Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines are always offering special cruise experiences for their guests and a long weekend cruise along the Seine on their ship Braemar sounded idyllic. Fred.Olsen have a fleet of 4 ships visiting many fabulous destinations around the world. Having experienced a wonderful Norwegian Fjord cruise on Balmoral last year, my wife and I were eagerly looking forward to this river cruise.
Braemar is how a ship should look; traditional design, elegant and stylish. She’s a firm favourite with many of Fred.Olsen’s regular cruisers. Onboard you won’t find rock walls to climb, zip wires, surf rides or waterslides, you will however find a smaller intimate ship with plenty of lounges and public areas to relax in, fabulous food and all the favourite facilities you would expect from a cruise line with over 160 years of history.
After a quick embarkation at Southampton we made our way to our Superior Outside Cabin. Spacious, well appointed and very comfortable. Lots of hanging wardrobe space, tea and coffee making facilities and a large picture window to watch the world go by, not that we planned to stay in our cabin for long, there was a whole ship to explore and enjoy! Our suitcases had already arrived and after dropping off our carry-on luggage we made our way to the Palms Café at the rear of deck 6 for a welcome aboard snack and afternoon tea. Soon it was time for the mandatory safety drill and then the Sailaway. As we pulled away and started our journey down the Solent you could ‘feel’ the sense of anticipation on board as we set off on our River Seine Sojourn. Now however, time to unpack and to change for pre-dinner drinks before making our way to the Grampian Restaurant for our first dinner of the cruise.
Stylish and Comfortable
The Braemar has all the facilities you need and from the moment we stepped on board we were welcomed by friendly, smiling, courteous staff who are clearly there to make your cruise as memorable as possible – this is a cruise line which is all about the people.
Refitted in 2008, fully stabilised and carrying around 900 guests, the 24,000 ton Braemar’s timeless style and elegance captured our senses. The ships five deck high Atrium creates a light, spacious and airy interior and gives her a very modern look whilst still retaining the relaxed, friendly atmosphere which make all the Fred.Olsen ships so popular.
The stylish and elegant public areas feature polished wood, gleaming brass and subtle lighting. We discovered the inviting Morning Light Pub and the Observatory Lounge situated right at the front of the ship with spectacular views over the ships bow which was an ideal spot for pre-dinner drinks. The cascading decks at Braemar’s stern provide plenty of opportunity to sit and relax and enjoy your favourite tipple. Out on Marquee deck there’s two open air swimming pools with a couple of Jacuzzi’s. Plenty of seats and sun loungers and, of course, a poolside bar.
For a little extra indulgence, head to the Atlantis Spa where professional therapists offer a wide range of invigorating and relaxing treatments at very competitive prices.
We all know that food is a high priority for British cruisers and on Braemar you can expect a wonderful choice of fine dining. The mouth-watering, 5 course dinner menu was varied with many delicious dishes to choose from each night, accompanied by a well-stocked wine list.
The Thistle Restaurant on deck 4 is the main restaurant whilst on Marquee deck 8 you’ll find the Grampian Restaurant which offers a more intimate atmosphere with the added bonus of splendid views. My wife and I had a super table for two on second sitting which overlooked the stern of the ship.
Informal dining is available in the Palms Café whilst the adjoining Lido bar is another great palace to relax, chat and enjoy a favourite cocktail. All restaurants enjoy the same level of service, cuisine and varied menu’s.
In the evening, both before and after dinner, there are various places to find lively entertainment including the Neptune Lounge, Morning Light Pub and the Coral Club. You could also try your luck on the gaming tables on deck 5, watch a movie in your cabin or perhaps take a look at the on board shops when not in port. There are only a couple of shops on board but nevertheless my wife managed to bring home a number of gifts and a piece of jewellery for herself!
Braemar is big enough to offer you all the comforts and facilities expected on a cruise yet she is small enough for you to feel completely at home and able to access those smaller, more interesting ports, impossible for some of the larger cruise ships.
Cruising Along The River
After a great night’s sleep, the following day finds us cruising the third longest river in France from the Normandy coast along this gently flowing waterway to Rouen. We couldn’t wait to get on deck. This was over 60 nautical miles of stunning scenic cruising alongside a mix of grand buildings and monuments, picturesque villages, chateaux, lush-green fields and tall forests until we reached the preserved medieval city of Rouen
We stay at Rouen overnight, berthed at the spot where Robert Fulton conceived and built the first submarine, Nautilus, in 1798. A complimentary shuttle bus is laid on for the short journey from the port to the city centre. Rouen, the capital of Normandy, is famous for its stunning Notre Dame Cathedral, with its magnificent gothic-style facade, and cultural heritage. We took a walk along the banks of the Seine and then headed back to the ship for dinner.
The following day we made our way by foot to the port entrance, a fairly easy walk, where we spent a couple of hours in Docks 76 a new shopping and leisure centre with over 80 shops and a sprinkling of cafés and restaurants.
Tours From Rouen
On this cruise a couple of official Fred tours were available to book. Monet’s house and garden where you could explore the beautiful surroundings which inspired his work, or an evening in Paris. The Paris tour included coach travel to the city, a tour to take in the highlights and view Paris at night from a cruise boat, plus free time to explore on your own. A tours office is situated near the reception and either of these tours could be booked on board or prior to the cruise (advisable)
Cruising is a wonderful way to travel and all too soon we were heading back to Normandy and the open sea to Southampton. Eating a 5 course dinner with my wife in a fabulous restaurant whilst passing under the Normandy Bridge is not something you do everyday! This memory will remain with us for a long time, as indeed will the whole cruise.
Thank you Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines, we absolutely loved your ship Braemar, your food, your staff and your itinerary – here’s to our next Fred.Olsen adventure!