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Everything posted by richard_london

  1. Your insights make interesting reading as I find it difficult to decipher the quarterly reports, so thank you. Whilst every other cruise company seems to be on the up FOCL seem to be stagnating. I see the new 2025/26 intineraries go on sale next week, so I will be interested to see in the Balmoral is sailing for another 12 months. Hopefully the new cruises will be more popular.
  2. It's official, Braemar will become the "Villa Vie Odyssey". https://www.maritime-executive.com/article/startup-agrees-to-buy-fred-olsen-s-braemar-for-3-5-year-world-cruise Also, the website has been updated: https://villavieresidences.com/meet-the-ship There is a video which combines CGI artists impressions and old footage of the Braemar. Some of the video clips used are of poor quality, so it looks like they haven't shot this specifically for this purpose but used clips in the public domain. Apparently she will be setting sail on 15th May 2024. FOCL will hand her over at the end of Feburary. So that's two months to reactivate her and refit all the cabins? Is that posssible?
  3. Christmas 2022 was due to issues with lifeboats that meant she failed her Passenger Ship Safety Certificate renewal. I had a vague recollection of something prior to that so did some digging around online. Turns out in May 2022 she was detained by the MCA at Tilbury with 22 deficiencies and two were grounds for detention (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-flagged-ships-detained-in-the-uk-during-may-2022-under-paris-mou). It seems like every time there is a mandatory inspection she needs to maintain her ceritification something crops up. If you go on the Lloyds Register site (https://www.lr.org/en/about-us/who-we-are/lr-ships-in-class/) and put in the details 8521232 or AMBIENCE in the search boxes you can see her certification status. From what I can make out, she has an overdue survey for "Exhaust Gs Economiser" from November 2023 and another 8 surveys that need to be completed by 10th Janaury 2024. So I guess one of these surveys threw up this latest problem, but there could have been others that Ambasssador have chosen not to publicise. According to the notes section she has four outstanding actions that were meant to be done in January related to deck plating, tanktop, her port anchor and forward mooring station. You can do a forward look and see what over surveys she has coming up and there are so many! Sadly I would agree, and also expect her to have more issues at some of these later surveys.
  4. It looks like the future for the Braemar as a residence at sea is confirmed following this story: https://cruiseindustrynews.com/cruise-news/2023/11/villa-vie-to-announce-ship-purchase-agreement-in-december/ The Villa Vie Residences website has been updated with ship plans and rooms renders. The ship profile clearly is the Braemar and the deck plans are lifted from FO originals. From the initial profile image it looks like she will be going back to a light hull colour. https://booking.villavieresidences.com/ship-and-listing There are some interesting renders of how the cabins will look. It helps you imagine how a refitted Braemar could have looked in service with FO, but sadly that just remains a dream. We've seen a number of plans for residences at sea come and go (now Ambassador's Ambience was going to be the Satoshi and more recently Aida's AIDAuara was going to become Life at Sea), so it will be interesting to see if this gets off the ground. I say that because I recall the Miray (behind Life at Sea) originally tried to use the Braemar's sister ship, MV Gemini (https://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/news/worlds-first-three-year-cruise-runs-into-rough-waters-executive-team-parts-ways ) but pulled out of using that ship because it would be unsuitable for the purpose. I know the Braemar was lengthened by FO but I wonder if she is viable as a permanent residence at sea. Anyway, for those who loved the Braemar and are interested, these are the changes I could seem compared to the old FO deck plans: 2 deck - Community storage added 3 deck - Culinary centre replaces arts and craft room 4 deck - Thistle Restaurant becomes Marina Diner 5 deck - Neptune Lounge becomes Theatre, Morning Light Pub becomes the Morning Light Club, Library remains, networking area replaces gaming tables, meeting areas replaces Bookmark Cafe, shops, photo gallery and guest services, Coral Club becomes Club 6 deck - Palms Cafe and Grill becomes Wave Cafe 7 deck - no significant changes 8 deck - Observatory becomes Villa Vie Lounge, Marquee Bar becomes Sun Bar, Grampian Restaurant becomes Gourmet Restaurant
  5. Yes, Southampton is best with me, but the Balmoral is doing very little in 2024 so I've booked one of the already announced 2025 cruises. Seems an awfully long way off, I just hope she is still in the fleet by then.
  6. Yes, that's a good point, I had forgotten about those cancellations. Let's take it as a good sign of things.
  7. I have a Balmoral cruise booked in 2025, slightly concerned now that there might not even by an FOCL let along the Balmoral in service. Just have to keep my fingers crossed. I am wondering, a few years ago had they made their new advert then Fred Jr would have undoubtedly featured, as part of the family history narrative. But it seems the company is not doing well and the decision to buy the HAL sisters doesn't look like it was a wise one. Was he forced out/made to carry the can for these problems, which is why his departure was rather under the radar, and with no fanfare announcing his departure?
  8. Thanks as always for your insightful previous posts. It doesn't paint a positive picture, the loss of the Balmoral would be terribly sad. Since the Balmoral has spent most of her time recently cruising out of Newcastle and Rosyth it has not been practical for me to cruise from there, but I have fond memories of her from cruises before the pandemic. Her removal from the FOCL fleet would be a mistake. The "new" HAL ships were already much larger than the Black Watch and Bouddica and in an instant Fred elimated a lot of their nice itineraries those ships did, like the Kiel Canal transits. I notice in their latest (heavily promoted) advert on television that in the attached screenshot the two images of the Balmoral show her doing two canal transits, something only the Balmoral can do now. They lost the Corinth Canal transits when they stopped using the Braemar, which I never managed to do, and really regret now having missed out. If the Balmoral goes, any pretence of "small ship" cruising by FOCL will be pure fiction.
  9. Can you get tables for two in the dining room for guests staying in suites?
  10. Yes I had family on the cruise and it was due to the weather. By all accounts it wasn't a pleasant experience and on the last day they came down with Covid.
  11. Every cruise line is trying to increase onboard spend with extra costs options. It is easier for Cunard with a new ship under construction to add them in. But looking at the QM2 deckplans (and this is pure speculation) would they take space from the Kings Court buffet and convert that? I've seen reviews on Youtube, it was either the new Celebrity Apex or NCL Prima class ships that had smaller buffets than would be expected for a ship of that size to allow, presumably, for extra charge options. I hope this doesn't happen. The current Sir Samuels looks small, there is that room next to it (I think it is for the wine tasting) so the two spaces could be cannibalised to make a larger extra cost restaurant. But that would be a shame to loose the current Sir Samuels Clearly extra pay options will come to the current ships, I guess once the QA is in service. But I fear it would mean compromising existing venues to accommodate them.
  12. I don't think anyone has metioned this, apologies if repeating. Seems strange to me the steakhouse on the QA will be called Sir Samuel's as Sir Samuel's exists on the QM2 but that does pastries, cakes and chocolates, but on the existing Queens the steakhouse is the Verandah. All the other restaraunts are named consistently across the fleet. I wonder if they will do some renaming on the current fleet to match the QA.
  13. So I check I understand correctly, even if the second half of 2023 they achieved, say double what was achieved in the first half (so £2 million) the repayments for the two ships will be wiping out any profit?
  14. I think in your earlier post you said by 2 hours. I've had cruises that have proceeded perfectly normally have that duration of delay in boarding, so 2 hours is no time to do a deep clean of the ship. My experience of norovirus on a FO cruise (also on the Balmoral) was that our cruise was curtailed a day eary to get back to Southampton so the company could do a "deep clean". I don't know if the problem originated on our cruise or continued to the next. But what I do recall is going to dinner on the second evening to find the dining room decimated with people absent, and that's when we found out there was a norovirus outbreak. So two hours is a woefully short amount of time for the crew to fix things. Clearly, given it originated on the previous cruise it wasn't stopped by whatever they did. That was my experience too. Too all intents and purposes it looked like an uncontrolled outbreak and nothing could do done to stop it. I managed to avoid it (the worst I experienced was red-raw hands from all the hand gel and handwashing we had to do), but there were people I met early on during the cruise, who came down with norovirus, recovered, and then caught it again before they disembarked! It was a pretty disasterous cruise and particularly unpleasant. I'm sorry you had a such a bad experience, anecdotally it does seem to be on FOCL ships that this seems to happen. It's always brought on board by a passenger, according to the Company. But the CDC in the US connects norovirus not to guests, but to ill workers in food production (https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/norovirus/index.html?fbclid=IwAR1S8XZVtJa7M8sFavTu68aEZaPgy7GRIK-u7ZWEHAVuF6Ds3YBY6kj-NEQ). The article says "Infected food workers cause about 70% of reported norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food". Given that crew members rely heavily on tips to supplement their wages, you can understand them not reporting ill, but if they are in food handling and preparation then that is going to have potentially serious consequences. Until crew have better working conditions and pay I don't see this particular problem going away.
