configuration meant that I had to use the ladder at the end of the bunk where it was not safely secured. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
This trip was another cruise to get to the smaller canary islands so we thought small to get into the ports of call. That said everything on the ship was small, it does not help that the ship was fit to bursting with an unexpected ... Read More
This trip was another cruise to get to the smaller canary islands so we thought small to get into the ports of call. That said everything on the ship was small, it does not help that the ship was fit to bursting with an unexpected abundance of very senior citizens. The number of those who exhibited infirmity and incapacity and unaccompanied led to the inevitable conclusion of what would happen should there an emergency at sea. There was clearly no administrative checks by Fred Olsen as to the needs of these individuals or indeed sufficient staff on board to cope. Fred Olsen appeared to have an insurance policy condition to limit wheel chairs to six in use on board. The indignity of seeing incapacitated people being pushed backwards on wheeled zimmers clearly exhibited blatant greed by the shipping company to maximise passenger occupancy. The good points of the ship firstly the staff particularly cabin stewardess and our table waiters. The food was good with our limited requirements. The ports of call were excellent with an abundance of time in them. The in house ships musicians and singer were way above our expectations. Such a pity about the rest of the entertainment. This is a personal choice and does not make or mar a cruise for us. The bad points the cabin was the smallest we have had, it was cramped and difficult to negotiate without bumping into fittings ie overhead bunk beds etc. The shower toilet and basin were designed by some one who will never have to use them. It goes without saying that every passenger had a very intimate experience with his her shower curtain. Thankfully we are slim! All the public rooms were small especially on sea days and required occupation of a seat in most at least an hour prior to event to ensure a seat was to be had. The refit last year does not appear to have considered the layout of the buffet area to prevent people causing an obstruction to other passengers when getting their meals. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
The ship is very old and it shows, the metalwork on handrails, floor areas etc. is just overpainted rust. The sunbeds are uncomfortable and badly stained, if they were in my garden I'd put them in a skip. On four or five occasions we ... Read More
The ship is very old and it shows, the metalwork on handrails, floor areas etc. is just overpainted rust. The sunbeds are uncomfortable and badly stained, if they were in my garden I'd put them in a skip. On four or five occasions we were covered with black deposits that were belching from the funnel - my wife's silk dress wasa ruined. On a long cruise we had to use the laundry - it was so inefficient, dryers that took a coule of hours to finish and 2 working irons between hundreds of passengers. One bar area is out of bounds if you are a non-smoker, the smoking area is next to non-smoking and as you would expect, the smoke drifts over. Ignore the markeing about restarants, there is really only one, and its not too bed unless you have to eat there night after night. OK, it was full of very very old people but that didn't bother me. Their devotion to Fred.Olsen Cruises did. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
We went on this cruise because we were very attracted by the golf package. We enjoyed playing on 4 different course with the group of 18 golfers. The professional golfer was very pleasant, but several ladies agreed that he should not ... Read More
We went on this cruise because we were very attracted by the golf package. We enjoyed playing on 4 different course with the group of 18 golfers. The professional golfer was very pleasant, but several ladies agreed that he should not have just gone off and played with low handicap men, but spent some time with each group. Suite 7031 was excellent, huge suite and balcony. We had canapes each evening, some very good, some a bit ordinary and stale. We eventually opted for 8.30 dinner, we did not like either choice (6.15 or 8.30)and will always in future only go with cruise that offers free seating. It was rather late to eat and had one 'less than fun' occupant on our table. Food varied. some excellent steaks, sometimes 2 had good meat and 2 had poorly cooked same choice. eg Lobster tended to be a small amount with lots of pasta . At night the boiled potatoes were dark blue and horrid. We had one excellent departure where the group played on the aft deck, but why not for most ports. The aft deck has very large area for smokers which made it less pleasant for non smokers. The one late sailing was from dominica on a sunday, which was total waste of time, NOTHING was open except one very grotty bar. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Our cruise began with a charter flight from Gatwick to Santiago which was an unpleasant experience for all concerned: a long flight was made even more uncomfortable and protracted by the refuelling stop in Teneriffe during which all ... Read More
Our cruise began with a charter flight from Gatwick to Santiago which was an unpleasant experience for all concerned: a long flight was made even more uncomfortable and protracted by the refuelling stop in Teneriffe during which all passengers were confined to their seats with no air conditioning operating. There was a serious lack of toilet accommodation on board because of a malfunction which was not rectified during the refuelling stop: consequently long queues formed throughout the night to use the facilities. On arrival in Santiago the transfer from airport to the ship in Valparaiso involved a fascinating tour past some Chilean vineyards and seaside resorts with a well informed escort on board. The itinerary followed by 'Balmoral' for the next three weeks was an attractive and interesting one. The shore excursions were well organised, informative and varied. Two of the advertised ports of call were not available because of industrial action in Chile on the one hand, and the refusal of the Argentinian authorities to allow entry to Buenos Aires by a vessel which had previously called at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands on the other. Alternative venues and excursions were provided at short notice.Our cabin was reasonably well appointed although we had to specifically ask the stewardess for a supply of toiletries as these had been overlooked. The