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3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We thought it would be fun to cross the Atlantic and a 16 day Re-positioning Cruise offers quite good value for money, We flew to Barbados, visited Antigua, Tortola and St Kitts and, after 6 days at sea crossing the Atlantic, stopped at ... Read More
We thought it would be fun to cross the Atlantic and a 16 day Re-positioning Cruise offers quite good value for money, We flew to Barbados, visited Antigua, Tortola and St Kitts and, after 6 days at sea crossing the Atlantic, stopped at Ponta Delgada in the Azores and then called in at La Coruna before docking in Southampton. We had never traveled with Fred Olsen before but had heard good reports from others. We thought the Braemar, a small ship relatively speaking, with just 900 passengers and just for grown ups (i.e. no children) would suit us well. We had lovely weather, pretty calm seas and the staff were delightful and very attentive. Our cabin (an outside one with a picture window) was reasonably spacious and had all the facilities we would expect. Importantly, the beds were very comfortable! When at sea I enjoyed playing Bridge and we liked the Quizzes. Some of the talks were interesting but the selection of films in the cabin was not so good. I thought the extras were very expensive (drinks packages, WiFi and short excursions) and was disappointed with the standard of the entertainment and some of the food, though the Breakfasts and the Food Stations were good. The overall conclusion is, therefore, that we enjoyed ourselves but would not rave about it and would probably choose to go for another P & O cruise next time, as there is a wider age range. Most of those on board were quite a bit older than us (and we are in our early 70's!) and they were - for the large part - loyal Fred Olsen repeat travelers! Horses for Courses, as they say! ps. A note of caution when booking: While the actual cruise is excellent value for money, when you add on additional costs for insurance (more expensive in the Caribbean and USA), gratuities, on-board expenses for WiFi, bar bills and excursions, rail fares, taxis, overnight hotel stays and also - in our case - kennel costs, your outlay is doubled! It is still a lovely holiday but it is too easy to overlook these when making the decision to go! Enjoy! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
We were very apprehensive With regards to the trans Atlantic part of this cruise as we thought we would be bored being st sea for so long but were extremely pleased with the amount of entertainment on board such as lectures, classes and ... Read More
We were very apprehensive With regards to the trans Atlantic part of this cruise as we thought we would be bored being st sea for so long but were extremely pleased with the amount of entertainment on board such as lectures, classes and facilities available that in the end there was not time to do everything. The quizzes were very good and my wife joined the choir run by Claire-Marie who was very professional finalising with a concert on the last Friday afternoon with the drama and ukulele groups which was well attended by the guests on board. An overall memorable cruise with special attention given on my birthday aboard the ship without needing to tell Fred Olsen anything. The entertainment team, lecturers and guest entertainers were excellent with a variety of entertainment from opera to song and dance, comedy, and the staff evening was excellent. We also were very impressed with all the musicians on board Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
This was our first Fred. Olsen experience, a repositioning cruise from Southampton to Barbados ending just before Christmas. Perhaps it was for that reason that the ship was only 2/3 full. We had picked just the right time to get caught up ... Read More
This was our first Fred. Olsen experience, a repositioning cruise from Southampton to Barbados ending just before Christmas. Perhaps it was for that reason that the ship was only 2/3 full. We had picked just the right time to get caught up in the Gatwick drone chaos - but we anticipate. Read on for The Case of the Disgruntled Bridegroom. The deck plans for Braemar show no facilities for children or teens. This was rather a plus point as we are both in our early 70s and like a quiet life, but it was a bit startling to discover within a very few hours that the ship was essentially a floating old folks' home. We were well on the youthful end of the spectrum. Interestingly, there was a surprising number of singles. Embarkation was totally painless: 20 minutes after arriving, both we and the cases were in the cabin. This was pretty basic (hand wash dispenser, 2-in-1 in the shower is as much as you get in the bathroom) and at the lower end of the range for space, but clean and perfectly adequate. The food was excellent. We've cruised with half a dozen other lines and this was the best we've ever had. It's fixed time dining only in the Thistle and Grampian restaurants, there is also the Palms buffet which we used infrequently. The service from the staff was as attentive and efficient as we've had anywhere - there was the occasional misunderstanding but you can get that with any line. Another first-class aspect was the ship's song-and-dance team - only 4 singers and 4 dancers, but they had people on their feet applauding with a Queen-themed evening. We took 3 ship's tours and they were a bit of a curate's egg: the basic coach tour of Lisbon was just not particularly interesting; at St Maarten, Someone Had Blundered - it took us an hour