Brabant Review - October 2018
Ian Warren – 12/10/18
For many years, British passengers have been enjoying the traditional ocean cruising style which has been offered onboard the ocean fleet of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. Several itineraries had evolved to include River Cruising, such as the Seine to Rouen and Honfleur, the Guadalquivir to Seville, and the Elbe to Hamburg. Destinations were restricted to those which could be reached by ocean going liners, so in April 2018 Fred. Olsen River Cruises was born. The aim being to give the well-loved Fred. Olsen experience on rivers as well as oceans.
Brabant is exclusively chartered and has been operating river cruises for a maximum of 160 passengers, on the Dutch Waterways, Rhine, Main, Moselle and Danube rivers. She has a similar range of itineraries available for 2019, and full details are further down the page. For 2019 there will be the option to fly from London, Manchester or Scotland, depending on the itinerary and I can check exact details for you. Cruises can also be booked on a ‘cruise only’ basis, enabling you to make your own travel arrangements. This is useful if you want to fly from a specific airport, or if you want to add a few days pre or post cruise to visit the local area.
At the end of September 2018 my wife Ellena and myself spent 7 nights onboard Brabant, on R1826 Exploring the Scenic Moselle Valley. You can read about our experience below, which includes a video and photos of the ship, and then I have given some facts and figures about Brabant. If you would like to see my reviews and videos of the ocean fleet, all of which we have cruised on, please click on the following links Balmoral | Boudicca | Braemar | Black Watch. For more information about Brabant and her itineraries, and to get an up-to-date quotation for 2019, call GoCruise with Ian on 01455821770 or 08002922850.
Day 1 – we arrived at the ship late morning, as it was too early to check-in and get our cabin, so we left our cases and went to explore Dusseldorf for a few hours. The weather was amazing, and we did some shopping, enjoyed a snack lunch and a beer by the riverside. Back at the ship we checked in and went and unpacked, before going to the safety briefing. After a very enjoyable dinner we had an early night, as it had been a long day.
Day 2 – we awoke in Cologne, and the weather wasn’t so good today. For breakfast I ordered a ham and cheese omelette, which I do on every ship, as it makes for a great comparison. I wasn’t disappointed and had one every day. We hadn’t booked any shore excursions for this cruise, so went ashore on our own to look around Cologne, and it drizzled all morning. We sailed at lunch time, and enjoyed a relaxing lunch watching the world go by and had to try the afternoon tea before arriving in Remagen late afternoon. This is a beautiful small town, and we wandered around for an hour or so. Tonight was Captain’s Welcome Cocktails, when we met some of the department heads, and then another enjoyable dinner.
Day 3 – a relaxing morning while sailing the Moselle Valley, between vine covered hills and picturesque towns and villages on both sides of the river. The ship was berthed in Bernkastel for the afternoon and evening, so we took a ride on the ‘Mini Train’ which took us around the town and through some vineyards, and then had a beer in a local bar. Then after dinner we went for another walk around the town.
Day 4 – Brabant arrived in Cochem at breakfast time, after which we went for a wander around the town. It was a Sunday so not everything was open until late morning, but I managed to get some good photos of the ship from the other side of the river. We set sail after lunch, and enjoyed our journey back through the Moselle Valley, before arriving in Koblenz around 8pm.
Day 5 – we spent the morning doing some shopping and taking photos, before being back onboard for our lunchtime departure. Back on the Rhine now, we had a relaxing afternoon spotting some amazing castles on the hills, and more pretty towns and villages. It wasn’t so warm today, so although we ventured on deck some of the time, we also watched from the Panorama Lounge or from the French Balcony in our cabin.
Day 6 – we were in the town of Speyer for the full day, so we spent the morning sightseeing and looking up the smaller side streets. More shopping was done, and a nice drink of hot chocolate in one of the cafes. The afternoon was spent relaxing and reading, as well as catching up with more emails. In the evening we had another cocktail party, and met all members of the crew, followed by a tasty Farewell Dinner.
Day 7– Strasbourg was our port of call today, but the ships must berth on the outskirts of town. Therefore we opted for a free shuttle bus in, as opposed to the c50 minute walk. We found our way to the picturesque part of town called ‘Little France. After lunch we set sail for Basel, but during the afternoon found that there was a problem with one of the locks. It had caused a big queue of ships, which meant there was no chance we would be able to get to Basel by the next morning. We all met in the lounge where everything was explained to us, and there was no need to worry. The Fred. Olsen Cruise Services Manager, Lee Mudkins, had been working behind the scenes and everything was in place. We were told that we would stop that night in Breisach, and that everyone would be transferred to Basel the next day, which was only an hour away by road. All passengers who had booked their flights as part of their package, would be taken to the airport as normal. All passengers with independent travel arrangements (including us as we had wanted to fly from Birmingham) would be taken by coach to the main railway station in Basel, instead of where the ship would have berthed. It just meant changing my taxi pickup point. After dinner we went to our cabin to pack, although there was a movie being shown in the Amadeus Club.
