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46 Fred. Olsen Cruise Reviews

I must start by telling readers that I am usually pretty shirt if people start moaning about perceived trivial service faults while on holiday, especially on a cruise where so much can go wrong but is usually so right. On this occasion I ... Read More
I must start by telling readers that I am usually pretty shirt if people start moaning about perceived trivial service faults while on holiday, especially on a cruise where so much can go wrong but is usually so right. On this occasion I am forced to change my position radically. I shan't bother Fred Olsen again and the following explains why. Friends, upon whose judgement previous experience had lead me on rely and who had sailed with Fred several times in the past latterly in 2012, spoke so warmly of both line and ship that I booked with confident expectations. I anticipated a lovely experience at least akin to my handful or so of previous cruises with P&O over the past 10 years. Alas disappointment was to be my reward. You board with no ships map so stand lost in the reception area not knowing where to go. After a time a member of staff approached me and directed me to my cabin. The room was pleasant enough but as I explored I found: Large bottle of water-£1.50! No fridge No shower cap, shampoo, body lotion or soap tablet (just liquid). Mattress...not to my personal liking. Dinner in the Ballindalloch restaurant on the first night was OK but not memorable. And tepid. Following a nightmare night due to Storm Katie through which we sailed in gale force winds (later recorded on the 'cruise log' as being force 6!), as a result of which most on board hardly slept at all we eventually rose for breakfast the next morning. Shambolic! Waiters rushing everywhere, looking stressed. No sugar, milk, butter/spreads or preserves on the table. I sat and waited for some 5 minutes for my order to be taken. Nothing. I eventually managed to flag down a waiter who simply said "buffet madam" and indicated the direction. I asked for tea. He disappeared. So I found the buffet scrum and helped myself. The eggs had languished for too long on the hot plate and had set. The fruit was all from a tin. The cereals dispensed from machines which crush everything. The bacon tasted of chemical treatment and had long since been a stranger to the pan. You could get no toast at the table until you got lucky with the scuttling Toast Waiter and then you had to find and flag down the One with the Butter/marmalade. Tea/coffee took an age then you had to keep watching for the Man with the Milk, or the Waiter who could get you a Fork/teaspoon/butter knife - in some cases even a cup and saucer. A complete, shambolic nightmare of a meal spent mostly trying to achieve some sort of service instead of enjoying a conversation with fellow passengers, all of whom were struggling with the same issues. It seems that the clear table policy was an exercise to avoid Noro virus. Why then were we all forced to get our own food requiring every passenger to handle every serving utensil at the buffet rather than have it plated and delivered by the staff who we assume we're Noro-free? I don't take lunch, but understood from many conversations with similarly shell-shocked travellers that it was the same mess as at breakfast. Let's get positive. The Balmoral, once you have a map which was finally located in the 'welcome in board' pack, is easy to navigate and all public areas easy to locate. They were pleasant and the staff extremely attentive. I'd have liked to have finish one drink before being asked if I would like another but perhaps they are on commission, hence their persistence. Dinner on night two. The starters were very beautiful, 'nouvelle cuisine' sized offerings. The soup, for which I opted, was pleasant - but tepid. The main course was a perfectly cooked Filet Mignon, quite possibly the nicest I have been served in many a long day, accompanied by delectable spinach in a gorgeous sauce and a small portion of fondant potato. It was all tepid, but tasty. I shan't bore you further except to say that the main course of dinner each night was definitely the stand-out of the cruise food. Breakfast, in every restaurant (I didn't try the Cafe which was a self-service buffet), even after it seemed that their precautions against Noro virus eased to permit milk, sugar butter and preserves back on the table, remained a shambles every morning. I also found that if you could get a waiter you could order and omelette, fish, or my choice of poached eggs which I ordered with bacon. The eggs arrived on a plate swimming in water with the rim of the plate smeared greasily round with a hint of previous use suggested by a hint of dried egg yolk... No bacon. Notwithstanding, assuming it was a one-off glitch but no. The second time I tried the bacon did too, thus making the watery bath greasy. The smears and finger marks on the rim remained as before. The entertainment was, with one exception very good. The musical shows put on by the in-house troupe were outstanding. (P & O please note. Your Headliners are becoming entirely predictable and missable). There was an extremely versatile and entertaining musician in the Morning Light bar and a very pleasant Trio elsewhere whose gentle, well balanced repertoire was ideal music to listen to or as a background for a pleasant chat. The magician was excellent. The 'comedian' an embarrassment. I know, humour is personal. Well, this one managed to entertain only a small handful of the audience the rest of whom were somewhere between bored and down-right embarrassed at his ineptitude. The excursions were excellent. We were after all in Ireland and the tour guides, and often drivers too, were uniformly entertaining as well as informative. The port talks were only available pre-recorded on the in-house TV. The 'presenter' was abysmal. We were encouraged to see see the 'murials' on the walls in Belfast. I am sure as I made myself re-listen twice to be certain. He tripped, stammered, and coughed his monotonous and unenthusiastic way through painfully unexciting scripts. Oh, and there was no TV channel guide in the cabin and when you could find a programme other than a film or Fred Olsen promotion channel it was of out of date Australian television programmes. Why? One last warning to all O2 mobile users. On enquiry at Guest Services as to why it might be that I could not send or receive on my mobile phone shortly after departureI was advised that FO had signed a contract with a new mobile network service provider at the beginning of the year and that the new company did not currently have a contract with O2. Heaven help any passenger leaving home with a pressing need to keep in touch. You can't until you are within range of land. I am so truly sorry that this, my first cruise blog should be so negative but I have tried to be honest, accurate and unexaggerated in this report. I hope never to have such a negative experience ever again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
This is an old, dated ship that is in dire need of updating. The décor is a mix between a 70's social club and a care home and the smell in some of the corridors is nauseating. We were only on board for 3 nights but had to move room ... Read More
This is an old, dated ship that is in dire need of updating. The décor is a mix between a 70's social club and a care home and the smell in some of the corridors is nauseating. We were only on board for 3 nights but had to move room each night due to cabin problems. The staff watched us move and didn't offer any help and indeed, for the last move, our old room was cleared before we had a chance to fully pack meaning we are still missing some of our belongings. There were what appeared to be blood stains on the carpet in our 2nd room and one of the mattresses in the final room was covered in dubious smelling stains, although the staff did eventually replace this with a cleaner mattress although it took some lengthy conversations with the surly and often hostile staff on reception to achieve this). The food served was mediocre and no match for other cruises we had sailed on. Service in the restaurants (we dined in the Avon/Spey) was generally very good but there were some exceptions and plates were cleared before all guests at the table had finished their meal - indeed it was best to keep hold of your plate even before you had finished to make certain it wasn't whipped when you were not looking. Drinks were a reasonable price but service in the lounges was exceptionally slow, even at times when they were not busy. On an evening there was very little opportunity to escape the pub singers and quizzes and to experience a quiet drink and we regularly found ourselves moving table to escape raucous groups and screeching. Overall we booked this cruise with an open mind as we had heard some very positive things about the company. However we were extremely disappointed in the whole experience and will never contemplate a Fred Olsen Cruise again. There are much better operators out there for the same price and who offer far superior ships, better rooms, dining and overall experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
We were unable to specify a cabin as Olsens allocated this under their terms of the booking, The cabin allocated on deck four was to the rear of the ship and was noisy from the off in Southampton. The noise and vibration increased as the ... Read More
We were unable to specify a cabin as Olsens allocated this under their terms of the booking, The cabin allocated on deck four was to the rear of the ship and was noisy from the off in Southampton. The noise and vibration increased as the speed of the engine did and as the ship sailed all night this was a disaster in terms of trying to sleep. The noise went away of course when the ship stopped in port, but you don't want to sleep then and want to explore the destination. It went on every night and at times the vibration was so intense that things fell off the shelf and the wardrobe door fell off! You need some sleep even on a six day cruise and this cruise gave the normal sleeper no opportunity for that. Having cruised with Olsen for 5 years now the service and facilities have got progressively worse. Entertainment was weak and sparse during the days at sea, as were on board activities. Many clients just seem to want to sleep of play bridge. Service of the working staff on catering and cabin welfare remains excellent however although the officers on this voyage were aloof and the captains reception little more than an occasion for a free drink. The new chairs in the library and Morning Light bar are too low and uncomfortable compared to those previous when you could lounge at leisure. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
The worse cruising experience I have ever had. From beginning to end. My wife and I have cruised with Fred Olsen cruises on three occasions this was to be our fourth, we booked a cruise for my mother and father in law, my sister and ... Read More