to get the mile to a beach bar because the water-taxi we were promised didn't start till noon on Sunday; on the other hand, the St Kitts Scenic Railway was a great experience. Having given the basic facts, let's turn to the overall experience, and it seemed to us that Fred. Olsen inhabit a faintly surreal alternative universe that gave a unique flavour to the cruise: - we found tea-making facilities in the cabin - but they live in the wardrobe; - the cabin TV information system was a delight. When we boarded (Monday) it was showing the activity programme for last Thursday; the ship locator shows either the entire world, a patch of blue about 20 miles across or (apparently) a line of buoys in the Amazon or River Plate. Ship's time and TV time are not always the same thing. - dining in Thistle when the ship is manoeuvring in port is an experience not to be missed: the engines thunder, everything shakes, the glass and cutlery chink and rattle. Shut your eyes and pretend you're Jim Lovell taking off in Apollo 13. - if you want to change table or sitting, they will CHARGE YOU (if you're Anchor class, viz. you've got a cheap deal). - whatever you do, watch the video on how to put disembarkation labels on your cases BEFORE trying to do it yourself. I could go on. The fact remains, we had a thoroughly enjoyable cruise: the weather and seas were good, there were plenty of sunbeds, I put on 6lb ... With disembarkation, they rose to the occasion. Half the guests were due to fly back to Gatwick, but couldn't because the outcoming flight was cancelled thanks to drones. We were given reallocated cabins for an extra night on board. The empty cabin we were allocated had wedding bells and a Do Not Disturb sign ready for the arriving couple. The trouble was, they were already in residence when we tried to get in ... Someone Else Had Blundered. They got us away effectively 24 hours late, and I think they handled it as well as anyone could reasonably expect. Not an enjoyable experience but not their fault. One last point about the flight back: apparently Fred. Olsen charter a Thomas Cook Airbus. As one can, I went on the TC website and paid for extra legroom seats. Apparently they take no notice of this because the boarding passes we were given were for quite different, standard, seats. However, all's well that ends well: we raised this with the cabin staff and they put us in 2 spare Premium seats. Had the flight been full, though ... worth thinking about. A good trip. Would we go again? Definitely. 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 2017
We chose this cruise as a stress less way of crossing to Barbados for a family gathering. The cabin (except it’s location) was excellent, food amazing, good entertainment. The distances from the ship to port gates nearly finished ... Read More
We chose this cruise as a stress less way of crossing to Barbados for a family gathering. The cabin (except it’s location) was excellent, food amazing, good entertainment. The distances from the ship to port gates nearly finished us off, no shuttles of any kind for poor walkers. Our cabin was mid-ships as far away from elevator as possible even though I had repeatedly asked for easy access. It was very shady being completely overhung by the top deck , a suite with sunbeds but with absolutely no sun! We did however have a full blown medical emergency which was very efficiently dealt with and at reasonable cost ,we also thought that the wine was very reasonably priced. We would go again in a flash but NEVER to an unknown cabin number ad would hope that some sort of shuttle service at the ports would be organised. How do Saga manage this situation? Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
As I had done BOUDICCA a few times including when she was "GOLDEN PRINCESS". I wanted to do a cruise on her sadly money is not great but love cruises. She was doing a repositioning cruise to FALMOUTH I picked this one. PRE ... Read More
As I had done BOUDICCA a few times including when she was "GOLDEN PRINCESS". I wanted to do a cruise on her sadly money is not great but love cruises. She was doing a repositioning cruise to FALMOUTH I picked this one. PRE CRUISE. I booked this cruise Direct through FRED OLSEN and booked an inside sin SUNDAY 10th april 2016. I travelled down from LONDON to SOUTHAMPTON, Being a sunday the train was diverted via HAVANT. On arrival I went to the IBIS HOTEL to stay the night. I organised a dinner at CASA ITALIA restaurant it was a eat as much buffet always good. then after a lovely dinner went to the port to see "OVATION OF THE SEAS". sadly it was raining hard. MONDAY 11april 2016. I wanted to see BOUDICCA arrive so woke at 5am just had time to get down to see her arrive. then AIDA MAR and SAGA SAPPHIRE arrived. then back to MCdonalds for breakfast(it was cheaper than hotel buffet!) then to WEST QUAY to HARRY RAMSDENS FISH AND CHIPS. as check in was not till 2.30pm. EMBARKATION. I walked to pier 106 mayflower terminal. A small queue to Check in got a boarding card and after 20 mins boarded the ship. I was shown to my cabin 4128. I picked this as it was close to cabin 4140 which was my old cabin. CABIN Quite a good size cabin. a few drawers, Bathroom with a shower but very little toiletries. A single bed and a pull out one. as it was a short cruise I had to carry the case on myself, so quickly unpacked. LIFEBOAT DRILL. For some reason nobody wanted to tell me the time for the lifeboat drill even the daily sheet said nothing apart from saying there would be one! I went to the buffet and started to eat something when they announced the drill would start in 10 mins! I rush