53 Fred. Olsen Braemar Cruise Reviews

it's my first cruise, due to i am a solo traveler. Cruise line who provided solo cabin not many choose: Fred Olsen, P & O and Cunard- Queen Mary 2. I choose Fred Olsen finally because i saw comment with Fred overall is better ... Read More
it's my first cruise, due to i am a solo traveler. Cruise line who provided solo cabin not many choose: Fred Olsen, P & O and Cunard- Queen Mary 2. I choose Fred Olsen finally because i saw comment with Fred overall is better than another two company. Lucky i have made a right choice. i am satisfied my cruise trip. Itinerary: Day 1 : Embarkation at Southampton. I am arrived the QE II Terminal around 14:00, check in and security check process was smooth, it took around 20 minutes.The Palms Cafe and Thistle Restaurant provided lunch. Day 2: Sea Day (formal night) Day 3: Aviles, Spain Day 4: Sea Day Day 5: Bordeaux, France Day 6: Sea Day (British Night) Day 7: Falmouth, UK Day 8: Disembarkation Dining: Thistle Restaurant: Main dining room. Server and manager are friendly. They knew i was suffer in sea sick, they pay attention to assistance me and talking with me. Concern and humor is a good medicine^^ Al de carte menu or set menu during lunch time. 5 course fine dining in dinner. Great foods and good services (server details mind, good manner) Main course have 5-6 choices, usually is fish, beef, british cuisine, local cuisine(the port that you visit), pasta...etc sometimes have theme buffet / cuisine. have a seafood gala buffet: crab, mussel, lobster, sushi, cheese cake, opera cake, chocolate fountain. Supervise that have a ice engraved decoration, and the water melon was engraved as a rose. Palms Cafe: cozy atmosphere. Beverage self service, have cold brewer tea and Red tea, black tea, blend (sleep ) tea. But i did not find mint tea( i thought would provided on cruise ). A chef would make omelette in the morning. Bookmark Cafe: enjoy coffee and chocolate. Shop: Due to it's a small ship, i am not expect have a lot of products. They sell Fine jewelry, costume jewelry, watch, bags , ties, causal clothes and smart causal clothes, skin care and make up products. If you forgot bring clothes you could find essential items. Entertainment: they have live music and show daily. Sometime have magic show too. I am recommend the music show- One Vision. If you love Queen- the greatest rock band in UK. You should not miss the show. Activities: Have quiz, Fit ball, pilates, Nintendo WII bowling, jewelry making course...etc. I was join the jewelry making course. Use gemstone to made a pendant. (cost ten pounds) Shore excursions: I was join a shore excursions in Bordeaux. It's a half day tour(cost 40 pounds), one hour drive to Saint- Emilion. The tour guide introduce and bring us to visit the Great wall and the Cordeliers Cloister, than have 45 minutes to explore yourself. Afterward drive back to the port at 14:00. No complaint about the tour, i wish i could stay longer time would definitely perfect. Tips: Passenger and crew are friendly, it's a small ship and not too much people. You would easily to meet people on the ship. Passenger age from 50-80, they are enjoy and insist the cruise traditional norms: to dress up at night. I am sure you would enjoy and come out the night life with Fred Olsen. Moreover, they have dance host, that's mean if you a solo traveler, don't worry about to find a partner. conclusion: Fred Olsen is a traditional cruise ship, simple stage, a few dancers and singer. BUT they do in great performance. If you like live music , i am sure you would like it. Simple is the best! Read Less
Sail Date September 2019
Saturday, embarkation Upon arrival in Southampton by car ABP parking met us right by the ship. The porters who unloaded us were very slick and in no time we were at arrivals then straight on board. Very efficient. We had no idea ... Read More
Saturday, embarkation Upon arrival in Southampton by car ABP parking met us right by the ship. The porters who unloaded us were very slick and in no time we were at arrivals then straight on board. Very efficient. We had no idea where to go for muster so when we heard the call asked a member of staff who pointed us in the right direction. Until then we didn’t even know what time muster would be. Whilst at muster in the Grampian dining room we saw quite a bit of food on the carpet by the wall where we were sitting. Not a good first impression. Our cabin was fine. We sailed on Black Watch a couple of years back so knew what to expect. People often moan about the plastic shower curtains on Olsen but at least you get flexible hose shower-heads, essential if you have a stoma. Only negative being our air-conditioning was extremely loud and for some reason our double bed was made up with two separate sets of sheets and duvets. Bizarre. This was rectified after the first night so no problem. Tip: If cases won’t fit under the bed ask your cabin steward to put in storage. We went to the theatre where the house performers were excellent. The house coke is not great and there was no prosecco on the all-inclusive list of drinks but the waiters / waitresses were excellent, especially considering the obstacle course of tables and chairs they have to negotiate. The stage is to the side of the ship with too slight a gradient for the seating. To a man everyone was commenting on the incredibly poor layout and two blatantly obvious problems. The revolving seats were higher than the fixed ‘sofa’ seating behind them on each level and at the very back of the theatre Olsen have crammed in extra chairs making it virtually impossible for people to walk behind trying to get further round in the theatre, and if they do they nudge people all the way around totally distracting you from the show. Tip: on Braemar you have to get in theatre earlier than you think to get a decent seat. (There are even seats behind the pillars). Sunday, at sea Lunchtime in the Grampian the ‘daily special station’ had roast sirloin and Yorkshires. The sirloin was to die for, absolutely superb, but many people were asking where were the roast potatoes? 95% of passengers British and no roast spuds. Spent the afternoon on sunbeds which would have been fantastic but for the constant grinding and smell of paint. We had all this previously on Black Watch, Olsen do their maintenance throughout the voyage. It was this night we returned to our room to be met with a note saying our Tuesday tour (through Olsen) was cancelled. Absolutely gutted. The ‘Oyster Route’ in Vigo was the tour I was seriously looking forward to. Upon enquiry it was cancelled because the tour is operated by an outside contractor so if they are a couple of people short – tough. Not impressed. Monday, Aviles ‘Daily Times’ informs us docking times have changed and we leave 1pm NOT 4pm. This turned out to be a recurring theme. So if you had booked your own tours outside Olsen that ended after 12:30pm you were stuffed. We had chosen a trip (with Olsen) to Luanco then a free walking tour of Aviles. Leaving on a coach to Luanco led us through an industrial area but Luanco was a pleasant harbour town. It was brought up many times the fact that there just wasn’t anybody around in the mornings. Literally one woman and her dog. Apparently there is a small flurry of activity in the mornings when what children there are catch their school buses but that’s about it. The young have moved away to the big towns and cities. Sad really but this ghost town has a beautiful church by the coast. We all felt a bit rushed on this trip, no fault of the tour guide, but was enjoyable. No time to shop as promised in the brochure but most places were shut in the mornings anyway. Tip: One member of our party had specific needs for toilet facilities. The only toilet was back at the bus station. There are no public toilets and most bars etc. are closed in the mornings. The local Free Walking Tour that we took on our return to Aviles was very good indeed. Tour guide being excellent. Bit of a tip for the evening. Each day in the Daily Times there is a ‘cocktail of the day’ available within the all-inclusive deal. Directly underneath that there is the days ‘after dinner drink’. Don’t get sucked in, the day’s after dinner drink is NOT included in the all included package. Misleading. Andy and Alit in the Morning Light bar were absolutely superb. The lunch ‘special’ in the Thistle was Indian themed. The food was absolutely excellent. At dinner in the evening we finally had roast potatoes. The food is generally superb but it’s a mainly British passenger ship and they cannot cook roast potatoes. Soft / soggy with a bit of brown on the outside. Really is my and many others only gripe. The food overall is first class. The ‘International Memory Man’ with his Rubik’s cubes was highly entertaining. I didn’t hear anybody that did not enjoy his shows. Tuesday, Vigo As already written our tour was cancelled so we free-styled. Explored the old quarter including the church then onto Oyster Street which I’d been looking forward to so much. Oyster Street still has the old world charm about it but unfortunately now completely commercialised. I ordered my half dozen oysters and was ushered to a table opposite belonging to a restaurant. They obviously wanted you to order drinks for the privilege of sitting there whilst the old woman who sold the oysters came over holding a stretched out 10 euro note asking for her money. The oysters are advertised as 9 euro so watch out for this ploy. Having sat down you are plagued by peddlers and gypsies. Has to be said I was sadly disappointed with taste of said oysters. They were very fresh but nowhere near as tasty compared to what is available in the UK. I since learnt from a couple of sources that these oysters do have a completely different taste, are a bit smaller and not regarded as anywhere near the best worldwide. Shame but at least I tried them and they were super fresh. We climbed the big mound which was steep but well worth it for the view and exercise. Reasonable café and toilets at the top. My wife bought quite a few items on the way back to the ship. A nice place but quite a lot of graffiti. On our return to the ship, to rub salt into the wounds there was a ‘Shore Tour Survey’ left on our bed to review our cancelled shore tour. Not a good move. Wednesday, at sea The lunch special today was pasta. Now I am not big into pasta but the whole thing was absolutely superb. Chilled out on the loungers in the afternoon but grab a towel from the changing room to lay on your lounger because of all the sweat and suntan lotion that has gone before you. Loungers are very comfortable though. Cocktail of the day much the same as yesterday’s pina colada – chi chi. Coconut and pineapple (always wedged on the glass rim) were prevalent throughout the cruises cocktails of the day. Thursday, Seville day 1 Needed an early start so went for breakfast in cabin. Need a bit more choice i.e. boiled eggs, porridge or even toast. There was nothing cooked available. We walked a couple of miles to a huge flea market. If you enjoy flea markets you’ll love this one. Thursdays only though. Followed up with a bit of shopping therapy then lunch back on board. This was a Spanish buffet on the swimming pool deck. Later that day we had booked a walking tour of Santa Cruz. What an amazing area – a must see. Friday, Seville day 2 Got up early to meet for early pre-booked tour however the ship had moved docks during the night due to forecast high winds and the narrow bridge we had to go back through. So we were first off the ship and had to wait 30 minutes for a police escort to take us to the gates which, having found someone with keys were then unlocked. We had chosen Amigo Tours for this joint early entrance Alcazar tour followed by the Gothic cathedral. Bucket list stuff. Tour guide was excellent and WELL worth the early start. Alcazar was a fabulous building full of history (a game of thrones venue as well). Having done a lot of research I knew that by doing the cathedral tour straight after there would not be a lot of time to spend in the Alcazar gardens. This proved to be the case but the tours were excellent, worth the trade-off for getting in before the crowds. Alcazar – a must do. Louisa Park opposite docking area is a nice place to chill. Leaving Seville you go back through a lock. On deck you can get right to the front of the Braemar, the perfect viewing platform but . . . going through the lock there was no visible difference between the water levels when opening the gates which caused much mirth amongst fellow shipmates. I’m guessing the tides must have something to do with this. Tried the cheeseboard again at lunchtime but exactly the same boring cheeses. Come on Olsen let’s have some variety. A big disappointment was the lack of local entertainment on board i.e. Flamenco