43 Fred. Olsen Balmoral Senior Cruise Reviews

We usually travel with P&O during the January - March period to escape the British winter but they had nothing new this year so we thought a return to Fred Olsen with a different itinerary would be different. We travelled on ... Read More
We usually travel with P&O during the January - March period to escape the British winter but they had nothing new this year so we thought a return to Fred Olsen with a different itinerary would be different. We travelled on Balmoral 10 years ago and she has been sympathetically updated since and is very well maintained. The problem we had last time still exists unfortunately - she is just not up to maintaining her itinerary in heavy weather. Whereas P&O ships maintain 18 - 20 knots, we were down to 11-15 most of the time. This adds to the length of any passage; 6 days on the Atlantic rather than five for example. We missed 2 ports owing to this and our time in many ports was often reduced to little more than a half day. As we actually visited 13 ports in 62 nights, it was lucky that we enjoyed sea days! Fortunately the Atlantic was kind to us both ways so we lost no time there. Unfortunately the ship picked up a fishing net in the Pacific (not anyone's fault despite popular opinion) and we were reduced to 10/11 knots maximum. Fortunately we were able to fix the problem in San Diego. All credit to the captain (and the excellent Cruise Director Elliot Taylor) who ran two forums for the passengers to explain the issue and its implications. He didn't have to do it and it was much appreciated. As a result, tours to Los Angeles had to run by coach from San Diego which was not viable for many. An unexpected side effect of the change to the itinerary was that in retrospect our days in the US ports co-incided with the few days of good weather during a cold wet period there. The original itinerary would have meant our visits would have quite bad weather. So it wasn't all bad luck! The crew, as always on Fred, were terrific. The Filipinos particularly appear to be a joyous and optimistic people and are so friendly and accommodating. On 'special' nights, the bar girls were often allowed to dress up in all their finery which made some of the passengers feel very old indeed! The crew shows are always a 'Must Do' on a Fred ship. The entertainment, particularly the Show Company was pretty good, as was the lecture programme (which included two submarine historians strangely). Violinist Michael Bacala was the star of the cruise for us - and it was good to see Captain Henrik Mattson keeping up the Fred tradition of getting involved by being thrown in the pool on one 'Pirate' event! One thing that did disappoint a little was the quality of the meals; the dinners in particular. They were often unimaginative and not very well done which was not usual in our Fred experience. On P&O the same meals are served up in different combinations to add a bit of variety but on Balmoral the menus were fixed - and appear to have been so for several years in some cases. The two Canal transits were well commentated, in good weather and full of interest. We actually did the transit four times - twice by ship, once by coach and once on the Panama Railway heritage train which is 'must do' tour. The ship had around 900 fellow passengers aboard - well below the ship's capacity. This was probably because we had many singles (who were well catered for) and nearly always good mixers. Inevitably the age profile was older but we found most people to be pretty friendly and they were nearly all frequent Fred travellers ; we were surprised by the loyalty everyone expressed. Fred really is a family concern. Whenever we encountered a big cruise ship in port, universal revulsion was expressed! Interesting since so few of our fellow passengers had ever sailed on a bigger ship! Fred does deservedly well to keep such a loyal following - hopefully they have a business strategy to cater for when we all die of old age! It was a good cruise that rolled happily along with lots to entertain us on the may sea days. Maybe people who are more interested in destinations would have been disappointed by our progress but we enjoyed it. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
Fred Olsen Balmoral – Xmas/New Year 2018/19 – Canaries All in all, this was a most enjoyable cruise and a great way to spend both the festive season and celebrate my husband’s birthday on Christmas Eve. This was our first time ... Read More
Fred Olsen Balmoral – Xmas/New Year 2018/19 – Canaries All in all, this was a most enjoyable cruise and a great way to spend both the festive season and celebrate my husband’s birthday on Christmas Eve. This was our first time with “Fred”, although we’ve cruised a lot since getting the bug a decade ago. Compared with other lines, we were delighted that there was no constant hard sell, ship wide announcements were kept to an absolute minimum and queueing was practically non-existent. Of course the ship photographers were there as you ate at the gala dinners, but not always as you got on and off the ship - perhaps by the time we disembarked, they were on the excursions looking for material to go on the DVD. We always buy one and are looking forward to watching it on a snowy day – they’re really a great way to remember the cruise. One morning, I saw a photographer having breakfast, so took a photo of him, then told him it would be ready the next day! I thought it was funny, but have no idea what he must have really thought - he simply smiled very politely, then got on with his breakfast! Embarkation was truly straightforward, as was disembarkation (we cannot fathom why people sat on the stairs waiting to get off the ship when there were plenty of places to sit and wait). The only time we could have queued was at the Captain’s Receptions, but even then, we sat nattering to other passengers and waited until the queue had gone down. That really is the beauty of sailing on a smaller ship. I’ll get the one downside (British Night) out of the way so we can concentrate on how lovely everything else was. With the way politics are, perhaps something more neutral might be more appropriate. Why on earth would you travel abroad and bring that horrid jingoistic nonsense with you? We’re there to see the world and be ambassadors for our country, not to tell people we rule the waves! We were on second sitting, and rather tired that night, so watched the show from our cabin. We were astonished that the Boomtown Rats (Irish), Debbie Harry and Meatloaf (both US) were featured as the “Best of British”, not to mention Riverdance! And don’t get me started on the bit where they all dressed up as school children. Anyway, that was the low point of the cruise for us, and I’m sure other opinions are available. I made my own little protest by wearing a blue shirt with a yellow bow tie which surprisingly got some very positive comments from those who had cottoned on to the colours of a certain flag it resembled! I also wore a red, white and blue rosette (or was it perhaps bleu, blanc, rouge?) We bit our tongues on the “B” word and tried to forget that many of our fellow passengers had probably voted for the mess the country has found itself in. Such a shame, as we’ve never met such a friendly bunch on a cruise ship. It is sensible to steer very clear of any mention of politics, not wanting to ruin our holidays, nor anyone else’s! Anyway, before I lose you completely, let’s go back to all the positives, and that must start with the cruise highlight - the pantomime. This will be etched in our memories forever. It was definitely worth Andrew Robley (the Panto Dame) bringing 14 suitcases aboard, even though his mum was found clambering over them in her cabin! The theatre entertainment overall was a high standard and very enjoyable. Inside Cabin 4154 The cabin was small and the L-shaped layout of the beds made the best use of the space available, although the unit housing some drawers and the console for lights, announcements etc went behind one of the beds, just giving an extra shelf (which came in handy for my husband’s birthday cards to be displayed). The console itself had a button to turn off ship announcements, with a handy red light to let you know that one was being made. Our cases were on the very large side, so didn’t fit under the beds, especially as there was a wooden plinth in the middle. One case went in the wardrobe, the other between the chair and the bed. My husband has a habit of bringing extra coat hangers, not always necessary, but it’s not particularly a battle I care to fight. Thirty years together has taught me to agree to disagree, and if packing too many coat hangers is the worst thing, then we’re not doing badly! An extra couple of hangers might not have gone amiss, but he’d managed to pack over 30, so we had far too many! I’m sure they’d have brought us some extra, had we asked… The layout of the cabin meant one bed didn’t have a bedside lamp or table, which was a little bit disappointing – I suppose we could have asked for the bed to be made the other way round, so the drawer unit could be used. Being two men of a certain age, neither of us have much hair, so having not one but two hairdryers in the cabin made us laugh as did the fact that our Christmas crackers both contained combs! Daytime activities (especially after 5) are extremely low key (or non-existent), so we enjoyed the interactive TV’s on-demand film and TV programme options which we were very pleased to find came at no extra charge. The cabin was towards the back (I’m sure there’s a technical term for the blunt end), so when the ship was coming into port, the engine noise was fairly loud – and when moving in high winds, it did tend to creak, so earplugs are very much recommended. Having said this, for most of the trip, it wasn’t a problem. One cabin we would advise avoiding is 5143 – there was a really loud vibration noise outside, not sure if it was audible inside that cabin, though, but it would surprise me if not. We were delighted with the kettle in the cabin. Perhaps a little saucer for used teabags wouldn’t go amiss, but we used one of the glasses to put teabags in. We brought our own redbush teabags, but they were available in the tea station, along with a large selection of other teas and infusions. Our cabin stewardess came from Thailand and was very good and thorough. We didn’t get any towel animals, but perhaps, like the baked Alaska parade, also missing, that’s another thing of the past. We had a couple of very minor issues with the cabin (both of our own