Our Cruise Expert Alan Fairfax Reviews

Fred Olsen's Cruise Ship - Boudicca

It was 8.05am as the crowded train inched its way out of London Waterloo on its journey to Southampton. When I had travelled this train last August you had difficulty in seeing the landscape because of the rain. Today was different. As we sped through the countryside the trees were alive with blossom. Leaves sprouting from their branches were that bright green you only see in the spring. On arrival at Southampton Central it was but a quick cab ride to City Terminal for my visit to Fred Olsen’s ‘Boudicca’. Last time it was their ship “Balmoral” and I was very impressed. Would Boudicca impress the same feelings on me? Read on...................

On arrival at the terminal the bright red on Boudicca’s funnel and her white superstructure showed out against a grey cloudy sky. Fred Olsen has 4 ships, Braemar, Boudicca, Black Watch and Balmoral. Boudicca weighing in at 28,388 tonnes is larger than Braemar, smaller than Balmoral and as twin to Black watch fits in the middle. Launched in 1973 as Royal Viking Sky for the then Royal Viking Line she was taken over by Fred Olsen in 2005. Carrying less than 1,000 passengers this is a mid size ship that travels to some fabulous destinations.

Once on board you are immediately aware of the large amount of art work adorning the walls. The main dining room is named “Four Seasons” and one of the walls is graced with abstract pictures of the four seasons. These cause you to stop, look and ponder. The tables are set out for 2, 4 and 6 persons with a few for 8. On the opposite side of the ship are the Tintagel Restaurant and The Heligan Room. The restaurant that became my immediate favourite was the “Secret Garden Cafe” on deck 6. This is enclosed by partitions of ornate design that immediately reminded me of the Far East. With spotless white tablecloths, gleaming cutlery and sparkling glasses this was the place for me. It is self service and the food I had really was excellent. The selection offered was good. Starters could be chosen from meats, smoked salmon, marinated herring and others with the usual coleslaw, vegetable salads, tomato etc. There were main courses of steak, chicken, fish and vegetarian with a good selection of fresh vegetables that left me with no room for desert. Everything was well presented and of high quality. The service was quick and friendly. Washed down with a chilled fruity white wine it was a perfect meal.

The cabins which are spread out over several decks range from a modest inside at 140 sq. ft. up to a Premier Suite of 550 sq. ft. What must be said is that even the most modest cabin comes very well equipped with en- suite bathroom and shower, safe, television, hairdryer, telephone and air conditioning. As you move up through the various grades so the amenities become even better. When you reach the Premier Suite you really have reached the top of the pinnacle. They are huge with their own lounge area equipped with settees and comfy chairs that look out through large floor to ceiling windows and door onto your own private balcony. The bathroom has not only the usual shower but also a bath tub. Added are the luxuries of a mini bar and fridge. My personal favourites were the balcony suites of 200 sq. ft. which I could imagine myself spending days at sea in relaxing and enjoying. There are also over 30 cabins dedicated to solo travellers. I also inspected one of the cabins which have wheel chair access and again was impressed. There is something to suit all tastes and pockets, no one will be disappointed.

The swimming pool it situated at the stern of the ship and is accompanied by 2 jacuzzis. The swimming pool is actually large enough to swim in which is refreshing, excuse the pun. There is also a system that can be used which gives the impression you are swimming against the tide. This sounds quite novel. In this area are tables and chairs where you can sit in the sun and enjoy food or drink. Higher up is Sun Deck and this as the names denotes is a sun bathing area with the addition of golf nets.

The public areas and bars are excellent. Firstly, the library. This ship has a proper library. The carpet in this area deserves special mention. It is red and green with a central motif of the unmarked compass points. In the centre of the compass design stands a beautiful circular wooden table standing on a singular central leg. The bookcases and shelves are veneered with the lower parts done in marquetry which in turn are illuminated by partly concealed lighting. The shelves are stacked with books to suit all tastes. Absolutely beautiful.
Next is the card room where the carpet colours continue with the red and green and the theme of the 4 suits of playing cards being depicted continues. At one end of the room the whole wall is decorated with the plaques that the ship has been presented with over the years at its various maiden ports of call.

Nearby is another lounge that is simply called the “The Lounge”. Like many other parts of the ship the walls are adorned with paintings. Great place to sit in large comfortable chairs and settees, relax and watch the world go by out of the large picture windows. There is an internet room so that you can keep in touch with home by email and the ship has its own Wi-Fi system. The main show lounge has few pillars that block lines of sight to the stage. There is a well appointed bar at the rear of this lounge so that you can enjoy a drink whilst watching the show. Another impressive area is the Observatory Lounge from where you have magnificent views of your surroundings from high up on the ship. Whilst many ships have this kind of lounge I personally have never been on one where binoculars are supplied free of charge for the passengers use. They are strategically placed in units along the wall, not mini binoculars but good full size ones. Wonderful idea, why don’t more ships do this? This area has a very nice bar where you can relax whilst enjoying the views. There are other areas of this ship which sadly I did not have time to visit as the tour seemed to be over far too soon. What do they say about time when you are enjoying yourself?

Back to the original question “Would Boudicca impress the same feelings on me as Balmoral”. In a nutshell, yes, although they are two totally different ships and therefore almost impossible to compare. They do however have a common theme running through them and that is the warmth of the crew, standard of food, quality of cabins and public areas. Boudicca has over the years, since joining the Fred Olsen fleet, built up a very loyal following. Indeed friends of mine have recently returned from a long cruise to the Amazon and back. Impressed? Yes, they have booked another cruise on her. This says it all and explains why Fred Olsen has such a following. Yes, I would happily sail on Boudicca and look forward to the day I do. Any complaints, yes, just one, I had to leave the ship and get the train back to London.

Alan Fairfax