4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2019
Cruise was 5 nights from Rosyth to Orkney and Shetland then back again. Went with friends so a party of 4. First cruise for our friends who wanted a short one to see how they liked it and asked us to accompany them and "show them the ... Read More
Cruise was 5 nights from Rosyth to Orkney and Shetland then back again. Went with friends so a party of 4. First cruise for our friends who wanted a short one to see how they liked it and asked us to accompany them and "show them the ropes" (this was our 4th cruise with Fred. As usual the cabin, staff, service and facilities were excellent and our friends were very happy - the food in particular impressed them. Overall we all enjoyed the cruise, the food especially, well up to standards and [our] previous experience. Only niggles were at embarking at Rosyth - no facilities for disabled or people with special needs e.g. wheelchairs as at an airport. However Fred staff were great and fast-tracked my party (with 2 disabled) through when asked about this. Disembarking from ship was unusually slow and tedious allegedly due to high tide creating a steep gangway. However once again when we enquired Fred staff were apologetic and we were fast-tracked off the ship as were other disadvantaged folk. I suspect these niggles are mainly to do with the port and not Fred as Rosyth is not used much by cruise ships (maybe Fred only?) and perhaps the port considers it not worth upgrading - although legally it may be on shaky ground. I am not certain as to whether our friends would take another cruise with Fred or anyone else. If this review was on behalf of my wife and I alone the niggles would not be an issue and it would get 5 stars - we are booked again with Fred for next year... Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2019
Cruise L1917 Isles of Scotland 1.8.2019 This was our first ever cruise and we had expected much better considering the cost. The M.S. Balmoral had its last refit some 10/11 years ago and it is looking very tired. Our cabin was showing ... Read More
Cruise L1917 Isles of Scotland 1.8.2019 This was our first ever cruise and we had expected much better considering the cost. The M.S. Balmoral had its last refit some 10/11 years ago and it is looking very tired. Our cabin was showing the signs of wear and tear with the bathroom being particularly poor - cracked tiles in the shower and not very clean. Soundproofing between cabins was below acceptable levels. The food was of a good standard but nothing exceptional. Waiting staff were very efficient albeit there was a sense of being rushed. Entertainment was mediocre. I overheard two different people refer to the cruise as "Butlins at Sea". Considering the cost of the cruise it was disappointing to learn that one would have to pay an additional £26 per hour for internet access! We waited until we went ashore to catch up on emails etc! The last straw for us was the disembarkation which took 1.75 hours (and we weren't the last off!). Had we not been asked to vacate our cabins then we could have had some comfort before leaving. As it was the aisles and stairways were filled with people (many elderly) sitting on the floor. An appalling way to end the holiday. However to finish on a positive note, we were able to visit The Orkneys and Shetland which was a delight. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2019
We chose to sail from Rosyth which was completely hassle free, on a glorious summer's day. We were happy with our outside cabin and didn't miss having a balcony. Room of a good standard. Always plenty of hot water for showers. ... Read More
We chose to sail from Rosyth which was completely hassle free, on a glorious summer's day. We were happy with our outside cabin and didn't miss having a balcony. Room of a good standard. Always plenty of hot water for showers. All staff were very courteous and friendly. Food was good and I think we were very fortunate dining in the Spey restaurant as the picture windows gave us wonderful views as we travelled the fjords. Nothing anyone can do about the weather but we were so, so lucky.....clear blue skies and glorious sunshine! Evening entertainment was very enjoyable. We chose the drinks package which worked very well for us. Only used one official excursion to a glacier plus lake trip which we thoroughly enjoyed. Would we go again on this same trip? We wouldn't...as this one was so good it couldn't be bettered. What more can I say....we loved it!☺ Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2019
Fred Olsen were recommended by family members. The fact that Balmoral sailed from Rosyth (near Edinburgh) was so handy for us and saved us a flight to Southampton. Our cruise to Norway far exceeded our expectations and the glorious ... Read More
Fred Olsen were recommended by family members. The fact that Balmoral sailed from Rosyth (near Edinburgh) was so handy for us and saved us a flight to Southampton. Our cruise to Norway far exceeded our expectations and the glorious weather was a huge added bonus! From the minute we arrived at the port terminal until the day of disembarkation, staff constantly went over and above to ensure everything was perfect. They were so friendly, attentive and generally interested in making sure everything was right and that you felt special. Our waiters in particular, Vilroy and Flacher, were simply excellent! The food was wonderful and the great choice of menu ensured there was always something for everyone. Afternoon tea is a lovely treat, especially if you have had a busy shore day. We also enjoyed the special Observatory Lounge Afternoon Tea on one occasion and would certainly do this again. The service, food and ambience was wonderful. Entertainment ranged from a very talented flautist and guitarist, to cabaret style shows. All shows were very entertaining and had full audiences. My only suggestion would be to make them slightly longer! Most were around 45 minutes - an hour. Our cruise itinerary was excellent. The port talks gave us a good insight of each place we were visiting and the captain kept us well informed. To see Norway with blue skies every day certainly allowed us to see it at its best. We didn't book any shore tours as we prefer to do our own thing, although did book the RIB trip from Hellesylt, which was very worth while. Bergen - We berthed very close to the town centre so walking around was easy. Loved the Bryggen area of old wooden houses and the fish market. The tourist information at the end of the harbour has a lot of great maps and information. We took the funicular up Mount Floyen and had great views over the city. There's a lovely walk from the top (about 20 minutes) to a small lake where they offer free canoe hire. Flam - We booked our own tickets for the Flam railway and were on the first train of the day. Tickets were sold out on the day so do book these in advance. What a beautiful journey through the mountains and past many waterfalls. There was only a 15 minute stop at the top and many people got off for tours. It meant we were able to have a carriage to ourselves on the way back down allowing us to take photos through an open window. The carriage had