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Sail Date: January 2019
Not many people post about Fred Olsen, maybe because so many passengers are returning guests, on this cruise over half those on board had silver Oceans club membership or above, so Fred must be doing something right. We were on our fifth ... Read More
Not many people post about Fred Olsen, maybe because so many passengers are returning guests, on this cruise over half those on board had silver Oceans club membership or above, so Fred must be doing something right. We were on our fifth cruise and third with Olsen, also our second on the Balmoral The itinerary to the Canaries was similar to our previous time but we did not mind because we like most of the ports and the purpose was to celebrate a big birthday somewhere warm and at sea. It turned out to be a special experience. On the birthday morning the ship docked in Lisbon which we think one of the most beautiful arrival settings in the world and the sun was shining to give us a great day out with lunch on a restaurant terrace. Back on the ship in the evening there was the traditional Fred Olsen birthday cake and greetings at dinner. I had been advised when booking to have my birthday treat package on a sea day, so the champagne breakfast came the next morning complete with smoked salmon, fresh fruit and all the trimmings. Also included is a photo session with the ship’s photographers which resulted in some lovely photo memories to bring home and we have them on CD so can print all that we want. I would recommend a Fred cruise to anyone with a special anniversary or birthday to celebrate. Back to the practicalities: embarkation was the easiest we have ever had, parked in sight of the ship and were on board by 1.30 with all the luggage. The only down side at the beginning was that we were assigned the 8.30 dinner which we tried once but it really does not work for us. So top marks to the maitre d’ and his assistant for giving in to my pestering and reassigning us not just to the 6.15 sitting but also to the (as I think nicer) restaurants on deck 10. I have to say I think the quality of food is not as high as it used to be, on our first cruise back in 2012 on the Black Watch we were really impressed but not this time. There were 3 new port calls for us (but in the event only two as one was dropped at the last minute): the Unesco biosphere island of La Palma where we went on the excursion to the magnificent volcanic crater. A spectacular visit, just marred by the guide having to hurry us all the time, as the ship only had half a day in La Palma. On the way back the call was A Coruna in northern Spain, a stylish Spanish city in a beautiful setting. The other port calls we had been to before (Tenerife, Las Palmas, Madeira, Puerto Rosario on Fuerteventura), so for those who like to make their own port arrangements, here were our ideas this time: Madeira: walked along a levada; Tenerife: shopped in El Corte Ingles; Las Palmas: hired bikes to cycle along the prom; Fuerteventura: wandered into town for a coffee (again only half a day but you wouldn’t want any more). As before with onboard entertainment, we rate the ship show company and orchestra really highly. We often find the regular bands better than the featured artistes, but this time were impressed by trumpet player Leo Shavers, and also by some good classical concerts. I’m not sure if Fred Olsen has given up on sail away parties, but there weren’t any, and we missed the fun of those occasions. Finally disembarkation, the speediest ever, we were back in the car and on our way out of southampton by 8.45. In summary, the cruise more than met our hopes and expectations. Ps there was a problem with norovirus cases but generally special arrangements were dealt with graciously and effectively by the crew. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2019
We wanted to get away for some summer sun in January but didn't want the hassle of flying so a cruise from Southampton to Madeira and the Canary Islands sounded perfect, and it was. We couldn't believe how smooth embarkation ... Read More
We wanted to get away for some summer sun in January but didn't want the hassle of flying so a cruise from Southampton to Madeira and the Canary Islands sounded perfect, and it was. We couldn't believe how smooth embarkation was. On arrival at Southampton a member of staff was ready to whisk our bags away before we had even parked and within minutes of arrival we were sat in the Observation Lounge with a G&T. The crew were friendly, helpful and very efficient. The ports we visited were all interesting and the days at sea gave us a chance to relax. We were very lucky with the weather as the Bay of Biscay was calm. There was an outbreak of Norovirus (only to be expected) and full marks to the crew for stepping up to all the additional duties with a smile. Bottom of the class were the passengers we saw taking plates of sandwiches from the cafe back to their room, eating them on their way and then touching the handrails - hardly hygienic; the partner of a quarantined passenger who was determined to go on his booked tour excursion even though the captain had said he was not allowed ashore and the passengers who refused to use the hand gel. Only downside was the decision to ban jogging outside. The gym was hot and running machines are not good for knees. There are many responsible joggers who like to run in the fresh air and are always considerate to fellow guests. Come on Fred you could have some 'jogging time' on deck when other passengers could be warned to keep an eye out for runners. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