dancers. Big problem with Olsen is if you are doing an activity and are late back missing dinner you have to wait until the Supper Club begins at 11pm. No food available between times. Saturday Cadiz We had booked a free walking tour with Cadizfornia. An excellent tour and the host Pedro couldn’t have been better. An entertaining local who knew all the history and gave great shopping / restaurant advice. Thoroughly recommended. Really liked Cadiz. The fish market has to be seen to be believed and there is a good general market. We found a very good cheap supermarket in a backstreet behind the market square. Eg. Bottles of water .15 cents each. Coming out of the port nobody initially knew which way to go, it would have been useful for a member of staff to be positioned at the exit to help people. Tip: There are colour coded lines on the roads / paths which take you different routes. We bought our duty free tobacco to take home from the duty free here. About 50 euro’s for 10 x 50gm pouches of Golden Virginia but when we were here it was cash only. A criticism from several passengers was that leaving at 3pm was too early because if you were on a tour there was not enough time for shopping or trying out the local tapas (Cadiz being the home of tapas). It also meant missing lunch. The Thistle closed at 2pm which meant a rush to the buffet which closed at 3pm. Particularly annoying because a lot of people would have liked to try the ‘Asian special’ at lunchtime. Come on Olsen, if you leave at 3pm keep the Thistle open the extra hour to feed all the people that have been rushing around trying to max the short time available in Cadiz before leaving so early. Sunday at sea Lunchtime saw roast at the ‘station’ in the restaurant. Perfect roast, Yorkshires . . . but no roast spuds. Just Cajun something or other and new potatoes. Need more veg. options was the general criticism. Lovely afternoon spent lounging on deck 8. Wind kept most away from sunbeds but there is nearly always a sheltered spot, and there was today. Tip: Good idea to put towels on the very comfy sunbeds as some were showing signs of days of sun cream and sweat. There are plenty of spares in the changing rooms near the pool. Then leave in ‘bins’ in same area when finished with. Saves carrying up and down from cabin. And drink plenty of water with your cocktails on the sunbeds. Dinnertime saw more frantic activity on the curtain front in the Thistle. Apparently since day one waiting staff have wrestled with pegs and all sorts to stop diners by the windows being blinded by the sun. It took several attempts to hold the non-drawing curtains across most of the window. Our waiters confirmed this is an ongoing and very annoying problem that could easily be resolved. Monday at sea Very unusually second day of slow service. Something amiss in kitchen apparently. The Moonlight bar is an excellent chill out / meeting area with 2 outstanding characters, Andy and Alit. AKA Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Entertainment wise ‘Memory Man’ was most excellent. A £12 laundry offer appeared tonight. Actually a very good deal. Tuesday Bordeaux A very nice vibrant city with Braemar in the perfect parking spot. Again, NOT ENOUGH TIME here. Overnight should give you 2 full days, you really need them here. Leaving early morning the second day before the shops even opened was just a waste. Very hot! Again, no local French entertainment on board. Not even an accordion player. No food available on board, even the buffet was shut when we came back to drop shopping off and grab something to eat before heading out again. We had to hang around an extra hour and a half before we could eat. Wife’s note: why have only grapes with seeds and where are the strawberries and raspberries? We were treated to a spectacular natural light show from the deck early evening. Continual forked lightning flickering all around Bordeaux for a good half hour scattering all the students who meet up on the riverbanks. There was an incredibly bad reverberating noise in our cabin which continued down the corridor at night. We were forced to ring reception who obviously knew of the problem as they immediately offered an inside cabin but on the same deck so no use at all. Turns out according to bar tender the noise is caused when the (tidal) river level in Bordeaux lowers, the engine noise bounces back off the riverbank walls we are moored against. Big gripe. We had no time to do anything in morning as ship left at 9am NOT 10.30am as advised. The man at reception tried to tell me we supposed to have left at midnight! The young lady there however blamed the early departure on the tide. Tides are known years in advance. I had all the port arrival and departure times direct from Olsen HQ before we left specifically to double check private tour timings. Time in port was cut a few times. Call me sceptical but would reduced time in port equate to less expense? I only have experience of Celebrity and their advised port times were spot on every time. With Olsen if you have booked a tour using their arrival / departure times issued from HQ you could lose your tour fee if time was cut short or miss the ship. Wednesday at sea Really pleasant cruise back up river to the sea passing through a fascinating vertical lift bridge. The crew show was excellent. Barkeeper Andy’s number 2 in the Moonlight bar had an incredibly good voice but the poor guy had to sing twice, returning straight to the bar after each performance. Thursday at sea Found a lovely sheltered sunbed spot again. The Grand Gala lunch and seafood buffet was excellent as was the Cockleshell Heroes talk. Retrieved our suitcases from storage and sadly began packing. I do wonder what will happen when the current crop of septuagenarians and octogenarians who choose Fred Olsen fade away. Will the younger cruisers currently used to ‘modern luxury’ lines such as Celebrity choose Fred Olsen’s ‘traditional’ cruising on older ships as they get on in years or the more modern ‘boutique’ cruisers such as Saga? (Whose smaller ships can reach the same destinations as Olsen). Don’t get me wrong we enjoy Olsen but it is tiresome getting the smell of paint up your nose every day on the sundeck along with continuous drilling, grinding and sanding somewhere on the ship most of the time. Exactly the same experience as we had on Blackwatch. Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
Embarkation went very smoothly from 101 berth in Southampton, the cabin was ready when we boarded which was great, so we could leave our things there, explore the ship and have a bite to eat. The cabin was quite spacious and very clean, ... Read More
Embarkation went very smoothly from 101 berth in Southampton, the cabin was ready when we boarded which was great, so we could leave our things there, explore the ship and have a bite to eat. The cabin was quite spacious and very clean, comfy bed and a reasonable amount of wardrobe space. The one negative was the size of the bathroom, see cabin review. We were booked in for first sitting in the Thistle restaurant which was light and airy on a table for eight. Lovely company for the cruise and fairly good service though the standard of the food was very variable. Had to send back food that was either overcooked or dried up. The standard of presentation was also lacking at times. We usually cruise with Celebrity whose food and presentation is a whole lot better. They could produce nice meals, both formal nights the food was excellent as was the buffet lunch on the last sea day, which made the 'off' days all the more unexplainable. The entertainment was, on the whole, good. The Braemar troupe were excellent and the shows they put on in the Neptune Lounge were very enjoyable, a couple of the guest entertainers were not to our taste so we avoided them as well as the singer, guitarist in the pub area who made every song sound the same and just sang in a monotone drone, so depressing. Service was excellent on the whole especially in the Coral Club and the Observatory. We had occasion to report a non flushing loo, that was fixed within the hour, very impressed. Good ports of call though the order was different to the advertised cruise due to adverse weather conditions. We did visit them all though, the highlight being Seville. As the Braemar is a shallow draught ship we sailed up the river and docked in the heart of the city, a cruise in itself! Beautiful city and we were there for the last day of the annual fair and the fireworks, very memorable. Add to this Cadiz, lovely Lisbon, Porto and La Coruna, some very interesting destinations. We took two shore excursions, a tour round Seville and a visit to the Alcazar palace which was excellent with a very well informed and interesting guide, worth the money. The other was a coach to Porto from Lexios where we were docked. Total rip off £30 each for what in the end was a lot less than the three hours we were promised. Do not go on this trip, we found out, too late, you could get a local bus there for just a few euros. Check with the local tourist office for details, they are just outside the dock gate and you get a free bus from the ship to the gate! Braemar is a very comfortable small ship, we never had problems finding a seat in the bars or a Sun bed on the pool deck, and the lack of music blaring out there was bliss, so relaxing. Would certainly consider a future cruise on her. Back to Southampton and debarking at 102 which was a tent, not a nice end to a lovely cruise. Felt so sorry for people in wheel chairs and the way they had to get off the ship via a temporary gang way rather than a smooth air bridge. Considering all the money the port gets from cruise passengers this really is not good enough, time to spend some I think, come on Southampton. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
We chose Fred's Braemar as a short break and the opportunity to try out a different cruise operator. Braemar is a well laid out ship in good overall condition for its age, they are currently doing an upgrade to install a RIB as have ... Read More
We chose Fred's Braemar as a short break and the opportunity to try out a different cruise operator. Braemar is a well laid out ship in good overall condition for its age, they are currently doing an upgrade to install a RIB as have the other ships in the fleet. This is being done during normal operation of the ship, so one area of deck and exit route from the services desk was out of bounds. The staff, food, lounges and dining areas were all good. Entertainment from the onboard team was good. At the start of the trip there were only 2 dancers but that did not detract from the spectacle. The last show has 4 dancers which for the last show made it a full stage. If staying on deck 2 starboard side window rooms mid ship, you may incur the sound of the steam heating pipes for the swimming pools banging from around 07:00 through to 17:00. The staff are aware of the noise, we were offered a change of room. I believe the steam hammering is caused by either an unsecured pipe or a defective condensate trap (yes I'm an engineer and know what steam hammer is !.) They have not fixed the hammering so if you stay in this area of the ship listen out for it. It will wake you and can become annoying. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
First the negatives. Passengers were very old with many needed walking aids. A bit like a floating care home. The ship is older and small and the cabins are small too. Entertainment and facilities are basic. But all these were in my mind ... Read More
First the negatives. Passengers were very old with many needed walking aids. A bit like a floating care home. The ship is older and small and the cabins are small too. Entertainment and facilities are basic. But all these were in my mind counteracted by the excellent staff, food and friendliness of all aboard. We ate in the Grampian on the top deck with first class views. Drinks prices throughout are good and our all inclusive deal worked very well. We loved the Observatory for pre dinner drinks. The Gala Buffet and special afternoon tea were fabulous! But overall if it is glitz that you want this is not for you. The Neptune Lounge seating is very poor so get there early! Our entertainment was average overall but the dance group were excellent. Power Supply band in the Coral Club were poor. Shore tours were good except for Fuertaventura which has little of interest. Would we go again? Yes we would! Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
The cruise was excellent for the food, entertainment, staff, and cabins. But the quality of the AI drinks package was poor. The brands of the drinks were hidden so couldn’t see the bottles but saw the whisky le Valletta never heard of. ... Read More
