We chose this particular cruise because it fitted in well with our calendar and sailed from a local port (Rosyth). It was our first Fed Olsen cruise but we had done our research and thought we knew what to expect. Read on as this is not all gloom and doom.
The cruise was entitled French River and cities which took ina cruise up the River Seine to Rouen, St Peter Port in Guernsey, La Palice for La Rochelle and Lorient. The itinerary was excellent and we enjoyed all the ports of call but more of that later.
Boarding was a dream in comparison with Southhampton; in fact, we were in our cabin with all our luggage 40 minutes after leaving home. Our cabin was on deck 5 towards the stern (5112). Adequate best describes our first impressions although this was to change. Typical of older ships, the cabins are very metallic, including furniture! The beds were very comfortable as were the pillows although my wife did request an additional pillow (which took two days and two visits to the reception desk to arrange). Unfortunately, noise and vibration prevented any meaningful sleep on the first two nights with rough seas on the first night causing all the metallic surfaces to shake and rattle and intolerable vibration on the second (we suspect retrospectively because the ship speeded up). Another visit to reception an we were the proud owners of two sets of ear plugs which suggests that we were not the first passengers to complain.
We were Anchor passengers and therefore had no choice over dining. We were second sitting on a table for 4, although nobody else ever joined us, with a time of 8.30. This proved too late for us as we are keen dancers and were missing the dance session after dinner. This was exasperated by the slow service in the restaurant. Although we were always at out table at 8.30, we rarely, if ever, were served our starters before 9.00. Also, food was lukewarm for the first couple of days although this did improve slightly. The menus were limited but there was a reasonable choice.
Food in the buffet was limited in choice but was adequate and I am glad to say the venue was very civilised unlike the bun fights experienced with other cruise lines.
The best part of the cruise for us was the entertainment. The Bkack Watch Orchestra was nothing short of brilliant and showed their versatility night after night. The singers and dancers were also exceptional and all the entertainers (singer, comedian, violinist) were first class too.
I have mentioned the excellence of the itinerary. We did our own thing in Rouen (which incidentally included an overnight stop) and loved the old town. In Guernsey, we took a veteran bus ride around the island and took in a beautiful cream tea. Now to La Palice. We had bought a Fred Olsen all day diy excursion into La Rochelle at a cost of £25 each having been advised there was no shuttle bus. Only the night before docking did we discover that from the dock gate, a bus ran every 20 minutes into La Rochelle at a cost of €1.30. Nothing short of a rip off! By the way, on two other occasions, as anchor passengers, we were advised that we had to purchase tickets for the shuttle bus which we willingly did only to find that nobody checked our tickets and I susoect many people just didn't bother. La Rochelle proved to be a bit wet so after a quick coffee, we decided to take in the aquarium, something I wouldn't normally think of doing but what a brilliant couple of hours we had there. Fortunately, when we came out, the sun was shining again. Finally, Lorient from where we went on an organised tour to Quimper, another beautifully preserved medieval town. In the afternoon, I took a look at the U-Boat pens from WWII, a very eerie experience and well worth the €6 cost for a guided tour.
One aspect we understood was a big selling point for this cruise line was the friendliness of the staff. To be perfectly honest, I found nothing special about any of the staff and in fact, in a couple of instances, I would say they were indifferent.
Overall then, we were rather disappointed with the cruise. Would we sail with them again? Probably not although there seem to be plenty of loyal customers. I hope you find this useful and I will be pleased to answer any specific questions you might have.