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"Boudicca" Valentines & Chocolates cruise - February 2019

"Boudicca" Valentines & Chocolates cruise - February 2019

Postby judgegeoff » 19 Feb 2019 16:27

On the 13th February 2019 my wife Chris and I went on a 4 night cruise to Antwerp and Amsterdam. Below is my review of the cruise and the following links are to my photo albums of the cruise :-

The Ship :- https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10217129202489602&type=1&l=31a2041a7d

The Ports :- https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10217264606034606&type=1&l=eaa50866b7

MV “BOUDICCA”

“VALENTINE AND CHOCOLATES” 4 NIGHT CRUISE

FEBRUARY 2019


Note: As this was just a 4 night cruise and there were no sea days, this review is not as comprehensive as normal as we were not able to use or try all the amenities or dining options.

ITINERARY

13/2/19 – Embarked in Dover at 14:00hrs, sailed at 17:00hrs
14/2/19 – Arrived in Antwerp, Begium, at 07:30hrs – overnight in harbour
15/2/19 – Departed Antwerp at 13:30hrs
16/2/19 – Arrived in Amsterdam at 08:00hrs – departed at 16:45hrs
17/2/19 – Arrived in Dover at 05:00hrs – disembarked at 08:00hrs

THE SHIP

“Boudicca” was launched in May 1975 with the latest major refit in 2018.
Tonnage – 28,388 GRT
Length – 205.5 metres
Beam – 25.2 metres
Speed – 18.5 knots
Decks – 10 with 8 accessible to passengers
Max. Passengers – 880
Crew – 372 (24 nationalities)
Master – Captain Mikael Degerlund from Finland
Cruise Director – Tim Spicer

CREW

The Master, Captain Mikael Degerlund was from Finland and most of his officers were European, many from Croatia. The Hotel Staff (Stewardesses, waiters etc.) were largely Filipino.

FELLOW PASSENGERS

The vast majority of passengers were British, although there were passengers from 10 different Countries. Interestingly there were a lot more younger passengers than normal on board, so much that the average age of the passengers was reduced by a full 20 years (possibly because it was a Valentines cruise!).

EMBARKATION

Dover is an excellent disembarkation port for Chris and myself as it is an easy 40 minute drive from our house. We parked our car in the covered car park (the old port's railway station) and were driven the short distance to the Cruise Terminal building in a mini bus. There was no queue for check in (I love Dover!) and instead of having to fill in a health questionnaire we were just asked if we had recently suffered from any norovirus type symptoms (much, much better!).

EMERGENCY DRILL

Prior to embarkation we had to take part in the ship's emergency evacuation drill. Our muster point was the Neptune Lounge, the ship's largest lounge where the ship's shows were held each evening. There were two muster points in the lounge, 7 and 8 and we were in 8 according to our SeaPass. Nobody took our Cabin number when we entered the lounge so we gave our details to a crew lady who was taking cabin numbers from people sat at the tables – an impossible task as people were coming and going all the time. As there were just 2 doors being used for entry to the lounge the count should have taken there in my opinion. Before the demonstrations started the organiser called out the numbers of cabins that hadn't been accounted for and yes, we were there, but against muster point 7 and not 8 as our SeaPasses had! One would hope that, in the case of a real emergency, the control of the muster would be carried out in a more orderly and professional manner.

DINING

All four of our breakfasts were taken in the 'Four Seasons' restaurant as we found that they did an excellent hot and cold buffet which was ideal when we were going out on early excursion tours. On the third morning, having had our tour cancelled, we tried the a la carte breakfast in the same restaurant (Chris had Eggs Benedict and I had a full English) but I preferred the buffet meals.

For most lunches we ate in the 'Secret Garden' Restaurant on deck 6 as this was open later than the other restaurants (15:00hrs as opposed to 14:00hrs) and we were quite late getting back from our excursions. I particularly liked their cold buffet as they had some lovely seafood, including shrimps and mussels. The 'Secret Garden' restaurant was open for breakfasts, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner (all buffet) and was also the venue for the ship's Supper club, a themed buffet from 23:00hrs to midnight (like we needed it!).

