4 Fred. Olsen Balmoral Europe - Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Reviews

Balmoral! Where do I begin,!? My husband and I had never done a cruise till this one.We had booked another one due to sail with another company in August,but had to cancel due to Trev my husband having suffered a heart attack.Once we got ... Read More
Balmoral! Where do I begin,!? My husband and I had never done a cruise till this one.We had booked another one due to sail with another company in August,but had to cancel due to Trev my husband having suffered a heart attack.Once we got the all clear for Trev we booked Balmoral,we were not dissapointed. I had always wanted to cruise but nerves always got in the way,now we were to taste the water (so to speak )! When the day arrived I stood at the gangway as Trev said to me look at Balmoral she will be your home for the next 22 days,I was shocked at her size,speechless and motionless for quite a few moments until I caught my breath ,Nervous very,Amazed Totally but once I embarked Balmoral I knew she would keep me safe.She was warm inviting and very very elegant.She gave Trev and I a joyous time sailing and when our cruise was over we were elated with the complete experience. The Crew were second to none our cabin was kept spotless every day,the food was excellent ,the entertainment fantastic ,and the other cruisers who were all more experienced than us were truly nice people.We did have a fellow cruiser who had to airlifted off Balmoral due to the fact this chap was ill,we also lost an engine which to be quite honest didnt make a lot of difference to us as we had everything on Balmoral that you could want,ok we did miss 2 ports of call but at the end of the day it is not the end of the world.We are saving as fast as we can to get booking our second cruise on Balmoral.ROLL ON . Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Walking into the top of the range Premier Suite on Fred Olsen's largest cruiser - The Balmoral - my wife Sue and I were delighted by the sheer opulence of its design, space and amenities. The large bed, dressing table and side tables ... Read More
Walking into the top of the range Premier Suite on Fred Olsen's largest cruiser - The Balmoral - my wife Sue and I were delighted by the sheer opulence of its design, space and amenities. The large bed, dressing table and side tables were in a room tastefully divided from the lounge, where we found a full sized dining table with seating for four people, a comfortable settee and two armchairs. En-route there was a large "walk-in" wardrobe with masses of space, and a bathroom complete with bath tub and shower. Another bonus was the large, very private balcony, with yet another full-sized table with chairs for four, and two comfortable sunloungers. Purchasing a Premier Suite for the 23 day cruise from Dover to Turkey, via Gibraltar, Greece and Rhodes takes some planning and saving, unless you are a lottery winner! With a brochure price of almost £14,000 for two and some rather expensive shore excursions, you have to be prepared to dig into cash reserves. Of course, like any cruise, there is plenty of wheeling and dealing to be done with Travel Agents, and probably everyone onboard had paid a different price, but were keeping quiet about it! If you do splash out on a suite on an Olsen ship there are some bonuses to be had. We got three decanters, filled with complimentary gin, whisky and cognac, which saved us around £70, a weekly discount of £10 on our laundry, complimentary shuttle passes, and use of bathrobes and binoculars. There is also a free pressing service for outfits worn on formal nights. Another nice touch is the daily replenishment of the fruit bowl. This was our tenth visit to Fred Olsen's fleet, but a first experience of the Balmoral. The ship is roomy, without being overpowering, and we found the lounges comfortable, and plenty of places to either join in the fun or spend some quiet time. Shows are staged in the Neptune Lounge, and resident musicians play in rooms throughout the ship. Staff are there to help, but not in your face like some of the American cruisers. Quite frankly Fred Olsen is not the place to be if you want life on the wild side! The Balmoral is more like a country house than a holiday camp - and that's why many people choose the company over and over again. The majority of passengers are return customers eager to share their experiences they have enjoyed on other Olsen ships. We left Dover at the end of October - my birthday - which resulted in a parade of waiters with a cake at dinner! They look at your passport for your birth date, and there is no escape from the very public serenade, which is enjoyed by fellow diners. The ship took three days to reach Gibraltar where there are duty free bargains to be had, and where smokers can still enjoy their nicotine fix in public bars and buildings. The cruise was themed as a voyage to the