been reserved for a group of Japanese tourists so there was no English commentary in this carriage, but it's worth doing if you are keen to take photos. Would also recommend the Flam bakery for lunch or a snack. The aromas of freshly cooked cakes and breads are amazing! After lunch we walked to Flam village (about 1.5 hours round trip). This was a lovely way to see local life and to walk by the crystal clear river. Olden - we took the open top bus that was parked on the quayside. It was good to see the lakes and beautiful scenery, but I think if I were going back I'd take the Olden Adventures bus to the glacier as that had more options for walking. We did our own circular walk from the town centre to the beautiful red Olden Church, crossed the bridge and walked the far side of the water back to town (about an hour). This is a lovely peaceful low level walk with beautiful views. There's not much in Olden town centre so if you are not able to do local walks, then a shore tour would be worth doing. Hellesylt - beautiful place at the end of a stunning fjord. We walked up to the church, then crossed the bridge above it to come down the other side of the waterfall. You get great views here. Our RIB adventure was excellent. Our guide lived on a local farm and told us a lot about farming life and local folklore. Would thoroughly recommend doing this. It's a great way to see the Seven Sisters Waterfalls and the fjord from close proximity. We loved every minute of this cruise and would do it all again. Will maybe do the two week Norway cruise next time! Would certainly recommend Fred Olsen. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
I enjoyed my visit to Iceland first cruise with Fred Olsen Balmoral. The Balmoral is a nice country feel ship. I liked that it has just over 1000 passengers and not thousands and thousands of people. Saying this I may try the smaller ... Read More
I enjoyed my visit to Iceland first cruise with Fred Olsen Balmoral. The Balmoral is a nice country feel ship. I liked that it has just over 1000 passengers and not thousands and thousands of people. Saying this I may try the smaller Boudicca for my next cruise. Our cabin was 4041. I was quite happy with our twin cabin and liked having the picture window. I would not like a cabin with no window. The ship is kept clean and sanitised and hand sanitizer is used before going in the restaurants. This was my worry about cruising hygiene but I had no worries on board as everything was kept clean. I never once found the toilets dirty and staff were regularly checking and cleaning. Our cabin was cleaned daily too plenty clean towels. The food was very good we had alacarte each evening and the food was delicious. Our waiters were very attentive and friendly. Most of the staff on the ship are really hard working very good service from the staff. The tours were organised well no hassles. Everything was organised great on the ship. It was great on the deck too can always find a quiet spot. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
Delighted to say that on this cruise the regular afternoon teas were a huge improvement on last years which were a disaster. Someone must have read my last report.Still an unacceptable waiting time for orders taken in bar sometimes, but ... Read More
Delighted to say that on this cruise the regular afternoon teas were a huge improvement on last years which were a disaster. Someone must have read my last report.Still an unacceptable waiting time for orders taken in bar sometimes, but staff worked off their feet. All crew members had very pleasant attitude and were keen to engage with passengers if encouraged to do so. Atlanrtic deck cabin was clean, roomy, bathroom/shower room was spacious with plenty of shelving and wardrobe and storage space in cabin was excellent, Plenty of public sitting areas, no need to seek a place to read or chat while at sea. We had ample time in the interesting ports to do visits and walk arounds. Wish we could have visited the Faroes on this or Norway cruise though. Wonderful destination.Wholeship was sparklingly clean and pleasant to live in for duration of trip, Only downside was the state of the public toilets on the ship, they could all do with a serious makeover.Surprising, as the cabin ones were excellent. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
Sailed from Rosyth, local for Edinburgh Short cruise, just right for a first cruise, staff all charming and nothing was too much trouble. Food was great, ship was very clean, entertainment excellent.. Shore excursions were informative. ... Read More
Sailed from Rosyth, local for Edinburgh Short cruise, just right for a first cruise, staff all charming and nothing was too much trouble. Food was great, ship was very clean, entertainment excellent.. Shore excursions were informative. Sadly weather not great, a bit cold and grey, but the sun appeared at times. Strongly recommend dining in the 'grill' at least once. 6* dining experience. If I went on another cruise I would have an outside cabin, at least one with a porthole. The interior cabins can be a little disorientating (telling night from day). The ship was very clean, the gangway staff were very helpful when the ship could not get into the port. They helped with my wheelchair and were always smiling. The library was a bonus, as I forgot a book and the chocolate and coffee shop was delicious.The shop staff were very helpful. We met some lovely people and being a small world, we met a couple who knew my daughter's in laws and were from the same village! Amazing. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
We live in Edinburgh, the sailing was from Rosyth, and the itinerary was very interesting. The check in went slowly but smoothly, parking procedure very good. The gangway was very steep, very narrow and entirely stepped, with wide flat ... Read More
We live in Edinburgh, the sailing was from Rosyth, and the itinerary was very interesting. The check in went slowly but smoothly, parking procedure very good. The gangway was very steep, very narrow and entirely stepped, with wide flat areas on either side. Many passengers were elderly, using sticks for support, and found it very difficult. These people make up a large part of Fred Olsen Cruises customer base, and I found this astonishing. We scanned our cards ourselves, with a crew member checking it- not a word, no eye contact from any member of the gangway crew, then, or at any time during the cruise. The ship is beautifully maintained, inside and out, with comfortable lounges and plenty of artwork and photographs. Dining in the Balindalloch restaurant was good, food excellent and waiters very smart in grey suits. The Palm cafe was lovely, with seating overlooking the pool. The food was fine, but coffee generally cold, with staff morale not too good. The cabin (3072) had been refurbished and was well equipped, with a proper full sized shower area. There was, however, no sound insulation at all. There was almost nothing in the way of engine rumble or other mechanical noises, but it was as though the occupants of the cabins on either side were in beside us! They were selfish idiots with no regard for anyone- we were also idiots for creeping