The cruise was excellent for the food, entertainment, staff, and cabins. But the quality of the AI drinks package was poor. The brands of the drinks were hidden so couldn’t see the bottles but saw the whisky le Valletta never heard of. Ginger ale tasteless out of a cheap plastic bottle. Would not pay for AI again as it would have been cheaper to go on the cruise and buy a few quality brand drinks. Too much ice in them too even when asked for no ice. Shame on fred olsen. The rest of the cruise was very good. The food was excellent in the dining room and the Palms restaurant. The shows were excellent but poor layout of seating. The pools and jacuzzi were nice and warm and plenty of sun beds. Most of staff were very pleasant and polite and helpful. The captain and officers were very friendly. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
This was our first Fred Olsen cruise, and may well not be our last. Braemar is a comfortable ship, an ideal size and much more attractive than the blocks of flats next door! We flew to Barbados, and cruised various islands before returning ... Read More
This was our first Fred Olsen cruise, and may well not be our last. Braemar is a comfortable ship, an ideal size and much more attractive than the blocks of flats next door! We flew to Barbados, and cruised various islands before returning to Barbados 2 weeks later. The staff were very pleasant, but not 'over friendly' as if seeking tips. We loved our cabin, 7005 balcony suite. Plenty of room, and great to have our balcony. Our cabin was comfortable and quiet. Meals were good, we enjoyed the Thistle restaurant for dinner, and palms for lunch. I have a mobility scooter, and it was easy to use around the ship. The crew were extremely helpful, especially helping us get it on and off the ship. It was a shame that we saw nothing of the captain or senior officers during the cruise. We were first sitting, and for the 2 captain's cocktail parties we were leaving port. The captain did not make himself known around the ship - a shame. We did ask at the start of the cruise if we could have a bridge tour - this only happened after 2 reminders and while we were in port - disappointing. The 3 ladies on shore tours were excellent. Really helpful in making sure I whether I could use my scooter and making arrangements for me when I could. We were disappointed with the entertainment in the Neptune Lounge. The stage is right on top of the front row of the audience - far too close. The entertainment was mixed, the Braemar entertainers were good, but too much unecessary dancing! We had the drinks package as part of our deal - we certainly wouldn't pay for it. Poor quality whisky and gin - you had to pay extra for 'premium' drinks - Bells and Gordons should not be premium. The wine was limited but ok, but you had to pay for liqueurs and spirits. We booked a few shore excursions. The Curacao semi submersible was great - so many fish. Bonaire island tour good, Tortola island tour and boat trip left us wanting to see more of the island. The St Kitts railway was just wonderful - plenty of rum punch and pina colada and a choir! Dominica whale and dolphin watching was very successful. Our main disappointment was Grand Turk. A very dull island, the highlight was 2 cute baby donkeys. Did we really want to be shown the landfill site in the centre of the island? Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and came back with many happy memories and loads of photos! Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
This was our 4th cruise on Braemar, and our 5th with Fred Olsen. I have already written to the company about some of their policies (fixed dining, tipping policy, 'confiscation' of alcohol brought onboard, drinks package etc) but ... Read More
This was our 4th cruise on Braemar, and our 5th with Fred Olsen. I have already written to the company about some of their policies (fixed dining, tipping policy, 'confiscation' of alcohol brought onboard, drinks package etc) but as far as the cruise itself was concerned, we found it to be most enjoyable. We appreciated the changes made during the 2017 refit, even those in the Neptune lounge --- the new seating at least creates a little more room--- and we enjoyed a very nice meal in 'The Grill', though the additional charge for it was excessive. We had an excellent Cruise Director in Nick Cosslett, who showed that he also had a singing voice to match those of the 'professionals' on board, and the entertainment programme included Micky Zany, guaranteed to enliven a half-dead 2nd sitting audience! We were blessed with near-perfect weather so we could enjoy all the many deck spaces on Braemar. Food and service had greatly improved in the Grampian Restaurant since our last cruise in May 2017, and we enjoyed the lunchtime Fish and Chips on the Pool Deck. Braemar is still a very good-looking ship with its accessible bow and the split-deck stern which lends itself to great sailaway parties, greatly preferable to the enormous 'floating blocks of flats' moored alongside. If 'Fred' changes and makes its cruises far more inclusive we'll look forward to coming back again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
I have to praise Fred Olsen for handling the problem with the drones at Gatwick so well. With NO notice they arranged transport to Manchester where unfortunately the crew ran out of hours so we were put up overnight (and big shout out ... Read More
I have to praise Fred Olsen for handling the problem with the drones at Gatwick so well. With NO notice they arranged transport to Manchester where unfortunately the crew ran out of hours so we were put up overnight (and big shout out to the Last Drop Inn in Bolton will def go back at a happier time - fabulous breakfast and staff!) then flew out arriving a day late. What the previous reviewer didn't mention was that Fred Olsen - without any request - reimbursed a 14th of the cost of our cruise. They didn't have to and IT WASN'T THEIR FAULT but they still did this which I thought was incredibly generous. That wasn't a pleasant start to the holiday, yes we all acknowledge that but you have to chalk that up to experience and set off to enjoy your holiday. Overall I really enjoyed the holiday; yes I had a truly wonderful cabin with a huge balcony which I loved and was kept tip top by Maic the fabulous cabin attendant. The food was very good and mostly the service was good. I was disappointed that we didn't visit Grand Turk (and was rather shocked that the Hotel Manager's wife and children were on board and clearly (and noisily) enjoying the pool and jacuzzi) I would suggest that the more gregarious people enjoyed the Christmas festivities the most. I'm looking forward to my next cruise on the lovely Braemar but AFTER Christmas next time! Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
This was our first Fred. Olsen experience, a repositioning cruise from Southampton to Barbados ending just before Christmas. Perhaps it was for that reason that the ship was only 2/3 full. We had picked just the right time to get caught up ... Read More
This was our first Fred. Olsen experience, a repositioning cruise from Southampton to Barbados ending just before Christmas. Perhaps it was for that reason that the ship was only 2/3 full. We had picked just the right time to get caught up in the Gatwick drone chaos - but we anticipate. Read on for The Case of the Disgruntled Bridegroom. The deck plans for Braemar show no facilities for children or teens. This was rather a plus point as we are both in our early 70s and like a quiet life, but it was a bit startling to discover within a very few hours that the ship was essentially a floating old folks' home. We were well on the youthful end of the spectrum. Interestingly, there was a surprising number of singles. Embarkation was totally painless: 20 minutes after arriving, both we and the cases were in the cabin. This was pretty basic (hand wash dispenser, 2-in-1 in the shower is as much as you get in the bathroom) and at the lower end of the range for space, but clean and perfectly adequate. The food was excellent. We've cruised with half a dozen other lines and this was the best we've ever had. It's fixed time dining only in the Thistle and Grampian restaurants, there is also the Palms buffet which we used infrequently. The service from the staff was as attentive and efficient as we've had anywhere - there was the occasional misunderstanding but you can get that with any line. Another first-class aspect was the ship's song-and-dance team - only 4 singers and 4 dancers, but they had people on their feet applauding with a Queen-themed evening. We took 3 ship's tours and they were a bit of a curate's egg: the basic coach tour of Lisbon was just not particularly interesting; at St Maarten, Someone Had Blundered - it took us an hour to get the mile to a beach bar because the water-taxi we were promised didn't start till noon on Sunday; on the other hand, the St Kitts Scenic Railway was a great experience. Having given the basic facts, let's turn to the overall experience, and it seemed to us that Fred. Olsen inhabit a faintly surreal alternative universe that gave a unique flavour to the cruise: - we found tea-making facilities in the cabin - but they live in the wardrobe; - the cabin TV information system was a delight. When we boarded (Monday) it was showing the activity programme for last Thursday; the ship locator shows either the entire world, a patch of blue about 20 miles across or (apparently) a line of buoys in the Amazon or River Plate. Ship's time and TV time are not always the same thing. - dining in Thistle when the ship is manoeuvring in port is an experience not to be missed: the engines thunder, everything shakes, the glass and cutlery chink and rattle. Shut your eyes and pretend you're Jim Lovell taking off in Apollo 13. - if you want to change table or sitting, they will CHARGE YOU (if you're Anchor class, viz. you've got a cheap deal). - whatever you do, watch the video on how to put disembarkation labels on your cases BEFORE trying to do it yourself. I could go on. The fact remains, we had a thoroughly enjoyable cruise: the weather and seas were good, there were plenty of sunbeds, I put on 6lb ... With disembarkation, they rose to the occasion. Half the guests were due to fly back to Gatwick, but couldn't because the outcoming flight was cancelled thanks to drones. We were given reallocated cabins for an extra night on board. The empty cabin we were allocated had wedding bells and a Do Not Disturb sign ready for the arriving couple. The trouble was, they were already in residence when we tried to get in ... Someone Else Had Blundered. They got us away effectively 24 hours late, and I think they handled it as well as anyone could reasonably expect. Not an enjoyable experience but not their fault. One last point about the flight back: apparently Fred. Olsen charter a Thomas Cook Airbus. As one can, I went on the TC website and paid for extra legroom seats. Apparently they take no notice of this because the boarding passes we were given were for quite different, standard, seats. However, all's well that ends well: we raised this with the cabin staff and they put us in 2 spare Premium seats. Had the flight been full, though ... worth thinking about. A good trip. Would we go again? Definitely. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
My wife and I have sailed many times with Fred Olsen but rarely since they ended their Flagship golf package. However, we chose to sail again with them due to the interesting ports of call on the way to Venice and back from Southampton. ... Read More
My wife and I have sailed many times with Fred Olsen but rarely since they ended their Flagship golf package. However, we chose to sail again with them due to the interesting ports of call on the way to Venice and back from Southampton. The Good Points: - Overall good food, excellent waiter service - Superb singing and dancing from the entertainment team - Excellent itinerary - Comfortable balcony cabin - A happy ship - Excellent bridge teacher - Well-informed port lecturer, good slides but marred somewhat by his needing to read his well-prepared script in a rather flat way. The Bad Points: - As keen bridge players we were appalled by the way this activity has been downgraded by Fred Olsen. We were forced to play in a totally inadequate, crowded inside room down in deck three, shared with table tennis players, ukulele players and with staff interrupting activities to collect or return trestle table in an alcove. Meanwhile the company has decided to create a large gymnasium area at the rear of the ship in a prime location on deck 7 which was largely unused. Given that the ship appears to cater for retirees, many of whom have mobility problems, this seems to be a very poor use of limited space resources. - We, and many passengers we spoke to, felt that the music played in both the Neptune and Coral lounges was unnecessarily loud. - The overall standard of visiting entertainers was variable. The comedian, introduced as "the Fred Olsen favourite", was appallingly bad. On the credit side, however, the history lecturer was excellent. - It was surprising that no handouts were given to passengers giving a map and various informative details covering each port of call. This was a serious omission. - The coffee served in the restaurants was pretty dire! - As ever, shore excursions were substantially over-priced. In particular I would mention the apparently unexciting toy-train ride around Cartagena for £50 a head, which was just outrageous profiteering. - Unacceptably high charging for Wifi In summary, a very enjoyable cruise, particularly due to its excellent itinerary. However, as bridge players, we would not return to Braemar unless its bridge room and table tennis facilities were greatly improved. Notwithstanding that, an additional incentive could be the reintroduction of their previous flagship golf packages. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