Ancients, and took in many of the buildings left by the invasion of the Romans.Unfortunately it was Saints Day in our next stop at Cagliari, Sardinia, and an Italian Public Holiday, so for those not on official tours from the ship, only a handful of cafes were open - a disappointment after days at sea! Kalamata was my first visit to Greece, followed by the huge port of Piraeus which serves the capital city of Athens. A freidnly taxi driver charged us 40 Euros to visit the Acropolis, 10 miles from the dock and passsing some of the Olympic stadiums. In Volos, Greece, we took a trip on a little train to a picturesque village - unfortunately the "steam" engine turned out to be diesel, but the scenery during the hour long journey through olive groves, was breath taking. Izmir, Bodrum and Antalaya in Turkey were the next three ports of call, with a chance to visit some spectacular Roman ruins, and for the religious passengers, a house claimed to have been the home of the Virgin Mary! Bodrum was particularly lovely, with quaint streets, welcoming bars and restaurants, and powerful local beer at around £7 a pint! Rhodes was my favourite stop - rows of shops and stalls within the ancient walls, courtyards containing small cafes under olive trees, friendly locals with a warm welcome for all, and brilliant November sunshine. Unfortunately things started going wrong when we set sail from the island towards Malta, where many passengers were looking forward to celebrating Remembrance Day on this George Cross island. A passenger became ill and the ship had to turn back towards Rhodes to meet a helicopter which winched the unfortunate person off the ship. The Captain then announced that one of the engines had broken down and we would be travelling at reduced speed. This meant we would miss Malta and the next port Cadiz, and spend six days limping to Lisbon where a new part would be fitted. Passengers were given £80 each as compensation, but mutiny was only just avoided - people were not happy! Extra time in Lisbon - and for us a meal at our favourite restaurant - and complimentary wine at dinner calmed things down, and Balmoral eventually arrived back in Dover under full steam - albeit, slightly later than expected. Overall I found the cruise good value for money, the ship very comfortable and the staff excellent. Food was exceptionally good, and plenty of it! Drinks prices were lower than on many rival cruisers, although shore excursions were as many seasoned cruisers would expect - rather on the pricey side. Alternatives are available and many people chose to do their own thing. My criticism would be the lack of sheltered places on the open decks and balconies - any type of weather might prove a problem, ranging from getting a soaking in the rain or burnt in the sun. There was also a distinct lack of information when things started going wrong. Tha captain eventually made extra announcements after being confronted by angry and worried passengers. Fred Olsen is stilly my favourite cruise line, but we look forward to getting back to the Braemar in March. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Our first cruise was almost four weeks long and covered ten ports in the Mediterranean. Our cabin was clean, roomy and comfortable with ample storage space in both wardrobes and drawers. The bathroom was spotless and toiletries were all ... Read More
Our first cruise was almost four weeks long and covered ten ports in the Mediterranean. Our cabin was clean, roomy and comfortable with ample storage space in both wardrobes and drawers. The bathroom was spotless and toiletries were all supplied. We didn't actually book any of the ship's tours on shore as this was an Ancient Wonders of the World cruise and being in our sixties we see enough ancient wonders every day when we look at each other. However, we did go ashore and do our own thing in every port, walking for miles and finding plenty of interest locally. These ports included Almeria, Spain; Villefrance, France; Katekolon and Pireaus in Greece; La Goulette and Sfax in Tunisia; Limassol, Cyprus, Cittiavechia, Italy and Lisbon, Portugal. The only place we stayed on deck was in Alexandria, because by the time we had sunbathed for a while and done a bit of reading, coffee drinking and cake eating, earlier passengers were already returning to the ship saying "Don't Do It". They were apparently all being accosted at the port gates not only by sellers of Egyptian "antiquities" (mostly stuffed camels) but the taxi drivers were severely harassing passengers and one elderly lady was lifted off her feet and placed inside a taxi, having to be rescued by other British guests. The ships officers had to call the police to remove the offenders from the port gates. The entertainment on board surpassed our expectations. The Show Company were brilliant, putting on excellent shows which we really enjoyed. We also had a comedian, Don Reid, who is a