about like church mice! Entertainment was pretty good- a singer/guitarist in the Morning Light lounge was very good, with a most pleasant manner. The Neptune show lounge was very smart, with a resident 6 piece band. The British song and dance group were good, as were comedy and speciality music acts. There were also 2 afternoon classical piano recitals which were wonderful. The dancing classed in the Neptune were very good, organised by a Scottish Husband and Wife team. Reception and shore excursion staff were very polite and helpful. The promenade deck had seating in several areas, but there was not enough depth to accommodate loungers. There were plenty of these round the pool, though, as well as on deck 11. Fred Olsen claim a 60% return rate, and I believe it. Many guests were treated like old friends by some crew members. We only did 1 shore trip- the Monet House and Gardens, which was excellent, but there were plenty choose from. Some people were disappointed to find the trip they wanted fully booked, so it's best to book in advance. The clientele was almost entirely Scottish, and we met some lovely people, but if you are looking for a more mixed crowd, Rosyth is probably not the best staring point. We enjoyed the cruise- the ship was very smooth and quiet, there are quiet areas to hide away in. There does seem to be a problem with staff morale- a lady at our table was actually shouted at by a waiter for not being able to understand his broken English! There were plenty of "suits" in evidence, so the problem has to be in management quality rather than quantity. We asked someone with a cabin on deck 6 about the noise from adjacent cabins, and it appeared to be no better than ours. That would probably prevent us from taking another cruise with Fred Olsen, which is a pity, as there is so much to like. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
Very dated ship. Mainly elderly passengers. Nothing on during the day except bridge bingo and handicrafts. More like a floating care home. Tour operator extremely unhelpful.. Don't book flam railway through olsen it's a lot ... Read More
Very dated ship. Mainly elderly passengers. Nothing on during the day except bridge bingo and handicrafts. More like a floating care home. Tour operator extremely unhelpful.. Don't book flam railway through olsen it's a lot cheaper to do yourself and there were plenty of seats. Guest service manager very helpful as had to move cabins as extremely noisy. Noticed a lot of cutbacks. Eg no conditioner or body lotion in cabins. However food was outstanding served by Sam and Joe who were brilliant. Entertainment on a night was good. Cocktails seemed mainly fruit juice having been teatotal for 30yrs I thought a few alcoholic drinks would be a change. Strangely there was no effect. Service was fairly quick. The gym in a great position but vastly overheated to dehydration level with one small water fountain pretty hopeless when you have to leave the equipment to get a drink. We are used to having all our baggage taken off us at check in not done in Newcastle they will only take suitcase no suit bags or small cases.which were heavy. Class them as hand luggage. On leaving ship to come home Newcastle is very disjointed. This was my 4 time with olsen and very much my last. Wasn't keen before but Newcastle is near home. Southampton is worth the journey to board a better cruise line cunard is unbeatable and cheaper Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
I consider the price we paid for the itinerary, distance travelled, entertainment, drinks package and cabin comfort (superior interior) was far too much. The A/C in the cabin was rubbish we had the setting off the scale and still found it ... Read More
I consider the price we paid for the itinerary, distance travelled, entertainment, drinks package and cabin comfort (superior interior) was far too much. The A/C in the cabin was rubbish we had the setting off the scale and still found it stuffy and through the night it seemed to go off altogether, maybe to save money- so very poor sleep quality. Obviously we reported this and it was supposedly checked out twice and found to meet the required temperatures. It did not meet ours. We were offered another similar cabin which we examined and found to be no different as it was in same vacinity. We spoke to other people on the ship some found theirs too warm and others found theirs too cold. Never had this problem before and have cruised many times. For the price we paid I would have expected a decent pillow to rest my head on but they were obviously job lot and I I awoke every morning with a creek in my neck - there was no bounce back whatsoever. I ended up having to put towels underneath to get some sort of support. Please note you no longer get branded spirit in the basic drinks package so another cut back making FO even less value for money cruise line. Food in general was good and much better than it had been on our last Balmoral cruise, so you can't judge them all by one. Staff were excellent except for one group serving in Ballindalloch at lunch time to whom everything was a bother. Entertainment disappointing - was a bit on the scarce side and very mediocre. The places we visited were so so, except for Kiel canal which unfortunately we could not go through on the way there due to windy conditions. We found there were a lot more very elderly and infirm, disabled passengers on this occasion. Definitely the best part was meeting some very nice people and making friends. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
Staff – some good some bad, certainly not at the level across the board of the more expensive cruise lines but a lot of the staff where great. Drinks – the drinks package includes so little variety I ended up always paying the top ... Read More
Staff – some good some bad, certainly not at the level across the board of the more expensive cruise lines but a lot of the staff where great. Drinks – the drinks package includes so little variety I ended up always paying the top up to have different drinks however it wasn’t very pricey to top up to nicer drinks. Swimming pools and recreation activities - They have very little and much of what they have is catered to their older clients. Knowing in advance this was a smaller ship with older patrons we took a PS3 with us, on day one the reception staff refused to set the TV up for us so we could plug it in (it needed a different controller to the one supplied as they have their own system that doesn’t allow other HDMI channels) however we asked different staff on day two and they sorted it for us. As this was a Christmas time cruise we avoided pools as did pretty much everyone else as it was to cold. Quizzes and shows – you could turn up pretty much as the shows were starting and still get a seat a big change on the larger ships however the shows were very low budget versions of what you get on larger cruise ships they were mildly entertaining at best. With the quizzes we were lucky if we found one per day so we spent quite a bit of time in our room with the entertainment we brought with us. Photo's & other items to purchase – we didn’t get any pictures done really so didn’t investigate