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Sail Date: January 2015
I have enjoyed very special times on the good ship that is the Braemar but my last cruise was such a big disappointment in so many ways, the company to me has changed so much and I have to say not for the better. The Fred Olsen policy to ... Read More
I have enjoyed very special times on the good ship that is the Braemar but my last cruise was such a big disappointment in so many ways, the company to me has changed so much and I have to say not for the better. The Fred Olsen policy to me now seems pack em' in and get as much money as possible from each and every one. The present management that has taken over has changed the Fred Olsen company to one that does not in anyway compare to the one I enjoyed when I started cruising. The whole staff ethics to me has changed and I will never travel with Fred Olsen cruise Line ever again. Yes the ship is smart most things were indeed ship shape, but seemed to me over crowded, the food was good in the Grampian restaurant but, the staff were so over worked the service they were giving was extremely poor which is such a shame as they have to work so very hard. The Braemar used to be for me so very special I will remember for ever the past happy times on board ......... but sadly no more. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2015
Just completed a Car'bean cruise on the Braemar, the flights both ways were pretty good with Monarch but have flown charter with F/O before and think Tui was much better particularly the in flight food. The cruise itself was great, ... Read More
Just completed a Car'bean cruise on the Braemar, the flights both ways were pretty good with Monarch but have flown charter with F/O before and think Tui was much better particularly the in flight food. The cruise itself was great, embarkation at Manchester and Barbados very good, ports good but Cuba a little dissapointing not being at Havana, but not a major issue. The food excellent and service good on most occasions but if eating in the Palms cafe at night (outside) the new "Grill " section which has taken over most of the outside of that area seems to take priority over outside Palms Cafe. The extra £20 you pay for "The Grill" seems to over ride the Palms outside service. (nothing effected inside). Many of us like to eat outside at night in the warm. We had to clear our own tables as plates etc were mounting up., go and find waiters for various needs, was a bit of a continuous theme. We know its self service but normal Palms service it was not. There didn't seem to many takers for the grill and waiters and chefs were stood about on the occasions we were outside. Service generally very good. Cabin cleanliness excellent, staff always pleasant and helpful. The entertainment was the best we've seen for years, (both artists and show group ) Having been a F/O cruiser for many years you do tend to see the company eat away at the edges of what they provide, yes I know times are hard but simple things like the Port maps and info were awful, pretty u/s, with little info like the old style, any info such as it was, in the Daily Times making passengers take two documents instead of one. No cabin TV/Film schedule, no port itinerary. The little things sometimes make a difference to passengers and Fred is eating away at it. The Oceans bags for members are getting poor, last time we got items out of sell by date, this time a a bag of olives among the items which were punctured. Loyalty seems to mean less and less, note I don't say nothing. We have booked a Christmas cruise with F/O last year but I think we might start to look around . Sorry Fred!   Read Less
Sail Date: January 2014
Back again after 2 years attracted by intinerary which included Panama and Colombia. First mistake was not to book cruise only and fly out BA. The Monarch charter was poor to say the least even in the premium cabin. Old, scruffy planes, ... Read More
Back again after 2 years attracted by intinerary which included Panama and Colombia. First mistake was not to book cruise only and fly out BA. The Monarch charter was poor to say the least even in the premium cabin. Old, scruffy planes, poor food, no movies ...... no surprise that they are retiring the A330s and focussing on short haul. Cabin ok although a/c was tempremental. Probably the oldest fellow passengers yet and as they were determined to enjoy at all costs Fred was able to get away with reduced standards in all areas except dinner in the Grampian. We had second sitting, the food was very good and nothing too much for our waiters. Thankfully they let us mix the choices and on the nights where the standard options were limited stil managed to get a good result. Breakfast ok although buffet was the same every day - including tinned peaches (why?) Hey Fred we are in the Caribbean so where were the local fruits that grow in abundance on every island we visited? Very English menu most nights with the occasional Indian or Cajun option. I guess this caters for the over 75s who predominate. New Venus Coffee Shop - excellent Observatory Bar and Coral Club good service and atmosphere but forget the pub and Neptune Lounge (apart from Crew Show). Featured acts apart from the violin man were very poor especially the out dated comedian Bob Taylor who had the same routine as 4 years ago. We gave him the benefit if the doubt but to no avail - again the old folks must really like him. Best entertainment was Enrique in the Observatory (as always) and In Tune in the Coral witheir talented kead guitarist Lee who saved the day for us. Regarding the bar, total confusion about the all-inclusive option. Why limit it to house brands? Why have different charges depending on when you book? Come on Fred do the right thing add an extra £100 per week and have proper premium brand all-inclusive charging extra only for wine by the bottle and water in the room. After all the clientele hardly fits the profile of those that will drink themselves stupid every night. Paid for some shore excursions in advance. The Panama Railway was £95 and an absolute shambles. No literature, no pa in our railway carriage, poor description of the trip that did not highlight the amount if time soent looking at vegetation or the visit to the run down marina. We complained and got a £10 refund? Cartagena again was hit and miss with a visit to a lowcgrade shopping mall taking up 20% of the trip. In Santa Marta our coach did not have a crew member to shepherd the party resulting in a confused and beligerent passenger somewhat unfairly loudly berating our guide. Disembarkation is always a nightmare wasted day. We were actively dissuaded from making our own transfer plans in case we got lost and delayed the flight - please!! 5 hours waiting on board ship, 1 hour on a coach and then 2 hours at the airport. Health and safety is always a priority and while everyone had clean hands (no norovirus thankfully) the same people forgot themselves when it came to coughs and sneezes. Airborne germs had a field day, people who should have been confined to quarters or at least used the box of free tissues in their cabin let the side down. For me never again. Too English (no not British) for my liking. Too many people settling for mediocrity meaning things are unlikely to change.   Read Less
Sail Date: December 2011
This was our first cruise with Fred Olsen. Previously we've been on two cruises with P&O. Overall, it was friendlier and more laid back than P&O, more helpful staff and much better food. However, a major drawback is lack of ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Fred Olsen. Previously we've been on two cruises with P&O. Overall, it was friendlier and more laid back than P&O, more helpful staff and much better food. However, a major drawback is lack of availability of active onboard activities. Also, expect a less comfortable ride. One might have thought that the embarkation process would be smoother on a smaller ship, but in fact the opposite was the case. We stood in line at the airport for an hour or so as we waited while a limited number of buses went back and forth from the airport to the cruise ship, a journey of around 20 minutes in each direction. Thankfully we were not at the back of the plane else we might have been waiting an hour or two longer. The Braemar has a friendlier ambience than the Azura or Ventura. As with P&O, fellow passengers are almost exclusively Brits. With a smaller number of passengers on board, it seems other people tend to be friendlier, and it is more likely you will bump into the same people again. Also, it felt much less crowded as people seemed to disperse more evenly around the ship. On the bigger P&O ships, at certain times such as breakfast, there is a mad rush with too many people trying to sit at not enough tables, and other passengers are viewed by many as an inconvenience. On the Braemar, most of the other passengers were friendly, and overcrowding was never a problem. The ship was considerably bumpier, and this could be quite disconcerting. There were at times sudden jolts and wine half leaping out of the glass (though it never actually did). So probably not to be recommended if you suffer from sea sickness! A couple of nights,it was really bumpy for several hours, the ship creaked and juddered and shook, during which time we both felt rather ill and could not sleep. You could literally feel yourself moving across the bed. A story we heard of a fellow passenger actually falling out of bed was very believable. This time we had an outside cabin (i.e. with porthole) and this is well worth a small extra cost. It is so nice to have some natural light, and you have some idea what time of day it is. The cabin was a little noisy with constant background noise, presumably the ship's engine, which made about as much noise as a rather loud fan. The room was slightly smaller than on P&O. There was no fridge in the cabin. The toilet flush didn't work properly - generally not everything would flush down. The ship is a bit dated, not that this bothered us until one night we returned to our cabin to find a waterfall down one of the cabin walls apparently due to a leaking pipe above. Luckily none of our belongings were by the affected wall. We were quickly and efficiently moved to another similar but slightly better cabin, and the next day some fairly undrinkable "sparkling wine" and chocolates arrived as a token of apology. To be fair, they dealt with the situation pretty well, but some proper champagne would have been nice! Breakfast and lunchtime buffets were good, somewhat better than with P&O. There was also the option to be served at the table with some other good choices not available in the buffet. The pizza available on deck was ok, but nowhere near as good as the ones from Frankies on P&O. However, the evening meals were much better, particularly for vegetarians and others with special dietary requirements. At the start of the cruise, there was a special meeting about how the chefs could help with our needs, and it was very much the case that they would go out of their way to help, providing alternatives as requested if you didn't like the menu. On a couple of occasions, there was no vegetarian option for a certain course, but whenever this was the case, if asked the waiters were quick to come up with a decent alternative. In general, the attitude of the staff was very helpful and they were prepared to go out of their way to be of assistance. There was organised bridge, which had not been available on our P&O cruises (think only available on P&O if "enough" sea days). It was good to have an organised duplicate on the sea days, but the attitude of the organiser was disappointing: results took days to come out, there were no notes for the beginners course, seemingly to try to get beginners to buy a book the organiser had written and had on sale, and times were changed to suit the organiser. In short, she was more interested in her own (free!) holiday and promoting her own agenda than looking after the passengers. There was unfortunately only temporary table tennis, a table being put up in the skylark room at certain times for a tournament. While this was friendly and good fun, unfortunately the room was poorly lit and it was difficult to see the ball. It was a shame not to have a permanent table or two perhaps on the deck, so that you could have a game amongst yourselves rather than only being able to play in tournaments where you inevitably sat around watching far more than actually playing so that everybody could have a game. The situation with shuffleboard and quoits was similar, safety reasons being cited for not leaving the equipment available permanently. As a result, we only managed to play shuffleboard and quoits once each during the entire cruise, whereas on P&O, we had played shuffleboard most days. For us, this was by far the biggest negative on the cruise, as we enjoy having the opportunity to take part in active games at times which suit us rather than only having very limited times available, which more often than not we couldn't make due to a clash with some other activity. Even when you could make it, as everybody only had the option to play at that time, there were long waits to play. It was a similar thing with darts, a board being set up only at a certain time of the day with a large group playing. Internet cost is similar to P&O. Definitely recommended to bring your own laptop if you may need to do much. I had problems on the pcs in the internet room with software I needed unavailable. Unfortunately, you can only get a connection from the internet room or close to it, but not from your cabin. The connection is very slow, and unreliable. It could take a couple of minutes to open a webpage, during which time you are charged for the connection. Internet is way too expensive considering the quality of the service provided. Dance classes unfortunately clashed with the duplicate bridge. Would be nice if they could put the dance lessons at the same time as bridge lessons, so that everybody has the opportunity to learn one thing without a clash with something else. Drinks seemed marginally more expensive than with P&O, but still good value for anyone used to London pub prices. Entertainment was ok, but not as good as P&O. The theatre company were nowhere near as good as on P&O. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2011
This was our second cruise with Fred Olsen! As for the first time we went with my wife sister and Husband. They are great company,to travel with!The cabin was short of storage space, but we managed! the staff in all areas were superb, ... Read More
This was our second cruise with Fred Olsen! As for the first time we went with my wife sister and Husband. They are great company,to travel with!The cabin was short of storage space, but we managed! the staff in all areas were superb, friendly, attentive and very helpful. Particularly the Grampian rest. waiters! Food was good ( Starters were a bit small).Breakfast, Luncheons and teas were excellent! Yes you do have to queue at Buffets, but all passengers were really friendly and Chatty!Wine list was adequate and prices reasonable! The Neptune club offered first class shows. Cocktails and drinks again are reasonable! The shipping company took care of transferring the luggage, from the plane to the ship directly, and on the return journey our luggage again was taken to the planeand we were even given boarding cards in advance! Great stuff!The only gripe was the security check at Montego Bay. We had to queue for 2 hours!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Trips are well organised, but not cheap! We did several ourselves, just as good and much much cheaper.Finally the communication on Board was excellent!All in all a great cruise thank you to all the efforts of the Staff!!!!!!!! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
INFO: £1173pp, 15 nights, Deck 4 inside cabin, grade G, midships. We were happy with our price, booked late Jan 09 through Thomson. Best deals seem to have been had by booking via Virgin in December (but some of the worst pre-sailing ... Read More
