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3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
Boarding was very good, the ship is old and my upgrade to a basic suite was good, but the bathroom needed a complete refurbishment. There were drain smells emanating from the plug hole. Breakfast and lunch were mediocre, but the ... Read More
Boarding was very good, the ship is old and my upgrade to a basic suite was good, but the bathroom needed a complete refurbishment. There were drain smells emanating from the plug hole. Breakfast and lunch were mediocre, but the evening meal was good. The shore trips were very expensive, wi fi had to be paid for and the photographers were over the top. You had to fill in little forms for more water which hung from the existing water bottles. It does strike you that they are trying to make money from the most basic item. Staff were lovely. Captain we did not see at the introduction nights. They did push the boat out on Captain's night, Celebration nights with lots of snacks and free wine. The entertainment was enjoyable. There is a lot of competition for cruising and basically they need to upgrade to be more competitive and review their pricing policy. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
We chose the cruise for the Christmas Markets in Europe. The Balmoral crew had made a splendid effort to make the ship festive. Lovely decorations throughout.There were beautifully made gingerbread houses in some spots on the ship. A ... Read More
We chose the cruise for the Christmas Markets in Europe. The Balmoral crew had made a splendid effort to make the ship festive. Lovely decorations throughout.There were beautifully made gingerbread houses in some spots on the ship. A lovely festive dinner and very good entertainers and speakers. Enjoyed the orchestra, piano player, string quartet and guitarist, talks and quizzes. Formal nights with lovely food but good food throughout the trip. Lots of work goes on to make a voyage successful, but the crew including those we don't see are very discreet. Because of being December with unpredictable weather and fog the itinerary had to be altered but as we had been to Germany and Denmark on another Fred Olsen cruise we had been fortunate to see the Rivers and Kiel Canal in good weather ad daylight. Others may have been disappointed, but it is winter. The Christmas markets were amazing. The Tivoli Gardens at Christmas with 'snow' looked wonderful. The shopping streets in Copenhagen were full of people and lights. A lovely experience. Hamburg had a Father Christmas flying overhead on zip wires at the Christmas market. There were sprinkles of snow. Bremen is a lovely town, our third visit. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2018
This was our very first Cruise I have to say from start to finish it was excellent, We arrived at the port where our bags were taken from us and never saw them till we got to our cabin. we checked in and with in 10 mins we were through ... Read More
This was our very first Cruise I have to say from start to finish it was excellent, We arrived at the port where our bags were taken from us and never saw them till we got to our cabin. we checked in and with in 10 mins we were through security and on the ship.we were on deck 8 Superior inside cabin and we were very happy with it. The food at all meal times were excellent, we chose to have our evening meals in the Avon Restaurant and the staff were first class. There is plenty to do on board if you don't want to get off at any of the ports. We mainly had our drinks in the Marquee Bar on the top deck very friendly and customer focused. Entertainment was also good, a great holiday which I would recommend to anyone the scenery was amazing weather was mixed apart from one day when it never stopped raining. We did the Funicular ourselves it cost £5 each to go up as we walked back down which I would recommend if your able. We then went to find the Ice Bar which cost us £19 each it was good fun and worth going in. We bought the tickets for the Flam Railway off Fred Olsen and I would advise to do this as your seats are reserved for you and well worth doing. All of the Ports that we stopped at were expensive to buy anything but really worth looking round the shops, you can do your own thing plenty to see and do. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2018
destination good but wouldn't recommend this as ship needs to be replaced by o old. The whole experience of this cruise was as if I had been in an old people's home. The entertainment was geared for this and so we're the ... Read More
destination good but wouldn't recommend this as ship needs to be replaced by o old. The whole experience of this cruise was as if I had been in an old people's home. The entertainment was geared for this and so we're the activities. The destination was appealing but to be given a port that was a coal mining destination Port Richard and get covered in dust isn't my idea of interesting port even captain agreed and told us he had notified the company of this. Must have been a cheap port to go to. The overall staff really very good and helpful, food good, cabins not up to today standards. Entertainment needs to be updated though an older crowd they need to realise we are not one foot in the grave. Lovely table but also of the same opinion. Perference given to people who book Fred Olsen direct. Independence passages required to desembark no later than 10.00 a.m. But Fred Olsen passengers were allowed to stay on board as long as necessary before their flight departure. I hope Fred Olsen take note of these comments Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
Calling this cruise Irish Markets was a joke. First stop Falmouth which I must admit I enjoyed very much lovely day & very quaint shops. Next stop Dublin not a Christmas stall in sight oh yes one. Our last stop Cobh for Cork very ... Read More
