1. Home
  2. Cruise Lines
  3. Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
  4. Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Cruise Reviews

187 Fred. Olsen Cruise Reviews

First time with Fred Olsen.Embarkation at Dover was a shambles. Had to be there in a one hour window then waited ages to board in small groups . Announcements not at all clear. Once on board shown in direction of cabin. Cases were waiting ... Read More
First time with Fred Olsen.Embarkation at Dover was a shambles. Had to be there in a one hour window then waited ages to board in small groups . Announcements not at all clear. Once on board shown in direction of cabin. Cases were waiting -right across the cabin door! Once we shifted several cases ( not ours) we could enter the cabin. We had booked the cabin to be made up as Queen bed-not. Up to reception to get bed made up as requested. It was but not till the evening so we could not unpack. After that things improved. Food very good and service in Thistle efficient. We requested table for 8 and got what we requested. Got on well with our fellow dinners. Dinning at 6.15 is a bit early and 8.30 a bit late but you could always go free dinning in the Palm. Bars also good service- special recommendation to Michelle and Geraldine in observatory bar, Emma in Morning Star, Carlyn in Coral bar and Jemwin outside service deck 6/7. Only let down was Marquee bar where service was poor and erratic. Weather was very good so we did not take part in the many activities on offer. We watched some of the shows, not bad, have seen better on other ships. Enjoyed Enrique playing piano in the observatvatory. Chose this cruise for St Petersburg in particular, other ports were varied and interesting. Being small ship got right alongside, no tender anywhere. On the whole we enjoyed and would use Olsen again for the right itinerary. Particularly liked layout for this ship. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
First time with Fred Olsen and would definitely go with them again. Embarkation was drawn out especially as newcomers we had arrived early. Why, people are of the boat first thing in the morning don't they let people start ... Read More
First time with Fred Olsen and would definitely go with them again. Embarkation was drawn out especially as newcomers we had arrived early. Why, people are of the boat first thing in the morning don't they let people start boarding until 15.oo hrs or later. With Thomson we have often been on board by noon even if the cabins aren't ready until later. That said the cabin was as expected although we had to ask to have the cabin reset as a double and not an L Shape. (Requested twice through reception) Staff were excellent, difficult to choose individuals but special mention to: Michelle & Geraldine Observatory bar. (And Enrique the pianist) .Carlyle, Coral bar. Emma, Morning star bar. Jemwin, deck 6/7 waiter. ALso to our cabin housekeeper, whose name unfortunately we have mislaid -apologies. Due to the excellent weather we did not take part in any of the activities, preferring to enjoy the sun or the views in the observatory bar. Restaurants were excellent. For evening dining we were lucky to have a table for eight in the Thistle with superb views overlooking the stern. Given the size of the Braemar we were able to moor up right in the centre of the ports we visited Aalborg- delightful (check out the beer walk, online- 100 kroner pp) Copenhagen - 400 metres from the little mermaid. Helsinki - right on market square - book a harbour tour 24 euro. St. Petersburg - we did a private tour but we were right in the centre unlike the larger boats which were out of sight of the city. Be careful of pickpockets. Riga , five minutes stroll to town Travemunde -interesting German coastal resort. Check out the band at departure. Kiel canal - a river cruise with a difference. Disembarkation was organised of the ship but once ashore was slightly chaotic. People milling everywhere looking for coaches/taxis. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
2nd cruise with F.O. Met our expectations. Dover embarkation good in all respects (disembarking was not so brilliant, with muddle around the luggage and coach/car/taxi pick-up points). Ship recently repainted and in good order ... Read More
2nd cruise with F.O. Met our expectations. Dover embarkation good in all respects (disembarking was not so brilliant, with muddle around the luggage and coach/car/taxi pick-up points). Ship recently repainted and in good order throughout. Captain friendly and available to be seen around the decks, a Finn. We booked early and were allocated to the much smaller Grampian restaurant on deck 8: superb sunsets and panoramic views. Other passengers hinted darkly that if you only book cheaper cabins down below, you don't get to the Grampian. Menus and presentation of food, quality and service we thought was pretty near perfect. Niggles with restaurants and catering in general: poor quality jelly-like conserves, bitter, weak coffee. Cafe and casual dining: we were impressed with the management of the Palms cafe and the setting and clearing away of the crisp table settings so many times a day. Hardly anyone seemed to turn up for the 11pm-midnight supper club. New coffee and chocolate shop: this did not seem to have caught on - perhaps F.O's age group are not really part of cafe society? You pay separately for these coffees of excellent quality and presentation, service was also first class. However, the coffee shop counter is merely inserted into an otherwise very conventional and comfortable lounge which on our visits contained a fair share of sleepers and cruisers determined to read their library books and looking for silence. Expensive place to read, or sleep, one could stay at home and do that! Some pretty heavy snoring too. F.O haven't quite got this right, yet we feel. Most of the mostly older/elderly guests seemed pretty dynamic and active though. Entertainment, we went along with the general flow and tried not to be picky or critical. Singer-actress: Helen Wilding was memorable and good value as was Enrique the sensitive pianist. The shows put on by the staff from Asia and the Pacific, performing in their own national style were actually very good. A Berlitz review of this ship said there were over a dozen pillars spoiling sight lines but that is not factually correct (only two pillars obstruct, if that is the word). We had a balcony cabin: the shower flow was a bit poor and the soft furnishings dated if not actually obviously worn. Yes, the safes are tiny but so what? Plenty of wardrobe space for a 14 day cruise we thought. Excellent room cleaning service from Dian. We bought the inclusive drinks package in advance and just about got our moneys-worth: watch out for bottled water requested in the cabin, you pay separately for that. The only issues we had with staff were getting reception desk staff to understand two account queries and a lost/found property matter - why put staff with not so brilliant command of English into such positions? It was a similar situation on the Balmoral last year, why? Shore tours seemed a bit pricey but we bought a fair selection covering five of the six ports. Being a small vessel, Fred.Olsen will keep reminding you (and remind you again!) that its four small ships can get right into the heart of each city visit. At each place you could simply walk off and visit the city as other tourists do. No need for tenders and queues! Tour guides rushed on ahead at some venues until they noticed my wife lagging behind with a bad knee. There were on-board sales of Russian craft items (we went to St Petersburg for 2 days): inevitable wooden dolls, amber, exquisite engraved jewellery boxes etc. Only reason to COMPLAIN: each hot and sunny afternoon a small gaggle of crew put all the sun beds, sofas, armchairs and cushions away at 5pm regardless of the paying customers enjoying the weather. Becomes a battle of wills with passengers giving up as all the furniture around them disappears and evil-smelling metal polish is wafted all over the place in a fairly useless exercise at cleaning already clean deck fittings. It was the same on Balmoral. Guests don't want to quit the sun deck three hours before second sitting! THe hotel cruise director interviewing the captain and chief engineer for an hour in the theatre-lounge sounded suspiciously like a put-up pr job. Actually, it was an honest attempt to get behind the obvious platitudes (about the small ships!) and describe some of the logistics issues aboard Braemar, safety at sea and the officers' career highlights. Well done. 8/10 On the other hand, we found the port briefing talks to be slow, thin, poorly presented sessions when so much information is out there on the internet, in books and even in the ship's library. Needs to be upgraded. 4/10. We booked another cruise while on board, well, 70 per cent of the passengers on board were repeat F.O. customers. Why? Friendliness, an honest attempt to run a good ship and I think, in the background, recognition the owners are a real family running maritime businesses, not a money-making international cruise organisation. Still need to leave the loungers out longer each afternoon though! Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
Changed cabin after 1st night due to vibration and noise (deck 4) Changed ports of call due to bad weather, visited Santander instead of Sans Sebastian informed quicly and given the chance to book on new tours. New cabin great, both ... Read More
Changed cabin after 1st night due to vibration and noise (deck 4) Changed ports of call due to bad weather, visited Santander instead of Sans Sebastian informed quicly and given the chance to book on new tours. New cabin great, both cabins really clean; reception staff very helpful. Excellent staff and wonderful crew, good food; buffet kept open for us when the coach was late back from tour. Booked again for October 16 but on deck 6 this time Good value for money, shops on board needed to be better, shows were as expected. Welsh male choir on board very entertaining. Great visit to Bilbao very informative tour guide needed more time. In france stopped at La Rochelle and visited Courban Castle great tour informative but wanted time in the shops to buy souveniers. Great day exploring Santander on our own. Very clean city, found the bank! Travelled there and back by Eavesway coaches excellent Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
As many have stated the ship is small and this possibly encourages the mainly friendly atmosphere. The demographic is narrow with significant numbers of elderly people and few families. A small number of so called "Chavs" still ... Read More