INFO: £1173pp, 15 nights, Deck 4 inside cabin, grade G, midships. We were happy with our price, booked late Jan 09 through Thomson. Best deals seem to have been had by booking via Virgin in December (but some of the worst pre-sailing customer service apparently. Most paid approx £980 but had to arrange own transfers and stay 1 night pre sailing in Miami (hotel cost included but meant extra transfer to port), some got cabins with obstructed view on deck 6 so that was a good deal! SHIP: Has a tendency to 'sway' whatever the weather conditions. Some say the recent 'cut and shut' have made it worse, others say it's better now!!! Was aware of it 24x7, particularly on the gale force 6 day, but although usually prone to seasickness, can't say it bothered me at all. Others had minor probs but apparently the seasickness injection worked a treat and cost £25. I never even needed my Stugeron, much to my relief. Smart inside without being too ostentatious. Crew friendly and polite but not sure they have quite enough to cope properly, particularly cabin stewards and bar staff. They work very hard and I think the 'cut and shut' means 250 extra passengers but no extra staff.......but maybe I'm being unfair to Fred Olsen. DINNER: 3 restaurants. Assigned seating, menu and waiter service in smallest Grampian, same in larger Thistle and more casual open seating buffet only in Palms. Suitable dress codes (there are 4 'dress' levels) will be clear with your tickets and also dependent on where you are sailing I believe (Caribbean doesn't really have the jacket/tie level because of the climate). Ours were 3 formal evenings (majority in DJ's but some in suits didn't look remotely out of place), mix of cocktail dresses and long frocks for us women. Rest of the time it was smart open necked shirts/trousers and summer dresses/smart separates. Don't forget, some areas of this ship are bl**dy FREEZING, air con too fierce so bring a wrap or a cardi. Themed food evenings held in Palms cafe/restaurant, buffet style. Tables must be booked at reception. Assume guest who usually eat in Palms must either book as well or move to their assigned restaurant. We went to an American and a Chinese one. Didn't enjoy the food on the American evening and on the Chinese evening the restaurant was packed and BOILING HOT! LUNCH: Thistle and Grampian restaurants also have open seating for brekky and lunch combining buffet with a menu service. You can combine menu order with something from the buffet if you want. Can wear shorts and tee shirts but NO flip flops. Not as formal as you'd think for AM and lunch but don't try to get in wearing poolside attire - that goes for the Palms as well though it is marginally more casual, that refers more to the food service than your clothing. Don't go in shirtless, your saggy belly, pasty skin and hairy armpits simply aren't going to be allowed, even if you are "only getting a cup of coffee" from the self-serve area!!! DRESSING UP: There were 3 'themed' dressing up evenings but too 'Butlins' for us so we didn't participate, though it was amusing to see those who did. Caribbean night, British night and Country & Western night. So if you're in to all that then bring something suitable to wear, about 1/3 of the guests participated. FO give fake floral lei's, Union flags and checkered neckerchiefs so guests could get in the swing of it. Quite funny. CABINS: Very clean and tidy, ours seems to have been part of recent refub during the 'cut and shut' operation to make this ship bigger. Bathroom well stocked, towels changed if left on floor. Shower the smallest I've ever seen outside of a caravan! You will get used to it though, (just don't drop anything in there unless you can pick it up with your toes.] Rarely cleaned before lunchtime but frankly, we weren't bothered at all by that. Sort of 'turn down' service at night and a brief tidy round, she did a good job. Plenty of wardrobe space, though I did take about 15 or my own hangers so I could get everything out of the cases.....yes, all 47kg of it. Cases fit under the beds though I gather FO will store them elsewhere if they are too big - IF they have any empty cabins that is. ILLNESS: 5 suspected cases of Norovirus and probably quite a few more who simply didn't report it to the ship's doctor. Those who did were confined to their cabin for 48 hours, any excursions booked were refunded and FO gave a voucher for discount off a future cruise. If your favorite waiter/waitress suddenly stops giving you nuts with your cocktails, or mentions the words "code orange", it's a sure sign that passengers are dropping like flies. CLEAN YOUR HANDS constantly and make full use of the sanitizing hand facilities, you'll have no choice on entering dining areas. Most public toilet notices recommend exiting using tissues to open the outer doors after handwashing, bit of a contortionist act doing so but not a bad idea if you want to avoid getting sick. Also remember when you're sliding your hand down the public banisters.......unless the ship is rolling is it really necessary - who touched it last! Norovirus spreads like wildfire. FACILITIES: Ship has well stocked library and good shop selling toiletries, shampoo, hairspray, sunscreen etc Unlike other ships, guests don't seem to greedily grab the best books leaving none for later boarding passengers. Daily 'newspaper', crossword, quiz etc. Washing machines/dryers/irons, think it cost £2 per load. Personally, I think passengers caught doing the laundry whilst on holiday ought to be thrown overboard. Cost £2 to get a tee shirt cleaned via cabin service and a tiny washing line in the shower to hang up a couple of 'smalls' (or your swimsuit). ENTERTAINMENT: Plenty of on board entertainment, had a dance/singing troupe of 8, pop band, tiny orchestra with singer, solo singer, trio, disco, 2 guest comedians, pianist plus an additional guest one, daytime speaker and a watercolor artist and bridge teachers. Something for everyone at some time or another and various daytime activities particularly on sailing days eg golf, bowls, darts, line dancing blah blah blah. SUNBEDS: Most on deck 8 and blimey, what can I say, the usual 'sunbed baggers' abound, if you want one in the shade on sailing days you better have your backside on it by 7.30AM. In the sun it's not such a great problem until about 10.00AM. More beds on deck 9 but be warned, topless bathing is allowed up there and some female FO cruisers don't appreciate that it's been 30 years since they had pert 'up where they should be' boobs. Past a certain time in life it's best to keep them supported and covered. EXCURSIONS: Plenty to choose from and fairly well organized. If you experience any problems you must provide feedback. You will always be accompanied by a crew member but most trips undertaken using local companies. We had rubbish guides at Chichen Itsa, complained at the time to the crew member and followed it up back on board. Got 50% refund for trip. Complain nicely, it's not FO staffs fault. FOOD: Should be something for all tastes, but be warned, it's mainly LUKEWARM. Don't think FO did HOT very well at all, for anything (including soup). Even menu ordered food will turn up lukewarm so go with that in mind and you won't be surprised or disappointed. AFTERNOON TEA: This was pretty much rubbish, boring 'samey' cakes and curly sarnies. Boy, FO don't do this at all well. Not helped by passengers acting like they've not eaten for a week, all elbows and pushing and shoving. FO do rather take the line that "when it's gone, it's gone" so if you don't want to adopt the push/shove attitude it's best to do as we did - don't bother to go. All in all, we had a great time and would definitely use FO and the Braemar again without hesitation. However, the guests are all SAGA card carriers, FO is aimed at the older market and some cruises (usually about Christmas time) can have predominantly 70+ age range. Ours were mostly 50+ rising right up to the 70+ group - fine for us, only had 1 child on board (& as it wasn't a British school holiday he shouldn't have been there anyway). Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
If you've never heard of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, it's probably because it is not usually marketed to the American megaship cruising market. It is a very British cruising experience, similar to P&O Cruises (or so I've ... Read More
