Fred Olsen Virgins: Balmoral Cruise Review by MG John

Balmoral 3
MG John
Member Since 2012

Overall Member Rating

Fred Olsen Virgins

Sail Date: August 2012
Destination: Baltic Sea
Embarkation: Southampton
My wife and I are relatively new to the cruising scene. Most certainly when many of our previous fellow passengers appeared to spend most of their leisure time on board some cruise ship or other.
We have previously enjoyed four Cunard cruises, starting with the late lamented QE2 and including the maiden voyage of the Queen Elizabeth.
My wife let it be known that she would like to spend her landmark birthday on a cruise visiting the Norwegion Fjords. Not a problem. Cunards Queen Victoria and Fred Olsens Balmoral were both visiting and, as Cunard prices seemed to be on an upward spiral, we looked at Balmoral. We duly booked at the Cruise Show, and were sold on the idea that due to Balmorals smaller size, she would be able to get into ports that larger liners couldn't. We were also sold on the 'excellent customer service'
Anyway, come departure day, passengers were assembled in a less than salubrious terminal, for reasons which later became apparent. Boarding Balmoral up the More steeply inclined ramp was not a problem for us, but for those less physically able, a different story.
Our cabin was well located in the newer part of the ship and nicely appointed with a big picture window offering splendid views.
The ship herself, whilst obviously not in the first flush of youth, was always clean and well cared for, but some of the public rooms were a bit 'ordinary'.
The food however was always good, with lots of choice. Restaurant service however, ranged from good (our evening waiters) to dire. Where was the acclaimed Fred Olsen passenger experience? Most of the waiting staff gave the appearance of wishing to be elsewhere.
On board entertainment was obviously 'homegrown', and no problem with that.
Drinks waiters were attentive and friendly. We didn't take any of the arranged tours as we prefer to do our own thing. However, our table companions,(all cruise newbies) praised them with glowing terms.
Over the week, we met up with Queen Victoria, but were surprised to find that despite "our smaller ships get into ports that large ships can't", Victoria always seemed to take prime position, leaving Balmoral at anchor and resorting to tendering ashore, with many physically impaired passengers remaining onboard.
Some cynics wondered if the Captain was choosing option two as it obviously saved money!
Not many children on board as you would expect, fellow passengers being of an older generation.
Disembarkation was quick and trouble free.
To sum up, perhaps we've been spoilt with our previous cruises. But this wasn't, for us at least, a 'cheap cruise'.
Were we made to feel special?
No, we weren't.
Would we do Fred Olsen again?
Probably not. Less

Published 09/13/12

Cabin review: B6064 Superior Outside

Fantastic access to the staircase and therefore the rest of the ship. Excellent picture window and view. Comfortable bed. The tea/coffee making facility in the cabin was very useful and used a lot. Good size shower. Plenty of storage space. Toiletries were sparse. TV did not have any Olympics coverage at all which was disappointing. We did not want to watch all day but wanted to keep up with the precis of each day.

Read All Superior Outside (B) Reviews >>

Port and Shore Excursions

We took the city sightseeing bus which was more expensive than we usually pay and also took the funicular railway which was excellent value and gave us an amazing view of the town. The market was very interesting and varied but prices were inflated. We were lucky to have a dry day as it usually rains in Bergen. There was a very cold wind though. Pack your waterproof and warm sweater! Be aware that Norway is expensive so take sufficient euros or krona for the things you want to do.
Read 369 Bergen Reviews

What a beautiful place! We missed out on the famous train as we hadn't booked in advance - something that is required to ensure getting on the train and arriving back before the ship sails! We did, however, walk extensively around the area and travel on the street train with a very informative guide. We enjoyed relaxing and taking in the amazing scenery. Be aware that Norway is expensive so take sufficient euros or krona for the things you want to do.
Read 145 Flam Reviews
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Read Cruise Critic’s Balmoral Review >>
MG John
Member Since 2012
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