  15. In my case, the same. The single supplement applied to solo cabins really does infuriate me. The room is designated a single, it wouldn't be me occupying a double room on my own. The fact they drop the supplement on some cruises and not others shows how very unfair it is. But on a more general point, it's physically and mentally exhausting for anyone to have to track Fred.'s prices to make sure you are getting the best deal possible. Cruising is meant to be relaxing. I like to book a cruise as soon as they are announced to get the cabin I want and then not to have to worry about it (until payment day!). The whole Fred pricing strategy causes too much anxiety, stress and worry so at the moment I'm not considering their cruises right now until someone decides to do somehing about this strategy.
  16. I'm sorry, that's so unfair on you. I can understand why you wouldn't want to travel with them again. I think this pricing strategy has created a rod for their own back for Fred. From visiting this forum its clear there is dissatisfaction with the policy and you're not the only ones adopting a wait and see policy. Until they revise this policy this will just situation will repeat and repeat with cruises being advertised and people waiting for the last minute details. It's far from ideal.
  17. I didn't know that. Thanks for sharing. I've been on cruises before that have had ports of call curtailed at the last minute (a couple of times and if I recall correctly down to industrial action by dockers), but to have a port of call cancelled this way would be very frustrating. I know delays can happen, but there should be enough flexibility in the originally advertised schedule to visit all of the planned ports of call. If things are going to be subject to change at the last minute it does make a mockery of the hand crafted concept Fred like to project, as that suggests a human touch. Perhaps now it is all done by AI. Well, Fred have form in the past for "mysteriously" not sending the Feefo survey emails out on cruises that don't go well. Can't remember the year it was but I was on a Balmoral cruise with a big outbreak of norovirus and for some strange reason no one got the email asking to review the cruise. Funny that! Also, you never know from the reviews what price the person paid versus the lowest price that Fred ultimately sold that cabin grade at. Because as we all know there can be a big difference between the two. If you get a cheap last minute deal then you would be more forgiving and also more likely to give a good review.
  18. Yes, in the junior suite there seemed lots of storage but the power points seemed to be on the dressing table/desk, so I wonder where in other cabins. If you look in Go With Jo's video also of a Junior Suite you can see her room is set up with twin beds and not double like the in the other video. There are no power points visible by the beds on this set up either. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R20Vl_2To5I
  19. I watched their videos with interest as I was due to sail with CMV twice during the pandemic but both were cancelled and then the company collapsed. They would have been my first cruises with the company, so with Ambassador emerging with so many former CMV people involved I have been following, and was interested to see the Amibition. I watched the cabin tour video and I was pleasantly surprised with the overall standard of the cabin and it looked light and fresh, but two things bothered me. At the very start of the video when outside the cabin you can see one large dent and lots of smaller indentations all over the door and then when inside the cabin, there is the cupboard door that is a bit broken/hanging off. I would have thought these things would have been fixed since she's been under refit. Disappointing they haven't been, so will wait until the first full reviews come in.
  20. Not sure about that... one of FOCLs closest rivals will reimburse customers if their cruise is later sold for less than they bought it for originally. Fred do like to portray themselves as a family company, and used to leverage Fred Jr's involvement an awful lot in brochures and publicity. Curating their image will have convinced many passengers and loyal guests that they had their best interests at heart and I'm sure ARDXXX felt that too when they were assured by Fred about the upgrade. Unfortunately, from my own experiences on Fred ships and from reading this forum I've realised that Fred's customer service can drops any pretence of being a family company and act like so many other companies and sticks rigidly to their T&Cs. Whilst they are perfectly entitled to do so, and they aren't a charity, I don't think it is unreasonable to expect some goodwill from a company to which they and others have shown such loyalty over the years. As twotravellersLondon points out, Fred's ships are sailing well below full capacity, so what harm in giving an upgrade to a loyal customer? If loyal Fred cruisers are being disenfranchised (if that is the right word) with the Fred experience, and with the cruise market saturated with so many different companies that we can easily book as alternatives to Fred, Fred are doing themselves a disservice by alientating their already dwindling number of repeat guests. I've learnt that many cruisers are incredidbly loyal to their preferred cruise lines and it's sad when promises get broken, and I can completely understand their reluctance to every cruise with that company again.