Calling this cruise Irish Markets was a joke. First stop Falmouth which I must admit I enjoyed very much lovely day & very quaint shops. Next stop Dublin not a Christmas stall in sight oh yes one. Our last stop Cobh for Cork very disappointing Christmas market consisted of fruit & veg & meat stalls oh yes & one chocolate stall so how they can call this Irish Christmas market cruise beggars believe. My cabin steward was one of the most unfriendly one's I have ever come across I have been on quite a few cruises & normally they are lovely friendly & cannot do enough for you. My friend & I were on a table with 5 other super friendly ladies our waiter was the worse I have ever come across everything we asked for took for ever to come at one point we got up & got our own wine as we had waited 25 mins for a refill but to flip the coin he had far to many tables to wait on. I would definitely have second thoughts about sailing with Fred Olsen again Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
We chose this cruise as it was advertised as an Irish Christmas Markets Cruise.Unfortunately there were NO Christmas Markets.Even after submitting an E-Mail to Fred Olsen with a copy from the Office of Tourism for Ireland stating that ... Read More
We chose this cruise as it was advertised as an Irish Christmas Markets Cruise.Unfortunately there were NO Christmas Markets.Even after submitting an E-Mail to Fred Olsen with a copy from the Office of Tourism for Ireland stating that there were no Christmas Markets in Dublin the company will still not accept their advertising was wrong and apologise! Apart from the lack of advertised Christmas Markets the cruise was average.The food was reasonable although I did not like being shepherded to a table at breakfast when we wished to sit elsewhere.The entertainment was good especially the comedienne who was brilliant and throughout his act made numerous references to the lack of Christmas Markets.This was the first cruise I had been on where the passengers had to pay for a shuttle bus into the town centre and the organisation for this was ludicrous!! with the queue going up and down the corridors, we eventually returned our tickets and walked into town.This was my first experience of Fred Olsen Cruises and will certainly be my last!!. Read Less
67 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2016
I must start by telling readers that I am usually pretty shirt if people start moaning about perceived trivial service faults while on holiday, especially on a cruise where so much can go wrong but is usually so right. On this occasion I ... Read More
I must start by telling readers that I am usually pretty shirt if people start moaning about perceived trivial service faults while on holiday, especially on a cruise where so much can go wrong but is usually so right. On this occasion I am forced to change my position radically. I shan't bother Fred Olsen again and the following explains why. Friends, upon whose judgement previous experience had lead me on rely and who had sailed with Fred several times in the past latterly in 2012, spoke so warmly of both line and ship that I booked with confident expectations. I anticipated a lovely experience at least akin to my handful or so of previous cruises with P&O over the past 10 years. Alas disappointment was to be my reward. You board with no ships map so stand lost in the reception area not knowing where to go. After a time a member of staff approached me and directed me to my cabin. The room was pleasant enough but as I explored I found: Large bottle of water-£1.50! No fridge No shower cap, shampoo, body lotion or soap tablet (just liquid). Mattress...not to my personal liking. Dinner in the Ballindalloch restaurant on the first night was OK but not memorable. And tepid. Following a nightmare night due to Storm Katie through which we sailed in gale force winds (later recorded on the 'cruise log' as being force 6!), as a result of which most on board hardly slept at all we eventually rose for breakfast the next morning. Shambolic! Waiters rushing everywhere, looking stressed. No sugar, milk, butter/spreads or preserves on the table. I sat and waited for some 5 minutes for my order to be taken. Nothing. I eventually managed to flag down a waiter who simply said "buffet madam" and indicated the direction. I asked for tea. He disappeared. So I found the buffet scrum and helped myself. The eggs had languished for too long on the hot plate and had set. The fruit was all from a tin. The cereals dispensed from machines which crush everything. The bacon tasted of chemical treatment and had long since been a stranger to the pan. You could get no toast at the table until you got lucky with the scuttling Toast Waiter and then you had to find and flag down the One with the Butter/marmalade. Tea/coffee took an age then you had to keep watching for the Man with the Milk, or the Waiter who could get you a Fork/teaspoon/butter knife - in some cases even a cup and saucer. A complete, shambolic nightmare of a meal spent mostly trying to achieve some sort of service instead of enjoying a conversation with fellow passengers, all of whom were struggling with the same issues. It seems that the clear table policy was an exercise to avoid Noro virus. Why then were we all forced to get our own food requiring every passenger to handle every serving utensil at the buffet rather than have it plated and delivered by the staff who we assume we're Noro-free? I don't take lunch, but understood from many conversations with similarly shell-shocked travellers that it was the same mess as at breakfast. Let's get positive. The Balmoral, once you have a map which was finally located in the 'welcome in board' pack, is easy to navigate and all public areas easy to locate. They were pleasant and the staff extremely attentive. I'd have liked to have finish one drink before being asked if I would like another but perhaps they are on commission, hence their persistence. Dinner on night two. The starters were very beautiful, 'nouvelle cuisine' sized offerings. The soup, for which I opted, was pleasant - but tepid. The main course was a perfectly cooked Filet Mignon, quite possibly the nicest I have been served in many a long day, accompanied by delectable spinach