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Borealis - changed itinerary.


teenieleek
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I am booked on Borealis for the 18 day Cape Verde and Morocco trip in February 2023.  Final payment date was 5th November.  On Friday 18th I got a letter telling me that Lisbon had been dropped from the itinerary in order to “make the return to Liverpool more comfortable for our passengers”.  What a load of rubbish.  They are saving the port fees and then fuel costs by creeping back to Liverpool at 2mph.  I feel cheated and conned.  I am not one of those who are “wed to Fred”.  It is not coincidence that they waited until after final payment date to announce this.  I feel doubly cheated as a few days before final payment I got a phone call offering me a reduced price upgrade which I took.  They will now have a shipload of passengers who are disgruntled before they even board and in my case will never book with the company again.  I’m 71 so hopefully have a few more cruises in me.  Why would they deliberately sacrifice future passengers like me for a short term saving?

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I'm sorry that you will miss Lisbon.  Having visited the city earlier this year (not by ship) it is a great city to go to.  I've looked online and they have deleted it from the cruise itinerary listed, but if you look on agents' sites you can see it still, I believe Lisbon was the last port of call on the way back?  I agree with your assessment, another day at sea on the way back will allow the ship to crawl back to Liverpool and save a whole load of fuel.

 

If you read some of the other threads on Fred, particularly the ones on cruise costs and the departure of Fred Jr you aren't alone in your feelings.  I know that doesn't make up for your disappointment but many of Fred's former passengers are disenfranchised with the company.  Essentially they put their prices up a couple of years ago, but since the pandemic things haven't gone well.  The decision to buy the two HAL ships to replace the Black Watch and Bouddica looks like having turned out to be a bad one because Fred can't fill them.  That's why you got the upgrade offer.

 

In answer to your last question, as others have pointed out on other threads FOCL is part of the massive Bohenur comglomerate.   Although Fred present themselves as a family company that can quickly become a mirage because their customer relations can be poor, making decisions like you experienced without consideration of how it makes its guests feel.  Unfortunately, they can be just as ruthless as any of the large cruise companies when it comes to (trying to) make a profit.

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Hi,

I’m glad to hear you don’t think my moan unjustified.  I love Lisbon, spent ten days there a few years back in an apartment in Bairro Alto and was really looking forward to a day there.  Mainly I’m angry and now, having been excited about this trip, really don’t want to go.  I’m fairly sure that dropping a port is not sufficient grounds for a refund however, so we’ll just have to make the most of it.  I intend to phone them though and explain why they have lost a future customer.  They won’t care but they should as we’re now in almost the best cabin on the boat.  A very expensive mistake on my part.

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When it a special port of call that you booked the cruise specifically to visit that place, I think you are entirely justified to complain.  Especially when cruises aren't exactly cheap, and in your case the reason given is completely disingenuous.  (I've never heard such rubbish before from a cruise line!)

 

But sadly I don't think it is grounds.  It comes up quite a bit across the forums and people point out that the terms and conditions of each cruise company allow them to do this with no recompense for you.  I would definitely give them feedback, but they would probably just give you some flannel about it.  I think it happens an awful lot, I've done fourteen cruises in my life and this has happened on two of them.

 

I hope you still manage to enjoy your cruise. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Unfortunately, cruise line t's&c's allow them to make changes to the itinerary and one change would not be considered 'significant'.

A while back Fred made 'changes' to a Balmoral cruise I had booked. It changed from Holland, Germany, Kiel Canal and Scandinavia to "around Britain". Fred did offer a full refund but they refused to acknowledge that they had cancelled my cruise - merely 'changed' every port and indeed country being visited...

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On 11/20/2022 at 5:45 PM, teenieleek said:

I am booked on Borealis for the 18 day Cape Verde and Morocco trip in February 2023.  Final payment date was 5th November.  On Friday 18th I got a letter telling me that Lisbon had been dropped from the itinerary in order to “make the return to Liverpool more comfortable for our passengers”.  What a load of rubbish.  They are saving the port fees and then fuel costs by creeping back to Liverpool at 2mph.  I feel cheated and conned.  I am not one of those who are “wed to Fred”.  It is not coincidence that they waited until after final payment date to announce this.  I feel doubly cheated as a few days before final payment I got a phone call offering me a reduced price upgrade which I took.  They will now have a shipload of passengers who are disgruntled before they even board and in my case will never book with the company again.  I’m 71 so hopefully have a few more cruises in me.  Why would they deliberately sacrifice future passengers like me for a short term saving?

 

FOCLs offering a cruise and then changing the itinerary once bookings have already been made seems to be increasingly common. 