For evening dining we had been allocated seats at dining table number 36, a table for four by a window on the starboard side of the “Four Seasons” restaurant on deck 6. On the first afternoon we went down to the restaurant to view our table and pre-ordered a bottle each of red and white wines to have with our dinners. That evening our wine did not appear and, upon investigation by the waiters it appeared that it had been delivered to the other side of the restaurant which had odd numbered tables despite them being clearly labelled 'table 36'.

Despite this shaky start, our meals in the 'Four Seasons' restaurant (where we dined each evening) were excellent and the service by our waiter and assistant waiter was very good. The steak and Guinness pie that I had on the final night was one of the best that I have ever tasted.

We were also very lucky in having excellent table companions, Roger and Judy from Derby, and we always enjoyed their company during our meals. It was a pity that it was such a short cruise.

LOUNGES AND BARS

There were several lounges and bars throughout the ship but we didn't really get to use them very much, especially as we were on second sitting for dinner (20:30hrs) and we didn't finish our meals until after 22:30hrs.The drinks prices in the bars were very fair I thought, very similar to pub and hotel prices, typically £4.50 for a glass of South African pinotage, Argentinian Malbec or a South African Chenin Blanc. Various performers were entertaining in the bars (pianists and groups) and seemed to be very popular. We liked the Observatory on deck 9 and the Lido lounge on deck 7 as they had very comfortable seating and excellent 'mood' lighting.

ENTERTAINMENT

The venue for the shows was the Neptune Lounge on deck 6 aft (rather strangely the show lounge on this ship was aft whilst the main restaurant was forward, the reverse of most ships we have sailed on). In common with many small ships the Boudicca's show lounge suffered from all being on one level with no tiering. Unless you go to the show early you will find that you will be sat at the back of the room with a very poor view (or no view at all if you are as tall as Chris!).

On our first evening the show company performed “Swing's the Thing” featuring singers and dancers. Chris went, albeit late, and enjoyed it, but she had a very poor view of the stage. The second night's show featured Adam Heppenstall a humorous magician, but we didn't attend as you need to see magic tricks with a reasonable view. The third night's show was Dave Kristian, a stand up comedian. We were rather tired after a long excursion and so had an early night. The fourth night's show was 'Cinematastic' another show by the ship's singers and dancers featuring music and songs from the Movies. However, we decided to spend our last evening aboard having drinks with our lovely tablemates.

The ship's Master, Captain Mikael Degerlund, hosted cocktail parties on the third evening and he turned out to be a very amusing host with an excellent sense of humour.

THE PORTS

Antwerp - Day 1 (14/2/16)

On our first day in Antwerp we went on a ship's excursion - “Discover Antwerp and Diamonds”. Our ship was moored almost in the centre of the city and our tour started off with a walking element, with a large party following a lady guide. Unfortunately the guide walked too quickly and so our party became rather stretched out. Furthermore, the guides microphone appeared to be faulty and our receivers were picking up a lot of crackle and some of her speech was received intermittently. In the Cathedral I consider that the guide spent too much time explaining the meanings of the many famous medieval paintings.

We were then picked up by a coach and driven to the MAS Museum where we took 8 escalators and two flights of stairs to reach the roof terrace where there were amazing views of the city and its historic port district. We then got into the coach again and were driven to the Central Railway Station where we followed the guide for a walk around the beautiful Station. Unfortunately the guide had left her ID Paddle on the bus and so it was extremely difficult to keep up with her, especially as the station was teeming with people. Building of the Station started in 1895 and was completed in 1905. An extensive restoration programme was started in 1993 and was completed in 2009, sixteen years later. It really is a superb building, more like a Cathedral than a Railway Station!

From the Railway Station we walked to Diamondland where we were told all about diamonds, their 4 Cs – carat, clarity, colour and cut. This seemed to go on for too long in my opinion, but then I am not a fan of diamonds! On leaving Diamondland we were collected by the coach and driven back to the Cruise Terminal.