this price. Bathrobes – not available to purchase ☹ Anything extra you may want to pay for was reasonably priced. Food - Breakfast Breakfast in room was ok, not much in the way of queues for the buffet and we didn’t try the sit down breakfast. Food - lunch, snacks and late night food. Buffet not too busy but variety was very low although quality was very good. Food - dinner Sit down meal was largely good quality but amount of food was limited and my husband who is a picky eater struggled to find food at dinner time. Food - room service Food was pretty good and was included in the price which is unusual and nice however it was very much snacks no meals available. Fred Olsen were a good low budget cruise line where the quality is good but variety is limited however the price of this trip was similar to we paid on P&O so I don’t feel the price reflected the fact they are a budget cruise line. Would happily sail with them again but I want the cost to be dramatically lower than the mid range cruise lines like P&O and Royal Caribbean Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
We chose the cruise for the Christmas Markets in Europe. The Balmoral crew had made a splendid effort to make the ship festive. Lovely decorations throughout.There were beautifully made gingerbread houses in some spots on the ship. A ... Read More
We chose the cruise for the Christmas Markets in Europe. The Balmoral crew had made a splendid effort to make the ship festive. Lovely decorations throughout.There were beautifully made gingerbread houses in some spots on the ship. A lovely festive dinner and very good entertainers and speakers. Enjoyed the orchestra, piano player, string quartet and guitarist, talks and quizzes. Formal nights with lovely food but good food throughout the trip. Lots of work goes on to make a voyage successful, but the crew including those we don't see are very discreet. Because of being December with unpredictable weather and fog the itinerary had to be altered but as we had been to Germany and Denmark on another Fred Olsen cruise we had been fortunate to see the Rivers and Kiel Canal in good weather ad daylight. Others may have been disappointed, but it is winter. The Christmas markets were amazing. The Tivoli Gardens at Christmas with 'snow' looked wonderful. The shopping streets in Copenhagen were full of people and lights. A lovely experience. Hamburg had a Father Christmas flying overhead on zip wires at the Christmas market. There were sprinkles of snow. Bremen is a lovely town, our third visit. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
We chose this as it was my husband’s first experience of cruising although I’ve been on several. The duration and itinerary were ideal, as was the ambience of a small ship. Food and service were very good and we particularly enjoyed ... Read More
We chose this as it was my husband’s first experience of cruising although I’ve been on several. The duration and itinerary were ideal, as was the ambience of a small ship. Food and service were very good and we particularly enjoyed hearing Adam Reece playing in the Observatory Bar. Embarkation was very well organised and we both felt we benefitted from the relaxation of the cruise. Luckily, we were on a dining table with two other couples with whom we had some most lively conversations over dinner. Our waiters showed great patience over the fact that we were last to leave each evening. One disappointment was caused by the itinerary being changed, resulting in only one day on the Kiel Canal instead of two. Nevertheless, my husband is happy to try another cruise and it is likely that we shall opt for Fred Olsen next time. We didn’t go on any shore excursions, preferring to be independent, but we did choose to book the drinks package and it was well worth it. Read Less
24 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
My wife and I recently took our first cruise. We travelled on Deck 5 in an outer, windowed cabin, on Fred Olsen's Balmoral to the North German ports of Bremen, Hamburg and Kiel dep Newcastle 19 November. To say it was grossly ... Read More
My wife and I recently took our first cruise. We travelled on Deck 5 in an outer, windowed cabin, on Fred Olsen's Balmoral to the North German ports of Bremen, Hamburg and Kiel dep Newcastle 19 November. To say it was grossly disappointing would be to ignore the few highlights, but even they are too few to persuade us to repeat the experience. The worst aspect was the selfish and uncouth behaviour of most of the passengers. Billed as 'adults-only' this should have been subtitled, 'ideal for greedy, self-centred and rude elderly people'. The experience began as soon as we got on board where we discovered what the 'Olsen Regulars' already knew - that the light afternoon tea of finger sandwiches and cakes were laid out self-service style. Because the staff made no attempt to serve the passengers, the Olsen Regulars who charged on board at the first opportunity had emptied the single tray of roast beef sandwiches leaving just the egg mayonnaise and other lesser fillings for the others. Mind, that didn't stop the Olsen Regulars pushing, (actually 'forcing' would be more accurate), their ways past those who boarded later to wreck and largely waste the cake display. So greedy were these people they misused the serving tools and instead of serving themselves a single portion of cake they destroyed one or two others which they left for the lesser mortals behind them and helped themselves to a third or even fourth undamaged cake. I'm told by more experienced travellers that this is normal behaviour on cruise ships, especially Olsen. If so the solution is within the cruise lines' control, ie serve these teas so all passengers get a fair share. Hardly rocket science. It was a coincidence that one of the films showing in the cabins was The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - not only an excellent film but also very apposite. In the open sequences the character played by Dame Maggie Smith explains to an American hotel employee who's just served her a mug with a tea bag and a flask of warm water that 'tea is a dried herb that's brought back to life by infusion in boiling water, not the lukewarm piss you've served'. That's exactly what every cup of tea served on Balmoral tasted like, grey, tepid urine. And the coffee's not much better unless you pay extra for it when they actually use real coffee. Again the solution is within Olsen's control, either teach your staff how to make tea and coffee or subcontract to Costa or Café Nero. Like un-monitored pre-school children, guests were allowed to behave as they wished regardless of the inconvenience they caused other passengers. For instance couples spread themselves and their knitting and newspapers right across a four-seat settee and refused to make space for other passengers wanting to sit down and buy a coffee. Far too many passengers using their own powered wheelchairs used the public areas like raceways to the detriment of everyone else. As we were disembarking at Newcastle the queue refused to budge for one elderly man trying to back out of a lift pulling his wife in a wheelchair, while at the same time another, obese man