We joined Braemar at the end of June for her 8 nights French Waterways cruise out of Southampton. Our cabin (3067) had two large portholes and was light, airy, quiet and comfortable. However a tiny safe hidden away and still using a physical key is disappointing, though the new flat screen TV and system are great. As in the UK, France was enjoying a heat wave so the weather in the first two ports – Rouen and Bordeaux was hot and sunny. In Rouen we took a ‘noddy train’ and in Bordeaux a tour bus, both had a commentary and gave us a good overview of each city. In Lorient we took a ship’s excursion to Concarneau and Pont-Aven, both interesting and well worth a visit plus we managed to dodge the showers. The rivers Seine and Garonne are not that picturesque with much heavy industry on their banks.
We were impressed with Braemar, a nice size ship that we last cruised on in 2004. Since then she has been stretched and this means that the public areas become quite crowded if conditions are less inviting on the outside decks. In a similar vein getting a seat with a view in the Neptune Show Lounge requires some tenacity. The show company, both dancers and singers, are first class, putting other ships and lines (with bigger budgets and facilities) to shame. There were two guest acts that each performed three times. One, Mandy Muden was very funny with magic and wry humour. The other, Lloyd Hollett was less so with some patter and a few tasteless jokes. On the minus side there were no open lectures and despite the tickets saying so, there was no British night.
We found the food was mostly of a high Fred Olsen standard and the dinner service in the MDRs as good as ever. However the service at breakfast and lunch in the attractively placed Grampian restaurant was less so. The drinks service in the Morning Light and the Observatory was excellent; though locating the latter for the first time took a while. The drinks package has more variety than previously and for us was included which was welcome.
In summary, we thoroughly enjoyed a relaxing if short cruise meeting, as is usual on Fred, some lovely folks and enjoying great destinations.