As many have stated the ship is small and this possibly encourages the mainly friendly atmosphere. The demographic is narrow with significant numbers of elderly people and few families. A small number of so called "Chavs" still managed to feature on board and at times made a concerted effort to cause disruption. This was particularly bad one evening with one chap making a nuisance of himself in the corridor after his partner had locked him out of their cabin.. I was more surprised that it seemed there is no CCTV in the walkways that picked up on this. It will have been threatening for some of the older people already in their cabins in that vicinity as the volume was very high with threats being issued.. The staff were consistently good and well motivated, they were so pleasant to deal with. Cabins are outdated and noticeably small but very clean and well serviced. Food was generally speaking good with an odd blip and there was plenty of choice. We took one organised shore trip and opted out for independent travel after this. We visited Nantes by coach followed by a trip up river. The coach tour segment focused on redundant warehouses and old cranes which was bizarre with the guide literally forgetting the outstanding cathedral. Her commentary was dull and delivered in a monotone which rapidly became irritating. Some comments were inappropriate, for example she pointed out a nursery onboard a barge type of vessel for small children and said that when the Teachers became sick of the children they could throw them out into the river. With 250 people on board chances are someone has been involved in a tragedy with children or water, not good. The ensiung trip on the river boat proved suffocating due to the heat and despite being assured the the Shore Trip FO Rep that the windows opened, this was not the case. Oversold and under delivered never a good combination, so take care when choosing trips! The other downside of this ship is the flat bottom that allows access to the shallow water ways. We had two bouts of seas described as moderate swell by the Captain and this caused significant rolling. At one point all the children were washed out of the pool and then back into it, by the water sluicing from side to side where it was captured by the retaining wall built for this purpose. Would I cruise with FO again, possibly, but on a different ship mainly due to the effect of the seas on the quality of the journey. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
This was our second cruise with Fred. Olsen, our first was aboard Boudicca last year. Braemar's friendly staff and quality of cuisine lived up to the high standard we experienced on Boudicca. We chose the smaller Grampian Restaurant ... Read More
This was our second cruise with Fred. Olsen, our first was aboard Boudicca last year. Braemar's friendly staff and quality of cuisine lived up to the high standard we experienced on Boudicca. We chose the smaller Grampian Restaurant on Deck 8. With exemplary waiters and large areas of glass, it offered stunning evening sunsets that provided an unforgettable ambiance. There were a range of activities and entertainment to suit most people’s tastes. In the evenings, we alternated between The Observatory Lounge on Deck 8, with the very talented pianist Enrique Cabilina playing our choice of relaxing music, and the Morning Light Pub on Deck 5 with Kieron Cox providing a livelier selection of guitar music and song. Our only visit to the Neptune Show Lounge on Deck 5 was to Braemar’s Crew Show…and what a show the crew put on. The girls (all amateur) dancing dressed in their national costumes from the Philippines and Tailand were exquisite. They were followed by the lads, dressed in naval costumes…they had a ball; their versions of In the Navy, and YMCA, had us in tears. You could see on their faces how much they genuinely enjoyed entertaining us. Finally, tears of a different kind could easily be shed in Gerard’s moving sand animation using sand and music to illustrate a story on a projected screen that ended with the scheme of the crucifixion. A massive brownie point for the cruise was the beautiful city of Bordeaux. A number of regular Fred. Olsen cruisers told us the organised shore trips were a waste of time and money; it was far better to arrange something yourself…fine, if you were offered a free shuttle bus, otherwise try to share a taxi between four of you, and see how much money you’d save…how right they were! FortunatelyBordeaux made up for the disappointment we experienced in our two shore trips costing us £174.00. There was so much to enjoy here. A delightful city in daylight, with majestic fountains and immaculate gardens was transformed after sunset. A breathtaking panorama of coloured lights along four kilometres of waterfront led the eye to distant mystical lights along Napolean’s Pont de pierre bridge. It was lovely to see families sat in the park alongside Braemar giving us a wave as they enjoyed their picnics. We were tempted to join them. No wonder the city is described: Little Paris. Our first tour: The River Erdre – Gateway to the Loire Valley. We circumnavigated Nantes’ city centre on at least three occasions, past the fortress walls and Giggs Irish Pub, our ears being bombarded with a constant flow of uninteresting names and dates by our French tour guide. One early stop to take photographs was so uninspiring half the passengers stayed aboard the coach. The second at the Cathedral, I’ll agree was worthwhile, allowing us to light a couple of candles and offer a silent prayer then crane our necks to wonder at the height and majesty of the arched roof. After two hours on the coach, and a visit to the WC, we boarded our boat. The lower deck was full; the passengers on the upper deck with the odd vacant seat here and there were packed together like sardines on plastic garden chairs. I spent the whole of the cruise three rows behind my wife who was sitting alongside two stony faced women who ignored her for the whole cruise. We were later told that the second boat that followed us was only half full. Yes, the river was beautiful, but the tour brochure states: Several castles and elegant manors. There were several elegant manors...but I cannot remember any castles. When we commenced the cruise, we immediately passed a sign prohibiting creating waves and advising an 8 kph speed limit. Reaching the limit of the cruise the sign was a distant memory as the charge for home began with the second boat in hot pursuit. To me, the most memorable sight was the countless number of low flying cormorants that crisscrossed the boat or flew past on either side. I was surprised by the elegance of their flight and beautiful lines of their bodies. Returning to Braemar after another circuit of Nantes, we were forced to queue for over half an hour while the crew assisted a large number of elderly passengers aboard up a very steep ramp. Eventually, someone must have read my mind, when with about thirty or so passengers remaining, a second ramp was provided. I dread imagining the mood of the passengers if it had been raining. Surely, with a tide table to hand this problem could have been foreseen beforehand and a second ramp provided on arrival. With due respect to some lovely people we befriended – each with heart-rending problems – Braemar attracts a large number of infirm passengers, so be prepared for similar delays. Also I wouldn’t recommend it to families with young children. Our second tour: The ‘Must Do Green Venice Tour. This was equally disappointing. Yes, it was a tranquil experience, but the waterways passed uninteresting fields, the most notable event, one duck and a number of cattle; the only burst of colour: the flowers and shrubs in the gardens of an occasional fishermen’s cottage. Disembarking, the appalling WC facility was an experience! At least the coach journey to and from the main event was pleasurable passing fields of sunflowers and variety of other crops. Think very carefully before you book any tour. I’d advise you to consult seasoned passengers on board before you do so. I recall somewhere a mention that Braemar had a degree of refurbishment in 2014…this obviously didn’t include our cabin. The power sockets were archaic; I cannot remember when I last needed adaptors for our toothbrushes and hair styling equipment. Furthermore, there was some kind of junction box attached to the dressing table with a conglomeration of dangling cables that served the kettle and hair drier. Returning to our cabin after an enjoyable evening in the Observatory Lounge, I was annoyed to read the following note left on our bed: Dear Guest, As part of our commitment to improve the standard of our cabins onboard the MS Braemar, we courteously advise you that we will be changing the wash basin drain in your cabin tomorrow…between 1300h and 1600h. If you have any objections, please contact the Reception desk. Thank you in advance for your kind understanding… I rang early the following morning and refused them access. Later, I was told other passengers had had an identical request and had agreed for them to carry out the work. I accept access dealing with an emergency must be allowed… however, it appears that Fred. Olsen was (at the expense of their guest's comfort) adopting a regime to upgrade the vessel while at sea. We spent our last day at sea sunbathing with alfresco lunch and dolphins on our port side bidding us ‘‘au revoir.’’ Bliss... The on board All-Inclusive Drinks Package was a real value for money. Without overindulging yourself, it was very easy to overtake the £10.00 per day levy. With a total of 68 miles sailing along the uninspiring River Loire to and from Nantes, I feel the cruise would be greatly enhanced if this was removed from the itinerary and a third night spent in Bordeaux. I would be interested to learn comments from fellow passengers to this suggestion. Finally, Eavesway Travel’s coaches need special mention. The coaches were so comfortable, with unbelievable leg room, reclining leather seats and for anyone needing relief between comfort stops, an onboard WC. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
We had requested a disabled room with a walk in shower, We could not fault the room, lovely bedding ( quite a few people had commented on this to us also) everything we wanted, lovely balcony we were on floor 7 and did not have any ... Read More
