Cruising always takes me on a journey of self-discovery and transformation. Those first few hours after boarding, settling down and unpacking, soon transport me to a world that touches all my senses.
I love being on the open sea!
My recent cruise as a guest of Fred Olsen Cruises was no exception.
Please watch my video review and check out my comments below. This was definitely a fun experience and I want to share everything with you!
I approached the 8-day discovery of Scenic Spain with excitement and a few nerves!
I had never been on a Fred Olsen cruise. In addition, I was still not sure about rough seas. I also knew no one else on the ship. That is of course except for my fabulous host Rachael Jackson, whose intense joy for cruising and passion for people and life was contagious!
She also had a passion for soup, but, that’s another story!
I need not have worried! By dinner on day one, I had become a part of the “Fred Olsen Family.”
The cruise visited classic ports in northern Spain including La Coruna, Aviles, Santander and Bilboa. The weather was perfect with very little cloud cover and an incredibly smooth sailing on the Bay of Biscay.
We sailed from Liverpool, which was a treat. My short video on that first day explains the history and magic of this UK port and why for me, it was a great start to the cruise.
As a guest on a cruise, you naturally start with a lens of positivity… but in reporting for our Sixty and Me community, I always put honesty and trust first.
So, here are 7 things that I think Fred Olsen Cruises did well. And just one little thing that might be better.
When I met with Captain Yuha Sartela, he proudly shared that in his opinion the thing that differentiated Fred Olsen from others was the crew.
In my view, they were more than just “kind.” They had a sensitivity that came from their heart. They didn’t seem like temporary contract cruise workers; they were people who genuinely appreciated each other and the guests. They liked what they did.
Karen, who looked after my room, was so caring and sweet. She left me little notes to remind me of things I needed to remember and tiny yellow flowers every day that brightened my room.
Most of the staff onboard were from the Philippines and many had worked over 10 years for Fred Olsen. In my opinion, this gave a consistency of culture and values that created a connected experience.
There were lots of smiles and gentle consideration for guest with mobility issues. According to Karen, the staff came back year after year because they felt wanted and appreciated.
For me, this short 8-day Fred Olsen experiences was very much like spending time with family. The Customer Service team was amazing. I never had to wait more than two rings for someone to answer the phone when I had a question.
Oh yes, and I can’t forget the staff entertainment night and a pretty outrageous performance of Tom Jones’ “Sex Bomb” and “YMCA.” Trust me, the dancers were very good!
There were heartfelt hugs at the end of the cruise!
Fred Olsen is a fun cruise line. That said, the entertainment wasn’t over the top!
There was a wonderful selection of activities, from quiz games to informative lectures and port talks.
I must say that the gentleman who presented the port talks was crystal clear and didn’t miss any important points.
The talks were also on the in-room television as well, so you could catch up if you just happened to be in the hot tub or enjoying a drink at the bar at the time he was speaking live in the Neptune Lounge.
There was something for everyone to do. But what I loved most was that there was no pressure to conform.
There were two formal evenings – the Captains welcome and farewell cocktail parties. Some women dressed up with velvet and pearls. Others wore simple little black dresses. I even spotted a few tiaras!
On board the Boudicca, there were a lot of couples.
Some were celebrating milestone trips – anniversaries, retirement or just working down their bucket list of travel destinations. I spoke with lots of husbands and wives, fathers and adult children. This cruise was definitely an adult only offering.
There were small groups, friends travelling together and those who, like me, were travelling independently solo.
Some, like Pam and Hadley had enjoyed 60 cruises together and others like Mary, a nurse from London, were on their first voyage at sea!
Fred Olsen also is very unique in the wide range of solo room options they offer. Yes, there are still single supplements, but Fred Olsen often offers reductions from 20-50%. In fact, in 2018 there are 4 cruises with no single supplement at all!
This focus on affordability, which is super important, shows that they have a sensitivity to the issues of solo travellers. In their catalogues and online, they always list the “single room” rate right up front.
