Braemar Cruise Review by Andrew.Kennedy
- Sail Date: August 2015
- Destination: British Isles & Western Europe
- Cabin Type: Twin Outside
What I thought they did well:
Firstly, the crew. I know it's a cliché, but the mainly Indian, Filipino and Thai crew could not have worked harder or done more to make our cruise enjoyable. They were friendly, engaging, always appeared happy and managed to remember our names and our favourite drinks. I really could not fault them.
Our cabin: we booked a modest deck 2 outside cabin, which was surprisingly spacious and well appointed, though slightly dated decor-wise. The cabin was clean and our cabin steward(ess) (Kitty) was a delight. Even a severe flood requiring a cabin change on the last night was well-handled, with housekeeping staff appointed to help us pack and move. A letter of apology and a £50 credit to our on-board account to apologise for the inconvenience was a nice way to defuse any irritation we may have felt.
Food: I thought the food was absolutely first rate. Every day I ordered breakfast from the menu rather than the buffet, and I could not fault it if I tried. The galley even made a slight adjustment to their kedgeree recipe to suit my spicier palate. Lunch as usually taken in the buffet or shore-side when alongside. The buffet was good with plenty of choice. Afternoon Tea (only taken twice) was perhaps the weakest offer - sandwiches were tasty but a but clunky and unrefined, the cake selection was limited, the scones were not the best (a bit dry) and served with UHT whipped cream, which as a shame given we were in port six of ten days so obtaining fresh stores should not have been a problem.
Dinner, however, was the highlight of the day; we were lucky to have 4 great table companions whose company we enjoyed and who each added a different perspective to the conversation. Our Head Waiter (Xavier) and the Commis Waiter (Ryan) were efficient, charming and friendly. Each night we had a five course menu, with three to six choices of each. In total we had ten meals on board and I don't think I once left the restaurant unhappy. Full marks and thank you to all concerned.
Guest entertainers: we had some super guest entertainers, including Leo Shavers (musician) whose impromptu jazz session was superb. The classical pianist was good, though I would like to have heard more of him, as was the Welsh baritone singer - both of whose names have slipped my mind (sorry). I also greatly appreciated the bridge lessons, which has whetted my appetite for the game. The Braemar Orchestra and the cocktail pianist were also super.
Disembarkation: this morning we woke at 7am, were showered and packed by 7.45am and we're in our car on the way home by 8.45am. It could not have gone better.
What I didn't like:
Having been effusive in my praise for what I felt was done well, I will be equally honest in highlighting what I didn't like.
Braemar Show Company: in fairness, a few of them put their heart and soul into the shows, but generally I thought their productions were uninspiring and badly choreographed and the team were very young and lacked believe-ability. Sadly I felt most of them didn't really want to be there and made little effort to hide the fact.
Reception (Purser's Desk): I had little dealing with the front desk, apart from towards the end of the cruise when I noticed a billing error. We had upgraded to the 'all inclusive' drinks package for an additional £10 per person per night, this allowed complimentary 'house' drinks and 50% discount on branded drinks, cocktails and wine. When I checked my account on day 8 I noticed they had charged for all drinks. I raised this with the front desk, and rather than apologising and promising to investigate the error, I was asked if I could 'prove' we had paid for the all-inclusive package. I informed the receptionist that I was able to do so as I had just checked my online bank statement and I could see the £200 additional payment leaving my account. Having insulted me once by asking me to prove my case, she then insulted me again by asking how I was able to access my account as the ship's satellite wasn't working (for the record I had international data roaming and was able to access via my Blackberry). Having convinced her I was telling the truth I was then told that they would have to re-enter all our purchases with the relevant discount and we shouldn't order any drinks until this was done. Given this was an error wholly of the company's making, to have a member of staff twice infer I was lying and then to cause me further inconvenience whilst they sorted out an error of their own making, was a poor show. I honestly do not think they could have handled the situation more badly than they did.
Show timings: it was also a slightly irritating that passengers on second sitting (8.30pm) had to watch the cabaret at 7.30pm (before dinner) with first sitting passengers watching the cabaret at 8.30pm. Personally, I like to relax with a glass of champagne or a cocktail and chat with my partner/friends pre-dinner - which I couldn't do unless I missed the cabaret. Nor did I particularly want to watch a jazz show or a comedian at 7.30pm before eating. I understand second sitting passengers usually watch a later show and it had been changed for this cruise. If so, I don't think it worked very well.
Visibility of Senior Officers; my final gripe was the total lack of visibility of the 4 stripe officers on board. This might be a throw-back to my P&O days, but I would have expected to see the ship's senior management out and about in public areas most evenings, even if only for an hour pre-dinner. Apart from the welcome aboard Cocktail Party I didn't see the Captain, First Officer or Purser once during the whole cruise, which I thought was surprising and disappointing.
Overall, despite the above complaints we had a super time.
Would I cruise again? Much to my surprise, the answer is yes. And I would also happily cruise with Fred. Olsen in Braemar again. However the bar tenders, the stewards and the waiters were far better ambassadors for the company than the ships' officers and deserve to be acknowledged as such.
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