M1623 – Not bored onboard

Almost always my posts on this blog are about the places I visit on my cruises, and the tours ashore that I make there. So as a change, I thought I would make my rather belated wrap-up post for my French River Cruising cruise (we returned home over a week ago – oops) about life on board ship, and in particular sea days.

The most common question from people who haven’t cruised before is “Don’t you find sea days boring?”. The simple answer is no, I enjoy them, and also after a few consecutive days ashore I find them essential as a time to rest and relax, and take in all the new places and things that I have seen in the preceeding days ashore.

There is always plenty laid on to entertain you if that’s what you are looking for – talks & lectures, deck games like shuffle board & quoits, dancing lessons, arts & crafts, a passenger choir, bridge, line dancing, classical concerts, bingo, pub quizzes etc etc.

Of these it’s usually only the talks & lectures and the classical concerts that attract me, but each to their own. Of course these days I am also kept busy writing blog posts on sea days!

This cruise was unusual in that there were only two sea days, and therefore we had just the one speaker, Michael Nicholson, who gave two talks about his career as a news correspondent and news reader – one serious one about the dark things he witnessed and experienced mainly reporting wars, and one very funny one about the lighter moments during his career:

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The classical concerts are usually by a classical pianist, but on some cruises it might be a classical guitarist or violinist. On this cruise we had the Romanian pianist Alexandru Negriuc who gave us two brilliant concerts, which left me wishing there had been more sea days so that I could have heard more of his talents.

The penultimate evening of a Fred. Olsen cruise is always a formal night, and begins with the Captain’s farewell cocktail party, an event as a non-drinker I have long since stopped bothering with. After the main course at dinner the lights are dimmed for the waiters to parade plates of Baked Alaska through the dinning room complete with fireworks:

The after dinner show that evening is always one put on by ordinary members of the crew – deckhands, engine-room guys, stewardesses, bar staff etc – mainly singing and dancing traditional things from their own countries, although a few more modern things creep in. These shows are often considered to be the highlight of the cruise entertainment-wise, and we are always told that they prepare and rehearse the routines in their spare time on board – to which the obvious question is “what spare time?” as they seem to be working with a smile all hours of the day.

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The busy evening is then rounded off by a Gala Buffet laid on in one of the restaurants. This features astonishing and beautiful carvings and arrangements of food, and again how they find the time to prepare this on top of their normal work is amazing. Initially the buffet is open for passengers to view and photograph the creations, and then it can be eaten. Although there are always some passengers hanging around like vultures waiting to get stuck in, I’m never wanting to eat at 11:45 at night and after checking my photographs I retire to my bed and leave them to it.

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The after dinner show on the very last night is always a variety show featuring the various cabaret acts we have seen throughout the cruise, and also a routine from the ship’s Show Company. The Show Company are a group of typically 8 to 10 singers and dancers who are resident on the ship for several months, and who put on a number of shows both in the main show lounge and in a separate cabaret lounge. These hard working young people are also busy on sea days hosting activities such as line dancing, deck games and bingo. Over the years I have seen a big advance in the standard of shows they put on, and while in the early days there were very distinct singers and dancers, now often that distinction has gone. There are frequent costume changes which are made very swiftly and slickly, people slip backstage and reappear dressed differently moments later, the changes being timed literally to the second.

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I was especially impressed with the Show Company on this cruise, particularly with their dancing and with the variety and design of costumes used. I was therefore delighted to discover on talking to the team that they will still be on board for my next (longer) cruise, so hopefully I will get to see more of their brilliant work then.

Purely by chance, the four cruises I have made this year have been on each of the four Fred. Olsen ship’s in turn – Balmoral to South America, Boudicca while Island Hopping, Black Watch to the Arctic and now Braemar while French River cruising – so it has been a good chance to compare the ships. I don’t have a clear favourite – I like the small size of Boudicca and Black Watch (they are sister ships), most of the internals of Braemar especially the café, and the show lounge on Balmoral with it’s raising stage and raked seating. Now if I could blend them all into the perfect ship…

Well I am going to call that a wrap on my French River Cruising cruise. It was a good cruise, blessed once again by lovely sunny weather, but rather too short and with less river cruising by the ship in daylight than perhaps I had imagined or hoped for. As I have already hinted, I have one more cruise to go this year – I am due to set sail later next month, once again on Braemar, and once again a ‘social cruise’ with three of my friends from previous cruises.

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