I would confirm that the unfortunate experiences aboard the M S`Balmoral' has proved to be the worst Holiday Cruise experience that we have ever undertaken!
The first day of embarkation in the port of Miami Florida, was without doubt a truly horrific experience starting with over 2.½ hours of seemingly never ending queue's whilst we were all herded like `Cattle to Slaughter', through the terrible `US Immigration & Customs' Investigations and checks , treated like Alien Terrorists, instead of welcome visitors from England , who are supposedly the USA's main supporters and long term friends, currently supporting this apparent ungrateful nation in both `Theatre's of War ',in Iraq & Afghanistan.
Most certainly we both shall never attempt to visit the USA again EVER!
This latest experience has indeed left such a profound feeling of utter disgust, disappointment and bad feeling towards that country from us both.
Also upon the Ships return to the `Port of Miami' at the mid- section of our Cruise, plus again for disembarkation at the End,(Where we were `Dumped Off' for SIX + HOURS! at the Bayside Shopping Area complex , before being transported to the Airport. This in itself was such a uninteresting and waste of time experience.
Everyone aboard the ship had to yet again to undergo such terrible Immigration & Customs checking procedures onboard, which on the further two visits to Miami, resulted in utter chaos and fantastic long queue's aboard the ship, which were totally without any form of crowd control or administration, by the Fred. Olsen, Senior Officers, Security Staff, or Crew, Which is unforgivable!
Furthermore life aboard your ship became almost intolerable due to the seemingly poor administration, organization and total lack of directive and control, which appeared non- existent from the Senior Ships Officers and Staff. Due largely to the drastic overcrowding of the extended Cabin Accommodation aboard ,it was almost impossible to obtain a Sun bed or Chair on any of the Upper Deck area's during daytime hours , due to the complete lack of Deck Staff on duty in these area's controlling the horrible `Germanic' type actions of so many selfish people who persisted in placing their `Yellow Towels' on Sun beds & Chairs , during the early mornings before Breakfast and thus reserving them for the whole day time periods, even when going ashore for arranged trips, or attending other entertainment venues aboard etc.
No dedicated Fred. Olsen Staff were on duty at any time ,so therefore were unable to administer or prevent the selfish and unacceptable actions of so many of these uncaring passengers. Many elderly and disabled Passengers were prevented from enjoying any relaxing moments at any time on the Upper Decks, this was also the case whilst trying to attend many arranged Entertainment events onboard, as there was just NO WHERE to SIT! Large queue's seemingly the norm. for everything aboard! Additionally, on many occasions there where found to be extra Sun beds stored out of passengers reach around the Ships Funnel Area, but these were coated in very dirty SOOTY deposits from the chimney stack, and thus again no Deck Staff on duty at any time, to untie and clean these much needed items, or indeed to assist elderly and disabled people to get something to sit upon.
Early in the Cruise, I personally spoke to the `Captain' and requested that he put in place urgent measures to improve and resolve this totally unacceptable situation, but the only action he took was to place a brief written request in the `Daily Onboard Newsletter', requesting that passengers refrain from placing their Towels on Sun beds, and refrain from reserving them for longer than `One Hour'! and to check them for Dirty Soot particles? All of which was TOTALLY NON- EFFECTIVE, and largely ignored by the offending passengers.
Surely a Cruise ships Captain's main task and priority is to ensure that his Officers and Staff are fully instructed in the overall control and administration of the Ship and the most important issue for a Cruise Ship being the Comfort , Convenience Satisfaction and Safety of all of its Fair Paying Passengers?
However, we can only assume that on Fred. Olsen's `Balmoral', No one seemed to CARE or take any action or responsibility, to improve the awful situation that persisted throughout our cruise completely unchecked?
Another serious problem that presented itself to my Wife and I, after joining the ship and eventually being placed in the correct TWIN- Bedded Cabin that we had requested, was that the `Air Conditioning System' in our eventual Cabin was faulty and stuck at the very cold level of 65°.F, though many attempts were made to fix the problem, all failed.
We were informed by Reception Desk Staff, that the system throughout the ship was defective and could not be rectified? Also that no other spare Cabin's were available, as the ship was fully occupied. Oh Dear! we thought , is there anything that is OK on this Jinx ship?
