Braemar - Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)

Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)


★★★ +

Berlitz’s Ratings

Ship: 326 out of 500

Accommodation: 128 out of 200

Food: 240 out of 400

Service: 251 out of 400

Entertainment: 62 out of 100

Cruise: 268 out of 400

Overall Score: 1275 out of 2000

Braemar Statistics

Size: Mid-size Ship

Tonnage: 24,344

Lifestyle: Standard

Cruise Line: Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Former Names: Norwegian Dynasty, Crown Majesty, Cunard Dynasty, Crown Dynasty

IMO Number: 9000699

Builder: Union Navale de Levante (Spain)

Original Cost: $100 million

Entered Service: Jul 1993/Aug 2001

Registry: The Bahamas

Length (ft/m): 639.7/195.0

Beam (ft/m): 73.8/22.5

Draft (ft/m): 17.7/5.4

Propulsion/Propellers: diesel (13,200kW)/2

Passenger Decks: 7

Total Crew: 371

Passengers (lower beds): 930

Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 25.9

Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 2.3

Cabins (total): 484

Size Range (sq ft/m): 139.9-349.8/13.0-32.5

Cabins (for one person): 38

Cabins (with private balcony): 79

Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 4

Wheelchair accessibility: Fair

Cabin Current: 110 and 220 volts

Elevators: 5

Casino (gaming tables): Yes

Slot Machines: No

Swimming Pools: 2

Hot Tubs (on deck): 2

Self-Service Launderette: Yes

Dedicated Cinema/Seats: No

Library: Yes

Onboard currency: UK£


A smart-looking ship with decor suited to casual cruisers

Overview. This handsome-looking mid-size ship suits middle-aged and older UK and Scandinavian passengers who want to cruise in a casual, unstuffy environment, in a ship with British food and entertainment. It’s a refreshing change for those who don’t enjoy larger, warehouse-size ships. But it does roll somewhat, probably because of its shallow draft design, meant for warm-weather cruise areas.

The Ship. Braemar has attractive exterior styling, and a lot of glass space. There is a good amount of open deck and sunbathing space for its size, and this includes two outdoor bars - one aft and one midships adjacent to the two swimming pools and paddling pool - that have Boddington’s and Stella Artois keg beers. Four open decks, located aft of the funnel, provide good, quiet places to sit and read.

The teak promenade deck is a complete walk-around deck, wrapping around Lounge Deck. Passengers can go right to the ship’s bow - good for photographs. Faux teak floor covering is used on the pool deck, which has two pools; it looks tacky, but works well in the heat of the Caribbean, where the ship was meant to spend much of its time.

Inside, there is a pleasant five-deck-high, glass-walled atrium on the starboard side. Off-center stairways add a sense of spaciousness to a clever interior design that surrounds passengers with light. The interior decor in public spaces is warm and inviting, with contemporary, but not brash, Art Deco color combinations. The artwork is colorful and pleasant, in the Nordic manner.

The Morning Light Club is an open-plan lounge, with its own bar, split by a walkway that leads to the showlounge (forward), the library/card room/Internet center, and the boutique (midships). Despite being open, it has cozy seating areas and is very comfortable, with a tartan carpet. A model of the first Fred. Olsen ship named Braemar (4,775 gross tonnage) is displayed in the center of the room, as is a large carved wood plaque bearing the name Braemar Castle in Scotland.

The mostly Filipino staff is attentive, and the hospitality factor is good. The company has come a long way from its humble beginnings, and now offers extremely good value for money cruises in a relaxed, welcoming environment that provides passengers with many of the comforts of home. The dress code is casual.

In 2008, a 102ft (31m) midsection extension was added, providing additional cabins and balcony ‘suites.’ Facilities added or changed include a second swimming pool and more sunbathing space, an observatory lounge, a new restaurant, and a pub-style bar.

There can be a bit of a wait for shore tenders and for the few elevators aboard this ship. British passengers should note that no suites or cabins have bathtubs.

