21 Fred. Olsen Balmoral Europe - All Cruise Reviews

rewards for oceans members appalling compared to previously: no fred olsen pens [surely this is a free advert when cruisers leave them around or lend them , miserable selection snacks as only reward for diamond oceans members [one between ... Read More
rewards for oceans members appalling compared to previously: no fred olsen pens [surely this is a free advert when cruisers leave them around or lend them , miserable selection snacks as only reward for diamond oceans members [one between two!!]. guest entertainers very poor. tap dancers may be talented but who want to have to endure two shows of them. comedian OK but other musicians no one wants to see more than once. opportunity for swapping guest entertainers when in same port as black watch was an opportunity that shouldn't have been missed. what else do you want me to waffle about? nothing wrong with the ship. pity to miss morocco and the opportunity to visit funchal on NYE but captain knows best. a few noisy children on board - belonging to crew. crew very helpful dealing with wheelchair . not sure why there were so many 'free' cocktail parties for oceans members when the presents given as rewards for loyalty were so poor Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
We chose this cruise, our first with 'Fred', entirely on price as ridiculously cheap at £45 per night.pp. We have visited all the destinations before which made it quite relaxing. For the price you really can't complain ... Read More
We chose this cruise, our first with 'Fred', entirely on price as ridiculously cheap at £45 per night.pp. We have visited all the destinations before which made it quite relaxing. For the price you really can't complain about anything. The staff are fantastic to a tee. Ever single one we met was polite,courteous, smiley and friendly. The food is superb, as good as any we have been on including Cunard and P and O. Exception being afternoon tea which we felt a little lacking. It irks a bit being asked to pay to change dinner sitting. Most other cruise lines are helpful and try to do this for free. Not a good first impression. We particularly liked the way the buffet restaurant opens out onto the open back decks allowing al fresco dining with great views. Many modern ships lack this with rear decks reserved for cabins. Entertainment in the theatre is absolutely superb, great acts all the way through, very polished and a great live orchestra for every show. The theatre seating though is awful. The mix of sofas and swivel chairs just doesn't work. The levels are all wrong and getting past is difficult. Many drinks spilt from silly table design. Replacing the swivel chairs with another row of sofas would be far better. And why oh why must they serve drinks during performances? It is bad enough with inconsiderate guests and unfortunately some staff members, (good to see the comedian laying into one of the repeat staff offenders!) getting up and moving around or talking during performances, with waiters taking orders too it is so disruptive. Surely people can survive for 45 minutes without ordering a drink and if one is that incontinent surely it is polite to sit at the back? Some polite reminders needed at the start of the show perhaps? Other bars were of mixed quality entertainment. The string quartet were superb, we felt they needed a 'quiet zone' so that they could be fully appreciated.. The ship itself is mixed. Inside areas: Some areas have been revamped and look great such as the observation and lido bars and the library/card room. We didn't use the spa/gym but this looked superb with the best views on the ship. Much of the ship though is dated and has a bit of a motorway service station come care home vibe. There is no 'wow factor', However it is all comfortable with plenty of lounge areas and does the job. Outside decks: We love the 'stacked' rear decks. Plenty of space and often sheltered on sea days. However, excepting the revamped lido lounge, it is all rather tired looking with rust stains around the pool etc. The sunbeds are ancient and well past their sell by date. There are plenty of them though. What really disgusted us was the way too many people lay with sweaty bare skin direct on the fabric with no towels. Yuk! There really need to be pool towels handed out on deck, not just in the cabin and some signage encouraging their use. Our man gripe would be cleanliness. We were pleased that there was enforcement of hand gel use at the entry to restaurants. There were however, too many sticky and smeary surfaces throughout the ship. It didn't gleam like other cruise lines we have been with. Chairs in the lounges with sticky wooden arms. When you pick up a chair in the restaurant your hand would stick to the back. Tables not wiped down when resetting in the buffet etc. This really needs attention. Getting on and off the ship was flawless and we liked the way that independent travel is not discouraged as with some other lines. Bus pick up points etc are advertised. All in all though fantastic value and a very frienldly down to earth ship. With the October refit hopefully addressing some of the issues and some attention to cleaning standards we would certainly use Fred Olsen again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
Not many people post about Fred Olsen, maybe because so many passengers are returning guests, on this cruise over half those on board had silver Oceans club membership or above, so Fred must be doing something right. We were on our fifth ... Read More
Not many people post about Fred Olsen, maybe because so many passengers are returning guests, on this cruise over half those on board had silver Oceans club membership or above, so Fred must be doing something right. We were on our fifth cruise and third with Olsen, also our second on the Balmoral The itinerary to the Canaries was similar to our previous time but we did not mind because we like most of the ports and the purpose was to celebrate a big birthday somewhere warm and at sea. It turned out to be a special experience. On the birthday morning the ship docked in Lisbon which we think one of the most beautiful arrival settings in the world and the sun was shining to give us a great day out with lunch on a restaurant terrace. Back on the ship in the evening there was the traditional Fred Olsen birthday cake and greetings at dinner. I had been advised when booking to have my birthday treat package on a sea day, so the champagne breakfast came the next morning complete with smoked salmon, fresh fruit and all the trimmings. Also included is a photo session with the ship’s photographers which resulted in some lovely photo memories to bring home and we have them on CD so can print all that we want. I would recommend a Fred cruise to anyone with a special anniversary or birthday to celebrate. Back to the practicalities: embarkation was the easiest we have ever had, parked in sight of the ship and were on board by 1.30 with all the luggage. The only down side at the beginning was that we were assigned the 8.30 dinner which we tried once but it really does not work for us. So top marks to the maitre d’ and his assistant for giving in to my pestering and reassigning us not just to the 6.15 sitting but also to the (as I think nicer) restaurants on deck 10. I have to say I think the quality of food is not as high as it used to be, on our first cruise back in 2012 on the Black Watch we were really impressed but not this time. There were 3 new port calls for us (but in the event only two as one was dropped at the last minute): the Unesco biosphere island of La Palma where we went on the excursion to the magnificent volcanic crater. A spectacular visit, just marred by the guide having to hurry us all the time, as the ship only had half a day in La Palma. On the way back the call was A Coruna in northern Spain, a stylish Spanish city in a beautiful setting. The other port calls we had been to before (Tenerife, Las Palmas, Madeira, Puerto Rosario on Fuerteventura), so for those who like to make their own port arrangements, here were our ideas this time: Madeira: walked along a levada; Tenerife: shopped in El Corte Ingles; Las Palmas: hired bikes to cycle along the prom; Fuerteventura: wandered into town for a coffee (again only half a day but you wouldn’t want any more). As before with onboard entertainment, we rate the ship show company and orchestra really highly. We often find the regular bands better than the featured artistes, but this time were impressed by trumpet player Leo Shavers, and also by some good classical concerts. I’m not sure if Fred Olsen has given up on sail away parties, but there weren’t any, and we missed the fun of those occasions. Finally disembarkation, the speediest ever, we were back in the car and on our way out of southampton by 8.45. In summary, the cruise more than met our hopes and expectations. Ps there was a problem with norovirus cases but generally special arrangements were dealt with graciously and effectively by the crew. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
We wanted to get away for some summer sun in January but didn't want the hassle of flying so a cruise from Southampton to Madeira and the Canary Islands sounded perfect, and it was. We couldn't believe how smooth embarkation ... Read More
We wanted to get away for some summer sun in January but didn't want the hassle of flying so a cruise from Southampton to Madeira and the Canary Islands sounded perfect, and it was. We couldn't believe how smooth embarkation was. On arrival at Southampton a member of staff was ready to whisk our bags away before we had even parked and within minutes of arrival we were sat in the Observation Lounge with a G&T. The crew were friendly, helpful and very efficient. The ports we visited were all interesting and the days at sea gave us a chance to relax. We were very lucky with the weather as the Bay of Biscay was calm. There was an outbreak of Norovirus (only to be expected) and full marks to the crew for stepping up to all the additional duties with a smile. Bottom of the class were the passengers we saw taking plates of sandwiches from the cafe back to their room, eating them on their way and then touching the handrails - hardly hygienic; the partner of a quarantined passenger who was determined to go on his booked tour excursion even though the captain had said he was not allowed ashore and the passengers who refused to use the hand gel. Only downside was the decision to ban jogging outside. The gym was hot and running machines are not good for knees. There are many responsible joggers who like to run in the fresh air and are always considerate to fellow guests. Come on Fred you could have some 'jogging time' on deck when other passengers could be warned to keep an eye out for runners. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
This was our first Fred Olsen cruise having previously sailed with Royal Caribbean and P&O. Not long after booking we got a call offering us a tour of the ship, I asked the lady to call back the next day as I needed to discuss with the ... Read More
This was our first Fred Olsen cruise having previously sailed with Royal Caribbean and P&O. Not long after booking we got a call offering us a tour of the ship, I asked the lady to call back the next day as I needed to discuss with the wife. No call back. Later we had a recorded message telling us that our dining room had been changed with no reason/explanation given. When we went to check in they couldn’t find our reservation eventually we were told that our cabin had been changed. I said that our luggage labels had the original allocated cabin and was told that this would be known and sorted. It wasn’t our cases were put outside the original cabin. We were not advised of our dining table number and had to wait on the first evening whilst this was found out for us. We had a nice large cabin but the ship was smaller than we are used to so we always knew we were at sea. The shower/bath towels were small and thin in fact the towels in the cabin for use when sunbathing were of better quality. The entertainment during the day was mixed, the entertainment staff were rather young and immature considering the age of the passengers. The evening entertainment was poor with only one show in fact the best show was the one put on by the crew rather than the on board “professional team”. The British Night was very good. On the plus side the food (particularly the evening menu) was excellent and the staff were very friendly and courteous speaking to us by name straight away. Having a buffet breakfast was disappointing having been used to a waiter service from P&O. Fred Olsen seem to have a very loyal customer base with most of the passengers we spoke with regular FO travellers. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
This was the first time on this ship having sailed previously many time on Breamar and Black Watch. My wife has limited mobility and we did not find the ship user friendly.b The steps onto the external deck are steep and the ramp ... Read More
This was the first time on this ship having sailed previously many time on Breamar and Black Watch. My wife has limited mobility and we did not find the ship user friendly.b The steps onto the external deck are steep and the ramp placed over part of them is too steep. The disabled toilet being placed with the door on one side of a ‘porch’ like access does NOT have an electric door opener and hand button to actuate. Result is that access is not easy. Debarking is complicated by the fact that the waiting lounges are on deck 7 whilst gangway access is on deck 6 resulting for disabled people having to use only two local lifts resulting in congestion and delays. Overall the ship is good certainly brought up to a high level by the crew who are, as with other Fred ships, excelptional. Every member contacted was polite and very helpful indeed. The food was the usual Fred high standard but could have been presented on hotter plates. Overall and enjoyable holiday. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
we have travelled on the fred olsen ship Balmoral over 10 times and we joined her again in October 2018 in Southampton for our yearly cruise to the Canaries. As soon as you step on the Balmoral 's carpet you feel as if someone has ... Read More
we have travelled on the fred olsen ship Balmoral over 10 times and we joined her again in October 2018 in Southampton for our yearly cruise to the Canaries. As soon as you step on the Balmoral 's carpet you feel as if someone has put their arm around you and says come on in we will give you a really good time. The weather on this cruise was not good but the crew always did their best to entertain us. The crew are so friendly and the entertainment is of a very high standard, particularly the show company . The daily activities are fun and varied and Alex and Duncan were great and organised the games and quizzes really well. The food is excellent and the service extremely efficient . Our waiters were so kind and attentive and accommodated any request which deviated from the menu. Our fellow diners were charming which is important as you are allocated set tables for the evening meal. You are of course at liberty to visit the self service palms cafe if you wish to dine more informally. The embarkation ran very smoothly and we can't wait to see her again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
We have travelled with Fred. Olsen several times before but never on this, their flagship. Chosen for the itinerary and because it was a special event with all 4 Fred.Olsen ships meeting in Cadiz, a good place to visit. That was a very ... Read More
We have travelled with Fred. Olsen several times before but never on this, their flagship. Chosen for the itinerary and because it was a special event with all 4 Fred.Olsen ships meeting in Cadiz, a good place to visit. That was a very good day if a bit overcrowded. Very nice ship which probably was not seen at the best time, as it was full and so you could not get into the various events and there was always a struggle to find a sunbed or even seat inside. The average service may also have been due to the fact that the ship was full and waiters particularly were very stretched. On late sitting we were often eating until 10.30pm -too late for most people. However even when it was quiet, the bar waiters were very slack and we often went to the bar ourselves after waiting 5-10 minutes to be served. However my main complaint was that as a gluten free passenger my food choices and places to eat were limited, and this appeared to be acceptable to the senior management to whom I complained. I was even told that it was just a fad introduced by the Americans. Would therefore not recommend it if you are gluten free, unless you want to lose weight! Read Less
Sail Date September 2018
Definitely a decline in quality of food this trip, I noticed a distinct economising in food and bar staff, but most disturbing was the immobility of passengers. Should there unhappily have been an evacuation, the the number of wheelchairs, ... Read More
Definitely a decline in quality of food this trip, I noticed a distinct economising in food and bar staff, but most disturbing was the immobility of passengers. Should there unhappily have been an evacuation, the the number of wheelchairs, 3 pronged walkers and very immobile passengers would have been a disaster waiting to happen. The narrower passageways would have been blocked up very badly and caused much panic. A great many were unable to use any stairs and two wheelchairs plus handlers were all the lifts could take at one time. Enjoyed previous FO cruises, but had never come across so many immobile passengers. Will certainly be revising any future cruises and definitely not recommending FO any more.I agree guests with mobility problems need a break, but perhaps a review of whether so much disability is a danger to themselves and other passengers should be undertaken. A ship is not the easiest hotel to leave at the best of times, and should they even make the lifeboat, with handlers and crew milling around to help each individual, there could be serious consequences for the more able bodied.The cruise apart from that was a good break, visiting interesting ports with plenty to see at each one. The staff as usual were polite and friendly and happy to help in any way at all times. Cabin was excellent with loads of storage room.Boarding and disembarkation was very efficient. Information, by phone and website, before cruise was also excellent. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
Been on Balmoral numerous times and always enjoyed it, This time was no different. The itinerary was great. Sweden is a beautiful country and the ports of call were good, especially Visby and Stockholm. The ships crew are wonderful, ... Read More
Been on Balmoral numerous times and always enjoyed it, This time was no different. The itinerary was great. Sweden is a beautiful country and the ports of call were good, especially Visby and Stockholm. The ships crew are wonderful, very friendly and helpful. They really go that extra mile to make sure everthing is OK for you The entertainment was mixed. The visiting acts were run of the mill, the shows put on by the dancers were good,but I miss the theme nights.Our cabin was very comfortable and the beds and pillows made for a good nights sleep. The food was varied, always hot and tasty and because of dietary requirements the chef went out of his way to provide me with food I could eat. I enjoy dancing and there is always some dancing before and during the evening entertainment. Dance hosts are there as partners for solo travellers.The fully equipped gym is very good and classes are held for various activities although most incur an extra charge. Quizzes go on throughout the day and Howard in the light morning lounge provides very enjoyable easy listening. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
