In April 2018 Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines river boat Brabant commenced its inaugural season. We took a moment to interview Lee Mudkins, the Guest Services Manager on board Brabant.
Lee has previously worked on board Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines ocean ships. We asked him what it is like to work on board a river boat and how Brabant compares.
Can you tell us about your history with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines?
I have worked for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines since September 2016, previously on our ocean-going ships, Balmoral and Boudicca, as the Assistant – and then latterly – the Guest Relations Manager. This was a very rewarding and challenging role, but one that has stood me in good stead for the future.
When the opportunity came up to join Brabant – a new and exciting project for Fred. Olsen – I jumped at the chance! I consider myself very fortunate to have been selected to become the Cruise Services Manager here.
What is it like to work on board a river boat compared to an ocean ship?
As you can imagine, being on river cruises is a vast change to working on oceans! Our Brabant is compact in size, carrying only 156 guests, which makes the ship ideal for traversing the smaller rivers of Europe.
The job role here is more demanding, as – with fewer staff – you have to fulfil multiple roles, but this in itself is very rewarding. Seeing the smiles on guests’ faces keeps us motivated each day. The other benefit is that I am very visible and I get to interact with many of the guests on a regular basis.
Where does Brabant offer cruises to?
Brabant offers cruises around The Netherlands at the beginning of the season, and then continues along the Main, joining the wonderful Danube, all the way to the Black Sea. These itineraries are extremely popular. Throughout the summer season, we join the Rhine and Moselle Rivers of Germany, and return to the Danube again towards the end of the season.
What facilities does Brabant have on board?
Our friendly Reception is open 24 hours a day. We have a full service bar, the Panorama Bar on Deck 3, with entertainment every evening: we often invite local acts and shows to come aboard to provide an authentic style of entertainment.
On Deck 1, we have a small gymnasium, and can offer private tuition, if requested. We also have a Hair Salon, attached to the Vital Club, which offers spa treatments and also a special wellness tub.
Our Panorama Restaurant on Deck 3 offers exquisite cuisine, with menus designed for the British guest. Dining is one of the key attractions of a Brabant cruise and a particular highlight are the delicious five-course dinners in the evenings. We also have complimentary tea and coffee-making facilities – along with fresh cookies! – available all day in our Amadeus Club on Deck 3.
On our Sun Deck 4, we have ample space for guests to be able to relax on our sun-loungers and, on warm days, we open the bar on deck. An extra-large chess board is also available, along with the ‘cruise staple’ of shuffleboard.
Guests can also hire one of the five bicycles stored on the Sun Deck, and we will shortly be introducing binoculars for guests’ use, so that they can enhance their appreciation of the stunning scenery, as they glide by.
What is the accommodation like on Brabant?
We have three different room styles here on Brabant: they are all very stylish and well-appointed, and it really depends on the individual requirements and preferences of our guests.
Our ‘lead-in’ room grade is a Standard Room on Haydn Deck 1: these cabins are 161 sq ft, so rather spacious. These rooms on Deck 1 feature a large rectangular window at the top of the wall, which looks onto the rivers. Rooms on Strauss Deck 2 and Mozart Deck 3 have the same layout as those on Deck 1, and are the same size, but feature a French Juliette-style balcony, which opens, and full windows. We also have two Suites on Mozart Deck 3, which are around 50% larger, with a full sofa, mini-bar, and a bathtub.
Does Brabant offer entertainment like an ocean ship?
Brabant offers an entertainments programme throughout each cruise, but this cannot be compared to that of our ocean ships, as the ship is so much smaller, with a much more intimate number of guests.
Our evening entertainment is centred around the Panorama Bar. On a nightly basis, our resident duo will play and sing, and will host theme evenings for our guests to enjoy. Every few days, we host popular general knowledge quizzes in the evening. We also bring local acts on board on each cruise, which gives guests a real, authentic experience that they can join in with.
During the day, we offer daily quizzes at Reception and hosted games. Our port talks are also extremely popular, with guests learning about the next port of call from the very knowledgeable Cruise Director.
How does Brabant differ from other river boats?
Brabant is smaller than most other river ships, and as such can navigate smaller channels, including going further down the Moselle River to Bernkastle-Kues. As part of the Fred. Olsen family, Brabant also carries that ‘British’ feel, with all language in English only, and the on board currency is Pounds Sterling.
What have you most enjoyed about working on board Brabant so far?
To date, I have to say that cruising through the Iron Gates on the Danube was magical: so much to see, as we traversed the passage from Golubuc Castle down to the Iron Gates Dam.
Of course, our guests make the experience extra special, as they have so many interesting stories to tell: I learn something new each evening when I have dinner with them, which is great!
Photos: © Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines