By Jean and Ken Rush
Balmoral was launched in 1988 as Crown Odyssey, originally constructed for the Royal Cruise Line. It was operated by Orient Lines and Norwegian Cruise Line before being bought by Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines in 2007. It joined Black Watch, Boudicca and Braemar in January 2008 as the largest ship in the Fred. Olsen fleet after a 99-foot section was added to the centre of the ship. Its classic lines were maintained despite the stretch, although extra balconies were added. However, it doesn't look like a floating hotel and has an intimate atmosphere greatly valued by many passengers. Most of those we spoke to were Fred. Olsen regulars, and all mentioned their dislike of big ships. They all felt at home on Balmoral.
The new central section adds some attractive public rooms on deck 7, including a large library, card room and Internet room. A glitzy 1980's glass and chrome atrium contrasts with the decor of the new section, which has a walkway leading off the atrium, carpeted in traditional patterns and furnished with comfortable sofas and armchairs. This leads to the Morning Light Pub, a large area stretching the width of the ship and furnished with wing chairs, through which the passengers have to make their way to the Palms cafe. As a pub, it's more Wetherspoons than the village local, but there is often a popular music act playing there until late at night. At the other end of the activity scale, there is a state-of-the-art spa and fitness centre on deck 10 with luxurious treatment rooms and a fully equipped gym. Throughout the cruise, you'll find a programme of exercise and ballroom dance classes, plus the first jazz dance class we have seen at sea.
Food is excellent, with many continental and Asian options, as well as traditional fare. There's a friendly and relaxed atmosphere throughout the ship, the English-only announcements are kept to a minimum, and a wealth of activities and entertainment is available with no pressure to take part in any of them. Smoking is banned throughout the ship, apart from certain sections of the outter deck. Balmoral, which goes into dry dock for a refit every two years, most recently in December 2012, would appeal to anyone seeking a relaxing environment while travelling the world.
Balmoral Fellow Passengers
Balmoral has a strong and loyal base of regular middle-aged to mature passengers, who travel only with Fred. Olsen. The hotel manager confirms that the clientele is 99.9% British, although a few Americans and those of other nationalities may join for sections of a world cruise. The ship is ideal for those travelling alone, with some single cabins, regular meetings for solos announced in the programmes, and dance hosts available. During school holiday periods, there is a wider range of ages, including some families, with staff devoted to a programme of activities for children and teens.
Balmoral Dress Code
With effect from 1st July 2013, the line will be streamlining its various dress codes. The line will continue with its traditional Formal Nights -- usually three or four during a two-week cruise -- but the dress code for the remainder of the evenings on board will be simplified to ‘Smart Casual'. The previous dress code of ‘Informal' is being removed.
‘Smart Casual' dress code means jacket and tie, or open-necked shirt, with Chinos or smart, dark-coloured jeans for male passengers. For female passengers, the choice could be an elegant dress or casual separates. Shorts, flip-flops and baseball caps are not welcome on smart casual nights.
There are also a number of themed nights, including rock 'n' roll, tropical, international and nautical, but these last two are being phased out and less emphasis will be placed on the former. Some passengers go to great lengths to dress up on these evenings, the public rooms are decorated, the bar staff and waiters appropriately attired, and the entertainment is also themed. During the daytime, there is a wide variety of wear around the ship, depending on activities undertaken, but swimwear is not welcome in the restaurants and bars.
Currency onboard is in pounds sterling (£). Gratuities are recommended at £4 per passenger, per day, to be shared between the cabin stewards and waiters. This is added to cruisers' onboard accounts towards the end of the cruise. Passengers are at liberty to vary or cancel the amount at Reception at any point in the cruise, and feedback is requested in this instance. Cruisers may also tip any member of staff personally, if they wish, and envelopes for this purpose are available at Reception. There is no gratuity added to bar bills, and drinks are very reasonably priced.
I took the second sector of the "Balmoral" 2014 world cruise from Dubai to Hong Kong. The flight from London by Virgin Atlantic was very good and arrived on time. After speedy airport formalities we were swiftly transferred to the ship. As ever, ...continue
My wife and I have just returned from a cruise of Christmas markets aboard the Balmoral and we were very sadly disappointed with our experience. We are seasoned travellers and cruisers and this was our first experienced with Fred Olsen. We were ...continue
December 2013 Sagitarius44
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Very different from our previous cruises with Fred Olsen. Embarkation, a queue backed up onto the top of an escalator so that people coming up were falling over one another; need someone at the top of the escalator to prevent that happening. ...continue