We had requested a disabled room with a walk in shower, We could not fault the room, lovely bedding ( quite a few people had commented on this to us also) everything we wanted, lovely balcony we were on floor 7 and did not have any problems. Yes a little noise from the shipmates but they have to clean the decks before everyone is up. We did not get into The Faroe Islands this was because of rough weather but I would rather be safe than risking docking, the captain explained the reason correctly and it wasnt because another ship was in our place. The food was amazing and so much, we are younger travelers in our fifties and found the fellow travellers we spoke to were lovely. It was so nice to be on holiday and everyone said hello and always chatted ( yes there were a few moaners but most people avoided them) I would definately reccomend the Black Watch if you want a smaller ship and lots to do. The organised trips were excellent and again we found them very disabled friendly if you needed extra help always there (reserved space on a coach or a taxi if required). We went on the flight ICE AND FIRE GLACIERS AND VOLCANOES yes more expensive but if like me you cannot walk to see these places just an unforgettable experience. The pilot made sure you got to see everything. The Spa dept were very good Elise organised a personal physio session for me to help with my mobility. She was truely wonderful and wrote it all down for me to continue when I got home. If you want a holiday were you lose track of time visit amazing places with lovely company, with great talks, shows as good as The West End singers and dancers who were so approachable and seemed to have lots of other activities they helped with and ( it was nice that the a lot of the main staff ate in the buffet restaurant so you were able to chat to them over lunch or afternoon tea. Also if you had any food allergies they went out of their way to assist. A VERY ENJOYABLE HOLIDAY Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
I went on a previous cruise in March - see my review "Absolutely magical experience" - this time with my wife, so the previous cruise was fresh in my mind and my descriptions in hers. This time departing from Rosyth, we found ... Read More
I went on a previous cruise in March - see my review "Absolutely magical experience" - this time with my wife, so the previous cruise was fresh in my mind and my descriptions in hers. This time departing from Rosyth, we found the port facilities inferior to before when I departed from Southampton, although actual embarkation was much more painless.There is no left luggage facility which made if complicated sending luggage ahead. It was not made clear that there is no taxi rank at the small Rosyth station, better to stop off at Inverkeithing which is a more major station (indeed some of the London trains stop there). The actual cruise got off to a slow start because the first and second days were taken up with port visits - there was no captain's welcome until the third night (and the captain couldn't even come to that) - this meant that ship-bound activities such as Bridge and similar (which we were looking forward to) didn't start until the third day, which was very disappointing, for example for disabled people unable to go on trips. The "at sea" days where there were more activities so crowded the timetable that many things we wanted to go to all clashed. The Bridge sessions were very well-run and enjoyable. Having come up from London on the train, we were disinclined to launch into 4-hour bus trips to Loch Ness and such on the first full day so we stayed on-board feeling we were wasting time. However with the first sea day things picked up well. We didn't end up going on port excursions as we chickened out of going on tenders to some places and I had had the experience of missing trips I'd booked because of injury before. I thought that the food, although very good, wasn't quite in the same league as before. The soups weren't as good and the desserts were mostly very disappointing. The main courses remained excellent. Unlike before there wasn't wholemeal bread, which we like, and none of the speciality breads such as walnut were on offer. We took out the "all-inclusive drinks package" which was a huge mistake. The only things included in the price for free were the very poor house wines, a cava which we soon got bored with and a limited ranges of beers and spirits. Yes you can get other drinks for 50% of the price (reducing good wines from 3 times the price to 1.5 times) but not basics like tea and coffee for which full price was still applied. I think we averaged out losing out by about £10 per night between us. We definitely won't get that again unless they refine it sensibly. We didn't go to many of the entertainment offerings, but those we did go to were very good, all things considered although the lack of a proper theatre hampered things.There was a theme of a detective mystery run over several nights which was good fun. I even got the answer right (but didn't win the prize). The crew were uniformly good-humoured and friendly - some remembered unprompted my likings from my previous trip which was amazing! Still we enjoyed it enough to wander round to the "future cruises" office and book one for next year - this time on the "Black Watch". Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
This was our second cruise on Black Watch - she is an old ship but we find her comfortable with a good ambience - no glitz or glamour and traditional but we quite like that and also much prefer the fact that she is a 'small' and ... Read More
This was our second cruise on Black Watch - she is an old ship but we find her comfortable with a good ambience - no glitz or glamour and traditional but we quite like that and also much prefer the fact that she is a 'small' and elegant ship. Car parking service and embarkation at Liverpool were easy. We walked easily to the ship but there was a mini bus for people with mobility issues. Port of Liverpool staff were friendly and helpful. The seas were very rough for our first day out of Liverpool and many passengers were unwell - unfortunately not a lot can be done about this, but the remainder of the trip was fine. The ship was spotlessly clean with good hygiene standards and we were not aware of any problems in this regard. Our cabin was 5039, centrally situated and with everything we needed. The beds were comfortable and our room stewardess, May, was excellent, in fact, the Black Watch staff generally are superb - they are extremely polite and friendly and cannot do enough to help, we could not fault them at all. The food was once again delicious with a great choice whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner (we didn't visit the Supper Club so can't comment on that) - I would think that there was food available at every meal for all tastes. We always ate in the Glentanar Restaurant and had faultless service from our waiter Jimmy. For dinner we sat at a table for 6 and our fellow diners were great company. Passengers on Black Watch (and I believe the other Fred ships) do tend to be 'older' - everyone was very friendly and most had excellent stories to tell! The itinerary for this trip was excellent and a perfect introduction to Norway for anyone who hadn't travelled there before and enjoyable for 'returners' like us. It was a good mix of towns, cities and beautiful small ports in heart of the fjords. Our thoughts on these are below: Alesund - normally an interesting town with a good atmosphere but unfortunately it was bank holiday when we were there so pretty much everywhere was closed (this is generally the case in Norway on a Sunday too). A visit to the top of Mount Aksla for the view is a must. I did an excursion to Giske & Goday which was interesting with excellent cake at the lighthouse. Hellesylt, Geiranger, Olden and Eidford - all in beautiful locations. If you do not want to do an excursion in any of these places maps for walks are available at the tourist information (or shop in Hellesylt) and can be recommended. One different excursion in Eidfjord was to the Sima Hydroelectric power plant - worth a visit. Bergen - the highlight of the trip was to be in Bergen on Norway Day - an unforgettable experience to see the parade and the joy and pride of the Norwegian people. If you get the chance to be in Norway on this day (17th May) do take it. For the slightly energetic can recommend the walk down from Mount Floyen (take funicular up) about 45 minute walk down through woodland and then streets of old wooden buildings that are beautiful. Stavanger - nice city with few streets of beautiful old wooden buildings - we didn't go into the commercial part of the city so can't comment. We did the Jaeren Railway excursion which was okay but wouldn't recommend. On leaving Stavanger the Captain took us to Lysefjord to view Pulpit Rock which was an 'extra' and much appreciated. Our only minor niggles - we would have like the evening show for second sitting to be after dinner as it was in the past - on this trip it was normally at 7.15pm which is when I prefer to have a pre-dinner drink! (Fred's all inclusive is excellent value at £10 day) and we would have liked announcements as to what the ship was passing occasionally as we sailed by (again this happened in the past). There was an excellent speaker, Jane Ann Davey - we would have liked more lectures. All in all, we had a good and happy holiday and feel that Fred is excellent value for money and look forward to sailing with Fred again in the not too distant future. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
PRE CRUISE. I saw this deal and thought it might be nice to do. I was on this ship in 1994 on my very 1st cruise then known as "CROWN DYNASTY" Running for CUNARD LINE, I went to ALASKA. I booked a single inside guarantee ... Read More