It's always nice to do something in the rather dismal month of January. We secured an excellent deal (just £199 each) on this 3-night short-cruise to Rouen and Honfleur and were not disappointed. We had previusly spent a week on ... Read More
It's always nice to do something in the rather dismal month of January. We secured an excellent deal (just £199 each) on this 3-night short-cruise to Rouen and Honfleur and were not disappointed. We had previusly spent a week on Balmoral in 2016, but after her recent refit she was noticeably fresher in her decor. We normally go 'inside' and were pleased with our cabin (5150) with its very comfortable beds and (well done Fred Olsen!) extremely well-lit bathroom. It was also nice to see that Fred still offers Twinings teabags! We prefer second-sitting dinner and elected to pay the £2 per head per night to switch from our assigned first-sitting in the excellent Bendarroch. The food was very good throughout - as had been expected. Lunch in the smaller Spey and Avon on Deck 10 is our preference and is recommended. We enjoyed two excellent shows staged by the hard-working resident company of ten. If both are still running for a while to come, make sure that you go and see the nautically-themed 'Bon Voyage' and the raunchier 'Ministry Of Rock' (I might have got the show names slightly wrong). Whilst many fellow-passengers chose to stay on board - it was extremely wet unfortunately - we walked to and from Rouen on the Sunday afternoon and it was good to see the famous clock and the magnificent cathedral with its lovely tinkly carillons in the afternoon. The weather was better on Monday in Honfleur, which is always a delight ot visit. We will be looking out for more short cruises like this and can heartily recommend Balmoral for a pleasurable 'sensible-sized ship' experience. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
For a winter break but never again. Four days in I contracted noro virus. Medical centre nurse attended and told me not to consume alcohol. No time scale given. However after being released from 21 hours isolation following last symptom ... Read More
For a winter break but never again. Four days in I contracted noro virus. Medical centre nurse attended and told me not to consume alcohol. No time scale given. However after being released from 21 hours isolation following last symptom I had not recovered enough to even think about consuming alcohol. A male passenger soiled himself on deck 7 in a public area and staff rushed to clear up mess without wearing gloves. One of our dinner companions stopped them and advised them to don gloves. Two female passengers projectile vomited in public areas. Fred Olson kept these details quiet. We had £320 left in credit at end of cruise due to being unwell. One would think we would have been offered a refund. Unfortunately this was not the case. After considerable correspondence they eventually sent a cheque for £120 which I found quite insulting. On top of that the restrictions on the AIDP are ridiculous. One cannot order a bottle of wine at anytime. Choice is limited to two house wines of rose, white and red and other drinks are sadly limited. Cocktails are allowed a 50% discount. Why are they not included in the drinks package? Waiters were also topping up half empty wine glasses resulting in passengers being charged for 2.instead of 1 and a half which had been consumed. So beware. Have sailed up the Amazon, through Panama Canal and experienced a typhoon in the South China Seas but after experience on board Balmoral will not cruise again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
On the first night a burst pipe on the tenth floor flooded our cabin on the ninth floor and the hallway carpets were soaked. Noisy machines to dry out carpets. Took 5 days. At breakfast we were served cold tea and breakfast. Dirty ... Read More
On the first night a burst pipe on the tenth floor flooded our cabin on the ninth floor and the hallway carpets were soaked. Noisy machines to dry out carpets. Took 5 days. At breakfast we were served cold tea and breakfast. Dirty breakfast plates. Complained to manager. Not enough seats for entertainment in the Neptune Lounge. Probably due to wet carpets husbands pneumonia kicked in. 2 hour wait for doctor £61 for 8 tablets.Need two doctors!!! The swimming pools and jacuzzis not ready after a small refit. Were being worked on 24 hours a day.( Retiled etc) Some were ready five days after cruise started. Lift doors dangerous as closed too quickly.At least 2 people injured .Left Lisbon early to miss storm. Too many days at sea.Fireworks in Funchal were lovely though.Epidemic of coughing called apparently Balmoral cough as it happens a lot. A lot of time spent in bed due to illness probably caused by damp carpets. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
to be away christmas and new year was the main reason to watch the fireworks in maderia was a memory i and my wife will remember for ever the great problems we had on the ship and on embarkation was in my opinion could and should have ... Read More
to be away christmas and new year was the main reason to watch the fireworks in maderia was a memory i and my wife will remember for ever the great problems we had on the ship and on embarkation was in my opinion could and should have been avoided 2 hours stuck in a taxi prior to embarkation is not acceptable get it right fred olsen the pool area was not completed prior to sailing we were only informed by the captain that this area would be out of bounds for the first three days it was in fact four days we were offered £75 per person i refused the offer after paying £16000 for this holiday i exspected to have all the ships facilities££ for my use and not be insulted by offering me£150 for two people the food in the main restaurant first four nights was superb but went down hill after that we had to send food back why the change i do not know the ship and crew and fellow passengers were the most friendly on any ship i have ever been on i do not exspect fred olsen to react to my review then again i might be wrong cheers brian lee Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
Chose cruise as had been on the two previous Christmas cruise. This year 2017 lacked any atmosphere. Everything had been cut back, no sailaways. No chefs parade. Felt cheated. Very poor. Awful. Seats in the Observatory lounge. Whoever ... Read More