The worse cruising experience I have ever had. From beginning to end. My wife and I have cruised with Fred Olsen cruises on three occasions this was to be our fourth, we booked a cruise for my mother and father in law, my sister and brother inlaw and my wife and I. The cruise was on the "Black Watch" an eight night cruise sailing from Belfast October 2015. The cruise started on the 16th October 2015 we were told to check in at their facility at Belfast docks at 2pm, my brother Inlaw was given a 2.30pm checkin, why? After registration all 700+ passengers were herded into what I can only describe as a small warehouse with very basic facilities, like myself most passengers would have been retired with a large number of disabled people. We waited almost 2.50 hours in crowded cold conditions to be bused to the ship which was located at another dock beside an animal feed warehouse, the stench was almost overwhelming. The checkin warehouse had a hole in the wall canteen offering hot and cold drinks which we had to pay for, yet we had checked in, and all of our party had an all inclusive card, Both my wife's parents are in their 80's and sat shivering like others waiting on the inadequate number of coaches to take us to the ship. When we eventually arrived onboard we went immediately to our Cabin (Superior Outside cabin) which I can only describe as tired and past its sell by date, both single beds mattresses had bowed in the middle and looked like something you would get in some third world hostel. The usual ships newsletter was placed on the table it listed various events, restaurant times etc, enclosed with it was a special notice informing us that due to repairs to the ship auxiliary engine we would be missing our first port of call "La Coruna." The ship would be going to the second port of call "Bilbao" for repairs so we would spend almost three days there. We were offered £50 each as compensation which had to be spent on the ship. At this stage the ship had not left the dockside in Belfast. If Fred Olsen cruises had notified us prior to getting on the ship I would have cancelled, as one of the main reasons for booking was the opportunity of going to La Coruna and taking my wife's parents to Santiago de Compostela an opportunity which because of their age and cost will sadly not be possible again. Having sailed on Fred Olsen cruises three other ships I had no hesitation booking the Black Watch as the previous cruising experience on these ships was faultless, unfortunately the Black Watch fell way below their sister ships standards, the main restaurant was one of the worst I have seen, was more like a ferry canteen than an elegant cruise ship restaurant, It was to bright and lacked any atmosphere. The staff lacked personality and just seemed totally bored, unenthusiastic, we listened to a couple of the waiters complain about the salary they got from The cruise company and how it was topped up with the gratuities which we had all prepaid. In comparison with its sister ships the menus were boring, breakfast and lunch was a buffet but you could order off the menu if you could get eye contact with a waiter I gave up trying and opted for buffet. Trying to get a glass of wine on our all inclusive card on occasions took ages getting eye contact with a waiter got worse as each day went by, on the final night my father in law finally got a glass after he had finished his main course, in any case the house wine was practically undrinkable. The reception staff, shop staff were totally unpleasant, getting a smile was a rarity, the one area that I enjoyed on the ship was the observatory bar the staff were pleasant and efficient, the trio who played there every evening were excellent. One of my pet hates on any cruise is the constant manufactured occasions that their photographers use to get a happy holiday shot, captains dinner, captains farewell dinner etc, the photographs cost a fortune to purchase, on the Black Watch I seen one of the worse photographs I have ever seen, a couple getting photographed with the captain, his wife stood beside the captain, her husband was in a wheel chair, the photographer took this shot and put the picture on the usual display. The head of the person in the wheelchair was all that you could see of him sticking up at the bottom of the photo. All my comments like this are just a snapshot of a very bad experience on the Black Watch never to be repeated. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
My wife and I having celebrated two special birthdays this year decided to culminate the year with a cruise. Unfortunately we chose not to go on one of our tried and trusted cruise lines. We chose to go with Fred Olsen for 14 days on ... Read More
My wife and I having celebrated two special birthdays this year decided to culminate the year with a cruise. Unfortunately we chose not to go on one of our tried and trusted cruise lines. We chose to go with Fred Olsen for 14 days on board Black Watch. What a disaster We were not aware that a feature of their cruises is extensive maintenance program . Virtually on a daily basis one or more public areas were closed off for repair or decoration Outer decks were on occasion strewn with hoses electric cables and machinery, on three days we had to suffer paint varnish and staining odours. W were advised on a daily basis by the Captain always to use the handrails when moving around - what does one do when the rails were being stained. Thinking it was a one off matter we wrote to customer services only to be told that all Fred Olsen ships cruised throughout the whole year which means that all maintenance has to be carried out during cruises. One last thing if you are blind or partially sighted (like me) F O is not for as you are not welcome. All in all we wasted £4000 Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
After cruising with Royal Caribbean, Cunard & P & O (never had any problems) some "acquaintances" persuaded us to give Fred Olsen a try. So we thought, a quick 7 day "Easter Getaway", across the North Sea & ... Read More
After cruising with Royal Caribbean, Cunard & P & O (never had any problems) some "acquaintances" persuaded us to give Fred Olsen a try. So we thought, a quick 7 day "Easter Getaway", across the North Sea & up a couple of rivers, what could go wrong ! A letter arrived just before departure stating; "Some F/O Braemar passengers have been affected by mild Gastric Flu, therefore there will be a delay in departing". I phoned their office and was told "some people had taken on-board viral gastric flu from grandchildren, but no one had been positive tested for noro-virus". Fred O Ipswich told us that no Car Park booking paperwork was required as APNR was in place at Harwich, I queried this, as we needed it when sailing from Harwich before and were told we were incorrect. We arrived at the car park - no ANPR was ever in place, this caused additional delay as well as embarkation due to fumigation. Finally on board, access to our cabin was prohibited as we had to carry our hand luggage & wear the lifejackets for the Evacuation Drill. Breakfast & lunch were taken from the cordoned off open buffet containers by serving, non fluent waiters. Food requested and quantities misunderstood. At all meals salt & pepper packets, butter, sugar etc. had to be repeatedly requested. The waiters were overwhelmed and often did not return with the requested items before the food, tea/coffee was cold. All this took a considerable time, with no additional time allowed for consumption. We were regularly rushed to leave the restaurants, closing at, say 9.30 a.m. didn't mean last orders - they wanted you out the door by then. No fresh milk whatsoever available through out the cruise. Inclusive draught mixers were always flat; bottles & tins were available at additional cost. Despite the heighted hygiene measures with all the disinfectant spray (causing rough & swollen hands) menus were handed from passenger to passenger, and with each drink order a signature was required - using the same, possibly infected pen (we used our own). Identical food (under another description) was served from buffet lunch to dinner. All guests were forced to sit very close together yet dozens of tables were empty (with less guests each time as the "Gastric Flu" clearly spread). When asked by us where their "partner" was, we were regularly told "they're got a cold or flu", one guest (with a straight face) said her husband got sunstroke (in cold, 5 degree Hamburg the previous day!). Maybe the Ships Doctor had told them not to admit to any possible Gastro Problems. Often when noticed a new red sticker over an open door, we could see the poor patient laying in bed, no bunk beds in there - the reason for a red sticker often used to denote additional beds.. There were large red bins marked "Gastro" parked in the corridors, the cabin On the only sunny afternoon, we could not sit in certain deck areas because of "cleansing protection, for our passengers wellbeing". The Captain updated the situation every day, blaming the passengers, but they were fine for the first couple of days. His final comment was always "Look after each other". We purchased hand wipes, for use each time we touched door handles etc. I saw no Male public toilets with urinals, consequently queues of men formed to use the single WC, toilet rolls rolled around the floor. After two days the Captain requested everybody to return to their cabin if they needed the toilet. When berthing the ship's bow thrustors shuddered & rattled so much that decorations fell over. The Captain often chose this time to make his announcements, and his comments were drowned out and any useful information lost. Two days in Amsterdam consisted of arriving very late afternoon (dinner at 6.15pm) and leaving next day at 3pm. After arriving at the Church in Hamburg on Easter Monday, access was not possible as it was restricted to the regular Worshippers. The entry to Hamburg miniature railway world was delayed because F/O did not purchase the entry tickets in advance or advise the tour operator the numbers. The cruise was so stressful & rushed, upon returning home we are paranoid and still won't touch anything & are constantly washing our hands. I went to put my hand on the bannister and quickly recoiled, before I realised I was home. In contrast, my only reasonable experience were the evening meals served in the Grampian Restaurant. All in all a complete waste of money and a wasted week of our lives. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
My wife and I have cruised with a number of different companies before and had decided to try a cruise with Fred. Olsen lines - what a mistake!! Never again!! Nearly 4,000 pounds wasted in my opinion in hindsight !!! From start to finish ... Read More
