In early October I received an email offer from Fred Olsen for a November 20th sailing on the Boudicca for a 21-day cruise to the Canary Islands and Cape Verde. The price was quite good at less than 100 GBP per day although it was for what Fred Olsen terms an Anchor Fare (i.e. a guaranteed cabin with no choice in assigned dining time). When I went to book I discovered that Fred Olsen now uses a different American booking agent and the change is not a good one. They used to use Borton Overseas Travel based in Minneapolis which is a very good company, but now they are using something called World View Travel based in New York and they are terrible. They rarely answered emails or the phone and knew almost nothing about the cruise line; my cruise documents barely arrived in time and then only after I left phone messages asking where they were. It’s a pity that Americans cannot book directly with Fred Olsen as it would be so much easier. However, this itinerary was so interesting and the Liverpool departure location meant the opportunity to visit relatives in the area so I could not pass up the chance. And I was fortunate to snag some last minute frequent flyer tickets to the U.K. so I was off!
I expected travel to the embarkation port in Liverpool to be a breeze from Altrincham where I was staying, but I did not take into account last minute rail works, which altered my itinerary, nor the surprise that some 30,000 crazed rugby fans would also be making their way to Liverpool that same morning for a world’s final match between Australia and New Zealand! Nothing says “adventure” like fighting your way onto a two-carriage Northern train at Manchester Piccadilly with hundreds of others while carrying two large suitcases and then standing the whole way to Liverpool holding onto your cases one stacked upon the other. Once at Liverpool Lime Street the station taxi cue barely moved as fans ran out to the street and snagged many of the available taxis there. Those of us left in the cue started finding fellow Boudicca passengers and joined up to share whatever taxis we could find. Once at the port, though, things went very smoothly. Luggage disappeared out of the taxi before I even alighted and was already waiting in my cabin when I boarded about an hour later. Check-in was already in progress when I arrived at 1:30 pm and at 2 pm embarkation began by group starting with the upper class cabins and those with elite status. The Liverpool terminal is fairly basic, but had plenty of seating for all of us. Toilets were in a separate trailer-like building just outside. The walk to the ship was a bit long and covered at least most of the way; however, it would not have been a pleasant walk, though, had it been raining. I believe assistance was provided to those passengers who needed help getting to the ship.
My second unwelcome surprise that day came when I arrived at my cabin. When sailing on the Black Watch this past summer I had been told by the Future Cruise Consultant that the Boudicca was a sister ship, meaning they had the same layout. Since I booked exactly the same cabin category (category N, inside solo cabin) and even was assigned the same cabin number (4107) on this voyage I expected the same cabin facilities. However, instead of the nice wide bed I had on the Black Watch, I had a bed that was all of 30 inches wide—something I would provide for a child, not a full grown adult. And in place of a desk with drawers, there was a small triangular shelf that held a phone, small lamp and barely room for anything else. Even the closet was smaller with only about 16 inches of hanging space. The Black Watch bathroom had nice counter space and a real medicine cabinet, whereas this Boudicca bathroom had a pedestal sink with just a single shelf along the bottom of the mirror. Even the door hit the toilet which meant you had to sit sideways unless the door was fully closed. I went to the service desk immediately to ask about changing cabins, but was told I would need to speak to someone else who was not readily available. The staff person did, however, get on the phone, and within 20 minutes a crew member turned up with a nice small three-drawer cabinet to add to my cabin which provided me with enough additional storage to unpack. I think that had I booked a Freedom Fare (regular cruise fare) I might have had a chance to change cabins to something larger as the ship was not sailing full. On the plus side I love this location on the ship as it’s very quiet and convenient to both the mid-ship stairs/elevators leading to the dining and public areas as well as the aft stairs/elevator that lead to the pool area and laundry room.
This was a solo inside cabin. The location on deck 4 between the midship and aft stairs/elevators is excellent for being quiet and convenient. You do get a little vibration but it's a stable location in rough seas. This bed is rather firm and far too small for a full-size adult as it's only 30 inches wide. This category of cabin on the Black Watch had a double bed. It's best to specifically ask what size bed comes in any cabin on Fred Olsen ships as they apparently vary greatly. There was no desk but just a small triangular shelf below the mirror. It held the phone and a small lamp but left little room for much else; it would not be big enough for a laptop computer for example. There was another small shelf with shelf space below next to the bed. This held a small lamp that was fixed in place. Fortunately my new CPAP respiratory machine is quite small as their was just room for that, a small clock and a water bottle. Had I had my old larger machine it would not have fit. In addition there was a straight back chair and another chair with wooden arms so sitting was sufficient. The wardrobe was too small for a long cruise. There were plenty of hangers but only 16" of hanging space and small area below for shoes (maybe 3-4 pairs). There were 4 drawers and 5 shelves but one shelf held the life-jacket, one the coffee/tea service and another was taken up mostly by the small safe. In the bathroom there was a pedestal sink with a long shelf below the mirror but no other storage. The bathroom door hit the toilet so it had to be fully closed or you had to sit sideways. The shower was sufficient size, but had only a small holder for a bar of soap or one shampoo bottle. The television had a small screen and terrible speakers so it was difficult to hear unless you turned it way up, but that was a worry as you did not want to disturb your neighbors. I had this exact same cabin number on Black Watch and it had much better storage space.