in a gorgeous sauce and a small portion of fondant potato. It was all tepid, but tasty. I shan't bore you further except to say that the main course of dinner each night was definitely the stand-out of the cruise food. Breakfast, in every restaurant (I didn't try the Cafe which was a self-service buffet), even after it seemed that their precautions against Noro virus eased to permit milk, sugar butter and preserves back on the table, remained a shambles every morning. I also found that if you could get a waiter you could order and omelette, fish, or my choice of poached eggs which I ordered with bacon. The eggs arrived on a plate swimming in water with the rim of the plate smeared greasily round with a hint of previous use suggested by a hint of dried egg yolk... No bacon. Notwithstanding, assuming it was a one-off glitch but no. The second time I tried the bacon did too, thus making the watery bath greasy. The smears and finger marks on the rim remained as before. The entertainment was, with one exception very good. The musical shows put on by the in-house troupe were outstanding. (P & O please note. Your Headliners are becoming entirely predictable and missable). There was an extremely versatile and entertaining musician in the Morning Light bar and a very pleasant Trio elsewhere whose gentle, well balanced repertoire was ideal music to listen to or as a background for a pleasant chat. The magician was excellent. The 'comedian' an embarrassment. I know, humour is personal. Well, this one managed to entertain only a small handful of the audience the rest of whom were somewhere between bored and down-right embarrassed at his ineptitude. The excursions were excellent. We were after all in Ireland and the tour guides, and often drivers too, were uniformly entertaining as well as informative. The port talks were only available pre-recorded on the in-house TV. The 'presenter' was abysmal. We were encouraged to see see the 'murials' on the walls in Belfast. I am sure as I made myself re-listen twice to be certain. He tripped, stammered, and coughed his monotonous and unenthusiastic way through painfully unexciting scripts. Oh, and there was no TV channel guide in the cabin and when you could find a programme other than a film or Fred Olsen promotion channel it was of out of date Australian television programmes. Why? One last warning to all O2 mobile users. On enquiry at Guest Services as to why it might be that I could not send or receive on my mobile phone shortly after departureI was advised that FO had signed a contract with a new mobile network service provider at the beginning of the year and that the new company did not currently have a contract with O2. Heaven help any passenger leaving home with a pressing need to keep in touch. You can't until you are within range of land. I am so truly sorry that this, my first cruise blog should be so negative but I have tried to be honest, accurate and unexaggerated in this report. I hope never to have such a negative experience ever again. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
We went on a mini cruise and were upgraded. However the bathroom in the cabin was awful cracked tiles and vanity units. Don't what we would have had if we weren't upgraded!! The door of the cabin had to be checked when we left ... Read More
We went on a mini cruise and were upgraded. However the bathroom in the cabin was awful cracked tiles and vanity units. Don't what we would have had if we weren't upgraded!! The door of the cabin had to be checked when we left the cabin as it did not close properly. Every morning there was noise outside our cabin I think they were cleaning the outside of the Ship!! Could this not have been done before we boarded. The chamber maid acme in to do our room while we were getting ready for dinner which was strange. The staff were friendly and food good but the Ship needs a major overhaul. Our luggage should have been taken off and put together as we were travelling in a group. However my cases were lost for a while and were scuffed and dirty when found (annoying because they are new). Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2015
This was our first Fred Olsen Cruise although we have cruised previously with P&O. The food was excellent and superior to any we have had before from the point of view of variety, quality, temperature and service. Although ... Read More
This was our first Fred Olsen Cruise although we have cruised previously with P&O. The food was excellent and superior to any we have had before from the point of view of variety, quality, temperature and service. Although people's opinion of food can be rather subjective we could not fault it in any way. The waiters were efficient, cheerful and friendly as were the rest of the crew who almost invariably made a greeting when passing by. The ship appeared clean and well maintained. Our cabin on 3 deck was small but adequate however we did find it rather warm and stuffy. The portholes did not open of course so the only ventilation was a faint air flow through the one vent. Other passengers also commented on this and some complained to reception but it seemed to have no effect. The narrow single bunks are also a factor if one is used to sleeping together in a double bed. The cabin stewardess kept the cabin spotless. We were part of a walking group so often had two showers a day and the towels were then all changed twice daily even though we did not request it. On one occasion our cabin WC ceased to flush from the early hours of the morning until just after breakfast. I reported this to reception twice, once each by phone and by personal visit. On each occasion I was met with inscrutable politeness but little information. When I asked if any WCs were working I was directed forward to the Neptune Lounge when it turned out that they were working right there by reception! I served as a chief engineer at sea and I am well aware of the difficult and unpleasant nature of sewerage system faults but a little more information at the time would have helped. The Captain's subsequent announcement was rather