Day 8 – after breakfast we departed our cabin, handed in the keys, and said a fond farewell to Brabant and her crew, as we boarded the coach to Basel.
Summary – if you are looking for a relaxing cruise, without lots of entertainment, where you can choose what you do, and the pace you do it at, then a river cruise is something you should consider. The food onboard Brabant was some of the best we have had on any of our previous river or ocean cruises, and the crew were very friendly. While I couldn’t say that the Brabant has the ‘Fred. Olsen’ feel, I do feel that the clear majority of Fred. Olsen customers would be more than happy on a Brabant cruise.
What is included in the price of your cruise?
- Return flights from the UK with resort transfers (unless you book ‘cruise only’)
- Ensuite accommodation, with flat-screen tv, hairdryer, safe (mainly for money and passports, as nothing bigger than an iPad mini will fit) and air-conditioning, and a bottle of water per person each day
- All meals onboard with early riser breakfast, and a buffet breakfast in the restaurant. Lunch is usually a salad bar and 3 course served meal with tea and coffee, or light snacks in the lounge. Then there is afternoon tea with cakes, sandwiches and scones with jam and cream, served in the lounge. You will enjoy 4 course a la carte dinner with tea and coffee, as well as late-night snacks in the lounge if you are still peckish. All meals are open seating, so you can sit where and with whom you want
- Complimentary tea and coffee station 24 hours a day in the Amadeus Lounge
- Welcome Cocktail and Welcome Dinner, as well as the Captain’s Gala Dinner
- Complimentary Wi-Fi (although the signal isn’t always great, as it is reliant on mobile connection)
- Use of the leisure facilities including the fitness room, and the wellness tub
- Lounge music by a pianist or duo every day, and occasional quizzes
- Complimentary uses of bicycles in port
Items not included would be drinks (although you can purchase a ‘drinks with meals’ package), shore tours (you can purchase individual tours which ranged from £26pp to £100pp, or there was a package available ‘only bookable in advance’ giving 6 tours for £200pp, a saving of £67pp), hair and massage treatments, crew gratuities etc. Gratuities of £8 per person per night are added to your onboard account, to cover tips for the ship’s crew. You can have these amended or removed at reception if you wish. To give you some idea of drink prices, here is a small selection from the bar menu – beer from £3.00, spirits from £3.90, wine from £3.50 a glass or £16.00 a bottle, cocktails from £4.30, and soft drinks from £2.40.
What grades of accommodation are there?
- Juliette Balcony Suites (236 sq ft) – there are 2 on Mozart Deck. These have floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors with railing, a comfortable seating area, and a bathroom with bathtub and toilet
- Juliette Balcony Rooms / Cabins (161 sq ft) – there are 33 on Mozart Deck and 33 on Strauss Deck. These have floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors with railing, and a bathroom with shower and toilet
- Standard Rooms / Cabins (161 sq ft) – there are 11 on Hayden Deck. These have a high-level non-opening window, and a bathroom with shower and toilet
The closer you are to the back of the ship, you are more likely to notice some vibration from the engine when cruising. We were on the middle deck and about 4 cabins from the back, and did notice noise, especially when cruising. It is therefore better to aim for a cabin more mid-ship to towards the front.
What facilities are there onboard?
- Sun Deck – shuffleboard, giant chess, Lido Bar, tables & chairs, sun loungers, and a small plunge pool or, as some would call it, a Jacuzzi.
- Mozart Deck – Amadeus Club (relax with a tea or coffee and take advantage of the books, papers, games, or use one of the desk-top computers to catch up on emails), Panorama Bar and Lounge, and River Terrace
- Strauss Deck – Reception, small shop, and the Panorama Restaurant
- Haydn Deck – Hair salon, fitness room, massage and Vital-Club
What is the Dress Code onboard?
- Daytime – casual is the order of the day, including shorts and t-shirt, so whatever you feel comfortable in
- Evening – for the restaurant in the evenings it is smart casual, so trousers, chinos, smart dark jeans with shirt or polo shirt for men, although some may prefer to wear a jacket (with or without a tie). Ladies might choose from a tailored trouser suit, casual separates, or a dress. There is no requirement for black tie or formal wear on Fred. Olsen river cruises.
Are children allowed onboard?
- Olsen do not recommend river cruises for children under the age of 12, as facilities are not in place for younger children. All children would pay the adult price, and there are no cabins for 3 or more people
Are river cruises suitable for people with mobility issues?
- Embarkation and disembarkation can often involve narrow gangways, and the need to climb up and over the sundeck, to pass over one or more other ships, to reach Brabant, making it unsuitable for anyone confined to a wheelchair or with severer mobility issues
- Although there is a lift linking Haydn, Strauss and Mozart decks, there is no lift access to Sun Deck
Please note that all details, including prices, mentioned above were correct at the time I was onboard. They could change for the 2019 season, so for an up-to-date check on availability, prices or other information, call GoCruise with Ian on 01455821770 or 08002922850.