Fred Olsen Borealis Spanish Escape Dec 2nd 2022

 
Day 1
It's only a matter of weeks (four to be precise) since we disembarked the Borealis at Liverpool after a 15 night trip around the Canary Islands. Yet here we are again. I suspect this is the  shortest amount of time we have ever had between cruises but it is certainly the shortest we have had between getting back on the same ship. 
 

As usual the twitter photographers of #CruiseLiverpool managed to capture the Borealis as she slipped up the Mersey early this morning after her exploration above the Arctic circle in search of that atmospheric condition of which she is named. That freezing journey seems to have caused a little damage to the starboard paintwork which will be be repaired at the next port looking at the pallet of tins of "Fred Olsen Blue" that are being loaded.
 

This time we have an aft suite instead of the terrace. Again bought last minute at a price that was too good to refuse. It's a larger room and of course has the required bathtub - this time a whirlpool bath which when turned on  makes a noise like a liquidizer on full power, so would only be relaxing if your  wear workman ear protectors in the bath. We also get the dreams package which includes Robes, slippers, fresh flowers and fruit - canapes before dinner - a bottle of Cava - daily filled carafe of water. You can also use the Branded water flasks and Umbrellas ashore - just return them at the end of the cruise or be charged. An Atlas and Binoculars are provided for your use just in case the captain gets lost and calls for help. The room is a lot bigger than the terrace with a lot of drawer space though in all honesty  its wasted on us on this shorter cruise and whilst the balcony is absolutely huge I actually think I prefer the idea of having two exits to the room (one directly onto the promenade deck) that the terrace offers. There is another disadvantage to this room as well which we will come to later.
 

Fred's smaller ship philosophy and almost family atmosphere means we are quickly (almost instantly) recognised by a waitress as we settle in for lunch in the View (The Borealis Buffet). It would also appear we have the same waiter in the Main Dining Room as last time (Ricky) though this time we are upstairs in the Aurora section. Boarding seemed much smoother and quicker than last time - things seems more streamlined despite the fact that rules had just been changed and some paperwork was actually checked in more detail (we did not know at this point that the rules would change yet again whilst we traveled)
 
 
 
One thing that will be slightly different is the entertainment - we were aware the piano man (whose name escapes me) and the guitarist (who will forever be remembered as Freddie Mercury) had got off with us last time but I had everything crossed that "Funky Blue" would still be providing the late night live music in the Observatory. Sadly however they too have finished their contract and taken a break (It has to be said it's more than well earned as previous restrictions had meant they had hardly been allowed to set foot off the ship since Fred started re sailing) The replacement band is Inspiration so we will check them out and see how we enjoy them tonight. The dance company is identical, as are the two lead vocalists Hannah and Beth; in fact this will be this teams last trip before their break and for a week the Borealis will be carrying two theatre groups from Mirage so that the new troupe can begin fine tuning fresh shows on the Borealis stage in real (Bay of Biscay) conditions. It actually would have been nice to have seen the other team and compare their new shows. 





As we dress for dinner and the sun starts to set over the Mersey, canapes, fruit and  fresh flowers are brought to the room. We are on first sitting for dining and are delighted to have a table to ourselves (I think I mentioned last time that Fred do need to move with the times and scrap this idea of forced table sharing with strangers unless you choose to do so). Ricky seems very happy to see us again so we must have been no trouble at all last time :) 

 
The thick cut cured Salmon is still a favourite starter - juicy and sushi quality. It just melts in the mouth. Its washed down with a nice sharp Pinot Grigio - again we have not taken the drinks package as Freds drinks prices are so reasonable anyway and we prefer to buy by the bottle.
 

The main is interesting - its a butter chicken dish that to be quite honest is spicier and more spiced than any of the mains that were served in Vascos a few weeks ago so perhaps they have been listening to a few of the comments I have heard  from other guests - that the Asian dishes were a little bland.


The observatory has a new live band "Inspiration" which we get our first glimpse of  after watching the theatre show - an Irish comedy/magician who is a league above the magic act he replaced. (I didn't mention them in the last review as they were the only below par show but there was no throwing confetti in the air and standing waiting for applause here)

Inspiration are a four piece band who mix a little banter with a decent repertoire (perhaps too many 60's for my liking - though they did start to mix it more and more as the cruise progressed and they got to know the audience more). The main advantage that in my opinion gave Funky Blue such an edge and extra dynamic  was  having a live guitar player - here we have a bass player but any guitar fills and solos have to be replaced by a rather quirky bontempi sounding keyboard. However they do get people dancing which is the main thing.

The first morning sees us late rising and back on the promenade deck for a circuit or two after a late breakfast served poolside (Excellent Christmas Omelette straight from Breaking Bad (Red and Green Chilis)). The ship is carrying around 800 on this trip, slightly more than last time though still a good third below capacity. Were passing the Scilly Isles and its turning grey and windy. According to Captain Rommel Pinada we will have to pass through a little worse before we reach the Northern coast of Spain due to an approaching Storm. (This would turn out to be the Storm Arwen; which hit the UK whilst we were in Spain).  Despite this being a short cruise and having no official formal night - tonight is actually listed as "formal (optional)" so it will be interesting to see what happens. Its a funny old day because the Atlantic really does start to deteriorate and by lunch time there is a noticeable jerkiness to the stern as the ship constantly fights to correct its course against the swell. 