Chose cruise as had been on the two previous Christmas cruise. This year 2017 lacked any atmosphere. Everything had been cut back, no sailaways. No chefs parade. Felt cheated. Very poor. Awful. Seats in the Observatory lounge. Whoever chose them obviously has not tried sitting in them to read. They are hard and uncomfortable. Look nice but that is all. Then the flu bug hit us it was like being in a sanitarium. Hygiene very poor from staff and passengers. Will not do this cruise again. Cabin beds uncomfotable and whole cabin needs refurbishing. Embarkation was terrible never known it so bad before. Food excellent but began to go downhill on the last week. Captain Victor Stoica was excellent and made the right choice to leave Lisbon a day early to avoid rough storms. Felt safe knowing he was at the helm. Shame didn’t feel we had had Christmae at all Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
My husband and I are in our late 50's and early 60's and had reservations about going on a Cruise that we had been informed consisted mainly of older clientele, however we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and have booked again for ... Read More
My husband and I are in our late 50's and early 60's and had reservations about going on a Cruise that we had been informed consisted mainly of older clientele, however we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and have booked again for 2018. Embarkation and luggage handling was speedy and faultless and our luggage arrived at our Cabin only minutes after we embarked. The Cabin was as described, spacious, spotless and with air conditioning and Tea and coffee facilities provided. We were pre booked onto the early Dining sitting at 6pm but could chose to go to the open Buffet restaurant if we preferred. The food was always plentiful, excellent choice and served hot, nothing was too much trouble. The evening entertainment was outstanding. We have been to many London West End Shows but the quality of the Singing and dancing whilst on board the Balmoral far surpassed some of the West End Shows we have seen. The variety of the Shows was excellent and we managed to see 3 full shows whilst on board for the 8 nights. The Shows were performed twice nightly and we enjoyed the shows so much that we watched both performances. The Show Team consisted of 10 performers, 3 main female dancers, 3 main male dancers, 2 female singers and 2 male singers. Their performances and professionalism at all times were faultless and they were all outstanding and worked so hard and well together as a team, they were a pleasure to watch. I don't think people realise how much time and energy is spent rehearsing in order produce such amazing quality shows.My only criticism would be that the 2nd Show was very late in the evening which I think restricted people coming to watch, however this did not put us off watching both shows. We thought that the entertainment during the sea days could have been a little more varied and was geared towards the older generation with Bingo and "Dolphin "racing, however the Quiz sessions were very good, but further variety would have been more interesting. The Service by everyone on board was excellent. We did not book any Tours but due to the close proximity of the places we visited, it was easy to make our own itinerary. In summary we thoroughly enjoyed our Cruise and if we had to chose one outstanding thing it would have been the excellent quality of the dancing and singing from the Balmoral team, with such amazing choreography and costume design. Finally disembarkation was also very quick and well organised. We have booked again in 2018 for another Cruise on board the Balmoral. Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
We did this cruise for our honeymoon - it was our first cruise and our first time in Europe, so we thought the interesting itinerary would be a good taster. We also got it for a last-minute great price. Embarkation: Southampton ... Read More
We did this cruise for our honeymoon - it was our first cruise and our first time in Europe, so we thought the interesting itinerary would be a good taster. We also got it for a last-minute great price. Embarkation: Southampton embarkation was brilliant: luggage arrived before we even got on the ship. Our cabin, as written below, was excellent, and as it was on the main deck was close to all the facilities. The ship: The ship itself is small and fairly old: some parts were a little dated but overall the condition of the ship was excellent. We liked how small the ship was as it meant that there was always plenty of room in the common areas and bars, and you never felt crowded. You could also mostly get from one end of the ship to other in about ten minutes, so none of the venues were very far away. The on-board staff were always so personable and friendly: always smiling and greeting you by name. Something to note is that the ship probably caters mainly to older clients - we were probably some of the youngest there (at ages 26 and 25). It meant the on-board activities didn't really relate to us very well, and especially the one day at sea got very boring (wifi was extortionate and I refused to pay the price!). We ended up hanging out in the Lido Lounge drinking, which was okay especially as it was never very crowded and had excellent service from the bar staff. Food and drinks: We had the 8:30pm dinner sitting in the Ballindalloch restaurant, which suited us as it meant we didn't have to rush back from the ports. The few days we did arrive back earlier we could however go to the Palms Café which had unlimited buffet-style service from 6:30pm (and breakfast, lunch, and supper club). The food overall was excellent: in the restaurant we were treated to varied five-course meals which were always interesting and presented nicely. In the Café you could choose basically whatever was on offer, which was always tasty and high quality - and unlimited too! Something to note about the restaurant: we thought we'd be fine going to the two Formal Nights with just a shirt and black trousers - not so! Dinner jackets are mandatory. So we ate in the Café on those two nights. Something to keep in mind for newbies to cruises... Room service was mostly free which was a great surprise - sandwiches, cakes, some drinks all complimentary. One thing we didn't quite understand was that large bottles of water (presented in the cabin each morning after the turn-down service, or via room service) cost £1.50 a day. Bit odd considering that fruit drinks