dining arrangements were disappointing: during open seating sessions the service was inconsistent and at times poor. The menus were rather tired and unimaginative and the food quality was on occasions mediocre (for instance, Yorkshire puddings only half cooked, greasy and inedible). The port lectures were full of information, but most of it had apparently been downloaded from the inter-net: they were over long and lacked any personal input or knowledge of the places we were shortly to visit. We found the rest of the 'lecture' programme to be of only limited interest to us. During the third and final week of our cruise my wife developed a condition which required treatment from the on-board medical staff: this was done professionally and competently. When she was confined to the cabin she quickly discovered the limitations and inadequacies of the arrangements for 'room service' in such circumstances.On the day of our planned disembarkation it was decided that my wife was unfit to travel home and needed to be transferred to a local hospital for further treatment. After settling our not inconsiderable medical bill on board we were moved to an empty and vacant cabin to await transport to hospital. In the event we were abandoned there for 16 hours with no further medical attention. Our treatment by the ship's authorities on our final day on board 'Balmoral' was both disgraceful and inexcusable. Subsequent correspondence about this matter with the Company's headquarters in Ipswich has proved to be a deeply frustrating and unsatisfactory experience. Consequently we have resolved that we shall never again cruise with Fred.Olsen! Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
We were booked on Black Watch for her voyage to the Cape Verde islands on November 26th, and were told to get to the Ocean Terminal at a given time. We drove to Southampton where we were given free parking (hooray) for the duration of the ... Read More
We were booked on Black Watch for her voyage to the Cape Verde islands on November 26th, and were told to get to the Ocean Terminal at a given time. We drove to Southampton where we were given free parking (hooray) for the duration of the cruise,great but on entering the terminal on time found it packed with people and nowhere left to sit! We were held there for nearly 2 hours before being allowed to board the ship,not a good start. Also about 3 weeks before we were due to sail Olsen's demanded a fuel surcharge which was calculated as a percentage of the fare paid. in our case nearly £200.So their very unfair system means that the more you paid for your fare the more your surcharge would be irrespective of the fact that the cost in fuel to move a given person from A to B is the same whatever cabin they occupy! Talking to many people on the ship we were amazed to find that the majority had not heard of this surcharge let alone paid it! We booked over a year in advance and paid over £2000 a head,but a lot had booked in the last 2 or 3 weeks before sailing and paid as little we were told as £700 odd. This really leaves a sour taste in the mouth and obviously the moral is if you want to go on one of Fred Olsen's ships don't book early,leave it to the eleventh hour and get it a lot cheaper. The Ship itself is in very reasonable condition although being an elderly lady,having been built in 1972,and you will find deck crew repairing and painting around the ship 7 days a week as we did. There were a lot of sea days on this cruise so when we got to the 1st port,Portimao we were ready to stretch our legs. From there we sailed south to Tenerife and there did an excellent whale watching trip (ships tour)on a catamaran from the south of the Island. On again to Mindelo in Cape Verde where we hired a taxi for 2 and a half hours (for 4 of us) for 70 euros (far cheaper than the ships tour)and went right up into the mountains where the views would have been superb had it been clearer and not drizzling. On next to Praia where we just walked around the town and interesting typical West African market. We arrived at our last port in the Cape Verde to find that the shore landing facilities were woefully inadequate and as this was a tender port the Captain forbade a landing so we sailed away half a day early. So the Cape Verde islands are really a waste of time as a destination. After having an ill passenger lifted off by helicopter from Las Palmas one evening we docked in Lanzarote in the evening, and sailed again for Lisbon the next afternoon in hot sunshine and to the sounds of Colin Bryant's Hot Rhythm Orchestra playing on the afterdeck. It was nice to see Lisbon again and we had a morning ashore here before sailing for Southampton in the afternoon. Overall we saw a lot of sun,got a good tan and had a restful time, we liked the ship generally,it was clean and the food and service was good,but if you like to go on a ship with an extremely elderly,and in many cases infirm clientele (one man on two sticks boasted "I'm 101 you know") this would possibly suit you, but possibly not the way the Fred Olsen Company is out for the last penny, a £1 for a small bottle of water and no bottle of wine less than £15+ and £5 a head for use of a shuttle bus into town from the dock. Brambleseven Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Christmas Markets Cruise -â€" Balmoral 10th to 17th November 2011 My wife and I have travelled with most of the major cruise lines with the exception of Fred Olsen so when we noticed they were advertising a Christmas Markets ... Read More
Christmas Markets Cruise -â€" Balmoral 10th to 17th November 2011 My wife and I have travelled with most of the major cruise lines with the exception of Fred Olsen so when we noticed they were advertising a Christmas Markets Cruise to Hamburg, Bremerhaven, Amsterdam and Antwerp we thought that was an ideal opportunity to assess some of the very positive comments that we had heard from some of their previous passengers. I booked direct with Fred Olsen because I had received poor service from some of the cruise agents and I was certainly impressed with the standard of paperwork that I received from them prior to the cruise. We were given a 14.00 time to join the ship at Southampton but when we arrived we were met with long queues and it took us just over 1 hour to get onboard but our first impression of the ship was that it was clean, the public areas were nicely decorated and presented and the staff appeared helpful, smart and efficient. Our cabin 6101 was well located and the information in the cabin was also to a high standard but my first impression that something was not quite right was when I went through the paperwork and found one piece headed Christmas Markets