3 Miami Fred. Olsen Braemar Cruise Reviews

INFO: £1173pp, 15 nights, Deck 4 inside cabin, grade G, midships. We were happy with our price, booked late Jan 09 through Thomson. Best deals seem to have been had by booking via Virgin in December (but some of the worst pre-sailing ... Read More
INFO: £1173pp, 15 nights, Deck 4 inside cabin, grade G, midships. We were happy with our price, booked late Jan 09 through Thomson. Best deals seem to have been had by booking via Virgin in December (but some of the worst pre-sailing customer service apparently. Most paid approx £980 but had to arrange own transfers and stay 1 night pre sailing in Miami (hotel cost included but meant extra transfer to port), some got cabins with obstructed view on deck 6 so that was a good deal! SHIP: Has a tendency to 'sway' whatever the weather conditions. Some say the recent 'cut and shut' have made it worse, others say it's better now!!! Was aware of it 24x7, particularly on the gale force 6 day, but although usually prone to seasickness, can't say it bothered me at all. Others had minor probs but apparently the seasickness injection worked a treat and cost £25. I never even needed my Stugeron, much to my relief. Smart inside without being too ostentatious. Crew friendly and polite but not sure they have quite enough to cope properly, particularly cabin stewards and bar staff. They work very hard and I think the 'cut and shut' means 250 extra passengers but no extra staff.......but maybe I'm being unfair to Fred Olsen. DINNER: 3 restaurants. Assigned seating, menu and waiter service in smallest Grampian, same in larger Thistle and more casual open seating buffet only in Palms. Suitable dress codes (there are 4 'dress' levels) will be clear with your tickets and also dependent on where you are sailing I believe (Caribbean doesn't really have the jacket/tie level because of the climate). Ours were 3 formal evenings (majority in DJ's but some in suits didn't look remotely out of place), mix of cocktail dresses and long frocks for us women. Rest of the time it was smart open necked shirts/trousers and summer dresses/smart separates. Don't forget, some areas of this ship are bl**dy FREEZING, air con too fierce so bring a wrap or a cardi. Themed food evenings held in Palms cafe/restaurant, buffet style. Tables must be booked at reception. Assume guest who usually eat in Palms must either book as well or move to their assigned restaurant. We went to an American and a Chinese one. Didn't enjoy the food on the American evening and on the Chinese evening the restaurant was packed and BOILING HOT! LUNCH: Thistle and Grampian restaurants also have open seating for brekky and lunch combining buffet with a menu service. You can combine menu order with something from the buffet if you want. Can wear shorts and tee shirts but NO flip flops. Not as formal as you'd think for AM and lunch but don't try to get in wearing poolside attire - that goes for the Palms as well though it is marginally more casual, that refers more to the food service than your clothing. Don't go in shirtless, your saggy belly, pasty skin and hairy armpits simply aren't going to be allowed, even if you are "only getting a cup of coffee" from the self-serve area!!! DRESSING UP: There were 3 'themed' dressing up evenings but too 'Butlins' for us so we didn't participate, though it was amusing to see those who did. Caribbean night, British night and Country & Western night. So if you're in to all that then bring something suitable to wear, about 1/3 of the guests participated. FO give fake floral lei's, Union flags and checkered neckerchiefs so guests could get in the swing of it. Quite funny. CABINS: Very clean and tidy, ours seems to have been part of recent refub during the 'cut and shut' operation to make this ship bigger. Bathroom well stocked, towels changed if left on floor. Shower the smallest I've ever seen outside of a caravan! You will get used to it though, (just don't drop anything in there unless you can pick it up with your toes.] Rarely cleaned before lunchtime but frankly, we weren't bothered at all by that. Sort of 'turn down' service at night and a brief tidy round, she did a good job. Plenty of wardrobe space, though I did take about 15 or my own hangers so I could get everything out of the cases.....yes, all 47kg of it. Cases fit under the beds though I gather FO will store them elsewhere if they are too big - IF they have any empty cabins that is. ILLNESS: 5 suspected cases of Norovirus and probably quite a few more who simply didn't report it to the ship's doctor. Those who did were confined to their cabin for 48 hours, any excursions booked were refunded and FO gave a voucher for discount off a future cruise. If your favorite waiter/waitress suddenly stops giving you nuts with your cocktails, or mentions the words "code orange", it's a sure sign that passengers are dropping like flies. CLEAN YOUR HANDS constantly and make full use of the sanitizing hand facilities, you'll have no choice on entering dining areas. Most public toilet notices recommend exiting using tissues to open the outer doors after handwashing, bit of a contortionist act doing so but not a bad idea if you want to avoid getting sick. Also remember when you're sliding your hand down the public banisters.......unless the ship is rolling is it really necessary - who touched it last! Norovirus spreads like wildfire. FACILITIES: Ship has well stocked library and good shop selling toiletries, shampoo, hairspray, sunscreen etc Unlike other ships, guests don't seem to greedily grab the best books leaving none for later boarding passengers. Daily 'newspaper', crossword, quiz