using a walking stick was trying to force his way into the same lift and complaining volubly because the wheelchair was in his way. God knows how many would have died due the selfish attitudes of passengers towards others if the ship had sunk. Now for some due praise. The cabin service was excellent, flawless. The girls deserve a raise for if anyone comes back it will be in large part due to them. True, the corners of the bathroom could do with steam cleaning with an industrial machine but that's a small point. The serving staff in the Ballindalloch restaurant were also generally excellent and are due similar praise though a little more attention to the cleanliness of glassware wouldn't go amiss. Sadly the quality of the staff didn't extend to the so-called premier restaurants, Spey and Avon. On two days my wife and I took lunch in these restaurants. On the first day we chose self-service, on the second we selected from the menu. That day we shared our table with a courteous and polite solo passenger. After our meal we were offered coffee and all of us accepted. The waiter brought two coffee cups, one saucer and a pot containing half a cup of lukewarm coffee. When we pointed out his omissions the waiter shrugged his shoulders and walked away. Other deficiencies we noticed in these restaurants were that waiters removed plates before diners had fully digested their last mouthful and plates were removed from one diner in a party who had finished eating before the others had completed their meal. There is little point in having an industrial toaster if the waiter operating it pre-toasts the bread and places this hot toast on a plate (albeit inside a napkin) so it's ready cooled for the next customer. This is idiocy. In general the food was adequate though occasionally tastes and flavours were rather too subtle and indiscernible. This comment applies especially to desserts, for instance lime and lemon cream item that's bright coloured but almost flavourless. My wife and I took the speciality Indian meal. We assumed that the kitchen does not include a tandoor oven but that really was no excuse for naan bread tasting more like cake. The spice in the curries was very muted and completely unrepresentative of Indian food that most passengers would know. A very poor extra. We purchased the All-in bar supplement but frankly this was not a good idea. Bar staff served erratic measures and didn't always get the right drink e.g. gin and vodka were often confused. Furthermore they constantly urged passengers to order doubles which obviously saved them work but was in contrast to the rigidly-enforced rule that passengers mustn't be served a second drink was the first is on the table. The maitre d' and the charming couple running the bridge sessions need to get some balls. In the case of the maitre d' it is not acceptable when the majority of passengers have observed the dress code for the two formal nights to have to suffer passengers seated on the same or nearby tables who have refused to conform for their own personal reasons. The code is well published and if any diner doesn't wish to observe it they should be obliged to eat elsewhere. Frankly the dress code is unimportant to the men but a courtesy to the ladies who can choose to dress up a bit if they wish. The same criticism must be levelled at the couple who run the bridge sessions. My wife and I were looking forward to learning to play bridge but our experience was completely spoiled by another couple who turned up at the beginners session despite being very experienced players. Their objective was simply to impress us with their expertise (and conversely our mediocrity) and furthermore to criticise the explanation and teaching being given by the experts. In contrast, although my wife and I were only observers, the dance tutors and hosts performed in an absolutely exemplary manner. They were not only skilled but courteous and polite and frankly a credit to whoever employs them. There is an air of parsimony in many cases throughout the ship. For example, doctors regularly recommend the elderly to drink a litre of water per day. For Olsen to charge £1.50 for a bottle in the cabin shows the company in a very poor light The entertainment offered on-board varied from first-class to puerile. The three headline acts, Geoff Taylor, Andy Eastwood and Paul Broadwood were excellent. The second level entertainers were adequate and Howard Johnson deserves special mention. Adam Reece on the other hand needed to practice. Having said that, playing music for others to talk through is a thankless task. However there is no excuse for the frankly paltry concert party. It was amateur, the singers were often out of tune and frankly Bolton amateur operatic society (with which I have no connection) would have done a better job. A number of guests who had sailed on Balmoral earlier in the season told us they had already seen the concert party performances and they were no better even after practice. If shows are contracted over a season and customers are likely to find themselves seeing the same shows twice or more they should at least be warned. For readers with young children around them the leader was reminiscent of the very talented Mr Tumble - though completely devoid of talent, charm, stagecraft or ability. He couldn't sing either. Although only six piece, the house band in the Neptune lounge was terrific. The same cannot be said of the Lido quartet who needed a considerably wider repertoire. Despite the description printed regularly in the ship's newspaper, Amy Winehouse is not representative of music of the 60s 70s or 80s. The music that was performed was too often music to slit your throat to. Even worse was the indulgence by the Olsen company of the leader of the concert party with a solo performance one evening the purpose of which he was quite open about was to provide him with a video for his CV. Again his comments revealed that his parents and possibly his grandmother were also on board and a number of people sitting near us wondered aloud how much discount they'd received. Of course staff discounts may be extended to their family but I suggest Olsen reviews the publicity staff are allowed to give this perk and treat them in the same way as British Airways staff are required to do, ie don't draw attention to your family. Of course cruise passengers realise that itineraries may have to be varied according to the vagaries of the weather. In our case it required us to remain a second day in Hamburg and all passengers were impressed by the announcement that tickets on the shuttle buses on the second day would be free in contrast to the £5 round-trip ticket charge the day before. The gesture was, of course, completely hollow since the queue to get on a bus into the city involved a 90 minute wait in line on the dockside and a 60 minute wait in the Hamburg street for the return journey. Bearing in mind how many passengers needed walking sticks and other aids the parsimony was a disgrace. You urgently need a competent cruise director who knows that his job is organising things like adequate numbers of buses and not replacing the compere at the Palladium. He needs also to be taught to speak clearly not