Cruise and another Christmas Shopping but I though that perhaps they were combining some specialist groups. When we went to the first Port Shopping talk the presenter informed us that the Christmas Markets usually ran for a month before Christmas and knowing that it was more than a month to go I started to wonder if they would be open but thought that they wouldn't have made such a mistake. When we arrived in Hamburg we found that they had indeed made such a mistake and the markets were not open as was the case in Bremerhaven our second port of call. It was clear from some of the other passengers that they were as upset as us that the markets were not open but all we were told by the staff "was that it was out of their control". What was also strange was that some passengers that had booked the cruise at short notice had not been informed that it was a Christmas Markets Cruise but a Christmas Shopping Trip and so they were not disappointed. Another major disappointment came when we were due to leave Bremerhaven and the ship suffered a "technical fault" and was delayed leaving for 5 hours which meant that we had to miss out Amsterdam and go straight to Antwerp which many passengers thought was very convenient. One passenger that I spoke to who had been in the Royal Navy asked for an explanation and felt that he was insulted by the explanation that the first officer gave him and asked to see a more senior officer but still felt that the ship should have been carrying sufficient spare parts. Whilst the ship was quite nice we tried the Ballindalloch Restaurant the first night and were not impressed with the quality of the food and drinks service and so we decided to eat in the Palms Cafe which we found suited our needs. The price of drinks were quite reasonable and the entertainment was good. Unfortunately, this experience has not given us a very good impression of Fred Olsen which is a pity because so many people appear to like what is offered and have high praise for the ships and their staff. I have written to their Managing Director and look forward to receiving an explanation of how this sad state of affairs happened. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
This was our second cruise with Fred. We loved last years cruise and booked again as soon as we got home. This year we went to the Baltic on Boudicca. BIG MISTAKE. The ship is old and tatty. It is rumoured to have had an upgrade ... Read More
This was our second cruise with Fred. We loved last years cruise and booked again as soon as we got home. This year we went to the Baltic on Boudicca. BIG MISTAKE. The ship is old and tatty. It is rumoured to have had an upgrade but all we could see was a new super gym at the top of the ship. Having said that, we felt that judging by the age of the clientele, it would have been preferable to put in a waiting for god room rather than a gym. We are in our late forties and felt the ship was really like an OAP home. The daytime entertainment was aimed at the elderly with very little for us to do on sea days. The evening entertainment was 50's and 60's based and the daytime lecturers were just snooze fests. The staff, as always, were very friendly, very polite and the waiting staff were exceptional. Food was very good and you really can't fault Fred for quality of food. For us, we enjoyed the excursions we booked but a three hour excursion was taken up with about an hour of elderly folk getting on and off a bus - sorry if we sound very down on OAP's but it really was bad. We will do another Fred - after all, last year we couldn't fault it but will choose our ship carefully as the Boudicca is quite obviously, a older ship with an older clientele. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
This was our first (and only) Fred Olsen cruise. Started well - very friendly and efficient bar and restaurant staff. Small, intimate ship. Food was OK but not the best. Lacked variety - why so much pork??? Then things turned grim. ... Read More
This was our first (and only) Fred Olsen cruise. Started well - very friendly and efficient bar and restaurant staff. Small, intimate ship. Food was OK but not the best. Lacked variety - why so much pork??? Then things turned grim. Atrocious weather (in August!) meant that that we had two ports-of-call cancelled. No substitutions arranged by humourless captain. We were begging for landings in the Faeroe Islands, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Republic of Ireland, England, Wales, Scilly Isles, anywhere! "Entertainment" was amateurish. The singers/musicians in the upstairs bar were fun but the so-called dancers in the Neptune Lounge were dreadful. Perhaps we've been spoilt by American cruises but these were more like unimaginative, lazy junior school productions! Other passengers were ancient. Lounge looked more like a care home than a cruise ship! Lectures were also delivered in the Neptune Lounge - rubbish venue. Loads of view-obstructing pillars and not enough seats. Why no proper theatre? However, we did like that we could order discounted cigarettes and alcohol from our cabin. And they would be delivered discreetly in a brown paper bag!Also, the ship was great for discounting certain drinks. And we had two nights of free drinks - the Captain's Welcome Party and a Gala Party. I can see why this company attracts repeat clients! However, like another reviewer, I too was irked by having to pay a hefty fuel supplement (after paying full price!) when other customers paid only £700 for a £2000 cruise! Not fair! Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Baltic Cruise on Fred Olsen's Balmoral, 13 - 27 May 2011I had a leisurely drive down to Southampton finally arriving at the City Cruise Terminal at 11.45. Dropped off the luggage and then the car to ABP and then waited in the main ... Read More