If you've never heard of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, it's probably because it is not usually marketed to the American megaship cruising market. It is a very British cruising experience, similar to P&O Cruises (or so I've heard), but on smaller ships. The Balmoral is Fred Olsen's newest and largest ship. When I sailed in spring 2008, it had been refurbished only months before. Previously, it had sailed with Norwegian Cruise Lines as the Norwegian Crown but had been completely refurbished and undergone a "chop and stretch" before joining the Fred Olsen fleet. When I sailed, it had a new-ship feel and my cruise experience was wonderful, though very different from what you would find on an American megaship. Because we live in South Florida, we were able to take a taxi to the Miami pier. There was a bit of a wait but the embarkation experience was not terrible. Our passports were pulled unexpectedly, which worried us a bit, but it turned out it was only because we had booked fairly last-minute and the cruise line hadn't gotten our passport information. (Note: The Balmoral no longer offers Caribbean cruises out of Miami.) Our stateroom was a basic indoor cabin. There were two twin beds in an L-configuration and a third bunk. It was about average size for an indoor cabin. The ship is small compared to the megaships we are used to sailing on, but not as small as some of the other ships in Fred Olsen's fleet (mid-size is a good term). On the lowest deck, the Marina Deck, are cabins and an Arts & Crafts room, which is plainly decorated and so poorly marked (just a simple sign above the door) that it is easy to miss (we had trouble finding it at first). The only furniture are a couple of tables that are sometimes replaced by ping-pong tables. Pool toys are also stored here, and a few games for children. The Coral and Atlantic Decks are cabins only. The Main Deck also has several cabins, as well as the bottom of the two-decks-high atrium, the main offices, the photo gallery, the art gallery, and the Ballindaloch restaurant. The Lounge Deck has the Neptune Lounge, a showlounge (unlike on the megaships, it does not have a balcony). Also on the Lounge Deck are two small shops; the second deck of the atrium; the very nice library and card room; a room called the Braemer Lounge (there are tables, chairs, and couches, but no bar: you have to get your drink from the Neptune Lounge or Morning Light Pub and bring it with you); the Morning Light Pub, a very nice traditional English pub that serves beer, cocktails, and specialty coffees; the Palms Cafe, the equivalent of the all-you-can-eat buffet on the larger ships, except much smaller and not as casual (you can't just run through and grab a sandwich; you will be escorted to a table by one of the waiters); and the aft pool, which is the main pool area on the ship and the site of activities like horse racing and themed parties. A very wide promenade goes around the entire deck. The Lido Deck, despite the name, has no pool; it has the Lido Lounge and Bar, which is a sort of second show lounge where concerts, cabaret shows, and lectures are held. There are stairs leading from the small outside deck to the aft pool. The rest of the deck is large cabins and suites, and you have to make your way through a maze of hallways to get to the Lido Lounge if you come up on the wrong elevator. The Highland Deck has the beauty salon and fitness facilities (no spa), more cabins, and the very nice Avon and Spey restaurants. The uppermost deck, the Marquee Deck, has the rarely-used Sun Deck Pool, the Observatory Lounge, a jogging track, and a golf net. Dining is one of the areas in which the difference between this ship and a larger, more mainstream ship is most easily seen. There are two "classes" of dining. Most passengers dine in the larger Ballindaloch Restaurant, but passengers in suites are assigned to either the Avon or the Spey. This applies to dinner only; for breakfast and lunch, anyone can dine anywhere. The menus are identical, but the Avon and Spey are high on the ship, with large windows that let in the sun, at least in the daytime. The two are nearly identical, except with opposite floor plans (they are on different sides of the ship), and the fact that the Avon has blue chairs and the Spey green. The Avon and Spey are nicer for breakfast and lunch, but I personally don't know if I would have liked to eat there for dinner, as the Ballindaloch had a grandish mood. The food is excellent; fine quality ingredients expertly prepared. However, it is certainly not the healthiest and is heavy on red meat, including dishes you may not be familiar with, such as venison soup and reindeer (Nordic night only). Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style, even in the main dining rooms. The Palms Cafe is a self-serve buffet but with a small selection compared to the buffets on other ships. Afternoon tea is also served in the buffet. Activities are similar to what you might find on the larger mainstream ships, but on a much smaller scale. There is horse racing on deck, daily bingo, and ping-pong tournaments in the arts and crafts room. Other than those and a few other activities, you entertain yourself. This cruise was definitely more relaxing than exciting, but conversation with other passengers is generally good (except for the occasional weirdo). There is no spa, but there is a pretty decent, if small gym. There was a watercolor artist on board who gave lessons. You had to pay a one-time fee of about 10 pounds for materials, after which you can take as many classes as you like. There were few children on board, and no children's activities of any kind. There were some children's games and pool toys stored in the arts and crafts room. Most of the older children participated in adult activities, including art classes, bingo, and ping-pong. The service was excellent. Most of the crew was Filipino, and service is what you would expect from the premium mainstream lines. Evening entertainment was varied. There were a few production shows advertised in the daily program, but we did not attend them, so I can't really review them here. On one of the last nights, there was a "crew cabaret", which we confused with the "crew show" and attended. It turned out to be a sort of talent show in which the various crew members sang and danced oldies hits. Except for one entertaining interpretation of "Achy Breaky Heart", it was an extremely dull hour and I do not recommend it. There was a hilarious comedian who appeared a second night in the Lido Lounge. It was British humor, but very good. There was also a passenger talent show. Other than that, there were creative theme nights (find out before you sail if there are any on your voyage, so you can bring appropriate clothes). Some of the best entertainment was an Irish singer-guitarist who sang everything from Irish folk songs to modern rock hits in the pub. There is zilch entertainment after 11 pm; this is definitely an early-to-bed ship with no nightclub or disco. The itinerary was a big winner, stopping in Nassau, Jamaica, Cozumel, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and Key West. The only shore excursion we took was in Cozumel, where we looked at a coral reef from a semi-submarine (a boat with an underwater section). The excursion was great. Belize City was fairly nice but extremely hot on the day we went. Very few passengers liked Guatemala, except those that took one of the excursions to see Mayan ruins, but we took a boat tour around the bay and found it gorgeous (we sometimes talk about staying there for a week or two someday). Roatan Island, Honduras was by far the best port of call of all. We went snorkeling over a gorgeous and very shallow reef at a tiny little place where we had practically the whole reef to ourselves (although that will likely change now that Carnival has unveiled its "plans" for the island). In summary, the Balmoral is definitely a unique cruise experience. Don't go if you like spending all day participating in crazy pool games, huge theaters with acrobatics, chorus lines and pyrotechnic and hydraulic special effects, being pampered at a huge, elaborate Asian-style spa, dining at an exclusive specialty restaurant run by a land-based celebrity chef, or hanging out without your kids. But if you want a slow-paced, relaxing, intimate voyage among an international crowd on a mid-size ship with beautiful public rooms, great food, and friendly service sailing to off-the-beaten-path ports of call, you will love the beautiful Balmoral. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2008
How and where do we start?...Having been on two previous cruises with Fred Olsen on the Braemar which we enjoyed immensely we decided to give their new ship the Balmoral a chance. Big mistake, first the ship is based in Miami so after a 9 ... Read More