very funny man with clean humour, and in addition a Magician. We very much enjoyed going up to the Crow's Nest at the end of every day where Jackie, a lovely pianist with a beautiful voice played soft jazz songs and ended our day on a very pleasant note. There was also a jazz band on board who performed in their own shows, but often joined Jackie in the Crow's Nest and played some impromptu numbers accompanying her singing. The whole of the top deck of the Balmoral is devoted to swimming pool, spa pools and sunbeds, so there is plenty of room for everybody to get a suntan and there was an additional pool and large sunbathing area at the back of the ship on Deck 9. The cuisine on board was probably not what I would call 4* and was a little repetitive, for example after the Tropical Night, when we had coconut deserts etc, we then had several days where coconut appeared at every meal in some disguise, even once appearing as pink coconut soup! The meals could definitely be improved, but we certainly didn't go hungry and there was plenty of choice. The buffet restaurant, Palms Cafe, was excellent, serving delicious breakfasts, wonderful lunches and themed evening meals (eg. curries, or chinese). Virtually all the staff on board were Philippino and were wonderful. Cheerful, charming, funny, helpful, hardworking and tireless. There isn't a huge shopping area on the Balmoral, but then we weren't looking for Regent Street. Our Captain was Norwegian and he was a real treat of the day. He often walked around the ship, mixing with the guests, he ate his lunch in the Palms Cafe, he was approachable and entertaining. Each morning at 9.00 am and each evening at 6.00 pm, he would address the passengers over the tannoy and his little speeches were a delight. Everyone went quiet in order to listen to him and he was a very well respected man. We would recommend the Balmoral to anyone looking for a pleasant, relaxing cruise and would certainly cruise with Fred Olsen again when the opportunity arises. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
My wife and I booked this cruise more than a year ago, whilst on a cruise with Olsen's ship the 'Braemar'. We had a good experience with the Olsen 'brand' then, although we found the Braemar, with its flat bottom, ... Read More
My wife and I booked this cruise more than a year ago, whilst on a cruise with Olsen's ship the 'Braemar'. We had a good experience with the Olsen 'brand' then, although we found the Braemar, with its flat bottom, rather unstable in anything more than a Force 4 so thought this larger addition to the fleet would be worth a try. Our cruise was the first of the Mediterranean cruises undertaken by the Balmoral, a fly-cruise out of Rome. Balmoral was only on its 8th voyage, having been extended earlier in the year with an extra section midships, and partially refitted in other areas. We are both 60+ retirees,and veterans of seven or eight cruises with various cruise lines over the last six years, and we mostly prefer mid-size ships rather than the newer leviathans. We travelled from Bristol with a Titan charter flight - a premier charter company who also - on their smartest planes - fly pop stars, the UK Prime Minister and such like! Champagne served whilst waiting in line at the check-in. The plane was most comfortable, more legroom than most charters and exemplary service. Really nice cold meal. We had to collect our luggage from the baggage belt at the airport and identify it, but then porters took it away and loaded it onto lorries for transfer to the ship whilst we took an hour's coach ride to the port. That was fine. Check in was done in a few minutes and we were on board and shown to our cabin, a Junior Suite. We had originally ordered a Balcony cabin, but Olsen gave us a complimentary upgrade some 4 weeks prior to departure (without our asking). We did appreciate this, as the prices advertised for this cruise only weeks before our departure were significantly lower than we had actually paid (even with the early discount we had) and Olsen were clearly discounting trying to fill the ship. So the upgrade made up for the fact that we had paid something more than other passengers! In the event there were about 200 unoccupied berths on the ship. Our cabin was on the Bridge deck, quite spacious, loads of storage room. All soft furnishings had been renewed, the beds were comfortable and the balcony big enough to accommodate the two chairs AND one sun lounger which were provided. There was a new door to the balcony. But the furniture and the bathroom fittings had not been updated, although perfectly clean. Our cabin stewardess was delightful and helpful. We had been told in advance that our cabin was to be a fixed double but it turned out to be a fixed twin, which could not be converted. We were OK with this, and didn't complain, but clearly Olsen head office don't yet seem to have the right info about which cabins are