after the event. The drinks prices were at the top end of reasonable. We did not have the drinks package at £10/person/day and overall our drinks bill worked out almost the same as if we had. This is obviously depends on one's consumption and some people on the package got their money's worth! We prefer to drink less but better quality wine and this started out at about £17/bottle upwards. The house wine was £3.95 for a 175 ml glass and was OK but the cost of nearly £8 for 2 glasses meant that when we fancied a glass each with lunch we often didn't bother. The entertainment in the Neptune Lounge was very good and we enjoyed the cabaret and the theatre company whose enthusiasm and professionalism was self evident. The lounge itself is not brilliant as the seating is cramped and there are pillars blocking some views of the stage but the staff worked hard to find everybody a seat. We only had 750 passengers and if the ship had been fully loaded I think it would have been very crowded. Our fellow passengers were nearly all affable and easy to get on with. We are in our sixties and were at the younger end of the age spectrum so at times it seemed a little like being in a care home but that was probably our problem. Watching the crew attempting to get some very frail and disabled passengers onto the shore tenders in a heavy swell was interesting. Overall would we go again? Yes but only if we upgraded to a better cabin. The Fred Olsen brand based on a providing for elderly UK passengers with friendly staff and high standards but a lack of pretentiousness works for us. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2015
Embarkation couldn't have been any easier..our first time on a cruise I was a nerves reck but once on board and unpacked cases I was fine the ship is very stable nothing like I thought it would be..this was a special 80th birthday ... Read More
Embarkation couldn't have been any easier..our first time on a cruise I was a nerves reck but once on board and unpacked cases I was fine the ship is very stable nothing like I thought it would be..this was a special 80th birthday ELVIS CRUISE..!!! And what great fun..there were two acts on board plus the ships singers dancers band and comedian.quiz nights film shows and talks by the two Elvis E T A'S dance lessons bingo ..there was a coffee and a cocktail of the day every day..we were lead to believed drinks were very pricey on board..NO they are not..a beer was about £3-80p and a cocktail £5 or £6 it did very a little but you could pay more in your local pub at home..cabins are not huge but they are OK.you have tea and coffee in there all the time and a hair dryer..beds are very comfy..the ship is kept spotlessly clean all staff a so sweet and very attentive..the food is fabulous very very tasty each night the them of the menu was changed..again the entertainment was fantastic..we had a couple of tours one to Randers Graceland..not a copy of Memphis Graceland ..the out side is the inside is a shop cafe' and museum and there is a huge room upstairs which is used for talks and concerts..the food in the cafe is great..and the owner Henrik is such an amazing man so down to earth a real people person..our only let down was because of the nature of the cruise the entertainment lounges just weren't really big enough..and left people having to stand through the shows..at different times through the cruise photos were taken at £5 each we felt this was not a bad price..you can also buy frames if you wish to..there is duty free shops on board but you can not buy ciggys or alcohol ..and so I went from being scared stiff of getting on board to NOT wanting to get off..!!!! Thank you so much Fred Olsen and you amazing staff on the Braemar....hope if our pennies allow to be back on board in the future.. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
Our first cruise with Fred Olsen and it won't be our last! We liked the Braemar immediately, the decor is lovely. Staff were mostly Philippino and excellent. Our cabin was definitely small, but was not a problem. Our first cabin ... Read More
Our first cruise with Fred Olsen and it won't be our last! We liked the Braemar immediately, the decor is lovely. Staff were mostly Philippino and excellent. Our cabin was definitely small, but was not a problem. Our first cabin was 3069 and after 2 nights we asked to move as the noise from the floor above was not good. It turned out to be an air conditioning unit on the deck above. We were moved to the port side and all was well. The food was really excellent all the time and one thing that I noticed particularly having sailed with P&O 4 times was the buffet. On Fred O you don't get a tray, get your food and then try to find a table. You wait to be called, not more than a minute or so, then go and get your food. Also, all tables have white tablecloths and napkins. Really nice. Entertainment was pretty good, although my one reserve about Braemar would be that the theatre is very small and not well raked, so if you are in the middle, you have to crane your neck to see. However she is a small ship, and we had a similar situation on Artemis. this cruise was Choirs at Sea and we joined that, although I have not sung since I was 14! It was such fun and we gave two performances on the third last evening at sea. I have put our ports under Madeira as they don't exist on the list. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2012
Our friends invited us along on a cruise this year. They have done a few and love it. We did a cruise years ago with our boys with Island cruise line. This was family oriented and we knew Fred Olsen would be different. A little nervous we ... Read More