How and where do we start?...Having been on two previous cruises with Fred Olsen on the Braemar which we enjoyed immensely we decided to give their new ship the Balmoral a chance. Big mistake, first the ship is based in Miami so after a 9 hour flight we then spent 3 hours in US immigration standing in line in an over crowded and chaotic room waiting to be processed. This meant we did not get to the ship until late by this time everybody was in a foul mood and that set the scene for the whole cruise. After having suffered the dreadful ordeal of US Immigration we in fact spent only 2 hours on US soil (Or should I say water) so why did Fred Olsen put us all through that? Good question! The Ship: Firstly our cabin was supposed to be a twin outside superior on main deck, when we got into it we discovered it was in fact a twenty year old ferry cabin (Which the ship had been in a previous life)that had been painted white, Superior it most definitely was not. The power point for the kettle to make a hot drink was on the floor outside the small bathroom (still in its original state. When we pointed out to the reception that there was an issue of health and safety with boiling water on the floor easy to trip over their only solution was to get maintenance to bring up a homemade extension lead, luxury indeed! 8 ports of call planned and 3 sea days, because of engine failure the captain dropped 2 ports of call, Playa del Carmen and Key West, apparently 2 ports of call had also been cancelled on the previous cruise on the Balmoral. So with Fred you don't always get what you pay for! The ship has been cut in half and stretched with a piece put in mid ship and went into service in February 2008. The consequence of the stretching is that now the internal distribution is disjointed and confusing. For example a new restaurant on deck 8, but the kitchens are on deck 4, result cold/tepid food. Not enough sun decks and sun beds for the increase in passengers numbers. Half of the sun deck on deck 11 is under the engine flue, with a continuous loud engine noise, and soot particles floating down on the sun bathers below. Not ideal I think you will agree. Conclusion The ship overall was badly managed, the cruise director was hopeless, the overall service level was poor, confusion with dress code, electric room keys being cancelled a day before disembarkation, meaning an horrendous line of passengers at reception at 11.00pm getting theirs keys reinstated. This is just some of the issues we experienced during the 12 days. Our advice is spend your money elsewhere, there are far better value for money cruise ships out there. Avoid the Balmoral and Fred Olsen if you want an enjoyable cruise. We certainly learnt our lesson, never again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2008
My Wife & I , both OAP's, and Cruise enthusiasts, have last week returned from our first ever `Fred Olsen Cruise' experience, aboard the newly converted and extended ship MS `Balmoral' and feel that we should express our ... Read More
My Wife & I , both OAP's, and Cruise enthusiasts, have last week returned from our first ever `Fred Olsen Cruise' experience, aboard the newly converted and extended ship MS `Balmoral' and feel that we should express our extreme dissatisfaction, unhappiness and total disappointment that this three weeks `Back- to Back' Cruise to the Caribbean & Central America's has been for both us, and so many other largely disgruntled passengers, such a unsatisfactory experience, which resulted in such very poor , uncomfortable and unhappy conditions, aboard this very overcrowded and poorly organized ship. Many like ourselves, who have cruised with other reputable Cruise companies before; we have come to expect professional standards from leading operators like `Fred. Olsen Cruises' , who we had understood could offer a reasonable degree of good service and value for money Holiday Cruise? I would confirm that the unfortunate experiences aboard the M S`Balmoral' has proved to be the worst Holiday Cruise experience that we have ever undertaken! The first day of embarkation in the port of Miami Florida, was without doubt a truly horrific experience starting with over 2.½ hours of seemingly never ending queue's whilst we were all herded like `Cattle to Slaughter', through the terrible `US Immigration & Customs' Investigations and checks , treated like Alien Terrorists, instead of welcome visitors from England , who are supposedly the USA's main supporters and long term friends, currently supporting this apparent ungrateful nation in both `Theatre's of War ',in Iraq & Afghanistan. Most certainly we both shall never attempt to visit the USA again EVER! This latest experience has indeed left such a profound feeling of utter disgust, disappointment and bad feeling towards that country from us both. Also upon the Ships return to the `Port of Miami' at the mid- section of our Cruise, plus again for disembarkation at the End,(Where we were `Dumped Off' for SIX + HOURS! at the Bayside Shopping Area complex , before being transported to the Airport. This in itself was such a uninteresting and waste of time experience. Everyone aboard the ship had to yet again to undergo such terrible Immigration & Customs checking procedures onboard, which on the further two visits to Miami, resulted in utter chaos and fantastic long queue's aboard the ship, which were totally without any form of crowd control or administration, by the Fred. Olsen, Senior Officers, Security Staff, or Crew, Which is unforgivable! Furthermore life aboard your ship became almost intolerable due to the seemingly poor administration, organization and total lack of directive and control, which appeared non- existent from the Senior Ships Officers and Staff. Due largely to the drastic overcrowding of the extended Cabin Accommodation aboard ,it was almost impossible to obtain a Sun bed or Chair on any of the Upper Deck area's during daytime hours , due to the complete lack of Deck Staff on duty in these area's controlling the horrible `Germanic' type actions of so many selfish people who persisted in placing their `Yellow Towels' on Sun beds & Chairs , during the early mornings before Breakfast and thus reserving them for the whole day time periods, even when going ashore for arranged trips, or attending other entertainment venues aboard etc. No dedicated Fred. Olsen Staff were on duty at any time ,so therefore were unable to administer or prevent the selfish and unacceptable actions of so many of these uncaring passengers. Many elderly and disabled Passengers were prevented from enjoying any relaxing moments at any time on the Upper Decks, this was also the case whilst trying to attend many arranged Entertainment events onboard, as there was just NO WHERE to SIT! Large queue's seemingly the norm. for everything aboard! Additionally, on many occasions there where found to be extra Sun beds stored out of passengers reach around the Ships Funnel Area, but these were coated in very dirty SOOTY deposits from the chimney stack, and thus again no Deck Staff on duty at any time, to untie and clean these much needed items, or indeed to assist elderly and disabled people to get something to sit upon. Early in the Cruise, I personally spoke to the `Captain' and requested that he put in place urgent measures to improve and resolve this totally unacceptable situation, but the only action he took was to place a brief written request in the `Daily Onboard Newsletter', requesting that passengers refrain from placing their Towels on Sun beds, and refrain from reserving them for longer than `One Hour'! and to check them for Dirty Soot particles? All of which was TOTALLY NON- EFFECTIVE, and largely ignored by the offending passengers. Surely a Cruise ships Captain's main task and priority is to ensure that his Officers and Staff are fully instructed in the overall control and administration of the Ship and the most important issue for a Cruise Ship being the Comfort , Convenience Satisfaction and Safety of all of its Fair Paying Passengers? However, we can only assume that on Fred. Olsen's `Balmoral', No one seemed to CARE or take any action or responsibility, to improve the awful situation that persisted throughout our cruise completely unchecked? Another serious problem that presented itself to my Wife and I, after joining the ship and eventually being placed in the correct TWIN- Bedded Cabin that we had requested, was that the `Air Conditioning System' in our eventual Cabin was faulty and stuck at the very cold level of 65°.F, though many attempts were made to fix the problem, all failed. We were informed by Reception Desk Staff, that the system throughout the ship was defective and could not be rectified? Also that no other spare Cabin's were available, as the ship was fully occupied. Oh Dear! we thought , is there anything that is OK on this Jinx ship? Thus, we were made to suffer extreme cold conditions at night, that was like living in Industrial FREEZER, which in turn resulted in us both, after a couple of days being infected with very severe Head Colds and Coughs infections, which unfortunately we are still suffering from at time of writing and which certainly contributed