We decided to walk back into the city and found what is probably the only quality restaurant that did not accept credit or debit cards (the restaurant had just changed hands and they were waiting for the card company to set them up). We had a superb seafood meal, washed down with some delicious wine and, fortunately, managed to scrape together enough cash to pay for the meal plus a tip! Our waiter had been born in Liverpool but had moved to Belgium as a very young child.

It is interesting to note that during our whole time in Belgium we didn't see a single ATM cash machine, unlike the UK and most other places. I am sure that they must have them, probably out of sight, but it is worth considering this if you are planning to rely on them for cash during a holiday. We had taken some UK money with us and we were able to exchange it for Euros at the Guest Services desk on the “Boudicca”.

Antwerp – Day 2 (15/2/19)

On our second day in Antwerp we had booked the 'Ghent and Belgian Chocolates' excursion and we were so glad that we had – it was so much better than the previous day. Our guide, George, met us at the exit to the Cruise Terminal and introduced us to our driver Yan. The journey to Ghent took about an hour and was very interesting as George told us about the history of Ghent and the places we would visit. Again, we had blue skies and sunshine and it was unseasonably warm – it was mid February after all! On the previous day's tour I had taken my thick winter coat but ended up carrying everywhere we went. On this day's tour I just wore a pullover over my shirt and vest and was quite warm enough – we had been so lucky with the weather.

On arrival at Ghent we met a another lady guide and, although a smaller party than yesterday, were divided in half – we decided to stay with George's party, about a dozen of us. Ghent proved to be a very beautiful city with many old and ornate buildings, cobbled streets and canals – it reminded us of Brugge, one of our favourite places. During our walk we had a splendid view of the three towers of Ghent that defined the medieval skyline – the St. Nicholas Church, the Belfry and the St. Bravo Cathedral. Ghent had suffered from much less damage than Antwerp during World War 2 and so had more ancient buildings.

At a square overlooking the Cathedral we stopped at the L.Van Hoorebeke Chocolatier shop and were taken down into the cellar of the building where speciality hand made chocolates were being made. We were given demonstrations by a young man of how various kinds of chocolates were made and were then allowed to sample them – they were yummy! The young man made the work seem very simple, but it was clearly very skilled. After the demonstration we were led back up into the shop where all the various chocolates were for sale.

We then were given some free time and were to meet back at the Chocolatier's shop in one hour. Chris and I headed straight for the Cathedral which was beautiful, but were not allowed to take any photos. After leaving the Cathedral we did a little window shopping and purchased the obligatory 'fridge magnets. We then found a very pleasant cafe where we had coffee and biscuits. We then walked back to the Chocolatier's shop and sat on a bench in the sunshine until everybody was assembled (nobody was late) and we continued our walk led by George.

It was a joy to amble down the lovely cobbled streets with our guide pointing out the various sights to be seen along the way. We particularly like the old City Hall and a beautifully preserved building where the medieval butchers worked. It is now used for hanging speciality hams, reputed able to be compared with the best Italian hams. It was an amazing sight to see the hams being suspended from the huge oak beams – it made me feel very hungry!

Sadly our most interesting tour had to end and we were picked up by our coach for the drive back to the ship – we were supposed to be back at the ship by 13:00hrs, for a departure time of 13:30hrs. On the way back we ran into extremely heavy traffic on the A40 motorway and it was clear that we were not going to be back on time. George made a phone call to report our progress, but we were certainly very glad that we were on a ship's excursion (as they will hold the ship until you return) and were not on a private excursion.

We got back to the ship at just about 13:40hrs, but the departure was a little delayed anyway due to a technical problem with the ship's fire detection system that was quickly fixed by the engineers. It had been a really enjoyable and informative excursion due, much in part, to our excellent guide. I should add that on both our tours from Antwerp we had been given little boxes by the coach driver, containing two delicious Belgian chocolates. We have visited Brugge many times by car and in future will definitely be planning a trip to Ghent, there is a Novotel hotel right in the centre with an underground car park.