making). They were dealt with very speedily, with a short note afterwards to say they’d fixed the problem, but reminding us not to hesitate to get in touch if the problem hadn’t been rectified to our satisfaction, or if there was anything else they could do. A very nice touch, we thought. Dining – Table 301, Spey We’d asked for a table of 8, but were given a table of 6, but were only 5 diners – pleased to say we got on exceptionally well with our fellow travellers, three solo women. We were tucked into the corner by the door and it was very noisy at times, which apparently is unusual for the Spey. Being next to a serving station made it even noisier, cutlery and plates were thrown into bins by the waiters. Once we’d had a word with our servers it was better - we did this a couple of times during the cruise, simply saying that the noise levels had increased again. Had our table mates not been as brilliant as they were, we might well have asked to be moved. Service was impeccable – no problem with menu variations, for example having a starter as a dessert. With a couple of rare exceptions, we were very happy with everything we were served, although we did wonder why the rather tasty soup called borscht didn’t contain any beetroot! On the one night things really weren’t to our taste (the burnt nut roast incident), alternatives were found very quickly. We immensely enjoyed a late breakfast in the buffet sitting outside by the pool (heaters were on when it was cooler) – and rarely used the Ballindalloch main restaurant. One tip - for breakfast and lunch, all three restaurants have both a waiter served menu and a very similar buffet, but the menu items aren’t available in the main buffet. At breakfast, I very much liked the selection of nuts (Brazil, cashew and walnut) along with the goji berries. We didn’t partake of the sparkling wine at breakfast on formal nights, but I poured the orange juice into champagne flutes to give a sense of occasion! Much to my husband’s disgust (being on second sitting we’d not long had dinner), I liked to have a “look” at the midnight buffet, which was varied and certainly not at all leftovers from dinner! Needless to say, this “look” generally turned into something landing on a plate and into my mouth… Portions at dinner were on the meagre side - I’m sure double portions were available but we never asked - a couple of times we had two main courses, or an additional one to share. There’s no way anyone could go hungry! Christmas/New Year The ship was wonderfully decorated throughout and at guest services, we thought it was a lovely touch that you could help yourself to satsumas and nuts. Christmas Eve had a carol service after which port, sherry and mince pies were served in abundance. We got back to the cabin to find that instead of a chocolate on our pillows, we had a small bag of chocolates to share. Christmas Day had a deck party in the morning, with a free egg nog station, which helped things along rather nicely! Lunch was just a normal sea day – they actually forgot the lunch I’d ordered from a waiter – I asked several times over 30 minutes - but I did get a free glass of wine to compensate! I just thought it was hilarious as we were on an all inclusive package. But as they say, worse things happen at sea, and I certainly didn’t go hungry for long! In the afternoon, my husband had a sleep and I went to see the Queen’s speech which we all ended up listening to, as something was wrong with the technical setup. I very much applauded her sentiments against tribalism and the need to get on with ones neighbours, but bit my tongue! The entertainment team then played a game of charades, which was quite funny. We slept the rest of the afternoon until it was time to dress for the Captain’s reception. One of the entertainment guys was dressed up as Santa in the Captain’s parade on the way in, so I told him “all I wanted for Christmas is EU”, in quite a loud voice! It was Christmas, and I was well behaved for the most part! We thought our waiters seemed a bit rushed on Christmas Day, until we understood that they were all trying to synchronise and sing a few Christmas carols, which was another nice touch. We were very surprised to see that cocktail parties for certain loyalty level guests made up the main entertainment on Boxing Day, leaving very little to do for first time guests like us, or people who didn’t want to drink at 11am, but it did mean we got seats at the quiz, which was usually oversubscribed if you didn’t get there early enough. New Year’s Eve was great. There were two alternatives – one in case of rain, one for dry weather. The weather wasn’t too kind and we were glad to have brought rain ponchos with us which we put over our dinner suits. It’s a very comfy cruiseline and there isn’t any obvious stuffiness and pretentiousness we’ve found a couple of times on other lines. We were comfy and enjoying ourselves, so that’s what mattered! After dinner, we went to the show, then before we knew it, champagne (well, fizz) was flowing and the fireworks started which were absolutely fantastic and every bit as good as Sydney where we were lucky enough to see them on our honeymoon. One thing we didn’t hear, however, was a countdown, that’s not to say it didn’t happen. The festivities lasted long into the night and