gabble. Clearly Olsen is terrified of Norovirus. I have no experience of it but I do know that the way you handle the refusal of the captain and his crew to touch passengers even at a formal reception needs a serious review. By all means replace the receiving line with a pleasant, personal welcome and presentation but to word it in the way it was unnecessarily proscriptive. Additionally, on that subject, all the chairs in the dining rooms need a serious cleaning – the wooden arms and lower frames of most chairs were sticky. Again, most of the Dyson hand dryers in the men's toilets need urgent servicing. They only dry the backs of the hands - almost no air comes out of the palm elements. A final note of praise: the selection of films available on the televisions in the cabins was varied and should have appealed to most tastes. Overall, I would define our experience with Fred Olsen lines and Balmoral as a better-than-average holiday camp afloat. It had all the disadvantages of an all-inclusive hotel holiday without the single benefit that you can always walk out the door and into town. On the evidence of this cruise, once you've seen one German port you've seen the lot. We took advantage of the two days in Bremen to take a train to Lübeck and spend a delightful and informative – if a little wet – day in a fascinating city, but this was an exception. Our experience with Fred Olsen has ensured that we shall not be cruising again nor going to the pantomime in Billingham on Teesside where the majority of the concert party have apparently been hired to perform. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
The reason for choosing this cruise were many One the embarkation and disembarkation port was only half hour from home so we did not have any extra travel to join the ship.TwoThe ship Balmoral, we have sailed on this ship in the past and ... Read More
The reason for choosing this cruise were many One the embarkation and disembarkation port was only half hour from home so we did not have any extra travel to join the ship.TwoThe ship Balmoral, we have sailed on this ship in the past and have had a wonderful time . The food,entertainment and ports of call had always been good. The size off the ship was also to our liking, friendly yet spacious but there was always things to keep you occupied whether it be energetic or a quiet spot to do a jigsaw or sit with coffee and loose your self in one of the many books in the very good library. The talks during the day also give a change of interest or where some of the guests took advantage and had a sleep. If you needed help there was always one of crew around willing to give you a hand. We did have a problem with the cabin on this cruise in the shower and the toilet, later we had debris blowing from the ventilation we where offered a change of accommodation but told no guarantee that the same thing would not happen, so we declined. All of the problems were attended to soon after they were reported. We now look forward to our next cruise with Fred Olsen Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and were just viewing it as a means of getting to Orkney and Shetland and really were not expecting much. However how wrong we were. We found our inside cabin clean and spacious with a good ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and were just viewing it as a means of getting to Orkney and Shetland and really were not expecting much. However how wrong we were. We found our inside cabin clean and spacious with a good sized shower room. The food was excellent and we found the entertainment some of the best we have come across. We have cruised many many times with Cunard, Holland America, Princess, Carnival, Celebrity and Costa always having had either a suite or balcony so feel I am in a position to give an honest review of the Balmoral. We found the size of the Balmoral easy to walk around especially when in heels of an evening. The crew and staff were very friendly and there was none of the hard sell for good reviews from the restaurant staff or the maitre d. The only thing I would change is the disembarkation/embarkation at ports of call. This is the first ship where both have taken place on the same gang plank but I guess this may be due to size. The ports of call - Invergordon, Kirkwall and Lerwick were good and we were blessed with excellent weather. We toured independently and hired a car for the day in Lerwick through Bolts car hire who had car waiting on quay upon ships arrival at a reasonable price. The age range on board was varied and yes there were some people who had mobility issues and how nice it was that they too could enjoy a lovely holiday. I would definitely consider cruising on the Balmoral again. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
We chose this cruise for its itinerary and the Orkneys and Shetland were great and well worth visiting. We took a shore excursion at Inverness which was informative and well organised by our guide. Check in at Newcastle was fast and ... Read More
We chose this cruise for its itinerary and the Orkneys and Shetland were great and well worth visiting. We took a shore excursion at Inverness which was informative and well organised by our guide. Check in at Newcastle was fast and efficient. We booked an inside superior cabin on Bridge deck and it was OK with a larger than average bathroom. However, there were none of the touches such as hand cream, bath robes or flannels that we've had elsewhere. Just soap in a dispenser! The entertainment was adequate and varied for a short cruise. However, we found the food to be of a very basic standard and without a great deal of variety. Also the waiter service in the bars was very disappointing and more often that not, we had to go to the bar to order. The ship, overall, looks pretty tired and deck furniture definitely needs replacing with loungers showing rust and other signs of wear. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
I’ve always wanted to try a cruise so picked this one as I’ve always wanted to go to the Shetland Islands and it was short so gave us a chance to experience cruising. Arrived on the boat to our very expensive upgraded cabin. Very ... Read More