etc. Washing machines/dryers/irons, think it cost £2 per load. Personally, I think passengers caught doing the laundry whilst on holiday ought to be thrown overboard. Cost £2 to get a tee shirt cleaned via cabin service and a tiny washing line in the shower to hang up a couple of 'smalls' (or your swimsuit). ENTERTAINMENT: Plenty of on board entertainment, had a dance/singing troupe of 8, pop band, tiny orchestra with singer, solo singer, trio, disco, 2 guest comedians, pianist plus an additional guest one, daytime speaker and a watercolor artist and bridge teachers. Something for everyone at some time or another and various daytime activities particularly on sailing days eg golf, bowls, darts, line dancing blah blah blah. SUNBEDS: Most on deck 8 and blimey, what can I say, the usual 'sunbed baggers' abound, if you want one in the shade on sailing days you better have your backside on it by 7.30AM. In the sun it's not such a great problem until about 10.00AM. More beds on deck 9 but be warned, topless bathing is allowed up there and some female FO cruisers don't appreciate that it's been 30 years since they had pert 'up where they should be' boobs. Past a certain time in life it's best to keep them supported and covered. EXCURSIONS: Plenty to choose from and fairly well organized. If you experience any problems you must provide feedback. You will always be accompanied by a crew member but most trips undertaken using local companies. We had rubbish guides at Chichen Itsa, complained at the time to the crew member and followed it up back on board. Got 50% refund for trip. Complain nicely, it's not FO staffs fault. FOOD: Should be something for all tastes, but be warned, it's mainly LUKEWARM. Don't think FO did HOT very well at all, for anything (including soup). Even menu ordered food will turn up lukewarm so go with that in mind and you won't be surprised or disappointed. AFTERNOON TEA: This was pretty much rubbish, boring 'samey' cakes and curly sarnies. Boy, FO don't do this at all well. Not helped by passengers acting like they've not eaten for a week, all elbows and pushing and shoving. FO do rather take the line that "when it's gone, it's gone" so if you don't want to adopt the push/shove attitude it's best to do as we did - don't bother to go. All in all, we had a great time and would definitely use FO and the Braemar again without hesitation. However, the guests are all SAGA card carriers, FO is aimed at the older market and some cruises (usually about Christmas time) can have predominantly 70+ age range. Ours were mostly 50+ rising right up to the 70+ group - fine for us, only had 1 child on board (& as it wasn't a British school holiday he shouldn't have been there anyway). Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
Travel Arrangements Outbound Journey The police closure of the A14 for 6 hours due to heavy snow resulted in our missing the Stansted flight to Miami and subsequently being unable to join the ship as planned. We fully accept this was ... Read More
Travel Arrangements Outbound Journey The police closure of the A14 for 6 hours due to heavy snow resulted in our missing the Stansted flight to Miami and subsequently being unable to join the ship as planned. We fully accept this was our responsibility, however......... Unbelievably, Fred Olsen did not appear to have a clear protocol in place to handle such occurrences and support offered by the company was negligible. We had to make our own arrangements to fly out to pick up the ship at her first port of call. The whole experience was horrendous -the head office staff were most defensive - afraid any show of sympathy or offer of help could be interpreted as admission of liability. When they eventually offered some travel options, the cost for the same flights we had sourced ourselves was some £200.00 more expensive than we had paid. Inbound Journey The (chartered) flight back home was delayed for 6 hours due to an error on the aircraft manifest. The original schedule of airports for collection of passengers had been amended which meant that the American authorities would not accept the aircraft. The plane had to abide by its stated manifest and fly from Manchester. This additional flight time meant that a new aircrew had to be found. The Aircraft had been on an exclusive charter to Fred Olsen therefore the mix up with the manifest must lay with them. My husband asked for an explanation from the reception staff and was misled by a statement that there had been technical difficulties with the plane, however we were allowed to wait on board the Braemar and provided with food and drink. This was greatly appreciated. The problems arose when we finally arrived at Miami airport to check in. I understand that, had the flight been on time, 15 check in desks would have been available to process the 300 passengers, with at least 1 desk designated to fast track Premium passengers such as ourselves. In reality, there were only 5 check in desks to cope with all 300 passengers. There was no fast track desk and we queued for 2 hours to check in; only to be allocated seats which were not together. I have a serious medical condition which makes travel in general difficult for me. We therefore paid the supplement to avoid exactly this type of situation. Our experience certainly does not merit the £600 supplement paid. The Ship We found the ship disappointing. The ship sailed through force 6 seas on a few occasions and felt very unstable. The recent extension resulted in some very strange and alarming noises coming from the ship itself during medium seas. The public rooms and pool deck were crowded; it