My wife and I have cruised with a number of different companies before and had decided to try a cruise with Fred. Olsen lines - what a mistake!! Never again!! Nearly 4,000 pounds wasted in my opinion in hindsight !!! From start to finish we encountered both good and extremely poor treatment whilst cruising on the Braemar during our last trip just finished. First off we turned up at Manchester Airport in plenty of time for our scheduled departure on Monarch Airlines. Now when your handed a letter from Monarch whilst waiting to book in doesn't exactly bode well for the start of your cruise experience. The letter stated that the original plane had developed a technical fault but that another airplane had been found and that our 11.00 am boarding time would still be going ahead - great. However at the appointed departure time we were still waiting o board the aircraft. No announcements were made to tell us why and eventually, when we did board the aircraft, we found ourselves on a Hi-Fly ? chartered plane with a mixed origin crew who looked anything like professionals. What followed then beggared belief as we were then subjected to a wait of over two and a half hours delay on the ground whilst they sorted out provisioning the plane with food and drink. Why they didn't do this when they already knew they had to change planes three hours previously at check in, I don't know. They shouldn't have bothered!!! Not only were rationed to what food we got (some people had ordered vegetarian food and were told " no we don't have anything over than chicken - take it or leave it" ) but also we were only given a quarter of a cup of wine (a third of a small bottle) to boot with the first of two meal breaks. Then to top it all they ran out of food and drink during the second meal serving - and my wife and I and others in our immediate seating area suffered the same fate - absolutely amazing!! Still things had to improve surely to goodness!! Then just when we thought things couldn't get any worse - they did!! When we did eventually touch down in Barbados - now nearly 3 hours behind schedule and a might puckish and thirsty, we were told to wait on the apron - not the arrivals lounge as we thought safest - till transport arrived. This did not happen till nearly 50 mins after disembarking from the aircraft and we were shuffled around from place to place whilst avoiding airport ground vehicles, until eventually some small 18 seater coaches did arrive. Now considering there were over 300 passengers to transport from the airport to the port, this did seem to me to smack of a bit of a logistical cockup. Whilst waiting patiently to get from airport to port we were offered nothing in the way of water and were told that we would not be allowed to visit the toilets in the main arrivals lounge - the excuse being "your transport will be here directly and we don't want you to delay the other passengers now do we". Yes folks the story does get worse when the small bus we were on developed a puncture - and more delays ensued whilst another coach was sourced. Needless to say that when we did arrive at the ship we not in the best of moods only to then find out that the scheduled departure drinks had been cancelled and that we also had run out of any time to see Barbados as the ship was now departing for its next port of call. Now you could say that some delays are inevitable, but when they happen to you, that there has been little or no apologies given as to why you've been delayed, that clearly some people were distressed and inconvenienced and prevented from visiting the toilets, that you've been left standing on the runway aprons for almost an hour without any water in the heat, and then subjected to transport on unsuitable vehicles for the size of the party - well that to me smacks of unprofessionalism on the part of Fred.Olsen to ensure any delays are minimized and that people caught up in these are looked after during them. When we did eventually arrive at our cabin - which we had paid to have upgraded, we found that the cabin was both very cramped and that there were two single beds made up rather than the double we'd requested. I know that the ship was not the largest afloat but this cabin was the smallest we've ever had the pleasure of sleeping in. To be fair the rest of the cruise went off without too many other hitches that certainly are not worth mentioning here. Suffice to say that we had taken the opportunity to avail ourselves of the 10 pound a day drinks package before the start of the cruise, knowing how expensive some refreshments can be during the hot weather, and can recommend this action to anyone not wanting a mega bill at the end of the cruise. Most drinks seemed okay. the limited choice of drinks (beers ? wines / spirits etc.) wasn't a problem and we managed to get our money worth - just. As for the rest of the ship - and the Braemar is a small cruise ship - make no mistake - the décor looked faded, the on board entertainment was so so, the acts a bit dated and the two "pools" (and I use that term lightly) - small and dingy. The ship is extremely noisy when arriving at its ports of call and due to its small size any movement of the ship is greatly amplified. All in all - the ships company were pleasant enough, the serving attendants were somewhat efficient, the cruise locations were reasonable - albeit the stays a little too short for my liking - however I would not travel on this ship again. After note - having written to Fred. Olsen lines on our return to complain about the delays / changes in a positive manner - we received a nice apologetic letter basically telling us how good their transport arrangements / companies normally are and oh yes tough titty, no we don't see any reason to give you anything in the way of something more for your trouble. THANKS FRED !! Guess we will vote with our feet and spend our money with someone else next time!! Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
As with other reviewers, we picked the Black Watch cruise to South America for the itinerary. However, we were not prepared for the poor quality of a ship we had happily cruised on 10 years earlier. The embarkation at Southampton was the ... Read More
As with other reviewers, we picked the Black Watch cruise to South America for the itinerary. However, we were not prepared for the poor quality of a ship we had happily cruised on 10 years earlier. The embarkation at Southampton was the first let down, as the area was under refurbishment and looked and felt like a building site. The ship itself, despite being described as recently refurbished, appeared in need of a complete overhaul.There were rust patches and jagged metal edges which had just been painted over.Everything was old fashioned from the yale key access to the tiny "staterooms" and safe, to the lack of a fridge. As mentioned by a previous reviewer, norovirus broke out almost immediately, with the crew constantly suggesting that the passengers were to blame due to their lack of personal hygiene. This was obviously impossible as we were all made to apply anti-bacterial handwash at every entrance, especially wherever food or drink were involved. This altered the dining experience completely as the buffet and tea station were now roped off, and everything had to be served by a member of staff involving long queues. This also meant that public areas such as the laundry room and fitness centre were also closed. Anyone who displayed symptoms of sickness was confined to their cabin for 48hours and treated like a criminal, which affected my husband who suffered an undiagnosed heart attack and had vomited.After a more serious attack, the medical centre looked after my husband until we reached Rio de Janeiro and we were repatriated ashore for medical treatment. The medical staff on board were very good, but once ashore the Olsen Port Agent is supposed to care for passengers until the Insurance company take over. This did not happen and we were left to cope in a foreign country all on our own. Another couple was also put ashore for medical treatment at this time and were similarly abandoned by Fred Olsen and the Port Agent. This was a very frightening time for us all, and we felt very let down by the company we had placed our trust in. Having complained to Olsen's the attitude was uncaring and patronising. Passengers beware - if you get ill and are put ashore, Fred Olsen will just sail away and you will be left chasing up everyone for help and advice. You will be on your own. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
Got off Braemar 30th December doing Cape Verdi Islands. After 20+ cruises have to say this was the worse cruise we have had. At 64 years old I felt like a teenager there was no atmosphere bars were empty all day and after the mediocre ... Read More
Got off Braemar 30th December doing Cape Verdi Islands. After 20+ cruises have to say this was the worse cruise we have had. At 64 years old I felt like a teenager there was no atmosphere bars were empty all day and after the mediocre entertainment everyone went to bed. Beware if you book an inside double cabin. Our cabin had double bed with Pullman beds overhead which meant it was basically a family room with an extra wardrobe but meant that the bed is not accessible one side and I had to crawl in and out of bed. The HOTEL MANAGER came to look tried to blame travel agent but basically wasn't interested. It wasn't even a full ship but didn't offer to move us. One couple was given the wrong restaurant sitting so they changed them from 2nd sitting to 1st sitting for a cost of £56. Any problem you had you were told to contact Fred Olsen customer services on your return and we all know you won't get anywhere once the cruise was over. The last thing I wanted was money off another cruise. The restaurants were far from full at either sitting so there was no reason to charge the unfortunate couple anything. PENNY PINCHERS. So all in all rubbish customer service. Food good as was waiting staff. Cape Verdi Islands are a dive absolutely nothing at all in one of them not even a cafe but we had three days there and only a few hours in la Palma it was obviously cheap to dock in Cape Verdi. If you want any fun on your cruise then don't bother with Fred Olsen. We were not the only unhappy people lost count of people that said first and last time. Only other good point was the weather. NEVER AGAIN. Also after 2.30 lunch time there is nowhere to get food until your evening meal apart from afternoon tea so if u are on second sitting as we were there was no food available So if you embark or go ashore and return after 2.30 no food available. Same for breakfast after 10.30am nothing available only a tray of biscuits. Tea and coffee only available on deck six so if you sleep in you get nothing until 12.30. Oh forgot to say first morning a tannoy system came into the cabin telling you we had docked, outside temperature etc AT 8AM. I complained about this and they stopped doing it after a couple of days. It was like hi de hi campers. Will stick to the larger and better ships from now on very disappointed. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
Sailed from Liverpool on the 24th November Cruised towards the Azores for 3 days then we were confined to our Cabins as it was to dangerous to walk about the ship as it bobbed about the stormy Atlantic 4 days. Staff were wonderful but ... Read More
Sailed from Liverpool on the 24th November Cruised towards the Azores for 3 days then we were confined to our Cabins as it was to dangerous to walk about the ship as it bobbed about the stormy Atlantic 4 days. Staff were wonderful but entertainment very very limited. No signal to cabin on TV so had no alternative but to watch repeats again and again from an assortment of old films This went on for 4 days before the Captain on the Navigational bridge had no alternative but to abandon any thought of visiting the Azores. So as a very poor alternative we ended up in the Canaries. We then settled into a pretty good cruise food was fantastic and the entertainment was brilliant but even this didn't make up for the fact that a small ship like the Boudica could not cope with seas that any P&O ship would have managed with out ant trouble. Did we get any apologies NO Did we get any money back because for us the cruise was ruined NO. If you want to visit the Azores GO with P&O because Fred Olson and I quote "Do not Guarantee the arrival at any port booked as part of a cruise" So that means once they have your money they will cruise and visit ports they want to visit which is not where you were expecting to go The main reason we booked this cruise was to visit the Azores Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
