Fred. Olsen's 43,537-ton, 1,360-passenger Balmoral encountered rough seas and gale-force winds while sailing through the Bay of Biscay on its 17 January cruise from Dover, resulting in a change in itinerary -- and broken bones for two Britons who were ultimately airlifted from the ship to a hospital in Spain, according to U.K. media reports.
The Bay of Biscay is notoriously rough, particularly during the winter months when storms are common -- but perhaps not as intense as evidenced in pictures of the ship being tossed about on alleged 50-foot waves, published on the Daily Mail's Web site. Fred. Olsen Marketing Director Nigel Lingard told BBC News that on this particular trip, "the weather conditions were worse than forecast ... and the ship was actually hit by much larger motions of the sea than had been anticipated before we left Dover."
A cruise line spokesperson has confirmed that the cruise itinerary was altered as a result of the inclement conditions. The ship skipped scheduled calls at Tangier, Lisbon and La Rochelle. A call at Cherbourg and an overnight stay in Antwerp were added; the ship also spent one extra night in La Coruna and another in Bilbao. As a gesture of goodwill, the cruise line is offering all passengers a future cruise credit of 25 percent. The credit is valid on the best available price at the time of booking on a future cruise no longer than two weeks in duration through the end of 2010 (new bookings only; fly-cruises not included).
Despite media reports of smashed plates and sleepless nights, Cruise Critic member 1supergran -- who was onboard the impacted sailing -- remains upbeat in a post on the Fred. Olsen Cruise Line forum: "I only saw a couple of empty chairs at the mealtimes, and a couple of gentlemen whose wives were not feeling too good. Everyone else was fine! OK, we were bumped about and thrown around a lot, and didn't go very far, but the vast majority enjoyed themselves and found it very exciting....
"Most people acknowledged that if you go on a cruise through the Bay of Biscay in the winter you should expect trouble, although probably not quite on this scale! I was sorry not to get to Tangiers or Lisbon, but the Captain was right to turn the ship around and head for calm in the English Channel, and Cherbourg and Antwerp were very interesting. The crew and the entertainers did a fantastic job in very difficult circumstances."
--by Melissa Baldwin Paloti, Managing Editor, with reporting by Kelly Ranson, U.K. Editor
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Bad Weather Impacts Fred. Olsen Cruise
January 28, 2009