We have taken these New Year cruises for the last few years ( Oceana, Ventura, Arcadia) brightens the post Christmas lull. Oceana still looking good after her late 2017 refit, we were on her last New Year as well. Embarkation was ... Read More
We have taken these New Year cruises for the last few years ( Oceana, Ventura, Arcadia) brightens the post Christmas lull. Oceana still looking good after her late 2017 refit, we were on her last New Year as well. Embarkation was good and had a different good lunch experience in the Ligurian, rather than the Buffet or the "suite lunch". Didn't get priority boarding as we had expected (mini suite) but as we were there at 12.30 we didn't wait long. Oceana's Atrium is lovely and all trimmed up, dance floor a touch small but we all coped, even on very rough stormy night. Quite how people complain of limited choice at lunch/dinner is beyond me. I wonder if people visit all the counters in the buffet, there is always lots of additional choices (hot & cold) to the curry (v good) and stir fry, including usually a roast. At dinner I counted eleven main course choices and a similar number of vegetables. MDR waiters were very good and friendly, our Wine Steward was exceptional. Food was fine, and offered more if we wanted without asking, soups are particularly good, we could not mange any more though. Only a short cruise so perhaps entertainment was more limited. Only one visiting speaker (I think) although the dated WW2 talks seem to have gone, which is good really. Queen show in Footlights was good although we have seen before, but hey ho I play the CD again and again. Headliners in Starlights was very good. This lounge and its equivalent on the "older" ships are in my view better than the newer ones, with more theatre style seating than tables and chairs it was not a problem getting a seat. Mama Mia Here We Go Again was showing in the theatre and on cabin TV, good. Nice mix of fellow passengers all well dressed be it formal or smart casual, and if P&O's embargo has resulted in no football shirts hooray, only saw one smart "tucked in" discrete logo football shirt, and there was plenty of footie on the bar TV's. We met some nice friendly people. Our mini suite B573 was excellent, bigger than some suites we have had, and I think allowing for a smaller balcony (but still big) the actual cabin was bigger than the adjacent suite. Some engine noise/vibration when docking/departing but only for 5-10 minutes at most, not a problem. Usual issues of some people steadfastly refusing to use the hand gels, and "table hoggers" at the Buffet claiming seats and then going off individually to get food - why, there are plenty of seats? Wheelchair users were given consideration and also they were considerate to others with the odd exceptions. Why two men expected to be seated in Freedom immediately just because they are in wheelchairs is beyond me, fortunately it was beyond the Maitre D as well and he gave them a pager like everyone else. A good cruise and was not as frenetic on the first night as it can sometimes be, everyone seemed to drop into their own routines very quickly, few queues therefore. Disembarkation was excellent, had breakfast in MDR by which time it was 9am and we joined our scheduled leaving time and we were in the car heading out of Southampton by 9.30am. Well Done P&O Read Less
Sail Date: December 2018
My wife and I decided to get away for New Year and with the help of our favourite travel agent chose this 5 day Southampton to Amsterdam cruise. Embarkation was straightforward and we were in our cabin 10 minutes before our official ... Read More
My wife and I decided to get away for New Year and with the help of our favourite travel agent chose this 5 day Southampton to Amsterdam cruise. Embarkation was straightforward and we were in our cabin 10 minutes before our official boarding time cases followed us in! We were in an outside cabin on the lowest level F113 with a window. I was expecting a smaller room so was pleasantly surprised. We chose Freedom Dining,which meant we could go to dinner as and when. The restaurant food was of a high standard and New Year's Eve overall was probably one of the best we have enjoyed (5 courses). After dinner we went in to the Curzon Theatre for the very impressive Headliners show of recent West End musicals. We also saw them performing Queen's greatest hits in Carmen (another concert venue) on our last night, superb. We went to the top deck from about 11 30 to view all the firework displays through the Amsterdam suburbs, followed by the official Amsterdam display which was less than 200 yards from Aurora. My wife loves fireworks so it made her evening complete. Returning to Southampton for the 3rd Jan we had a sea day on the 2nd very rough force 6/7 but although enjoyable I had to hang on to the rails. Disembarkation again was straightforward. All in all good trip, easy going. The staff were friendly , and Dominic, our steward and the waiting and reception staff were very attentive. We booked one trip through the ship, the scenic evening cruise through the canals which included wine (unlimited) plus a variety of soft drinks and dutch cheeses with nuts and savoury biscuits. Very enjoyable as the guide gave us some history and we saw the lovely homes with their Christmas Trees too. I mentioned Headliners but we also saw a really good band called Ukebox. Five young men from Liverpool dressed in suits 4 playing the ukulele and one the banjo, Part of their act was a medley of Beatles songs. Most entertaining. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
We have had the Danube on our bucket list for quite a while. We chose the Magical Christmas Markets cruise because we knew our son--currently in graduate school--would be available between academic semesters to join us. Although we were ... Read More
We have had the Danube on our bucket list for quite a while. We chose the Magical Christmas Markets cruise because we knew our son--currently in graduate school--would be available between academic semesters to join us. Although we were excited about the trip and expected to see many wonderful sights, everything about our AMA Waterways experience exceeded our expectations. Every single meal--breakfast, lunch and dinner--was a five-star experience. But that's not to say it was stuffy or pretentious. It's just that the chef, baker, waiters, and other employers were amazing. There were always multiple options--eat a so-called "light" meal in the lounge upstairs, but the choices laid out were the types of hors d'oeuvres and finger food you might expect to find at an expensive wedding reception, plus assorted fruits, breads, and desserts. Meanwhile, in the main dining room, we could always choose to order off the menu or select items from a more extensive buffet. Or both, by which I mean that our waiters were quite fine with us mixing and matching anything we wanted. There was always a special table filled with a variety of fresh breads from the bakery chef, with desserts added to supplement what was featured on the menu. Local specialties were highlighted, as were local wines and beers. Our staterooms were clean and convenient. Towels were thick and spotless. Our housekeeper was friendly and honest to a fault. For example, we threw away an old pair of gloves that were falling apart. (We had found a new pair at a Christmas market and wanted to save space in our luggage.) The next morning, when she saw us in the hall, she expressed concern that if we were missing a pair of gloves, she had found a pair in the garbage. In fact, everyone on the AMACerto seemed to be concerned about our happiness and welfare. There were choices of tours at every stop--a "gentle" tour, a regular tour, a strenuous hike, and bicycle options. Bus tours to Salzburg, Melk Abbey, and other nearby sites were available, all most all of which were included in the price. Before, during, and after these tours, heads were carefully counted to ensure that nobody got lost. When it came time to settle the bill, everything was exactly as I had expected it to be. I could go on, but you get the point. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
Embarkation as always was good,as priority passengers we arrived early and sat in departures and had our complimentary coffee and biscuits,on ship by midday and straight through to champagne lunch,really is a fantastic start to the ... Read More
Embarkation as always was good,as priority passengers we arrived early and sat in departures and had our complimentary coffee and biscuits,on ship by midday and straight through to champagne lunch,really is a fantastic start to the cruise. We were in suite at back of ship,we always choose this as it's lovely sitting out in the huge balcony. The cabin is nice but 5*? no,not really,quite dirty looking,though that is nothing to do with our lovely cabin stewardess Rose,just years of build up dirt I suppose. I have to mention our butler Dinesh,we have sailed many times with P&O and he was by far the best butler we've ever had,he really couldn't do enough for us.An absolute credit to the company. Can't comment on entertainment as we've never really liked it and don't go to the shows etc. Service,yet again,second