Baltic Cruise on Fred Olsen's Balmoral, 13 - 27 May 2011I had a leisurely drive down to Southampton finally arriving at the City Cruise Terminal at 11.45. Dropped off the luggage and then the car to ABP and then waited in the main hall for check-in to open at 12.30. Through security and then to check-in where I was the first passenger to check-in - no.100! There was then a very long wait as it transpired Balmoral was undergoing her 6-monthly port inspection. Boarding didn't start until around 2.30pm and even then the cabins were not ready so we were directed to the Neptune Lounge for tea or coffee (brought round by stewardess) and cakes and sandwiches (self-serve from buffet table). I then walked around the promenade deck and so missed the announcement at 3.15 that cabins were ready. Found my way down to Cabin 3012, an inside single, forward on the lowest passenger deck 3. My cases were already outside so I unpacked before muster drill at 4.30 - again delayed by half an hour as some passengers had not yet arrived. I was wandering round with my lifejacket when a lady asked me if we needed them - I said yes to take up to the deck for muster drill - and she thought I meant every time we went out on deck we had to carry a lifejacket! My muster station was in the atrium in the shop area so there was nowhere to sit while the station officer held up a board with Lifeboat No 6 on it ! Once everyone was ticked off a checklist and had listened to the usual full spiel about how to abandon ship we were allowed to leave. Eventually we sailed late at 5.30 as we then had to wait for a tug, so I watched sailaway from the Observatory with a glass of wine - no champagne or fizz on sale on deck anyway. The cabin was a very good size and from what I saw, may have once been a four-berth when the ship was built, as I had 4 glasses in holders in the bathroom and four wardrobes. There was plenty of floor space to leave my cases standing. There was a wide bedside table with 3 drawers and a console with light switches, radio (3 stations) and toggle button to hear tannoy announcements. The dressing table had four small drawers each side and two lights either side. There was a new Phillips 18" TV with interactive programme so you could view your cabin account online, book wine for dinner and watch (very old) films. Newer films were pay-to-view. There is no cinema on Balmoral and only once was a film shown in the Neptune Theatre on an afternoon. I had a dressing table chair as well as a small tub armchair, glass table (which I used to put the hospitality tray on) and a wonderful 4 -foot wide bed with duvet and two pillows. The mattress was one of, if not the, best I have ever had - a Milbrook pocket sprung around 8 inches deep. Blankets were available on request if you preferred them to a duvet. There were three narrow wardrobes all with top shelf, then hanging, then a drawer inside at the bottom. This meant full-length dresses dragged on the floor! The fourth wardrobe had a top shelf, open area, then 9 small drawers suitable for underwear, socks etc. They all had mirror doors. The bathroom had a good-sized shower although the shower head was poor and however hard I tried to screw it tight, water shot out of the screw fixing. The whole thing was controlled by a mixer tap so took a fine degree of adjustment to get temperature and pressure right and of course the stewardess changed it every day when she cleaned it! There was lots of shelf space and open storage and a rather weak hairdryer fixed to the bathroom wall. This meant you had to stand in the bathroom to dry hair - not good when it was steamy and if two of you are in a cabin it would prevent use until you had finished. There was hand wash and shower gel in pump bottles and a set of complimentary shampoo, conditioner and more shower gel, all in in tiny plastic bottles with computer-printed labels, together with sewing kit, shower cap and shoe shine in a fancy voile bag.I changed and went up for dinner with some trepidation - that nervous moment of meeting your table companions for the next 14 nights! I need not have worried. I was on a table for 6 in the Avon Restaurant. There are three main dining rooms - the Avon and Spey Restaurants at the top on deck 10 with fabulous panoramic views through floor to ceiling windows. These are quite narrow rooms down each side of the ship so every table gets a good view. The other main dining room is the Ballandalloch on deck 6 - a more traditional restaurant spanning the full width of the ship. The food was much better than I had been led to expect from various reviews. It was tasty, hot and interesting. However, there was a lot less choice than on say P&O. In fact at this stage, FO reminded me of a weird mixture of Cunard and P&O. The buffet restaurant - The Palms Cafe - for example was like QE2 in that at breakfast and lunch, the tables were all laid with mats, cutlery, glasses, cups and saucers, milk in jugs etc. So you chose your food (a waiter would often then carry it for you) and took it to your table, but teas, coffee and toast and rolls were served to you at the tables. For open sitting lunches two of the three main restaurants were also open (as well as the Palms) and, again, rather nicely, both had a buffet area as well as a limited table menu. This meant you could mix and match. Have for example a soup or starter from the menu (brought by a waiter), then go and choose some salad or a main course from the buffet and have dessert from buffet or menu. I did like this flexibility. However, I didn't like the very limited meal times which meant if you were not up in time for breakfast which finished at 10am, you couldn't have anything to eat (except for room service) till lunch at 12.30. And again in the afternoons, tea was served for an hour and then nothing till dinner at 8.30pm. It is not that I want to eat a lot but it was easy to get distracted and miss the "windows of opportunity"! On the downside, there were no wine waiters. Wine was ordered from your waiter at dinner, but had to be topped up by yourself usually. Service was quick - too quick in some instances as courses were put in front of you sometimes before your companions had finished previous ones. Bar service was prompt and cheerful, as was my cabin stewardess. The production company I thought excellent with much better singers than on P&O in my opinion. But the Cruise Director was barely visible and I was not impressed at all in that regard. She only really seemed to come into her own when marshalling tours etc. Now the odd part. Considering this ship was 4 years younger than my favroutier ship - Artemis - it felt very old-fashioned in design. For example, all the cable winches etc were on the open foredeck. When the big gangway was brought on board at one port, they used a winch from the foredeck! The dEcor was mixed. The main atrium was quite glitzy with lots of brass and mirrored surfaces, whereas I found the Morning Light pub very boring and even depressing, especially since you could not see out of the windows as every one had a (very nice) stained glass panel of a sailing ship on. The lifts were unbearably slow and I got stuck in one twice, as did many other people. To get out onto the promenade deck you had to negotiate two steep steps or a sloping ramp, which if windy and when trying to hold the door open, was not easy. There were two pools and four Jacuzzis and a nicely tiered stern. What I did like was that you could go from Deck 11 (Sun deck) down to the promenade deck (7) down external stairways at the stern. However, the only place to get a forward