I knew it was time for bed when the conversation turned to football and all I could think to say on the subject was that some years ago, we’d really enjoyed seeing the Beverley Sisters – one of whom was married to a footballer. As I said, it was well and truly time for bed! I was very fragile the next day (one of the waiters even asked a couple of days later if I was still fragile!), we finally surfaced and went to brunch in the Spey at around 11.45am, after watching the ex-policeman’s talk on airport security on our cabin telly. We were surprised that it wasn’t really a brunch, but breakfast simply morphed into lunch at mid-day. After lunch, we went back to the cabin and watched a great film called What I Did Last Summer. After paying a visit to the future cruise desk, we sat at the back of the ship with a cuppa watching the most magical sunset, in a nice warm spot thanks to the outdoor heaters. Ports We’d been to most of the ports before - and all of them were very easy to walk to from the ship, as long as you’re able bodied. None of the ship excursions took our fancy, but we were most impressed with the booklet and maps that came before the cruise, although they could have done with a little more information about the ports themselves. The destination guide, Graeme, did a good job of giving some hints and tips and not being too centred on the excursions. However, his appalling pronunciation of place names left a lot to be desired! As a linguist I picked up on this and his pronunciation would probably have confused local people if you were asking for directions. For some reason, exact docking timings weren’t given until the day before, which made it a little difficult to plan too much in advance, but having said that, we did seem to be in port for longer than other cruises we’d been on. Lisbon We did a Free Walking Tour (you just pay a tip at the end) of the Alfama and Mouraria districts – you can easily book in advance online – they did stipulate a €2 deposit for not showing up, but were very accommodating when I said we were on a cruise ship and it depended on the weather if we could dock. The tour was excellent, even though we’ve been to Lisbon countless times, and I’d even spent a month here in the 80s, we learned quite a lot from our guide. The tour ended near to the Church of Graça, where there is an amazing panorama of the city, along with a wonderful little outdoor café serving light snacks and sandwiches, the ideal antidote to the fancy meals we were having onboard. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Our extended stay let us go a little further under our own steam. We went to Vegueta, the old town, on the number 12 bus for a couple of Euros, taking about 20 minutes. The architecture around the main shopping street, Triana, is beautiful and rather reminiscent of some parts of Old Havana. We visited the Museum of the Canaries which was a bit old fashioned and apart from a room full of skulls, not overly interesting. After a nice lunch, we went to the Christopher Columbus Museum (my Yorkshire upbringing and infantile humour still makes me giggle when I see the word “Colon”, his Spanish name)… It’s a fascinating place, with lots of old maps of how people thought the world looked, and housed in a beautiful old building. Highly recommended. After getting back, we still had time to go for a walk along the beach front and have a quick look around town, and even to the shopping centre by the port. One little tip – the port wifi reached into the ship, so on returning, I had a quick look at my emails, although we had taken advantage of free EU roaming earlier in the day. Gran Tarajal (Fuerteventura) It was too windy to dock, so we diverted to Puerto del Rosario, the capital. Not the prettiest of places, and with the exception of a very small museum dedicated to a philosopher who escaped from Franco and a shopping centre, we didn’t find too much to do here, so went back to the ship for lunch. Santa Cruz de Tenerife Once again, we were in port until very late evening, so we went by tram to the charming little town of La Laguna (the tram stop is called Trinidad and at the end of the line, making it very easy). After visiting a museum, we went for lunch at an old Canarian Restaurant (Patio Canario) which is housed in an old building. Far from being a tourist trap, most of the clientele were Spanish - the food and service were excellent, as were the prices. The tram ride cost a couple of Euros and was a very pleasant journey taking about 20 minutes. San Sebastian – La Gomera We hadn’t been here before, and I was intrigued that they have a whistling language, so was delighted to see that a local troupe do a demonstration of this, along with local dancing. Apart from that, we didn’t really find much else to do – we were only docked for the morning, so enjoyed a coffee in the main square with two of our table mates before heading back to lunch on the ship. Funchal - Madeira All aboard was 4.30pm which still left us time for a leisurely breakfast. With 11 cruise ships in port, we were very lucky to dock at the most convenient location possible. Funchal was understandably busy, and our attempt at visiting a Madeira wine lodge was thwarted by hoards of people. This was the only day where the weather was unkind with rain on