Highlights of Italy: Braemar Cruise Review by Gregor Kowalski

Braemar 4
Gregor Kowalski

Overall Member Rating

Highlights of Italy

Sail Date: September 2010
Destination: Europe - Western Mediterranean
Embarkation: Dover
We thoroughly enjoyed this, only our second, cruise. We were particularly lucky in that our dining arrangements, in the Grampian Restaurant, were with two other couples with whom we got on extremely well. We had really great fun at mealtimes in the evening, helped no doubt by the fact that the table was hosted by an officer on each of the formal nights.

The cabin was adequate. Because we had such good weather, we were able to spend most of the daylight sailing time on deck. It would not have been so good if we had wanted to spend lots of time in the cabin. I had originally wanted to go for a Marquee Deck cabin (which would have given a bigger balcony) but they did not look much better inside and the balcony can be overlooked from Deck 9.

The embarcation process was relatively fast and efficient. So we did not need to wait too long in the relatively uncomfortable departure facilities at Dover.

Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the cruise is the way in More which the crew are so helpful and cheery (although that comment does not extend to some of the Beauty Centre staff who are of course working for a franchise).

Overall, we preferred the Braemar to the Barmoral on which we had our first cruise: the only drawback being the location of the spa/fitness centre on Deck 3.

We never experienced any real problem getting places to lie/sit on the Marquee Deck during the glorious weather we had for most of the cruise.

Some of the shore visits were not so successful.

First we visited Gibraltar on the day of the colony's National Day so all of the shops (except those selling tourist tat) were closed. The provided tour was reasonably interesting, but I'm afraid that our overall impression is that Gibraltar is a bit of a dump. Probably the best way to see it is on a shore tour from a cruise ship.

The next port was Cagliari in Sardinia. We called at this port on a Sunday. Guess what, the shops were shut. Cagliari is quite pretty and has some moderately interesting things to see, but if, as here, the Cruise Company promotes the port as a shopping opportunity it does not help if there are no shops open.

The next Port was Naples. We docked shortly before 1pm (when the shops closed) and had to be back on board by 5.45 (but the shops did not re-open till 4.30). Again much was made by the Cruise Company of the shopping opportunities in Naples.

Our next ports of call were Civitavecchia (for Rome!) and Livorno (for Florance!). Each city is a good two hour drive from the respective port. The advance literature did, of course, make that clear, but in each case the journey took rather longer - Italian traffic - so the tours of each of those cities was somewhat rushed. In each case lunch was included. Unfortunately, in Rome it was virtually inedible and the wine provided was undrinkable!

On the other hand, in Florence, not only did we dine in a splendid room in the Palazzo Borghese but the food was of a reasonable standard as was the wine. These issues are of significance because our experience of eating on Fred Olsen cruises is that the food on board is of a very high standard.

But the really irritating thing about the Rome tour was the cost, £85 per head. Frankly it was a rip off. There is no doubt that the guide engaged in Rome itself was an excellent guide, but we were also provided with a separate Guide for the coach trip from the port to Rome and back. It is really not clear to us what her function was but her presence no doubt contributed to the cost.

The preblem with the Florence tour was that although the literature made it clear that the tour was not suitable for passengers with limited mobility, one of the party in our group neede to use a triangular walking support and could only move at a very slow pace. This meant that the guide was constantly being asked to slow down. In consequence we were at least half an hour late in getting to the lunch venue and then the amount of free time after lunch was severely curtailed (and in Florence the shops were open!).

The highlight of the port calls for uns was Elba. It is a delightful island with, of course, the historical link to Napoleon.

But, as mentioned, overall we had a wonderful time on the Braemar and will certainly sail on her again. Less

Published 10/03/10

Cabin review: BA7023 Superior Balcony Suite

Cabin 7023 is adequate for a cruise in which the weather is good and most of your time can be spent on deck. The balcony is not large enough to accommodate loungers (it has two chairs and a table) and is significantly overhung by the edge of Deck 8 but if you prefer shade it is fine. If you get a visit from the ship's cat you won't be able to swing it in the shower! And the safe is very small. For example it would not take a jewellery box. The indoor seating is not comfortable for any period consisting of a curved fixed bench type seat.

Read All Superior Balcony Suite (BA) Reviews >>

Port and Shore Excursions

A delightful Island and a port call is probably the easiest way for most people to get to visit it. Napoleon's villa is interesting but the museum attached to it disappointing since most of the significant items have been removed to other locations.

Read 16 Elba Reviews

Again one of the most interesting cities in the world and, again, a 4 hour round trip from Livorno fairly eats into a day long port call. As with Rome, best used as a taster for a future lengthier visit. Coaches are not allowed in the centre of Florence so before you even start the substance of the walking tour there is a significant walk to get from the drop off point (and back to the pick up point).

Alternatively, some people on our cruise opted to visit Pisa which is closer to Livorno and I think they were able to get much more out of that trip.

The most interesting elements are the general historical significance on Gibraltar to British Naval operations and, of course, the apes!

Very interesting city, but needs rather longer than the under 5 hours we had there. Probably a tour to Pompey or Sorrento would be best choices for a short Port stay. We wanted to do a trip to Sorrento which was originally advertised for this cruise but then withdrawn when tour booking opened.

Read 1173 Naples Reviews

Rome is, of course, one of the most interesting and exciting cities in the world. But the two hour drive too and from Civitavecchia severely limits what can be done. For example a visit to the Vatican Museum (which includes the Sistine Chapel) would probably be difficult in the time available. But good for a taster of Rome to whet the appetite for a future longer visit.

Cagliari is the main port in Sardinia. It is reasonably interesting. Probably the best way to see it is with the open-top bus tour, but if you happen to be there on a Sunday, the trip to the Poetto beach will take up rather a lot of time. Some good restaurants with authentic Sardinian food.

Read 194 Sardinia Reviews
Read more Braemar cruise reviews >>
Read Cruise Critic’s Braemar Review >>
Gregor Kowalski
Enrichment Activities
Family & Children
Fitness & Recreation
Onboard Experience
Public Rooms
Shore Excursions
Value for Money