On a wet and gloomy Saturday morning in Southampton, I boarded Fred. Olsen Cruise Line’s 950-passenger Braemar for a whistle-stop tour of the ship. Built in 1992, Braemar started life as Crown Dynasty for Crown Cruise Lines and has sailed with many different cruise lines including Cunard and Norwegian Cruise Line. In 2009, the ship was stretched and a new middle section was added, increasing her tonnage from 19,000 GT to 24,300 GT.
The Thistle Restaurant on Main Deck 4 is the primary dining room aboard Braemar and probably the best out of the fleet. The restaurant was spacious and tables were not crammed close together like other cruise ships. Large panoramic windows overlook the ship’s wake, giving the perfect view to accompany a perfect meal. Breakfast and Lunch is buffet service, whereas the main evening meal is waiter service.
The Coral Club is located at the aft of Lounge Deck 5. This is home to live music and evening entertainment until the early hours of the morning. The main Neptune Lounge is located at the front the ship on the same deck and features luxurious gold-coloured seating and a grand entrance.
The onboard shops are also located on Deck 5 and offer everything from duty free, to souvenirs, jewellery and fashion accessories. The Photo Gallery and Shore Tours Office is also located within the same area.
The Bookmark Cafe is a relaxing place to sit in the day with a coffee and a wide selection of amazing chocolates to indulge in! Next door is the spacious library filled with informative reads, as well as popular novels. Not quite sure about the giant head sculpture though…
The Morning Light Pub is a popular bar on Fred. Olsen ships and Braemar is no exception. The maritime-rich decor and red leather seating is a familiar sight on all four ships in the fleet.
The wrap-around Promenade is fairly wide and great for power walking. Situated on the bow is the shuffleboard and deck quoits.
On Lido Deck 6 is Palms Cafe. This dedicated buffet restaurant with its tropical theme is an alternative to the main dining room and is also where afternoon tea is served daily. A terrace area overlooking the aft is home to The Grill in the evening and for a £20pp cover charge, guests can enjoy prime cut steaks or the finest seafood.
The Fitness Centre on Bridge Deck 7 is large and features a decent range of exercise equipment, accompanied with sea views.
Marquee Deck 8 is home to the second main dining room, the Grampian Restaurant. Another bright and spacious – yet intimate – restaurant, this one has large circular windows, which made it feel very similar to Balmoral‘s Spey and Avon Restaurants.
Deck 8 is also home to the pool area. Braemar features an impressive two swimming pools, two hot tubs, and a paddling pool, which for a ship her size is amazing. There is ample deck space for sunbeds and the sheltered Marquee Bar offers cool, refreshing beverages on (hopefully) sunny and warm days at sea.
Offering some of the best views from the ship, the Observatory is always popular among guests for enjoying a drink on a day at sea or for watching the ship depart in comfort. Although relatively small compared to other Fred. Olsen ships, the Observatory still looked spacious and an inviting place to sit.
Braemar offers a wide range of accommodations. All cabins were well appointed and felt homely and luxurious. Some cabins, seemed very small, but most were sizable. The ship has an impressive amount of dedicated solo cabins. Single travellers can choose between either a solo inside, outside or balcony cabin.
Overall, Braemar offers plenty of comfortable, spacious and bright public venues and lounges, especially for a ship her size. Although I enjoyed my time onboard and would likely sail on her in the future if I had the chance, I just didn’t warm to her straight away like other cruise ships and even other Fred. Olsen vessels.