The ship, which will be called Balmoral, will debut on January 30, 2008, with a 14-night Canary Islands voyage from Dover. Following the inaugural cruise, Balmoral will take its time to cross the Atlantic on 29-night repositioning cruise ending in Miami. For the next two months, from March to May, the vessel will cruise out of Miami; this is the first Fred. Olsen ship ever deployed to the U.S. for a regular season of cruises.
The ship is now on its way to Hamburg, where it will undergo an extensive refit at Blohm + Voss Repair GmbH. One of the most involved aspects of the project will be the lengthening. The procedure will add nearly 100 feet to Balmoral's midsection (and result in the addition of 350 berths).
Ultimately, Balmoral will measure 43,000 tons and carry 1,348 passengers -- and will be the largest ship in the Fred. Olsen fleet.
Other upgrades and improvements include redesigned public areas and cabins. The casino will be removed and the area transformed into the Blenheim Room, an elegant space paying homage to the famous British palace.
A handful of balconies will be added to several cabins and suites. The ship currently sports 24 staterooms with balconies; after the refit, there will be 121. Though there are no design details as of yet, we do know that all cabins will be refurbished with new fabrics.
Balmoral is the fifth ship in Fred. Olsen's fleet. The Norway-based cruise line, which markets its product pretty much exclusively to U.K.-based passengers, is a popular choice amongst the over-50 set.
With Balmoral's introduction -- and the ship's two months this winter in Miami -- it's more than likely that Fred. Olsen will be reaching out to American passengers. We'll keep you apprised of the line's efforts to do so.
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor