Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines is known for small ship cruising on grand old ladies, daring to cruise where many others avoid by building bigger ships. You know you’re on a Fred as soon as you set foot aboard. The standard of service is the same across the fleet. I have sailed on and visited Balmoral, Black Watch and Boudicca over the past 12 years and enjoyed each experience. Braemar had eluded me until the 5th August.
Braemar is still the baby of the fleet despite being stretched in 2008 (just!), seven years after becoming a Fred. Olsen ship.
Like the rest of the fleet, she felt much larger than she is. One thing about Braemar is the amount of natural light coming in throughout the ship. The atrium has a beautiful mural spanning four decks.
With many modern ships removing deck space to cram in more passengers, as well as adding windscreens to the forward observation areas, it is always wonderful to see a line not interested in taking those areas away.
Two restaurants feature on Braemar for main dining. The Thistle can be found on Main Deck while The Grampian is on Marquee Deck. Your restaurant is allocated at the time of booking. Fred. Olsen, like all cruise lines, also deal with dietary requirements.
Other places to eat are The Grill and Palms Cafe. The Grill can be booked for dinner and found on the outside deck aft on Lido Deck. Current price is £20 per person. Breakfast and lunch is also available. Palms Cafe is the buffet, a very spacious room. Only one door to the deck opens to prevent too much wind.
There are several rooms you can just relax during the day. Braemar has a library, found between the Morning Light Pub and Bookmark Cafe. The Neptune Lounge is forward with generally good views but bear in mind some is restricted by pillars. Speciality tea and coffee by Taylors of Harrogate is available to buy at the Bookmark Cafe. Here you can also purchase chocolates. The Coral Club aft is for dancing, which has a door either side if you fancy some fresh air. Up on Marquee Deck is the Observatory, a Fred Olsen staple. This section was added during the 2008 stretching. White gloved afternoon tea is available here or a fee of £7.50 per person.
As someone who has currently sailed 32 out of 64 cruises solo, it is good FOCL recognise single travellers are on the increase and have set aside a number of cabin grades. You do still need to pay a supplement but occasionally they have a no supplement offer to book a selected twin.
Disabled passengers are also catered for with several adapted cabins. There are no specific disabled cabins for those needing a wheelchair so talk to your travel adviser or someone at Fred Olsen.
The rest of the cabins vary from port holes, windows, balcony and suites. The middle section, which was added in 2008, has rooms slightly larger than the original ones.
All cabins currently use a European round two-pin plug. Adaptors are available to rent from Guest Services for £5, which is refunded when you return it. While onboard, you have the choice of the laundry service or launderette.
All in all, I was very impressed with Braemar. Like her fleet mates, she feels larger than she is while being smaller makes her cosy. I have noticed many Americans say they prefer small ships yet what they’re talking about are 70,000-90,000 tonnes, which we call mid-sized. Thank goodness the main lines ditching older tonnage have given us in the UK and Europe a real choice. If FOCL ever decide to build a new ship, I hope they will retain every aspect their passengers already like, especially lots of fabulous deck space.