Although my husband and I had cruised before ,although not with Fred Olsen, we were a little apprehensive about taking my mother a first -time cruiser for her 80th birthday. Although her looks belie her age she is less sprightly than she once was, with a heart condition and an arthritic knee and what was more worrying for me she has a palette for very plain food and can't abide mayonnaise, sauces, pasta, high seasoning. I need not have worried. She managed moving around the ship quite easily as there was always a lift within easy reach and she enjoyed sitting in the open lounges reading,napping or talking to other passengers.The food was not an issue at all as there were open buffets at lunchtimes with dressings available but not added to salads. At dinner there was usually enough choice and our waiter was skilful at offering her items on the menu without the accompanying sauces etc. I liked the Boudicca;its comfortable ,unpretentious,very spacious in the public rooms and very easy to familiarise yourself with the layout. We booked early to ensure we had adjoining cabins but my mother paid just £400 less than my husband and I together. We could have had a suite for the same price and my husband and I could have slept on a sofa bed. I think it would have been better value as the cabin was cramped and my husband and I are both still suffering sleepless nights with bad backs due to the bed we slept in on board. There was however lots of storage space which was a god send for the number of clothes I took. The dining categories are difficult to understand and I can't say I understand the differences (particularly for women) completely. There were three formal nights with most men in dinner suits and women in evening or cocktail dress. Then there were informal where men wore lounge suits and women wore cocktail dresses and then there was casual, two of which were theme nights and men wore smart trousers eg linen or chinos with open necked shirts or ties and a smart jacket, women could wear smart trouser suits or cocktail. The two shops on board are rather strange and really do need to be sorted out. The larger of the two carries perfume, clothes, jewellery and nice pieces to take home as souvenirs. The second shop also carries clothes although more casual eg cagoules and souvenirs with Boudicca on them, but there was just one carousel of books and no magazines or stationery and limited stock of the things people really need or forget. On sea days there were special sales eg The Russian Bazaar and the shop moved into the corridor on Deck 5 which also held the photo boards of the recent photographs taken on board. It became a scrum and I had to leave pronto when I started an asthma attack. The staff had to provide handwritten receipts for every item bought and these had to be inputted later to the onboard ship account often incorrectly. Has Fred Olsen not heard of barcode scanners? I only went into the Neptune Lounge shows once but you can access them live on Channel 6 in your cabin. The entertainment team seemed a little young and inexperienced ,good dancers but generally not good singers. They also seemed a bit giggley when they performed other duties on the ship. I attended some of the talks on board and they were interesting and informative. I also went to the six Art Classes and they were very relaxing and the class was a mix of complete beginners and others. I hadn't taken my art equipment but the pack for £10 was excellent. Fred Olsen send out the tour and excursion book out several weeks before the cruise. My advice is read it thoroughly especially the advice on terrain and suitability and if necessary get more information from the internet or guidebooks. We booked all our excursions before we left the UK.
Atlantic Deck 4132 and 4134 Two portholes in each cabin
Beds were the couch type,very uncomfortable,single duvets,cramped around the bed.
Lots of closet space,tea making facilities,no biscuits, hair dryer,TV and safe.
Both cabins had bath tubs.Close to the stairwell and lift that leads to lauderette and lido deck.
We loved Helsinki! We did the city tour and visited all the sights with the excellent guide. We got back to the ship, changed some currency and went out again on the shuttlebus to the local market situated close by. I can't say I saw the whole of the city but our visit gave us a flavour and I would like to perhaps re-visit on a long weekend. We didn't need to carry passports just our cruise swipe card.
Then on to St Petersberg. It was a little scary going through the immigration area in the ocean terminal. You need to carry everything,cruise card,passport,immigration form (which you fill in onboard)we did not need the photocopies of our passports we were also told to carry. Once through and on the bus we had excellent guides who talked extensively about the history of the city but did not comment on the huge concrete edifices that the 5 million of St Petersberg live in or on the huge gun batteries facing out to sea, interspersed between the apartment buildings. The historical city is beautiful a cross between Venice, Florence and Paris and must be visited but its hard on the feet whichever tour you take. We went on the city tour one day and the Hermitage the next and with the heat it was very hard but worth every minute.
Tallin was another place we loved. The medieval city is beautiful,the guide was excellent and this is another place we love to return to on a long weekend. The people are absolutely lovely.
This was interesting really because of our guide. She was nine years old when the wall came down and her account of how life was different in GDR was very moving. Life continues to be more difficult in the East than in the West. We went on the Minster and Molli tour and it was very intriguing. Faced with a crumbling red-bricked medieval minster,the East German authorities treated the brick work internally and then painted the brickwork terracotta and carefully drew in the white mortar lines!They didn't seem to understand how to conserve the building and as a result it is very odd although they all seem quite proud of it.The Molli is a narrow guage railway that runs to a resort,going down the middle of the street,inches from outside cafe tables. it was really enjoyable.