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What are sea days like on a Fred. Olsen cruise?


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I'm looking at a couple of cruises on Fred. Olsen ships. I haven't sailed with this line before but I have cruised with a number of cruise lines over the years. I choose by itinerary and I prefer smaller ships. The British angle doesn't bother me; I've sailed extensively with Voyages to Antiquity before their demise, and once with Swan Hellenic.

 

Both of the cruises I'm considering have more than a few sea days. Can anyone enlighten me regarding what a typical day at sea is like on this line?  What activities are on offer?  Are their lecturers (a favorite for me)?  Good libraries and spaces to read?  Trivia?  Passenger talent or choir?  I would be traveling solo, so having some idea of how much programming is available would be helpful.

 

If it helps one of the cruises is on the ex-HAL ship Borealis, and the other (with more sea days) is on Balmoral.

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You might find the page below on the Fred Olsen website helpful. It's a long time since I have sailed with them but looking on the virtual tours available on the website, they have fairly extensive libraries and plenty of nooks and crannies to sit reading. I believe they still have a passenger choir but I am sure someone who has cruised with them more recently will be along with more information soon.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that my cruise on Bolette goes ahead next June!

 

https://www.fredolsencruises.com/cruising-information/typical-day-on-board

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Lots of folks reading and napping around the ship.  As mentioned above they often organize a choir and offer dance and ukulele lessons.  There are usually craft/art classes as well.  There are some piano or small group musical performance at times.  And they always have a lecturer or two on board.

On their older ships there are small gyms and pools, but the two ships they bought from HAL will have larger facilities.  However, it's unknown what effect Covid rules will have on any of this.

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I echo what Comcox and Britboys say about the activities on Fred’s ships. Fred has a lot of amazing and unusual itineraries and this is the main reason that we sail with them so regularly. we also like the small ships and find like-minded passengers along with decent food and service.

We won’t know what impact COVID will have when the ships start sailing again but this is our experience at the beginning of this year.
We completed a 4 week cruise from Australia to Sri Lanka last February on Boudicca which had a lot of sea days and we found plenty to do. All the original ships have good libraries and there was also:

  • trivia 3 times a day
  • lectures from highly qualified experts most days. These were on the local areas that we visited plus other miscellaneous subjects.
  • a choir
  • ukulele lessons
  • art and craft sessions
  • dance lessons.....there were male and female dance hosts for people who didn’t have their own partners.
  • games activities - shuffleboard, table tennis etc
  • exercise classes
  • knit and natter groups
  • bridge tournaments and lessons
  • food and drink classes
  • a naturalist who lead nature watches for sea birds and marine creatures
  • passenger talent shows
  • a talented entertainments team with performers who did production shows and individual cabaret shows.
  • lots of quiet areas to read or chat.
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We have done a large selection of Fred cruises as well as having travelled with Swan and VOD, so can make a comparison.  Like you we were very sad at the demise of Swan and VOD, though since then Fred had started doing a long distance winter season on Boudicca which gave the opportunity to take cruises in chunks of two weeks or more in distant waters, which mimicked much about the Swan/VOD itineraries.  Must say Fred does seem to have picked up and retained a number of cruisers who previously travelled on those lines, though like us, some had also done some Fred cruises previously.  The atmosphere is much the same as Fred also has an older clientele and a fairly calm environment, though less so on shorter cruises.  Speakers in our opinion can vary from quite good to abysmal and sadly the speaker covering India on our cruise from Sri Lanka to Dubai earlier this year was in the latter group.  They are not all of the standard of the  Swan speakers who were largely academics or ex diplomats and wildlife experts who were extremely skilled at public speaking as well as having an impeccable subject knowledge.

 

The Fred link provided by Britboys is indeed very typical of a day on board.  Choirs,  passenger talent shows and ukulele lessons are something that seems to have been restricted to the longer cruises that we have been on, though I am sure you could opt in if you do just a section of one of those.  We particularly like the observation lounges which usually feature a pianist and are good places to sit, especially on the northern routes when it is daylight throughout the day.  The quizzes do feature a lot of British based questions as you would expect (I know you are American from previous posts) and are sometimes about specific subjects, e.g. pop music.

