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   Cruise Travel - Reader Reviews

Welcome to Your Favorites, where you have the opportunity to share your travel experiences with fellow Internet Travelers around the world.

Fred Olsen Cruises

MS Braemar

Your Rating:Four Stars
Reviewed by:Pam Massey
# previous cruises: 8
Date of Trip: August 24, 2001
Itinerary: Scandinavia

This was Braemar's second cruise since her purchase and complete overhaul by Fred. Olsen Lines. She has been superbly refurbished, all the public lounges are tastefully decorated; nothing in the way of glitz and glamour. At only 19089 tons she is small by today's standards, carries 730 pax in 406 cabins. She is a real delight to be aboard and I would recommend her to anyone.

"A floating English country hotel. Elegant, but not stuffy" is the description in the brochure, with which I agree entirely. This was a 7 day cruise to Amsterdam and the Norwegian Fjords from Dover.

Public Areas
The Public rooms are all well appointed. The Braemar Lounge is a walk through lounge, with windows both sides, airy and full of large comfy sofas. Tartan is the theme of course. It has a bar and piano. There is a life sized coat of arms depicting Braemar Castle in Scotland on one wall, and in the middle of the room, a much admired and examined model of the 1953 Braemar.

The shows are held twice nightly in the Neptune Lounge. Well laid out, but some obstructed views. Fixed rows of seats with rather too many moveable seats in between, which did cause a bit of a problem at times for people passing through and for the wait staff serving drinks. The stage, is set along the port side [so sideways on].

The Coral Club is a smaller show lounge with dance floor, bar and a small Casino. Used for various quizzes, recitals and dancing. The Skylark Nightclub is the only area with 'loud' carpeting:) A nice bar and large dance area. There is a small arcade leading off in one corner. Both these rooms open out onto the aft deck.

The reception area has another excellent model, Queen Of Bermuda. All over the ship there are small prints of Bermuda; I assume these are from her Crown Dynasty days on the Bermuda run.

There is a card room, well stocked library. Small but well equipped children's playroom. Internet room with 4 PCs and the usual Steiner Beauty and Health club.

The Pools are midship, one average sized pool [sea water], small attached toddler pool and 2 jacuzzis kept very warm. There is the Pool Bar too.

There is wrap around prom on deck 5, but parts of this are covered in imitation rubbery teak decking..bit odd. One can also walk around on the top deck. You can walk right up and stand in the bow. Braemar has a wonderful fantail aft, all teak, onto which the various public rooms open out onto on the different levels. Wooden chairs here, no plastic.

There is always a free chair, and plenty of open deck, no problem to find a space to yourself if wanted. The 5-Storey Atrium, which has some beautiful murals, gives a feeling of spaciousness, as does the main stairway.

My favourite places aboard, were the Braemar Lounge with its enormous comfy sofas, and standing in the breeze on the bow at night watching the flying fish:)

Food and Service
The main dining room, the Thistle Restaurant, was spacious with room to manoeuvre, views on 3 sides, decorated in beige and gold, with tables of all sizes. 2 sittings, 6.30pm and 8.30pm. All meals were ` la carte in the evening, with open seating for breakfast and lunch when in port. Buffet and off menu at breakfast or lunch. There was plenty of choice on the menu, always warm rolls, appetizers, soups, main courses [about 5 and a vegetarian], tasty desserts, cheese and biscuits, and an extensive wine list. The Food quality was very good, as was our waiter, but his assistant needed a bit more training and the wine waiter was hard to catch. Better to pre-order wine earlier in the day.

The Palms Cafi, where one could have alternative dining buffet style for any meal, also had an 11pm 'Midnight' full buffet every night, and was lovely. Wooden floors and tables covered with linen and set with cutlery. No plastic trays on a Fred. Olsen ship:) Coffee/tea is available here all hours. But the staff weren't too good on keeping it full; occasionally I got brown water. This opened out onto the aft fantail, so you could eat Al fresco.

I understand the Pool Bar will also be serving 'fast food' type snacks, but this was not the case on our trip. We didn't use room service, except for hot chocolate which for some reason you couldn't get at the beverages station, but really was just a basic menu, sandwiches etc. Afternoon tea and cakes/biscuits are served around the ship.