through a snack and no luck getting a drink. Luckily you did not have to take your life jacket so went straight there. It was well done showing how to put it on. DINING. I had early sitting for DINNER I had a table for 6 but there was only 3 of us. I had soup and IRISH STEW which was pretty good. DESSERTS were very poor I had KIWI TART not very good(hope it is cause it is a short cruise) Breakfast was in the DINING ROOM mostly BUFFET but omelettes could be ordered. I found SWISS MUESLI which I like. ENTERTAINMENT. The show was a comedian he was pretty good. SHOPS. Not a great choice I already had the model i did not find anything worth buying. PHOTOSHOP. Not cheap £9.99-£15.00 for photos I bought a few. MISS. I have a friend who draws ships they are very good but could only afford to buy one so far. HARRY gave the latest to the CAPTAIN he put it in the CREW MESS not the best place in my opinion. I did my best to go there and take a picture of it. I also managed to get into my old cabin to get a picture this was hard work as the steward did not want to get into trouble. TUESDAY 12th april 2016. DISEMBARKATION. This was pretty good after I had BREAKFAST I left my cabin and went onto the deck as it was quieter than the PUBLIC ROOMS. I had a lovely viuew of us arriving in FALMOUTH. After 45 mins my deck was called and I left the ship. TRASPORTATION. when I left the ship I was asked where I was going I said the town just keep walking I was told. no mention of a shuttle bus that ran, not great service. FINAL COMMENTS. I enjoyed going on the BOUDICCA again albeit a very short one. Food could have been better. But all in all a good cruise. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2016
This was our sixteenth cruise and our first with Fred Olsen. What a brilliant find. We thought the whole experience was fantastic from the minute we saw the ship in Bridgetown to when we left Braemar in Dover. It was such a pleasure to ... Read More
This was our sixteenth cruise and our first with Fred Olsen. What a brilliant find. We thought the whole experience was fantastic from the minute we saw the ship in Bridgetown to when we left Braemar in Dover. It was such a pleasure to be on a small, VERY friendly ship, we have tired of the glitzy, enormous floating resorts and have now found a cruise line that treats you as an individual rather than a number. We booked last minute finding an absolute bargain in the national press. Fifteen nights cruise, free drinks package and tips plus £200 cash back. We usually book a balcony or outside cabin but this time decided to try an inside. This was perfectly adequate and was very spacious as it was designed to take 4 people, so loads of wardrobe space. What made the cruise special was the Crew, from Captain down to room steward nothing was too much trouble and you were always greeted with a smile. Food was excellent and the Palm Café was another brilliant find. Entertainment was very good and varied with some excellent guest performers. All in all a great 15 days and one we shall definitely repeat. Well done 'Fred' Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2015
This was a a relocation cruise back from winter in the Caribbean to Dover. The first week was a cruise round the islands. The flight out from Gatwick on a Monarch Airbus was cramped and we were in the premium seats!. The hot meal was ... Read More
This was a a relocation cruise back from winter in the Caribbean to Dover. The first week was a cruise round the islands. The flight out from Gatwick on a Monarch Airbus was cramped and we were in the premium seats!. The hot meal was inedible tasteless rubber chicken. Just hand out some good sandwiches! At least we were on time but the Manchester passengers were four hours late and were plunged straight into the emergency drill. The crew were excellent but passenger tempers and nerves were frayed. Balcony cabin on deck 8 was comfortable though cramped. Everything worked and the cabin was kept immaculate by the friendly stewardess. Meals were very good with meat and fish excellent. Decent cheese too but dreary overcooked veg. Please, no more broccoli. Certainly not fresh but mainly out of a big packet. Waiter service in the Grampian was fine but Captain Waiter not good at keeping an eye on things. If I order an expensive bottle of red wine in advance I expect it to be opened and St room temperature. I did not appreciate his attempt to divert the blame onto the over stretched table waiters. Tours were uniform ally good and the tours people lacked the arrogance that is sometimes seen on Balmoral. Good value for money, too. Cruise Director Ricky Jermy excellent and a good comedian and excellent RAF Red Arrows chap gave nine talks. Pat in the Fitness a Centre also engaging and helpful. Captain Bamberg is lightening up and conveys a calm confidence and a sense of humour. Thanks to all of them. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2013
My husband and I had the worst cruise in 25 years of cruising. We were due to leave Southampton on 20th December but the Captain announced that due to heavy storms we would have to stay in port overnight and leave the following afternoon. ... Read More
