Because there is no big theatre onboard, the Neptune Lounge on Deck 6 is the ship's main show lounge. It is spacious enough to seat 400 passengers for twice-nightly performances. Don't expect anything too cutting edge there. Competently performed small production shows are on offer, alongside some decent singing, comedy and magic acts, but you won't see anything to set the world on fire. The variety, though, is excellent, and the shows and guest acts are tailored exactly to the tastes of the age group, ranging from Swing and Rat Pack to ABBA.
There are two nightly performances, at 7:15 p.m. and 8:45 p.m., and because the shows are so popular, the Neptune Lounge tends to fill up quickly after the first dinner seating, often with standing room only. Waiters circulate to take drinks orders before the show, but there's a small bar on the side that also fills up quickly; you can see the stage from there, although not fully. The later show is less busy.
Fred. Olsen has dropped Vistas, its onboard enrichment programme that offered activities like music appreciation and watercolour painting. However, it still offers certain theme cruises such as murder mystery and ‘Film Stars & Fast Cars' to the Cannes Film Festival and Monaco Grand Prix.
The busy programme of regular onboard activities during the day includes everything from quizzes, crosswords and bridge to a selection of fitness classes, table tennis, shuffleboard, darts, putting and carpet bowls. Because Fred. Olsen passengers are typically keen dancers, there's opportunity for dancing to The Boudicca Orchestra in the Neptune Lounge before the nightly shows and at occasional tea dances. All the daytime entertainment is pretty low-key, though; there's no loud entertainment team trying to round people up for knobby knees contests or anything equally undignified.
Since the 2011 refit, which did away with the craft room on Deck 4, the Heligan restaurant is also used as the crafts area during the day, when watercolour classes are held there.
In the evening, apart from the show, you'll find most of the entertainment in the Lido Lounge (Deck 7). Here there is a mixture of musical duos and performers, as well as the Boudicca Show Company Singers, followed by a late night disco. Elsewhere on the ship, you'll always find a lot of activity around the Secret Garden Lounge both before, during and after dinner. An excellent duo performs here on and off from 5.45 p.m. to midnight. In the Observatory Lounge, you'll find more live music, usually from a solo performer, also until midnight.
The tiny casino on Deck 7 is a misnomer: it consists of just two gaming tables in the corridor leading out of the library. It was not exactly packed at night, but some people did play the tables.
Travellers who prefer small, intimate bars to barn-scale, open-plan facilities will be very much at home on Boudicca, which has all sorts of nooks and crannies in which to read or doze.
In these days of inflated cruise bar prices, Boudicca's onboard drinks and wine remain very affordable. A wide range of decent wines, many New World, are priced at £15.95 a bottle, while the house wine costs £15 a bottle or £3.95 a glass. Premium wines and Champagnes can exceed £100. Boddingtons' traditional English bitter or Stella Artois lager cost £3.25 a pint, cans of lager will set you back £3.10, and a gin and tonic or a whisky is £3.75 (using a measure rather than free pouring).
Morning Light Pub (Deck 6): In November 2013, the Morning Light Pub, named after Fred. Olsen's first-ever ship, opened next to the Neptune Show Lounge, in the former Neptune Bar, and provides a popular informal bar area.
Secret Garden Lounge (Deck 6): More of a space than a room, this bar is just outside the main dining rooms. It is popular with passengers hovering outside before dinner, partly because a wonderful Filipino singing group plays there every night and partly because it is a convenient spot from which to join the dinner queue promptly as soon as it began to form. Open 10:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Lido Lounge Bar (Deck 7): When the second show ends, most passengers go to bed; the ones who stay up head here. It's a good-sized space at the back of the ship, with doors leading out to the open space at the back (and a small smoking area). Here you'll find quizzes during the day and live music from onboard entertainers, followed by a late-night disco. Open 10 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.
The Observatory (Deck 9): High up on Deck 9 at the front of the ship, the Observatory is a perfect spot for a pre-dinner drink. There is a lot of seating, a resident pianist, excellent attentive service and sweeping views of the sunset. Open 10:30 a.m. to midnight.