  21. Yes, that was my thought too. According to https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/portugal/lisbon?month=5&year=2024 we get an extra three hours of daylight in the evening before dusk at 8.30pm and about 1 1/2 hours in the morning, so that would be much better. It's a shame we don't get to overnight in Lisbon but the extra port of call is appreciated. In the float out videos I could see where my cabin is for two cruises I have booked on board the Queen Anne so I allowed myself to feel a bit more excited about the prospect.
  22. I always take one of these type of block adaptors that work fine on Cunard ships. Found this listing on Amazon which is quite similar (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Universal-TESSAN-Worldwide-International-Countries/dp/B0BNB7F2FJ/) The one I have connects fine to the US outlets on Cunard ships and mine has four USB connections on the top. I charge my phone and multiple cameras at the same time (overnight) and have not run into any problems.
  23. I would agree and emphasize this point - if you have large suitcases I would caution against using the train, especially if you get there with all the other disembarking passengers. If there are other ships disembarking on the same day then the station platform and trains will be very full. Check the Southampton VTS website to see what other ships are in dock when you are due to arrive (https://www.southamptonvts.co.uk/Live_Information/Shipping_Movements_and_Cruise_Ship_Schedule/Cruise_Ship_Schedule/) I live in London and it means the default option is to use the train but I curse it every time. Last summer coming back from a QV voyage was a nightmare because of cancelled trains, so two train lots of passengers on one train. It was horrendous. I try to travel light and use the overhead luggage racks but these will only take the aeroplane carry-on size, nothing larger. If you are after peace of mind, I would go with what options you can organise for Cunard. At least on the coach you are guaranteed a seat and there will be space for your luggage, whereas on the train neither is certain.
  24. I went back and looked at all the quarterly reports to see what statements FOCL were making, and I have copied out the positive spin they have been putting into their reports. What strikes me is how repetitive they are, with the same text recurring in consecutive quarterly reports. But despite all these positive reports occupany as you point out is 66%. And I see they now have up to £500pp off on 58 cruises as part of the "Cruise Summer Sale" and then on some you can get an extra £150 off with their Coronation offer. I can't square the demand highlighted in the quarterly reports with the need to discount fares so much. I suspect many have cottoned on to Fred's pricing strategy and are just not booking and looking for last minue deals which are more realistic in terms of their pricing. Q2 2021: .....a substantial increase in demand for cruises. Q3 2021: From Spring/Summer 2022, and going forward, FOCL is experiencing substantial demand at normal prices for it’s [sic] cruises. Q4 2021: FOCL is experiencing good demand for cruises in 2022 and 2023. Q1 2022: FOCL is experiencing good demand for cruises in 2022 and 2023. Q2 2022: FOCL is experiencing good demand for cruises for the summers of 2022 and also for 2023 Q3 2022: No "positive" statements. Q4 2022: FOCL has seen improved booking numbers in recent weeks, with January 2023 being the best booking month ever. Q1 2023: FOCL has seen improved booking numbers in recent weeks, with January 2023 being the best booking month ever.
  25. I wasn't sure if our question is about boarding, I looked back at records from my 2019 cruise and this is what I found. For Passengers of MS Queen Elizabeth • Complimentary Shuttle Service to Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal • Meeting Point:1F Lobby at Yokohama Information Cultural Center Access information: • From JR: Kannai Station south gate ‐ 10 min on foot • From Subway: Kannai Station No.1 gate ‐ 10 min on foot • From Minatomirai Line Nihon‐Odori Station No.3 gate ‐ 0 min (direct access) • Shuttle service starts from 11:15 am. Please avoid arriving too early. This was text copied from a Japanese PDF I found at the time, but I don't have the original. It is for 2019, so might not be accurate for 2023, but this was where they boarded us all on the coaches with our luggage. If it for going ashore during the cruise, while I was trying to find that PDF online when I did some Google searches Icame across this file. It is dated for 2023 so is current: https://www.cunard.jp/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/横浜港大黒ふ頭シャトルバスとドライブ&クルーズについて.pdf If you save it as an image and run through Google Translate you get a reasonably good translation, which says the shuttle runs to and from Yamashita Park. I have attached the output that Google produces. Hope this is of help. Have a great cruise!
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