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In the dark with Fred


Midnight_Voice
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We took the Balmoral cruise L2229, French Rivers and Bordeaux, from 25th October to 4th November 2022. Our third cruise with Fred, and we were particularly attracted by the river passages to Bordeaux and Rouen, as we have never been on a river cruise.

 

All started well; a last-minute upgrade to a suite at a very attractive price, and we liked the ship very much. BUT - when it came to the river passages, all four were in total darkness. Not the daytime transits shown in the brochure, at least once in each river you would have thought, coming or going, but none of them. There were some issues for the ship - bad weather in one instance, a sick passenger helicoptered off in another - but nothing done to give us even one river transit in daylight. So not at all the experience we had been hoping for, and which other passengers had told us about from earlier cruises, of see people out to watch us go by, wave flags, us seeing the scenery in daylight, and so on.

 

So we thought we’d write to Fred to express our disappointment, which we did. And since whenever you complain, you should have in mind what you might ask in recompense, we thought about that; and decided (somewhat to our own surprise) that nothing short of a total refund would do. As we needed to be back in the situation where we could go again on a river cruise, and get the experience we had hoped for, which Fred had not supplied.

 

The answer back from Fred was that they would do nothing. No recompense at all. Nix, nada, nil. Even our travel agent was shocked, and contacted Fred again on our behalf. Still nothing, still a brick wall. Just a comment that as they weren’t giving anybody else who had complained about it anything, it was only fair to those passengers that they didn’t give us anything either.

 

Which has got to be the world’s most extended definition of ‘fair’ - to be equally unfair to everyone who complained. But did of course mean Fred had let slip that we were far from alone in our disappointment.

 

We had the Cyprus cruise in January 2023 booked before all this, on the dark and gloomy Bolette; wish we hadn’t now, but we don’t want to forfeit the already-paid-for fares.
 

I doubt we’ll sail with Fred again after that, though. We did find from the final cruise log that the cruise had morphed into ‘Tastes of Spain and France’, perhaps out of embarrassment, but the taste in our mouths from this experience has been a nasty one. We think ‘the old Fred’ would have treated us better; but it is seeming like ‘the old Fred’ is gone 😢

Edited by Midnight_Voice
Added Cruise Log comment I had meant to include initially
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We went with Fred through the Panama Canal around 10 years ago.  Guess what ? Yes went through it at night. 
To be fair it was impressive with all the floodlights but it was 2 in the morning.

So move on 5 or 6 years Kiel Canal cruise, yes again, supposedly best part in darkness.

Was booked on Corinth Canal cruise in 2024. We joked that we would be going thro in the dark. Well we won’t because it’s been cancelled.

 

 

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The itinerary indicated that arrival to Bordeaux would be late night with departure late pm the next day so was always going to be in the dark.

 

With regards to Rouen we should have arrived late night and departed late night the next day. We might have seen some scenic sailing during the afternoon of the arrival day but were unfortunately delayed by bad weather arriving much later than planned.

 

Not surprised no refund offered.

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7 hours ago, Midnight_Voice said:

The answer back from Fred was that they would do nothing. No recompense at all. Nix, nada, nil. Even our travel agent was shocked, and contacted Fred again on our behalf. Still nothing, still a brick wall. Just a comment that as they weren’t giving anybody else who had complained about it anything, it was only fair to those passengers that they didn’t give us anything either.

 

Calling it a French river cruise and then you not seeing any when that is the whole point of the cruise is beyond belief.  Your sense of disappointment is completely understandable and I feel sorry for you to have been let down so badly by FOCL.

 

Unfortunately when things go wrong on an FOCL cruise any benevolence or generosity on the part of the company immediately evaporates. Gone is the friendly Olsen family image they market themselves as, instead they do refuse to even consider your point of view. It strikes me as pretty ruthless and the not the way to treat loyal customers.  I am not surprised you want nothing more to do with them.  

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19 hours ago, Midnight_Voice said:

We took the Balmoral cruise L2229, French Rivers and Bordeaux, from 25th October to 4th November 2022. Our third cruise with Fred, and we were particularly attracted by the river passages to Bordeaux and Rouen, as we have never been on a river cruise.

 

The itinerary clearly stated that; 

 

1, "The beautiful River Garonne is possibly south-west France's most important river, and arguably one of the region's most picturesque too." Pictures accompanying the itinerary showed stunning landscapes in daylight.

 

2, During the cruise along the Seine passengers should, "Simply sit back, relax and take in stunning scenes of rolling valleys, floral fields and charming communes dotted with historic churches and traditional houses that have inspired many famous artists over the years, including Claude Monet and Henri Matisse." Pictures accompanying the itinerary showed stunning landscapes in daylight.

