After cruising with Royal Caribbean, Cunard & P & O (never had any problems) some "acquaintances" persuaded us to give Fred Olsen a try. So we thought, a quick 7 day "Easter Getaway", across the North Sea & up a couple of rivers, what could go wrong !
A letter arrived just before departure stating; "Some F/O Braemar passengers have been affected by mild Gastric Flu, therefore there will be a delay in departing". I phoned their office and was told "some people had taken on-board viral gastric flu from grandchildren, but no one had been positive tested for noro-virus". Fred O Ipswich told us that no Car Park booking paperwork was required as APNR was in place at Harwich, I queried this, as we needed it when sailing from Harwich before and were told we were incorrect.
We arrived at the car park - no ANPR was ever in place, this caused additional delay as well as embarkation due to fumigation. Finally on board, access to our cabin was prohibited as we had to carry our hand luggage & wear the lifejackets for the Evacuation Drill.
Breakfast & lunch were taken from the cordoned off open buffet containers by serving, non fluent waiters. Food requested and quantities misunderstood. At all meals salt & pepper packets, butter, sugar etc. had to be repeatedly requested. The waiters were overwhelmed and often did not return with the requested items before the food, tea/coffee was cold. All this took a considerable time, with no additional time allowed for consumption. We were regularly rushed to leave the restaurants, closing at, say 9.30 a.m. didn't mean last orders - they wanted you out the door by then. No fresh milk whatsoever available through out the cruise.
Inclusive draught mixers were always flat; bottles & tins were available at additional cost.
Despite the heighted hygiene measures with all the disinfectant spray (causing rough & swollen hands) menus were handed from passenger to passenger, and with each drink order a signature was required - using the same, possibly infected pen (we used our own). Identical food (under another description) was served from buffet lunch to dinner. All guests were forced to sit very close together yet dozens of tables were empty (with less guests each time as the "Gastric Flu" clearly spread).
When asked by us where their "partner" was, we were regularly told "they're got a cold or flu", one guest (with a straight face) said her husband got sunstroke (in cold, 5 degree Hamburg the previous day!). Maybe the Ships Doctor had told them not to admit to any possible Gastro Problems. Often when noticed a new red sticker over an open door, we could see the poor patient laying in bed, no bunk beds in there - the reason for a red sticker often used to denote additional beds.. There were large red bins marked "Gastro" parked in the corridors, the cabin On the only sunny afternoon, we could not sit in certain deck areas because of "cleansing protection, for our passengers wellbeing". The Captain updated the situation every day, blaming the passengers, but they were fine for the first couple of days. His final comment was always "Look after each other". We purchased hand wipes, for use each time we touched door handles etc.
I saw no Male public toilets with urinals, consequently queues of men formed to use the single WC, toilet rolls rolled around the floor. After two days the Captain requested everybody to return to their cabin if they needed the toilet.
When berthing the ship's bow thrustors shuddered & rattled so much that decorations fell over. The Captain often chose this time to make his announcements, and his comments were drowned out and any useful information lost.
Two days in Amsterdam consisted of arriving very late afternoon (dinner at 6.15pm) and leaving next day at 3pm. After arriving at the Church in Hamburg on Easter Monday, access was not possible as it was restricted to the regular Worshippers. The entry to Hamburg miniature railway world was delayed because F/O did not purchase the entry tickets in advance or advise the tour operator the numbers.
The cruise was so stressful & rushed, upon returning home we are paranoid and still won't touch anything & are constantly washing our hands. I went to put my hand on the bannister and quickly recoiled, before I realised I was home.
In contrast, my only reasonable experience were the evening meals served in the Grampian Restaurant.
All in all a complete waste of money and a wasted week of our lives.
We had ordered a double bed with both Fred Olsen & IGLU, at time of booking, but on arrival only two singles were available which, later, they reluctantly joined together, but only two single duvets ever available! Complaint requests for double beds were ignored & rife. I believe they wanted everyone to have single beds so it was easier for nursing. The pillows were flat and extremely hard, as fellow cruisers agreed. We attempted the cabin tea with the supplied minipot UHT"milk which ruined the taste. No fresh milk for tea etc was ever available.
I discovered a headband underneath the only chair, dirt in the shower, the drain cover detached, sealant gaps, missing clips off the hanging shower curtain, the shower fan sucked fumes out of the drain. So much for the thorough cleaning and fumigation of each cabin.
A very small safe (operated by a key) was hidden inside the wardrobe side wall, so you could not see it, two mobile phones and watches, one purse, passports and a wallet filled it. I had to get sideways inside the wardrobe to operate it!
We would often notice a new red sticker over an open door, and could see yet another poor patient laying in bed, no bunk beds in there - the reason for a red sticker often used to denote additional beds.. There were large red bins marked "Gastro" parked in the corridors, the cabin cleaners were wearing full body protection, head covering & face masks.