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.
We were in a grade H cabin (4105). We found the design of the fittings not as good as we have had in similar cabins previously. There was very little hanging space in the wardrobes as there were two very narrow units, one of which had two hanging rails, (one above the other), with insufficient space below either of these to hang anything other than a pair of shorts. Hence we had to remove one of these rails. Luckily the cabin stewardess was able to replace some of the very bulky, wooden, hangers with thinner plastic ones which helped a bit. This space was manageable for the nine night cruise, but would be far too little for a longer cruise. There were drawers instead of open shelves in the rest of the wardrobe as well, which restricted the space which could have been available on shelves and also meant there was a lot of noise from neighbouring cabins late night and early morning as it was difficult to close them quietly. Also, the shower was particularly small and was made worse as a grab handle had been badly placed in the only part of the shower were there was space to stand. The cabin was also hotter than we would have liked, even with the thermostat turned to the lowest setting.
One good point is that the beds, (which we had asked to be in twin configuration), were side by side rather than the L shaped configuration which we have unfortunately come across in other cabins.
Dover was our embarkation port and we stayed the night before the cruise there. It is the most difficult port in the UK to get to from our our of view and the facilities in the town (hotels etc.) are very poor.
We would not sail from Dover again.