 

Of 64 trusted and verified reviews on the FOCLs site 14 of those people invited to comment expressed surprise and disappointment the river transits were in darkness and they saw nothing. This was supposed to be an expertly "Hand-crafted" itinerary but if the reviews on FOCLs were in any way representative, it's likely that hundreds of people are likely to have been left disappointed by the company.

 

The point is... if hundreds of people are disappointed because the reality doesn’t match what was promised in the brochure or on the website that must be bad for the FOCL's business... FOCLs need to sit up and take note... the company is selling one of it's four ships, it has a second ship laid up due to a lack of bookings and the remaining two are far from full and FOCLs is operating at a substantial loss.

 

Maybe it would be better if FOCLs spent less time being defensive and more time empathising with the smaller and smaller number of passengers that they have left. 

 

We think that it's sad that you've not been compensated in some way or, at the very least, offered a good-will gesture. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

So that's probably why they NEVER give times for their itineraries.  I wanted to try the ships they purchased from HAL(which were my favorite getting me to 4-star mariner), and wrote to them asking not only why they didn't give times, but why they didn't post shore excursions until a few weeks before sailing.  No answer for weeks - fourth request got some snarkey response that I was the only person who "needed to know this" in order to book.  Your sad experience in France confirms my decision to not even consider them as a cruise option.  Thank you.

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On 1/3/2023 at 5:53 AM, LORDBOWDON said:

So that's probably why they NEVER give times for their itineraries.  I wanted to try the ships they purchased from HAL(which were my favorite getting me to 4-star mariner), and wrote to them asking not only why they didn't give times, but why they didn't post shore excursions until a few weeks before sailing.  No answer for weeks - fourth request got some snarkey response that I was the only person who "needed to know this" in order to book.  Your sad experience in France confirms my decision to not even consider them as a cruise option.  Thank you.

 

In the past we've travelled with smaller cruise lines that quite intentionally kept the arrival and departure times in ports top secret from the passengers until the last minute... although the company often knew the times that they booked pilots and port facilities a year or more in advance. The reason seemed to be that if passengers were kept in the dark they couldn't make independent arrangements for on shore sightseeing or use local excursions. In short they had to rely on expensive excursions provided by the ship.

 

It would be sad if FOCLs are now doing the same... especially as both of the other lines that we've experienced doing this sort of thing have now gone by the wayside.

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4 hours ago, twotravellersLondon said:

 

It would be sad if FOCLs are now doing the same... especially as both of the other lines that we've experienced doing this sort of thing have now gone by the wayside.

 

 

We booked a Fred cruise yesterday and Fred is doing what he always did.  That is the port times are put on itineraries as an approximation (e.g. early morning, afternoon, late afternoon etc.).  Lordbowden should have been told that and given Fred's definition of those terms (each relates to a time period as you will know).  I cannot find the definitions at present and I have no time to search at length, but will put a link to them here to that list if I find it.  Of course P&O, (the UK based Carnival Corporation cruise line), do not give port times either, other than similar approximations and definitions of those time periods, though they mean different times for each of those lines.

 

It would be interesting to have some more details about the actual message exchange between the poster and Fred, but certainly sounds as though the reply to his last request was way out of line if it was as it sounds and I would have had the same response to it!  The person who dealt with our booking and a subsequent contact were both very efficient and polite as they always were, but I have heard that there are a number of new staff in HO. 

 

We did not think we would book a Fred cruise in the near future on freedom fare, but the local departure was a big plus, as well as the itinerary, and a similar Arcadia cruise was, in fact, more expensive.  Must admit we are keeping our fingers crossed that it will go ahead as planned, but much the same with all cruises recently.

 

 

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On 1/3/2023 at 5:53 AM, LORDBOWDON said:

So that's probably why they NEVER give times for their itineraries.  I wanted to try the ships they purchased from HAL(which were my favorite getting me to 4-star mariner), and wrote to them asking not only why they didn't give times, but why they didn't post shore excursions until a few weeks before sailing.  No answer for weeks - fourth request got some snarkey response that I was the only person who "needed to know this" in order to book.  Your sad experience in France confirms my decision to not even consider them as a cruise option.  Thank you.

 

Very sadly for FOCLs profits we've had three unwelcoming experiences on the trot when we've contacted FOCLs customer services. 

 

1, We cancelled a cruise during a cooling-off period because we were very unhappy at how the situation with the Braemar was managed at the beginning of the "pause." FOCLs made it difficult and held onto our deposit for months despite the fact that the company should not have taken a deposit until the contract started at the end of the cooling-off period.

