Caribbean and Cuba
Gail de Groome | January 3, 2020 | Fred Olsen Cruise Lines | Braemar
This was our 8th visit to Barbados, and it was raining, which was not an auspicious start. Just before our holiday, I had badly twisted my knee and was in a lot of pain with it, so was alarmed when I saw the gangway hooked up to Deck 4, as I peg legged up the wet slippery steps, while other clients impatiently waited to get past! Also the lifts were out of commission as they were being used to transport the luggage. Anyone permanently disabled would not find the ship very user friendly.
First impressions of Braemar were not good (we have done 27 cruises in all, mostly with Princess and P&O and this was our first cruise with Fred Olsen). We too had an inside cabin on deck 3, which was extremely noisy and very small compared to what we have had on other cruise lines for the same grade! I’m afraid I do not pack light, but we only had a couple of drawers between us, so most of our ‘bits and bobs’ ended up still in the suitcase on the bedside locker and we had to improvise with an unended suitcase on my husband’s side of the bed to make a nightstand. But we got used to it and got by. The fact that there were mirrors everywhere you looked did not endear myself to the cabin, as I caught myself from all sorts of unusual and unused to angles! (Even whilst sitting on the loo!) with the determination to go on a diet as soon as I got home!
Food was overall very good, with plenty of choice. Entertainment was excellent. The Braemar showgirls really do earn their keep with a different show put on practically every night (on P&O or Princess, you are lucky if you get a couple of production shows in a fortnight’s holiday) and both the comedians on alternative nights were excellent. The only problem was Braemar had been extended (a sort of glorified ‘cut and shut’ process) and extra cabins added in but the facilities were not increased commensurate with the extra passenger capacity. So in the Neptune theatre, it was settees and chairs with fixed tables, so the only way you could get to see a show was to go straight after dinner and wait for an hour. Also the shows did not start till 8.45 which we found a bit late. It must have been even worse for 2nd sitting diners.
Our itinerary was very good, as the ship travelled to Bonaire, Aruba and Grand Turk. In Jamaica, we had rain again, and our excursion (afternoon tea at the Great Hope Estate) was cut short because Prince Harry was due to arrive! In all fairness to Fred Olsen, people did complain about this (not us) and we were all given a 50% discount! Highlight of the holiday was Cuba, which was amazing. So vibrant, colourful and musical. That alone was worth the holiday. Sunshine prevailed in Tortola and Antigua.
Things I liked? The fact that the launderette stayed open 24 hours (so I could always beat the crush) and the whicker conservatory furniture on the Sun Deck where you could have a bar snack of fish and chips and icecream out in the open! Things I didn’t like? The crush in the theatre. The cheap nasty sunbeds and the fact that there were only chairs not sun loungers on the promenade deck. But we would certainly consider going with Fred Olsen again, but maybe not on Braemar!
Great cruise, great service, great ship, great holiday
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