and off, but we still managed to have a walk round. When it threw it down, we had a simple lunch (forgetting how large Portuguese portions were!) Walking round, we found parks wonderfully decorated for Christmas, and stopped by the lovely Christmas market, where we just had to have a ginjinha (cherry liqueur) in a chocolate cup, followed by a Madeira wine in a chocolate cup, then another just in case. And perhaps another, but I can’t really remember. We got back to the ship and slept it off until it was time for the Captain’s Reception and Gala New Year’s Eve dinner! La Coruña This is the one place I’d love to have spent some more time exploring. I’ve never really understood why you’d want to be off the ship for 8am when shops don’t tend to open until 10am or so, although if you’re on a tour to Santiago de Compostela, you would need to set off quite early to make it worthwhile. It’s a real shame we left La Coruña so early at 1.30pm as it was a lovely place for a wander around. We found a very quirky café and I enjoyed a black coffee while my husband had the most delicious thick hot chocolate. No wonder he didn’t have room for the midnight buffet! Walking round, it looked like there were a lot of interesting places for lunch which hopefully we’ll try next time. Ship activities We’d both been very busy before the cruise, so were very glad of time to relax. To be honest, we didn’t see too much of the daytime entertainment staff – there were no napkin folding/cookery demonstrations etc, but we did enjoy the talk with the dancers and singers explaining how things worked backstage. What daytime activities there were had a tendency to clash, for example the quizzes and the speakers. Most evenings there was very little to do after 5pm until dinner - that said, bridge players or dancers were probably very well served. That said, one night, there was a Mr & Mrs competition. We were going to join in, but by the time my husband said yes, we were pipped at the post by another couple. Probably just as well. Our meals meant that we missed the 10pm quiz, as it would have been too much of a rush to get to the theatre show afterwards. I’ve already mentioned Andrew Robley, who not only was brilliant as the Panto Dame, but also entertained us a few times during the cruise (both on and off the stage as he was around and about the ship quite a lot). There was also a comedian, a singer and a magician (to whom I joked that the passengers do a brilliant magic act – they can make food disappear at an amazing rate!) One thing we were surprised at was the suggested themes weren’t adopted by the waiting staff – we thought they should also wear a touch of red, tartan etc. We had a lovely and relaxing time and we’ve already put down a deposit on a future cruise, so that says it all, and we’d have no hesitation in recommending our cruise to the right demographic of mainly over 50s. It’s definitely more hip-op than hip-hop, Fred Olsen definitely know who their clientele is and look after them exceptionally well. Read Less
Sail Date December 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
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
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
Sail Date October 2018
Its been 14 years since we did a Fred Olsen Cruise as we have mainly sailed with 5 Star Cruise Lines, but this cruise was from the Tyne and a short 15 minute taxi ride from our home and visiting some ports we had not visited before. So we ... Read More
Its been 14 years since we did a Fred Olsen Cruise as we have mainly sailed with 5 Star Cruise Lines, but this cruise was from the Tyne and a short 15 minute taxi ride from our home and visiting some ports we had not visited before. So we thought we would give them a try. So glad we did! Balmoral although an older ship is remarkably well maintained, far better than some lot newer ship we have travelled on. Staff service and friendliness leaves most other lines trailing in thier wake, Good food particulary in the Avon Restaurant and Made and Mark our waiters made this cruise. Weather was very good with only lght rain in Gothenburg and low lying mist in Helsinki all other ports fine a sunny and autuum colours in trees especially in St. Petersburg a real treat. We did our own thing in most ports but in Copenhagen and on the Evening in St.Petersburg we did Fred Olsen Tours, during the 2 days in St.Peterburg we did a independent small group tour with Cruising Excursions all tours were very good. Will we sail with Fred Olsen again ? YES and we will not be waiting another 14 years. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
We always go from Port of Tyne as it makes such an easy start to the holiday. I am slightly disabled and we have two autistic grandchildren and the crew and staff on Balmoral do everything the can to make the cruise perfect. We have been ... Read More
We always go from Port of Tyne as it makes such an easy start to the holiday. I am slightly disabled and we have two autistic grandchildren and the crew and staff on Balmoral do everything the can to make the cruise perfect. We have been on three cruises and each one has been wonderful. The food is great, the entertainment first class and our rooms are so comfortable. There is plenty to do for the children, who love the quizzes and shows in the evening. My only complaint is that although we have an allocated table in the evening breakfast and lunch is a bit of a free for all, and our allocated restaurant became a bit of a nightmare for the children, who find crowds and noise quite difficult to cope with. Apart from this, I cannot fault Fred Olsen and compliment him on a really well run organisation. Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