was difficult to get a seat or sun bed. The food was average at best, poor on a couple of occasions. My husband sent back a chicken dish which was raw in the middle and dishes were sent back by our dinner companions on several occasions as the food was cold. The menus were unexciting and generally fell short of what we expected. The entertainment was second rate, I would class it on a similar level to a holiday camp. Our cabin was 'tired' looking. When maintenance work was done on our balcony one day, we returned to our cabin (after 5 pm) to find the sun beds tipped on end, sawdust still on the furniture and floor. The toilet did not work one morning, and the water was turned off one evening for a short while. The laundry room was well equipped, but one iron was broken - leaving the remaining iron for 900 passengers! The Good Points The itinerary was excellent. With the exception of Santo Domingo we enjoyed all the places we visited. The organized tours were interesting and fairly priced. Drinks were also fairly priced. The port details provided were very helpful. The staff on board, especially the steward and waiting staff were very good indeed and a major asset to the company. Summary Our holiday has been disappointing and I would summarize my observations as follows: ? Poor support from head office when things go wrong. ? Tired ship - the extension hasn't worked satisfactorily ? lack of space and feeling of crowding ? Below average food and entertainment ? Excellent crew - probably the lowest paid staff (stewards and waiters) are propping up the rest of the company. We were amazed by the number of FO fans who cruise with this company time and again. Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion, however we can only surmise that either we were very unlucky, or others haven't had the benefit of experiencing the level of service we have previously enjoyed with other companies. I wrote to FO immediately upon our return from holiday - I received a holding letter but since then the silence has been deafening. We will not use FO again and will return to the reliability of Cunard - which offers much better service at a similar cost Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
M V Braemar Christmas Caribbean Cruise 22/12/08 - 08/01/09 Gatwick was typical chaos but Miami was surprisingly problem free, taking only 1 hour from plane to transfer bus. We joined a ship that had been extended in the ... Read More
M V Braemar Christmas Caribbean Cruise 22/12/08 - 08/01/09 Gatwick was typical chaos but Miami was surprisingly problem free, taking only 1 hour from plane to transfer bus. We joined a ship that had been extended in the middle and generally upgraded everywhere in Summer 2008. It had been on several bedding down cruises since then but there was little comment on cruise review web sites as to how these changes had been received. Fred Olsen seems to get very little web comment and it's internet room on board was virtually empty on all my visits - may be something to do with the abnormally high average age of it's passengers. The weather in the Northern Caribbean was stormy force 6 with a 3 meter swell and overcast for the first week. This had it's affect on health and moral. Poor weather restricts deck activities as well as the head count at dinner. Several injuries were recorded. The first ports of call where Nassau (the town itself was very disappointing) and Montego Bay (Not a nice place). The main sunbathing deck with very small pools was totally overcrowded when the sun came out - we retreated to our balcony. The weather in the second week improved a bit - force 4 and 2 meter swell. Unfortunately for many, the Flu outbreak worsened. It also included two of the best ports of call, Aruba and Curacao in the Dutch Antilles off the coast of Venezuela. Delightful ports with gaily painted buildings designed in old Dutch style, well presented shops and both places that we will return too. Santa Marta in Columbia was also interesting. No evidence of their famous drug trade! The weather continued to improve a little bit as the week went on. St. Georges in Grenada has improved enormously over the last decade, despite or due to two bad hurricanes. A new marina and Harbour have been built and also a new relocated cruise terminal and shopping centre. Avoid the water taxis to Grand Anse Beach in choppy weather as they are very difficult to climb into and they try to pack 16 people in to a small boat and delay leaving until full which can involve a wait of over half an hour both ways. The smell of leaking petrol cleared my sinuses. Bridgetown Barbados has a well organized Cruise Terminal and Port and taxis are available for the mile or so trip into town. The private buses are great fun on which to travel about. 1 US$ gets you a trip up the west coast with the locals to Hole Town. Also, sharing taxis is commonplace but not as cheap as you think. Bargain hard! This west coast is well developed to quite a high density and rather commercialized but the local roads can barely cope resulting in many traffic jams - which gives plenty of opportunity to gaze at all the famous hotels. Castries St Lucia and St. John's Antigua were forgettable experiences, the latter due to the very restricted 4 hour stop. We have been to Antigua before and Nelsons Dockyard , on the other side of the island is a must if time permits and circumnavigation of the island by catamaran is an unforgettable experience if you get time. So, last few days at sea with sun and reasonably calm seas cruising up to Key West, a lovely Port at the bottom end of Florida with a super town centre and well worth the