Its small just over 24000 tons but has 900 plus passengers, still tidy and well laid out, it was a “cut & shut” which makes it quite long (4 times around prom deck to a mile) but only 8 decks high. Our cabin on deck 3 with double ... Read More
Its small just over 24000 tons but has 900 plus passengers, still tidy and well laid out, it was a “cut & shut” which makes it quite long (4 times around prom deck to a mile) but only 8 decks high. Our cabin on deck 3 with double port holes, it was a bit smallish, especially the shower but comfortable enough,toilet paper a bit thin though, however we had tea & coffee but no biscuits! One very good point for the cabin - Interactive TV with Sky TV channels, bow camera, weather forecast, onboard a/c and a good selection of films, we watched 2 on days that were to cold for going outside. The corridors are quite narrow and Prom deck has a one way system for walking round but difficult to pass anyone at some points. Braemar was built in 1994, refurbished in 2008 and probably had a tidy up in the last year or so. But she does vibrate a fair bit especially when your in the restaurant at the back of the ship, although we couldn’t hear it in other parts of the ship. The outside areas at the back of the ship with tables and chairs are well laid out we even had lunch outside whilst sailing down the Seine, it wasn’t that warm but at least it wasn’t raining that day. Unfortunately you do get the black soot floating around same as P&O's Aurora & Oriana - ships of a certain age! We didn’t sit on the sun deck for obvious reasons but there looked to be plenty of space, loungers and a reasonable pool. The observatory at the from of deck 8 is a smaller version of the P&O's crows nest but quite comfortable, but it gets full of people of a certain age!
All the officers were Croatian apart from the doctor who was a Rumanian & the head chef who was a Brit. In fact a lot of the crew were eastern european I was expecting to see Slaven Bilic at any time( West ham joke if you don’t follow football). The Captain gave a regular lunchtime update although with long pauses but had a good sense of humour.
There wasn’t any shuffleboard or deckquoits but there was Hop-la & Dolphin Racing (a excuse to bet on a roll of the dice)maybe put on as this cruise was still in the children holidays and there were 24 kids onboard but they were well behaved. We did quite a few quizzes, not that hard but most teams had 6 and we were "billy no mates", came close to winning the Name that tune a few times. The Braemar orchestra held a resemblance to P&O's Caravan especially the brass section, the show singers 2 guys & 2 girls all had good voices and did 4 shows plus 2 appearances at welcome and farewell parties as well as helping out with distribution of tickets, holding some quizzes etc. There were 4 girl dancers that made up the troop with the singers. They did shows in either the Neptune lounge ( with the band backing) or in the Coral club bar and lounge. Two guest entertainers, Taffy Spencer magician & Stevie Jo Salter a comedian from Bethnal Green he was OK, but he did a great talk on his time working in the Met murder squad. The port lecturer was fairly poor just read from a laptop to slides but some useful information, the guest speaker was Robert Ash a gourmet chef who did 2 talks one on Monet and one on Chefs famous dishes - actually both good.
Everyone says the food is good on Fred Olsens and we agree. There is more choice than on P&O especially in the self service Palm Cafe where we eat both breakfast and lunch. One plus point is that you are not let in to the PalmCafe unless a table is free, so its not such a bun fight as P&O, and we did try the cava at breakfast a couple of mornings! The thistle restaurant in the evening has 2 sittings (no freedom dining) we had 2nd sitting which wasn’t full our table of 6 only had 4 on it including us. The menu has a choice of 2 starters, 3 soups, 2 salads, 3 main course and 3 sweets plus cheese and the normal chicken, fish & pasta on all the time, not large portions but if you’ve had breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea you don’t want a big dinner. On one day Afternoon tea was served in the Neptune lounge as a “Tea dance” we didn’t dance but we gave the cakes a good bashing chocolate fountain with fruit, amaretto cake & Lemon meringue tart to name 3( carol had 2 tarts so it shows how good they were) but we left the doughnuts and cream cakes alone. We did have a giggle because there were 2 Dance Hosts, elderly gentlemen to dance with the ladies, we don’t think they provided any other services & you certainly wouldn’t call them Gigolos.
there was welcome aboard and a farewell party, you had to go in the lounge and sit down before they would serve you a drink, choice of red/white wine, sherry , G&T and Cava. We managed 2 drinks first time and 3 second time. The captain gave a speech which was quite entertaining and then introduced the senior crew members no opportunity to talk to any of them or any any other more junior officers.
As stated the officers are mainly all croatian but the waiters are mainly Indian, Thai, malaysian etc. we didn’t find our lead restaurant waiter that friendly he belittled his number 2 which we didn’t like, but those we came across in the Cafe, drinks waiters & cabin stewardesses were all friendly enough. we didn’t feel the entertainments team treated you like school children at least they were Brits apart from the cruise director who surprisingly enough was a Croatian lady.
Weather & Tours
Obviously the weather was not great as we said we did have a good day cruising along the Seine from Rouen to Hornfleur (about 6 hours) but we got soaked in a thunderstorm on the evening in Bordeaux and the only other good day was the last afternoon sailing up the English Channel, we’ve never known it so flat and the strongest wind we had was force 4. so we can’t really say how Braemar performs in bad weather, our guess is not great. We were not impressed with the tours we did a wine tour in the evening in Bordeaux a walk from the ship to a wine cellar, expensive and not much wine. We also did a tour from Lorient because there’s nothing at Lorient apart from a exGerman submarine base which is now a museum. We went too Josselin Castle by coach, the driver got lost trying to get into the village, we toured Leclerc supermarket car park and did 4 laps of the same roundabout, when we got into the village all the roads near the castle were being relaid with block paving so we had a to walk over mudyy unmade roads to get to the castle. We told the tours lady ( who was another Croatian) that if we did a Fred's cruise again we probably wouldn’t do any tours!
A couple of final plus points, the Daily News sheet with whats on, has a tear off strip with times of events, useful to tear off and put in your pocket. Disembarkation is done by deck number starting at deck 8 and working down but it was all over in less than an hour and you don’t have to put your luggage outside your cabin until after 22:00 and before 02:00 - take note P&O!
In summary we enjoyed the experience, we may consider Fred again but certainly not on anything longer than 10-15 days. Read Less