During the cruise, there is a solo lunch table and afternoon get-togethers for independent travels.
When it came to shore excursions, there was a big focus on catering for the independent traveller. It did not take long for us solo travellers to find each other and I made several lovely friends by the end of the cruise.
The food menus were also designed for every taste. The restaurant staff very quickly remembered drink choices and dietary issues and did everything possible to make sure needs were met.
I can’t blame the laundry for “shrinking” my clothes. After all, I enjoyed every single meal!
The buffets for breakfast and lunch offered wonderful choices from vegetarian to gluten free and the formal evening dinners were unique and creative every night.
This, by the way, is where we discovered Rachael’s passion for soup as she ordered two and sometimes three choices!
The crème brulee and salad Nicoise were my favourites! Notice I mentioned the dessert first. Life is short!
There were less than 900 passengers on the Boudicca. That small ship feel was very comfortable and created a sense of personal connection and responsibility.
Staying healthy onboard was obviously a big priority and there was a definite focus on hygiene and good health. There was also a passion for health and well-being. There were hand sanitizer stands everywhere and people used them regularly!
The Boudicca spa delivered an amazing selection of massage options (I chose hot stone). You could also indulge in a manicure, pedicure, facial, or haircut. Other more exotic treatment options were also offered, like the Indian head massage.
For passengers with mobility issues, Fred Olsen addressed their needs beautifully. There was no stress about people using walkers and sticks. There were even a limited number of electric wheelchairs allowed. One woman who was blind sat reading her braille book and had the biggest smile on her face.
One thing I would praise Fred Olsen for was the high quality of communication. From the Captain’s daily updates to Cruise Director announcements, communication was excellent. Information in the rooms was super easy to digest, and the Daily Times was a wealth of information. If you needed any help, the Customer Service team were incredibly responsive!
Cool, calm and informative, Captain Juha Sartela had a wonderful sense of humor. He is from Finland so shared eclectic stories every day about his homeland. His closing comment every day was “Let’s Rock and Roll!”
Fred Olsen cruises depart, primarily, from UK ports, but, they travel to the Mediterranean, Baltic, Norway and even Asia. They even offer a World Cruise.
You might expect shore excursions to be a big expense while cruising, but, I felt that the prices were very affordable!
When it comes to shore excursions, it’s hard to please everyone. This is why Fred Olsen offers solo and independent options, including hop-on-hop-off buses and shuttles.
This, however, is the one area that I would have liked to see some innovation.
In my opinion, it would be helpful to have short videos highlighting the shore excursions available for viewing online ahead of the cruise.
Also, in places like Bilbao, where we had over 10 hours in port, it would have been great to have been given the option to participate in both a morning and afternoon shore excursion.
The ship was comfortable, clean and safe and the staff were professional and genuine. Overall, the service was efficient and flexible.
In my view, every passenger was treated with patience and respect. A kindness permeated the ship. Maybe there was a little grumbling about slow elevators, but, overall, it was a happy cruise.
I left with memories of spectacular Spanish cities. My personal favorite was Bilbao and the visit to the Guggenheim Museum!
I made several new friends and got a different perspective on cruising. Quite honestly, without hesitation, I would recommend Fred Olsen if you are looking for an affordable, classic, and innovative cruise experience.
You can check out the Fred Olsen website. If you reach out to them, please let them know you are from Sixty and Me. Perhaps we’ll do a cruise together one day!
A similar cruise with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines will be an eight-night “The Diversity of Green Spain” cruise (M1810) on board Braemar, departing from Southampton on 28th April 2018.
Ports of call include: La Coruña, Avilés, Santander, an overnight stay in Bilbao (from Getxo), returning to Southampton on 6th May 2018.
Further details of this cruise are available here.
Have you ever gone on a cruise? Which was your favorite? Have you ever travelled with Fred Olsen? Would you be interested in joining a Sixty and Me cruise? Let’s get a conversation started!