Went on a sector of a World cruise as interesting itinerary. Embarkation was a total mix up as we were taken to wrong terminal at Dubai and left to almost check in on the wrong ship whereby we had to then walk along with everyone else from ... Read More
Went on a sector of a World cruise as interesting itinerary. Embarkation was a total mix up as we were taken to wrong terminal at Dubai and left to almost check in on the wrong ship whereby we had to then walk along with everyone else from our coach down the dock with our had luggage to the Balmoral tent where we were met with "Are you looking for the Balmoral". We then proceeded to the ship where no friendly welcoming was waiting just "your cabins are waiting. Ship was a dated rust bucket whereas we expected high quality sedate cruising since it is advertised as home from home . The cabin, food were 2nd class guest house standard and the entertainment Leeds Music Hall/Blackpool Pier. The bedlinen was nothing short of shabby, bobbley duvet cover which if it was ever changed in 25 days then the same quality was put back on. Bed was 2 small singles with no headboard placed under the picture window rather than on the side so you could actually see out of the window and you couldnt sit up in bed because of the window sill jutting into your neck. Examples of food, sausage and mash/steak pie and fish and chips at DINNER! Mostly accompanied by frozen peas and carrots. If you wanted vegetables you had to pile your plate up lunchtime at the self service. Supposedly 5 course dinner. 2 mouthfuls of salad on a large plate does not constitute an appetiser, followed by watery soup with virtually no content, 3rd course more salad, choices of main variable and then the smallest desserts you ever saw. Cheese and biscuits never offered because this was available on the 11pm buffet. Our waiter was surly all cruise. He was given our table as an extra and every night almost threw the menu at us and wanted to know your order before you had a chance to see what was available. He made it clear he wanted you out by taking cruet off table every night half way through the meal. If you picked something other than main course choices which you were entitled to do as detailed on the menu ie omelette or chicken he made it clear he was not happy. Your plates were almost thrown at you. First cruise where I hadnt had mix of female and male waiters. Girls are more chatty and friendly. This man never once in 4 weeks asked our names, what sort of day we'd had, had we enjoyed our sightseeing etc. Dinner should have been an experience on a long cruise. The ship had a coughing virus when we got on in Dubai which spread like wildfire throughout the ship. Despite my best hygiene precautions I was one of those who succumbed and had to spend 2 hrs one night on deck to give my neighbours and husband relief from what was described as a 40 a day smokers bark. The virus spreading wasnt helped by the restaurant staff insisting at breakfast and lunch that tables were filled so healthy people (me) were placed next to coughers and then I was one of those coughing placed next to healthy people. With the best will in the world and coughing only into hankies, you are touching communual tongs, butter dishes and milk jugs with hands that have been anti-bacterialised going into the dining room but they should have allowed people to sit apart if they choose. We witnessed a member of he catering staff in what could only be described as the canteen (called the Palms Cafe) sneeze all over a tray of cups and saucers and then had them out to passengers. The ship needed a thorough deep clean, the public toilets particularly by the Palms cafe were often smelly and the edges of the floor tiles were filthy. The ship was clearly unstable in rough weather but passengers might have been able to take extra precautions if the captain had indicated that we were in for an extremely bumpy ride out of Singapore. I've been on bigger ships in a Force 11 and never had a problem. This time in what the Captain described as a Force 7-8 I was extremely seasick before taking seasickness pills along with many others on board. This was our first time with Fred Olsen but never again. It seemed that all rounders as they called themselves took priority and the 400 or so who joined in Dubai were just making up the numbers. The ship rarely docked on time so port time was limited. There was something extremely wrong with the gangway so getting on and off the ship was slow. In Myanamar due to traffic the coaches had to be escorted and therefore were in convoy which meant 20 full coaches arriving back to the ship together. Disabled people were left with no canopy for shade on the dock for long periods in temps of 34degrees because the only gangway was a makeshift thing balanced on wooden pallets which for health and safety could only allow 3 to board at a time. Every night the seating on all aft decks were covered in soot from the funnel and one one morning the aft top sun deck was so badly covered in soot and debris from the funnel that you couldnt avoid walking through it and the soot was then taken into the carpeted areas giving the cleaners more work shampooing them but the actual deck remained covered in soot even when sunbathers were assembling after 9.30am. I consider this entire cruise was poor value for the money invested. The jingoism of "British Night" union jack waving and singing of nationalistic songs was so over the top I was embarrassed on behalf of the few foreign nationals on board as Brits are obviously 90% of the clientele of this cruise line. If you are of sound mind physically active and wish to experience rather than criticise other cultures this is not the ship for you. On a positive note we understand the chef left in Hong Kong when we did so perhaps the quality of the food has improved and the majority of fellow passengers were very friendly.. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
Black Watch Cruise to the Baltic November 2013 to December 2013 Initially I would like to say that I have never written or posted before, and I have cruised on six occasions previously with Cunard, Princess, and Carnival. I travelled ... Read More
Black Watch Cruise to the Baltic November 2013 to December 2013 Initially I would like to say that I have never written or posted before, and I have cruised on six occasions previously with Cunard, Princess, and Carnival. I travelled with my wife in an inside cabin (we reasoned it would be dark most of the time), and booked approximately three months before the time. On contacting Fred. Olsen direct to book we took advantage of a cut price £699 plus £10 per day each for an all inclusive drinks package. This sounded great value to us, and indeed on the face of it, for a Baltic cruise, it was. The problems started immediately, a few days after we booked, and paid in full, having been told that availability was very limited, the price was cut to £499 and then £449. At this point we were told we had the last deck 3 inside cabin. On speaking to other passengers this turns out not to be correct, as they had booked last minute deck 3 inside cabin for £449. This is £250 per passenger cheaper, and we still had to pay £48 to change dining which costs the company absolutely zero. These new improved prices continued until we set sail. The cruise was not full. I understand 'supply and demand' and did not expect any refund, but very reasonably asked if it was possible for an upgrade for the differential in prices, and we were told that we would be put on a waiting list - never to be mentioned again! OK I thought we have just been unfortunate, we booked at the wrong time, let's enjoy the cruise. Problem number one. We asked for late sitting, but were told it could not be guaranteed. No problem we thought, we can just change this with the Maître d. on board as is common on cruises. Yes you've guessed we were allocated early sitting. This is now the utterly scandalous part. We were charged £48 to change times, despite there being a queue of customers wanting to change both ways. I suggest if you are mistaken enough to sail with Fred. Olsen at any time in the future tell them you prefer the opposite sitting to the one you really want, as this is clearly company policy to fleece their clients. I actually saw an old lady in tears about this £48. We even found another couple who would happily swap with us, but to no avail, both couples would have to pay the £48! Sheer unadulterated robbery! As to the rest of the cruise, I am now comparing to other cruise lines The cabins are tired, but kept clean (no three pin plugs). The cabin temperature is totally uncontrollable, I can only thank goodness it was not the Caribbean as sometimes it was unbearably hot. The shower temperature also had a mind of its own with no rhyme nor reason to the controls. The ship is small, and seemed busy even although the cruise was not full. The staff tried their best, but were clearly not trained to the correct standard. The excursions are OK , but in common with others are over priced. The entertainment staff (although new) were excellent. The restaurant and cafeteria - do not be misled into thinking that food is available all the time. Nothing was available on embarkation, the cafe/ buffet is only open during restaurant hours, and when we are told that breakfast is 7.30 to 9.30 it actually means ALL the food is TAKEN AWAY at 9.25. Do not dare to arrive at 9.26! This is policy in the only two eating places on the ship. We were actually asked to move on one occasion to let staff clear away. Make no mistake this is not what is now expected on modern day cruise ships i.e. food / snacks available at any time, this is more like 1960s holiday camp behaviour. There is no snack bar, if you want fed you must be seated at least half an hour before the allotted closing time, which, for breakfast, is earlier than any hotel or cruise ship I have stayed in anywhere around the world. The cafe / buffet is often used for themed nights (Chinese / Indian buffet evenings etc.) which leaves no place to eat except the one restaurant. When this happens entrance to the cafe / buffet is only by pre booking a table. The food itself is average 3 star at best Our first night was spent at anchor in the middle of the English Channel with broken steering. We could not visit Helsinki as it was too windy! Unfortunately we were returning home when the worst storm in years visited the Baltic. In this case the Captain made a wise choice and sheltered in Hamburg until the worst had passed. This left us on board for two extra days, totally unavoidable. It mean't that we missed all our pre - booked connections to get from Dover to Scotland, which we then had to rearrange. Big hearted Fred. Olsen allowed us one free call connected by them and made in public, and 25 minutes free Wi-Fi which was actually much slower than my mobile 3G, anything else was chargeable. Just try arranging an insurance claim, taxis, overnight accommodation, and two separate rail journeys with one call, and 25 minutes of internet access which was slower than old fashioned dial up! There is no self- disembarkation, strictly not allowed. We were rescheduled to arrive in Dover at 5 pm, but had to give up our cases on retiring the previous evening. We were then ordered to vacate our cabins by midday, which meant that the passengers had to sit about the ship with coats, overnight clothes, hand luggage, and anything else they required for a minimum of five hours. You could not make it up. When our on board account was delivered to the cabin, it was, of course, incorrect. We had been charged for Internet use, and not credited with a returned electrical adaptor. As always the error was on the side of Fred. Olsen. On final afternoon, I attempted to get a soft drink at 15.31, but without any prior warning, was told that the bar had closed at 15.30 cheers Fred! Conclusion - a total rip off by a money grabbing company. This is the very opposite of modern day cruising. I asked customer services for a refund of my £48, but was told this was not possible. I consider that scenario, the eating arrangements, and the pure lack of assistance over our arrangements totally unacceptable. One star out of five (only the entertainment staff deserved any stars) Michael & Mary Grubb Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