Marquee Bar (Deck 9): The open-air Marquee Bar, which overlooks the pool at the back of the ship, offers drinks throughout the day. Open 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
There are two main pools. On Deck 6, you'll find an exceptionally large, deep lap pool, as well as a tiny Swimex pool -- in which one person at a time can swim against a strong jet -- and two hot tubs. This is actually a really pleasant area, with a wide expanse of wooden decking, faux greenery, new-looking metal deck furniture and loungers, as well as tables and chairs. On a sunny day, this is certainly the place to be, although there are also loungers on the broad, teak promenade areas, port and starboard, on the Lido Deck 7.
There is another, smaller pool on Deck 9, served by the Marquee Bar, which has more modern furniture and is less busy than the one on Deck 6.
Those who prefer to take their exercise in the fresh air should head to the Sun Deck (Deck 10), which has a ball games court and boards for traditional cruise pursuits like shuffleboard and deck quoits. You can walk right around the Sun Deck; several people are often out strolling in the early mornings. In the centre of the ship, accessed by a steep flight of stairs, is a golf driving net on the unmarked Deck 11.
There is sunbathing space and plenty of white, plastic loungers on the Sun Deck (Deck 10).
You'll find the main reception area on Deck 5 as well as the future cruise sales desk, shore excursions desk, photo gallery and a handful of onboard shops. One offers the usual logowear and evening attire. A jewellery shop sells everything from Timex watches (Timex is owned by Fred. Olsen) to £4,000 diamond earrings. A Port Shop displays duty-paid goods, which means that the shop is allowed to open when the ship is in port. This is particularly handy, as it means you can buy essentials like sunblock, insect repellent and books at any time, rather than having to wait for international waters.
A self-service launderette is located at the back of Deck 5. Tokens are available from the reception desk. The launderette is open 8 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The ship has a well-stocked library on Deck 7, which also incorporates Cafe Venus. A small space behind the cafe is given over to Bridge and card games. If you haven't brought your iPad along, there is also an Internet room on the same deck. It has three computers, operates via a swipe card system and charges 20p per minute. You'll also find the ship's traditional jigsaw in here (moved from the library post-refit).
There are five Wi-Fi hotspots on the ship: Cafe Venus, Observatory, Iceni Room (also featuring self-service tea and coffee off the Neptune Lounge), the Morning Light Pub and the port-side outer deck on Deck 7 (meaning that if you are in a port-side cabin on Decks 7 or 8, you can get a Wi-Fi signal in your cabin). Be aware that service is patchy and variable. Prices are £5 for 30 minutes, £10 for one hour, £20 for three hours or £30 for 24 hours.
Note: Smoking is banned in all indoor areas. Smoking is only permitted on cabin balconies and in two outdoor deck areas: the Deck 7 aft starboard bridge wing area and Deck 8 aft on both sides of the ship.
A small beauty salon, hidden away on Deck 4, has two treatment rooms -- one for facials, the other for massages. It is likely to book up quickly, so schedule any treatments you want early in your cruise.
Run by Fred. Olsen itself, the salon offers facials from £35 for 30 minutes, reflexology at £60 for 60 minutes and hot stones massage for £67 for 75 minutes. A lot of the facials are geared toward mature skin, using luxurious Thalgo products. There are also a couple of treatments you won't find in other ships' spas, such as the Indian Head Massage for £50 (including a wash and blow-dry) and a one-hour traditional Thai massage with a Thai therapist for £60.
The tiny sauna and steam rooms are in a separate area, on the same deck, almost invisible among the cabins, and only open to female passengers.
There is a roomy gym and aerobics space on Deck 10. For the target market of the ship, you can't help wondering if this state-of-the-art facility was the wisest investment. On our cruise, the fitness center was practically empty. Classes, however, have a good turnout and include Zumba and fitball, as well as yoga and Pilates. Some carry a charge of £5, while more basic stretch and aerobics classes are free.
Fred. Olsen's core market consists largely of older British couples and singles, so this is not a ship for children, and there are no youth facilities onboard. Black Watch, Balmoral and Braemar, Fred. Olsen's other ships, do have small kids' clubs during school holidays, so they're better suited to those passengers who want to cruise with grandchildren.