My husband and I had the worst cruise in 25 years of cruising. We were due to leave Southampton on 20th December but the Captain announced that due to heavy storms we would have to stay in port overnight and leave the following afternoon. We have subsequently discovered that we believe the delay was due to technical problems with the ship, bearing in mind this ship had a 2 day breakdown on the previous cruise, and a further breakdown on the following cruise. So because we were late leaving, our stop in Madeira was cancelled and our first stop would be Barbados after 11 sea days. We actually sailed past Madeira half a day later than scheduled so we could have had a stop there. The P&O ship Aurora left Southampton on the day we were due to leave so how did that ship weather the storm.? We could have left on time we were sure if the ship was mechanically fit. The first week onboard was a nightmare, the weather was awful and a lot of passengers were seasick, me included, I couldn't wait to reach a port, any port. The captain announced that we were only going to be able to have three and a half days port stops instead of the scheduled seven stops. We emailed Fred Olsen to show our disappointment and eventually the port stops were extended a bit, but still only 4 and a half days, everyone was disgusted. On top of all this people were so upset at having to pay £2 a day to have their dining time changed, it is an absolute ripoff. People should ask for the opposite sitting to the one they want because it is a money spinner for Fred. Then they closed one of the bars for 4or5 daysto redecorate it, can you beleive this. The next bombshell was workmen turned up and started moving a companionway on two decks. There was drilling and sawing all day for days on end, and tarpaulin coverings which looked so shabby, So many people complained that they stopped daytime work and started nightwork on both decks.You couldn't make it up. So many people couldn't sleep with the noise that the workmen went back to daytime work. It was so disrespectful to all the passengers onboard, no compensation was offered, not even a complementary bottle of wine on each table. Can you imagine it, sitting on deck, or eating lunch on deck and looking at men working on your deck and the one below, I could go on and on about our total disappointment with this cruise, the food was very average, not up to previous Fred Olsen cruises. We have cruised with P&O, Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Princess and never ever experienced anything like this. We have used Fred Olsen cruises for years, we are gold members, and have always recommended them as good value for money and really lovely waiters, cabin crew and reception staff, in fact all the crew have always been exceptional, but since old Fred handed over to young Fred it has all gone to pot, it is such a shame. I really think because of all these cutbacks and lack of consideration for their passengers enjoyment that their days are numbered. We are very upset by this and so are many other Fred Olsen passengers that we know. Bring back original Fred please. I would never cruise on the Black watch again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2012
We (my wife and I) flew out to Peru to catch the last leg of the world cruise back to Southampton, and almost literally pushed the boat out to take a Premier Suite (their top suite). We expected superb service, but that was in part a big ... Read More
We (my wife and I) flew out to Peru to catch the last leg of the world cruise back to Southampton, and almost literally pushed the boat out to take a Premier Suite (their top suite). We expected superb service, but that was in part a big let-down. I'm disabled, and asked for assistance at the airport and ship. The airport was great with this. Coming from oop north, we stayed at the Hilton (package included parking) the previous night, and it was probably a good job we did. The rumour mill on the ship said that some 16 passengers missed the flight (a charter by Fred Olsen) due to a car crash on the Gatwick approach road, though I believe they did catch up with the ship at a later port. The hotel was OK but no better, but they arranged wheelchair assistance for me from the hotel right through to boarding the aircraft. For reasons unknown, they don't actually advertise this, and we found out only by accident. But a superb service it is, and they should make more of it. The flight was with Pullmantur, and I'd never heard of them (a small, Spanish charter company). We were on a 747-400, and had upgraded seats. These seats were on the upper deck, and were full business class seats and service. Service (and comfort) was excellent, and a lot of passengers (including the standard class passengers) were congratulating the crew on providing such good service. I'd certainly fly with them again! Unfortunately, the ship did not do as well. It provided no help for me (a wheelchair was required) for embarkation (nor for disembarkation). Not an impressive start! However, check-in was pain-free, so the embarkation was not a real problem. Taken to our cabin, our cabin attendant (CA, named Beth) greeted us and vanished. She came back with some sparkling wine, but only ran through the facilities when we asked her to (there were several things that were not obvious). Unfortunately, that was the start of poor service that went on almost every day for the rest of the trip. She cleaned OK, but it was done at her convenience, not ours. If there was a separate category for the CA, it would have a zero rating. The cabin was huge (about 550 sq ft, or 50 sq mtrs), though quite a lot of that space was dead because of the design (essentially two long cabins with a partial partition between them). It was still a great deal more space that we were used to, and it was pleasant to be able to sit in there. There was also a decent balcony, which was very good when we were in South America and the Caribbean but of no use when crossing the Atlantic! We got this cabin because of the length of the cruise, and it was well worth it