to an even more miserable Cruise experience whilst accommodated on this `CRUISE SHIP FROM HELL' Further cause for complaint, was the fact that the entertainment programme throughout the ship during the THREE WEEKS `Back to Back 'Cruise, was that after the first 10 days period, the Programmes and Artists became very Repetitive and Boring, with nothing New to entertain the long suffering passengers, who had opted for the longer cruise periods, which does indeed seem yet again, to be the result of the very poor organizational abilities of the `Fred Olsen' organization? It also became apparent that the `On-Board Services' charged to our accounts for such things as, Shore Tours-Bar/Drinks -Photography- Spa Services etc. were considered by most passengers to be quite expensive due to the £, Sterling being the Currency charged , This fact was indeed considered to be very unfavorable to both British and American clients, who usually benefit from the more favorable rate of the US. $ From most Cruise Companies who operate in this part of the World. Many indicated that they would definitely NOT use the Fred. Olsen Company again, as their `On- Board Accounts' were just excessive for the type of Services received! Also during our three weeks `Back to Back' Cruise we suffered the loss of THREE Ports of Call, ( i.e. Samana, (Dom. Repub.) + Playa de Carmen, (Mexico) and Key West. (Florida) due to Operational problems and the breakdown of the ships `Auxiliary Engine' the latter followed by the long delay in repairs, resulted in the cancellation of visits to the last two ports of call, Also towards the end of our Holiday Cruise , there was a severe WATER SHORTAGE aboard that resulted in further problems with Bathroom & Shower usage generally! It was also interesting to learn later that the cancellation of Ports of Call is still continuing with the ongoing next Cruise that followed our final departure date, when we understand that the planned visit to Antigua on the 29th Mach 2008 has also now been cancelled? It seems that the unacceptable situation is to continue on this FLAGSHIP OF THE `FRED. OLSEN 'Fleet?, with the ongoing and future Cruise programme, to the detriment of all customers, which it totally unacceptable! For the `Loss' of a high proportion of our quite expensive Cruise Holiday with Fred. Olsen Ltd, we were given £ 40.00 per person, refund? which indeed is totally unacceptable and insulting , bearing in mind the Horrible, Trouble Dominated, Overcrowded, Uncomfortable, `Jinx Ship' experience, that we and so many other unfortunate people have undergone over recent weeks , this largely due to the company altering and putting to sea a very unprepared Ship,Officers & Crew,that should certainly have been more thoroughly checked and re- checked, to a higher professional maritime standard and degree of competency , prior to accepting customer hard earned Cash? Indeed maybe a full cancellation and refund policy should have been implemented? to all booked Cruise customers due to this Companies complete failure to deliver in full, the Cruise that was advertised and booked with this organization that formed the`Contract' that was entered into by them,and they have completely FAILED to Honor and must therefore to be considered in default of that Legal Agreement. Whilst I do understand and appreciate that on a maiden voyage there will be teething problems. My main concern is that how the increasing number of problems was not dealt with and not rectified. This I found totally unacceptable. It seems that the complete `Shipyard Refit and Extension' of the ship was without doubt VERY POORLY executed! With major defects apparent throughout the ship like Rusting Seals & Frames around most windows, poor standards of decoration in most Cabins, Bathrooms /Showers & Unsafe Elect. Points for use of Kettles etc located at floor level near bathroom?All showing very poor standards of maintenance and cleanliness etc. Indeed the Exterior Surface of the Outer Hull of the Ship was indeed so badly dented and damaged to such a extreme extent, that it appeared to have just returned from some WAR ZONE! In conclusion, I do feel that my Wife & I, have had a much looked forward to holiday spoilt by many unforeseeable problems with the Fred. Olsen Cruise Holiday Experience. I would hope that my written complaints to their Head Office in Ipswich, Suffolk, requesting a full investigation , will soon be looked into further and dealt with accordingly. Sidney & Pauline Jones. review. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2008
Booked BL004 as all research indicated Olsen ships were great and this would be a good opportunity to meet a lot of Brits and have some glorious conversations. We thought we had a confirmed balcony cabin but for various reasons we ended up ... Read More
Booked BL004 as all research indicated Olsen ships were great and this would be a good opportunity to meet a lot of Brits and have some glorious conversations. We thought we had a confirmed balcony cabin but for various reasons we ended up with a Class A on Lido deck. Specifically requested a twin bed arrangement but at check in found it was a double bed (8019), not even Queen size. Requested upgrade but apparently none available so settled for a downgrade - same deck but handicapped cabin with twin beds (8084). Recompense was offered and accepted, big mistake as upon occupation it became apparent that the ship refit had missed most of this cabin; cracked and missing bathroom tiles, cracked sink, stains everywhere, filthy windows with rust stained frames and a completely obstructed view. So OK we screwed up but we'll make the best of it - left explicit instructions at reception to give us first refusal if any upgrades became available. Learned later from a fellow passenger that indeed a mini-suite on deck 11 had been emptied but Customer Service Manager said carpenters were working in there so it remained unavailable. Poor communication from staff, not a good customer relations episode but press on. Embarkation for us was fairly painless, we'd driven from the Florida west coast to Miami (got lost in Miami) but finally found our parking garage and were shuttled over to the ship. The only unexpected event at check-in was the retention of our passports - never happened before on any cruise line - excuse was something to do with Bahamas immigration. Later on board we were called to line up with a completed Bahamas form and have it added to our passports. This passenger said no way and demanded his passport back as they should not be out of ones possession - it was reluctantly returned with the growled caveat that I would be woken at 8am at all ports of call to attend immigration if I intended going ashore.  Disembarkation at Nassau and all other ports was standard procedure - use ones ship ID card and carry your Passport if a photo ID is required - very unusual. Further words about this unidentified idiot running the passport fiasco, he was extremely rude to a number of passengers who were asking very pertinent questions (how long are we going to line up here?) - another customer relations screw up. Anyway overall impressions of the Balmoral = from dockside quite sleek and clean. Once aboard a different story. Last impressions first to set the stage: the ship, after lengthening and refurbishment was not ready for service and neither were the crew, but more of that later. The new center section stands out like a sore thumb, all new and shiny, the older bits show their age and are quite disgraceful on a cruise ship. Rust stains everywhere, misfitting panels and pins etc around the exhaust surround on deck 11, filthy decks around the lifeboat stations that haven't seen soap and water nor paint for ages, a general need for paint in areas where one would not normally look (indications of a skimped job?), cracked varnish on the handrails and so on and so on - overall the ship does not compare favorably with it's contemporaries. Mechanically one wonders; we had one delay of several hours because an auxiliary engine would not start - finally announced that a fuel pump was changed - how long to diagnose and fix a non-starting problem?. Then there is heavy vibration mostly at the stern when the ship goes astern or maneuvers to dock, high amplitude and low frequency that shakes glasses off tables a condition that makes one wonder about the engines; were they refurbished at refit? But the ship is seaworthy and rides well in a heavy swell with very little roll so the stabilizers are effective. The