My wife and I chose Fred Olsen, our first time on this line, because it left and returned from England sailing to Iceland at the time we wanted to travel within these locations. The service personnel, maintenance of the ship and quality of ... Read More
My wife and I chose Fred Olsen, our first time on this line, because it left and returned from England sailing to Iceland at the time we wanted to travel within these locations. The service personnel, maintenance of the ship and quality of the food were excellent. Even the song and dance shows were better than expected for a small ship of only 925 passengers. Only one aspect of Fred Olsen's business model holds me back from giving this cruise a high review, and that is, Fred Olsen's policy of withholding the exact arrival and departure times from the ports of call. My wife and I, seasoned cruise travelers by now, usually book small-group shore excursions from local providers when we can. But that can't be done unless the tour companies know the exact cruise ship arrival and departures times for pick up and drop off. Fred Olsen lists only the time of day, as in "early morning" or "late afternoon" in their public itinerary. But we know the company knows the specific times because: (1) docking space must be prescheduled with the ports, and (2), having asked seven customer agents about the docking schedule, two Fred Olsen representatives gave me the exact arrival/departure times they read off their computer screens and five told me they didn't know exact the times, only the approximate part of day. Granted, the cruise route was changed six weeks before we sailed and one arrival time was earlier than I was told, but for all the other ports of call, the exact times in port were the same as I was given by the the two open-information Fred Olsen customer reps. I can only surmise that Fred Olsen wants to discourage passengers from booking independent shore excursions. It took a lot of effort to do that. Most people would give up after the first query. So how were the two Fred Olsen excursions we did book? As expected for large-group, big-bus trips -- okay but nothing memorable or personal. I would recommend Fred Olsen tours for those who don't want surprises within a traditional cruise experience and few children or younger people milling around the ship. Although Fred Olsen promotes itself as a "value" cruise experience, choosing a balcony room with a view make the cruise more expensive than those on larger cruise ships of 2000 passengers or more. PS: My wife said the yoga and exercise sessions were great. And so was the crew. We loved the captain and had two conversations with him. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
We had not been to the Caribbean before and this cruise made it simple to visit nine destinations which were all different and gave as an insight into those islands we would like to return to. Despite initial reservations we were ... Read More
We had not been to the Caribbean before and this cruise made it simple to visit nine destinations which were all different and gave as an insight into those islands we would like to return to. Despite initial reservations we were impressed with the chartered Thomas Cook flight and the smoothness of the disembarkation from the plane - it was lovely not to see our luggage from Gatwick until it arrived outside our cabin. The staff were friendly and polite and there was a good ratio of staff to passengers. The itinerary had promised ten destinations but a strong (force 5) headwind reduced our speed so the captain changed our route and we missed our Tortola stop. We were very disappointed to miss Tortola, particularly as the Braemar was one of the few cruise ships due to dock there following last year's hurricane. We assumed a Force 5 wind is fairly common in the Caribbean and wondered whether Fred was trying to include too many islands in the itinerary. If this is the case we would suggest omitting Jamaica and keeping Tortola. The Braemar Show company were excellent as were the two crew performances. The resident live music acts were also good but the visiting entertainers were a mixed bag - a brilliant comic/magician who I thought I would not like, a mediocre multi-instrumentalist and a very poor comic who was really past his use by date (although some people loved him). Shore excursions were good - we chose to explore the islands rather than just visit beaches but were disappointed that two of our excursions were cancelled one (cycling in Grenada) due to poor equipment and complaints from earlier cruises and one due to heavy rain (rafting in Jamaica). The food was good and there were plenty of public spaces to sit and relax in. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
We chose this cruise as a stress less way of crossing to Barbados for a family gathering. The cabin (except it’s location) was excellent, food amazing, good entertainment. The distances from the ship to port gates nearly finished ... Read More
We chose this cruise as a stress less way of crossing to Barbados for a family gathering. The cabin (except it’s location) was excellent, food amazing, good entertainment. The distances from the ship to port gates nearly finished us off, no shuttles of any kind for poor walkers. Our cabin was mid-ships as far away from elevator as possible even though I had repeatedly asked for easy access. It was very shady being completely overhung by the top deck , a suite with sunbeds but with absolutely no sun! We did however have a full blown medical emergency which was very efficiently dealt with and at reasonable cost ,we also thought that the wine was very reasonably priced. We would go again in a flash but NEVER to an unknown cabin number ad would hope that some sort of shuttle service at the ports would be organised. How do Saga manage this situation? Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
This was our first experience with FOCL and the Braemar. The cruise was 10 nights around the UK from Southampton; up to the first port of Leith for an overnight, then Dundee, Invergordon, Scrabster, Oban and Belfast. The first and last ... Read More
This was our first experience with FOCL and the Braemar. The cruise was 10 nights around the UK from Southampton; up to the first port of Leith for an overnight, then Dundee, Invergordon, Scrabster, Oban and Belfast. The first and last full days were days at sea and the cruise had two formal nights. The Ship The Braemar was slightly smaller than we're used to. We've sailed most often with Thomson on their smaller ships (Spirit and Celebration), we've sailed on much larger ships but small ships are our preference. The ship is well laid out. The side-wards on theatre fore is a first for us but the seas were kind enough that we didn't have many problems with this. Space was never an issue, getting seats in restaurants, bars or the theatre wasn't ever a problem. There's plenty of choice of seating areas during the day and when at sea. Decor is pleasant and areas are well lit. Activities We're active DIY port visitors so we didn't spend that much time on daytime activities. Quizzes seemed good, although we missed most of them as we were out in the daytime and the evening quizzes clashed with our late dining timing. Service The service from all staff was excellent throughout the cruise. Cabin stewards, waiters and bar-waiters, entertainers, reception staff, ships crew - can't fault anyone and would commend Fred for the work ethic and approach of the whole ship's staff. We rarely have to compalin about anything, but did as a neighbouring cabin was waking up with very loud TV for the first few days at 6:30 (we're on holiday, I don't want to be woken up early every day!), we complained at reception not expecting anything and the issue was somehow resolved, and the same member of the team asked us next time he saw us if it was better! This attention to service was very noticeable - staff bothered to remember who they had spoken to and to follow up where appropriate. Ports and excursions We always have to book last minute due to work constraints, so booking excursions can be problematic. On a cruise like this with 'signature' excursions (Braemar games, visits to Glamis and Cawdor castles) we were not surprised but still slightly disappointed not to have any availability on those obviously very popular trips. As mentioned we prefer to 'walk ashore' and do our own thing and this itinerary was good for that - only Oban was a tender port, Belfast had free shuttle buses to get into the city centre. Although we rarely do ships excursions on cruises anyway we were shocked at how expensive Fred's excursions are, they really were pricey compared to any other line we've been with - some eye-wateringly so (£200+pp for the dearest!). The port selection was excellent, we saw a wide variety of places and much of the beauty of Scotlands dramatic coastlines. There was the temptation at Scrabster or Oban to get a local ferry to one of the islands but the time in port didn't mesh well with ferry transit times and schedules so we didn't risk it. The overnight in Edingburgh was great, we got to meet friends who live there, and even had time to walk from Leith to the Parliament area and back (and up Arthur's Seat while there!), Dundee's dock area and centre were well worth walking around, the docks are actively being developed with restaurants and bars, there's a few very good sights in the centre worth a look including the McManus museum. Invergordon is tiny but the murals are nice to look at and the surrounding area is pretty. Scrabster was a low point, mainly because that was our one awful-weather day. We took the free shuttle into Thurso and walked around a bit, had a coffee and cake in a nice café but that was the limits of our patience with the downpour. We stayed in Oban to walk around, good vistas from the hill behind the town! Belfast we did a walking tour with a local guide and it was fascinating (though took up 2 hours)! My only recommendation to FOCL would be to amend the itinerary to call at at least one island as they are tantalisingly close as you sail around. Transfers We made our own way to Southampton before the cruise and back from it afterwards. Nothing to comment on here. Embarkation itself and disembarkation afterwards was quick and easy - no fuss. Cabin Our inside cabin was an anchor fare - so no choice over what cabin we had. It was at the front on deck 4, so some trepidation over seasickness if we had rough seas. The weather was kind, we only had bad seas on one night in the end despite all the storms brewing in the Atlantic. The first half of the trip up the east coast of the UK couldn't have been smoother. The cabin was spacious enough for our needs with a good amount of storage. Bathroom was standard for this class of cabin. We had a twin cabin and the steward made it into a double on our request, another stress of booking so last minute, we'd have been annoyed if the beds were fixed as separate. Dining We were very impressed with the food standard throughout the cruise. We ate on late service (8:30) in the Grampian. Excellent service from our two waiters and very good food throughout the cruise. We ate in the Palms buffet for breakfast and lunch as we normally do on a cruise. Interesting that on the Braemar staff seat you according to how busy the restaurant is - if it's busy you might be sharing, otherwise they find you a table of your own. Never had that in a buffet restaurant before - it makes for less chaos and 'running to grab a table'. Food was good in Palms for both times as well, very impressed with the lunch options overall. As with CMV, FOCL meal times are quite restricted - food isn't available mid afternoon. That's a bit annoying if you come back from an excursion or shore visit a bit late - we barely made lunch twice although the staff were very good about allowing us to grab a plate before they cleared. Unlike CMV, Fred do at least have a supper club - though eating this late we didn't need to use it. Normally we'd chose first sitting as we find it easier to organise our evenings when dining earlier but then the temptation for midnight snacks is always there! Alcoholic drinks seemed very reasonably priced, although the attempts at pushing cocktails of the day (which were not discounted?) was a bit annoying in the bars. Entertainment Very good shows from the company on board, they danced and sang very well. A more segmented show team than were used to - not gender balanced (no male dancers?) and the dancers didn't sing at all. Musicians were good overall in the bars, we listened to the pianist and the guitar/singer a few times each. The ship's orchestra were very, very good as well - it's nice to have live music for the shows. We weren't as impressed with the comedian/impressionist but then we weren't the target audience for the cruise perhaps (well below the average age...). Summary This cruise made a very positive first impression on us. Overall the cruise was good value and the ship and crew were welcoming and professional. The intinerary was interesting, though we were a bit frustrated by missing the castles. Food onboard was excellent, and the drinks selection was good. Would recommend! Read Less
