We have been on Balmoral before, and we have been to Norway lots of times before - but who could ever tire of Norway? We chose the "Fred's Favourite Fjords" cruise because the departure port was from Newcastle, which is ... Read More
We have been on Balmoral before, and we have been to Norway lots of times before - but who could ever tire of Norway? We chose the "Fred's Favourite Fjords" cruise because the departure port was from Newcastle, which is very handy for us in Durham.
Embarkation was straightforward and efficient, and we found ourselves on board by about 2.30pm. We had wanted to sit out on deck with a cold cocktail, but the grey and drizzly Newcastle weather made this impossible. It was, however, the only grey and drizzly weather we saw, because there wasn't a cloud in the sky once we reached the fjords.
We were allocated cabin 4125, a spacious outside cabin with a large window and two single beds in an L-configuration. There was ample wardrobe and drawer space, tea and coffee making facilities, a flat screen TV and a small-but-adequate bathroom with a shower stall. Not the Ritz, but certainly enough to ensure we would have a comfortable cruise.
I like the Balmoral (indeed, all the FO ships) because they actually look like ships and not like floating apartment blocks like some of the RCI monstrosities. Balmoral is the flagship of the FO line with 1350 passengers, and is just a nice size to ensure there is plenty to do on board without being overcrowded.
We ate in the Ballindalloch restaurant on the 6.15pm sitting and the food was the high standard we have come to expect on Fred cruises. Service was quick and done with a smile. We were travelling on the all inclusive package and this is well worth the money if, like us, you enjoy a drink. Even premium brands and cocktails were half-price.
Entertainment was very good; the Balmoral Show Company put on original, lively performances and the guest entertainers included a funny comedienne and an amusing comedy magician. I must also mention John Smithson, the resident entertainer in the Morning Light pub, who played the keyboard, guitar and violin (not all at the same time) and had everyone's feet tapping and hands clapping with his lively fiddle tunes each night.
The cruise itself was fantastic. As I mentioned, the weather was perfect and the scenery, cruising along through the beautiful fjords, was stunning. Think of the Lake District but on a grander scale - all mountains, waterfalls, mirror-like water and glaciers; absolutely beautiful.
We did an excursion in most of the ports and these were expensive (aren't they always?) but well organised, with the exception of Hellesylt, where the cruise director made the mistake of announcing that the gangway was open, leading to a massive bottleneck as 1350 passengers all tried to disembark at once, leading to our tour starting over an hour late. This was the only blip, however, and everything went to plan after that.
Our only complaint on this week-long cruise was that it wasn't long enough! We could easily have managed another week. Everything was spot-on and I cannot understand the negative reviews I have read here - it's hard to believe those people were on the same cruise.
We are looking forward to our next one, and would advise anyone who hasn't been to Norway to go there at once; if there is a Heaven, it must look how the Norwegian fjords look. Read Less