exhausts however did spew a lot of soot on the aft deck and the aft swimming pool, and there were a number of unidentified odors - a mixture of diesel fuel, urine and rotten fish perhaps - that occurred on deck 11 and were hosed away by the crew, and inside the corridors and by the elevators which dissipated on it's own but returned occasionally. First impressions of the crew were not too good, they were either poorly or inadequately trained and passengers seemed to be a hindrance initially. However things did change somewhat as the cruise progressed but there was always the feeling that the ship was understaffed in some of the areas important to passenger comfort. The staff at the reception desk were somewhat inattentive to questions and complaints and the Customer Service Manager was a promiser but not a producer. The old interior has a half-finished look, new carpets and furnishings but many old and rather scabby bits. And the layout leaves a lot to be desired - large unoccupied spaces with a load of "modern"art that serves no useful purpose as far as I could see. As for the much vaunted English pub the " Morning Light" it's about as much like an English pub as a pea is to a pear. No charisma, no character, no charm, many Brits likened it to a union meeting hall - seats around the walls and very few tables and a snug that ain't. Not warm and cozy and conducive to good conversation. The Palms buffet is another shortcoming - absolutely no ergonomic design thought in the layout - too small, buffet in the wrong place and the only coffee station on the ship almost inaccessible. Coffee, the staple of most yanks and apparently a lot of Brits, is a joke; the wait staff line up to fill absurd coffee/tea pots which then are circulated around the tables and by the time they reach you the contents are tepid. And trying to fill a cup by yourself takes courage as you fight waiters all the way, but this is the quickest way to get a fresh cup or a refill. Try it in the early am if you're an early riser and enjoy a cup on deck!! As for toast it's as rare as gold in a lead mine. If this ship is to make a mark in the US market it needs two more coffee stations, one forward and one amidships plus a supply of half & half, coffee with skimmed milk or even whole milk if there is any won't hack it. As for restaurants we used the Ballindalloch and after some early criticism to the Maitre-d ended up with a first class waiter and assistant. Service initially was aimed at the restaurant not the customer - 9:30 closing time for breakfast, now 10:00 for those who like to kip a little longer, table clearance and reset as soon as patrons left even if other people were still seated at an adjacent table -it is rather bad form to have a new table cloth waving around next to you, being sprayed with water to lay it flat and the have cutlery etc laid while you're still eating dessert, that no longer happens. Then there is the coffee story again, didn't get any after dinner on the first night but it did show up after much discussion thereafter; And thanks to an excellent waiter we also got cream instead of milk. The menu did not impress myself or my wife as it was pretty bland and again unimaginative - lamb showed up three or four times and as much as I like it I do like a variety. Lobster arrived once, at least if you were a trained detective you may have discovered a few minute pieces in a bed of rice, and shrimp (prawns in the UK) were around but certainly not the jumbo kind. Overall I was not impressed with either the menu selection or the presentation. Tried the Spey restaurant once for lunch - oh my they don't serve coffee at all - not impressed as all the menus are the same. Anyway I was not impressed with the food and breakfast anywhere, buffet or restaurant, was just the good old staples. Now to bars, my favorite was the Lido (close to our cabin) but well laid out at the stern of the ship. BUT: be prepared if you sit at the bar with a friend and try and converse because you will be constantly interrupted by waitresses leaning across you to place orders for guests seated at tables. Why there is not a waitress station at one end of the bar remains a mystery. Stella and Boddington were always, for reasons unknown, poured in the kitchen space behind the bar and arrived as a glass full of foam (but they did recover), but Stella ran out a few times which required a new Keg to be elevated out of the ships bowels hence some delay in the arrival of a pint. Cans of tonic, diet coke and some other sodas ran out before the trip ended, no tonic for the gin - disaster. There are only four elevators on the ship, two forward, two aft so we got quite used to walking and climbing stairs. If you head for the Atrium put your walking shoes on. And be prepared for a surprise if you think you can get to deck 3 by taking the aft elevator to deck 4 and going down one flight of stairs; no way Jose, the top flight of descending stairs ends at a blank wall. So then you back track and either walk forward on deck 4 to the center stairs or the forward elevators or take the aft elevators back up and go forward - good to know if you're headed for the Arts and Crafts room on deck 3. And the elevators do not always go where the arrow points, you may go up or down depending I think on the phase of the moon: one thing for sure you will encounter an elevator that either will not shut the doors or will shut them and then refuse to move and every one will give you a vibratory thrill when it does start to move. Deck space has increased with the new center section but so has cabin capacity with the result that deck chairs are the spoils of good early morning con games - I badly wanted an inflatable doll so that I could peg her to a chair before breakfast and have a reasonable feeling that the chair would be available post breakfast. Prices on board were reasonable - by the glass gin or vodka with tonic about four and a half bucks (30ml) but you will need a magnifying glass to find 10ml of scotch at about the same price so have ice with your scotch. There is no liquor shop on board but bottles are available from the barmen or the wine stewards - don't buy they are grossly overpriced; go ashore in Belize or somewhere and find it much cheaper - I brought Tanqueray gin in Belize for 13 bucks. A few words about the entertainment - absolutely first class. The Balmoral troupe of dancers performed wonderfully - great scores and wonderful costumes; the equal if not better than many other cruise ships that we've travelled on. Great comedy acts with one outstanding - Bob Webb - cockney type accent perfect timing, great innuendo and kept us in stitches for almost an hour.Then there was the Dorsey band with the 40's swing and the Music of your Life group that kept us going in the Lido lounge. The outstanding event was the last night's show where all the entertainers gave individual and one great big collective performance - The Farewell Variety Show in the Neptune Lounge - it must not be missed. The audience joined in with a rendition of "Ould Lang Syne" and the only thing missing was "The Land of Hope and Glory" to close the Albert Hall Pops concert. This was, without a doubt, the only thing that other cruise directors could well copy from this ship and use to their own advantage. Comments from other passengers, particularly Brits ranged from very good to bloody awful about the ship in general with the Brit stiff upper lip being very prominent, they are so bloody complacent at times that it hurts. But by God didn't they speak in one voice about their treatment at Miami airport on arrival - what a disgusting introduction to the States - they likened their welcome to cattle being herded in a barn where they stayed for two or three hours waiting for Customs and Immigration and there were no amenities nor seats for the elderly or infirm. My wife and I were disgusted that visitors from an allied country should be so treated. Disembarkation somewhat turned the issue around though as the ship could not be cleared until all non-US passengers had cleared Customs and Immigration so we yanks were stuck aboard - however in much better conditions than the arriving Brits. As soon as the ship was cleared we were the first to debark. Summing up I will say that in spite of many shortcomings we enjoyed ourselves and made many new acquaintances which hopefully will produce a whole new spate of Christmas cards and maybe some lasting friendships. The itinerary was changed because of the mechanical malfunctions but it didn't affect us personally although there were a lot of disappointed Brits who wanted to see Key West. As for Fred Olsens entry -into the American cruise market I fear that it will not succeed unless some major changes are made to the ship, the crews general attitudes, the food, and bringing the ship in line with with American expectations. With things as they are now Olsen ships cannot compete with the many other cruise ships serving the Caribbean from the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area. Alan Freeman Cruise BL004 3/13/08 through 3/24/08 Read Less