Passenger niggles include: lines at the cramped self-service buffet; poor wine service (not enough wine waiters); an increase in the use of packets of butter, margarine, and preserves; the lack of choice of sugar; weak coffee; and badly worn bathroom fittings. There is a self-service launderette (£2 for wash and dry) - and the company may charge for shuttle buses in some ports of call.

Accommodation. There are several cabin price categories; the higher the deck, the higher the price. All grades have a small television and hairdryer (some are awkward to retract from their wall-mount holders), plus European-style duvets. The large bathroom towels are cotton (bathrobes are available upon request in suite-grade cabins). There is no separate audio system in the cabin, but music can be obtained from one of the TV channels, although you’ll have to leave the picture on. Suites, however, do have a CD music system.

Standard (outside-view)/inside cabins. Almost all are the same size - which is really small - although they are nicely furnished. Most have broad picture windows, but some deluxe cabins on decks 6 and 7 have lifeboat-obstructed views. They are practical and comfortable, with blond wood-trimmed accents and multi-colored soft furnishings, but there is very little drawer space, and hanging space is extremely limited (the ship was purpose-built originally for seven-day cruises). So take only the clothing you think necessary. Each outside-view cabin on Deck 4 has a large picture window, while those on the lower decks 2 and 3 have a porthole. They are quite well-equipped, with a small vanity desk unit, minimal drawer space, curtained windows, and personal safe (hard to reach).

Each cabin has a private bathroom (of the ‘me first, you next’ variety) with a tiled floor, small shower enclosure, toiletries cupboard, washbasin, and low-height toilet of the barking dog vacuum variety. There is some under-basin storage space, and an electrical socket for shavers.

When Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines bought the ship, it converted a number of cabins from double-occupancy units to single traveler cabins.

Some cabins suffer from inadequate soundproofing; passengers in cabins on Deck 4 in particular are disturbed by anyone running or jogging on the promenade deck above. Cabins on the lowest deck (Deck 2) in the ship’s center are subject to noise from the adjacent engine room.

Suites. While they are not large, the suites do have a sleeping area that can be curtained off from the living area. All suites are decorated in individual styles, but with contemporary decor.

Dining. There are two restaurants (Thistle, and Grampian: assigned according to your accommodation grade). The Thistle Restaurant is a pleasing and attractive venue, with large ocean-view windows on three sides; its focal point is a large oil painting on a wall behind a buffet food display counter. However, space is tight, and tables are extremely close together, making proper service difficult. There are tables for two, four, six, or eight; the Porsgrund china has a Venus pattern.

There are two seatings for dinner, and an open seating for breakfast and lunch. The menu is varied. Salad items are quite poor and very basic, with little variety, although there is a decent choice of dessert items. For breakfast and lunch the dual food counters are functional, but the layout is not ideal and at peak times they create much congestion. The Grampian Restaurant is located aft at the top of the ship, with fine aft views. Service is attentive (if hurried) in both venues.

Other dining options. Casual breakfasts and luncheons can also be taken in the self-service buffet located in the Palms Café, although these tend to be repetitive and poorly supervised, with dishes not replaced or refreshed properly. There is indoor and outdoor seating. Although it is the casual dining spot, tablecloths are provided. The indoor flooring is wood, which makes it rather a noisy room, and some tables adjacent to the galley entrance are to be avoided at all costs.

Out on the pool deck, there is a barbecue grill, for casual eating - welcome when the ship is in warm-weather areas.

Entertainment. The Neptune Showlounge sits longitudinally along one side of the ship, with amphitheater-style seating in several tiers, but its layout is less than ideal for either shows or cocktail parties. There is often congestion between first- and second-seating passengers at the entrance.

Unfortunately, 15 pillars obstruct sight lines to the stage, and the banquet and individual tub chair seating arrangement is quite poor.

The entertainment mainly consists of small-scale production shows and mini-musicals presented by a small troupe of resident singers/dancers, and cabaret acts. They are rather amateurish, but enjoyable.

Spa/Fitness. The health spa facilities are limited. It includes a combined gymnasium/aerobics room, and a separate room for women and men, with sauna, steam room, and small changing area. Spa Rituals treatments are provided by Steiner. Some fitness classes are free; others, such as yoga and kick-boxing, cost extra.