My husband booked a weekend cruise on The Balmoral to celebrate my 30th birthday we sailed from Dover to Belgium on a 2 night trip. We are seasoned cruisers and have travelled previously on Princess, RCI, NCL and Costa so are quite experienced with regards to service, food and entertainment and The Balmoral didn t dissapoint.
Embarkation was organised and fairly easy what did dissapoint is when we got on board and went for lunch. Afternoon tea was being served in the Plams Cafe and Neptune Lounge with sandwiches and cakes on offer what was strange was the waiters/waitress were serving the sandwiches and cakes and you were given very limited amounts as they obviously didn t have enough for veryone on board. It made you feel like you had to constantly ask for more food which wasn t a great start to our mini cruise. Getting from the car park to the cruise terminal was a nightmare one mini bus taking 6 people at a time huge queues no communication from staff, appalling our advice WALK in will be much quicker for you! The life boat drill was awful disorganised, long and lack of communication from staff meant people were getting restless and angry, the worst drill we have ever experienced.
We stayed in an inside cabin in the middle section of the ship which is the new section which was perfectly acceptable with the largest bathroom we ve had on any ship and we usually stay in balcony cabins. Service was from our steward was good although we didn t actually them so couldn t thank them personally as we didn t know who they were.
Food & Drink.
Food was good however the menu in the main restaurant offered lamb and beef and no chicken dish on our 2 night cruise which I found quite strange as I don t eat red meat which was slightly dissapointing. Food is of course down to personal taste Ive personally eaten from menu s that are more to my liking however my husband thoroughly enjoyed it. The daily late night buffet was great for a snack before bedtime especially if you were on early dinner seating and felt a little peckish lots of choice of both hot and cold. Alcohol was reasonably priced costing £2.55 fr a pint of lager and £3.00 for a tall glass of pimms and cocktails around £3.50 I can recommend the Chi Chi cocktail if you like coconut!
This was the area that didn t meet our expectations compared with previous cruises we have been on. The theatre was small and entertainment amateur and not to the standard of other cruise lines however, the evening quizes in the pub were fun followed by the disco in the observation lounge which had great views out to sea whilst dancing the night away.
Service overall was good the first day/evening wasn t great but it did improve considerably on the second day of our cruise.
Our only port of call was Antwerp in Belgium my husband had pre booked a trip which unfortunately was cancelled due to lack of numbers. What was dissapointing was out of the 6 trips offered in there brochure only 2 of the 6 were running. However Antwerp is a very pretty town and we decided to do our own thing and walk around and enjoy the culture and what Antwerp had to offer so it probably worked out for the best for us especially as the excursions are so expensive.
Overall we had a very pleasant trip on the balmoral she is a small ship compared to what we are used to and we are not sure if we could stay on her longer than a short break because we are in our thirties we prefer to have the option of more activities and restaurants. One tip if you are thinking of cruising on her choose a cabin in the middle (new) section as we walked past other older cabins we noticed they were not to the standard of our cabin. We would definietly cruise on her again for a short break great value for money and no complaints.