for us. However, the smaller suites were probably better value for money. That first night, we were too late for the first sitting at dinner (which is the sitting we'd asked for), so we ate in the buffet restaurant. That was a bit of a mistake, as the quality was rather poor, and we didn't eat there again in the cruise. Overall, then, we'd not had a good introduction to the cruise. We mainly ate in the main dining room, with waiter service. The waiters, on a couple of occasions, asked me to move once I'd sat down, though at considerable inconvenience to myself. Apparently, they'd have had to go slightly further to walk round me if I hadn't moved. Never met that before! There was lots available for breakfast, but the theme of the food for me was the lovely, fresh bread rolls -- I'm missing that now I'm home. Food generally in the main restaurant was good, though not excellent. My wife struggled, as things she liked were often paired with things she disliked. Not a problem with separates (like veg), but a real problem with sauces and the like. Still, she didn't starve. The meat chef must have been on holiday, though. Medium steak would come out rare, really well done would be medium rare, and rare came out sometimes rare and sometimes uncooked. There were quite a few comments about this. And portion sizes were so variable. Roast chicken was half a chicken as a main course; garlic mushrooms as a starter comprised 4 small (about 12mm, or half an inch, across) mushrooms -- thank goodness I didn't sneeze! Someone in the reviews has mentioned fine dining, but it was a long way from that. The only thing that reminded me of fine dining was the small size of some of the dishes! One thing I can recommend: the fish and chips from the Marquee Bar. The fish was really sweet, and turned out to be an Asian river fish (no, I can't remember the name). This dish was excellent, and very popular. The waiters, once you'd been there a couple of days, were excellent. Our regular (dinner) waiter kept an eye open for us at the other meals, and waved us over to a suitable table. He served us well, and anticipated many of our likes and dislikes as well as my mobility problems. But the best part was that he (and others) involved themselves in our foibles! I'm a Daffy Duck fan, and it was DD's "birthday" on 17th April (he was 75!). I arranged a party for him at dinner that night, and everyone entered into the spirit of it. Our waiter sat a Jester puppet of Daffy on a wine glass; we had the usual song of "Happy Birthday to Daffy" sung by 6 or so waiters and a couple of officers; and they shook Daffy's hand at the end! I've never enjoyed a birthday so much. And after that, I was called Mr Daffy (or just Daffy) by a number of the waiters. (And yes, Daffy enjoyed his party as well.) I'm not a great one for shows -- I'm particularly picky about singers -- but I went to watch a magician and comedian (Mandy Muden) and watched bits of a couple of shows on the inboard TV system. The one I went to was truly excellent, and I would willingly have paid to go to see her (that says a lot for me!). The singers I watched on TV, though, I didn't like at all, though my wife enjoyed them. What was strange was that only part of the shows were put on TV. Some were not shown at all, while some were broadcast missing the first few (up to 15) minutes. And no mention was made of this "feature". We did have a longish bout of what the Captain called "stomach flue" but what everyone thought was norovirus, and a stupid film kept being played over and over again about washing hands, and why it was important; and this took precedence over a lot of the televised shows. There were other oddities, such as the mobile network going down for 2 days or so and not announced, but incredibly tall tales being given when I queried this; and our ship position being given on screen as Antigua right through to our arrival in Southampton. But generally the ship was a nice experience, though as others have said the passengers had a lot of infirm people amongst them (including me). As for trips, we didn't go on many, as we'd been to the Caribbean before. My wife was really impressed with Lima, and loved the city tour. She would like to go back there again. Manta (Ecuador) was interesting, and we went on a tour that took us to a market that sold, among other things, the panama hat. I had no idea that these came in multiple grades, basically from coarse to fine, with prices that ranged from $30 or so up to $300 or so. The other highlight was the Tagua (nut) factory, where they created sculptures out of these nuts (which are often called "vegetable ivory"). These were very nicely done, and we bought several of them. On a previous cruise, we had bought one at St Maarten, but they were much cheaper here. Next came the main feature for us: the transit of the Panama Canal. I'm not going to try to describe it, because I couldn't do it justice. While the first couple of miles of the canal itself looked like (and was, I think) a mining operation, perhaps partly because they are enlarging the lock gates to take bigger ships, the real scenery started in the Gatun Lake. It was worth the trip just to see this. Our next trip was a horse and carriage ride in Cartagena, Columbia. This was very interesting, though I was disappointed with the standard of English of our driver. The combination of the carriage and the street surfaces made it difficult to take photos, though. St Maarten was a bit of a let-down, as it was Sunday and a lot of places were closed. Even the shops at the terminal had a lot closed! Still, I managed to get a couple of bottles of rum, so the