Fred’s Braemar – Scotland, Sept 2017

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Manoverboard
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Fred’s Braemar – Scotland, Sept 2017

Post by Manoverboard » 09 Sep 2017, 19:41

>>Fred’s Braemar – To Scotland, Historic Castles and Highland Games. September 2017

We had originally booked a 14 night ‘ circular ‘ cruise of Ireland but Voyages of Discovery ( All Leisure Group ) went *i*s up so we had to look for something else at fairly short notice. A UK cruise would certainly suit us and as we have only been as far as Kelso on the East and Fort William on the West we decided that Fred’s offering of mainly Scottish Ports would fit the bill. So ....

The cruise sailed to / from the QEII Terminal at Southampton. Chum Neil dropped us off as usual and a fella with a truck immediately whisked away our luggage, while he headed off to the ‘ Hole in the Wall ‘ we headed for the entrance of the Terminal. “ Good morning, please take the short queue “, “ Thank you “. Quickly arrived at the front of the priority line ( only us in it ) and was immediately directed towards the nice lady for ‘ processing ‘. For identification purposes we could have presented a driving licence, a Bus Pass or a Passport. We each offered our Passports and the mug shots on those were copied and used on our Cruise Cards so no messing about taking off one’s cap, sun glasses, adjusting hair etc pre having one’s wind swept pic taken. No pic was needed, a simple idea and something that Fred manages to accomplish throughout the ship. My thoughts are that the staff probably have Quality style meetings and are encouraged to present ideas of improvement that make the workplace more efficient yet at the same time help to make the staff and their passengers a happier bunch. I opted to use a Credit Card to settle our Cabin Account at the end of the cruise, they advised that there would be a surcharge of 1.5% for the privilege. Hmmm. Headed towards the seating area but was given a priority ticket or a ticket of the colour most recently called which enabled us to walk past all the passengers sat waiting in the usual rows of seats. Just carried on walking and once on board went straight up to our cabin. Fred’s happy staff were as ever on hand to be of assistance wherever that may be required. I doubt it took 15 minutes from arrival at the front door of the Terminal Building to reach the door of our cabin.

The Cabin, 7009, is a rectangular shaped Balcony Suite on the 7th level. It was towards the pointy end but generally speaking it was very stable with little movement even during those periods of turbulence that will regularly haunt the Scottish sailor. I calculated ( by means of shoe and eye ) that it was c 25ft wide and 12ft 6ins deep. The balcony was approx 6ft deep and of the same width of course, on this we had two chairs plus a table and one recliner in spite of there being room for two. Although we were on the starboard side we were lucky enough to be able to sit out there in the pleasantly warm sunshine on a number of occasions. During the course of the cruise we were visited by several members of the maintenance crew, they wanted to change a chair so that it matched the other one, also the shower tube was changed even though there wasn’t anything obviously wrong with it It seemed that there was a program of upgrading the fixtures and fittings going on throughout the ship. The cabin was very comfortable with enough drawers and wardrobe space for our 10 night cruise. We had a safe plus coffee making facilities and a fridge. Also complimentary ( still or natural ) water, fruit and canapés on a daily basis. The canapés were for our tastes very good and especially so those with prawns as big as my thumb sitting on them. One’s pillow was adorned with a chocolate or sweet each and every night .... sleep tight..

Our package included All Inclusive drinks plus £100 pp OBCs

The drinks on offer are published to avoid confusion and the waiters know instantly that you are in the scheme as it is printed on the Cruise Card. The overall choice was limited and although the wine was ‘ reasonable ‘ we thought that the Gin plus their Irish Cream variant were relatively poor quality. If there is a next time with Fred I would prefer to drink less if needs be and / or pay extra for Premium products. Unlike Celebrity we did not have Speciality Coffees included in the AI deal, which I thought was a tad mean. A card of 8 per person would have been an ideal inclusion given that elsewhere on the ship the coffee is dire.

There is an interactive TV in the cabin but it doesn’t work to maximum effect. I couldn’t make heads nor tails of the status of our on-board account as it included everything that will or indeed will not be charged for but it doesn’t mark the entries to reflect which are which. Additionally I ordered a bottle of premium wine for the first Formal night via the TV but the Restaurant staff had no idea that it had been ordered. Which wine was it, the recommended one I replied but they didn’t know that there was a recommended wine.