and such could just be ordered for free. We also opted for the All Inclusive Drinks package at £240 total cost. We didn't feel this was really that worth it, as the All Inclusive Drinks menu was fairly limited. You do get half price on most other menu items though. In the end we tried to drink as much of the free cheap alcohol as possible in order to break even! Ports and shore excursions: Be aware that Rouen was quite far away from the port - a fifteen minute coach trip in traffic or an hour's walk. We were told there would be taxis so we opted for that and didn't bother buying the coach tickets; but when we got ashore there were no taxis, and we ended up waiting over an hour and a half in the cold for one! Eventually we just bought a £5 couch ticket from the ship... Rouen was lovely though overall. Amsterdam and especially Antwerp were much closer to the port, which was brilliant. We did shore excursions in both these cities: Edam and a cheese factory in Amsterdam, and Ghent and a chocolatiers in Antwerp. Both times the tour guides were funny and knowledgeable, but we felt the Edam tour was very rushed; only allowing about 45 minutes in the town (not including ten minutes walking back to the coach park each way) which didn't really give us any time to relax or explore the place. We ended up having to leave Antwerp about six hours early due to approaching storms, which was a massive shame as it meant we only got to see it in the evening (due to the excursion) and couldn't see it at all the next day as originally advertised. I know you can't help the weather, but... Overall though the experience was very positive. I'd definitely recommend The Balmoral for the fact its a cosier ship, and Fred Olsen staff were so friendly and caring throughout. Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
We chose this cruise for two main reasons. The Newcastle port of departure and the itinerary. Fred Olsen documentation appears to indicate that port facilities at Newcastle are not as good as other ports. However, we found the arrangements ... Read More
We chose this cruise for two main reasons. The Newcastle port of departure and the itinerary. Fred Olsen documentation appears to indicate that port facilities at Newcastle are not as good as other ports. However, we found the arrangements to be pleasant and relaxed with a smooth embarkation, giving no cause for concern. Disembarkation was a little slow but our luggage was available for collection in the car park, which was helpful The cruise itinerary was very interesting taking us to areas that we had not visited before, and including some river sailing, down to Hamburg and also right down to Bremen. The shore excursions are a little expensive, but did include some good choices. There were also opportunities for some free time whilst the ship was in port. All ports were directly accessible by the ship, but the first visit at Kiel was especially impressive with airport style walkways direct to the ship. We have travelled on this ship before and generally enjoyed our experience. We are not a fan of very large cruise ships. We did feel on this cruise that the standard of restaurant service, whilst very good, had reduced very slightly. The "all-inclusive" drinks option was limited to "singles" this time, where previously "doubles" had been permitted. However, this did not cause us any difficulty. The cabin was the same category as our previous cruise, and again we were very satisfied. The cleaning was also good and reliable. There is an annoying feature in the Marquee Bar on the highest deck. The doors are automatic and cause an uncomfortable gale when the entrance onto the open deck and entrance from the inside of the ship are both open. As this tends to be used as a through route, this occurs frequently. Our overall experiences to date have encouraged us to book another short cruise from Newcastle on this ship for 2018. Read Less
Sail Date August 2017
We chose this cruise as it was sailing from Newcastle. This avoided the journey from Yorkshire to a South Coast port before and return after the cruise. The ports of call and the small number of days at sea also contributed to the ... Read More
We chose this cruise as it was sailing from Newcastle. This avoided the journey from Yorkshire to a South Coast port before and return after the cruise. The ports of call and the small number of days at sea also contributed to the decision. We have not travelled on this ship before and enjoyed our experience. The embarkation was excellent, although disembarkation was slightly slow. . The range of dining arrangements and entertainment was generally very good, with two sittings for dinner. We did get the impression that the later sitting was becoming less popular. We have travelled with Fred Olsen before and felt that the food and service standards on this cruise were generally not quite as good as on previous occasions. There were of course some individual exceptions to this. The selection of shore excursions were good and we took advantage of these at each port. Disembarkation arrangements for these were well organised. The "future cruise" booking desk was understaffed during the cruise causing frustrating delays and queues to see the member of staff involved. A large number of passengers were elderly and we were surprised over the selfish behaviour of a small number. The number of activities available each day catered well for most tastes, without any pressure to participate if you did not wish to. It did seem strange that the cruise actually visited ports on the west coast but passed Gothenberg to travel round the Southern tip of Sweden to Stockholm, before returning to visit Gothenberg halfway up the west coast prior to returning to the UK. Nevertheless we did enjoy the cruise overall. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
Once upon a time I was working at a shipping agency in a South American port, when a brand-new ship come into port. It was the Crown Odyssey, which belonged to the Royal Cruise Line and we were appointed agents for four calls during ... Read More
