Fireworks for the New Year
Catherine Canning | February 16, 2014 | Fred Olsen Cruise Lines | Braemar
This cruise was booked back in September, on the promise that the New Year’s Eve fireworks in Funchal were amazing & we have to say that was so right!
This was our first time with Fred Olsen & only our second cruise overall, after having spent a lovely two weeks in the Caribbean on the Thomson Dream at the end of January 2013.
We left Manchester airport on a very windy Friday morning, aboard a Monarch scheduled flight. Didn’t expect to pick up our suitcases at Tenerife airport, as we were led to believe that once checked in at Manchester we wouldn’t see them again until they were delivered to our cabin. Once arriving at Tenerife, there was no indication of where we should assemble for our transfer to the ship. No one in Fred Olsen uniforms or holding signs, so just went with the flow and on leaving the airport saw a queue of people with similar luggage labels to ours, so assumed we should join the end of the queue, and we were eventually allocated our coach. Felt the staff we met on arrival weren’t really the most helpful, and perhaps could do with a bit more training in customer service. After finding our coach and loading our luggage we sat back for the transfer to the ship.
On arrival at the port we were ushered into the Embarkation Marquee where some of the ship’s staff met us with a friendly & genuine smile, and a welcome cool drink. Check-in was very efficient and smooth and we were soon on board. We were shown in which direction to go once on board, but would mention that on the Thomson Dream staff actually take you to your cabin to make sure you don’t get lost. Eventually found our inside cabin (3119) which was mid-ship. Well it was certainly compact. Whether that was because of the bed configuration (as we had requested it was set up as a double), I don’t know, but it did seem rather small. But it was only for sleeping in. Could have done with more wardrobe & drawer space, and definitely more room in the shower, but it didn’t spoil anything. Our cabin stewardess was Elanor who looked after us admirably, and on leaving a note requesting extra coffee and mint tea we were left with a whole box of tea and extra coffee every day.
The ports of call were Tenerife x 2 days, Madeira x 2 days, Casablanca, Agadir, Gran Canaria & Fuerteventura, and back to Tenerife. We had actually booked trips at all of these ports of call, as this was a completely new part of the world for us and we like to take trips the first time to see what is there. The trips were OK and did provide a reasonable insight into what the various areas had to offer. However must comment on the lunch that was provided on the Port Maniz trip (Madeira), was not good (the wine was even worse), and also in Casablanca we felt there was too much time spent in the mosque, which cutinto the time spent in the market area.
We felt that the activities on board were definitely geared to an older clientele. One of the talks was on “swollen ankles & fluid retention” which we thought was slightly odd, but maybe that is what is expected on a Fred Olsen ship? We did enjoy the fact that there were more opportunities for ballroom/sequence dancing, although sometimes it is difficult to quickstep when the ship is rolling somewhat!! Other activities included crafts, and there was a guest speaker who we didn’t go and see, but heard from some other passengers that he was quite interesting.
For entertainment there was the Braemar show team, and 3 guest performers in the evening. The show team were very enthusiastic, but felt that the choreography was very dated and “samey”, and some of the faces pulled and the “Heys” & “Yeahs” that were shouted by the dancers throughout routines were very off putting. They performed four nights in the show lounge and once on deck on New Year’s Eve, so do not feel they are particularly overworked on an 11 night cruise. There were three guest performers: Brenda Collins (comedian/singer) – only saw her once and wasn’t over impressed, David Karl (singer) – who was OK, & Andy Leach (comedian/magician) who in our opinion was the best of the three.
The staff on board were excellent and took care of all their guests. We ate in the Thistle restaurant (second sitting) and were ably looked after by Frederik, who was always smiling & singing and was very very hard working. During breakfast & lunch we varied where we ate and found that all the waiting staff were always helpful & had a ready smile. The food was excellent and very varied and all tastes were catered for. The bar staff, again were very helpful and friendly and the drinks were not overly priced. Particular mention has to be made of Anocha (who worked in the Morning Light Pub). After serving us once, for the remainder of the cruise she remembered our name, what drinks we liked and our cabin number, which can’t be easy with over 1200 people onboard.
The highlight has to be the fireworks over Funchal on New Year’s Eve. We had an absolutely fantastic view as were anchored just outside the port and had could see the whole of the town lit up by the fireworks, which lasted 10 to 15 minutes. Amazing way to bring in the New Year.
We really enjoyed the cruise, and meeting everyone we met on board. We were aware that a lot of the passengers were older as we did research this beforehand and it didn’t bother us at all, but do feel that we won’t be rushing back unless the itinerary & price are right, as Fred Olsen is a little “old” for us.
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