We have lunch in the MDR - one because its just far more civilised and two because of gravity (its lower and more stable down on deck four). All this walking around and eating though whilst your legs and brain constantly adjust to each rock and roll of the ship does make for a good work out though.


As this is a sea day the theatre entertainment this afternoon is a classical guitarist who is absolutely wonderful. He will be doing two sessions on this cruise to coincide with both sea days and plays a mix of Spanish Classical - Classical - and Film Scores. His skill is a joy to behold.

On the previous cruise the Captain had held the gala party before lunch but on this one its quite late at 4pm. I have a strange picture in my mind of Captain Pinada having to postpone it until later because he is stood drenched at the helm fighting the storm whilst the crew gather the sails in. Perhaps he is; because by the time it gets to 5pm and the String quartet have been playing for an hour he has still not appeared and we need to get ready for dinner.


On reflection it may not have been a good idea staying so long in the theatre with free Promesco and hor d'oeuvres. Theatres let us not forget are always at the front and this one was starting to feel like a rollercoaster ride as it rode the swell. The "optional" formal turns out to be about 90% formal so I'm glad I brought the DJ. The gala dinner I think is the same as last months however I opt for the Filet rather than the duck and all is beautiful but its all a bit lavish and rich for such a "bouncy" dining room.


We skip the show as it is a repeat of an excellent one we saw last time (to be honest I was half expecting it to be cancelled but - the show must go on) and have an early night. Tomorrow we arrive in A Coruna.

Click here for Day 3 COMING SOON

Borealis - part 7

Day 13 - Oct 30th

We leave Cadiz and steer north off the Atlantic coast of Portugal, with the ship a rocking and rolling. One thing can be said for the passengers on this ship, they are all seasoned sailors, so no body seems to be  affected.


This is the  first of three days relaxing at sea as we sail back to Liverpool. In the morning we listen to a lecture on the Beatles in the theatre. After a lunch in the buffet -excellent  curry for Dan  and a selection of mini plates for Jack including Duck rillette and cheeses (the cheese selection onboard has been excellent)- we then have a snooze in the cabin and read a little. Tonight is our third formal night.


We start with scallops - D opts for the Beef Wellington and Jack the Monkfish Medallions both are as usual superb.



Desserts are a beautiful Pistachio & Saffron Panna Cotta and a memorable Mille Feuille with chantilly cream. Cheese and biscuits and petit four follows.


Afterwards more excellent music in the Observatory this time with all the lead singers from the Borealis theatre group performing individual show tunes. They end with a moving performance of "Tell me it's not true" from Blood Brothers. Wow.
 
 
G&T in hand it's time for  Funky Blue to once again take over the stage and  put on yet another  superb set to close the day.


Day 14 - Oct 31

We are once again joined by Bolette as we pass La Coruna and enter the Bay of Biscay. She is crossing in front of us heading for the English  Channel and her home port of Dover.
 

Tonight of course is Halloween so the staff have been allowed to dress up and the ship is decorated all over with pumpkins and cobwebs. Some of the staff have really gone to town with hoovers strapped to their backs a la ghostbusters or limping through the bars as quasimodo.
 

Tonight we have a Variety Show - all of the thestre's entertainers come together. The entertainment has been fantastic onboard but I do have to take my hat off to those dancers, who close the show with a tribute to Michael Jacksons dance routines (of course including thriller) despite the stage rocking and rolling in typical Bay of Biscay gale force weather. 
 

There's even more rocking and rolling as we move higher up the ship where the Observatory is literally behaving like a roller coaster. The highlight of the night has to be Sir Ray sliding across the dance floor on his wheelchair whilst a bar waitress in full Sabrina outfit tries to jam him between 2 chairs whilst Funky Blue perform Dead or alive ( Bon Jovi)whilst trying to hold it together in hysterical laughter.
 

Funky Blue finish the first of there sets not long after and a now jammed into position Sir Ray shouts "I've only just got here"
 

We're back in the cabin sometime after midnight and the sea rocks us to sleep.

Day 15 - Nov 1st
 
We awake to find we have passed the Scily Isles and Lands End and are leisurely entering the Irish Sea just above the Bristol Channel.  More protected from the swells of the Atlantic we have breakfast in bed and read. I'm now starting Ann Cleeves latest book "The Herons Cry". 
After a long and lazy Breakfast in Bed reading/ soaking in the bath the sun decides to put in an appearance, so we decide for the first time to spend lunch in the Lido - something our MDR table partners had recommended. Feta & watermelon salad & fish n Chips for J with D having Fish cake starter & dirty burger & lemon tart. Well it is the last day!
 

We pass sunny Pembrokeshire at a leisurely pace. The menu isn't  vast as its only a small kitchen but what they do is delish.

