HEADER: Cruising charm

STANDFIRST: Finding that family travel can still be luxurious on board Fred Olsen's Borealis


Fred Olsen might not be the first name on every parent or grandparent’s lips when it comes to a family holiday, but I am here to assure you that it’s a great option.

Sailings from Southampton mean no airport queues, no arriving two hours before boarding, no transfer to your accommodation after a testing flight with little ones. You can be on board the ship, cocktail in hand, watching your little darlings splash around the pool in a matter of 30 minutes.

The last time we sailed with Fred Olsen, my daughter was just about crawling and now she is a very active five-year-old, so I was eager to see what the cruise line had to offer a family with young children.

I needn’t have worried as the minute we stepped aboard the beautiful Borealis, the staff made a big fuss of my daughter and she thought she was royalty for the duration of our stay.

The Borealis is a beautiful ship, but it’s not one of the vast floating vessels that many cruise lines are producing these days. There’s no water park, high wires or crazy golf here. But that gives the Borealis an air of class that more modern ships might find hard to replicate.

Borealis has a beautiful main atrium, typical of a more traditional cruise ship, and an abundance of bars in every shape and style you could imagine – something for everyone.

Redecorated and refurbished when she joined the Fred Olsen fleet just four years ago, she is in immaculate order and features two elegant main restaurants, as well as a self-service buffet and restaurant by the pool which was open every day of our cruise.

I have to say that the main dining rooms onboard were really special, they oozed class and the service was seamless. The food was really varied and plentiful and included some local specialities according to where we were that day. However, I think the buffet restaurant was equally as good. There’s no bun fight here for a table at busy times, as the waiting staff will seat you and the options were endless.

There were always cooking stations in the morning cooking fresh omelettes and eggs and another serving fresh pancakes, and ones at lunchtime and dinnertime freshly making pasta dishes, stir fries and a whole host of other offerings in addition to the buffet already available.

There was plenty for my daughter to choose from and we were incredibly happy with the food options onboard, favourites included lobster and fresh prawns from the buffet one lunchtime and the fillet mignon and crepe suzette from the main restaurant one evening. There was also a special children’s menu.

The Botanical Room on board BorealisThe Botanical Room on board Borealis (Image: Fred Olsen)

We were also lucky enough to experience one of the speciality restaurants; Colours and Tastes, with its vibrant, eye-catching décor, to match its eye-catching and vibrant Asian fusion cuisine. Vasco is the other speciality restaurant onboard, which offers a menu inspired by Goa.

Drinks packages are available and include house spirits, a selection of house wine, soft drinks and cocktail and mocktail of the day – the latter being a particular hit with us!

Our cabin was gorgeous; a junior balcony suite, with big double shower and lots of ‘Suite Dreams’ perks like bath robes and slippers, daily canapes, fresh fruits and welcome bubbly.

Our holiday consisted of five nights to France and the Channel Islands, but we had a couple of itinerary changes along the way due to the weather, none of which bothered us an inch.

For me the beauty of cruising is that you get to see so many often new, many varied places on one holiday.

When we got off in Hornfleur, we experienced an amazing French cookery lesson with Brigitte, just one of the many shore excursions Fred Olsen offers. We took a minibus ride into the French countryside, were taught how to cook a traditional French chicken dish and tarte tartin, before enjoying our cooking as a group around Brigitte’s table afterwards. My five-year-old was an active participant in the excursion and we all enjoyed it immensely.

The Observatory is the perfect place to enjoy cocktail hourThe Observatory is the perfect place to enjoy cocktail hour (Image: Fred Olsen)

What we also enjoyed was the evening entertainment onboard, in particular the songs from the movies from the Borealis cast on the first night. But there’s plenty to do in the day too from arts and crafts to dance lessons.

But, and importantly, the Little Skippers kids club was running on this cruise as it was school holidays. It is for ages five and above and children can be left at the kids’ club – win!

Daytime activities included dolphin racing (don’t worry no real dolphins were used in this activity), cookie decorating (we took about 20 back to the cabin!) and some evenings there were activities too – a particular favourite here was the Mario Kart challenge!

Another massive game changer for us when travelling with a little one is that the pool had a retractable roof – so even in inclement weather it was a lovely area to chill out in and our swimming mad daughter could get her daily fix.

The Thermal Suite in Atlantis Spa on BorealisThe Thermal Suite in Atlantis Spa on Borealis (Image: Fred Olsen)

This was also useful when mum took a break and went off the gorgeous spa for some pampering. The thermal suite at the spa is superb. A thermal suite pass is £15 per person and £25 per couple for one hour or £100 and £170 for a week and you get the entire place to yourselves.

Not only do you get the most amazing views out to see from the heated beds and lay back in the hot tub you can enjoy aromatherapy steam rooms and a private area of outside decking for two.

I took advantage of the Total Bliss package which was £110 and included a wash and blow dry, express manicure or pedicure, facial or massage and one-hour thermal suite access with a glass of Champagne or orange juice and canapes. What can I say? It was indeed pure bliss; with the best views of any spa I’ve been to.

I’ve always liked Fred Olsen, so knowing that I can take my daughter along on one of their cruises and there’s plenty to keep her occupied is great news.

The Borealis is beautiful; immaculate as well as stylish. But what makes this ship extra special is the crew. I don’t think I’ve come across better service anywhere on my travels – and I’ve travelled a lot.

To book go to Fredolsencruises.com