to none,I really really can't understand some reviews when they say the waiters are rude and surly,we have NEVER come across this at all,we always have the best laughs with them.The drinks waitress in the dining room came to serve us and when she took our name,she looked at us and said "Weren't you on this cruise last year" could not believe she remembered us.They are amazing,each and every one of them. Unfortunately though,we will not be sailing with P&O in the near future,after numerous cruises with them over the years,their standards are slipping,the food for me (vegetarian) was absolutely awful and it pains me to say it,as it used to be delicious in years gone by,last year I noticed it had gone down a notch but this year,was almost inedible,so my husband and I dined at the speciality restaurants most of the time,which you have to pay extra for but was worth it I have to agree with the other reviewer re the captain,he was fantastic,he should be a stand up comedian,he had the whole ship in hysterics,with his antics,Andrew Willard if I remember rightly,captain of Oceana usually All in all,we did enjoy ourselves but that is because we disappear into our suite half the time and enjoy our balcony and of course the destinations,especially Madeira We have decided to give Cunard a go,I go on a cruise to enjoy the specialness (is that a word)of it but alas these days it's all trainers and jogging bottoms,and people moaning that they have to get dressed up,for gods sake,it's only 4 times in the whole 14 day cruise. Also the rudeness of some people,also mentioned by other reviewers,PLEASE,why do you choose cruising,go for a booze up at Blackpool,where you don't need to dress up. P&O has lost it's way unfortunately,it needs to decide who it's catering for,is it the cheap holiday brigade,who eat more food than their body actually needs or is it the cruisers who enjoy the occasion.Anyway,not for us anymore.Such a shame Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
For years we've met fellow travellers extolling the virtues of P & O and we decided to give them a go with Britannia. Not for us we thought... Well, Ventura was an absolute delight. Some of those supposedly high end cruise ... Read More
For years we've met fellow travellers extolling the virtues of P & O and we decided to give them a go with Britannia. Not for us we thought... Well, Ventura was an absolute delight. Some of those supposedly high end cruise companies (I'm looking at you Aszamara) could learn an awful lot from Andy Willard and his crew on how to give good service. Captain Andy Willard is an out and out gem, a veritable nautical Terry Wogan; with all the excellence that implies. Pryesh our steward was marvellous - again the premium cruise lines could learn a LOT from his example. Friendly, hard working but not intrusive - perfect! The food was excellent, the cruise itself marvellous. For the first time ever I even enjoyed some of the onboard entertainment (we usually don't go). Better still there was little of the 'gracious living' claptrap that some of the other cruise lines indulge in. Excellent all round and a very pleasant surprise. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
P & O's Ventura is a lovely ship with many good amenities, lovely caring staff and good food. We could fault nothing about the ship. However, we were amazed at the type of passenger that it seemed to attract. Perhaps we chose the ... Read More
P & O's Ventura is a lovely ship with many good amenities, lovely caring staff and good food. We could fault nothing about the ship. However, we were amazed at the type of passenger that it seemed to attract. Perhaps we chose the wrong cruise, going to the Canaries in the midst of Winter or getting away from it all over the Christmas period. There were a large number of people on board who would have been better suited to a few weeks in Benidorm or Blackpool rather than a luxury cruise. They had no manners, had foul language and many were covered in tattoos. They pushed and shoved in the eating areas and had no consideration for other people. I can only surmise that P & O must have had difficulty in selling this particular sailing and discounted many cabins to appeal to this low-life. I also think that this company should consider limiting how many wheelchairs and mobility scooters are allowed on their ships. I can appreciate that disabled people are entitled to a holiday but too many on one crowded vessel just causes problems. Many a time I came across arguments in lifts and I, personally, resorted to using the stairs. The users just barged through regardless of others and on one occasion a whole tray of food went up in the air and the contents spilt all down the wall. We paid for one of the best cabins on this ship, which was a blessing, as we could have some peace and quiet when required and had marvellous service from all the cabin staff. In future we will not be travelling from Southampton as this seems to attract the "Bargain Brits". Our next cruise will be a fly-cruise with Celebrity. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