 

2, Later we asked if information placed on a media site by FOCLs was accessible in any other format. We never had an reply.

 

3, We enquired about the detailed itinerary of one of FOCLs' long voyages... weeks afterwards we eventually received a non-answer. We were simply told that our question had been discussed at the planning stage!

 

As far as timings are concerned... both FOCLs and SAGA are doing Northern Lights cruises in February/March this year. SAGA give timings; "Alta, Norway Arrive 0800 on March 8. Depart 1900 on March 9." FOCLs don't give times; "MAR 14 Arrival - early morning. Departure - late afternoon."  What a difference! Talk about FOCLs leaving people in the dark!

 

Add to that; on a like for like cabin basis... FOCLs works out far more expensive  than SAGA... in our opinion the old "Fred" has gone and we just don't find FOCLs attractive at the moment.

 

It's going to be really interesting to see the FOCLs published accounts for the fourth quarter of 2022!

 

Edited by twotravellersLondon
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  • 2 weeks later...
On 1/4/2023 at 4:04 PM, tring said:

 

We booked a Fred cruise yesterday and Fred is doing what he always did.  That is the port times are put on itineraries as an approximation (e.g. early morning, afternoon, late afternoon etc.).  Lordbowden should have been told that and given Fred's definition of those terms (each relates to a time period as you will know).  I cannot find the definitions at present and I have no time to search at length, but will put a link to them here to that list if I find it.  Of course P&O, (the UK based Carnival Corporation cruise line), do not give port times either, other than similar approximations and definitions of those time periods, though they mean different times for each of those lines.

 

 

Have just found the port time ranges on the Fred site which are as follows:-

 

HOW LONG WILL WE BE DOCKED IN EACH PORT OF CALL?

Details of your itinerary will be available on the relevant cruise page, detailing early/late am/pm for each port of call.

Precise timings for your stay in port vary from place to place, and from sailing to sailing.

Arrival and departure times can change as your cruise progresses, so we display them as approximate periods rather than exact times.

The below is a rough guide to these approximate timings, which are always subject to change.

Period Arrive or Depart from
early morning  06:00 - 10:00
late morning 10:01 - 12:00
early afternoon  12:01 - 15:00
late afternoon 15:01 - 18:00
early evening 18:01 - 20:00
late evening 20:01 - 23:00
late night 23:01 - 05:59


Please contact Guest Services on 0800 0355 145 or via email internet@fredolsen.co.uk if you wish to know specific times for a particular port you are visiting.

 

 

The above was copied and pasted from Fred's FAQ's on this link:-   https://www.fredolsencruises.com/faqs/general/how-long-will-we-be-docked-in-each-port-of-call?fbclid=IwAR033WMuVOloUQeNgpAg62edGxLkWIAai8OFwVgwW11uTbzuVh4dJ-5KeMs

 

 

Edited by tring
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When it comes to Fred's arrival and departure times, we usually check the timings shown on the official "port of ??" websites where cruise calls are usually listed, and sometimes where there is more than one docking option (Lisbon eg) the berth is also indicated.  There are other websites which give timings but they are not always as accurate as the official port websites.  It is of course a nuisance to have to begin port research in this way.

 

I read this  with some interest.

 

whenever you complain, you should have in mind what you might ask in recompense, we thought about that; and decided (somewhat to our own surprise) that nothing short of a total refund would do. As we needed to be back in the situation where we could go again on a river cruise

 

I thought this a little unreasonable as you must have been accommodated, had your room serviced ,and been fed throughout, also entertained, and maybe enjoyed some shorex, so I don't understand why you would have expected a full refund for these elements of your trip. Perhaps had you considered asking for a partial refund rather than a full one, Fred might have considered your request more favourably but of course I do not know and it is only my personal opinion anyway..

Edited by edinburgher
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44 minutes ago, edinburgher said:

When it comes to Fred's arrival and departure times, we usually check the timings shown on the official "port of ??" websites where cruise calls are usually listed, and sometimes where there is more than one docking option (Lisbon eg) the berth is also indicated.

 

We've tried to do that and have often found that FOCLs are listed but often with no detailed timings although the precise times are given for the vast majority of other ships in the same port on the same day. It makes it really difficult to plan a day's independent sightseeing or to arrange and independent excursion from a local company that charges far less than FOCLs for the same trip.

 

For instance this is the Port Arrivals and Departures at Lima, Peru, for this year... Only FOCLs Balmoral & P&Os Aurora don't give times.

 

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