 

The FOCLs website currently intimates that for this "hand-crafted" itinerary "Exploration Of South America And The Antarctic” on the Balmoral on 5th Jan 2023, ("Fred. Olsen Jun. himself was very involved in the planning process from start to finish")...  there is a change... "Itinerary Change Notice: Please be advised that the itineary (sic) for this cruise has changed since originally published. Please see amended itinerary for more details."

 

Instead of leaving from Southampton, the Balmoral is now leaving from Portsmouth... tough on anyone who had made travel arrangements or booked a hotel. The Balmoral won't visit Cuba now... it will stop at the Bahamas instead. (some travel agents are still advertising a stop in Havana but FOCLs is not) but, whether or not FOCLs will honour the rest of the itinerary, remains to be seen.

 

FOCLs originally sold the cruise on the basis that, the Balmoral would cruise the Antarctic Peninsula and passengers would have an "experience like no other... to witness the awe-inspiring natural beauty of one of the world's most spectacular regions, its wonders, its wildlife and its waters." When the Antarctic Peninsula came into view, "passengers should expect to be "staggered by its overwhelming size, the might of its snow-capped mountains and the sheer volume of icebergs and glaciers." Passengers were to see "This vast stretch of land, ice and sea... an example of nature at its most astonishing" and "from on board your ship, you'll get to gaze upon these natural landmarks, and also look out for native wildlife, from penguins to various species of whale, which are drawn to the peninsula's icy waters... " 

 

That always seemed a tad unlikely to us. The Balmoral is one of the most elderly cruise ships afloat. It was built in 1988. It's had problems in past in high seas in the Bay of Biscay and the North Sea. As far as we know, the Balmoral has no ice-certification, it doesn’t seem to meet most of the environmental standards required by vessels sailing beyond 60˚ South and there is no evidence that it has ever passed a Antarctic Treaty Tourist Vessel Inspection.

 

We just don't think that the Balmoral will be able/allowed to travel any further than 60˚ South. Under the provisions of the Antarctic Acts of 1994 and 2013, it's an offence for the Balmoral to go beyond the Antarctic Treaty Boundary at 60˚ South without a permit.

 

However, the photo in our original "Fred" brochure shows Elephant Island which is more than 70 miles south of 60˚ South. The map in the brochure shows the route to King George Island which is about 135 miles further south (The current FOCLs web-site shows the same). The blurb in FOCLs' original brochure claims that we would "have a rare chance to see the rugged, icy landscapes of the Antarctic Peninsula" which is over 225 miles south of 60˚ South. Even with powerful binoculars, our eyesight, just isn't good enough to spot an Emperor Penguin doing the "Happy Feet" stuff from well over 225 miles away!

 

But other things have changed as well. FOCLs should now be fully aware that on 29 November 2022 the brand-new specialist state-of-the-art expedition vessel with all relevant certifications, the Viking Polaris, which is comparable in size to the Balmoral was hit by a rogue wave which smashed in a window. Very sadly, there was number of injuries and one fatality. The cruise was abandoned. The Balmoral had a similar incident in mid-November 2022 on the journey back from Norway. The ship was hit by some exceptional waves. A porthole/window on the main deck was smashed in, people were injured and cabins were damaged but, thank goodness, that was all. From our own experience on the Braemar in Force 9 and Force 10 gales, we've always felt very safe with Fred's Captains.

    

The FOCLs website has now changed again and there are no claims that passengers will see anything of the Antarctic Peninsula... the Balmoral will be "cruising "by" the Antarctic Peninsula." We suppose that "by" could be hundreds of miles away. The map on the website still shows the route to King George Island... although a number of travel agents selling the cruise have maps that miss out that part of the cruise!

 

It will be fascinating to see how FOCL's "hand-crafted" itinerary "attention to detail and meticulous planning" by the company's "skilled team of journey planners" works out and if the Balmoral does spend 17-19 February 2023 cruising within sight of the Antarctic Peninsula. FOCLs' blurb originally assured, "This once-in-a-lifetime journey gives you a rare chance to capture the rugged, icy landscapes of the Antarctic Peninsula"  "from the wonderful vantage point of the ship and the sea."

It would be an absolutely outstanding experience for the passengers on board. Many people who booked earlier on must be hoping for the best and looking forward to it.

 

If the itinerary has changed and there is no chance to see the Antarctic Peninsula and to be "staggered by its overwhelming size, the might of its snow-capped mountains and the sheer volume of icebergs and glaciers." or "from on board your ship, you'll get to gaze upon these natural landmarks, and also look out for native wildlife"... "we do hope that they will be adequate compensated... and more especially as the "from" price of the cruise for new purchasers has dropped by over 10% from £8,999 to £7,999.