facing view outside the ship was on the narrow part of the open promenade deck at the bow (just like Vistajord/Caronia). I felt the open deck space was more limited than Artemis - a similar size ship - and there was lots of clutter on the sun deck but the rattan tables and chairs etc outside the Marquee bar were nice to have a cup of coffee. The sun loungers were surprisingly comfortable and a good height but looked horribly tatty. Also the library was extremely small and limited. It operated on an honesty system where you wrote in a book what you had borrowed. FO seemed remarkably laid back about security etc. Only once out of six ports was I asked to go through a security screen or put my bags through x-ray. On arrival at the ports, there was no long lecture about "trip hazards on the dockside etc". On tours, no one had to wear stickers (which in fact could make it hard to identify fellow excursionists on occasion). As soon as everyone was known to be back on board, the ship left - even if half an hour before scheduled departure. No sounding of horns or announcements about "all the pre-departure safety checks have now been completed....". All very low-key.Itinerary:Day one was spent crossing the North Sea. It was flat calm and sunny. After breakfast I explored the ship some more and then sat on the Sun Deck. At 11am a Stewardess walked round ringing a little bell to announce that coffee and biscuits were now being served - charming. They also served Bouillon - a real throwback to the liner days! There was a large crowd with quite a few from my area. We all had a choice of free champagne, Bucks Fizz or juice. We also met the dance hosts - three men and one woman. All the men were very good dancers - far better than Cunard and I managed quite a few waltzes, quicksteps and the odd rhumba over the following evenings, although the only real opportunities to dance were around 7.30 - 8pm most nights. I then spent a very lazy afternoon chilling before getting ready for the Captain's Welcome Party. It was the first cocktail party I have been to where everyone sat down. This was because it was held in the Neptune Show Lounge so there was nowhere to circulate and chat to people other than your neighbour. However, there were plentiful canapEs and very free-flowing drink with unlimited top-ups - hic! The following day was, for me, supposed to be one of the highlights of the cruise - a daylight transit of the Kiel Canal from Brunsbuttel to Kiel. I even got up at 6.45 am to watch and grab a prime position in the narrow part of the Prom. Deck at the bow. However, the Germans decided to undertake some maintenance and so we waited and waited to be allowed to enter the locks. I should have taken the hint when we sailed past the entrance a little way and dropped anchor! Now that was a sight to see. Since, again it was all on view on the foredeck, as they freed the shackles to let the cable drop, rust and sparks flew off in a great shower from the winch. Finally we raised the anchor and entered the first lock at 5.30pm. As I was on second sitting I was able to see Balmoral leave the lock and sail the first part of the canal, and then continue watching from the Observatory and restaurant (taking my map and camera with me) until it got too dark to see any more. The next day was spent at sea, and trying to catch up on the 10 hours lost waiting for Kiel before we arrived at our first stop - Saaremaa. This is a large island off the coast of Estonia. This was when I discovered why my single cabin had still been available so late into booking period! I was very close to, and the wrong side of, the exit and security tapes! Every time I wanted to go to the cabin in port I had to wave my card and get them to let me through but more importantly, I was woken by the rattling and banging that went on when they opened the gang port and dragged the gangways into place on arrival. On the other hand, it was handy when going ashore on my own. I had chosen an architectural walking tour of Kuressaare, the main town on the other side of the island. We set off first for an open air museum where five wooden windmills typical of the island, had been preserved and were back in use. The countryside was mostly forested with farmhouses dotted here and there. Although in a smart modern coach, part of the road we travelled on was still being built and two or three times we had to stop for bulldozers etc in front of us shifting stones and gravel. Amongst the woodland were small pretty cemeteries and wooden churches and everywhere were great swathes of bright yellow flowers. We next stopped at a medieval Lutheran church with wall frescoes and pagan symbols (hedging their bets ?) before arriving at Kuressaare, We started at the castle, which contained a museum of island history, I found the most interesting part here was a reconstruction of a soviet-era workers flat. The guide was not very good at marshalling tourists and we could see our free time slipping away whilst we all waited for those bringing up the rear so a couple of us asked to explore on our own for a bit and meet back at the coach. We then re-boarded the coach for a drive around the town before going back to the cruise dock again. It was just a short hop across to the Estonian mainland and Tallinn so we arrived at 11.30pm that same night. Once again - I got the banging and rattling and shouting of an arrival at port, despite it now being 1am so I complained to reception. They said it should stop very soon once the port officials had gone, and to phone again if it didn't. It did, thankfully! At Tallinn we were filling the ship to the brim with fresh water, hence the very early arrival. With a top up tomorrow in Helsinki it would keep us going until we left St Petersburg. Apparently the water in the Eastern Baltic is very muddy and not suitable to put through the on-board desalination plant and Captain Sovdnes didn't want Russian fresh water either. As I was doing my own thing in Tallinn, I had to buy a shuttle ticket for £5 to get from the dock into the centre. It is a beautiful old city with medieval city walls and very interesting architecture. The shops were full of Baltic amber and linen - both household items and clothing. I was walking down one narrow cobbled street and spotted an entrance way up to the top of the walls - 3 euro. Big mistake. Halfway up the metal spiral staircase I began to get vertigo. Told myself this was silly and kept going but at the top on the walkways it is very narrow and parts are just wooden planking and I couldn't stand it and had to come down. I am sure that you could get lovely photos of the red-tiled roof tops if you weren't a chicken like me ! Back at the dock Balmoral had been