I’ve always wanted to try a cruise so picked this one as I’ve always wanted to go to the Shetland Islands and it was short so gave us a chance to experience cruising. Arrived on the boat to our very expensive upgraded cabin. Very disappointed. Only soap in a bottle supplied in the bathroom - just like a 3 star hotel. Very small towels. Thick rust round the taps and some black mould round bath. On the plus side, the beds were comfortable and we heard no noise at night. Food was excellent and nothing to complain about there. We didn’t go with the drinks package but the price of drinks was very reasonable and again nothing to complain about there either. Entertainment was aimed at an older generation, dance classes, tea dances and bingo etc. and nothing that I would participate in. In fact I question the amount of disabled people on board if there was an emergency. It would be interesting to see how quickly you were able to get to the lifeboats. There was nothing in terms of entertainment for children and yet there were quite a few on board. We participated in one very expensive shore excursion (£52 each) which was described as a walk through a forest to waterfalls and the description urged walking shoes and suitable clothing. In fact the walk was no more that 30 minutes in total and we spent a lot of that waiting for unfit people to catch up. I suppose the footwear of the guide gave it away really - fashion boots. We then visited a small town which was interesting but all of it could be seen in an hour or less. In Kirkwall we hired bikes for £20 and had a great day. In Lerwick we hired a car for £32 and saw all the area below Lerwick, which was fascinating. The day we were at sea all day was awful and we were bored stiff. We used the gym, which needs updating, for a couple of hours and then read for most of the day. The restaurant boasted a sea food lunch and certainly the display was wonderful but because the ship was busy there were queues for tables and we were shown to a table for 6. I really don’t want to eat with strangers, despite them being very pleasant. Overall I feel that this was very expensive for what you got, especially accommodation. Hopefully I have been fair in this review and maybe when I’m 80 and disabled I might choose to go on another one! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
Although this ship was recently refurbished (newer furniture and carpeting) it lacks the excitement and character of other cruise lines we've been on (P&O, NCL, RCCL). The entertainment was so-so (think community college theater ... Read More
Although this ship was recently refurbished (newer furniture and carpeting) it lacks the excitement and character of other cruise lines we've been on (P&O, NCL, RCCL). The entertainment was so-so (think community college theater not Vegas-style), the comedian unfunny, and the average passenger age was over 60. We traveled with a well-behaved toddler. Even so most people were friendly (only had one "shushing" in the observatory lounge) and the crew was fantastic. We were bored on our day at sea. Even the older cruisers appeared bored as most just sat in the lounges reading books or iPads. The ports were excellent (Invergordon (Inverness), Kirkwall, and Lerwick) in Scotland but I highly recommend renting your own car and self-touring to save money. We overpaid significantly for a private guided tour from Invergordon. Rent a car and do it yourself (with a guidebook if you want)! You can see the standing stones of Stenness near Kirkwall by taking the public bus for less than 7 quid round-trip! We would only consider going on a Fred Olsen cruise in the future if it improved its on-board activities for families. To leave on a positive note, the drink and spa prices were very reasonable. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
We've long wanted to visit Iceland, so this was the perfect choice- sailing out of Newcastle is easier for us than Southampton, and we were on Balmoral the previous autumn, so knew that she was a sturdy little ship, with excellent ... Read More
We've long wanted to visit Iceland, so this was the perfect choice- sailing out of Newcastle is easier for us than Southampton, and we were on Balmoral the previous autumn, so knew that she was a sturdy little ship, with excellent food and service. The itinerary was all Iceland- some cruises add other islands, or Norway, but that's not what we wanted. The check in was simple, and everything is so well organised for you to reach your cabin with ease. The ship has had a refurbishment since our last cruise on her, which included full make over of cabins- ours was spacious and very attractve. In the main dining room, the food was as excellent as last time, when we were able to say that it was the best food we've had on any cruise line- good choices;well served; good ingredients. Because the dining rooms are much smaller than on many ships the noise was minimal; large dining rooms on big ships often are quite noisy. The buffet is small, although we ate there rarely,as there are other options for breakfast and lunch. We did like to go there for a cream scone at tea time! Small ships don't have all the activities of the big ones, but there were plenty of lectures, along with traditional ship board games, quizzes and entertainment.The evening shows were good, with the usual song and dance routines, plus comedians, magicians and musicians. The lat time we were on Balmoral,it was an adult only cruise- this time, being in the middle of the summer holidays, there were some children cruising- perhaps 30 or so, and they always seemed to be busy with their leaders. Iceland itself was absolutely wonderful, from the long sail past the glacier, volcano and Westman Islands on the evening before arrivng at Reykjavk, to the final sailing down the last fjord, whale watching. There was a commentary for all these times, explaining much of what we were seeing,or what had happened in the past (Eyjafjallajokull eruption; Heimaey life; whale spotting). We took the cruise for the itinerary, but the ship was also a pleasant part of that itinerary. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
This was for me, a rare opportunity to visit Orkney, Shetland and Lewis and I was not disappointed. The ship was as excellent as expected (I have grown to love Balmoral) and the itinerary wonderful. Wonderful restaurant and bar staff, ... Read More
This was for me, a rare opportunity to visit Orkney, Shetland and Lewis and I was not disappointed. The ship was as excellent as expected (I have grown to love Balmoral) and the itinerary wonderful. Wonderful restaurant and bar staff, good choice of vegetarian food and everyone very friendly, as always expected from Fred. I particularly enjoyed the visits to the ancient archaeological sites on each of the islands we visited, which gave a really good insight into how people lived thousands of years ago. In Kirkwall we took a DIY excursion by taxi and our Driver Kenny was wonderful, full of enthusiasm for his homeland and giving every bit as good an experience as a professional tour guide. In Shetland we had the very cheerful Melvyn, who has such a gleeful personality that our time there just flew by. I cannot wait for my next cruise with Fred. - next Spring! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
A bit of a mixed bag. We had been on Balmoral before and it was not as good this time. Superficially the cabin appeared spotless but there was a large accumulation of dirt under the beds and it obviously had not been cleaned for a long ... Read More