Sail Date August 2017
We booked this cruise mainly because of the ports of call, which we hadn't been to before, and because of there being some river cruising involved. Embarkation at Southampton was stress free and our cases were outside our cabin by the ... Read More
We booked this cruise mainly because of the ports of call, which we hadn't been to before, and because of there being some river cruising involved. Embarkation at Southampton was stress free and our cases were outside our cabin by the time we got on the ship. We were very impressed by the quality of the food on board and had two excellent waiters. The company show group had just joined the ship and they were enthusiastic and extremely professional. We really enjoyed their shows. The ship is small and very easy to get around, but one lift was out of action for the whole cruise and this did cause problems for people with mobility limitations. We had a wet day at sea and it was difficult to find somewhere to sit in the public lounges. We sometimes found it difficult to find a chair on the promenade deck in the shade, but there were plenty of loungers on the sun deck. Unlike many ships there is not a theatre on board. Shows took place in the Neptune Lounge where the seating is not ideal for a good view. We did 3 shore excursions, and although expensive, they were well organised and interesting. Our only complaint on the Bordeaux wine tour to Graves and Sauternes was that we were not given a 'nibble' to go with the wine - not even a slice of French baguette! Disembarkation was very organised and our car was waiting for us as we got off the ship. We really enjoyed the Fred Olsen experience and will certainly use them again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2017
Only the second time on this ship. Checking in and embarkation very good. Muster was quick and efficient, sailed on time. Our cabin 7054 on bridge deck was adequate, although storage room was not the best we have had on other Fred Olsen ... Read More
Only the second time on this ship. Checking in and embarkation very good. Muster was quick and efficient, sailed on time. Our cabin 7054 on bridge deck was adequate, although storage room was not the best we have had on other Fred Olsen ships. Our cabin stewardess was superb, efficient without going over the top. Adaptors were already in our cabin for use of the tea/coffee facility. The public lounges were always clean and tidy as was the Grampian restaurant where we had our meals. All of the waiters were excellent and nothing was to much trouble. On our first night I filled in a wine request form at around 1800hrs and our chosen wine was waiting on our table when we arrived at 2030hrs. Food at all meals was very good with plenty of choice, quite a few dishes for vegetarians and we did not here any complaints from our fellow cruisers. Good selection of tours ashore, we did about four, all varied and enjoyed them all. What really made the cruise was the crew including the hosts and show company, we knew the deputy cruise director and cruise director from other ships so it was like catching up with old friends. I did read a previous review from Deck Cargo and the poor comments. In answer, the crew were great on our ship, he said the cruise was to the Baltic Sea, I think it was a Seine river cruise to Rouen. Lastly, in the brochure it states that a bottle of sparkling wine is provided in your balcony suite cabin not champagne, I cannot speak for the TV advert as I do not spend my cruise watching television, particularly when the cruise is so short. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
The Sounds and Smells of a Superior Suite This short cruise on Braemar (August 19th to 27th 2016) to the Norwegian Fjords was our second Fred. Olsen cruise of the year, having previously sailed on Boudicca. The Braemar compares ... Read More
The Sounds and Smells of a Superior Suite This short cruise on Braemar (August 19th to 27th 2016) to the Norwegian Fjords was our second Fred. Olsen cruise of the year, having previously sailed on Boudicca. The Braemar compares favourably with the Boudicca – although both of these ships have a dated appearance and lack the design features of more modern ships, the Braemar did not have the tired look of the Boudicca. Refurbishments to these ships can do little to hide the fact that the basic structure and their fittings are old. The main attraction of the Fred. Olsen fleet to us is the size of the ships, the age profile of the passengers, and the excellent service provided by a friendly staff. The time of our travel meant that there were more children than usual on this cruise, but in general we enjoyed excellent service from the crew. Our cabin on Bridge Deck (7046) was designated a ‘Superior Suite’ and this appeared to be the highest category of cabin on the Braemar. The most desirable features of a suite should be the degree of comfort provided and the amount of space available. Cabin 7046 was very comfortable and extremely spacious with a good-sized double bed; a very large balcony (equipped with a table and two chairs, plus two sun loungers; however, the deck above prevented us obtaining good upward views in the fjords); plenty of storage space; a desk; and a table with two easy chairs and a settee. The kettle and fridge were very useful and some features of the ‘Suite Dreams’ package were much appreciated: bottled water, fruit, sparkling wine on arrival, a laundry allowance, and a pressing service. The bathroom was on the small size, but was adequate, with a good shower. The hot water was dangerously hot, and there were a number of signs warning passengers to test the temperature before use. The deck plan for the Bridge Deck shows a winding corridor, not the usual straight design. And, in the case of cabin 7046, the corridor takes a curve near the door to the suite. This curve is also apparent in the cabin itself, and behind this curve is a swimming pool – access to which is on the deck above. Consequently there was a sound of water being constantly pumped in the pool. This was generally not too intrusive, but some passengers may benefit from taking ear plugs for use at night. However, on two occasions during the night (once at 3:30am, once at 11:30pm) a terribly loud noise awoke us, that may have been the pump working under some considerable stress. We never received a satisfactory answer to what had caused the noise – one explanation being that the pool was being refilled prior to being available to passengers at 8am (this was at 3:30am!) and that it would cease in twenty minutes; however, the noise went on for an hour. To be awakened at such an hour by a very loud, unidentifiable noise was very frightening, and although some minor compensation was made, it ruined a night’s sleep. At the same time as reporting the first incident of the ‘noise in the night’ to Guest Relations, we also complained regarding a strong smell of urine in the corridor outside the cabin. The response to this was the use of air freshener, but this only relieved the problem somewhat. Eventually the problem was found to be emanating from a wall hatch immediately outside the door to the suite. Apparently this hatch gives access to the pool’s plumbing and the ‘urine’ smell was being caused by the pool’s chlorine. Overall, a very enjoyable trip, but we felt that Guest Relations should have taken a more pro-active response to complaints from passengers Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
We wanted to do the German Rivers Cruise and this lived up to our expectations with the towns visited. We have now cruised on Braema twice and find this ship is 'homely' and has a good atmosphere. As always the crew are ... Read More
We wanted to do the German Rivers Cruise and this lived up to our expectations with the towns visited. We have now cruised on Braema twice and find this ship is 'homely' and has a good atmosphere. As always the crew are brilliant, the food good. Our frustration surrounds the fact that the ship was extended and more cabins added, which was clearly a commercial decision to improve the cost effectiveness of running this ship. The fact that the Neptune Lounge was not redesigned/ extended is a major weakness. Port Talks on sea days are a nightmare as you have to be up very early to get a seat in the lounge. Watching these in the cabin on the television is a VERY POOR substitute. We are not saying NEVER AGAIN - but we will be considering it very carefully and the itinerary will have to be very good. Over and Out Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
Cabin 7020 is a large cabin that has been created by joining two cabins. Cabin 7022 is missing from the deck plan. Though big there is a lot of waste space. The cabin that would be the original 7020 has no window but an angled outer wall ... Read More
Cabin 7020 is a large cabin that has been created by joining two cabins. Cabin 7022 is missing from the deck plan. Though big there is a lot of waste space. The cabin that would be the original 7020 has no window but an angled outer wall leaving a recess that is unfurnished and of no use. Though there was a lot of space to use the design is unimaginative and the bathroom that juts into the cabin between the two original ones is minute even though there was enough to create something more appropriate for the suite that would also improve the layout of the room. In the bathroom you have to breath in to close the door. That is not quite true but toweling yourself dry after a shower is a restrained exercise. There is no bath. There were no loose amenities but soap and body lotion by Cole and Lewis, London, (no, me neither) are in bottles fixed to the wall and in the shower there is also some shampoo. There is a very large balcony that has an interesting shape and is furnished with recliners, chairs and a table. It is an attractive feature. The deck above overhangs the whole of the balcony so it will be shaded for much of the day. The room is silent and free of all engine noise and vibration. Very few sounds are heard from elsewhere. It was a northern cruise in cool weather so the open deck above with pools and loungers,was not used but occasional footfalls were heard and they could be more persistent in warm weather. The beds were comfortable though the pillows are very soft without much bulk. Loads of electrical outlets are scattered about. Storage is generous with plenty of drawer and hanging space and more hangers than could be used. The TV is wall mounted quite high up alongside the bed. It is a small screen, about 23" though not measured, and viewed from the opposite side of the double cabin the distance is too great for really comfortable viewing. Though the design is unimaginative and the bathroom pokey it is a comfortable room and we would be happy to use it again. FOOD The menus are attractively put together and you can eat well but not entirely consistently. The variability reduces the best grade to four star. The chef's strong point is soups and meats and we enjoyed good Beef Wellington, duck, lamb shank and liver cooked Berlin style, as well as steak sandwiches. These were up to five star cruise standard. Fish was not so successful and on the two occasions I tried it was overcooked. Salads were excellent, crisp, bright and