twins and which are doubles (other reviewers have said similar things). We pointed this out to reception, hoping that they will get their database sorted out. Other reviewers have also mentioned the illogical layout of the ship, and we would concur to some extent. One of the interior staircases, in midships, was always difficult to find! There are not enough lifts, certainly. We thought the sun deck was fine, but on the few really hot days we had, there was not enough space on the sun deck. Also practically no shade. It isn't really practical to sunbathe on the top deck at the rear on sea days as soot particles are blown there from the funnel. The two pools and hot tubs are fine, and heated appropriately. The rear sunbathing area is the more 'lively' with music and events during the day, especially on sea days. On the plus side, this ship is impressively stable in rough waters. A couple of times during the cruise we were in a Force 6 and you could hardly feel the ship moving at all. Its added length has added to its stability - and its speed. There are four restaurants. The Palms is buffet style, no booking. We ate breakfast and lunch there most days. The choice at breakfast was good, but lunch offered a slightly restricted choice we felt, especially for cold food, which is what we ate mostly at lunchtime. For example, apart from green and vegetable salads, there was usually only one choice of either cold meat or fish. There seemed a better choice of hot food at the buffet. Evening meals were served in two sittings. The main restaurant (Ballindaloch) is quite comfortable but noisy when full, tables a bit close together. There are two other restaurants on the 10th deck, much more spacious, open and very comfortable. Those with cabins on the 9th and 10th decks are allocated there (mostly) it seems, plus a few other favored passengers! (e.g. returnees, Olsen veterans). We ate in the Avon restaurant which was great, excellent service. The food in the evening is the same in all three main restaurants and I would rate the food as good enough, but not outstanding. Sometimes it looked like it had been kept warm for too long. But generally OK. The bars were all comfortable, good service, and drinks reasonably priced. Also good range of wines on the restaurant wine list, including some excellent New Zealand wines from Napier, really good value. Entertainment was a mixed bag. The main shows, done by the resident Olsen team were OK, but most used pre-recorded backing tracks, and in some instances pre-recorded voice, with miming from the team. This led to a lack of spontaneity and warmth and we felt that the musical standards are slipping. There were a couple of comedians, a jazz pianist (so-so) and great musical double act, instrumentalists and singers, called Melody Lane, these two were the highlight of the programme, we didn't get enough of them. The last night Crew Show was great. There was also a 'port lecturer' who was informative enough, nothing special. Excursions (we took one booked from the ship in each port of call) were mostly OK, reasonable value for money. But on a couple of occasions we found we were wasting time in 'shopping traps'. Sometimes these stops had been notified in the itineraries, so we couldn't complain too much about that. However, on one occasion, on a tour run by a local agent in Turkey, we found ourselves at an unscheduled stop for 30 mins in a leather factory showroom, being subjected to hard sell by aggressive staff in a room with no exit sign! We almost felt we had been kidnapped, until we managed to find our way out into the sunshine. When we pointed out to the tour guide that this stop was not on our itinerary, she said that it was included in the description as 'free time in X for shopping'. That was not our idea of free time. The highlight of the tours was a day long tour of Ephesus, really excellent tour, and a stunning archeological site, which we had not visited before. Disembarkation went smoothly, and another excellent flight home with Titan. In all, we were happy, but felt that there are a few issues that Olsen yet have to put right on this ship. We got the feeling, talking to some people who had been on some earlier cruises on the Balmoral, that the early cruises did indeed leave something to be desired, but Olsen have been getting the ship organized since and it is much better. There had been an auxiliary engine failure on an earlier cruise, but they had installed a massive emergency generator system in a huge container on the forward deck, at the bow, just in case the ship's auxiliary engine went down again, so they are taking these issues seriously!! (They had not had to use it so far). Yes, we would take a cruise on this ship again, assuming the destination and price is right Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
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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