PRE CRUISE. I saw this deal and thought it might be nice to do. I was on this ship in 1994 on my very 1st cruise then known as "CROWN DYNASTY" Running for CUNARD LINE, I went to ALASKA. I booked a single inside guarantee cabin and paid £210. I got my e ticket and documents a week before the cruise. Then I heard from others going on cruise the Embarkation time had changed! I never got the email and, then got a letter by post explaining they had a GASTRIC VIRUS on the previous cruise. So had to do MAJOR CLEAN of the ship, So embarkation was 1630hrs. I got train from my local station to STRATFORD but had to wait ages to buy a ticket/. So had to catch a later train to HARWICH INTERNATIONAL PORT. EMBARKATION. I entered the TERMINAL to CHECK-IN it took ages to get through to check in. Gave me my CRUISE CARD and showed my Card to use to pay the bill. Had my picture taken and board the ship. I was not shown my cabin but found it myself I had been given the number when I got my ticket 2079 on deck 2. CABIN. It was a single cabin not a twin that I had on my 1st cruise. 1 SINGLE BED, a chair, safe,small tv. The bathroom was good with cabinets to put things as well as the sink. Also a shower. Lots of drawer space and wardrobes. DINING. I had booked 1st sitting which I prefer but had got GRAMPIAN RESTAURANT which is a newer one. I had found a few people on the cruise but they had 2nd sitting. I did try to change sittings but this cost £4 and as there were no seat left I didn't bother. I changed restaurant to the THISTLE RESTAURANT which I had on my 1st CRUISE and was at a singles table. DINNER was good a good selection of dishes and wine list was good too. SERVICE was quick too and were out by 8pm. Had breakfast here as well but waiters had to put the buffet food on our plate which took a while. Afternoon tea was really disorganised as it took so long and long queues. ENTERTAINMENT. Saw 2shows "MICKY ZANY" the comedian who was very good. 2nd night was SWING with singers and dancers who were good as well. PORT OF CALL. AMSTERDAM in Holland was our only port of call I had done ANNE FRANK'S house and canal before. So I walked off the ship and asked where the MARITIME MUSEUM was. It was quite a walk but well worth it. Went onboard a sailing ship and 4 floors of maritime stuff. An interesting idea was you couldn't take any backpacks around but had to put them into a locker. This was very easy to do. DISEMBARKATION. This was very quick despite me not get any info on when we could disembark and had to ask for one. I used my old label and put my suitcase outside my room. Next morning after breakfast we left the ship at 8am and found my luggage and made my way home. PHOTOS. I always like buying pictures so got quite a few including the same view I did on my 1st CRUISE. They had a dvd of AMSTERDAM and the ship as well and quite reasonable. SHOPS. Quite a few shops but usually like the souvenir one. They had hats,t shirts but none with the ship on. No special key rings either. I bought a ship model which was good and a dvd of "MICKY ZANY". SUMMARY. A good cruise and enjoyed it despite it being hard work with not touching any plates which did make it hard. Would love to do it again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
First time aboard a Fred Olsen ship and overall, I would say it is good value for money but it depends what your expectations are. I would also say that the crew - with only a few exceptions - are outstanding and deserve some recognition ... Read More
First time aboard a Fred Olsen ship and overall, I would say it is good value for money but it depends what your expectations are. I would also say that the crew - with only a few exceptions - are outstanding and deserve some recognition for their tireless work & infectious happiness...particular thanks to Jean, Christine, Gerome & all in the Lido Bar for putting up with us! There are many ships where the crew to passenger ratio is a lot higher but the service does not necessarily go up accordingly; this crew work very hard to deliver good service - they remember your cabin number within a day, your name..your children's names, everything! The consensus is that Fred ships are floating retirement homes - not entirely untrue but in the event, I will take a Fred Olsen ship as mine - far cheaper for sure. As we were amongst the youngest, we did receive quite a few bemused stares for the first couple of days but soon managed to pally up with some people reasonably close to our age and some far older - we met some really lovely folks so don't let the 'nursing home' jibes put you off too much; some of these elders had far more stamina than me and were hilarious fun. Unless of course you particularly want a 'proper' disco & steamed up Brits every night... CABINS: We were Deck 3 midships- totally fine; not noisy, beds comfortable & attended to twice a day by a lovely cabin steward named Na. DINING: For the most part, great. We were on a 2nd seating dinner so hunger often meant we hit the Secret Garden buffet at 6.30 rather than wait. The Secret Garden staff were the big let-down for me & I'm not sure what the deal is here - are they working up the ranks until they become fit for the main dining rooms I wonder? At first I thought maybe it was just us they did not particularly care for but having discussed with others, it seemed to be not just us - sort of thankfully! The actual maitre de of the whole place by far had the worst attitude, thus setting the standard for all the staff under him & this needs a close inspection by Olsen Corps I personally think.... But main dining room fab by night, waiters were wonderfully sweet - Suwat & Oliver spring to mind. Extremely busy at breakfast & lunch mind you. Food on the whole was great all over. I was told that the £20 surcharge for the Grill at night was not worth it but never tried myself - you can sit there during lunch for no surcharge & the burgers are really good. ENTERTAINMENT: Well I think there is something for everyone, tailored to the particular age group. Bridge, the usual shuffleboard etc,, daily quizzes & bingo, classes & talks. The evening shows can be hit & miss; some fall flat and some are pretty good - we were lucky to have Brenda Collins on board who looks more like Cilla Black than even Cilla herself, and she did some very funny shows. The resident musicians are all reasonable with the only exception being the 'Timeline Duo' who seem to have only the most depressing songs known to man in their set list! I heard more complaints about them than anything else which meant they got happier one night, but the following night it was back to morose. The actual entertainment staff - as in the singers & dancers - could do more, there are a couple of blinding singers amongst them, but I think they do so much during the day that it doesn't leave much scope for night. ON BOARD SERVICES: Gift shop, Photographer & Salon are OK but as usual, it's slightly inflated so none do particularly well. The 'Casino' - one roulette, one BJ - is staffed by two very miserable & bored girls. Sauna & steam rooms were great; I was always the only one in them. The gym is actually very sufficient - everything works and after midday, you have it pretty much to yourself. The reception & staff are great - I quietly watched them a few times; they take the full frontal and are very patient indeed. SMOKING FACILITIES: For those that do, this is where it falls down. Presently, one can only smoke on the Deck 7 starboard aft wing overlooking the pool area & on the small Deck 8 area. I don't need to be told that the habit is filthy & we shouldn't do it but nonetheless, I feel that there should be 'reasonably' comfortable & safe areas to do it in - neither of these areas being the case. Apparently, it used to be that Deck 7 outside the main Lido bar was smoking - makes sense, being outside the main bar - but was terminated due to the 'lappers' (Deck 7 is the only deck where you can do the 'mile') complaining & general folk who were sitting there during the day...perfectly understandable complaints. But by night, the only people that venture out of those doors are smokers to get to their designated areas. I have no issue with compliance to the rules but for most nights during our cruise the wind was howling. Had anyone gone over to smoke on the wing - bear in mind the tables & ashtrays had been removed due to rough weather - they may have been blown clean off & no-one would've been any the wiser, since it's barely lit. OR, you can try & get up the stairs to Deck 8 where it is effectively like being in a wind tunnel! I tried in vain to mention these points to a very agitated security man who was called because my 87 yr old friend was smoking outside the bar when there was no-one else present - the deck was 2 inches deep in water from the rain, we were in the Bay which was rough and yet, even though she needs a stick to walk, we were told (quite aggressively) that she must go to that wing with no tables or ashtrays present or try & climb the stairs to Deck 8 Wind Machine!! Really? As I said, I know smokers are lesser human beings but since they pay the same money, there should be provisions for it to be at least safe for someone not so good on their feet?! I would say many were quite disgruntled, around 50 smokers, of which at least 20 said never again on Fred - not a drop in the ocean financially speaking. SUMMARY: Generally great value for money; things are not as polished as on other cruise lines but you get what you pay for; no more, no less. I would recommend it for ages 50 and above, definitely. I think the crew are the jewel in Fred's crown and some of them make the whole trip change from mediocre into something very comical. Fred, if you're reading, Jean & Christine deserve Employee of the Month, well, for as long as they're with you!   Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
I boarded the balmoral on jan 4 in southampton as a solo traveller , going thru passport control and the embarkation was nice and easy well organized. I had a nice cabin ( my home for the next 4 months ) it was an inside cabin but no ... Read More
I boarded the balmoral on jan 4 in southampton as a solo traveller , going thru passport control and the embarkation was nice and easy well organized. I had a nice cabin ( my home for the next 4 months ) it was an inside cabin but no matter, my plan was to spend as much time around the ship doing things as possible. I chose to eat in the Psalms the self service restaurant, there was a great amount of different types of food for everyone. In the morning there fresh baked rolls and pastries were excellent. The entertainment was good and varied and lots of talks in the, you could learn to paint, sing in a choir, dance lessons, lots of games and a gym. I feel its a very happy well run ship all the staff on the ship are polite and well mannered and a pleasure to deal with at whatever level. For me all the service was first class. The one problem on this is the "Balmoral cough" from the day I arrived untill the day I left it was on the ship. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
Once we had got over our shock at the age profile of the clientele (first impression was that we had entered a floating retirement home) we were surprised how much fun we had. The all inclusive package for which we paid £6.99 a day each ... Read More