In 7 days there were 2 formal, 2 casual [1st and last night] and 3 informal evenings. Informal means a jacket or tie must be worn. No shorts at anytime. It is requested that the suggested dress code is adhered to, whether you are eating in the main dining room or not, and to remain throughout the evening. I didn't see anyone not complying.

The Cabins were all well appointed, nice new carpets, shedding fluff. [Take a good clothes brush if going aboard in the near future:)] Plenty of hanging space, but minimal drawer space. Room under the beds for all the luggage. We were in cabin 6058, a standard outside, 4 berth, obstructed view. The bathroom was small, but the shower had room for two. A nice bag of Soames and Gilchrist toiletries. The shower was good, always the same temperature, must be a first! The toilet vacuum failed on half the ship one day causing a whiff in a few corridors for a couple of hours, but it was soon sorted out, and apologies given.

Nice thick fluffy duvets on the beds, and with new mattresses, one had a good nights sleep. Not forgetting the nightly chocolate too. Occasionally it did get a bit hot in the cabin, especially when not sailing. Removing the a/c vent cover allowed the cool air in:) There is a safe and hair dryer [does work] in all cabins and a TV with 3 video channels showing a variety of different films throughout the day, BBC World news, and a couple of other channels too. The cabins seemed to be well noise proofed; I didn't hear much from outside anyway.

The stewardess seemed to have a few too many cabins to see to, which did get a bit annoying when on a couple of days the beds hadn't been done by midday. Possibly this was because of all the fluff on the new carpets getting everywhere. She was nice enough though.

The shows alternated between the comedian Eddie Colinton, Vocalist Jamie Michael Stewart [Love Boat fame], Sylvia, ventriloquist Dawson Chance, Illusionist Russ Stevens, and Dij` Vu & Company, singers/dancers, along with the Braemar Orchestra. All the shows I saw very good. The final night aboard saw a show with all the entertainers performing, and Auld Lang Syne sung by the audience and cast at the end. In the other public rooms, one could find the Peter Coates Trio, Glen Padin on the Grand, and DJ James McCann. Port lectures were by Stein Arne Dyb. The Cruise Director was Gary Nicholson whose jokes are 'awful':) Only kidding! There were no maritime/historical lectures on this trip.

We visited Amsterdam from Ijmuiden, where we wandered round seeing the sights after taking a trip on one of the canal boats. A wonderful vibrant city.

Flaam and Gudvangen in Sognefjord, where is was moody, misty and drizzled all day. But the scenery is so wonderful you don't care about the weather. My husband and son took the Norway in a Nutshell tour from Flaam, being a ride on the Flamsbanna Railway, and Oslo/Bergen line to Voss, and back by coach to Gudvangen. A wonderful trip, fantastic scenery and waterfalls galore.

Onto Bergen where we took a tour bus to the Cable Car and went up to the top of Mt Ulriken. Spent the rest of the day just wandering around the city seeing the sights. There are many attractions here, from museums and galleries to the aquarium and fortress.

Then to Ulvik and Eidfjord in Hardangerfjord. Wonderful scenery again. I took the daughter on a tour to Hardangervidda Nature Centre, the Sysen Dam and to Voringfossen Waterfall. An excellent tour.

There is nothing to do in the villages in the fjords themselves; there are only between 100 and 500 inhabitants in each one. Just marvel at the scenery or go on a tour.

In the Fjords the only port that we could berth alongside was Flem. In Gudvangen, Ulvik and Eidfjord the tenders were used. There were two, each accommodating 80 passengers. They were a bit smelly from the diesel fumes at times. The two ran backwards and forwards to the docks all the time passing midway [they didn't wait for a full load before departing]. Queues did build up when all the coaches from the tours arrived back at the 11th hour before departure, but other than that the system worked well. The crew set up a table of refreshments on the dock, for the passengers to drink while awaiting the tenders.

Who Goes
There were about 60 children aboard up to mid teens, no toddlers or babies. I suspect during the UK school term times there are few if any children aboard. About 50% of the passengers were retired singles or couples, but the other 50% were in the 20s - 40s range. So a wide variety of people. Might invite a couple to dinner.

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