I chose this because it was one of a few that covered Christmas and the new year. The decorations were far below that of two greats ago. There was no Christmas atmosphere. Christmas jumper competition judged on the day of ... Read More
I chose this because it was one of a few that covered Christmas and the new year. The decorations were far below that of two greats ago. There was no Christmas atmosphere. Christmas jumper competition judged on the day of departure, before most passengers had received their luggage. Bar staff pandered to long time cruisers and other passengers had to wait for service. Passengers sat at the bar making it difficult to get service. Bar stools should be removed. Entertainers were always too loud. Food in the buffet was always cold, although a good choice. The cabin steward was, as always, excellent. There were a lot of mobility scooters to avoid. One lift was permanently out of order, while a second one was also sometimes out of order. Some Children were left to run around the ship instead of being supervised by parents, going up and down in lifts, while other passengers had to wait for them. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
Joined the Ventura on the 21st December 2018 in Southampton and I must say the embarkation process could not have been any quicker, from arrival to emabarkation 15 minutes. Our cabins became available at 2-00pm and our luggage had ... Read More
Joined the Ventura on the 21st December 2018 in Southampton and I must say the embarkation process could not have been any quicker, from arrival to emabarkation 15 minutes. Our cabins became available at 2-00pm and our luggage had already been delivered. So far so good. Overal condition of the cabin was good BUT on entering the bathroom it stank strongly of urine. Immediatly bought it to the attention of the cabin steward who also immediatly steam cleaned the complete cubicle and all was well again. A general tour around the ship indicated it was still looking good after the recent refit with the exception that 6 lifts were PERMANENTLY out of order for the complete cruise. I would expect it on the first day when they are delivering luggage but not for the whole cruise. At times this meant that there were long delays in getting lifts. The Freedom dining experience was good on the first evening but after this the quality of food seemed less appealing and the table stewards we had were not very talkable and we never saw a smile from them. The deck 15 buffet was of it's usual standard but I did not expect to see Thai green curry and paella on a "Best of British" theme night. The Captain appeared to carry out the role of both the master of the vessel as well as the Entertainments manager when ever he made announcements. He also counted down the 12 days of Christmas with all types of animal sounds. Quite amusing and as the cruise progressed the laughter got louder from the guests. The most popular area of the ship appeared to be the Exchange bar and Tamarrin bar. The shows were of an average standard wuth the exception of 2 young classical singers who were "Stars" and received a standing ovation at each show. Christmas Day came & went with no extra items laid on and as Father Christmas had visited the ship on Christmas Eve it appeared weird. The usual ports of call were ok although the weather was not the best it has been at this time of year. New Years Eve was spent in Funchal, Madeira and the Firework display was "FANTASTIC" We had the best berth available to view it and even the Queen Victoria had to anchor out. HOWEVER, immediatly the display was over everybody returned in to the inner areas of the ship only to find things closed. The atrium area was like the Maria Celeste. The only people there were crew members picking up the balloons that were dropped at 1145pm. The Tammarin bar was empty and the coffee bar area was closed. It was a big dissapointment for those of us who wanted to be inside the vessel and continue the evening. I must say that the Beach House restaurant was worth the extra charge but we were not overjoyed by the Epicurean. We were informed that the Flambee would be cooked in the galley and then they used a cigarette lighter with alcohol to light it at the table. Not like the last time when it was prepared at the tables. Overal Assessment: The cruise was nice but not memorable for the right things. The standards appear to have dropped slightly in my opinion and the friendlyness of the crew does not appear to have the zing it used to have. (Maybe its the long hours they are required to work?). I will travel with P&O again and have done many times but only if I am unable to obtain the same with its sister companies where in my opinion the standard is higher and morale is better. Read Less

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