interesting with well made dressings. Vegetables were variable and often overcooked, broccoli which seemed to feature on most main dishes, was cooked until it had lost its colour and become limp and tasteless. Mashed potato was a mystery that shouldn't be allowed. It was part of many evening main courses and was consistently left untouched without any of the staff asking why. The baker produced wonderful croissants and good breads. The scones get only a 3/10. Maybe a only British housewife who makes just a small batch at a time can make the perfect one. On board, they were over mixed, dense and leaden, smooth and shiny buns and to make matters worse were served with jam and a white substitute cream. My best guess is that it was made with milk powder and a little water frothed up with nitrous oxide gas.Dreadful. Pastries were rather hit and miss. We enjoyed some fine tarts for desserts but the Sherry Trifle served on British Night was disowned by all the Brits on the table. The pastry lid for the rather fine steak and Guiness pie was an under cooked dough. Tea during breakfast and after the other meals was served from flasks. Refills were frequent and were always hot. The tea served was Twinings made with tea bags. There was a good selection of tea bags if you preferred to make your own. We did not purchase a drinks package but bought wine by the glass from the list. The list was a five star creation of wines by the bottle or by the glass and the prices were modest. We had some good stuff. People on the drinks package could purchase wine from the list at half price. LIFTS There were two lifts forward and two aft. A total of four in all. One or other lift was frequently out of service and very occasionally both lifts forward or aft were out together. PASSENGERS The cruise out of Dover to the German Hanseatic Ports was sold as an Adults Only one. The ship seemed fully booked and most if not all the passengers were from Britain. They were also quite elderly and I spotted maybe four or so who might have been under forty. Most were well over that and mobility aids were in good use. They put a high demand on the available lifts. CREW The hotel staff is 80% Filipino and without exception the ones we met in the room, restaurants and bars were as pleasant and accommodating as any we have met on any other cruise. LECTURES I missed the first two lectures on the ports that were to be first on our itinerary. They were in the morning about 10am. We had two full sea days before the first port and with the clock going forward soon after sailing I though it was an opportunity to take things easy. Also, even though it was not stormy, the North Sea was lumpy and the ship's motion on day one was unpleasant. I heard that the first lecture was delivered seated. I preferred a more horizontal position myself with a late breakfast in the room but nevertheless the theater was full for the lectures. No bio of the lecturer was published in the ship's daily programme so I have no idea who he was. The talks had good practical information including help for those who were inclined towards DIY visits avoiding the organised tours. PA ANNOUNCEMENTS At sea these were limited to the Captain's noon report. A very good arrangement that some other companies might take note of. SAFETY DRILL DOT sports, the muster drill, was briefed in detail on how to enter the lifeboats and what to expect. There would be 150 on board each and they would be crowded but there would be a seat for all. Soon after launching a seasick pill would be issued to all on board. Once one person threw up it would be followed by more. The briefer was asked what the pills were but was not able to answer. Some of the older passengers said that they were unlikely to take unknown medication, presumably because they were on a complex regime already. PORTS The cruise began with two sea days and dinner was formal on the second night. In the Grampian Restaurant (the smaller of the two restaurants) at the second sitting almost all the men were in black tie. The first port was Flensburg which sits on the border between Germany and Denmark. The berth was about 3k from the town centre and two shuttle buses were laid on (fee). Boarding cards for the bus departing the ship were issued and passengers were called when theirs was loading. It took about an hour for us to get away after we were ready. Flensburg is a compact Northern German town that could be explored easily in two or three hours. From its time as one of the important Hanseatic ports it is proud of its association with rum from the West Indies. Most of the restaurants serving lunch seemed to be cafes and fast food outlets so it would have been a good idea to have done some research beforehand if something more formal or German was preferred. Travemunde is a small seaside town at the mouth of the River Trave and is now a suburb of Lubeck. The ship moored in the centre of town and it was a ten minute walk to the rail station. There was an hourly train into Lubeck (22 mins) but alternatively there was a half hourly bus (40 mins). The Old Town of Lubeck is a UN World Heritage site. It sits on an island in the river and is a ten minute walk from the station and the bus terminal. When Germany was divided into East and West the line ran through the Old Town. The pedestrian signals at various traffic lights were still a mix of former East or West German styles and give the visitor some idea what the town was like before reunification. The town is renowned for Marzipan and Niederegger's shop in the Market Place is a must-see. The marzipan is a paler shade than the more yellow paste seen in the UK and has a less intense almond flavour. The Marienkirsch , also in the same area, is one of the most beautifully impressive medieval churches in Europe. The Ratskeller, below the Town Hall, is a warren of cubicles where you can get a good, if simple, lunch. They had an English menu and the big thing was schnitzels and also asparagus. No sausages nor saurkraut of any description on this menu and nor were they seen on any in Flensburg. I thought sausages were a staple of all German restaurants. Lubeck has a community-wide free WiFi service with a good signal in most places (Not in the Ratskellar) Thirty hours in Hamburg saw us alongside at the Cruise Terminal that is well served by a U-Bahn station and two bus routes. The full day was on a Sunday that was also May Day and the City was quieter than usual. The final port was Bremen which is several hours cruise up river from Bremerhaven. The berth was in an industrial area about twenty minutes by frequent tram from the Old Town. A shuttle bus connected the berth to the tram. Lubeck (from Travemunde) followed closely by Bremen were our two best ports. The long stopover in Hamburg coincided with a Sunday that was also a Public Holiday so lacked some of the buzz of a working city and put extra pressure on the attractions that were open. Flensburg is very compact and it was the one port where we might have benefitted from an organised tour. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
Overall a good cruise, but we will not be tempted to sail anywhere from Dover in the future! It's access and the lack of decent hotels and taxis in the area is an absolute nightmare. As we were travelling down by train the day before ... Read More
Overall a good cruise, but we will not be tempted to sail anywhere from Dover in the future! It's access and the lack of decent hotels and taxis in the area is an absolute nightmare. As we were travelling down by train the day before the cruise we wanted a hotel in Dover, and we booked a sea view room at the Best Western as it was the only way we could be assured that we would not have a trail of lorries outside our window all night. We did not have the lorries but we did have a cars wizzing along the promenade every few minutes (presumably to avoid the busy road to the rear of our hotel). The hotel was also very hot with no air conditioning, so we had to endure either the noise or the extreme heat, so I only got about 4 hours sleep. Our express train to London on the return had people standing from Ashford as there were not enough seats. Also, we had to get a rail replacement bus between Dover and Folkestone and the only way we knew about that is because it was announced on Fred's website - our tickets gave times and journeys to/from Dover with no mention of a bus and different times! The replacement busses were chaotic, being overcrowded with no proper storage space for luggage and there were no directions from the station to the bus stop (and vice versa), yet the bus did not stop outside the station in Folkestone so was very difficult to find. We got a taxi to the port and embarkation worked efficiently as we were prioritised as gold oceans members on freedom fare, so we were soon on board. We have travelled on this ship a number of times before and it is our favourite Fred ship. Luckily the seas were calm as this ship it is not very stable in rough seas, though we had booked a very central cabin in case of that. The staff were excellent as usual and it was good to be back on board what we always find to be a very happy ship, as the staff just continue to work hard and remain happy and pleasant at all times. I would like to particularly mention Somkhit, our cabin stewardess, who kept the cabin spotless and worked very hard throughout the cruise. I would also like to mention Chaider, from the Palms restaurant who is always working hard whenever we saw him on this and previous cruises, yet he always has a friendly smile and greeting for us. Unfortunately we could not book the Grampian for dinner this time, but we were well served in the main restaurant by the staff, many of whom we have met previously and they remembered us. Rommel runs a well organised restaurant service. The public areas of this ship are well maintained and it has a lighter more airy feel than the other Fred Olsen ships as it is slightly more modern. We had booked an inside cabin on deck 4 for this cruise, which I will review below though it was hotter than we would have liked most of the time. There were quizzes and other daytime activities, but we did not partake. We do not often go to the shows either, but we saw part of one by the comedian/magician (Aidan Murphy) on our cabin TV and were not impressed. There was a pianist in the observation lounge and musician in the Morning Light Pub, yet the large seating space in the Bookmark cafe was eerily silent because the Rosario Trio who used to be there is sadly no longer present on this ship. They were always our favourite musicians on board so they were sadly missed by us. The young band, called ‘The Revolverlites’ who played in the Coral were extremely good and were happy for us to use that dancefloor for ‘disco’ style dancing whilst they were playing, so all venues were not taken over purely by the Ballroom dancers as often happens on Fred’s ships. The hot food was disappointing this time, especially compared to what we have previously experienced on Fred’s ships, although the cold buffets for breakfast and lunch were still pretty good. We were on early sitting, but we wanted to eat later on two days because of port times and unfortunately those days were the ones when the Asian and Indian buffets were being served in the Palms restaurant. This meant we had to book ahead for the set time of 8.30pm to eat there rather than just go in as we wished. The food for those special buffets could only be described as bad – we have never had such poor offerings for Indian and Oriental food and it bore no resemblance to food we have eaten either in those countries, or in restaurants in the UK. The only saving grace was the papadoms and the sweets, (apart from the banana fritters which would have been better called Banana soggys). We had taken the AI package this time which, despite the limitations, we found to be adequate for us. We thought the bar service may have been slow as the ship was very full for that cruise, but found it was quite promt, so were pleased about that. There were problems getting served in some areas out on deck, but we have found that to be the case on all Fred Olsen cruises. This was a Maiden Port Mystery Cruise and we had booked because the ports were all maiden calls. I had done a lot of searching the internet and thought I had got all ports identified, but I only got two, which were Wismar and Fredericia. The only ship’s excursion we did was a seal watching boat trip from Lysekil and that was excellent. I got 'seeking seals' right but not the port! The set up was that the ports had always been referred to as "mystery port 1-6" and the trips were known as "mystery trip A to M". We were given a daily sheet as usual the night before, which gave "mystery port x" or a sea day. The trip departures and their meeting