Editor's note: Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines no longer operates Brabant, as from December 2020
Brabant is the first foray into river cruising for popular British line Fred. Olsen Cruises. The company has chartered the ship, originally sailing under the name Amadeus Princess, exclusively from Amadeus River Cruises for two seasons. Fred. Olsen has been careful to create the same Brit-friendly atmosphere and standards as guests on its oceangoing ships would expect; the very competent cruise manager on our cruise, for example, had been brought over from the ocean fleet. Tea and coffee-making facilities are being fitted into every cabin due to passenger demand, the onboard currency is the pound sterling and the TV in the cabin shows BBC and Sky News.
Built in 2006, Brabant is middle-aged by river cruising standards but has weathered well, with a comfortable, friendly vibe and nothing too challenging or extreme in the decor. Fred. Olsen has re-branded the hull with the name Brabant, but apart from that, has not made major changes. Most cabins have a French balcony and many of the trappings of brand-new riverboats are present: a massage room and hair salon, a gym, bicycles for guests to use and a tiny plunge pool on deck.
Brabant sails the Rhine, Moselle, Main and Danube and is aimed at the type of person who would choose a Fred. Olsen ocean cruise: over 50, well-travelled, looking for good company and light entertainment rather than flashy or cool. Cruises are competitively priced, with extras like excursions and drinks kept as add-ons, to keep the price down and offer maximum flexibility. This doesn't mean a cruise on Brabant is a budget-style river voyage, though; the food, for example, is absolutely outstanding.
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Passengers are mainly British, mainly over 50 and mostly travelling as couples, although there were a few singles on our cruise. Meeting other people is easy as you share a table for meals and friendships are quickly struck up. Many on my Rhine cruise were on their first river voyage and, surprisingly, a fair few were regulars on oceangoing lines like Silversea, Azamara and Celebrity Cruises, rather than Fred. Olsen. The atmosphere onboard is warm and friendly.