ISLANDS OF THE BRITISH ISLES CRUISE – L1009
We booked this last minute deal with Fred Olsen Cruises on Balmoral just 3-4 weeks before we were due to sail. We were taken by the itinerary as we have always wanted to go to the Isle of Man and the Orkney Islands. The price was good and the tickets and cruise details arrived very quickly. Once the tickets arrived we found we had been allocated an inside cabin on deck 8 and a second sitting table in the Ballindalloch restaurant.
Travel and Embarkation
We pre-booked to leave the car at the offsite Relyon car park, which we eventually found after following a long diversion. Then it was a short coach transfer to the Port of Dover. The embarkation process went like clockwork and before long we were boarding the ship. We found our cabin (8009), freshened up and went up to the Palms Cafe for afternoon tea and a drink. Our cases arrived quickly, we unpacked and then went up to the promenade deck to watch as we sailed away from Dover. We cast off from the quay at around 5.30 pm. Our first impressions of Balmoral were that it was very clean and well looked after ship.
Cabin 8009 is a twin bedded inside cabin on deck 8. There was more than enough space for all of our clothes. The cabin was of a good size, larger than on some cruises I have been on, and had a bath with a shower. The cabin contained all we needed - Interactive TV, Tea making facilities, Safe, Radio, Hairdryer, Telephone, Complementary toiletries etc. Our cabin stewardess was very thorough and anything you requested she provided. The cabin was cleaned and tidied in the morning and the beds turned down in the evening. Dining and Drinks
We ate in the main Ballindalloch restaurant every evening and were allocated a table for 8. The food was of a good standard as was the wine selection. We chose a selection of Rose and Red wines during the cruise which were all nice and very reasonably priced. We all got on very well with our table companions and the conversations flowed nicely. We ate our breakfasts and lunches in the Palms Cafe each day where there was a very good selection on offer. Drinks and wine were reasonable priced, for example a G&T was £3, and wines started at £12.75 a bottle.
Ports of Call
We visited St Peter Port - Guernsey, Dublin - Eire, Douglas - Isle of Man, Greenock – Scotland, Kirkwall – Orkney Isles, and Invergordon – Scotland. We pre-booked tours to Loch Lomond, an Orkney Island Tour at Kirkwall and a tour to Loch Ness. These were all very good and all fairly good value for money. The best tour by far, in my opinion, was the Orkney tour. The Orkneys are now on our list for a longer holiday in the next couple of years.
All the staff that we came across on the cruise were polite and smart. Our table waiter was pleasant and helpful, as was our cabin stewardess. The drinks service at most of the bars and theatres was good, although it sometimes took a while to get served.
We went along to see most of the theatre shows which were all high quality and the normal mixture of show songs, tribute shows, and musical numbers. The violinist was excellent and the musicians in general were very good. We spent a couple of evenings in the Observatory listening to the pianist, who was again very good.
We arrived back at Dover at approx 6am and the first passengers started to disembark at 8am. We disembarked in deck order and deck 8 was called at 8.20am. All went very smoothly, as did our minibus transfer back to the Relyon car park. Overall
A well run ship which offers good value for money, good quality food & entertainment, and friendly & helpful staff. We visited great ports and had reasonably good weather. In comparison with other recent cruises we found the average age of passengers a little higher on Balmoral although this could be due to the itinerary. Additionally, the day time activities were less comprehensive than with other cruise lines. There were no real negatives on this great cruise, which was made all the better by our visit to the Orkney Isles and the great company of the people we met on board and dined with.