We booked the cruise expecting there to be a range of ages, and we were in a minority, as the average age of the passengers was 85-90! The entertainment reflected this, although the dancers were really good. Considering we were two days ... Read More
We booked the cruise expecting there to be a range of ages, and we were in a minority, as the average age of the passengers was 85-90! The entertainment reflected this, although the dancers were really good. Considering we were two days at sea each way, and one day mid trip, the daytime entertainment was poor. Some activities had a cost to them, and were what is provided in elderly care homes. Many of the passengers had poor mobility, and we were very lucky to find another couple to share our table, who had a bit if life about them! The trip charges were extortionate! The cost of a trip to Oporto was £27 each, when the local bus took two of us return for 7 euros! We felt that this was a way of Fred Olson making more money out of what was a captive audience. The ports of call did not meet our expectations, and were predominantly city centres. Portimao was the only port worth walking around. The food was good, but we have has better service on previous cruises. Meals were rushed, and we had to choose the entire meal at the start, instead of being able to take our time between courses. I would strongly advise anyone considering booking a cruise to do your research first, and read the reviews, which is why I am doing this to save someone else having the same experience. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
Have just returned from the worst cruise we have ever had. Emaarktion,,,This was the new terminal at Liverpool which is not suitable for the amount of passengers as people had to queue outside.The toilet facilities are in a portacabin ... Read More
Have just returned from the worst cruise we have ever had. Emaarktion,,,This was the new terminal at Liverpool which is not suitable for the amount of passengers as people had to queue outside.The toilet facilities are in a portacabin there was no hot water or paper towels after reporting this a roll of toilet tissue was placed for hand drying,Embarkation was slow and the luggage did not arrive in the cabins until very late allowing no time to change for dinner. Cabin o Our cabin 4127 was very noisy small but adequate if a lot of time was not to be spent there.Sleep was impossible due to the noise.Amove was requested but the only alternative was on a lower deck.A lot of time was spent in the cabin as there are very few activities available unless you like whist bridge or listening to speakers, Entertainment The evening entertainment was extrmelly good as were the visiting acts.Dance hosts available for single ladies Howevwer the dance floor is very small and difficuly to dance around the older passengers. The entertainment during the day does not meet the needs of the younger passenger.The only thing available is the fitness centre which had a broken treadmill from the beginning .Fitness classes are charged at €5 for 30 mins Food Very good but long queues spoil the experience.Passengers on the ship are very elderly and many are frail or disabled The ship is very much like a nursing home The breakfast experience is dreadful as half the dining room is closed and you are placed on tables with total strangers. Shore excursions Walking excursions were cancelled due to lack of interest once again as the passengers were on the whole frail and elderly The ship The ship is old and worn the whole entertainment area is dated The ship is noisy and in bad weather which we had very unstable The noise from the engines is dreadful and the ship travels at a very slow pace.To many days were spent at sea. Future cruising Certainly never on this cruise line in comparison with other ships it was a very disappointing holiday The advertising should state it is catering for a very elderly passenger. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
We were on deck four on an inside cabin. The noise and vibration were terrible.The walls shook.The bed shook. We had to wrap the glasses and cups in a towel to stop them from banging together and smashing. We asked to be moved and were put ... Read More
We were on deck four on an inside cabin. The noise and vibration were terrible.The walls shook.The bed shook. We had to wrap the glasses and cups in a towel to stop them from banging together and smashing. We asked to be moved and were put down on deck two in an outside cabin. Just as bad but at least we had a port hole. They did provide ear plugs but still got headache from the vibration. I got into the habit of sleeping on the top deck in the day and staying awake at night. Even at three in the morning you can't find peace. They have piped music all over the ship. The food was ok.Some passengers thought it was good. Not up to the standard of a Princess cruise. Very limited selection for my wife who is a vegetarian. Entertainment was average with the crew doing about 40% of the shows. They had a classical guitarist, a classical violinist and a comedian. Staff were very good and friendly couldn't fault them at all. Cabin was clean and kept to a high standard. If you do go on this ship. Go as high as you can afford and towards the front of the ship. Every where else really is very noisy and vibrating. I thought it was fairly calm but quiet a few passengers and crew suffered with sea sickness. Trying to find some good points. The embarkation was smooth and well organised. Better that Princess. But all in all I wouldn't go on it again.Lots of people complained we weren't in port long enough to do anything. Half day stops. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Upon arrival at Dover my face immediately dropped with disappointment at the sight of the old done up converted ferry of a rust bucket that my eyes beheld, I could have cried, in fact I nearly did. I held back my tears for the sake of ... Read More
Upon arrival at Dover my face immediately dropped with disappointment at the sight of the old done up converted ferry of a rust bucket that my eyes beheld, I could have cried, in fact I nearly did. I held back my tears for the sake of my elderly mother in law, who for years has sung the praises of Fred Olsen... 'small and friendly' she calls this company and rightly so. So small but the price does not reflect this, in fact after some research when we got home it would have been cheaper on the new Cunard Queen Elizabeth and I'm sure much better value for money. Ironically we sailed past the above ship on a river cruise on the Tagus in Portugal, our last port of call....ohhhhh how I wished we could have swapped ships there and then. How this company can describe themselves as 5 star is beyond me, unless it's because 98percent of the passengers have lived through the war and rationing they think anything better than a cheese sandwich and a cream cake is gourmet dining. I suppose I have been spoiled though having been on a 'proper' cruise on a 'proper' liner before this 'Princess' no less... even after all this time I still can't quite get my head around the fact that all these old people are being conned. Friendly, yes... you see, the thing is all these older people know no better and expect no better, they think everyone's being so nice and kind to them because they are nice and kind, well they're not... for they have a hidden agenda, they want you and your hard earned cash to part company on the premise you'll get treated like royalty, and they don't do that either but the poor old dears are just oblivious and carry on in ignorance. On chatting to crew members all I have said was confirmed... they told me their selling policy and their target market of predominantly 60-90 year olds who are 'easy meat'and 'rich pickings'... SHAME ON YOU Olsen's !!! I think you ought to have two new slogan's to use... There's no fool like an old fool' and 'A fool and his money are soon parted' !!! Oh and by the way... get some stabilisers fitted to your 'rust buckets', the poor old dears might be able to enjoy themselves a bit more if you do, you never know they might even spend more on merchandise than anti sea sickness jabs or is that just another money spinner ! Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Both my wife and I are in our middle 60's but we were probably in the 5% of the youngest passengers on board. 1. The food although good was very repititious and lacked variety. The soups were mainly of the canned variety and breakfast ... Read More
Both my wife and I are in our middle 60's but we were probably in the 5% of the youngest passengers on board. 1. The food although good was very repititious and lacked variety. The soups were mainly of the canned variety and breakfast was extremely boring with little or no imagination being considered. 2. The entertainment on board the ship was to say the least - mundane and awful - the only outside entertainers were a harpist who used to belong to the "LOS PARAGUAYOS" group and a comedian whose jokes were old and tired. The rest of the evening entertainment was provided by the Boudicca Show group which were a group of amatuer style dancers dancing in front of an amateur band ( who called themselves an orchestra) 3. We were supposed to call at 5 ports but the visits to Guernsy and Tobermory were cancelled due to bad weather - which resulted in after leaving Dublin Dublin having to spend nearly 3 days going round in circles off the island of Lewis which was followed by another set of circles off the top of the Cromarty Firth before being allowed into Invergordon on the morning of Monday 4 October. By this time most of the passengers were totally fed up or in the case of the really old ones - had remained in their cabins. The Captain did mention that he had contacted Kirkwall and Scrabster in order to check if he could get into either of those ports but was informed that the weather in those 2 places was also unfit for the launch of tenders - however - he did not mention Invergordon our next port of call - where tenders were not required as the ship was tied up against the wall. 4 We have sailed on Fred Olsen on numerous frequent occasions but almost certainly will not be doing so in the future. 5. And to cap it all advertised my wife enquired at Reception as to the advertised 5% reduction for Ocean club members and was rudely informed that it only applied to Silver and Platinum card holders as the rules had been changed and that we should have been informed of this change - which we were NOT. Needless to say we are not at all happy with this cruise or the planning - or lack of - that was put into it. If this is the best that Fred Olsen can put into their cruises then I fear that their days will be numbered. I spoke to a number of other passengers who feel as I do. Not to return. Mike Sherriff Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