Our friends invited us along on a cruise this year. They have done a few and love it. We did a cruise years ago with our boys with Island cruise line. This was family oriented and we knew Fred Olsen would be different. A little nervous we checked out videos and reviews. The age range of clientèle was slightly higher and some reviews were a bit bad.We got our holiday pack which we read excitably and discovered dress codes and theme nights. Off to the shops we went!! Me and the husband both re-newed our holiday wardrobe, not a bad thing I might add! The day of boarding we were very excited and the excitement never ended till we embarked again back at Dover! The crew were fantastic, our waiters were wonderful. The crew made the holiday! We watched the end of cruise, Crew Show like proud parents! The ship is small and intimate so you get to know other holiday makers and you become like a community. Catching up with each other as you bump into one another around the ship. The hosts were great and extremely friendly. I know its there job but it was more. They were great fun. Our cabin was nicely decorated and furnished. Adequate size even for me as I am claustrophobic. We were on deck 4. Two small port holes more than enough light for us. There was however a funny smell now and then which puzzled us. We could not put our finger on what the smell was, however it was not enough to trouble us and spoil our holiday. More than enough cupboard space. Cleaned every day. The entertainment was top class and appealed to all ages. The singers were great and the comedians were hilarious! Even though the majority of holiday makers were elderly there was a right mix off people from families with little ones, who splashed around in the pool. Families with teenagers, who looked very smart on formal dinner nights and us young at heart 40+'s!! We loved it and would do a cruise again with out doubt! We saw some beautiful places, Alhambra Palace! We were truly spoiled, 5 star all the way! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2012
This was a special Fred Olsen cruise for a group of music afficiando's many of whom had not been cruising before,so perhaps a younger set of people than the ship is used to; this could perhaps reflect in their attitude as all bars ... Read More
This was a special Fred Olsen cruise for a group of music afficiando's many of whom had not been cruising before,so perhaps a younger set of people than the ship is used to; this could perhaps reflect in their attitude as all bars were kept open until the wee hours and the midnight meal service, overpopular. I'd like to say there were some really excellent points: - our cabin was delightful - expensive for 3 days - but couldn't be faulted (like another reviewer we had 9902 and that little bedroom off the main one was really useful!) The cabin was spotlessly clean and kept that way during our stay. Bar prices and drinks - both reasonable and extensive; excellent cocktails, served with 'nibbles' and surprisingly cheap! Everyone on the boat commented on this! Okay, bad bits - the reception staff were actively unhelpful. We asked the best way to get into Amsterdam from the terminal and not one person knew! SURELY there could be details left in the reception area even if the staff themselves have no knowledge. Thankfully a guest returning from his outing gave us the details - met with blank faces from the receptionist (no she didn't write it down for any other guest!) I asked for a safety pin - got shrugged shoulders and 'perhaps the shop sells them' (shop not open in port btw!). Despairing of this "don't know, don't care" attitude, I bumped into our cabin stewardess on the way back who said there was one in the sewing kit. Thank heavens for her! I'm afraid I also need to mention the food; now I've not been on a 3 star all inclusive in Benidorm, but this is how I imagine the food would be. The evening meal was just dreadful. All hot food plated and left to 'keep hot' for goodness knows how long before being sent out, stacked with stained microwave plate rings to separate them, into the restaurant for your delectation. The first night I had linguine - put my fork in and the WHOLE bowl of it came up in a bowl shaped lump; oh yuck! I could go on, but I'm sure readers will get the gist. The company was fab, cabin lovely and bar drinks and service super; lets leave on a good note! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2012
Having been left some money by my late adored mother I decided to spend some of it on a cruise ,something I hadn't done since about 1979 when I took a party of school children on the Uganda to the eastern Med. That had been amazing ... Read More
Having been left some money by my late adored mother I decided to spend some of it on a cruise ,something I hadn't done since about 1979 when I took a party of school children on the Uganda to the eastern Med. That had been amazing and I wondered if cruising was still as good as it had been then. Well, the ship may be more modern but the atmosphere was just the same and heavily dependent for success on having a happy and efficient crew. No probs there as it would be impossible to be better looked after.Three cheers"and one cheer more" for an amazing crew. We had booked the Southampton to Venice via almost everywhere cruise from 6th June but at the last minute were offered the previous cruise to the Fjords at an unmissable price so took that as well and so were away for 28 nights. As followers of cruising will probably now know we never got to Norway because of a pilots' strike and so had to make do with an ad hoc tour of N. Germany,Denmark ,Sweden and Belgium. Disappointing of course but nobody's fault and I still enjoyed it as an hors d'oeuvres before the main meal. Apart from severe gales in The Bay of Biscay, fog ,which meant we never saw the Rock of Gibraltar, and being late into Almeria(well worth missing in my opinion!) and Tunis everything else went like clockwork and the weather was glorious.Wonderful , eye opening visits to Corfu, Dubrovnik, Split, Venice( is there anything in the world as miraculous as sailing into Venice as the sun bursts through the morning mist?) No I didn't think so!Sicily, Malta,Ibiza and Lisbon completed the itinerary of a fabulous voyage and I was seriously reluctant to leave the ship even after a month (oh the joy of retirement.) Nothing to fault about the food(close at times to haute cuisine) and the cabins, we had lovely cabins on Coral deck for the first cruise as well as our super