Once we had got over our shock at the age profile of the clientele (first impression was that we had entered a floating retirement home) we were surprised how much fun we had. The all inclusive package for which we paid £6.99 a day each was excellent - Stella Artois and Boddingtons on draught, cans of Strongbow, Carlsberg Export and Heineken etc. etc. , house wines including sparkling, local spirits and a vast array of soft drinks were all "free". You did have to pay half price for cocktails, premium spirits and bottled wine but this still worked out to be a relatively modest charge. In spite of this we saw very little evidence of inebriation. We enjoyed all the ports of call including Panama and Colombia and were impressed with the organisation of the shore tours. Further plus points were the truly fabulous staff and of course 14 glorious days of hot sunshine whilst Britain suffered from ice and snow. Food was generally good especially the buffet lunches. We weren't impressed with the Monarch charter flights. Their planes are old and the entertainment was dire (no choice of films or seatback TV screens). We are not surprised that they are pulling out of long haul. Entertainment was just OK even though a couple of the performers were very talented. The Neptune Lounge in particular is badly designed and no longer fit for purpose. There is no designated venue for entertainment on deck and on a couple of occasions when this was attempted it was curtailed as it was too windy or too hot! Would we book again? Yes probably if the itinerary was right. Judging by the number of people on board booking two and three cruises for next year Fred Olsen will continue to be a very popular brand. There is a very loyal band of followers who regard the ships as a home from home. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
I went on this cruise with quite low expectations but would cruise with Fred again. In fact, already booked next January on Braemar from Jamaica to Barbados. The ship was beautiful, the staff very friendly and efficient, and the food, in ... Read More
I went on this cruise with quite low expectations but would cruise with Fred again. In fact, already booked next January on Braemar from Jamaica to Barbados. The ship was beautiful, the staff very friendly and efficient, and the food, in Grampian, ranged from good to excellent. We enjoyed playing Bridge on sea days and met lots of very nice people, sharing a large table with a pleasant and entertaining group. The weather was mixed, but after all, it was December! The shows weren't great - some were ok - but the performers were enthusiastic and the late show rounded off our evenings well. We thought the drinks package was good value, but would have preferred more variety. We tend to do our own thing when we get into port. In S. Antao in the Cape Verde Islands, we shared a taxi with an English speaking guide whom I can highly recommend. He was called John and does very interesting tours in a comfortable car at a fraction of the cruise tour price if you find someone to share with. His email address is jnevesza@gmail.com Our taxi in Praia was also very good value. He took us to the fort and old town and waited for us. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
We sailed on the "Balmoral" on 21 December. The "meet and greet" parking at Southampton was very courteous and efficient. Although the City cruise terminal was being renovated the temporary departure lounge was ... Read More
We sailed on the "Balmoral" on 21 December. The "meet and greet" parking at Southampton was very courteous and efficient. Although the City cruise terminal was being renovated the temporary departure lounge was satisfactory. Boarding was very swift (aided greatly bt membership of the "Oceans Gold" club). The ship looked in good condition as it had only come out of dry-dock two days earlier. We has accommodation on Deck 6 (main deck) which was fine. There was sufficient storage space and the air-condioning was effective. The picture window added to the overall aspect of the cabin. Overall it was in good condition. We were fortunate enough to have calm seas throughtout the whole cruise save on the final day when it was a little choppy. The weather was good which is not always the case in these climes in mid-Winter. The ship was beautifully decorated for Christmas and the "gingerbread town" was a triumph. We selected the Spey restaurant for dinner and the food and service was up to Fred. Olsen's usual standard. We took other meals in the various other restaurants and the standard of food was equally good. The Chinese and Asian speciality nights were particularly enjoyable. The staff and crew on board Fred. Olsen's ships are a key selling point and on this cruise it was no exception. We had port calls in Lisbon, Funchal, Santa Cruz (Tenerife), Las Palmas (Gran Canaria), Arricife (Lanzarote) and Gibraltar. All had their good points but the boat trip in Lisbon and afternoon tea at the gorgeous Reid's Hotel in Madeira were perhaps the best. Christmas Eve was was celebrated with a cabaret show, carol singing and a Holy Communion service at midnight. Christmas Day was also well celebrated althought afternoon was a bit lacking in entertainment and a little flat. Dinner that night was traditional and excellent. New Year's Eve was most enjoyable with an excellent dinner (including haggis and a "wee dram") and a deck party. Although the fireworks in Gibraltar were ok they didn't compare with Madeira. Also it was rather chilly. I don't think this is the ideal port for a New Year call. Although this was a pretty good cruise I do have a few gripes, 1. The ship was just out of dry-dock but there was a great deal of maintenance and painting going on which was, at time intrusive. When the reception was asked why this was necessary we were told that the ship had to be in good condition for the upcoming "long cruise". This is quite unacceptable. 2. The "Balmoral" orchestra plays at every possible occasion eg cocktail parties, receptions and "shows". The volume is so hight that normal conversation is virtually impossible. Thsi is an on-going problem which FOCL really should investigate. 3. As the weather was pretty good it was a pity that the swimming pool on deck 7 was so often closed. 4. The lecture weren't very good with the exception of those concerning millionaires. I would describe most as "minority interest talks. They was certainly not up to the normal standard.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
My friend and I had received letters advising us that Braemar was arriving straight from Hamburg following a refit and that we should adhere to our check-in times (4.30 for me, 6pm for her) as she would not arrive until mid afternoon. As ... Read More
My friend and I had received letters advising us that Braemar was arriving straight from Hamburg following a refit and that we should adhere to our check-in times (4.30 for me, 6pm for her) as she would not arrive until mid afternoon. As we watched her arrive early at noon, we decided that she may start boarding earlier and so set off for the ferry at about 1.30, arriving at the Ocean Terminal at 2.15. Check in was swift but then we had a long wait of about 2 hours before finally being invited to go through security. Knowing how sensitive the security scanners are at Ocean, I was dreading having to take my boots off but thankfully the woman there suggested I try and go through the scanner and see if my boots set it off, in which case I would have to return, take them off and go through again – they didn’t! We finally got on board about 5.30 and set off to our cabins – mine on deck 6, my friend's on deck 2. I had a superior twin for sole occupancy, with obstructed view and best of all – no single supplement! It was a nice welcoming cabin with bed, sofa bed, very large window (with tender outside), twin wardrobe with safe in one half, three drawers and the smallest bedside tables I have ever seen! There was excellent storage in the bathroom with a corner mirrored cupboard and shelf under the basin. The large flat-screen TV was interactive and mounted on an adjustable arm. There was a hairdryer mounted by the dressing table and a tray with tea and coffee making facilities. Caryll’s cabin was not so nice, although it had all the same facilities. It was in the middle section of the stretched ship and had better wardrobe space and coded safe unlike mine which was opened with a key, but required a card to activate the lights etc. The trouble was that there were acres of empty space where they had just taken a bed away to make it a single cabin. Our luggage was there so we unpacked, changed and explored the ship before muster drill at 7.15pm. Dinner had been changed to an open sitting that night, with the restaurant closed while muster drill took place. My muster station was in the Coral Club and it was nice to sit with a drink while it took place! Finally, with all aboard, Braemar set sail as we settled down to dinner in the Thistle Restaurant. We had a table for four on this occasion, with a brother and sister (on her first cruise). After dinner we did a quiz in the Morning Light Pub but didn’t stay up too late as I wanted to be out on deck for the sail up the river Seine the following morning. After breakfast in the Palms Café, I went out to stand on Marquee Deck to watch the river transit. Unfortunately the weather was grey, damp and misty although you could see patches of blue sky above the cloud layer. People ashore and on the ferries waved at us as we sailed past, a few sounding their horns at the ship or stopping to take a photo of us. There were hedgerows and trees laden with mistletoe, half-timbered tumbledown barns and cottages, small towns and ruined abbeys and castles. As we neared the industrial outskirts of Rouen, Braemar was spun 180 degrees and reversed to her berth on the seaward side of the new lifting bridge. Our tour to Honfleur was leaving at 2.15 so we had lunch in the Palms Café before going down to the show lounge to get our tour stickers. It was not long before we were asked to go down to the coaches. Unfortunately it was one of the high-level coaches – great views but very steep stairs and excruciatingly limited legroom, at least on the nearside. I have visited Honfleur once before and loved it so I was happy to return. We followed our guide round from the Salt Warehouse and through the medieval street as far as the church and then had an hour of free time to return to the harbour and take photos of the pretty shops. Unlike my last visit, early in the day with blue skies, this time we were able to watch the sun slowly set over the harbour – a beautiful scene. I bought a bottle of Calvados with raspberries and we explored the shops and streets north of the harbour. It was dark when we set off to return to the coach for the hour and a