important souvenirs were obtained! Our last tour was at Ponta Delgada, which my wife did on her own. The place looks very nice, and my wife absolutely loved it. She now wants to go there for a week or two to look round properly. My one standard moan (for all cruise ships so far) is that the activities provided are boring, and I don't bother with them. This makes 23 nights on a ship about a week too long, and I'd think twice about going on another long cruise like this one. Having said that, we chatted to several people who'd been on the full 106 days of the world cruise, and no-one had cut their own throat. There must be a knack to surviving that length of time! Once we arrived in Southampton, we had the usual hassle of getting off the ship. I should have had wheelchair assistance, but that wasn't provided. And it was a very long walk from the ship to the point where we picked up a coach to Gatwick (to collect our car for the drive north). Fred Olsen really does need to sort itself out with regard to helping passengers who ask for wheelchair assistance. Overall, then, the cruise was interesting, though Beth's poor performance made it quite disappointing. 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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2011
This was our first (and only) Fred Olsen cruise. Started well - very friendly and efficient bar and restaurant staff. Small, intimate ship. Food was OK but not the best. Lacked variety - why so much pork??? Then things turned grim. ... Read More
This was our first (and only) Fred Olsen cruise. Started well - very friendly and efficient bar and restaurant staff. Small, intimate ship. Food was OK but not the best. Lacked variety - why so much pork??? Then things turned grim. Atrocious weather (in August!) meant that that we had two ports-of-call cancelled. No substitutions arranged by humourless captain. We were begging for landings in the Faeroe Islands, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Republic of Ireland, England, Wales, Scilly Isles, anywhere! "Entertainment" was amateurish. The singers/musicians in the upstairs bar were fun but the so-called dancers in the Neptune Lounge were dreadful. Perhaps we've been spoilt by American cruises but these were more like unimaginative, lazy junior school productions! Other passengers were ancient. Lounge looked more like a care home than a cruise ship! Lectures were also delivered in the Neptune Lounge - rubbish venue. Loads of view-obstructing pillars and not enough seats. Why no proper theatre? However, we did like that we could order discounted cigarettes and alcohol from our cabin. And they would be delivered discreetly in a brown paper bag!Also, the ship was great for discounting certain drinks. And we had two nights of free drinks - the Captain's Welcome Party and a Gala Party. I can see why this company attracts repeat clients! However, like another reviewer, I too was irked by having to pay a hefty fuel supplement (after paying full price!) when other customers paid only £700 for a £2000 cruise! Not fair! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2009
A new cruiser and new-ish to these forums, this is my review, for good or bad! For me, like the curate's egg - the cruise was good in parts. Ports of call: I booked the trip based on the itinerary published in the brochure. This ... Read More
A new cruiser and new-ish to these forums, this is my review, for good or bad! For me, like the curate's egg - the cruise was good in parts. Ports of call: I booked the trip based on the itinerary published in the brochure. This was subsequently changed and substantial port changes were made from 14 - 27 October. F.O wrote that the Canadian authorities had advised that this sector was in breach of legislation protecting registered ships engaged in coastal trading. They had apparently vigorously disputed Canada's interpretation but said that they were not able to gain any concessions from the authorities. This did make me slightly concerned about how a company with F.O's reputation and experience could be caught out by such legislation at such a late stage in the process, how could they get it so wrong? After all, this had been planned for how many months. Bite the bullet, I thought, and make the best of it. I enjoyed most of the ports of call that I was able to go on, norovirus and ports cancellations preventing me from going ashore at Shelburne, Sydney, St Pierre and Miquelon and St John's, NF. Overall as some of the smaller ports of call had 'closed down' for the winter, more judicious planning would have given us more shore time at places like Bar Harbour, Oak Bluffs and Lunenburg where there was a lot to see and do. Sunny and warmer weather certainly would have added to the small town charm of the smaller ports in Canada - Cornerbrook, Baie-Comeau, Gaspe, Digby - though the welcome and hospitality of local people, waiting to host us even in cold and breezy conditions, was really heart warming. Tendering procedures were sometimes tediously long with F.O booked trips taking priority over we lesser mortals who had privately arranged our own excursions. So I missed one early and privately pre-booked trip in Bar Harbor and a planned bus tour of Martha's Vineyard was curtailed. I got ashore early at Lunenburg by booking a F.O tour at the last minute. I think it was here that others, who had to wait for tenders to get them into this beautiful area, were not called until early afternoon, then they had to be back on board for a tea time departure so they decided not to leave the ship. What a shame as this is a stunning area to visit. Maybe the cruise would