This afternoon we finish the packing and watch the last of a series of seminars on Captain James Cook which is very interesting.
 

A final great meal meal in the MDR as the sun begins to set - Ricky and Frank have been our fantastic waiters. We say goodbye and tip them a little extra on the side.
 
The final show of the fortnight is an excellent Film/ Musicals routine from the once again excellent dancers and singers of the Borealis Theatre Group. A dance score of 10 every night for the dancers who tonight perform the lift from Dirty Dancing and do it with ballerina grace.  Tonight's performance ends with a glorious medley of songs from Les Miserable.  

Then in contrast we have a superb and energizing set from Funky Blue in the Observatory who are joined tonight by Howard on vocals/guitar and Derek on the piano. Oscar is in his element tonight getting to play songs a little rockier and running around the entire observatory to perform his guitar solos. The dance floor is full and the whole room is alive with energy, this is how talented/energetic/skillful and utterly professional the entertainment is on F. Olsen's Borealis.
 

Day 16 - Nov 2nd

Image (c) Live Twitter feed from @CruiseLiverpool for the morning of our arrival
 
Its a dark, grey morning as we awake, alongside already in Liverpool, nestled just underneath the Liver Building. It's a great feeling only having to travel an hour home. Enormous thanks to the hard working crew of the Borealis. Exceptional service & always with a smile. We have been fantastically entertained every step of the way & enjoyed  glorious food.

Fred Olsen Borealis part 6

Day 11(28th Oct)

A breezy but sunny day greets us for our day at sea as we power across at 19 knots heading towards the city of  Cadiz.  We  crossed into mainland Spain timezone and are determined to make up for that missing hour of sleep.

After a brisk walk around the promenade deck following a hearty cooked breakfast of perfect eggs Benedict, we spend the morning on the lido deck reading in the sun as the ship continues to hold its course North East. 

A relaxing day and before we know it it's time for dinner at  Colour and Tastes. This is the second of Fred Olsens speciality restaurants. The venue is nicely lit and beautifully furnished. Being on deck 4 it does lack any window views as it's thelifeboat storage level.

I start with bao buns with crispy chicken filling & yum-yum sauce and J spring rolls.


For main J raves about the peking duck & pancakes so much so that I don't get a look in. It's presented as both medium rare slices of tender breast sat on shredded confit meat of the legs.

I have the Massaman lamb shank curry which falls of the bone it is so tender and is served with the most fragrant sticky jasmine rice.

Side dishes are the steamed pork sui mai with garlic & chili sauce and edamame beans.

Desserts - a simple collection of refreshing sorbets and a passion fruit curd mille feuille pastry

Tonight we are entertained by the ships company - songs written or performed by artists who have been knighted. Here on the Borealis it has the added element of the dance company who are as exceptional as ever.


Magnificently concluding  with a Queen medley & recreating Bohemian Rhapsody to stunning effect.

Day 12(29th Oct)
 

The last time we were in Cadiz we were crossing the Atlantic on the NCL Epic and the heavens opened and a mist rolled in from the sea. We managed to take cover in & toured  the impressive cathedral. Day-trip wise Cadiz a perfect gateway to Jerez with its bodegas of sherry and the Andalusian horse training  which are well worth visiting; but this time as the weather is good we decide on following the marked circuit around the coast walls to find the star forts. It's quite a hike!



The cruise port is well placed and your ship will usually berth right opposite the town hall square. We are joined today by Mein Schiff 2 & so the town is quite bustling with tourists. Cadiz is also a major fitting yard for the cruise companies and in the shipyards can be seen the distinctive funnels of 3 older Carnival ships and a Royal Caribbean, all being refitted and updated.
 


Our walk takes us all the way around the spit of land that makes up the port of Cadiz. Protected on all sides by various star forts, it's an area that has many architectural styles. In some places it has a moorish feel yet in others you could be strolling along the riviera. It's also been used as Havana, Cuba in Bond films.


One building that dominates is the cathedral, which we visited previously. The plan is to visit the smaller often overlooked but equally impressive church next door but our walk has taken longer than we thought so we decide to recuperate with lunch first.

After lunch we head back into town for a little shopping. Leather and clothing are a good buy here especially if you're in the market for a new suit or have run out of shirts. A tiny craft shop has Dan equipped with a new wallet. One thing to bear in mind is the lunch siesta here can stretch a cpl of hours plus and this catches us out with regard to that smaller church I mentioned earlier. It will not re open until 7pm tonight which is too late as we depart at 8pm.


And so it is that we depart Cadiz at 8pm following Mein Schiff 2 through the twisty passage back to the open sea. Tonight is Lloyd Davies' second performance of the cruise and if anything it's even better than his first. A sort of Welsh male version of Victoria Wood as he mixes stand up comedy with songs at the piano.


Another superb set by Funky Blue in the Observatory is followed by a one off set by Howard Johnson in a tribute to the late Freddy Mercury which he does with great gusto. He is finishing his spell on the Borealis this week & will return in December. What is quite amazing is just how many passengers will also be returning then as well - now I understand why F Olsen cruises are so popular.