quarter drive back to Rouen and Braemar. It was our only formal night that evening – a shame since many people were ashore in Paris. In view of this, in lieu of a Captain’s welcome party, free drinks were available in any of the bars for half an hour before our respective dinner sittings. That night we were back to set table dining and we were taken to table 52 – for 8, right at the stern with a view of the wake – perfect (even though we were in port on most of our evening). One of the nicest things about Braemar were the lovely passengers. There was a good mixed age range, which I wasn’t expecting from Fred!, but may have been because of the unusual itinerary. Whenever we sat to eat – open sitting breakfast or lunch, at dinner, we were all soon chatting like old friends, even in the bars. It was certainly a refreshing change from other ships where passengers tend to regard solo women with a degree of suspicion!! After a good night’s sleep (FO beds are wonderful!), it was time to have breakfast and explore Rouen. Once again, we had both been here before but felt the town deserved a further visit. FO operate a slightly complicated shuttle bus system. We first had to get a shuttle pass from reception – these were free for those who had booked Freedom fares (us) or chargeable to those on cheaper fares. Once we had those (a different one for each of the two days we were there), we then had to go get a shuttle ticket from the tours desk once we were ready to depart. This worked exactly like a tender ticket and saved standing around on the quayside for the bus. The shuttle took about 10 minutes and dropped us off beside the river close to the famous Cathedral. We had intended to visit the Cathedral again and then head up towards the clock and explore the side streets off. In fact we came out through a different door in the church and spotted yet more intriguing narrow streets lined with the half-timbered medieval and 17th century houses which fill the central part of Rouen, so that was the way we started off. One street had several small shops selling the striking Faience pottery that is made in Rouen (not dissimilar from that made in the Breton town of Quimper). Nice as it was, the prices were too high to persuade us to take some home. In one of the shops the owner was moving a shelf to make room for some more pieces, when there was a horrible crash and some slid off it to the floor! Thanks goodness we were nowhere near. On the other hand, the home ware stores were filled with temptations, from the natural linen towels with red embroidery to the Christmas decorations filling the shops; pretty glassware with coloured bases to fabulous tapestry cushions with designs of liners and animals. After walking to the end of the old buildings, we headed back and sat with a coffee in a small square in front of the Church of St Maroc. Suitably restored we set off in the direction of our original plan. The pretty Christmas Market was just being set up in front of the Cathedral but would not open for another week. The shops in this direction were more common chain stores – C&A, Manfield, Bata etc. there was a small street market where we stopped to buy some Neufchatel cheese – a bargain at 1 euro 10 cents. The flower stall beside the renowned Gros Horlorge was so beautiful with bunches of Amaryllis in soft pink colours and glass bowls of moss and roses. Once we reached the Joan of Arc church we bought a pastry and found a seat by the Metro station to sit and eat. By then I was walked out so we headed back towards the shuttle stop, via a few shops of course. There was only a short wait before the bus came and took us back to the port. There was still a lot of work being done and a large quantity of glass panels was stashed at the stern ready to be installed – on deck?? The brown rattan deck furniture looked new and very stylish but I still do not like Fred Olsen sun beds – aluminium frame with white plastic strips. The games deck is right in the bow and is a great place to stand and watch a port arrival if not too windy or cold. In fact we stood there for sailaway for a while, until we neared the big grain mill and an ominous cloud started to waft our way. Back on board time was 4.45pm. Then started the announcements for four missing people! Then it was reduced to two missing people. As we were standing in the atrium we could see what was happening and hear the walkie talkies. It appeared that they called the missing couple on their mobiles and were told they were on their way. One youngish couple turned up in a taxi but there was no sign of the others. Just as we feared we might leave without them, they appeared at the far end of the security compound. The security officer sent someone to let them in and they walked up the gangway with no attempt at speed. We can only assume they looked at the sailing time rather than the all aboard time! We eventually left at 5.45, lifting off the berth and starting the six-hour transit back down the Seine. It was a calm crossing again and we arrived back in Southampton at about 6am. Disembarkation was by deck (luggage out by midnight) and we were off the ship at 8.30. All in all a delightful short break on a very attractive ship which restored my faith in Fred Olsen (although I still do not like Balmoral!). I would not hesitate to sail on her again, although maybe not for a long cruise as facilities and entertainment is limited.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
Embarkation was well organised and worked smoothly. The lifeboat muster was the most thorough that we have ever attended. All previous musters had ended in the muster station with a practice donning of the life jacket, but this time we ... Read More
Embarkation was well organised and worked smoothly. The lifeboat muster was the most thorough that we have ever attended. All previous musters had ended in the muster station with a practice donning of the life jacket, but this time we also practiced walking the route to the lifeboat embarkation point. The cabin was clean and comfortable, but with a torn carpet it was due for a bit of TLC. The ports of call were interesting to visit, and the Captain’s decision to miss out Horta because of weather conditions had a silver lining in that we had an extra day in Funchal when we were the only ship in port. The town, cable cars and attractions were quiet, unlike the following day (the originally scheduled day) when there were several large ships in port with the consequent crowds ashore. The food was generally good, but choice was more limited than on other cruise lines we have used. At dinner, main courses arrived completely plated, so there was no choice of vegetables. One evening the beef stew was just beef, gravy, and a few carrots cooked with the meat. There were no other vegetables on offer. Others must have complained because the headwaiter came round the tables asking if there had been a problem with the beef dish. In the Palms, the fruit salad seemed to be little else than melon, and the game was hunting the grape. I managed to find a strawberry on one occasion. Drinks were reasonably priced, and passengers on the all inclusive drinks deal had value for money. The crew, with the exceptions mentioned later, were friendly, courteous and efficient. The entertainment was very good. The resident show company were excellent, and the cabaret acts maintained the standard. There were several very interesting speakers on board, and there were consistently good audiences at their talks. There was a good range of activities on sea days. The ship seemed to be very clean, and passengers were constantly reminded to wash their hands and use the sanitiser dispensers found everywhere on the ship. However, at the welcome cocktail party I was given a drink in a pre-lipsticked glass, and at dinner one evening the table had been laid with a fork with food residue from a previous use. One began to wonder how well standards were being adhered to behind the scenes. Unfortunately, we were disappointed with several aspects of Fred Olsen’s service. The first was the lack of shuttle buses in Lisbon. Passengers were told it was an easy 15-minute 1.5km walk into Lisbon. 6kph is a brisk walking pace, which given the hot weather and the age profile of the passengers, is not an easy walk. It's the speed I do on a treadmill when I want to do some moderate cardio vascular exercise. Try it. Also, I would have liked to use my energy exploring Lisbon, not getting to and back from the city. The suggestion from the cruise director that passengers could use the local buses didn't seem to be taken up by many. I suppose they thought they'd be joining a queue of several hundred at the bus stop. Two things made the lack of shuttle buses additionally annoying. Firstly, P&O had provided them for their passengers on Adonia, which was actually moored nearer to the city than Balmoral. Secondly, Fred Olsen had provided them in Funchal a couple of days earlier, even though the distance was less than that in Lisbon. When my wife asked at reception why Fred Olsen had not provided buses as had P&O, the only answer she could get was that it was only 1.5km. The logic behind their decision whether or not to provide shuttles escapes me. The second problem was in Leixoes. A large number of passengers had departed on tours within a very short space of time. Many of the tours included a visit to a port wine producer where there was the opportunity to buy wine. The consequence was several hundred people with bottles of wine arriving back at the ship virtually all at the same time resulting in an exceptionally long queue to board the ship. I timed how long it was from when we joined the queue on the quayside until we passed through security on the ship. It was 42 minutes. As we went up the gangplank passengers were photographing the queue, which by then stretched beyond the stern of the ship, the gangway being level with the forward stairwell. On entering the ship we were then made to queue again to have wine bottles taken from us, and this further delayed the boarding procedure. There were a lot of very angry people. I assumed, naively as it turned out, that there would be an apology in the daily news bulletin, but there was no mention. I asked at the tours desk why they didn’t think it was appropriate to apologise to the passengers who had had to queue for so long in high 70s heat on the quayside. I was asked if there had been any problem on the tour. No, the tour was very good. They said that they only dealt with problems occurring on the actual tour, and that what had happened on the quayside was not Fred Olsen’s responsibility. I