visit. Finally, an early morning arrival back at Miami with 20 hours of travel (and waiting around) to look forward to. First the plus points ... It's cheap to cruise this The Fred Olsen Line with all the bargains available, including free upgrades. We landed up in a suite and Premium economy aircraft seats for £2300 each for this 18 day Christmas cruise although don't expect 'luxury'. The prices on board were in British pounds, an advantage over the Dollar charging ships when the £ only buys $1.43. This rate, charged for cash changing on the ship stayed the same every day, even when the Dollar sank to $1.35 to the £. Bar prices and restaurant wines (£13 for a decent bottle) were cheap compared with others we have been on. You could also buy English bottled beer - Spitfire and draught Stella Artois. The Filipino staff are a delight - always smiling, greeting you by name, remembering what you drink, making you feel important. They made our holiday. What an asset to the company! Unfortunately, the bad points outnumber but many of these were not down to Fred Holstein or the Bromide crew. The average age was noticeably higher than we have experienced in the past, even at Christmas - 75% of passengers was 70+. The Fred Olsen 78 - 90 club! We thought that elderly American cruise passengers were rude on previous trips (Insignia & Diamond Princess) - until we experienced a few days a sea with the British counterpart. We suspected that whole community centers for the elderly had been forcibly removed from Basildon and placed on this ship. Seriously, the heavy pre-Christmas discounting seemed to have attracted some strange people! Statistically, a third of the passengers where from Lancashire, a third from Yorkshire and 50 % from Essex (Well it felt like it!). This ship had more cruise snobs and moaners per deck than any other we have experienced. - those that holiday once a year on a cruise, moan about everything, swear that they will not come again - and then announce that this is their 5th. time on the ship. - those that have sailed with all the top notch lines in the best cabins, although are mysteriously camping out in a basic inside cabin on deck 2 One of the reasons for choosing this cruise line was due to recommendations from some friends and the thought that, with 18 days at sea, they would serve some good traditional British food occasionally. i.e. Roast Beef. We were rather disappointed. The food is adequate 'Torquay Hotel food', prepared by mass catering chefs in conjunction with their checked accountants. For example, chicken and pork were always available because they are cheap and were often reheated (sometimes with an additional sauce). Beef was rarely available in any form. The one steak was part 'cooked' in the basement main kitchen, reheated in the holding kitchen on deck 8 and served ... In this time, it had lost it's will to please and totally lacked any normal British accompaniments i.e. chips, onions, roasted vegetables etc. However, in fairness, their Beef Wellington was good. Desserts were mostly disappointing, with excessive use of Creme fresh cream, Jelly, Moose. No Apple pie or other traditional desserts, no custard, rarely any ice cream. But they did have bread & butter pudding several times - to use up the old bread. Christmas and New Year dinners lacked style, substance and flavor and served with miniscule portions, both sadly disappointing. The smell of diesel oil, particularly on deck 5 Starboard and often in the air conditioning in our cabin was very noticeable and unpleasant. So Fred Olsen, my scores out of 5. Food 2.5 Sometimes quite good but often disappointing Food Service 4.5 Restaurant excellent. Palm Cafe mediocre Cabin Comfort 4.0 Most normal cabins are disappointingly small but comfortable. Balcony suite was good. Cabin Service 3.5 OK Free champers & fruit on arrival for us Bar Service 4.75 Always good to the point of brilliant Entertainment 2.5 Have experienced far better. My own appearance in one show was brilliant Both lectures were boring! Internet 0.5 Don't bother. Too slow. No wi-fi connections TV 2.0 Poor world news, poor daily info Cruise info / daily letter 2.0 Poor, amateurish and cheaply sourced Tours 2.0 Only did one which put me off. Used taxis Laundry 4.5 Dry cleaning very efficient Summery A cruise line for those on a budget, offering good value for money. Very popular with the elderly and those from the Northern Counties and Essex. Despite extension and refurbishment, the ship falls well behind P & O, Princess and others in terms of amenities and comforts but it does charge much cheaper prices and leaves tipping to the discretion of it's passengers. It's relatively small size - 988 passengers - is an attraction. Choose your cruise itinerary carefully, as many Caribbean ports are scruffy and uninteresting. Coach tours are typically pricey and rarely offer good value. Have the guts to hire a taxi (very affordable with 4 people) and do your own thing with the drivers help and knowledge. Do not bother to smuggle your own spirits on board. The cabin prices are duty free .i.e. £15 for a liter of Jameson's Irish whiskey! Bring plenty of books and treat yourselves to a balcony cabin to avoid the crowds. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Braemar Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 3.7
Dining 4.0 4.3
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 5.0 4.0
Fitness Recreation 5.0 3.7
Family 2.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 5.0 3.5
Enrichment 3.0 3.3
Service 4.0 4.4
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 3.8

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