A new cruiser and new-ish to these forums, this is my review, for good or bad! For me, like the curate's egg - the cruise was good in parts. Ports of call: I booked the trip based on the itinerary published in the brochure. This ... Read More
A new cruiser and new-ish to these forums, this is my review, for good or bad! For me, like the curate's egg - the cruise was good in parts. Ports of call: I booked the trip based on the itinerary published in the brochure. This was subsequently changed and substantial port changes were made from 14 - 27 October. F.O wrote that the Canadian authorities had advised that this sector was in breach of legislation protecting registered ships engaged in coastal trading. They had apparently vigorously disputed Canada's interpretation but said that they were not able to gain any concessions from the authorities. This did make me slightly concerned about how a company with F.O's reputation and experience could be caught out by such legislation at such a late stage in the process, how could they get it so wrong? After all, this had been planned for how many months. Bite the bullet, I thought, and make the best of it. I enjoyed most of the ports of call that I was able to go on, norovirus and ports cancellations preventing me from going ashore at Shelburne, Sydney, St Pierre and Miquelon and St John's, NF. Overall as some of the smaller ports of call had 'closed down' for the winter, more judicious planning would have given us more shore time at places like Bar Harbour, Oak Bluffs and Lunenburg where there was a lot to see and do. Sunny and warmer weather certainly would have added to the small town charm of the smaller ports in Canada - Cornerbrook, Baie-Comeau, Gaspe, Digby - though the welcome and hospitality of local people, waiting to host us even in cold and breezy conditions, was really heart warming. Tendering procedures were sometimes tediously long with F.O booked trips taking priority over we lesser mortals who had privately arranged our own excursions. So I missed one early and privately pre-booked trip in Bar Harbor and a planned bus tour of Martha's Vineyard was curtailed. I got ashore early at Lunenburg by booking a F.O tour at the last minute. I think it was here that others, who had to wait for tenders to get them into this beautiful area, were not called until early afternoon, then they had to be back on board for a tea time departure so they decided not to leave the ship. What a shame as this is a stunning area to visit. Maybe the cruise would have found better weather and sea conditions had it been possible to maintain the original schedule and if it had started a few weeks earlier. Public areas on the ship: Public areas were very clean, good looking - if in somewhat 70s' decor - and well maintained though at times it was difficult to get a 'window' seat in the library or the walk through area to the Morning Light pub - first come, first served! The Morning Light pub? A bit lacking in character and somewhat divided up by high backed benches and all 'curtained in', claustrophobic given the large area, but there was generally plenty of room there for a sit down. There were other areas on Deck 7 where sofas and easy chairs were available and the library of course (if you didn't mind snoring!) And it was enjoyable to hear the Trio playing in one of the seating areas there. The bars I used the Lido and Observatory bars mostly, sometimes used the Marquee Bar for afternoon tea. The Lido and Observatory both have a reasonable view of the outside world. It is a bit of a do to get to the Observatory and Marquee bars if you are at the 'wrong end' of the ship. Staf:. These lovely people made my time on board. I was really impressed with the ship's wait-on, bar and cabin staff, and pay particular commendation to the 3 waiters on table 107 in Ballindaloch, the Palms staff, the Lido and Observatory bars staff and my cabin stewardess Ong. They were really great, always friendly, cheerful and caring as were the majority of staff engaged in day to day chores around the ship. Reception staff were rather less cheery, a little bit forbidding, maybe instructed to maintain a certain distance and reserve, as was one of the senior European staff I had dealings with, whose manner was brusque and intimidating, perhaps to bat off complaints? Who knows? Entertainment: What I saw of the evening entertainment was good and varied but some performers had the edge. What stood out for me was the Balmoral Troupe and the Crew's Show - excellent. What a talented crowd they are! Day time entertainment, card games, darts, deck games, carpet games, quizzes and lots of people were participating and having a good time. A personal preference on my part is not to do games but I was quite happy with a book and a people watch! But there were some interesting lectures and the Arts and Crafts classes seemed well patronised as did the dancing. For singles travellers: I am very used to solo travelling, others less so, so my comments here are based on chats with other singles who were looking for introductions to like travellers. Not all of these have access to PCs so please bear with me if I am reporting their views. Arrangements would have benefited from a little more forethought and care and attention. After all, this line prides itself on being 'all about the people'. The growing demand from singles in the holiday market should be one that companies might respond to in a positive way. Several basic and achievable proposals were brought to the attention of the Entertainment/Cruise Director to try to introduce single travellers, maybe just to dine or maybe to team up for outings. (What was in place was not working). He agreed but nothing changed during the course of the 6 weeks. Maybe it was out of his hands but several passengers remarked that they felt rather let down by the apparent lack of care and cohesion especially when it was part of programmed events in the Daily Times. It was also remarked that cruise hosts should be more 'age appropriate' to the average age of guests, it could be too much like Blue Peter. Food and Drink: I am a real foodie. The food was OK overall but the main restaurant served tiny portions from the menu except for a number of notable occasions, such as the lamb shank and Beef Wellington nights. The buffet was more generous. It was rather less exciting than I had been led to expect but mass catering and economic constraints are undoubtedly a factor. Cruise food always had a reputation of being excellent, maybe that was in the good old days or maybe my expectations were too high. It sometimes looked better than it tasted. It didn't stop me eating it though as anyone else doing the cooking is a bonus! For me, there were some high spots in the 2 restaurants where I ate most of my meals. I loved the roast dinners and the Palms Buffet nights where the staff dressed up in costume. The stir fry cook there made some great dinners and there was sometime a queue for his cooking - your meal could be cooked to your taste and I thought that was super. The fresh omlettes were delicious in the moring as were the late supper fish and chips. Drinks prices were reasonable too without the surcharge sometimes levied by other cruise companies. Accommodation: The ship, whilst common areas are a bit spiffy, still has some shabby and well worn cabins, one of which I was allocated. I did not think that this was worth the money I paid, nor would I expect my B&B guests in my home to occupy such poorly re-furbed bedrooms. I had an older cabin on Deck 4. It had new-ish soft furnishing but was well worn in the bedroom and the bathroom with really poor refurbishment of the fixtures and fittings, screws holes left un-Polyfilla'ed, bathroom shelf rails loose, the bath really looked unwholesome with a stained bottom and anti slip strips that were partially peeled off, paintwork that had been given a lick and a promise - all things that would have taken a couple of hours at most to fix and look well cared for. Sickness: Infections can and do occur all too frequently in establishments where large numbers of people congregate for any length of time but on this ship Norovirus made its presence felt again after having been on board on the British Isles cruise earlier in the month. There was also a nasty throat and chest infection that has followed people home, with serious repercussions in a couple of cases I heard about. As well there is what seemed to be a viral ear infection (or streptoccocal bacterial infection, take your pick) that continues to plague us, I now have both of those a week after coming home. All part of the risk of travelling with so many people at such close quarters, I know. Regarding NV I think that any efforts made by management to restrict the spread - isolation, hand washes everywhere, closure of self serve buffets, washing down of banisters, lifts' handrails etc and the fumigation of cabins after release from 'custody' - might have been somewhat snookered by the less than hygienic habits of some passengers. I'll leave that to your imagination. It has been suggested elsewhere on the forums that we oldies are less than careful in our personal care -not me, matey - but I now understand why such comments are made. I lost much of the third sector of the cruise to sickness, isolated for over 48 hours and then a further self chosen isolation for a further 20 hours. Believe me, the after effects of the virus are enough to dampen one's enthusiasm for partying so I was rather glad to get some air at Cobh and to arrive back home 2 days later. To add insult to injury the coach driver on the way back from Dover - Victoria locked the toilet and said it was for single use only - we weren't sure if he meant that was only for one person to use or if it was only for Number 1s - who dared ask after that? God forbid that one of us really DID need to use it! Noxious fumes in cabin: What really made me anxious - as a single traveller - was not only contracting NV, though that was bad enough, but what happened in my cabin in the first week of October. I had the heating switched on and fell asleep whilst reading, then awoke briefly and registered this smell, fell asleep again (at least I hope it was sleep), woke again and the smell was stronger, enough to get me off the bed with a pounding violent headache and dizziness, the former lasting for a number of days. It was coming through the aircon vent. I switched it to the cold position immediately. I reported it to reception by phone, checked to see that the couple in the next cabin was OK, went on deck to get fresh air, then went to Reception in person and demanded that they make a log of it. I heard nothing else so eventually went to see the Guest Relations officer. You can take your pick of the reasons given for the fumes: 1) It is caused by routine maintenance, the engineers say it will clear soon (reception) 2) the engineers know there is a problem and are working to fix it (reception) 3) the ship was bunkered the day before in port (?was it) and the fumes were as a result of that and/or (GRO) 4) the fumes were not in your cabin, they were in the corridor and this happens when the door to the engine room is left open (GRO) This problem, as I reported it, was denied verbally and in writing by the GRO, who inferred that I was making it up to get a free upgrade. (I should add that I had asked for an upgrade when I went to see him on the first occasion and even offered to pay so that I could get a fresh air flow in the cabin - he said that no upgrade was available, unpaid or paid. Instead he offered me a cabin on deck 5. I saw no benefit in going from one sealed box to another so declined). Make what you will of that. This has happened on the Braemar too, according to another poster, so maybe it is an accepted part of being aboard a ship. If it is, it's potentially very dangerous, the immediate and long term ill effects of exposure are well documented, especially from bunker fuel fumes, as I have since discovered. My overall review is this cruise varies between excellent and downright frightening! As I said, I was a first timer - would I go again? That is very doubtful. I am quite put off. I am not a whinger about the smaller things in life, but this was a substantial investment for me in terms of money and time, having got over a health scare earlier in the year, I was determined to try to push into life all those things that I never had an opportunity to do before - but it didn't come up to the mark. As a single passenger I paid a lot of money for this cruise, £6000, and certainly expected a 4* service, if not a little more, judging by the Fred. Olsen brochure's description and many passengers' complimentary reviews. The fact that I was subsequently offered the cruise for £3400 does grate. Was it value for money at £6000? For me, definitely not! Nor would it have been at £3400. I am disappointed by parts of the cruise (maybe the ship/itinerary planning more than the 'cruise') but the port days were very enjoyable in the main and I met some really pleasant travelling companions. I had anticipated cruising - and with F.Olsen for their UK departures - as a new holiday-ing phase in my life as I get older and less enthusiastic about DIY flights and touring. I am having to think again. I know that there will be many who had a great time, I only wish I had been one of them. My overall marking is 1 and the reason for this is based on GRO's lack of care and concern over the 'fumes' incident and the his intimation that I was making it up to get a free upgrade. This is a pity as it detracts completely from other areas where far higher grades have been awarded and the overall mark suffers as the result of one man's action Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Travel Arrangements Outbound Journey The police closure of the A14 for 6 hours due to heavy snow resulted in our missing the Stansted flight to Miami and subsequently being unable to join the ship as planned. We fully accept this was ... Read More
Travel Arrangements Outbound Journey The police closure of the A14 for 6 hours due to heavy snow resulted in our missing the Stansted flight to Miami and subsequently being unable to join the ship as planned. We fully accept this was our responsibility, however......... Unbelievably, Fred Olsen did not appear to have a clear protocol in place to handle such occurrences and support offered by the company was negligible. We had to make our own arrangements to fly out to pick up the ship at her first port of call. The whole experience was horrendous -the head office staff were most defensive - afraid any show of sympathy or offer of help could be interpreted as admission of liability. When they eventually offered some travel options, the cost for the same flights we had sourced ourselves was some £200.00 more expensive than we had paid. Inbound Journey The (chartered) flight back home was delayed for 6 hours due to an error on the aircraft manifest. The original schedule of airports for collection of passengers had been amended which meant that the American authorities would not accept the aircraft. The plane had to abide by its stated manifest and fly from Manchester. This additional flight time meant that a new aircrew had to be found. The Aircraft had been on an exclusive charter to Fred Olsen therefore the mix up with the manifest must lay with them. My husband asked for an explanation from the reception staff and was misled by a statement that there had been technical difficulties with the plane, however we were allowed to wait on board the Braemar and provided with food and drink. This was greatly appreciated. The problems arose when we finally arrived at Miami airport to check in. I understand that, had the flight been on time, 15 check in desks would have been available to process the 300 passengers, with at least 1 desk designated to fast track Premium passengers such as ourselves. In reality, there were only 5 check in desks to cope with all 300 passengers. There was no fast track desk and we queued for 2 hours to check in; only to be allocated seats which were not together. I have a serious medical condition which makes travel in general difficult for me. We therefore paid the supplement to avoid exactly this type of situation. Our experience certainly does not merit the £600 supplement paid. The Ship We found the ship disappointing. The ship sailed through force 6 seas on a few occasions and felt very unstable. The recent extension resulted in some very strange and alarming noises coming from the ship itself during medium seas. The public rooms and pool deck were crowded; it was difficult to get a seat or sun bed. The food was average at best, poor on a couple of occasions. My husband sent back a chicken dish which was raw in the middle and dishes were sent back by our dinner companions on several occasions as the food was cold. The menus were unexciting and generally fell short of what we expected. The entertainment was second rate, I would class it on a similar level to a holiday camp. Our cabin was 'tired' looking. When maintenance work was done on our balcony one day, we returned to our cabin (after 5 pm) to find the sun beds tipped on end, sawdust still on the furniture and floor. The toilet did not work one morning, and the water was turned off one evening for a short while. The laundry room was well equipped, but one iron was broken - leaving the remaining iron for 900 passengers! The Good Points The itinerary was excellent. With the exception of Santo Domingo we enjoyed all the places we visited. The organized tours were interesting and fairly priced. Drinks were also fairly priced. The port details provided were very helpful. The staff on board, especially the steward and waiting staff were very good indeed and a major asset to the company. Summary Our holiday has been disappointing and I would summarize my observations as follows: ? Poor support from head office when things go wrong. ? Tired ship - the extension hasn't worked satisfactorily ? lack of space and feeling of crowding ? Below average food and entertainment ? Excellent crew - probably the lowest paid staff (stewards and waiters) are propping up the rest of the company. We were amazed by the number of FO fans who cruise with this company time and again. Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion, however we can only surmise that either we were very unlucky, or others haven't had the benefit of experiencing the level of service we have previously enjoyed with other companies. I wrote to FO immediately upon our return from holiday - I received a holding letter but since then the silence has been deafening. We will not use FO again and will return to the reliability of Cunard - which offers much better service at a similar cost Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
How and where do we start?...Having been on two previous cruises with Fred Olsen on the Braemar which we enjoyed immensely we decided to give their new ship the Balmoral a chance. Big mistake, first the ship is based in Miami so after a 9 ... Read More
How and where do we start?...Having been on two previous cruises with Fred Olsen on the Braemar which we enjoyed immensely we decided to give their new ship the Balmoral a chance. Big mistake, first the ship is based in Miami so after a 9 hour flight we then spent 3 hours in US immigration standing in line in an over crowded and chaotic room waiting to be processed. This meant we did not get to the ship until late by this time everybody was in a foul mood and that set the scene for the whole cruise. After having suffered the dreadful ordeal of US Immigration we in fact spent only 2 hours on US soil (Or should I say water) so why did Fred Olsen put us all through that? Good question! The Ship: Firstly our cabin was supposed to be a twin outside superior on main deck, when we got into it we discovered it was in fact a twenty year old ferry cabin (Which the ship had been in a previous life)that had been painted white, Superior it most definitely was not. The power point for the kettle to make a hot drink was on the floor outside the small bathroom (still in its original state. When we pointed out to the reception that there was an issue of health and safety with boiling water on the floor easy to trip over their only solution was to get maintenance to bring up a homemade extension lead, luxury indeed! 8 ports of call planned and 3 sea days, because of engine failure the captain dropped 2 ports of call, Playa del Carmen and Key West, apparently 2 ports of call had also been cancelled on the previous cruise on the Balmoral. So with Fred you don't always get what you pay for! The ship has been cut in half and stretched with a piece put in mid ship and went into service in February 2008. The consequence of the stretching is that now the internal distribution is disjointed and confusing. For example a new restaurant on deck 8, but the kitchens are on deck 4, result cold/tepid food. Not enough sun decks and sun beds for the increase in passengers numbers. Half of the sun deck on deck 11 is under the engine flue, with a continuous loud engine noise, and soot particles floating down on the sun bathers below. Not ideal I think you will agree. Conclusion The ship overall was badly managed, the cruise director was hopeless, the overall service level was poor, confusion with dress code, electric room keys being cancelled a day before disembarkation, meaning an horrendous line of passengers at reception at 11.00pm getting theirs keys reinstated. This is just some of the issues we experienced during the 12 days. Our advice is spend your money elsewhere, there are far better value for money cruise ships out there. Avoid the Balmoral and Fred Olsen if you want an enjoyable cruise. We certainly learnt our lesson, never again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