asked why so many people had been sent on tours at the same time, and the answer was that they had to take the times offered by the tour operator. If that was so, I suggested that they should have realized that all those passengers would return at the same time and that they should have been better prepared by providing a second gangplank. Unfortunately, it was a waste of time trying to discuss it, as the only response they would make was that it was not Fred Olsen’s fault. I think Fred Olsen were extremely fortunate that the queue was in the shade of the new terminal building. The temperature was in the high seventies, and if passengers had been forced to queue in direct sun having had nothing to drink for nearly five hours except any water they had taken with them, I think it more than likely they would have been dealing with collapsed passengers. The final piece of nonsense was that after having been forced to queue to have our wine taken off us, it was returned to the cabin the following day, two days before the end of the cruise. What was the point of all that? We’ve been on similar tours with other cruise lines and not had to hand over the odd bottle brought back onboard after a tour. The attitude of crew with whom I raised these issues was extremely poor, and the response seemed to be one of “So what?” They need to take a serious look at their passenger relations ethos. Disembarkation went smoothly and we were driving out of Southampton at 9am. Needless to say, we’ll never set foot on another Fred Olsen ship. I’m sure that won’t bother Fred as they have a loyal following that is happy with what they offer, but there’s much better available elsewhere.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
We are regular cruisers with Mr. Olsen and the itinerary involving France, Guernsey and one Spanish port going down the Bay of Biscay really seemed to us a good choice by the cruise planners. We drove to Rosyth - 160 miles - and arrived ... Read More
We are regular cruisers with Mr. Olsen and the itinerary involving France, Guernsey and one Spanish port going down the Bay of Biscay really seemed to us a good choice by the cruise planners. We drove to Rosyth - 160 miles - and arrived at the time stated in our instructions to find that we could have arrived earlier and been allowed on board. A little niggle as we like being on the boat with time to spare before the drill. And the signage around the terminal was not up to scratch! But we managed it finally as did the others! Embarkation was more or less painless as they were well organised in the small terminal and we were soon aboard and found our luggage already in the cabin! The cabin was as we expected, having used this grade before and was clean and provided enough space for our 2 cases and our clothes in the drawers and hanging space. Next - the emergency drill! It all went smoothly! We were led to the lifeboats in the crocodile and the n stood around a while ( weather mild!) and as one of us can't stand for more than a short while the staff were quite happy to let us go early on health grounds. Such flexibility is most welcome! The grey weather stayed until we have got well into the English Channel and then as we went South to Spain it slowly improved and we got what we had hoped for! The better weather got people out on the decks and the ship got us to Getxo effortlessly! We don't do excursions, preferring to go the the ports, shop a little and have a drink and sometimes a meal so we have no comments on the ship's tours. A visit to Hendaye ( France ) on the Spanish border was a great choice! We had never heard jof the delightful little port and it is all credit to F. Olsen cruises for the choice of a new place to visit was Now it was North again to visit La Rochelle and L'Orient - good choices! We had breakfast in our cabin each morning and it always came on time! The food restaurant was up to its usual standard with a varied menu each night and our waiters were efficient and understanding as we did the usual trick of chatting instead of making our choices. Our only comment is that the chef used a very rich sauce in lots of his meals but were were able to work around it as there was a good selection. We only went to one evening show and the comedian was funny with a good act which was fortunate as we had seen him before on a F. Olsen boat! Our evening drink was in the Observation lounge with prompt, smiling service of the well-priced drinks and there was a " Palm Court trio " each night and we found them excellent in the quieter and more relaxed ambience. Disembarkation morning saw us having breakfast with no crush at all as the waiters were all prepared and then final departure was quick and our deck was called just at the time for us to vacate the cabin!! The terminal is small but it copes - only just with the throng of people. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
We chose this cruise because we were travelling with my 86 year old father, who did not want the hassle of airports or long journeys to the embarkation port. I was surprprised how much I appreciated the lack of hassle too!  Embarkation ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we were travelling with my 86 year old father, who did not want the hassle of airports or long journeys to the embarkation port. I was surprprised how much I appreciated the lack of hassle too!  Embarkation was a breeze, and my case was unpacked within 2 hours of closing it! The Black Watch is a smaller and older ship to those which I have previously cruised onboard ( Ryndam and Ventura) and I couldn't help compare. There were positives and negtives. Positives first: It was easier to find your way round the ship You were never too far from anything, and wasted less time getting from a to b ( cabin to bar, bar to restaurant, restaurant to theatre, etc) Getting off àt ports was also relatively easy, though we still had to queue for around 45 minutes when tenders were required. The ship never felt crowded The public spaces were smaller and seemed more intimate and friendly. There was never a problem getting a seat anywhere: bar, pool, lounge, etc. Even at the back of the theatre, you weren't far from the stage! Negatives: There was less of a wow factor, eg no central atrium and grand staircase. The cabins were unusual, with fixed berths in an L formation: one across in front of the window, the other down the side partition. There was only one Main Dining Room and one Self service buffet restaurant. Both could be crowded, especially on sea days. General positives: The ship was well maintained and kept spotlessly clean. The staff were friendly and helpful. The service was first class, especially in the Dining room. Bar service was excellent in most bars, but could be slow aroind the pool area (difficult to find the beer fairy, or attract their attention). The food was excellent quality, well presented, and plenty of choice. Breakfast buffet offered an excellent selection, including bucks fizz on sea days. General negatives: There was a crowded, almost battlefield, atmosphere in the MDR at breakfast and lunch, as a buffet was provided. It took us a while to realise that we could ignore the buffet, and a waiter would bring us something from the kitchen. We also made an effort to sit in the Orchid Room, off the MDR to avoid the melee. The sun loungers were old fashioned and not very comfortable. The entertainment was mediocre: not bad, just average. Dinner was at set times, 6.15 and 8.30, which I felt were too early and too late! There were plenty of activities on board, though nothing like wave pools, climbing walls, ice rinks, etc! Staff organised regular quizes, bingo, "dog races", wii games, bridge, carpet bowls, dance classes, etc. There were also talks by guest speakers (good) and port talks (dreadful: someone rading a script, with no enthusiasm). We did not do any of the organised excursions as we thought they were overpriced. We tended to use shuttle buses and or taxis. This worked fine, most of the time. However getting to La Rochelle was horrendous: we had to wait outside, no seats provided, for a shuttle bus that took us to no man's land, where we waited at a bus stop for a regular service bus. Taxis were not available. Imagine, scores of people, many elderly, standing at the bus stop! Needless to say, the bus was overcrowded. We managed to find a taxi to return, but were not allowed to go to the cruise terminal. He had to drop us at no man's land, where we had to wait, without shelter, without seats, for the shuttle bus again. The Black Watch does not cater for children, and I did not see any on board. We chose the "all inclusive" drinks option, which we thought good value. But drinks were not overpriced, nor was there a service charge added to them ( as with Holland America Lines) Not sure if this has anything to do with the ship, but the passengers were generally more friendly than on other cruises!   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
This was the maiden voyage down the Loire followed by a further river trip down the Garonne to Bordeaux. Someone came on board with the dreaded Norovirus which meant that on 4 of the 7 days cruise we were in lockdown which spoiled the ... Read More
This was the maiden voyage down the Loire followed by a further river trip down the Garonne to Bordeaux. Someone came on board with the dreaded Norovirus which meant that on 4 of the 7 days cruise we were in lockdown which spoiled the trip. No quibble with the captains decision, but the restrictions took most of the pleasure out of the cruise and the constant handwashing and antibac. 'squirters' resulted in a nasty dose of eczema of the hands. Recommend the tour of Green Venice in Bordeaux though, very serene and relaxing. Beware disembarkation at both Nantes and Bordeaux, very very steep gangway from level 5 to quayside due to local conditions/tides which created long delays getting both on and off the ship and would be very taxing to anyone with disabilities although help was on hand - heart conditions would be a bit worrying. Cannot comment on fitness facilities, gym was closed for most of the trip. Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
Norway - Rivers and Railways cruise. First time cruisers so make of this what you will. Service, was good throughout though the pronunciation of English, yes, we know it is a world language, really was hard to follow sometimes - and we ... Read More