Thus, we were made to suffer extreme cold conditions at night, that was like living in Industrial FREEZER, which in turn resulted in us both, after a couple of days being infected with very severe Head Colds and Coughs infections, which unfortunately we are still suffering from at time of writing and which certainly contributed to an even more miserable Cruise experience whilst accommodated on this `CRUISE SHIP FROM HELL'
Further cause for complaint, was the fact that the entertainment programme throughout the ship during the THREE WEEKS `Back to Back 'Cruise, was that after the first 10 days period, the Programmes and Artists became very Repetitive and Boring, with nothing New to entertain the long suffering passengers, who had opted for the longer cruise periods, which does indeed seem yet again, to be the result of the very poor organizational abilities of the `Fred Olsen' organization? It also became apparent that the `On-Board Services' charged to our accounts for such things as, Shore Tours-Bar/Drinks -Photography- Spa Services etc. were considered by most passengers to be quite expensive due to the £, Sterling being the Currency charged , This fact was indeed considered to be very unfavorable to both British and American clients, who usually benefit from the more favorable rate of the US. $ From most Cruise Companies who operate in this part of the World. Many indicated that they would definitely NOT use the Fred. Olsen Company again, as their `On- Board Accounts' were just excessive for the type of Services received!
Also during our three weeks `Back to Back' Cruise we suffered the loss of THREE Ports of Call, ( i.e. Samana, (Dom. Repub.) + Playa de Carmen, (Mexico) and Key West. (Florida) due to Operational problems and the breakdown of the ships `Auxiliary Engine' the latter followed by the long delay in repairs, resulted in the cancellation of visits to the last two ports of call, Also towards the end of our Holiday Cruise , there was a severe WATER SHORTAGE aboard that resulted in further problems with Bathroom & Shower usage generally!
It was also interesting to learn later that the cancellation of Ports of Call is still continuing with the ongoing next Cruise that followed our final departure date, when we understand that the planned visit to Antigua on the 29th Mach 2008 has also now been cancelled?
It seems that the unacceptable situation is to continue on this FLAGSHIP OF THE `FRED. OLSEN 'Fleet?, with the ongoing and future Cruise programme, to the detriment of all customers, which it totally unacceptable!
For the `Loss' of a high proportion of our quite expensive Cruise Holiday with Fred. Olsen Ltd, we were given £ 40.00 per person, refund? which indeed is totally unacceptable and insulting , bearing in mind the Horrible, Trouble Dominated, Overcrowded, Uncomfortable, `Jinx Ship' experience, that we and so many other unfortunate people have undergone over recent weeks , this largely due to the company altering and putting to sea a very unprepared Ship,Officers & Crew,that should certainly have been more thoroughly checked and re- checked, to a higher professional maritime standard and degree of competency , prior to accepting customer hard earned Cash?
Indeed maybe a full cancellation and refund policy should have been implemented? to all booked Cruise customers due to this Companies complete failure to deliver in full, the Cruise that was advertised and booked with this organization that formed the`Contract' that was entered into by them,and they have completely FAILED to Honor and must therefore to be considered in default of that Legal Agreement.
Whilst I do understand and appreciate that on a maiden voyage there will be teething problems. My main concern is that how the increasing number of problems was not dealt with and not rectified. This I found totally unacceptable.
It seems that the complete `Shipyard Refit and Extension' of the ship was without doubt VERY POORLY executed! With major defects apparent throughout the ship like Rusting Seals & Frames around most windows, poor standards of decoration in most Cabins, Bathrooms /Showers & Unsafe Elect. Points for use of Kettles etc located at floor level near bathroom?All showing very poor standards of maintenance and cleanliness etc. Indeed the Exterior Surface of the Outer Hull of the Ship was indeed so badly dented and damaged to such a extreme extent, that it appeared to have just returned from some WAR ZONE!
In conclusion, I do feel that my Wife & I, have had a much looked forward to holiday spoilt by many unforeseeable problems with the Fred. Olsen Cruise Holiday Experience.
I would hope that my written complaints to their Head Office in Ipswich, Suffolk, requesting a full investigation , will soon be looked into further and dealt with accordingly.
Sidney & Pauline Jones. review.