Once upon a time I was working at a shipping agency in a South American port, when a brand-new ship come into port. It was the Crown Odyssey, which belonged to the Royal Cruise Line and we were appointed agents for four calls during February and March 1989. The ship impressed even the experienced pilots by its easy manoeuvrability. Visitors and passengers were also impressed by the then ultra-modern décor, which was a bit dark and made extensive use of mirrors and brass surfaces. I recall that the authorities were received on what was called Theo’s Bar (Theo been a well-known barman for that line) and the entrance to it had a curved space, full of mirrors and in the middle a peacock on a golden cage. The whole peacock was covered by fibre optics which made it change its colours every minute or so. Nothing new nowadays but then it was a wow factor. Fast forward 28 years and I find myself, from the Western Heights in Dover, looking at the now Balmoral. The ship has been stretched and the colours have changed as well as a spa added to what was an open deck before (and spoilt her lovely lines besides making her top heavy… Thanks NCL…). And soon I was on my way to board the ship for a cruise to Northern Spain, calling at four ports which would be new to me. Unfortunately, Dover was not giving its best impression. I arrived the day before, stayed in a lovely guesthouse, but the town looked sad, with the High-Street empty on a Saturday and many shop spaces closed for good and for some time. Quite different from the town I used to visit 15 years ago. The cruise terminal is, in a way, walkable from the main train station (Dover Priory – about 30 minutes away), but Dover has a shuttle bus which operates on days when cruise ships are in town with transit passengers, and, at 2 GBP, it made sense to take on their offer. It departs from near the Museum (which is worth visiting) and drops passengers on Terminal 2, which is close to Terminal 1. So, after checking in my luggage, went in and sat in the lounge which was not crowded. The cruise terminal is a modern building and they do offer some catering. I was soon called to check in and not long after to embark. It was a bit of an emotional moment to approach the main hall on deck 6 once again. The Balmoral was to be one of two ships built at Meyer in Papenburg (then at the beginning of their stellar success in building passenger ships) but the sister was cancelled. At that time, it was on a fleet with the Golden Odyssey which was a charming yacht-like ship. Nowadays Balmoral is in a fleet with another three ships, in which it is the ‘youngest’ and the largest. It is a nicely built and comfortable ship carrying not too many passengers, and taking to the seas well. The ship has 8 passenger decks, with classical names like Lido, Bridge, Lounge, etc. My cabin, on deck 3, described as an Ocean View, had two single beds on a L configuration, and it was mostly original (new carpets and curtains). There was a glass table and chair and the wardrobe (mirrored doors) was large enough and there were a lot of storage space and options. The beds, however, are practically fixed on their settings and there was not enough space for my larger suitcase under them but not a major problem. Bathroom was large and original with the shower behind a glass and plastic curtain mix. The stewardess was attentive, efficient and friendly but rarely to be seen, which was not a problem. On the same deck, there was also the medical center (large) and an Arts & Crafts Room (which was used mostly for games but had almost a daily programme for it). Decks 3, 4,5, 6, 8,9 and 10 are almost exclusively dedicated to cabins. On deck 6 there is an Main Lobby/Atrium, where there are also the reception, excursions desk, photo shop and a small shop selling toiletries, and also branded items. It also has access to the MDR Ballindalloch (aft), which operates two sittings for dinner and open sitting for breakfast and lunch. This restaurant, apart from chairs and carpet, is mostly original with mirrors on walls and stained glass on ceiling. Deck 7 has a lovely wraparound promenade deck with real wood flooring. It can get a bit narrow at certain points but it was a pleasant (and popular) spot for sun bathing or watch the manoeuvres, etc. This is also the Lounge Deck, with the Neptune Lounge forward (the show lounge, which also incorporates what was Theo’s Bar), the boutiques and the future cruises desk (surrounding the staircase that leads to the reception lobby, mostly original with lots of brass and glass), the card room (a popular place where bridge classes took place), a kind of gallery with some comfortable sitting which, at times, reminded me of a similar space on QE2, the Bookmark Café (another popular venue, which included the nice library where summary of the news were copied and distributed at midday), the Morning Light Pub (a nice venue but more like a lounge than a pub) and the Palms Café which is the buffet venue, operating where the Yacht Club was in the times of Crown Odyssey (the pictures of the yachts are still there). The Café had a kind of veranda lido at the back, in which the glass doors were fully opened on warm days and leading to the swimming pool and Jacuzzis aft, with plenty of open deck space around it. One deck above is where the Lido Lounge is, a venue for quizzes, music and dancing which looked a bit dark but worked well in the evenings. It occupies what used to be three venues when the ship was new: the card room, a cinema and a small lounge also called Lido. A conservatory style area, at the back of the Lido Lounge was a very popular area on sunny days, with comfortable seating and a bar nearby. On deck 10 one can find the Spa and gym forward, with some nice views but unfortunately no sauna, and two other restaurants, Speyer and Avon, with modern décor, good space, and nice looking seats (although some were a bit stained, which is a normal part of wear and tear). These restaurants occupy what was before an open deck space for the then only set of balcony cabins which were also the top suites. Nowadays the ship has a variety of balcony cabins to offer, although most of the external cabins are window only. Deck 11 houses the Observatory Lounge (a popular venue day and night, which used to be like a night club on the times of Royal Cruise Line and still retain some original features), with excellent views, forward. Aft there is a charming bar called Marquee Bar which feels just like swimming pool bars used to feel once upon a time. Here one finds another swimming pool as well and another set of Jacuzzis as well as lots of open deck space. Aft there is space for deck games. The other passengers were 95% British with some small numbers of other nationalities with very few children. The passenger profile was almost entirely elderly, experienced cruisers which enjoy some of the old-fashioned traditions that Fred Olsen still offers. They also come for the service, which is attentive, not pushy, friendly and adaptable to some pax restrictions. The food was good, some British traditional dishes as well as the occasional