have found better weather and sea conditions had it been possible to maintain the original schedule and if it had started a few weeks earlier. Public areas on the ship: Public areas were very clean, good looking - if in somewhat 70s' decor - and well maintained though at times it was difficult to get a 'window' seat in the library or the walk through area to the Morning Light pub - first come, first served! The Morning Light pub? A bit lacking in character and somewhat divided up by high backed benches and all 'curtained in', claustrophobic given the large area, but there was generally plenty of room there for a sit down. There were other areas on Deck 7 where sofas and easy chairs were available and the library of course (if you didn't mind snoring!) And it was enjoyable to hear the Trio playing in one of the seating areas there. The bars I used the Lido and Observatory bars mostly, sometimes used the Marquee Bar for afternoon tea. The Lido and Observatory both have a reasonable view of the outside world. It is a bit of a do to get to the Observatory and Marquee bars if you are at the 'wrong end' of the ship. Staf:. These lovely people made my time on board. I was really impressed with the ship's wait-on, bar and cabin staff, and pay particular commendation to the 3 waiters on table 107 in Ballindaloch, the Palms staff, the Lido and Observatory bars staff and my cabin stewardess Ong. They were really great, always friendly, cheerful and caring as were the majority of staff engaged in day to day chores around the ship. Reception staff were rather less cheery, a little bit forbidding, maybe instructed to maintain a certain distance and reserve, as was one of the senior European staff I had dealings with, whose manner was brusque and intimidating, perhaps to bat off complaints? Who knows? Entertainment: What I saw of the evening entertainment was good and varied but some performers had the edge. What stood out for me was the Balmoral Troupe and the Crew's Show - excellent. What a talented crowd they are! Day time entertainment, card games, darts, deck games, carpet games, quizzes and lots of people were participating and having a good time. A personal preference on my part is not to do games but I was quite happy with a book and a people watch! But there were some interesting lectures and the Arts and Crafts classes seemed well patronised as did the dancing. For singles travellers: I am very used to solo travelling, others less so, so my comments here are based on chats with other singles who were looking for introductions to like travellers. Not all of these have access to PCs so please bear with me if I am reporting their views. Arrangements would have benefited from a little more forethought and care and attention. After all, this line prides itself on being 'all about the people'. The growing demand from singles in the holiday market should be one that companies might respond to in a positive way. Several basic and achievable proposals were brought to the attention of the Entertainment/Cruise Director to try to introduce single travellers, maybe just to dine or maybe to team up for outings. (What was in place was not working). He agreed but nothing changed during the course of the 6 weeks. Maybe it was out of his hands but several passengers remarked that they felt rather let down by the apparent lack of care and cohesion especially when it was part of programmed events in the Daily Times. It was also remarked that cruise hosts should be more 'age appropriate' to the average age of guests, it could be too much like Blue Peter. Food and Drink: I am a real foodie. The food was OK overall but the main restaurant served tiny portions from the menu except for a number of notable occasions, such as the lamb shank and Beef Wellington nights. The buffet was more generous. It was rather less exciting than I had been led to expect but mass catering and economic constraints are undoubtedly a factor. Cruise food always had a reputation of being excellent, maybe that was in the good old days or maybe my expectations were too high. It sometimes looked better than it tasted. It didn't stop me eating it though as anyone else doing the cooking is a bonus! For me, there were some high spots in the 2 restaurants where I ate most of my meals. I loved the roast dinners and the Palms Buffet nights where the staff dressed up in costume. The stir fry cook there made some great dinners and there was sometime a queue for his cooking - your meal could be cooked to your taste and I thought that was super. The fresh omlettes were delicious in the moring as were the late supper fish and chips. Drinks prices were reasonable too without the surcharge sometimes levied by other cruise companies. Accommodation: The ship, whilst common areas are a bit spiffy, still has some shabby and well worn cabins, one of which I was allocated. I did not think that this was worth the money I paid, nor would I expect my B&B guests in my home to occupy such poorly re-furbed bedrooms. I had an older cabin on Deck 4. It had new-ish soft furnishing but was well worn in the bedroom and the bathroom with really poor refurbishment of the fixtures and fittings, screws holes left un-Polyfilla'ed, bathroom shelf rails loose, the bath really looked unwholesome with a stained bottom and anti slip strips that were partially peeled off, paintwork that had been given a lick and a promise - all things that would have taken a couple of hours at most to fix and look well cared for. Sickness: Infections can and do occur all too frequently in establishments where large numbers of people congregate for any length of time but on this