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John Cooper on Fred. Olsen’s, Braemar

Monday 16th May 2016, 12:00am

Our very own John Cooper has been onboard Fred. Olsen‘s, Braemar recently! And he wants to tell you all about it…

“As we pulled up at the port of Dover, the Braemar was waiting for us and she looked just as remembered her last time I was onboard 2 years ago. This time, I was off on a 6 night ‘Tulips & Chocolate’ cruise taking in Amsterdam, Antwerp and Honfleur in France.

The check-in was quick and efficient. Before you knew it, I was onboard checking out my superior ocean view room on deck 6. It all looked rather nice, and the tickets to my pre-booked excursions were already on the dressing table.

Naturally, I headed to the ‘Palms Café’ – the buffet restaurant, where I got chatting to some people who had cruised on Braemar before. A few were, (as they called it) ‘Working their way around the fleet.’

I popped back to the room to find my luggage had already arrived, so I quickly unpacked and had a little wander. The first thing I noticed was that the library had been opened up to include a new speciality coffee shop, The Bookmark Café which also had a selection of really tempting chocolates in glass display cases and the oozed the divine smell of the coffee.

Walking into the Morning Light Pub was like going home. I’ve had many a good night in here with the sing-a-long atmosphere, and the waiters & waitresses who really make your holiday.

As I wandered up the ship, I noticed that the Fitness Centre had been relocated to Deck 7, with panoramic views out to sea. It was full of all the latest equipment and better than the gym I pay a handsome monthly fee for. Plus, it wasn’t packed with ‘Gym Bunnies’ either.

Another new addition from when I was on last is the new speciality restaurant, The Grill situated just behind Palms Café on the open deck. Serving a selection of the finest steaks at sea, and most incredible sea food – this is definitely worth a go next time you’re on. (There is a small cover charge, but it’s worth it!)

Soon we were on our way, and after meeting up with some friends in the Observatory lounge for a small cocktail before evening meal, it was time to head for the Grampian Restaurant. Whilst there is a choice of restaurants onboard, (apart from the self-service buffet in the Palms Café) they all serve the same menu.

The food was truly award winning. 5 courses including a choice of starters, soups, salads, main courses and desserts – naturally finished off by a coffee. I particularly liked the soups, with always a cold soup option that I find so refreshing. As the nights went by, I was almost sitting in wait for when the beef-wellington would appear. Disappointed: I was not! As I have often stated, the best steak I’ve ever had has been on a Fred. Olsen Cruise.

I do enjoy the formal evenings they have onboard, (usually 2 in a 7 night cruise) when you meet the captain and enjoy a complimentary cocktail party. It’s all very glittery!

I didn’t catch all the shows onboard… when you’re on a large table of chatterboxes, evening meal can sometimes last longer than you thought it might! But the shows I did catch were really good, and the Cruise Director, Allan Tait is an old hand at making the ships entertainment first class.

The day time activities were varied, and sometimes slimmed down due to many port days with most passengers enjoying the shore excursions. One of the advantages of being on a smaller ship is they do get to the heart of the action. In Amsterdam, we were literally over the road from the main railway station, and in Antwerp we were once again in the city centre. I took 3 tours ashore, and I must say they were all very well organised with local, friendly guides who really knew their stuff.

The cruise we were on took in some river cruising which was really fascinating, (just glad I did not have to navigate the ship!) as we went through locks and past windmills. We took the white gloved ‘Afternoon Tea’ in the observatory lounge on one such day, and it is one of the most memorable moments of my holiday. The little sandwiches, tempting cakes and hot fresh scones with cream. Not to mention the optional sparkling wine. Well… you are on holiday!

Most of the guests onboard had made use of the all-inclusive drinks upgrade by paying £10 per night when they booked, but I was just paying as I went. I must admit, I found the prices to be very reasonable with a pint for £3.25 – it’s less than you would pay in any hotel in most of the UK.

The atmosphere onboard was relaxed and friendly, and the staff could not do enough for you. The food was really good, along with the entertainment. As the captain did his daily report over the PA system, he signed off with ‘From the bridge, all is well’ – it was quite good round the rest of the ship too!”

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