Cruising The Olsen Way – French Riviera aboard Bolette – Part 1

When I disembarked Boudicca in March 2019, I had no idea that would not only be the last time I’d ever see her again, but that I’d not step foot on another Fred. Olsen ship until 26-months later! It really is so very true when they say it’s best we never know what’s around the corner!

Let’s fast forward to May 22, 2022, and I was at the QEII terminal in Southampton eagerly waiting to board Bolette. When I say eager, what I really mean is that I was almost ready to burst with excitement and emotion! Waiting in the baggage area for my Covid-test result, I could see her, those Fred. Olsen colours shining brightly on the starboard side – I was so close!

Check-in was very smooth. They had us sat in colour sections while we waited for our test results, so then the whole section, once clear, could proceed as one unit into the main terminal. Following my negative result, I waited no longer than 6 minutes before entering the terminal and producing my documents at the desk. Once all had been checked and my cruise card had been issued, I was also given a TraceSafe band. Every passenger had to have one. You could either wear it as it was (almost just as if it were a watch) or you could carry it in your bag or pocket, but you had to always keep it with you – unless swimming, using the sauna or showering. The idea is that they monitor how much time you’ve spent near someone should anyone test positive for Covid. They can then test those people to ensure no one else is Covid positive. I took the actual TraceSafe device out of the strap and just kept it in my bag. Some other people did the same thing, some wore it as it was, some clipped it to their lanyard and others, well, a few decided to wear it like an ankle tag – each to their own!

So, back to Bolette. I’m now on the gangway, I can smell the ship and I can SEE that familiar Fred. carpet! I could have cried! Now it was very real, and I was FINALLY going home! I stepped onboard, scanned my cruise card, and took the biggest sigh of relief! I’M HOME!!! The Hotel Manager was there greeting everyone, and I was raring to get to my cabin.

I got out of the lift on Deck 7 and went looking for 7043. A few twists and turns later and I’m there. I knew at check-in that my cabin had been changed because the number on my booking was different to the one on my cruise card, but I never for one moment expected what I saw when I opened the door. In short, I had a Premier Suite which was more like a small apartment! ‘All of this just for me’ I mumbled as I stepped inside. You know the scene in Home Alone 2 when Kevin walks into his room at The Plaza? Yes, I pretty much re-enacted that! I was gobsmacked. It was magnificent. A wonderful seating area, huge Queen bed, dressing area with three decent sized wardrobes, and a bathroom with a shower AND a jacuzzi bath! I’m in heaven! But more was to come! When I opened the balcony door, I thought for a quick minute that a divider must have been left open, but no, all of that was also just for me. I’ve been fortunate enough to have stayed in some very nice staterooms on cruise ships over the years, but this was by far one of the biggest (coming in second to a Penthouse Suite on what used to be Crystal Cruises) and one of the most impressive. The balcony was the biggest I’ve ever had the good fortune of enjoying.

Once I was over the shock of the suite, it was time to go and do some exploring. I’d already bumped into several familiar faces among crew and passengers, and probably the most emotional being when I hugged Camille and she started crying. Fred. Olsen crew are more like family to me, and I hadn’t seen some of them for a very long time, it was emotional! She’d missed me and I had missed her, and I’d missed Kevin, Freddie, Chandra, Fernando, Bambs, Rakesh, Honey, and a fair few others. It was nice to see their happy faces in the flesh again, instead of in a photo. 

One of the first things I came across was the clock and I loved it! It’s such a statement piece and when it kicks into action every hour, it’s impressive to see and hear. The Planeto Astrolabium onboard is an ancient celestial clock with four faces, it was used by classical astronomers, mariners, and astrologists to chart paths of the sun, moon, stars, and planets. In the medieval Islamic world, it was also used to calculate the qibla, the direction of Mecca.

We sailed from Southampton on time, and I decided that evening was for me to catch up with friends onboard, old, and new. We had a great night and it felt so nice to once again be enjoying that fabulous Fred. Olsen hospitality. Some passengers I’d known from previous cruises and when I was back in the presence of one lady, we just picked up where we’d left off on the Grand Voyage, it was such a nice feeling.

Before reaching our first port, we had a few days at sea and I took every opportunity to sample various parts of the ship – I wasn’t trying to see and do everything in 72-hours, but I did want to enjoy the ship before our five-day stretch of back-to-back ports.

I found even more impressive artwork! Aside from the clock, my other favourites were the 2 ladies that dominated over the Neptune Lounge, the Polar Bears at the Lido Pool (including the baby grizzly next to The View doors), the Chinese terracotta-style gentlemen at the Orchid Room, the fish at the Lido Pool, the bird cage in The Observatory, and, saving the best to last, JUPITER! Yes, the lovely Jupiter that once had pride of place on Black Watch now sits on Deck 8 aft on Bolette, overseeing her new kingdom.

Cruising The Olsen Way Part 2 soon…

#PressTrip – I was invited as a guest of Fred. Olsen on this sailing

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