ship Norovirus made its presence felt again after having been on board on the British Isles cruise earlier in the month. There was also a nasty throat and chest infection that has followed people home, with serious repercussions in a couple of cases I heard about. As well there is what seemed to be a viral ear infection (or streptoccocal bacterial infection, take your pick) that continues to plague us, I now have both of those a week after coming home. All part of the risk of travelling with so many people at such close quarters, I know. Regarding NV I think that any efforts made by management to restrict the spread - isolation, hand washes everywhere, closure of self serve buffets, washing down of banisters, lifts' handrails etc and the fumigation of cabins after release from 'custody' - might have been somewhat snookered by the less than hygienic habits of some passengers. I'll leave that to your imagination. It has been suggested elsewhere on the forums that we oldies are less than careful in our personal care -not me, matey - but I now understand why such comments are made. I lost much of the third sector of the cruise to sickness, isolated for over 48 hours and then a further self chosen isolation for a further 20 hours. Believe me, the after effects of the virus are enough to dampen one's enthusiasm for partying so I was rather glad to get some air at Cobh and to arrive back home 2 days later. To add insult to injury the coach driver on the way back from Dover - Victoria locked the toilet and said it was for single use only - we weren't sure if he meant that was only for one person to use or if it was only for Number 1s - who dared ask after that? God forbid that one of us really DID need to use it! Noxious fumes in cabin: What really made me anxious - as a single traveller - was not only contracting NV, though that was bad enough, but what happened in my cabin in the first week of October. I had the heating switched on and fell asleep whilst reading, then awoke briefly and registered this smell, fell asleep again (at least I hope it was sleep), woke again and the smell was stronger, enough to get me off the bed with a pounding violent headache and dizziness, the former lasting for a number of days. It was coming through the aircon vent. I switched it to the cold position immediately. I reported it to reception by phone, checked to see that the couple in the next cabin was OK, went on deck to get fresh air, then went to Reception in person and demanded that they make a log of it. I heard nothing else so eventually went to see the Guest Relations officer. You can take your pick of the reasons given for the fumes: 1) It is caused by routine maintenance, the engineers say it will clear soon (reception) 2) the engineers know there is a problem and are working to fix it (reception) 3) the ship was bunkered the day before in port (?was it) and the fumes were as a result of that and/or (GRO) 4) the fumes were not in your cabin, they were in the corridor and this happens when the door to the engine room is left open (GRO) This problem, as I reported it, was denied verbally and in writing by the GRO, who inferred that I was making it up to get a free upgrade. (I should add that I had asked for an upgrade when I went to see him on the first occasion and even offered to pay so that I could get a fresh air flow in the cabin - he said that no upgrade was available, unpaid or paid. Instead he offered me a cabin on deck 5. I saw no benefit in going from one sealed box to another so declined). Make what you will of that. This has happened on the Braemar too, according to another poster, so maybe it is an accepted part of being aboard a ship. If it is, it's potentially very dangerous, the immediate and long term ill effects of exposure are well documented, especially from bunker fuel fumes, as I have since discovered. My overall review is this cruise varies between excellent and downright frightening! As I said, I was a first timer - would I go again? That is very doubtful. I am quite put off. I am not a whinger about the smaller things in life, but this was a substantial investment for me in terms of money and time, having got over a health scare earlier in the year, I was determined to try to push into life all those things that I never had an opportunity to do before - but it didn't come up to the mark. As a single passenger I paid a lot of money for this cruise, £6000, and certainly expected a 4* service, if not a little more, judging by the Fred. Olsen brochure's description and many passengers' complimentary reviews. The fact that I was subsequently offered the cruise for £3400 does grate. Was it value for money at £6000? For me, definitely not! Nor would it have been at £3400. I am disappointed by parts of the cruise (maybe the ship/itinerary planning more than the 'cruise') but the port days were very enjoyable in the main and I met some really pleasant travelling companions. I had anticipated cruising - and with F.Olsen for their UK departures - as a new holiday-ing phase in my life as I get older and less enthusiastic about DIY flights and touring. I am having to think again. I know that there will be many who had a great time, I only wish I had been one of them. My overall marking is 1 and the reason for this is based on GRO's lack of care and concern over the 'fumes' incident and the his intimation that I was making it up to get a free upgrade. This is a pity as it detracts completely from other areas where far higher grades have been awarded and the overall mark suffers as the result of one man's action Read Less
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