Amsterdam (16/2/19)

We had booked an excursion for our visit to Amsterdam and had hoped to visit Haarlem as we had visited Amsterdam many times in the past and had seen all the usual sights. However, our tour had been cancelled due to not enough people wanting to go. We had noticed that only 2 tours had left the ship on each of our days in Antwerp and several had been cancelled. The ship's Tours Manager told me that it was most likely due to having a younger set of passengers than average – most of the passengers had not visited Antwerp before and so were happy to explore the City themselves.

One tour that did go out in Antwerp was 'Antwerp by Horse and Tram', a 90 minute tour of the town aboard a 19th century bus drawn by a pair of shire horses, for £73 per person. I told him that we had toured the town aboard this bus about 2 years ago whilst on another cruise and had paid just 7 Euros each for a 45 minute tour. As the “Boudicca” ships tour picked the passengers up from the Cruise Terminal and returned there, the actual city tour was probably the same one that we enjoyed. The manager told me that he had already been in touch with Head Office to complain about the high cost of this tour.

For our time in Amsterdam we walked from the Cruise Terminal to the city centre and had a look around the shops and bought some cheese. We then went for a 60 minute boat ride around the canals at a cost of 11 Euros each and was very enjoyable (we had done it in the past, but not for many years). After the boat ride we went for coffees and cake in a cafe and then did a little more sightseeing. Feeling a little tired and sore we then returned to our ship for lunch and a relaxing afternoon.

DISEMBARKATION

After leaving Amsterdam a little late the ship made good time and berthed back in Dover at the planned time of 05:00hrs (I know because, our cabin being in the stern of the ship, the manoeuvring vibrations woke me up!). We went for breakfast in the 'Four Seasons' restaurant when it opened at 07:00hrs and were a little surprised when, shortly afterwards, there was announcement that passengers from deck 4 could leave the ship and collect their luggage. After we finished breakfast we returned to our cabin, collected our hand luggage and coats and said goodbye to our Stewardess Grace who had looked after our cabin and kept it immaculate and spotless during our stay.

We made our way up to the disembarkation exit on deck 5 but were then delayed from leaving as for some reason they had to alter the position of the movable docking walkway. But on finally leaving the ship we soon found our suitcase in the Hall and were directed to a nearby point to await transport to the old Railway Station. A port minibus came within three minutes and took us to the old Station where our car was waiting for us.

We had an easy sunny drive home from Dover (it was a Sunday, so not much traffic about) and arrived home just before 09:00hrs, with the full day ahead of us.

CONCLUSIONS

I must admit that I was a tiny bit disappointed with the “Boudicca” herself. We had sailed twice on the “Balmoral” and twice on the “Braemar” and so were well aware of the Fred. Olsen brand. From reading reviews and talking to friends who had travelled on “Boudicca” we had believed that she was the jewel in the Fred. Olsen fleet. However, I think that I preferred the little “Braemar” overall. It seemed a little 'back to front' to have the restaurant at the front of the ship and the show lounge at the rear of the ship.

Our cabin was very close to the aft lift and we thought that it might be very handy as most amenities (restaurants, cafe and show lounge) were on deck 6. However, on exiting the lift on deck 6 (the highest deck from this lift) we had to go outside on deck to gain access to the rest of the rooms. So we tended to use the midship lifts more than the aft lift (which involved a bit more walking). We rarely had to wait more than 30 seconds for a lift to arrive which was very good and much better than most other ships.

We had heard of how good the “Boudicca” crew were, and I wouldn't argue with that, but I did not find them much different from the crew on other Fred. Olsen ships. As well as having the mix up with our wine on the first evening's dinner there had been an occasion when we had ordered wine with a lunch in the 'Secret Garden' cafe and , after taking our order, the waiter disappeared, never to be seen by us again.