SS for the second. Only niggles might be a couple of poor value excursions and a few tour guides with "interesting" english and an inability ever to stop talking and allow us to watch the scenery pass by! Oh, and the presence of The Daily Mail "highlights" as ship's newspaper.Why does Fred Olsen assume that we are all right wing bigots? In real life I'd rather take poison than read that apology for accurate news. Anyway I'm hooked! Apart from The Fjords in August 2013 I've already booked The Canaries and Azores on Black Watch in November this year and I can hardly wait. I've at last found my dream holiday style that means I can take plenty of stuff with me and I NEVER HAVE TO DRIVE!!In the second we dined in the Spey restaurant which I thought magical as one dines while watching the sea and land pass by. And we had wonderful table companions in a couple from Brisbane which meant every evening had good conversation as well as good food. We also enjoyed the "special" food nights,Indian ,Thai, Chinese and Spanish in The Palms Cafe. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2012
Embarkation was from Southampton, following a long coach journey with Portlink (which was quite pleasant). Not an entirely smooth embarkation, passengers sat around for sometime until called by batch numbers, 20 a time. Initial ... Read More
Embarkation was from Southampton, following a long coach journey with Portlink (which was quite pleasant). Not an entirely smooth embarkation, passengers sat around for sometime until called by batch numbers, 20 a time. Initial impressions of passenger mix - mainly UK & older clientele. Although we are in our early 60s, we felt a little young - although, to be fair, many were in 60s & 70s fit & healthy...but there were a significant proportion who were 85+ (regular medical emergencies happened throughout the cruise). Cabin was a bit of a squeeze, but sufficient storage & wardrobe space. However, soundproofing was poor - you could clearly hear neighbours' conversations. Cabin steward very good. Ship's facilities were very good for a medium sized ship, easy to get around, signposted quite well & stable ship. Several bars / lounges / good library. Crew were well organised. Quite a few spaces outside, sun deck, promenade deck, & tiered stern for quiet (if cramped) areas. Food was of average to good standard UK fayre, reasonable variety with efficient dining rooms + buffet at Palm's cafe, which we used for lunches. Dining room staff were attentive & efficient; good basic variety of wines. Entertainment was UK style shows, although the crew show was better than the professional company...demonstrating a rather talented crew, especially the engine room guys who were an absolute hoot! Standard fayre for organisation & information. Docking & free time excellent. A variety of tours were available, enjoyed the visit to Mini-Hollywood, where they film the spaghetti westerns. As mentioned, this was a themed cruise...& I undertook art classes under the tuition of Maurice Greenwood who inspired us to produce our own styles of watercolours...very gentle approach, fun & learned a great deal for someone who had never painted before! Overall, fair value for money with lots of daytime activities. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
We have just returned from the much-publicised Titanic Memorial Cruise on board the MS Balmoral and we'll never experience another cruise like it again. My husband and I are veteran cruisers and this was our 29th cruise and 4th ... Read More
We have just returned from the much-publicised Titanic Memorial Cruise on board the MS Balmoral and we'll never experience another cruise like it again. My husband and I are veteran cruisers and this was our 29th cruise and 4th with Fred Olsen. The Balmoral is a similar size to the Titanic, being 43,000 tons against the Titanic's 46,000 tons. We sailed from Southampton in the wake of the Titanic, 100 years after this luxury liner's ill-fated transatlantic crossing. When we boarded at the cruise terminal, the staff (and a lot of the passengers) had really got into the spirit of the thing by dressing in 1912 period costume, and this was to be a theme throughout the voyage. I like the Balmoral because she is a proper, traditional ship and not a floating block of flats like some of the modern monstrosities. In fact we had been on the Balmoral when she was the Norwegian Crown in 2003, but the ship was refitted in 2008 and we didn't recognise anything from the NCL days. As we were commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's maiden (and only) voyage, everything had been organised and carefully thought out to the finest detail. As well as the excellent food and service that FOCL are renowned for, we were offered the Titanic "dish of the day" so we could enjoy fare typical of that which was served on the Titanic. In addition, there was a string quintet that played music from the Titanic bandsmen's repertoire and on the formal evenings everyone made the effort and dressed in the sartorial elegance of a century ago. Each day there were a couple of lectures / presentations given by maritime historians and descendants of Titanic passengers and crew members; they were superb and really gave Titanic buffs the chance to hear true stories that had been passed down through the generations, as well as dispelling some of the ridiculous myths that have sprung up about the Titanic in recent years. The highlight of the voyage was the special Memorial Service that was given on the evening of the 14th/15th April. The Balmoral was in the exact spot in the Atlantic in which the Titanic struck the iceberg and sank, 100 years to the very minute later. After a memorial service we were invited onto the aft decks, where the ship's padre blessed three beautiful wreaths before they were cast into the sea. At 2.20am, the ship's whistle was sounded in salute and we all sang "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" (the hymn of the Royal Navy) before the band struck up - yes, they even had a band on board - with "Nearer, My God, To Thee". There wasn't