Fred Olsen Cruises, Braemar Review

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  • Food - quality & variety

  • Entertainment on board

  • Value For Money

mwe152's review of Fred Olsen Cruises, Braemar

★★★★☆

“You may wonder why I don't recommend the Fred Olsen...

Written on: 07/10/2006 by mwe152 (11 reviews written)

Good Points
The itinerary was more imaginative than most Baltic Cruises, as not many go to Gothenburg, Riga & Antwerp.

Bad Points
The ship is secondhand. It was designed for Caribbean cruising, which its original owner used it for. It is definitely unsuitable for the North Sea in October.

General Comments
You may wonder why I don't recommend the Fred Olsen Cruises, Braemar Baltic cruise when all my ratings are on the high side.

There is only one reason why I don't recommend Braemar, but it's a big reason. It's a flat-bottomed ship and it is designed for sheltered seas like the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. The QE2, for example, 'slices' through big waves, but Braemar behaves like an aircraft hitting turbulence.



On the evening of October 7th (2003) the tail-end of a hurricane hit the North Sea and we were advised to remain in our cabins. Dinner was still served for those of us who were not seasick. During dinner the ship must have ridden a big wave and then dropped what felt like 50 feet. Crockery smashed, and some of us were flung off our chairs with injuries bad enough to draw blood.



Amazingly, the entertainers (the entertainment was very good) put on an impromptu show, after the evening's show was officially cancelled!



This cruise was definitely at the end of the Baltic season, because during the Kiel Canal transit, the Germans seemed astonished that a cruise ship should be transiting the Kiel in October.



Passengers don't normally leave the ship in the Kiel Canal, but my father was taken ill (NOT caused by Olsen/Braemar) and needed to be taken to a German hospital (ironic, considering the last time he needed medical treatment off the Germans he was a PoW!). This is how we know the Germans couldn't believe a cruise ship was doing the Baltic in October.



On the positive side, Braemar, unlike a lot of cruise ships, is small enough to get into the river that goes through Sankt Peterburg city centre, and we were there for 2 days.



It's very difficult to get independent visas to go ashore in Russia, and a lot of the tours sell out. However, Olsen used their initiative and did a city 'tour' with a couple of hours free 'shopping' time on a group visa! It was essentially a coach ride from the ship to the heart of the shopping area, with a guide pointing out a few buildings on the way! Very good!



Riga, Latvia was another high point of the cruise. Braemar moored in the river, within walking distance of the city centre. Riga is well worth a visit, but is often ignored by Baltic cruises; maybe some ships are too big to go there? Latvia is more interesting than Estonia because it's retained more of its Soviet character, whereas Tallinn (EST) seems to have Westernised too much.



Gothenburg (the city centre is a lot more picturesque and non-industrial than you'd perceive Volvo's home city to be), and Antwerp; another river mooring, within walking distance of the city centre, were more unusual ports of call for Baltic cruises that were well worth visiting.



The only low point was visiting Karlskrona (S) on a Sunday when the town centre was closed! Although the courtesy bus called at an open out of town shopping mall, if you were desperate to buy things.



Braemar weighs 19,089 GRT, and it was built in Spain in 1993, and was refitted in 2001 (when Olsen acquired it).

  • September/October 2003

    Date of Cruise

  • 15

    Nights on board

  • Baltic?

    Itinerary Name

  • Outside

    Cabin Type

  • Family

    Group description

  • Food - quality & variety

  • Entertainment on board

  • Value For Money

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Live2Die's Response to mwe152's Review

Written on: 07/09/2007

I found this review helpful because... it contained a lot of detail and reasons for the authors opinion.

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