Although the weather was brilliant for mid February, sunshine and 15 deg.C, we did not spend any time out on deck and certainly not on the sunloungers. Chris did however go for a swim in the pool on deck 6 aft and said that the water was at a reasonable temperature and certainly warmer than most ship's outdoor pools (we remember doing an icy “Balmoral” December cruise to Europe many years ago and the pools were steaming!). We didn't experience any problems ourselves, but some people told us that on previous cruises on the ship they had experience soot falling from the funnel and staining their clothing (I don't know if this problem has been addressed or, indeed, if it can even be addressed).

But, overall, we had a very enjoyable mini cruise, just the thing to recharge our body batteries and prepare us for the coming Spring. Chris is waiting for knee operations and so we are not able to make cruising plans for the forseeable future. A short cruise from our local port is just what the doctor ordered!
Geoff

Booked cruise :-
"Marella Dream" - Turkey, Greece and Israel 2019
"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020
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"Boudicca" Valentines & Chocolates cruise - February 2019

Postby Mungo » 19 Feb 2019 17:32

Thanks for sharing Geoff. :thumbup:

It will be interesting to see what I think of Boudicca when I sail on her. Been on Fred’s other 3 ships. Waiting to see which cabin we are allocated! I need to look at the ship’s plan to get my bearings! :mrgreen:
Aurora and Ventura October 2019
Britannia March 2020
Iona July 2020
Arcadia December 2020
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"Boudicca" Valentines & Chocolates cruise - February 2019

Postby Dave » 19 Feb 2019 17:40

Thanks hugely for the interesting review and photos Geoff. :thumbup:

It's hard to believe that it's more than seven years since our Boudicca cruise, but most of your photos were very familiar and a little nostalgic. The very nice Oriental Room is new to me, as is the basket-style seating on the sun deck. But a lot hasn't changed at all - in particular, the terrible plastic-strap sun-loungers!

Although we only did one cruise on Boudicca, we spent a great deal of time on Black Watch which, as you know, is her close sister. The show lounge is pretty awful and just as you describe - you need to arrive at least 30 minutes early to have any chance of a reasonable view, but... we found there was always a dance class before the show and the attendees always reserved the front row seats with their belongings anyway. :evil:

We dined in the Indian Ocean restaurant (although I'm not sure it was called that in 2011), which I'd say was mid-ships rather than front, but I see what you mean. For us, the dining arrangements are probably the main reason we're unlikely to choose Fred Olsen again; we've long decided that formal dining isn't for us, and FO's buffets are very poor compared with other cruise lines we've tried.

Having said that, and although our cruising requirements have changed (as have our holiday choices in general!), we still have very fond memories of Boudicca et al. :D
Dave

Booked cruise 2019: December - Caribbean on Marella Explorer 2
Remaining land-based holidays 2019: July - Peak District, August - Harris and Highlands, October - Brecon Beacons
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"Boudicca" Valentines & Chocolates cruise - February 2019

Postby grannyM » 19 Feb 2019 17:57

Nice review of your Valentines & Chocolates cruise Geoff. As usual, I also enjoyed looking at your photographs. Thank you once again for sharing them with us. :thumbup: :clap:
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"Boudicca" Valentines & Chocolates cruise - February 2019

Postby Gillzajoker » 20 Feb 2019 10:20

Fabulous interesting and comprehensive review, Geoff, and great photos. Enjoyed it all! :D
Last edited by Gillzajoker on 21 Feb 2019 10:22, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Boudicca" Valentines & Chocolates cruise - February 2019

Postby Peka » 20 Feb 2019 11:38

What a shame your trips were cancelled, lucky you were in places it was easy to go independently, but I guess that was one of the reason people didn't do tours. I hope the weather was as good as here last week. Haven't been on Boudicca since her refit and I am trying to imagine the areas, but know the show lounge as with a lot of older ships are not the best!

I keep an eye out for short cruises to Amsterdam, as I really want to visit by ship, I have a friend in Amsterdam and I could just walk to hers from the ship. :mrgreen:
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