times were denoted as "mystery trip x". As we arrived in port, it was either the captain or the cruise director who announced the port name and usually the country, although we had to wait a bit longer for the country one day. The trips were still referred to as "mystery trip x" and we were not told we were looking for seals on our trip until they were sighted – a real mystery trip! A sat nav used on the open decks to determine co ordinates before retiring to bed and a photocopy taken from our atlas of the area around Denmark was also useful from our point of view! I was fairly certain we were going to that area, given the 'clues' we had been given regarding number of countries, UNESCO sites, trip descriptions and Fred's brochures for the next two years showing ports to be visited subsequently. We were obviously heading for Sweden from Fredericia for the last port as we still needed our fourth country and we were going north. We also knew we were in port the next day, with the final day being a sea day . As the ports were all maiden calls for Fred and most were rarely, if at all done by other cruise companies, I will review each port here in detail:- Larvik, Norway This was a bit of a a problem as Fred sent their shuttle busses to the centre of town, which was a shopping area, rather than the sea front which was the tourist area. We also we had no useful tourist information. The sea front area was very pleasant for people who could walk down the steep hill to the sea front and back up to the shuttle bus point as there were things of tourist interest and a couple of bars/restaurants there. There was also a view point and lovely woodland area nearer to the shuttle drop. When we returned to the town centre there was a band playing in the square, so we bought an ice cream from a kiosk and sat in the sun for a while. We enjoyed the port a lot once we found our way round - but we are able bodied, unlike many of Fred’s passengers. If the ship’s shuttle bus had stopped at the sea front and if we had been given good tourist information, I believe many people would have liked this port, but with the circumstances as they were, many people were not happy. It was also a couple of weeks prior to the main tourist season, so a number of tourist facilities were not open, though we liked that as it meant the town was quiet and peaceful. Hundested, Denmark The people of Hundested have to be given 10/10 for trying. They put on displays of Viking fighters and gave us a really good send off with singing, a cannon firing and lots of waving. It was just a shame the facilities are not there to accommodate 800+ cruise passengers at one time. The small local shuttle bus was not easily accessible because there were too many people wanting to use it, and there were no taxis available in the town if you could not get on the shuttle bus. There was also a lack of good bars/cafes, (or even drinks kiosks), were they were needed, (particularly by Knud Rasmussen’s house). Ramussen was an explorer and we paid entrance to the house, but felt there was very little there for the price paid and what information boards were available were mainly in Danish. We had eventually been able to get the shuttle bus to there and after our visit, we walked on to Kikhavn, (an old fishing village), where one of the residents had kindly opened their garden to provide tea and cakes for the Braemar passengers with just a contribution box present. The walk was along a pleasant coastal path and indeed a few people had walked there from the cruise dock. Had we known facilities would have been so limited we would have taken a lot of water or other drinks/snacks with us, but we found our small bottles of water were not enough and there were not even any shops to buy drinks – even at Ramussens house, though there were toilets. Hence we spent much of the day feeling incredibly thirsty as it was a hot day. The immediate port area was an old industrial location which had been developed with craft workshops, a micro brewery and a couple of restaurants. It was heaving with people, which was worse because it was a sunny Sunday with lots of Danish day trippers as well as our ship mates from Braemar. Hence we did not linger in that area. We were the first cruise ship to dock in the new cruise dock, so I expect things will improve in the future, but meanwhile the port is not really suitable for a ship full of cruise passengers – even a small one like Braemar. There was nothing in the town at all for tourists. Nyborg, Denmark This was an exceptionally good port and in our opinion the best of the cruise. It was a beautiful historic town, with many characteristic buildings and also a lovely moat and lake that could easily be accessed from the town by walking through a tunnel under a grass mound by the castle. There was a path along the moat and also plenty of seats so we bought some food from a local shop and returned with a picnic lunch to this lovely area. We also had a couple of drinks in local cafes, all of which were very pleasant. The people in the city had really gone out of their way to make us welcome by opening attractions that are normally closed on the day we visited and letting us have free entry to them. There was a Castle, Water Tower and a really interesting museum. The normal entry charges to those places were not high, so even with payment I would suggest a visit to all or at least some of them would be worthwhile. A special program was printed for us with details of the city and the places I have mentioned. It also had details of walking tours of the city and/or the Castle which we could use if we wanted. Instead we chose to use the comprehensive walking guides which had been made available to us and just stroll around. So there were lots of things to do in the city and it was compact, so it was easy to relax and just enjoy that day, which we did immensely. The people in this city were also very friendly and helpful at all times and there was even free wifi by the tourist information office. I can see it becoming a very popular cruise port in the future, so it was nice to visit now before it gets over run. Wismar, Germany This was quite a touristy, old, Hanseatic city, with a large central square and numerous historic buildings. It was busier and more touristy than Nyborg, but none the less it was a very pleasant place and we had an enjoyable day there. It was easy to pick up tourist information and we visited a couple of churches, which are the main tourist attractions. One old church, which was largely a shell, had a lift to the top of the tower, (which we accessed for a small fee), to get views of the city and the area around. One church had been demolished as the city was in East Germany before the wall came down, so funding had not been available to maintain and renovate it. Despite that recent history, the city as a whole was in very good condition and buildings well maintained now. We visited the ‘Alter Schwede’ bar/restaurant in the square, (which dated from a time when the city was Swedish), and it was impressive. We also went to the ‘Brauhaus am Lohberg zu Wismar’, which is a micro-brewery, not far from the port. As we were due to sail out of the port we were serenaded by a local male choir, (I think with sea shanties), and then a display of soldiers in old costumes firing of a mini cannon. Fredericia, Denmark This was a maiden call for Fred Olsen, but has been visited by some fairly large ships previously. Again a pleasant town, though more a mix of old and new. We followed the walking route we had been given of the town, which also involved walking along some of the grass mounds and along part of the moat which originally formed defences for the city. Hence it was again a chance to be in a city, yet enjoy some pleasant natural areas around. We climbed the White Water Tower for a small charge to get views around, then returned to the town for a drink before returning to the ship. This port was walkable from the ship, so no shuttles needed. Another good send off with an even smaller miniature cannon being fired by soldiers in costume and lots of waving. Lysekil, Sweden This was the port were we went on the excursion which had been billed as a ‘boat trip searching for curious marine mammals’. We were fairly sure it was seals as they are reputed to be curious, (about things), so we went armed with binoculars and a good camera. It was well worth having the binoculars as we got some really good detailed views of the seals. They would still have been visible by eye alone, but not in detail. The boat trip was very good indeed with small, picturesque, rocky islands all around and the captain gave a good commentary both as we were going and quietly when we were within view of the seals. After a quick lunch on board Braemar, we caught the shuttle bus into the town, which was a very pleasant, small town in a picturesque location. Disembarkation was earlier than usual as the ship was then sailing on to Southampton to pick up passengers for the next cruise, so we had to vacate cabins by 7am. As we were so early and there were queues for taxis, we walked back into the town and had a second light breakfast in a café to the side of the Best Western Hotel, before strolling up through the town of Dover to the train station. So overall the cruise was very good and we were pleased with the choice and variety of ports which included a selection of towns, but also quieter, scenic locations. The main reason we sail is for the ports and we do like this ship, so we will undoubtedly sail on her again. We just hope the disappointments, such as the food will regain some of it's previous quality. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
have just returned from panama and mayan temple cruise loved it.(6th cruise with FO) weather was fantastic. first time doing a warmer climate.crew as you come to expect with fred olsen were superb. Waiters in bar always knowing your ... Read More
have just returned from panama and mayan temple cruise loved it.(6th cruise with FO) weather was fantastic. first time doing a warmer climate.crew as you come to expect with fred olsen were superb. Waiters in bar always knowing your favorite tipple. The cabin although narrow was kept lovely and clean by the stewardess . The food was good and the two dedicated waiters in the grampian restaurant very attentive and friendly. The palms cafe a more informal buffet style restaurant was always busy but you could always go to one of the more formal restaurants for breakfast and lunch and have same food and would be a great deal quieter. Indian and Asian nights in palm café were fab. In all of the two weeks I never came across a member of staff who did not greet you with a friendly hello or good evening wherever you were on the ship. The entertainment from the braemar show company was brilliant and we loved to go to the coral club to watch the In Tune Band who were by far our favorite entertainment. I am afraid we found rest of the evening entertainment a bit jaded and same which I think now needs new ideas and new blood. Some same old daytime activities needs looking at. Some of the trips were not up to scratch, we had a refund of 40% on one to santa marta. Jamaica ,Aruba ,Carteghena ,Cozumel were all good ports of call. The boat trip down the panama canal although interesting dragged on a bit. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
The flight out was total chaos. We arrived at Manchester airport at 6.30am for our 9.30am flight with Condor (Thomas Cook group). Check in had commenced, yet we stood in the queue for an hour before we reached the check in desk and the ... Read More