 

Regards single travellers, Fred is pretty good for them from what I have observed, though I travel with my husband.  There are singles meetings to help people get to know each other and also a singles table in the self service restaurants, which is often frequented by the entertainers/speakers etc., who can be very interesting people.  When you intend to travel could make a large difference regards COVID policies as mentioned by Comcox and any port to other European destinations, could easily be subject to changes, until at least mid way through next year and more distant itineraries beyond that, as other countries do not plan rolling out the vaccine at the same rate as the UK.  I assume though that you are pretty well versed in various proposals published regards COVID restrictions, with limitations on leaving the ships independently and not sharing dining tables with people beyond your household for instance and of course no one knows how long such policies will remain in place.  Isolation of 14 days is currently required if travelling into the UK from the US as well, so you may not be able to embark a ship straight away if you sail from here.  Singing is something of concern for transmission of virus particles, so choirs may not happen either.  We would all like a crystal ball, though I do suggest you have a good read of Fred's terms and conditions about COVID, with particular regard to how it could affect your travel and insurance cover.  We have legal protection in the UK, but that is not necessarily something that would be of advantage to yourself.

 

Fred is particularly good when travelling north from the UK and is something he has always focused on due to the Olsen family heritage.  Lots of scenic cruising in those areas and I think that, in general, the speakers are better in those locations, presumably as he uses the same ones regularly.

 

Balmoral has two smaller restaurants called the Spey and Avon, which are on a high deck and have good views.  They have been standard restaurants which can be requested if they are still available at the time you book regardless of which cabin grade you book.  Fred has just started offering open dining on the ex HAL ships if requested on booking, but previously he offered only set sittings in the MDR's at 6.15pm or 8.30pm with the same dining companions for the whole cruise.  We have met some interesting people that way, but equally can become a problem.  I do not know if only set sittings will continue on Balmoral, but I suspect there would not be enough dining space on the ship to change that.

 

I hope this is of help as we have had some very useful advice from yourself in the past which we very much appreciated.  Happy planning and hope you keep well,

 

Barbara

Edited by tring
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On 12/6/2020 at 5:34 AM, tring said:

I hope this is of help as we have had some very useful advice from yourself in the past which we very much appreciated.  Happy planning and hope you keep well,

 

Thank you so much for this detailed info; gives me a very good overall picture of what to expect. Not too different from what I already pictured. 

 

Now if we could only get some clarity on when it might be reasonable to begin booking future cruises. 

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OP, Thank you for making me go back to my journal from our Fred.Olsen cruise (2008).  Things might have changed since then, but what I remember of daytime activities (correlated with the journal) is carpet bowls, and dance classes.

Ours was a Caribbean cruise, out of Miami, but we were among very few Americans onboard (10-20). We did spend many pleasant hours chatting with some of the UK passengers, and also with a number of the entertainers.  Many passengers spent many hours "working on their tans".

Overall, we enjoyed the cruise, especially the small ship.

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2 hours ago, shipgeeks said:

OP, Thank you for making me go back to my journal from our Fred.Olsen cruise (2008).  Things might have changed since then, but what I remember of daytime activities (correlated with the journal) is carpet bowls, and dance classes.

Ours was a Caribbean cruise, out of Miami, but we were among very few Americans onboard (10-20). We did spend many pleasant hours chatting with some of the UK passengers, and also with a number of the entertainers.  Many passengers spent many hours "working on their tans".

Overall, we enjoyed the cruise, especially the small ship.

 

Speakers or classical concerts are all we ever partake of and we rarely go to the shows.  I would say most people are very happy to chat and yes the Brits do like to make the most of the sun, though still plenty of deck space on Fred's original ships.  I am glad you enjoyed the cruise.

 

Fred still does carpet bowls, perhaps more when outdoor conditions are not fit for the usual deck games.  Dance classes are very popular and figure on all sea days.  All except the very short cruises have a couple who are qualified dance teachers and also another two male dance hosts on board.  That foursome dance with single passengers in the evening - ballroom before/after the shows, then head to the disco style dancing area after that. Dance hosts we have spoken to more recently do feel the ballroom dancing is dying out so feel they may be reduced in number or cut in the future, just leaving the dance teachers.  Of course COVID will have an effect, though may still be some sort of dance classes e.g. line dancing or similar.

 

The link given earlier is pretty much what Fred has been doing over the last ten years or so, but much less on port days.

Edited by tring
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