modern creation. It all worked well and the Gala menus were not too extensive but well done. There was an extra tariff offer (The Grill, occupying a space on the aft part of the Palms Café) but have not spoken to anyone who tried it. I had an excellent table for dinner, all solo cruisers, but varied a bit the venue for breakfast and lunch. Entertainment was good, given the limitations of the lounge which is more than 20 years old, and Fred Olsen is good in bringing varieties (lectures, comedians, musicians, dance troupe) and has an excellent orchestra. There were also daily quizzes, trivia, bridge classes, deck games, etc. The cruise itinerary was: Dover – La Coruna – Gijon – Santader – Bilbao and back to Dover From La Coruna, I took a ship excursion to visit the famous Santiago de Compostela and its cathedral, etc. A journey worth doing. Unfortunately, by the time we came back to the ship there was no time to visit La Coruna, which is a pity as it looked like a nice town. Gijon is an important port in Asturias, with a small, but interesting historical city centre, the rest of a fortress up in the hill (with great views of town and sea) as well as a nice city centre beach. It has also the remains of a Roman Bath underneath the historical centre which is one of its main attractions. Santander is the main port for Cantabria and a dynamic city, which suffered a horrendous fire in 1941 which destroyed a good deal of its historical centre. Nevertheless, it still has an impressive cathedral (with a lower church as well), some modern and nice museums (the maritime museum is definitely worth a visit and has a nice terrace overlooking the sea), as well as the Magdalena Peninsula where a palace was built for the King and Queen of Spain in 1908 (at that time Queen Victoria Eugenia, a British born princess of the Battenberg line). It is a large construction now occupied by the local university (the royal family gave the property back to the city in 1977). Near the palace one can see some amazing mansions, mostly around a century old. Getxo, a lovely and upmarket suburb of Bilbao was our last port of call in Spain. From there it is easy to reach Bilbao on the underground line and the journey is worth it. Bilbao is another dynamic city, with a lovely historical center (which suffered a disastrous flood in 1983), some imposing buildings, as well as the famous Guggenheim Museum (great building but the collection failed to impress me). It Is mostly walkable but there is a good service of trams and buses. I had pintxos (the local version of tapas) at the restored market, by the river, which is also an impressive building. The weather was sunny for most of the cruise and the ship sailed smoothly for almost all the cruise (a bit more rolling when crossing the Bay of Biscay on the way to Coruna but that was mild compared to other Biscay crossings) Service was excellent in the cabin, which was kept spotless, restaurants, a bit slow on the bars but still ok, and the usual hit and miss at the buffet and open deck areas but almost not noticeable. Staff was mostly friendly and came from a variety of countries, majority from the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. Disembarkation was ok, on time and smooth apart from the fact that the taxi queue took a bit too long as some pax had pre-ordered taxis (and there are not that many in Dover). One could walk to the station but it was windy, relatively cold and with some drops of rain. The way to Heathrow was by train to central London and the underground. Odd to think that there is no direct link between Dover, the main channel port and Heathrow, one of the largest airports in the world but then again it was never my favourite London airport and with good reason. It has a chapel near Terminal 2, which has some touching plaques recalling past employees but also the crew of the Pan Am flight which was brought down over Lockerbie. Some nice restaurants airside on this terminal too. Fred Olsen, at times, charges well more than the mass tourism cruise companies but it also delivers more. The ships are of a good size, so the restaurant is hardly a long walk from a cabin, the entertainment is good and suitable for its passenger profile. Food is superior than the one found on the mass tourism ones and service is generally better. It makes it easier for its pax by naming the lounges with the same name on different ships (Neptune, Lido, Morning Light) and keeping the décor on similar lines. Comfortable seats everywhere and some items from the family art collection (mostly modern) gives it almost a homely feeling and I would say it works given the high number of repeat passengers. All in all a company which is going against the trend of the industry (bigger newer ships which one day risk over capacity) and succeeding by serving the market it has chosen well. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
We were unable to specify a cabin as Olsens allocated this under their terms of the booking, The cabin allocated on deck four was to the rear of the ship and was noisy from the off in Southampton. The noise and vibration increased as the ... Read More
We were unable to specify a cabin as Olsens allocated this under their terms of the booking, The cabin allocated on deck four was to the rear of the ship and was noisy from the off in Southampton. The noise and vibration increased as the speed of the engine did and as the ship sailed all night this was a disaster in terms of trying to sleep. The noise went away of course when the ship stopped in port, but you don't want to sleep then and want to explore the destination. It went on every night and at times the vibration was so intense that things fell off the shelf and the wardrobe door fell off! You need some sleep even on a six day cruise and this cruise gave the normal sleeper no opportunity for that. Having cruised with Olsen for 5 years now the service and facilities have got progressively worse. Entertainment was weak and sparse during the days at sea, as were on board activities. Many clients just seem to want to sleep of play bridge. Service of the working staff on catering and cabin welfare remains excellent however although the officers on this voyage were aloof and the captains reception little more than an occasion for a free drink. The new chairs in the library and Morning Light bar are too low and uncomfortable compared to those previous when you could lounge at leisure. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
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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