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Fred Olsen's Braemar Review

Written By:
Ian Warren
November 27, 2012

My wife Ellena and I booked this 3 night cruise, with a couple of ports in France as a short break ahead of Christmas. We left Southampton on a very wet and windy Friday, and then on Saturday we were in Cherbourg and it rained most of the day.

Due to possible problems with high winds on Sunday, it wasn’t possible to go to Honfleur, so the Captain decided to take us to Le Havre instead. It was dry and sunny all day, although a bit breezy and quite cold.

We then arrived back in Southampton on the Monday, refreshed for the week ahead, and it turns out that we actually had better weather than if we had stayed at home.

Ship Facts & Figures – Braemar is 24,344 gross tonnes, with a maximum speed of 17.0 knots. She can carry up to a maximum of 1,040 passengers, and has a crew of around 360. There are 48 single cabins which is a lot more than most ships have.

Daytime Entertainment – There is always something to do around the ship during the day, including quizzes, card games, feature films, hoopla, deck quoits, golf nets, and the gym. There are also some activities, such as yoga, Pilates, and bingo, which incur a nominal charge for participation.

Evening Entertainment – You have a number of choices, ranging from large shows in the Neptune Lounge or Coral Club, to quiet bars with musicians. The Braemar Show Company, which consisted of 4 singers and 4 dancers was very good, and on the 3 nights we were onboard presented ‘Come On Over To My Place’, which was a tribute to the music of the Drifters, ‘West End to Broadway’, with songs from many of the smash hit musicals, and ‘Blues Brothers Soul Sisters’. They were extremely popular and one of the best show companies I have seen at sea.

There were also a couple of visiting cabarets for this cruise, one was a pretty good comedian and the other was a magician. If you want something a bit less lively there is the Braemar Orchestra and other musicians around the ship at different times of the evening.

Dining – When booking a cruise on Braemar you can choose, subject to availability, whether you want first or second sitting dinner, and also if you want to eat in the Thistle Restaurant on deck 4, or the smaller Grampian restaurant up on deck 8. Also during the evening you have the option of informal dining in the Palms Café.

Breakfast and lunch can be eaten in the Palms Café, Grampian Restaurant or the Thistle Restaurant, all of which offer a choice of waiter service or self-service from the buffet, the choice is yours. Even better, you can ‘mix and match’, for instance helping yourself to a starter and dessert from buffet, but ordering your main course from the menu, and the waiter will then bring it to you. You can also have a light lunch of Soup and Sandwiches at the Marquee Bar, weather permitting.

The Palms Café has a self-service tea and coffee station, which is open 24 hours a day, although you do have tea & coffee making facilities in your cabin anyway, and Palms Cafe is also where you can have afternoon tea, and then the Supper Club from 11pm until midnight.

Fred Olsen also offers complimentary room service between 10am and 11pm, with a good selection of food, so if perhaps you are late back from going ashore and miss lunch, you can have something delivered to your cabin. The room service menu includes soup with roll and butter, a good selection of sandwiches, salads and desserts.

Other Onboard Facilities – there is a port shop, selling chocolates, sweets, souvenirs and those things you might have forgotten to pack such as shaving foam, plasters, books etc. Then there are a couple of shops selling clothes, jewellery, perfumes etc. There are also two gaming tables, which are open in the evenings when at sea. You will also find a library, internet café, gym, beauty salon, and Arts & Crafts room. For those longer cruises, there is also a guest launderette for a nominal charge.

Miscellaneous – The onboard currency is sterling, so everything is priced in £’s as opposed to $’s. Drinks are very reasonably priced, and the following prices were correct during this cruise in November 2012 – a pint of Stella Artois or Boddingtons for £3.15, a 330ml can of Becks for £2.80, a 500ml bottle of Old Speckled Hen for £3.15, spirits from £2.55 for a 30ml measure, and wine from under £15 a bottle.

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