Our OBCs were not included on the TV listing so I needed to nip down to Admin. Although I had documentation showing that we were entitled to it Admin had to e-mail Fred HQ to authorise it ?

We ate at a table for two, albeit on a table designed for 4, on second sitting in the Grampian restaurant which is situated on Deck 8. We had a window table with occasional wonderful views off the stern. The Captain frequently sat with his wife, I assumed that she was his wife, four tables along from ours but he / they didn’t mingle as far as I am aware. On one evening we ducked the restaurant and went instead to the Fred style Curry evening, this was followed by Footy .... perfick.

The Entertainment was the best we have seen on a cruise ship for some some, P&O are more polished but they always seem to be going through the motions whereas the Freds were up n at em dynamos who just loved doing what they did. We saw a number of acts including the last night when the Crew did their routines. Brilliant and absolutely hilarious when intended to be. Our Pilipino Spanish stewardess was the ‘ Green ‘ one she told us with immense pride. Priceless and a performance that could only be achieved with a very happy crew.

We enjoyed the food and indeed the choices although salmon did seem to appear rather frequently, we assumed that Fred owned Nordsea of a few fish farms.

The organisation within the Buffet was brilliant, or so we thought, one has to wait to be placed an a table and if you follow the food line from the plates at the start to the finish there are no issues about selfish idiots who have to be the first to reach everything they need in spite of what others may be doing. There are no trays in use either and the cuttlery is at the table ready for use. I thought this was a well thought out formula and one that P&O would do well to consider in the future. Calamity however have nothing to learn in this regard.


The itinerary involved one full sea day out of, and subsequently back into, Southampton plus seven consecutive Port days. The Ports were Leith ( For Edinburg ) plus Dundee, Invergordon, Scabster, Oban and Belfast.

August 31st – Leith

To dock here the Captain had to traverse the Lock that keeps the high seas out of Leith, the benefit to us on the Starboard side was that we now had a front row view of the three Queensferry Bridges including the new one that was due to be opened by Her Maj the following Tuesday.

We arrived mid-day ish and decided to stroll about in downtown Leith rather than going on a trip / HoHo Bus ride to Edinburgh that would doubtless replicate some of our Fred tour the following day. We basically walked in a rectangle taking in a number of apartment blocks that had been converted from the old warehouses that previously engulfed this area. There were also cafes, pubs, converted Barges, waterways and inlets plus restaurants etc along the route to look at or go into albeit most were restricted to evening opening times. There was in particular an area that had been seriously smartened up to preserve the memory of Merchant Seaman throughout the history of Leith, it had ostensibly been built to look like it once was back in the good old days. It is indeed a grand spot and worth seeing but it is utterly false according to the local guy that we spoke to who had lived there, or thereabouts, all his life. A place that the tourists and yuppies will love for sure he explained but a place that no longer looks or feels like home and more to the point it was now a place where he could no longer afford to live. There are gates and a lighthouse for example that have been slotted in for considerable effect but they are not original nor authentic. Sad really but that’s life as they say. We continued on our journey and final attraction prior to re-boarding the ship, that of the local Shopping Mall where we enjoyed a BLT sandwich and a coffee at the M&S Food Shop for our very late lunch.

September 1st – Leith

We had booked Fred’s ‘ Royal Edinburgh ‘ Tour at the Princely price of a tad over £123 each .... Ow Much ?

This was one aspect of Fred Cruising that comes close to being a rip off as far as I am concerned, or should I be blaming Brexit.

We started by travelling a mere two hundred yards or so on our Tour Coach to the Royal Yacht Britannia. I am not going to describe every detail as it would take forever but I would say that it is an excellent choice but note that the entrance fee if you were to visit DIY would be a mere £15. A notable point regarding this venue are their Self Guide Audio sets, so simple, see a number in a room or on an exhibit and type that number into the hand set for a clear and concise explanation of what you are looking at. Ours were included in the price but I suspect that they would be ‘ extra ‘ for a non group DIY er.