A bit of a mixed bag. We had been on Balmoral before and it was not as good this time. Superficially the cabin appeared spotless but there was a large accumulation of dirt under the beds and it obviously had not been cleaned for a long time. The water in the bathroom was seldom more than lukewarm and ran very slowly. The shaver points were hanging off the wall. The toilet paper was thin and poor quality. The TV picture kept breaking up because of "incompatibilty with the onboard transmitting equipment". The beds and pillows were comfortable. We were booked on the 2030 dinner sitting by Fred, we didn't ask for it. This was far too late for us so we asked the maitre d' if we could change to 1830. He told us there were over 200 people wanting to change and he couldn't do anything for us. From an earlier review it seems that if money had changed hands a change would have been possible. As it was we had little choice but to eat in the self-service buffet every night, not exactly a prime dining experience. The food was generally quite good with a large choice. The coffee, however, was very poor indeed, almost totally lacking in flavour. Cups and glasses were often less than clean, with lipstick or stains on them. We found the waiters to be very offhand, bordering on surly, with a lack of manners in many cases. The waitresses, whom we encountered only in the Neptune Lounge, were better, with the odd exception. The Captain's cocktail party was a farce. It consisted of walking past the captain and officers at the entrance to the Neptune Lounge (a theatre), getting a free drink, the captain speaking for a couple of minutes, a few words from a sample of crew members, and that was it. Hardly a party. The entertainment was of mixed quality. The onboard company of singers and dancers worked hard and were very good across the piece. The "guest" classical pianist was excellent, the guitarists less so, often playing obscure material. The comedian was excellent. The pianist in the Observation Lounge seemed to simply tinkle away tunelessly in a totally disinterested manner on the occasions we went up there in the afternoons. The trio in the Bar were wasted; they were far far better than the inconsequential material they were required to play. The tours provide by Fred were, as always, grossly overpriced and exceptionally poor value for money. Doing-it-yourself, using local transport etc was far far cheaper and enabled close contact with local people, who were unfailingly helpful. The port call at Invergordon, a very small town, was clearly settled upon as a prime opportunity for Fred to sell his tours as there was very little to do there. On the way back to Newcastle (North Shields in reality) we left Lerwick in the Shetlands at 2300 on a Friday. We arrived at North Shields at 0600 on Sunday two days later, a journey of 31 hours doing approx 10 knots. It would surely have been possible to leave Lerwick earlier, call in at another port on the Saturday, perhaps Aberdeen, sailed a little faster than a crawl and still get into North Shields in time for a turnaround for the next departure. It felt very much like a wasted Saturday, and a missed opportunity. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2018
Always wanted to visit the Scottish Islands and this cruise gave us a great taste of what was available should we want to go back for longer visits. We took one of the organised trips but for the rest of the time opted to do our own ... Read More
Always wanted to visit the Scottish Islands and this cruise gave us a great taste of what was available should we want to go back for longer visits. We took one of the organised trips but for the rest of the time opted to do our own thing. As always we were very well looked after by the staff. The staff in the restaurants were attentive and always willing to help. The food was excellent, we used the buffet for breakfast and lunch, when on board and the Ballindalloch Restaurant for fixed dining in the evenings. Staff in the bars were also very good and always on hand. The evening entertainment was most enjoyable and of a high standard and there was always something to do during the days at sea. Interesting talks and recitals. We were more than happy with our room which was very comfortable and larger than we had expected. Overall, an excellent experience which we look forward to repeating hopefully soon!! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2018
Absolutely no disrespect meant to elderly people but this cruioplpse had a lot of partially disabled elderly people on board bless them I admire the fact that they can still get out and about Getting on and off the ship was not easy not ... Read More
Absolutely no disrespect meant to elderly people but this cruioplpse had a lot of partially disabled elderly people on board bless them I admire the fact that they can still get out and about Getting on and off the ship was not easy not enough wheelchairs, a stepped gangway, Dropping anchor in open water and getting on off a tender in ruff water again not easy. Mooring at a pier that could not handle sufficient transport for people to get off with only one gangway. In the unlikely event of an emergency I could see things going wrong. 3/4 hr late getting off ship to go on a shore tour which had to be cut short, disappointing Cabin not as described in all the literature They didn't send suitable transport to either pick the disabled person up from home or drop back home another 3/4 hr wait on pier with no facilities Time ashore was to short Having said that the crew, service,food and entertainment on board were with out doubt excellent. You could pick your own evening meal times Breakfast lunch and supper were available in other restaurants. Entertainment throughout the ship with a full stage and several acts. Many of the bars had singers and television. Internet throughout the ship but it was expensive. Two formal black tie evenings And one meet the Captain night Both very good. You must use the hand sanitizer on entering and leaving most areas of the ship to reduce risk of infection this is not because the ship is dirty it’s very clean and well decorated Cabin was made up every morning and beds turned down every evening I didn’t use the fitness areas Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
Never on a cruise before; staff, entertainment, food, service, hygiene and gym all superb. Cabin was excellent, well appointed and serviced. The staff were very attentive and worked tirelessly. Food options were very good with a high ... Read More
Never on a cruise before; staff, entertainment, food, service, hygiene and gym all superb. Cabin was excellent, well appointed and serviced. The staff were very attentive and worked tirelessly. Food options were very good with a high standard of presentation. It was particularly welcome that you could get a late snack and an afternoon tea beyond the time of lunch (handy if you were out). The gym was well kitted out and the weather was also good enough to go out on the top deck pool. The atmosphere was excellent in all the bars, in particular the observatory. The selection of ports was good and it was welcome that shuttle buses were on hand at Lerwick and kirkwall. Embarkation was very efficient. We got a freedom fare which made it exceptional value for money. Limited selection of beers and ciders would be a minor criticism. Overall, an excellent experience and certainly recommended. Read Less
Balmoral Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.5 3.9
Dining 4.0 4.1
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 4.0 4.1
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.6
Family 2.0 3.6
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.5
Enrichment 5.0 3.4
Service 5.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 3.8

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