Our cruise began with a charter flight from Gatwick to Santiago which was an unpleasant experience for all concerned: a long flight was made even more uncomfortable and protracted by the refuelling stop in Teneriffe during which all passengers were confined to their seats with no air conditioning operating. There was a serious lack of toilet accommodation on board because of a malfunction which was not rectified during the refuelling stop: consequently long queues formed throughout the night to use the facilities.
On arrival in Santiago the transfer from airport to the ship in Valparaiso involved a fascinating tour past some Chilean vineyards and seaside resorts with a well informed escort on board.
The itinerary followed by 'Balmoral' for the next three weeks was an attractive and interesting one. The shore excursions were well organised, informative and varied. Two of the advertised ports of call were not available because of industrial action in Chile on the one hand, and the refusal of the Argentinian authorities to allow entry to Buenos Aires by a vessel which had previously called at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands on the other. Alternative venues and excursions were provided at short notice.
Our cabin was reasonably well appointed although we had to specifically ask the stewardess for a supply of toiletries as these had been overlooked. The dining arrangements were disappointing: during open seating sessions the service was inconsistent and at times poor. The menus were rather tired and unimaginative and the food quality was on occasions mediocre (for instance, Yorkshire puddings only half cooked, greasy and inedible).
The port lectures were full of information, but most of it had apparently been downloaded from the inter-net: they were over long and lacked any personal input or knowledge of the places we were shortly to visit. We found the rest of the 'lecture' programme to be of only limited interest to us.
During the third and final week of our cruise my wife developed a condition which required treatment from the on-board medical staff: this was done professionally and competently. When she was confined to the cabin she quickly discovered the limitations and inadequacies of the arrangements for 'room service' in such circumstances.
On the day of our planned disembarkation it was decided that my wife was unfit to travel home and needed to be transferred to a local hospital for further treatment. After settling our not inconsiderable medical bill on board we were moved to an empty and vacant cabin to await transport to hospital. In the event we were abandoned there for 16 hours with no further medical attention. Our treatment by the ship's authorities on our final day on board 'Balmoral' was both disgraceful and inexcusable. Subsequent correspondence about this matter with the Company's headquarters in Ipswich has proved to be a deeply frustrating and unsatisfactory experience. Consequently we have resolved that we shall never again cruise with Fred.Olsen!