However ... one doesn’t drive to the Queen’s entrance at this price nor does one walk sedately up the crimson staircase to board like wot Her Maj did nor does one have a person to guide you round the ship for two hours nor indeed does one get any curley wirley sandwiches or a scone plus a cup of Rosie Lee. Oh NO, on the ‘ 123 ‘ cheapo version you get dropped off at the shopping Mall, go up a floor or two in the lift and then arrive via the Tradesman's’ entrance.

To do the Deluxe Tour one would have to pay a per person cost of £145 !!!

If you paid £145 then your tour ends here whereas our cheapo version continues thus ...

Back onto the coach and a slow drive around the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, the route taken is identical to one of the HoHo buses, allegedly. Following that we were dropped for a short period to have lunch or whatever, we opted for whatever and climbed the steps of Edinburg Castle to see the location of their famous Military Tattoo. The plan was then to watch our recording of the event on the actual day after we returned home. One more stop at the end of our drive up the Royal Mile, that of Holyrood Palace. This is another venue that is definitely worth visiting, both for the palace, the architecture and indeed the gardens on a lovely sunny afternoon. For DIY ers the entrance fee to include everything was also £15.


September 2nd – Dundee

I read somewhere that there is a statue of Desperate Dan in this City ?

The main attraction was doubtless the Highland Games at Braemar but sitting on a roughly sawn bench out in the rain, which didn’t materialise, for 6 hours didn’t ping my bagpipes so we went to St Andrews instead.

Such a beautiful place in a wonderful location, they basically have three parallel streets, North Street, South Street and Middle Street so absolutely impossible – ish to get lost. The region as a whole is known as the Kingdom of Fife and it apparently has a micro climate which enables them to grow more strawberries, raspberries and red currents than Kent. Mobietta bought a pot of raspberry jam, it said it was made locally ..... do hope so.

We did a tour of the villages after that, coastal and not so coastal returning to Dundee via St Andrews, of golf course fame of course.


September 3rd – Invergordon.

A Midday arrival was scheduled and we had a tour booked for 4 hours DIY in Inverness, however, by this time the ship was a floating Sanatorium with a copious number of old folk a-coughing and a-sneezing in all directions. I had managed to catch ManFlu from some kind soul and decided it would be a bad idea to walk about in drizzly downtown Inverness as opposed to sitting in one’s warm n cosy suite. I rehearsed my croakiest voice and looked as pitiful as possible but the girl at the Tour’s Desk wasn’t having any of it and refused my ‘ Cancel with Refund ‘ request ... on reflection I think she had caught it as well so had no pity in her soul.


September 4th – Scabster.


This was a cracking tour that went to Wick plus John O’Groats but the major highlight was the visit to the Pulteney Whisky Distillery. I didn’t even know that I liked whisky having drunk the basic stuff like blended Johnny Walker all those years ago. This was a different animal altogether and the sample that we were given to try was the real deal, a 12 year old single malt. I can only say ‘ WOW ‘.

As for Scabster itself ... Scabster by name and Scabster by nature I thought as we trundled through the wind and horizontal rain at nearby Wick to post a few cards and to buy some more cough sweets from Boots.



September 5th – Oban

This was a tender Port and the ship was sitting a fair distance off shore, unfortunately the sea conditions were a tad choppy so we opted to stay on board given that we had previously spent quality time in Oban and its
environs. We had also been to the places on all of Fred’s Tours.


September 6th – Belfast, Northern Ireland.

We had been here too, we stayed in the Europa Hotel which was bombed 18 times by the IRA, allegedly. We had also seen the murals depicting the thoughts of the divided communities. We had even seen the ‘ Belfast Eye ‘ but that was pulled down as it did little to enhance the beauty of the City Hall. We booked yet another tour but this time to savour the ‘ Titanic ‘ experience. So glad we did, it was superb.

FIN :wave:

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oldbluefox
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Re: Fred’s Braemar – Scotland, Sept 2017

Post by oldbluefox » 09 Sep 2017, 23:09

Thanks Mob. Glad to have you back before the natives got restless!!!
Am enjoying these reviews of Fred.

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GillD46
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Re: Fred’s Braemar – Scotland, Sept 2017

Post by GillD46 » 10 Sep 2017, 06:07

Great review, MOB. Thank you.
Gill


CaroleF
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Re: Fred’s Braemar – Scotland, Sept 2017

Post by CaroleF » 10 Sep 2017, 10:07

Wow MOB - we were in 7007 - next door to you! Now I know where I got the cold that started yesterday! You obviously liked the buffet more than I did. I agree about our Stewardess - Leorosa - she was great. John took photos of her in the show and when she was standing at the exit in her green skirt - she was very pleased to see them.