joined by MSC Orchestra and the market stalls on the dockside were now open for business selling souvenirs, knitwear, furs etc. After some food, I spent the afternoon sunbathing on deck. I wasn't really expecting hot sunny weather but so far, so good, aside from the showers at Kiel. For some reason, also I wasn't expecting to have daylight at midnight, but as we sailed to Helsinki - we had maybe half an hour of dusk at the most. Day 7 and Helsinki. I had last been here in 1977 with my parents so I was interested to compare how it might have changed - very little it seemed. Balmoral was berthed some way out because high winds had been forecast later in the day which might have prevented her leaving from her original berth. For this reason a free shuttle had been laid on for those of us not on tours. I wandered round the harbourside market and then round the corner to the yacht marina, before climbing the hill up to the Russian Orthodox Uspensky Cathedral. The shops were full of the most beautiful Scandinavian designer clothes and furniture (at a price!!) but by midday it had started to drizzle and was very cold, so clutching my new Finnish silver and spectrolite pendant and CD of Sami music, I made my way to the shuttle point and the ship. Day 8-10 - St PetersburgI woke to a stunning morning as Balmoral was slowly sailing into the new docks at St Petersburg. Very few had gone to the bother of personal visas and so most people were on tours here. The first day I had chosen to go to the Peterhof in the morning and do the evening visit and recital at The Hermitage. The Peterhof was superb as the golden domes glittered against the clear blue sky. It was everything I expected from a Romanov Palace. You are not allowed to take photos inside this palace and have to wear fabric overshoes which did make the floors very slippery to walk on. The guide was excellent and carefully arranged for us to be waiting outside at five minutes to eleven ready for when the magnificent fountains are turned on. These work entirely by gravity so first one starts and then another until gradually all the fountains, waterfalls and rills are working. They stop naturally in the evening while the water refills the tanks to start again the next day. It was truly wonderful as a fanfare heralds the first and tallest fountain and the sun created rainbows through the spray. We walked round part of the grounds before driving back through St Pete's to the ship. I was recommended the evening tour by a friend - thanks Jac - and it was well worth the high price as there were just 80 of us with the Hermitage to ourselves. There was no rush so we could all get close to the Rembrandts and da Vincis etc. The tour ended with a 45 minute concert for us by the Symphony Orchestra of St Petersburg in the Skylight Room where the acoustics were superb and we could listen surrounded by paintings by Canaletto etc, all followed by glasses of Russian "Champagne". Magic. The middle day I had chosen the 13 hour tour to Novgorod on the Leningrad-Moscow Highway! St Petersburg is a very European-looking city, whereas I wanted to see a real Russian one as well. Although somewhat nervous about this one, it turned out to be one of the best I have ever done. It was a three-hour drive through the city and then through birch forests and small villages of wooden cottages. We made one comfort stop at a petrol station, mainly to refuel the coach, but the guide said there was a rare free toilet in the shop there so we all trooped off and just as we got to the door a burly guy in uniform locked the whole shop for a 15 minute "technical break", whatever that is. We had to wait anyway for the fuel, and when they did reopen it turned out there was just one - yes one- unisex toilet, so that short comfort stop took one hour !! When we got to Novgorod, once the capital of Russia, we stopped for coffee, a sort of pastry with pickled cabbage inside and an apple cake before driving round the centre. There are hundreds of churches in this city and we stopped at one complex of two for photos, before reaching the centre and getting out for a walking tour of Yaroslav's Court and Marketplace, over the river Volkhov and into the Kremlin (Castle) with the oldest church in Russia - St Sophia's cathedral, founded in 989ad. It was beautiful. We then had a typical Russian lunch - salads, root vegetable soup and a sort of pot roast followed by pancakes, before driving to a monastery and another church. We ended up at an open-air museum of old wooden houses, windmill, churches etc . A bell-ringer had been waiting for us to give a concert on the carillon bells on one of the churches and at that moment a real Russian wedding procession came out of one of the buildings. I think a bride has never been quite so photographed (excepting Kate of course!). This was the point at which we were all getting eaten alive by mosquitos and to this day, my bites are still itching like mad! The cottages were a mixture between typical log cabin style and what I can only describe as gypsy caravan style with lots of carving and coloured paint. Our 13 hour tour then turned into a 15 hour one as the President and Prime Minister both decided to visit St Petersburg for a big meeting that weekend and many roads were closed so the traffic was even more horrendous than usual, which is saying something. Sunday and our last day in the city. I was visiting the Catherine Palace that morning, leaving at 7.15am! The tours were arranged to be very early as groups were allowed in an hour or so before private visitors and so it was quieter. It is a one hour drive out of the city at Pushkin, and yet another stunning vision of gold, blue and white. I paid 4 euros to be allowed to take photos inside this palace, excepting the legendary Amber Room, now reconstructed to match what was looted by the Nazis and never recovered. The whole palace is an amazing feat of reconstruction following near total destruction in 1944. Back on the ship I had a leisurely afternoon before we sailed at 3.45. There had been a whole fleet of cruise ships coming and going over our three day stay - Discovery, Seabourn Sojourn, Saga Pearl, Pullmatur Empress, Costa Pacifica and Norwegian Sun, but most stayed just one or two days. The next day was a much-needed sea day. Tuesday and it was Copenhagen. We were not scheduled to arrive until noon, but were staying until 10.30pm so a nice lie-in. The Captain's 9am broadcast explained that the channel into Copenhagen is 7.7m deep and Balmoral's draught is 7m so a tight fit and the ship had to be trimmed to as even a keel as possible. We also had to notify air traffic control of our height as the entrance to the port is right under the flight path to the airport! In the Observatory Bar the tables are all "decorated" with an old nautical chart under glass and I found one that was for Copenhagen so was able to track our progress to dock. This was my seventh time in Copenhagen so I just wandered up to the shops, drooled over the Danish furniture in Ilums Bolighus, wandered round Ny Havn and then back again. I just got back inside and was showering when I heard that many people had been caught in an horrendous thunder storm - fortunately a short one - with hail and lightning, so was glad to have got back when I did. We sailed at 10.30 for Aalborg, also in Denmark.Wednesday - AalborgIt is a long sail upriver to Aalborg but was so worth it when we arrived as it is a lovely town with half-timbered or brick buildings and 17th century "Slot" or castle. Balmoral was the first ship to use the newly-built berth so we arrived to a band, carnival floats etc and the Captain had to perform the official ribbon-cutting ceremony. There was a stand giving us free Danish hot-dogs all morning which the crew were making full use of. I guess cruise ship food gets boring after a while ! I explored on foot. It was very cold with showers. We only had half a day here and I would have enjoyed longer. We needed a tug to help turn us on departure as the Captain said the depth here was at the limit of Balmoral's draught and that technically we had been aground while berthed! That evening was the Captain's Farewell Cocktail Party - same format as the Welcome Party in reverse with free-flowing drink and canapEs. That evening and the next day Balmoral was fighting a Force 8 headwind, as well as sea currents. Together it meant our arrival in Southampton would be delayed by several hours. Morning entertainment of a sort was put on for us but I'm not sure many people went to carpet bowls and dance lessons. We still had to vacate the cabins by 9am, but they set up a room to leave hand luggage in and we got lunch as well as breakfast. Nearly everyone just sat around and waited ...and waited. We could buy drinks from the bar with cash so that helped. As we came past Portsmouth we were treated to the sight of the largest aircraft carrier in the world - the USS Ronald Reagan - in port for Obama's visit, and the trippers out on sightseeing boats got two for the price of one with Balmoral sailing past. We finally docked at 1pm and as I was on the lowest deck I got off at 3pm.So - final impressions of my first time with Fred Olsen: I don't know. I can't put my finger on what it is but I seemed to me to be lacking something - atmosphere? Hard to define. It might be that on this cruise there were not only lots of people new to Fred Olsen (like myself) but also brand new to cruising. The dress code was abysmal ! Jeans on formal night! In fact I only wore a long dress on the first formal night and wore what I class as semi-formal on the others as I felt so overdressed. Perhaps their terminology confused newbies - informal rather than semi-formal. That aside, much as I enjoyed the cruise - would I go back with them? I don't know. Maybe, if it was a bargain (which this one was most definitely not!), and the itinerary appealed. They certainly win on the unusual itineraries and I do like the size of ship. I know lots of you love Fred Olsen and I accept this one may not have been a typical example so all I can suggest is if you like a traditional cruise experience - try it for yourself. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
The itinerary was very good and we really enjoyed the whole trip because of that, but:1. The ship was very crowded, especially when the weather prevented people from going on deck.2. We had a balcony and a good cabin, but often there were ... Read More
The itinerary was very good and we really enjoyed the whole trip because of that, but:1. The ship was very crowded, especially when the weather prevented people from going on deck.2. We had a balcony and a good cabin, but often there were workmen on our balcony painting and repairing. Also, we overlooked the promenade deck where workmen were often using noisy power tools. The experience was rather like an uncompleted Spanish resort.3. The food was quite good, not exceptional, but we would have liked an alternative menu and restaurant, even if we'd have had to pay a premium.4. The evening shows were good, but the daytime lectures were poor.5. There is only one theatre which has a flat floor which makes viewing from the rear obstructed. There is no cinema.Overall, would we recommend Fred Olsen? Probably not, unless the itinerary was exceptional, and the trip was quite short. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
I have been forced to put S`Hampton as our departure point as the website does not feature LIVERPOOL as a departure port. We are frequent cruisers but decided to take our first cruise with Fred Olsen as the Boudicca was sailing from ... Read More
I have been forced to put S`Hampton as our departure point as the website does not feature LIVERPOOL as a departure port. We are frequent cruisers but decided to take our first cruise with Fred Olsen as the Boudicca was sailing from and back to Liverpool (we thought) only a half an hours journey from home. Two weeks before departure, F.Olsen wrote and informed us that we were now coming back into Southampton and would be coached back to Liverpool; not what we wanted at all as we are not good coach travellers. The reasons they gave were the difficult tides in the Mersey - it was high water at 11.00 a.m. on the day of our return and ships have been docking in Liverpool for over 100 years AND, the real reason, that they wanted to take the ship to Hamburg for a minor refit. Easier and cheaper from Southampton than Liverpool and no doubt arranged even before we booked. £100 each on board credit was offered in compensation. We were distinctly unimpressed as were all the passengers we spoke to. Some faced a journey from S.Hampton to Scotland on the day of our return. Now the ship. Clean, a very large cabin, good food, although not top class, and reasonably priced drinks. A mainly elderly passenger grouping with a sprinkling of bored teenagers. The Filipino/Indonesian staff were excellent and most patient with those passengers with infirmities - quite a number. A small outbreak of norovirus a couple of days before we returned although hygiene on the ship was first class. It was surprising how many passengers had to be reminded to use the bacterial spray before entering the dining rooms! The entertainment was O.K. a decent comedian and a multi instrument musician. The song and dance group made up in enthusiasm for what they lacked in talent. The highlight was the Crew Show. Dancing and singing which put the professionals to shame. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Fred Olsen Cruise. 1st September 2010 to 7th September 2010. My wife and I chose this cruise because it sailed from North Shields Port of Tyne in the North East. Our previous cruises were from Southampton and necessitated a weary ... Read More