Sail Date: March 2008
As on all previous reviews Immigration at Miami airport was chaos,once cleared you have to then reclaim your bags and transport them to the bus yourselves,which some of Fred Olsens older cruisers struggled with. Embarkation on to the ship ... Read More
As on all previous reviews Immigration at Miami airport was chaos,once cleared you have to then reclaim your bags and transport them to the bus yourselves,which some of Fred Olsens older cruisers struggled with. Embarkation on to the ship was OK and we where shown to our Cabin 1021.We where on Highland deck in a full suite, large and clean, the bathroom is a little tired looking but fine,ladies take your own hairdryer!as the one provided is poor. Dinning was in the Avon on late sitting,the food was excellent,the service was swift, though the wine waiter was slow and we where often through the main course before our wine arrive,would recommend pre -ordering any wine .The wine waiter in the Spey where we took lunch was much better. We used the Observatory bar for pre dinner drinks,the service was excellent,the bar prices are very good, though the wines on offer are limited,but if you ask for one of the restaurant wine menu they will get it for you. The "pub", what can I say its awful so far removed from a traditional British pub Fred Olsen need to look at P&O's version on the Arcadia much more like it and my husband would have appreciated a T.V. some where showing some sport. the T.V in the cabins shows news only . We did not go to any of the musical presentations ,but the comedians were excellent. My husband joined in the darts,table tennis etc and had no complaints about the organization. I used the Spa on several occasions and found the staff wonderful ,also mysteriously the air con always seemed to be working !! Shore excursions need to work on the organization,as each trip has a letter why not designate each one an area of the Neptune Lounge it may make "spotting" of the tours easier . The real issues we had were with the reception desk , boy do they need a crash course in customer services !!! and the Customer Relations manager needs to remember to get back to people.The Commercial Director from Fred Olsen ,Pete was on board trouble shooting ,with a blond haired girl, not sure if she actually worked for Fred Olsen and was on holiday so not doing anything or really his girlfriend who just wanted to be helpful but did not work for Fred Olsen !!! neither wore Fred Olsen badges so alot of people didn't know he was there . The ship had an on going problem with its engines ,which meant we where unable to leave Roatan Island for several hours,when we got back to our cabins that night we had a letter advising the water was short so could we be economical in our usage . The water to our cabin went off 3 times during our 12 night cruise ,The engine failed again as we approached Cozumel so the ship went round in a circle for a while, the air con also went off and never full worked again for the rest of the cruise . Due to the problems they dropped the visit to Key West (we got £40 a head credit on board for that ). Cruisers, if everyone reads and listens to the information provided , disembarkation could go quicker! we waited for 30 mins while the crew search the boat for 2 cabins which hadn't shown for immigration.Our flight to Stanstead was cancelled so we where put up in a hotel Fred Olsen need to take this up with Monarch as it was bad , but on arrival at Stanstead Fred Olsen had organized a taxi to take us home which was a big relief! Over all we would still cruise with Fred Olsen , but never out of the USA , Barbados is so much smoother , but they need to learn from the Balmoral, for the launch of the Breamar in July Read Less
Sail Date: March 2008
We had a good Thomson flight from Gatwick to Miami but after 10 hrs the hard seats were uncomfortable. Immigration at Miami was an experience to say the least and we will never fly there again. Our cabin smelt of rancid fried fish oil. ... Read More
We had a good Thomson flight from Gatwick to Miami but after 10 hrs the hard seats were uncomfortable. Immigration at Miami was an experience to say the least and we will never fly there again. Our cabin smelt of rancid fried fish oil. Great! Also there was a huge black crack across the wash basin. We had written confirmation of queen set up for beds when in fact they were unmovable singles. When I asked to move cabins I was told ALL cabins on the ship were taken and it would be impossible. We had our dinner, fish on the menu. I went to reception again because the smell in the cabin was horrible. I also asked again about the bed configuration. A different receptionist suggested I look at 2 other cabins. I was told all beds were single in the old part of the ship and couldn't be put any other way. She said this had caused a lot of problems and FO knew about this so shouldn't promise queen beds. We moved from 8076 to 8075. 8073 was also empty. The shower room was wheelchair adapted, probably designed by a non user because once inside in his wheelchair my husband had great difficulty reaching the door to close it. Our choice of cabin was limited as we needed a wheelchair adapted one. Our partial sea view was in fact ALL lifeboat. Our waiters on table 16, in the main restaurant, were excellent and we shared the table with 4 lovely people. The food was superb and we were spoilt for choice. We ate dinner there and went to the Spey or Avon for lunch. Palms was very busy and noisy a bit like a canteen. It also had less choice and was cramped around the buffet area. The pool area on 7 was very crowded. We tried it once but wheelchair access was actually dangerous so didn't go again. The ramp was too steep. It had to go over 2 steps and it is impossible for a wheelchair user to maneuver the chair up and open a heavy door at the same time. Even with me pushing it was near impossible as you go up a ramp to a door that opens out sending you back down again. The pool area on deck 11 was also packed on sea days. It was very noisy near the funnel and there were notices around saying watch out for soot. If you didn't have a towel on a lounger by 8am you didn't get one! Some shade would have been welcome. Some of the entertainment was good while some wasn't. We enjoyed the jazz in the Lido but can't say the same about the guy and his organ in the 'pub'. If you sat at the back of the theatre you could hear the music from the pub at the same time. The ship's theatre company were average though we enjoyed the 'songs from the shows' 2 of the girls and one guy had very good voices the others were average. We also enjoyed the staff concert. The 'Latin/Carnival' show was awful with lots of screeching. We only saw one comedian who was very funny, his quiche joke still makes me laugh! The disco was lovely in the Observatory lounge but there were only about half a dozen people using it. We enjoyed all of the ports of call but missed a stop at Key West because of a 12 hr delay at Roatan, Honduras due to failure of an auxiliary engine. This was the stop I was most looking forward to. Also that evening we were told fresh water was running low! The ship has increased its size to 1300 passengers but has the same engines, water tank and only 4 lifts. Braemar has 4 lifts for 800 passengers. Also you can tell when you are going from the old to the new part of the ship. The same decor throughout would help. The new part is lovely. Our flight home was 9.30pm so were taken to Bayside shopping Mall for 5 hrs! That was even too much for me and we got very bored. The male 'disabled' toilets at the Mall weren't big enough to accommodate a wheelchair and my husband had to take the wheels off his to get in, unbelievable! I wonder if FO have checked this out? We had a good time on our 2nd FO cruise but will look for another operator next time or go on one of their unstretched ships. Read Less
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