To expand on the Britannia expensive tour. Yes it was a lot of money but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. We were taken by minibus - 15 of us - to the side of the yacht and after walking along the red carpet (!) we entered up the gangway as used by the Queen. We had two guides with us. The cord ropes that cordoned off the rooms had been taken down and we sat on the settees, chairs etc. in the different rooms. We were told lots of stories about the yacht and got to walk up the grand staircase - the one that leads into the main sitting room. It was a fascinating tour and we ended up with coffee and scones on the top deck and were given a copy of the brochure. It may seem a lot of money but to me it was worth every penny!

Sorry you didn't get a refund for your tour - I too cancelled the Oban trip, didn't dare ask for a refund. What did you think of the woman from the Tours Team who was in the Neptune Lounge giving out the stickers and telling people when to go down to the coaches? We thought she was the most unfriendly tours person we'd ever come across - certainly not a people person, didn't like the way she spoke to some people.

Amazing to think we were neighbours!

Carole

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Re: Fred’s Braemar – Scotland, Sept 2017

Post by Manoverboard » 10 Sep 2017, 10:55

9007 !!!!

That is unbelievable, I do hope that we behaved ourselves, fancy us being next door to somebody who would ascend the Royal steps :lol:

The Tours Lady .... when I was nearing the peak of my of my cold / ManFlu I dutifully reported to the ' Tours Lady ' with our Tickets for St Andrews. I would readily concede that I had heard her rumbling on as I descended the stairs towards her desk but I was not really focussed and basically didn't hear a single word. So, I handed over our tickets and got a right mouthful on the basis that she had just made an announcement about our Tour ..... a right misery I decided :thumbdown: .

I let it ride over me but my energy levels were a tad low so I headed for a nearby chair and waited for her to announce our Tour, this she did and so I walked over towards the onrushing heard but couldn't be bothered to walk right up to the top and down again so I eased myself in offering profuse apologies for doing so. Some fat bloke took exception even though we weren't actually going anywhere and so I stepped aside and waved him past me. Later as we walked towards the bus he was right in front of us so I gave Mobietta ' Management ' instructions that she made sure that she did not board the bus before him. He heard but said nothing, later he came over and we laughed about it.

ps ... sorry about the cold :wave:

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barney
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Re: Fred’s Braemar – Scotland, Sept 2017

Post by barney » 10 Sep 2017, 11:23

Cheers Mob - good review


cruisin_duo
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Re: Fred’s Braemar – Scotland, Sept 2017

Post by cruisin_duo » 10 Sep 2017, 18:39

Thank you for the review Manoverboard.


daib GC
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Re: Fred’s Braemar – Scotland, Sept 2017

Post by daib GC » 11 Sep 2017, 00:45

How much????

The tour of Edinburgh £125 each.

If you had said I could have driven up from the North East given you the tour and saved you a fortune. Well £10 pr £20.

Every little helps.

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oldbluefox
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Re: Fred’s Braemar – Scotland, Sept 2017

Post by oldbluefox » 11 Sep 2017, 07:51

But he would have had to ride shotgun on your scooter!!!

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Gill W
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Re: Fred’s Braemar – Scotland, Sept 2017

Post by Gill W » 11 Sep 2017, 14:58

Thanks for the review. I like the sound of the itinerary as I love Scotland
Gill

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Re: Fred’s Braemar – Scotland, Sept 2017

Post by Manoverboard » 14 Sep 2017, 09:35

Glad you enjoyed the report, we certainly enjoyed the cruise albeit I am not entirely comfortable about the idea of cruising in a ' shunted ' ship.

As an aside ...

The Cruising aspect of Fred accounts for only 3% of his business ventures !!

Fred has recently purchased land in the Harland & Wolfe docking zone and will develop it into a facility to repair / upgrade his ships, bodes well post Brexit me thinks.

Just for Merv ... Room Service items are available for late breakfasteers, ditto lunch. Their ( free ) Club and /or Open prawn sandwiches were extremely nice.

:wave:

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