Fred Olsen Cruise. 1st September 2010 to 7th September 2010. My wife and I chose this cruise because it sailed from North Shields Port of Tyne in the North East. Our previous cruises were from Southampton and necessitated a weary rail journey to and from the port. Our booking was a very late one, so we were not surprised when luggage labels and other information regarding the cruise did not turn up, despite the assurance of the Fred Olsen booking office that we would receive a package by special delivery on the morning of the cruise. Consequently, we arrived at the port without any documents or labels. We knew that we had been allocated Cabin 8007 on "Boudicca", so a port worker soon supplied us with a label for our luggage and two official cards which would allow us to board the ship. Having been given a balcony suite, the result of a cancellation, we were called early to proceed to the ship. We were led to a bus which transported us on a short journey to the ship's side. A lift took us to Deck 8 and Cabin 8007, which was spacious, with a king-sized bed and plenty of storage space. We had the added amenities of a bath-tub and a fairly narrow balcony with a partly restricted view. On a table were a bottle of Champagne and a plate of petit-fours. Our cabin stewardess was Cheryl, who was pleasant, but seemed to have too much to do throughout the cruise. We managed to have a quick cup of tea before boat-drill at 5.0pm. I must admit that the drill was the most efficient that we have experienced in nearly 40 years of cruising. All passengers were carefully checked. Dining We were seated at a table for two, No 55, in the Tintagel Restaurant. Our first meal was simple, Cod and Chips with Apfel Strudel to follow. The next morning the waiter misunderstood my order and brought me an overloaded plate of overcooked bacon, egg, mushrooms, sausage, tomato etc, plus lukewarm tea for my wife and coffee for myself. We decided that during the rest of the holiday we would take advantage of the breakfast buffet, although we prefer to be served. Lunches and dinners gave us many problems. We sent a number of meals back to the kitchen. Part of the problem was that some food was undercooked. We were particularly keen to have our meat and vegetables thoroughly cooked and we were annoyed to have steak served undercooked, when we had stressed that we wanted it very well cooked. The service was often slow. We felt that there were too many people aboard and that the waiters had too many tables to look after. Our waiter was Francis. He was always pleasant, but we thought that he had far too much to do. We were of the opinion that the quality of the food was not of the highest. The hygiene in the restaurants was first class. Members of staff were on duty to ensure that diners had Gel for their hands. Entertainment We attended short ballroom dancing sessions, which were enjoyable. Fellow passengers seemed to be satisfied with the shows, which we did not attend on this short break. The port lectures were predictable and concentrated on the information associated with the ship's tours. Fellow Guests. Throughout the cruise we found much friendliness among those with whom we came into contact. Politeness and good conversation made for a pleasant atmosphere. We thought that the disabled passengers were heroic and, despite their difficulties, very good humoured. Sitting at a table for lunch, we conversed with a trio of ladies from Wallsend. It transpired that one of these ladies was my second cousin. It was a most interesting meeting and a pleasant coincidence. Ports of Call Oslo We had visited Oslo in the past and we looked forward to another glimpse at the city. As Balcony Suite customers, we were entitled to a free ride in the shuttle bus. Other sightseers had to pay £5! It was a pleasure to visit the Royal Palace area and to carry on a gossip with the guards. Our tour of the City Hall was a good experience and we appreciated the wonderful murals, depicting the history and folklore of the country. There was a small disappointment when we attempted to visit the Parliamentary Building. It was closed to tourists, because of refurbishment within. Gothenburg A fairly long ride by shuttle bus deposited us in the City Centre. The city is very spacious and its large solid buildings and its extensive shopping areas were impressive. Trams and canals are rarely experienced by us, so we had plenty to see on the visit. It is a fact that we find strangers in foreign lands friendly and fascinating. Outside the museum in Gothenburg we encountered a German couple from Stuttgart and spent an interesting half hour talking to them. Using English and the few German words that we knew, we found that we had much in common. Copenhagen We had visited Copenhagen in 1980 during a cruise on the "Uganda". On this occasion the weather had been rainy and the dark clouds had not enhanced the city during our tours. On the visit from "Boudicca" we marvelled at a beautiful city, sparkling in the sunshine and gleaming in its greenery and architecture. We were pleased to find the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Ansgar, which was most beautiful. We joined a large crowd of adults and many children at the Mass, which was a musical treat. Afterwards, in a small area, we were able to appreciate the Royal Palace buildings and then the great, uplifting Lutheran Cathedral, which was an architectural treat. Our walk back to the ship, with the sun streaming down over an attractive countryside, made us gasp with delight on occasions. Our memory of Copenhagen in 2010 will stay with us, as the highlight of our short cruise. General Comments. With all the adverse publicity, it was surprising that there were so many smokers on the ship. Walks around the deck were spoiled by the smell of tobacco smoke. We found it offensive. We thought that the dEcor and comfort of the "Boudicca" was equal to those ships in which we had cruised over the past years. Public rooms were most comfortable and the restaurants were light and attractive. The Reception staff was pleasant and efficient. Our enquiries were always received with a smile and ready advice. Disembarkation was no problem and we were able to hire a taxi to take us home, immediately on leaving the ship. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
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