a dry eye on the ship. They even had the White Star Line pennant flying from the stern mast. The Memorial Service really did the Titanic victims proud, and was such a moving and dignified occasion. To be there in the exact spot 100 years later was quite an experience, and one that we'll never be able to repeat. Titanic aside, the entertainment on board the Balmoral was very good. They have an excellent orchestra and the featured artistes were brilliant and had something for everyone. There were also three Captain's cocktail parties with copious free drinks and the Captain, Robert Bamberg, always used to end his noon announcements with "A very good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen and, from the Bridge, all is well", which because an absolute catchphrase by the end of the cruise. :-) As we were following the Titanic's route we only visited three ports of call and these were Cobh (formerly Queenstown)in Ireland, as well as Halifax, Nova Scotia and finally in New York. The ship stayed in port overnight in Halifax and New York, which gave a chance to explore these interesting places further. In fact it was nice to be on terra firma after seven nights in a very rough Atlantic ocean. The only fly in the ointment of the entire holiday was the way we were just chucked off the ship and dumped in New York at the end. We had been told that we would be disembarking the Balmoral at 10.00am and would be taken, by coach, to the Milford Plaza Hotel in New York to await our airport transfers at 3.00pm. Instead, we were called to disembark just after 8.30am and just left on the pavement at the pier, where we had an hour and a half to wait for the coaches. It was chaos with several hundred people and their bags milling around outside the cruise terminal. When the buses did eventually arrive, we were taken to the hotel as promised, but just dumped outside. When we went into the hotel, thinking they would have a conference room and maybe some tea and coffee facilities for us, they had no knowledge of anyone from the Balmoral coming at all; they were not expecting us. We therefore had to kill about four hours before our airport transfer, lugging our carry-on bags with us everywhere. Maybe they thought they were doing us a favour, giving us a few extra hours in New York city centre, but our overall impression was that no-one was happy with this arrangement. Nonetheless, we didn't let this spoil our holiday: the ship, the food, the entertainment and of course the whole Titanic theme were just first class and we'll be left with unique and priceless memories of this trip forever. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
We went on this cruise because we were very attracted by the golf package. We enjoyed playing on 4 different course with the group of 18 golfers. The professional golfer was very pleasant, but several ladies agreed that he should not ... Read More
We went on this cruise because we were very attracted by the golf package. We enjoyed playing on 4 different course with the group of 18 golfers. The professional golfer was very pleasant, but several ladies agreed that he should not have just gone off and played with low handicap men, but spent some time with each group. Suite 7031 was excellent, huge suite and balcony. We had canapes each evening, some very good, some a bit ordinary and stale. We eventually opted for 8.30 dinner, we did not like either choice (6.15 or 8.30)and will always in future only go with cruise that offers free seating. It was rather late to eat and had one 'less than fun' occupant on our table. Food varied. some excellent steaks, sometimes 2 had good meat and 2 had poorly cooked same choice. eg Lobster tended to be a small amount with lots of pasta . At night the boiled potatoes were dark blue and horrid. We had one excellent departure where the group played on the aft deck, but why not for most ports. The aft deck has very large area for smokers which made it less pleasant for non smokers. The one late sailing was from dominica on a sunday, which was total waste of time, NOTHING was open except one very grotty bar. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2011
The itinerary for this cruise to Spitzbergen was excellent. Being quite a small ship (some 900 passengers) we were able to sail between the Norwegian coast and the many coastal islands. Much of the area is almost deserted and the views ... Read More
The itinerary for this cruise to Spitzbergen was excellent. Being quite a small ship (some 900 passengers) we were able to sail between the Norwegian coast and the many coastal islands. Much of the area is almost deserted and the views were terrific for much of the journey, including a memorable visit up Trollfiord, where we seemed to just squeeze through. Svalbard was magical but we were only able to make one stop (at the tiny scientific settlement of Ny Alesund)as the fiord entrance to our second one (Longyearbyen) was blocked by sea-ice due, apparently, to a particular set of climatic and wind conditions. The weather was reasonably kind; mostly dry with 5 degree C temperatures and moderate winds. The other ports of call in Norway, including Bodoe, Lifoten Islands (a welcome but unexplained last minute addition to the itinerary), Honningswag (for North Cape),Tromso and Bergen were all very attractive. We were pleased that in all cases the ship was moored close to the centres of the towns and, as not particularly agile OAP's we were mostly able to walk round the ports. We rented a car at Bodoe (cheaper for 4 than the tours) and took short but interesting tour at Bergen; otherwise we strolled around. The service on board was efficient and mostly cheerful and friendly. The reception desk was sometimes not very good; there seemed to be a problem with understanding English for anything but the routine questions. The food was mostly good and occasionally excellent. Wines at £13 a bottle and up were cheaper than on many other cruises. The evening song and dance shows were severely limited in scope by the facilities. My wife liked the Fourth Dimension trio who performed