Norway - Rivers and Railways cruise. First time cruisers so make of this what you will. Service, was good throughout though the pronunciation of English, yes, we know it is a world language, really was hard to follow sometimes - and we are well-used to multicultural London. The numbers were well-managed at breakfast times when everyone arrived at 9am we thought. The all-inclusive drinks package was only just about worth it for us two though one of us was getting over an operation, the other about to have one and loosing weight. The floor shows reminded us of the end of the pier show at Cromer pier which many rave over but not us. A clean and well-painted and well-polished ship. Getting off the ship in Stavanger was not well-managed as cruisers were left standing on the main staircase for up to an hour without any expiation for the delays. The shore tours which we booked a number of and spent about £600 on were not all that well finessed with pretty disengaged entertainment staff roped in as somewhat reluctant tour leaders. The Bergen steam railway tour began as a sort of anticlimax, a pre-climax as the station (and shop?) were not opened for us. There was loose talk of coffee which never arrived and the visit fizzled out beside a busy main road, not even a group picture. The follow-on tour of Bergen city centre in a max size 3-axle coach was we thought an inappropriate way to sight-see a small city centre, in the rain. With only four elevators (lifts) for the elderly passengers when one of then broke down, as it did, there was real inconvenience. We paid extra for white glove Afternoon Tea but the staff were flustered when we arrived at the correct time and this was the only time that service standards slipped really, as far as we were concerned. It didn't help the occasion that scruffy passengers wandered in and out of the bar around us in essentially beach wear. A lot of men did not make much effort to dress appropriately for the two formal dinner nights. We are thinking of booking with Fred.Olsen again but wonder if the organisation isn't a tad blind to it shore tour shortcomings? Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
This cruise went to Rouen, Amsterdam and Hamburg. In each port we stayed overnight. It was lovely cruising up the Seine to Rouen and also the Elbe into Hamburg. Very interesting and enjoyable. It was our first time on the Black Watch and ... Read More
This cruise went to Rouen, Amsterdam and Hamburg. In each port we stayed overnight. It was lovely cruising up the Seine to Rouen and also the Elbe into Hamburg. Very interesting and enjoyable. It was our first time on the Black Watch and although there were some things we liked, she really is getting very shabby. There were holes in the teak decks, the varnished rails were in dire need of varnish and the windows throughout the ship were very dirty. As the weather was not very warm, we obviously spent some time inside apart from when we were ashore. The food was fairly good, but having been on the Balmoral in January, the menus were exactly the same. At 67 I felt young. the majority of passengers were older than me. although I like the smaller ships, Black Watch felt rather too small for me. Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
On the positive side, the cruise was very enjoyable, with the more unusual Canary Islands being visited - La Palma & La Gomera and also Madeira, Lisbon & Oporto, all very interesting venues. The size of the Braemar helped in being ... Read More
On the positive side, the cruise was very enjoyable, with the more unusual Canary Islands being visited - La Palma & La Gomera and also Madeira, Lisbon & Oporto, all very interesting venues. The size of the Braemar helped in being able to get into the smaller ports. Oporto berth (port Lexioes) was quite a distance from Oporto itself, about 30-40 minutes by train. The entertainment for a small ship was very good too. The Braemar is a little bit older than many of the cruise lines we have tried so the cabins were somewhat smaller than we are used to but for 10 days we could cope, although it would put us off doing a longer trip on this ship. Our biggest winge was not so much the food, as it's availablity. When being out in port all day, returning some time after 2.30pm, there was no food until dinner time - even the pool bar stopped their limited service at 2.30pm. On another night, one lady came late to dinner and was refused service, being told to go to the special Indian buffet as she was too late for the earliest sitting service - she couldn't eat spicy food and was given no alternative! Come on Fred Olsen - this is meant to be a holiday not a borstal. Personally speaking, although we enjoyed this cruise, I wouldn't use the Braemar again unless the itinerary was unique. We just prefer a slightly larger ship. Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
We have done 23 cruises in all but this was the first with Fred Olsen. We enjoyed the cruise very much but we think this was more due to the friendliness of the crew and passengers than any other feature of the cruise. The ship has very ... Read More
We have done 23 cruises in all but this was the first with Fred Olsen. We enjoyed the cruise very much but we think this was more due to the friendliness of the crew and passengers than any other feature of the cruise. The ship has very limited facilities. It was clean and well run and there was a good variety of food. They did have a midnight buffet, which some other cruise lines no longer have, and it was of good quality. The entertainment crew were lovely, friendly and enthusiastic. They tried their very best and worked hard. But if you are looking for west end style shows, there is nothing like that with Fred Olsen. The entertainers we saw we had unfortunately seen before on previous cruises and had been around for quite some years without changing their acts. But they were likeable and enjoyable nonetheless. We didn't go on any of the excursions so cannot comment on these but we simply disembarked and had a wander around the ports, which were all very similar. Our favourite was Madeira as all the flowers were out at this time of year and there was a beautiful fragrance in the air. We spent most of our nights in the Coral lounge where several of us joined in the fun of the quiz and then listened to the In Tune band and watched the passengers enjoying dancing on the small but adequate dance floor. The all inclusive at £10 per night was great value as my husband likes his pint of Boddingtons beer and this was always a good standard. Most of the men seemed to be drinking this beer. I didn't like the wines on offer but had a couple of glasses of Cava with the evening meal instead. It was just OK but still worth it and a couple of times I had a cocktail which you could get at half price with the all inclusive deal. Other passengers were making the most of being able to get a decent quality of brandy, but I don't really drink shorts. We certainly had our money's worth and can recommend this deal. One word of warning though. During our cruise the Daily Times encourages you to book your future cruise while on the ship, so saving 10% and guaranteeing your cabin number and the drinks package. This sounded great and we did just that. However, the cruise we booked is supposed to be a river cruise and is entitled the German Waterways. On speaking to other passengers we discovered that this is not a true river cruise as we thought it to be. We tried to cancel it immediately but could not. We felt we had been misled as the cruise specialist did not advise us otherwise that this was not a true river cruise and could not tell us how far down the rivers the ship was able to sail. We still do not know after enquiring with Fred Olsen on our return home. So beware you are sure of the full itinerary before making a booking and don't make the same mistake as we did. Also, it seems you can get better deals by waiting for special offers, as they are cheaper than booking early. Would we sail with Fred Olsen again. Well we have already booked so we will be. But I don't think we will be booking any more cruises as there are so many cruise lines offering so much more for your money. Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
Fred Olsen flew us to Tenerife via Monarch from Manchester. We couldn't book seats in advance as there was some kind of tension between Monarch and Fred Olsen. The Monarch plane was appalling. Extra seats had been installed and there ... Read More
Fred Olsen flew us to Tenerife via Monarch from Manchester. We couldn't book seats in advance as there was some kind of tension between Monarch and Fred Olsen. The Monarch plane was appalling. Extra seats had been installed and there was no leg room and no air supply for some seats as they were out of sync with the new seating. You could book extra leg room on a few rows on check-in for £30 each way! After a very claustrophobic flight, the cabin accommodation was very comfortable and the meals throughout the cruise were of a very high standard as was the service throughout. The ship will shortly be refitted and it needs it, but our main concern is that since it was 'stretched' adding more cabins, the publiic rooms cannot cope on bad sea days. The supply of chairs on the decks was good, but in the lounges with all the passengers within the ship, it was impossible to find a seat, especially for the shows in the Neptune lounge. The ship purports to accommodate 929 passengers but on our cruise log from the company there were 1090 which would account for the lack of room. The shore visits in the Canary Islands were well up to standard and those in the Cape Verde Island, Senegal and the Gambia very chaotic due to the developing nature of those countries although extremely interesting and memorable. There was a problem sometimes with guests not taking note of advice that tours were not for those with walking difficulties but that was not the fault of the company. However, it did seem that the Cruise Director might not have researched some of the African tours enough to ensure they returned to the ship on time to sail - we arrived back one hour late for sailing in Senegal where a seven hour tour turned into a ten hour marathon (with no toilet stops planned), and a half hour late in another port - but that was mainly a problem for the captain. Overall we are glad we took the cruise - to avoid the weather back home - and we couldn't hold the company responsible that the weather kept us inboard for much of the cruise - but we wouldn't go on this ship again as the lack of space spoilt what could have been a much more positive experience. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
Already Booked?

Get to know who you’ll be sailing with

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click