My Wife & I , both OAP's, and Cruise enthusiasts, have last week returned from our first ever `Fred Olsen Cruise' experience, aboard the newly converted and extended ship MS `Balmoral' and feel that we should express our ... Read More
My Wife & I , both OAP's, and Cruise enthusiasts, have last week returned from our first ever `Fred Olsen Cruise' experience, aboard the newly converted and extended ship MS `Balmoral' and feel that we should express our extreme dissatisfaction, unhappiness and total disappointment that this three weeks `Back- to Back' Cruise to the Caribbean & Central America's has been for both us, and so many other largely disgruntled passengers, such a unsatisfactory experience, which resulted in such very poor , uncomfortable and unhappy conditions, aboard this very overcrowded and poorly organized ship. Many like ourselves, who have cruised with other reputable Cruise companies before; we have come to expect professional standards from leading operators like `Fred. Olsen Cruises' , who we had understood could offer a reasonable degree of good service and value for money Holiday Cruise? I would confirm that the unfortunate experiences aboard the M S`Balmoral' has proved to be the worst Holiday Cruise experience that we have ever undertaken! The first day of embarkation in the port of Miami Florida, was without doubt a truly horrific experience starting with over 2.½ hours of seemingly never ending queue's whilst we were all herded like `Cattle to Slaughter', through the terrible `US Immigration & Customs' Investigations and checks , treated like Alien Terrorists, instead of welcome visitors from England , who are supposedly the USA's main supporters and long term friends, currently supporting this apparent ungrateful nation in both `Theatre's of War ',in Iraq & Afghanistan. Most certainly we both shall never attempt to visit the USA again EVER! This latest experience has indeed left such a profound feeling of utter disgust, disappointment and bad feeling towards that country from us both. Also upon the Ships return to the `Port of Miami' at the mid- section of our Cruise, plus again for disembarkation at the End,(Where we were `Dumped Off' for SIX + HOURS! at the Bayside Shopping Area complex , before being transported to the Airport. This in itself was such a uninteresting and waste of time experience. Everyone aboard the ship had to yet again to undergo such terrible Immigration & Customs checking procedures onboard, which on the further two visits to Miami, resulted in utter chaos and fantastic long queue's aboard the ship, which were totally without any form of crowd control or administration, by the Fred. Olsen, Senior Officers, Security Staff, or Crew, Which is unforgivable! Furthermore life aboard your ship became almost intolerable due to the seemingly poor administration, organization and total lack of directive and control, which appeared non- existent from the Senior Ships Officers and Staff. Due largely to the drastic overcrowding of the extended Cabin Accommodation aboard ,it was almost impossible to obtain a Sun bed or Chair on any of the Upper Deck area's during daytime hours , due to the complete lack of Deck Staff on duty in these area's controlling the horrible `Germanic' type actions of so many selfish people who persisted in placing their `Yellow Towels' on Sun beds & Chairs , during the early mornings before Breakfast and thus reserving them for the whole day time periods, even when going ashore for arranged trips, or attending other entertainment venues aboard etc. No dedicated Fred. Olsen Staff were on duty at any time ,so therefore were unable to administer or prevent the selfish and unacceptable actions of so many of these uncaring passengers. Many elderly and disabled Passengers were prevented from enjoying any relaxing moments at any time on the Upper Decks, this was also the case whilst trying to attend many arranged Entertainment events onboard, as there was just NO WHERE to SIT! Large queue's seemingly the norm. for everything aboard! Additionally, on many occasions there where found to be extra Sun beds stored out of passengers reach around the Ships Funnel Area, but these were coated in very dirty SOOTY deposits from the chimney stack, and thus again no Deck Staff on duty at any time, to untie and clean these much needed items, or indeed to assist elderly and disabled people to get something to sit upon. Early in the Cruise, I personally spoke to the `Captain' and requested that he put in place urgent measures to improve and resolve this totally unacceptable situation, but the only action he took was to place a brief written request in the `Daily Onboard Newsletter', requesting that passengers refrain from placing their Towels on Sun beds, and refrain from reserving them for longer than `One Hour'! and to check them for Dirty Soot particles? All of which was TOTALLY NON- EFFECTIVE, and largely ignored by the offending passengers. Surely a Cruise ships Captain's main task and priority is to ensure that his Officers and Staff are fully instructed in the overall control and administration of the Ship and the most important issue for a Cruise Ship being the Comfort , Convenience Satisfaction and Safety of all of its Fair Paying Passengers? However, we can only assume that on Fred. Olsen's `Balmoral', No one seemed to CARE or take any action or responsibility, to improve the awful situation that persisted throughout our cruise completely unchecked? Another serious problem that presented itself to my Wife and I, after joining the ship and eventually being placed in the correct TWIN- Bedded Cabin that we had requested, was that the `Air Conditioning System' in our eventual Cabin was faulty and stuck at the very cold level of 65°.F, though many attempts were made to fix the problem, all failed. We were informed by Reception Desk Staff, that the system throughout the ship was defective and could not be rectified? Also that no other spare Cabin's were available, as the ship was fully occupied. Oh Dear! we thought , is there anything that is OK on this Jinx ship? Thus, we were made to suffer extreme cold conditions at night, that was like living in Industrial FREEZER, which in turn resulted in us both, after a couple of days being infected with very severe Head Colds and Coughs infections, which unfortunately we are still suffering from at time of writing and which certainly contributed to an even more miserable Cruise experience whilst accommodated on this `CRUISE SHIP FROM HELL' Further cause for complaint, was the fact that the entertainment programme throughout the ship during the THREE WEEKS `Back to Back 'Cruise, was that after the first 10 days period, the Programmes and Artists became very Repetitive and Boring, with nothing New to entertain the long suffering passengers, who had opted for the longer cruise periods, which does indeed seem yet again, to be the result of the very poor organizational abilities of the `Fred Olsen' organization? It also became apparent that the `On-Board Services' charged to our accounts for such things as, Shore Tours-Bar/Drinks -Photography- Spa Services etc. were considered by most passengers to be quite expensive due to the £, Sterling being the Currency charged , This fact was indeed considered to be very unfavorable to both British and American clients, who usually benefit from the more favorable rate of the US. $ From most Cruise Companies who operate in this part of the World. Many indicated that they would definitely NOT use the Fred. Olsen Company again, as their `On- Board Accounts' were just excessive for the type of Services received! Also during our three weeks `Back to Back' Cruise we suffered the loss of THREE Ports of Call, ( i.e. Samana, (Dom. Repub.) + Playa de Carmen, (Mexico) and Key West. (Florida) due to Operational problems and the breakdown of the ships `Auxiliary Engine' the latter followed by the long delay in repairs, resulted in the cancellation of visits to the last two ports of call, Also towards the end of our Holiday Cruise , there was a severe WATER SHORTAGE aboard that resulted in further problems with Bathroom & Shower usage generally! It was also interesting to learn later that the cancellation of Ports of Call is still continuing with the ongoing next Cruise that followed our final departure date, when we understand that the planned visit to Antigua on the 29th Mach 2008 has also now been cancelled? It seems that the unacceptable situation is to continue on this FLAGSHIP OF THE `FRED. OLSEN 'Fleet?, with the ongoing and future Cruise programme, to the detriment of all customers, which it totally unacceptable! For the `Loss' of a high proportion of our quite expensive Cruise Holiday with Fred. Olsen Ltd, we were given £ 40.00 per person, refund? which indeed is totally unacceptable and insulting , bearing in mind the Horrible, Trouble Dominated, Overcrowded, Uncomfortable, `Jinx Ship' experience, that we and so many other unfortunate people have undergone over recent weeks , this largely due to the company altering and putting to sea a very unprepared Ship,Officers & Crew,that should certainly have been more thoroughly checked and re- checked, to a higher professional maritime standard and degree of competency , prior to accepting customer hard earned Cash? Indeed maybe a full cancellation and refund policy should have been implemented? to all booked Cruise customers due to this Companies complete failure to deliver in full, the Cruise that was advertised and booked with this organization that formed the`Contract' that was entered into by them,and they have completely FAILED to Honor and must therefore to be considered in default of that Legal Agreement. Whilst I do understand and appreciate that on a maiden voyage there will be teething problems. My main concern is that how the increasing number of problems was not dealt with and not rectified. This I found totally unacceptable. It seems that the complete `Shipyard Refit and Extension' of the ship was without doubt VERY POORLY executed! With major defects apparent throughout the ship like Rusting Seals & Frames around most windows, poor standards of decoration in most Cabins, Bathrooms /Showers & Unsafe Elect. Points for use of Kettles etc located at floor level near bathroom?All showing very poor standards of maintenance and cleanliness etc. Indeed the Exterior Surface of the Outer Hull of the Ship was indeed so badly dented and damaged to such a extreme extent, that it appeared to have just returned from some WAR ZONE! In conclusion, I do feel that my Wife & I, have had a much looked forward to holiday spoilt by many unforeseeable problems with the Fred. Olsen Cruise Holiday Experience. I would hope that my written complaints to their Head Office in Ipswich, Suffolk, requesting a full investigation , will soon be looked into further and dealt with accordingly. Sidney & Pauline Jones. review. Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
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