most evenings in the Coral Lounge, although I found them over amplified. The comedian was worth seeing both his shows; old fashioned material but not rude and quite funny. We can get bored on 'days at sea' and there were 6 or 7 of these. One of the themes of the cruise was Bridge, and as very modest players we found this excellent. On all days at sea, there was an hours lesson in the morning (one for intermediates and one for beginners) and then about 3 hours of duplicate play in the afternoons. All this was run most efficiently and in a very friendly manner and was an unexpected bonus on the holiday. There were also some port lectures (quite good) and other general lectures (Concorde, Bletchley Park etc) which were reportedly good.There were some shortcomings. Our cabin (3051) was rather small, and particularly short of drawer space. We managed, but I would not wish to make a long trip (4 weeks or more) in it. The airconditioning did not work at first, but was repaired fairly quickly (change of controller required) when reported. Our friends in the next cabin also had similar trouble, which took longer to fix. Also, quite often, one of the 4 elevators was not working for short periods. Do they do any preventative maintenance? At these high latitudes, satellite services (television and Internet) suffer badly. I was frustrated by the frequent reference in the Daily Times to 'occasional poor reception' when there was absolutely none for most of the trip. I found that information on location, weather prospects etc. was poor. There were screens dotted around the main deck purporting to show location but their scale was such as to make the information indecipherable. Weather reports seemed to consist of out of date notices telling us what the actual conditions were the day before, with no hint of any forecasting; important in those climes. The captains daily report at noon was OK if you didn't miss it; it wasn't repeated. Overall, a lovely, interesting trip, but the ship could be better run. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
hi there i thought i would do a review of my cruise. BOOKING i booked this as a group cruise. i managed to get a share in an outside cabin which saved me £100. EMBARKATION i got train from waterloo east to dover priory where a free ... Read More
hi there i thought i would do a review of my cruise. BOOKING i booked this as a group cruise. i managed to get a share in an outside cabin which saved me £100. EMBARKATION i got train from waterloo east to dover priory where a free shuttle bus was waiting to take me to the cruise terminal. the newer terminal terminal 2 was used. i entered and filling out form to say i have not been ill. i went upstairs to go through x ray and check in. there was only a short queue for check in. i told them that i had the only ticket, they said when he turned up he would be allowed onboard. after having my picture taken i entered the ship showing my cruise card. then was told where my cabin was. CABIN i had 4136 on coral deck 4 i entered to to find mike's bag already there. a large cabin with a picture window and another locked window inside spoiling the view a bit. loads of drawer space much more than both of us needed. nice size bathroom with a shower, a safe that did not seem to work! after meeting mike my cabinmate who seemed very nice. we saw our stewardess NOON who i told about the safe. they got some batteries and it was up and running. MEET AND GREET as i had a welcome aboard at 1800 i had a quick meet in the observatory lounge with a few couples which was very nice. WELCOME ABOARD at 1800 a welcome aboard was arrange from ships monthly at the lido lounge with wine and canapes which was a nice way of meeting the other 39 in our group. DINING at 1830 1st sitting we went to deck 6 the BALLINDAROCK RESTAURANT we all were seated together which was good. the food was nice, the waiter was very helpful TEN. but they were trying to push the bottled water a bit. later we all got tap water which was free. i ordered a bottles of wine which was cheaper than a glass of wine everynight, as mike did not want any wine. we had 2 formal nights,1 western, 1 british night and 1 casual. there was turkey served and christmas pudding and the baked alaska parade which is always worth seeing. the creme brulee was ok but not as good as others i have had. i went to the buffet in palms cafe one night it was indian buffet which was nice. there were 6 of us there. for breakfast there was open sitting in palms cafe and ballindarock restaurant both doing a buffet. the other 2 restaurants spey and avon we did not try. they had the swiss muesli in the dining room it was good but not as good as i have made at home(there was something missin) EXCURSIONS the ones they had for AAHUS did not look very good but through SHIPS MONTHLY we got a free excursion in each port. AAHUS we had a trip to eemshaven to see the wooden frigate that was the highlight. unlike the christmas market that was the LOWLIGHT. as it was dark only a few stalls there and a few old houses to look at. we did not want to wait another hour to get on the coach. so we made our way back to the ship on our own. HAMBURG we did a did on a steamship and the refrigerator ship CAP SAN DEIGO i thought it was an english tour but it was a self guided one. AMSTERDAM we had a canal trip and saw a lot, the captain had great sense of humour and was passed very close to our ship. ENTERTAINMENT was 1st rate DON REID comedian was good, as was ANDREW ROBLEY thew singer. the highlight was DOMINIC HALPIN AND THE HONEY BEES a fantastic group. the production show i missed but hear it was not the best dave SHOPS not a great selection of souvenirs, no t shirts with the ship on, no pin badges. or the key ring with the ship on i got on the braemar. PHOTOS good selection but no prices up 8.95 for most but portaits were 19.99. the dvd wasc good value though. MY THOUGHTS i love the ship after hearing many mixed reviews she was very easy to get around,. shame we could not get a bridge tour though Read Less
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