 

This cruise is due to leave in a month and so now's the time to build bridges and to make amends to those passengers who may not be happy.

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I sent customer relations an email complaining about the dropping of Lisbon from the itinerary, the spurious reason and the suspicious timing of the email.  Someone phoned me a couple of days later to apologise for this, to say she had no more information than I had but that I could cancel and have a full refund if I wished.  I was very surprised. I was given a few days to decide.  After much humming and hawing we decided to stick with it as we’d been so much looking forward to this itinerary.  I really hope we don’t regret our choice.  I’ll let you all know how it goes.

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  • 2 weeks later...

They did the same for the Borealis Christmas Cruise. I booked late and paid in full. A few days later I got  a letter saying they had dropped Lanzarote from the schedule, for the same reason they gave you. 

I sent a disgruntled email immediately but to date have not received a reply. 

 

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On 12/7/2022 at 7:40 PM, teenieleek said:

I sent customer relations an email complaining about the dropping of Lisbon from the itinerary, the spurious reason and the suspicious timing of the email.  Someone phoned me a couple of days later to apologise for this, to say she had no more information than I had but that I could cancel and have a full refund if I wished.  I was very surprised. I was given a few days to decide.  After much humming and hawing we decided to stick with it as we’d been so much looking forward to this itinerary.  I really hope we don’t regret our choice.  I’ll let you all know how it goes.

That’s how they seem to be doing it all now, by phone. They are avoiding putting anything in writing that can be used against them.

 

I hope you still have a lovely cruise.

 

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On 12/7/2022 at 7:42 PM, teenieleek said:

I would be very upset if I’d been promised Cuba and Antarctica and got neither.  I would definitely cancel that one.

I have a feeling that Peru might also be cancelled from the Antarctica cruise because the Foreign  Office is advising caution owing to civil unrest after the ousting of the President on December 7th.  This could turn into a round Britain cruise!  

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On 12/4/2022 at 3:17 PM, Britboys said:

Unfortunately, cruise line t's&c's allow them to make changes to the itinerary and one change would not be considered 'significant'.

A while back Fred made 'changes' to a Balmoral cruise I had booked. It changed from Holland, Germany, Kiel Canal and Scandinavia to "around Britain". Fred did offer a full refund but they refused to acknowledge that they had cancelled my cruise - merely 'changed' every port and indeed country being visited...

Absolutely one change would not be considered significant but if passengers can show a pattern of them unilaterally dropping ports for no good reason then that’s a different matter.

 

They can’t just advertise something and change it on a whim to suit themselves. Not only will the lose future business advertising standards may take an interest.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Lisbon does seem to be getting dropped from quite a few Itinerarys this and next years.. Its now almost missing from all of Sagas 24 Canary routings and is replaced with a port in Green Spain. I wonder if Lisbons port costings have significantly increased.

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  • 1 month later...
On 11/20/2022 at 5:45 PM, teenieleek said:

I am booked on Borealis for the 18 day Cape Verde and Morocco trip in February 2023.  Final payment date was 5th November.  On Friday 18th I got a letter telling me that Lisbon had been dropped from the itinerary in order to “make the return to Liverpool more comfortable for our passengers”.  What a load of rubbish.  They are saving the port fees and then fuel costs by creeping back to Liverpool at 2mph.  I feel cheated and conned.  I am not one of those who are “wed to Fred”.  

 

This is exactly what happened to our trip, the one before yours leaving on 19th Jan. Here is what we were told by our TA: "...We were due to visit Santa Cruz De La Palma, Spain on 25th January 2023. When this itinerary was originally planned, Fred Olsen were yet to sail with guests on their new ship Borealis. Their Captains have now been sailing with her for the last year or so, and in this time have got to know the ship, the way she sails and the guest experience she offers much better. With this experience, they believe the speed required to reach this port in the planned time would mean your cruise would not be as comfortable as they would like. With that in mind, they have removed this call from your itinerary. This means Borealis can sail at a more comfortable speed to La Gomera - while you enjoy more time on board where their Captain, Officers and Crew are looking forward to welcoming you...."

 

On the ship during a Q&A session one lady asked the Captain straight out did he genuinely give this as a reason to omit  the port or was it a cost saving exercise. The Captain, along with the Entertainments officer both looked at each other and denied even knowing we were due to go to that Port! They said they didn't even know it was ever on the itinerary. This is / was obviously a fuel and port fee saving exercise. We also will not sail with FO again.

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