The flight out was total chaos. We arrived at Manchester airport at 6.30am for our 9.30am flight with Condor (Thomas Cook group). Check in had commenced, yet we stood in the queue for an hour before we reached the check in desk and the queues got even longer during that time. Soon after we were through security the flight was soon showing as delayed for half an hour (10.00am). We were called to the gate 6 at 9.10 am yet boarding did not commence until 10.20am. We have flown from Manchester many times and have only ever seen a gate like that used when landing, not for starting a flight. There were not the usual rows of seats, but just a long corridor with a few seats here and there along the sides. Hence, most people had to stand for over an hour and the resulting queue stretched back to gate 4 so when announcements eventually started, they could not be heard at the end of the queue. However, there were no announcements during the first hour we were there. The plane eventually pushed back at 11.00am, one and a half hours late and almost two hours after we were called to the gate. The flight itself was OK and on arrival in Tenerife we went straight to the coaches as the luggage was to be taken straight to the ship. After the last person got on our coach we were then left sitting there for another 40 mins before the coach left the airport. There was absolutely no information as to why, until 10 mins before we left when someone came on the coach to say they did not want to take us to the port as there would then be big delays at check in. Yet we would have had access to drinks and toilets at the check in area in the port and people could still have waited on the coach there if they wished. We never wish to fly outbound with Fred again because of this treatment. The return flights were OK as check in was done on board and we were only called off the ship when the coaches were ready. We were on board the ship for 4 weeks as we did two back to back cruises starting on 12th November. Both cruises visited Cape Verde and the Canary Islands. Braemar is our favourite Fred Olsen ship and we were not disappointed this time. It is an extremely happy ship and all the staff are happy in their work and were very efficient and helpful at all times. I have to give particular mention to Eshel, who manages the Grampian restaurant impeccably and Ricky who was our waiter in The Grampian for the first cruise and who we often saw at lunch times in the Thistle during our second cruise. Chaider was in charge of the tea and coffee station outside main mealtimes for all 4 weeks and was both extremely hard working and friendly throughout that time. Kerry, the future cruise salesperson has a good knowledge of the fleet and is very helpful when making bookings. The only downfall we encountered was our first cabin 4108 as the air conditioning was not working properly, so it reached 26C at times during the night. After three failed attempts to repair it, we were moved to an obstructed view, outside cabin on deck 6 (6089) which was fine. We booked 4091 for the second cruise and that was fine apart from the shower, as a grab rail had been positioned in the only part large enough to stand and my arm was badly bruised as it was impossible not to knock it when using the shower – and that was in calm seas! We also needed a couple of visits by plumbers in 4091 as the shower thermostat was not working. It was replaced and worked fine after that. The bar service was good indoors, although the bar staff rarely walk around the sunbed area to offer drinks and were hardly ever seen on the upper deck. We did not take the AI as we are not big drinkers, and we prefer to drink what we want, rather than what is on the package. Hot drinks ordered in the bars do not even qualify for half price on the package. Food and the service in all restaurants was very good as always. The speakers we saw were OK when we saw them, but the subjects covered were not really of interest to us. The port talks were good. Some classical musicians and lounge entertainers were good, particularly the In Tune Band who played in The Coral. We did miss the Rosario Trio who are not on board at present and who may not return unless they are asked for by passengers. We think it is a great mistake to discontinue the quiet lounge music they provided and the Braemar lounge seems strange being so quiet. The show company were the worst we have ever seen so we tended to go into the Coral or another bar instead. The cabaret artists were generally good, but the “comedian” on the first cruise was in bad taste at times, (skitting at the locals in Cape Verde because it was a poor society is not humour in my opinion) and he was not particularly funny at other times. We do not take part in daytime entertainments. I am constantly bemused by people who complain about the very small charges made for shuttle buses and to choose dining time, if they book an Anchor (late booking) fare. These fares can be greatly discounted and Fred makes it quite clear what is, and what is not, covered by each fare type. Hence the choice is for each person to make. There is no hidden charge whatsoever. We did not book anchor fares on this occasion and had the choice of the Grampian restaurant, table for two and complimentary shuttle tickets in Agadir (one call) and Lanzarote (two calls) during our four week cruise. Lanzarote was walkable for active people and taxis could be picked up from near the ship at both of those ports. The ship and furnishings are in good condition and there is plenty of outside space on this ship. One thing we did not like was that there were very large chairs and settees, with cushions on them, taking up almost half of the sun deck. The settees were regularly occupied by people who were sprawled out with their feet on the cushions. Very rarely did people use towels so the cushions were also stained by sun tan lotion and sweat. Because of these chairs/settees there was not enough room for the sunbeds, which were placed so close together that it is not possibly to get onto them unless some are piled on top of each other. There were quite a lot of sunbeds on the upper deck, but that is often closed due to wind when sailing. There was some work taking place at the rear of the ship. The rails around the decks were being replaced with panes of glass. The work did not have a lot of impact on the cruise as the ship was not full, but we felt the work was a mistake as the glass got dirty and restricted the view from the decks. We had only one excursion booked and it was cancelled so we went ashore independently in all ports. The ports were all excellent, especially the Cape Verde ports. In fact we did a similar itinerary last year and we still found things to do on our 2nd and 3rd visit to those ports. In Mindelo we walked into the town last year, so on the first call this year we walked to the beach area and on the second we got a taxi up Monte Verde and to see the local highlights of the Island. In Praia we went into the town last year, so we got a taxi to Cidade Velha and the nearby fort on our first visit this year and got a taxi further afield to the mountainous centre of the Island and then back along the coast road, on our second visit. From Porto Novo, we had walked through the town to a hotel were we lingered for a couple of drinks last year, and for our only visit this year we shared a jeep with another couple and went over the spectacular mountainous inland road and back along the coast road, having had a lovely lunch at a seaside restaurant on the north coast of the island. We saw some wonderful scenery on all these unspoilt islands and stopped were we wanted. On all the taxi trips we tended to come across people who were on ship’s trips who had a set itinerary and were crowded into minibuses when travelling, so we are very glad we used taxis. There of course is always a risk that we may not have made it back to the ship, but we made sure we had a long time spare in case of problems to minimise that risk. Overall a good cruise and one we intend to repeat. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
This was our first Fred Olsen Cruise although we have cruised previously with P&O. The food was excellent and superior to any we have had before from the point of view of variety, quality, temperature and service. Although ... Read More
This was our first Fred Olsen Cruise although we have cruised previously with P&O. The food was excellent and superior to any we have had before from the point of view of variety, quality, temperature and service. Although people's opinion of food can be rather subjective we could not fault it in any way. The waiters were efficient, cheerful and friendly as were the rest of the crew who almost invariably made a greeting when passing by. The ship appeared clean and well maintained. Our cabin on 3 deck was small but adequate however we did find it rather warm and stuffy. The portholes did not open of course so the only ventilation was a faint air flow through the one vent. Other passengers also commented on this and some complained to reception but it seemed to have no effect. The narrow single bunks are also a factor if one is used to sleeping together in a double bed. The cabin stewardess kept the cabin spotless. We were part of a walking group so often had two showers a day and the towels were then all changed twice daily even though we did not request it. On one occasion our cabin WC ceased to flush from the early hours of the morning until just after breakfast. I reported this to reception twice, once each by phone and by personal visit. On each occasion I was met with inscrutable politeness but little information. When I asked if any WCs were working I was directed forward to the Neptune Lounge when it turned out that they were working right there by reception! I served as a chief engineer at sea and I am well aware of the difficult and unpleasant nature of sewerage system faults but a little more information at the time would have helped. The Captain's subsequent announcement was rather after the event. The drinks prices were at the top end of reasonable. We did not have the drinks package at £10/person/day and overall our drinks bill worked out almost the same as if we had. This is obviously depends on one's consumption and some people on the package got their money's worth! We prefer to drink less but better quality wine and this started out at about £17/bottle upwards. The house wine was £3.95 for a 175 ml glass and was OK but the cost of nearly £8 for 2 glasses meant that when we fancied a glass each with lunch we often didn't bother. The entertainment in the Neptune Lounge was very good and we enjoyed the cabaret and the theatre company whose enthusiasm and professionalism was self evident. The lounge itself is not brilliant as the seating is cramped and there are pillars blocking some views of the stage but the staff worked hard to find everybody a seat. We only had 750 passengers and if the ship had been fully loaded I think it would have been very crowded. Our fellow passengers were nearly all affable and easy to get on with. We are in our sixties and were at the younger end of the age spectrum so at times it seemed a little like being in a care home but that was probably our problem. Watching the crew attempting to get some very frail and disabled passengers onto the shore tenders in a heavy swell was interesting. Overall would we go again? Yes but only if we upgraded to a better cabin. The Fred Olsen brand based on a providing for elderly UK passengers with friendly staff and high standards but a lack of pretentiousness works for us. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
We have cruised with FOCL many times, several times on Braemar. Thomas Cook chartered flight from Gatwick two hours late so not a great start! Embarkation fine though. Cabin OK, but don't expect the space or luxury of larger ships. ... Read More
We have cruised with FOCL many times, several times on Braemar. Thomas Cook chartered flight from Gatwick two hours late so not a great start! Embarkation fine though. Cabin OK, but don't expect the space or luxury of larger ships. Food in Thistle Restaurant was great, breakfast lunch and dinner. Far better than we have had on other cruise lines. P&O last year was awful! All staff, without exception, were brilliant. Friendly, helpful nothing too much trouble - even reception staff. All inclusive package worked well and very quick service which is just as well as drink prices are very expensive (£3.95 for a small glass of cheap wine). Ports were good, and where required free shuttles were included. Tender service at Porto Novo in Cape Verde was challenging due to very heavy swell! On Board activities were very poor, worse than any of our previous cruises on this ship. Sea days were pretty boring. Too few staff? Entertainers were very average and the Neptune Lounge is an awful venue, with little seat banking and difficult to get in/out. The In-Tune Band in the Coral Bar were fantastic, especially Steve the lead guitarist. Pity they have done away with the Marquee Bar at rear of ship as this used to be a lovely venue. Flight home poor as Thomas Cook apologised for giving us a small plane with little legroom, but reasonably on time. Our luggage was taken from our cabin and loaded directly on the plane, which was excellent. Let's be honest the passenger profile is mainly older and infirm people (no children!) so if you are a party animal go Thompson. If you want a relaxing cruise on a small ship with lovely food and staff Braemar gets our vote. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
Braemar Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 3.7
Dining 4.0 4.3
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 5.0 4.0
Fitness Recreation 5.0 3.7
Family 2.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 5.0 3.5
Enrichment 3.0 3.3
Service 4.0 4.4
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 3.8

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