This was our very first Cruise I have to say from start to finish it was excellent, We arrived at the port where our bags were taken from us and never saw them till we got to our cabin. we checked in and with in 10 mins we were through ... Read More
This was our very first Cruise I have to say from start to finish it was excellent, We arrived at the port where our bags were taken from us and never saw them till we got to our cabin. we checked in and with in 10 mins we were through security and on the ship.we were on deck 8 Superior inside cabin and we were very happy with it. The food at all meal times were excellent, we chose to have our evening meals in the Avon Restaurant and the staff were first class. There is plenty to do on board if you don't want to get off at any of the ports. We mainly had our drinks in the Marquee Bar on the top deck very friendly and customer focused. Entertainment was also good, a great holiday which I would recommend to anyone the scenery was amazing weather was mixed apart from one day when it never stopped raining. We did the Funicular ourselves it cost £5 each to go up as we walked back down which I would recommend if your able. We then went to find the Ice Bar which cost us £19 each it was good fun and worth going in. We bought the tickets for the Flam Railway off Fred Olsen and I would advise to do this as your seats are reserved for you and well worth doing. All of the Ports that we stopped at were expensive to buy anything but really worth looking round the shops, you can do your own thing plenty to see and do. Read Less
Sail Date August 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
This was our first cruise experience and without any doubt it exceeded our expectations. Embarkation was very smooth and well organised. The staff showed great courtesy to all especially with guests with mobility problems. We had a junior ... Read More
This was our first cruise experience and without any doubt it exceeded our expectations. Embarkation was very smooth and well organised. The staff showed great courtesy to all especially with guests with mobility problems. We had a junior suite cabin with balcony and was impressed with the size and furniture. It was well decorated and felt warm and welcoming. Dining was excellent with dedicated servants to our table made it sure the we enjoy our dining experience. The after dinner entertaiment was very good with different shows every evening. For us the size of the ship was perfect were the restaurants and cafes are not over crowded. We were not just a number, but the staff knew us by name giving and feeling that personalised service. The ports of call are well chosen. Lots of intesting things to do and see. Had such a wonderfull experience that we are finding it hard to cruise with another line. In fact we booked our next criuse with Fred Olsen. Read Less
Sail Date July 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
We choose this cruise to experience Rio Carnival and get away from UK winter, overall we were pleased that we did. Ship - public rooms and spaces were attractive and well kept. Dinning- we ate in the Ballindoch dinning room, late ... Read More
We choose this cruise to experience Rio Carnival and get away from UK winter, overall we were pleased that we did. Ship - public rooms and spaces were attractive and well kept. Dinning- we ate in the Ballindoch dinning room, late sitting, the service was excellent and the food was good quality, and wide variety offered. We tried the Poolside grill twice and both times the menus were frankly rather strange. Asian menu -- no noodles, no chillies not much taste. Indian menu spiced lamb served with mashed potatoes, no side dishes, no chutneys -- not worth the extra payment. We also attended the "James Bond" night -- entertainment very good, Balmoral singers sung various James Bond theme tunes. But the martinis were dreadful -- just coloured syrup! The Balmoral show team were excellent, good variety of shows, loads of energy, and we enjoyed watching them perform. Ian Jacks performed 4 times a day in the Morning Light Pub -- although he had a huge repertoire and is a very talented man, with a pleasant voice; you can have too much of a good thing. The 4th Dimension band which usually played in the Lido Lounge -- never did a sound check and often the drummer drown out the singer! Activities -- we learnt to play bridge, I sang in the choir and my husband learned to play the ukulele -- we kept busy on sea days. Fred Olsen had not ensured that the leaders of the various activities could legally work in Brazil so some activities were curtailed while we were in Brazilian waters. I think that the cruise could have been organised better -- we were in port on too many Sundays --- Tennerife, Punte de Este, Forteleza -- most shops closed, very little to do. Left ports very early in afternoon 2.30 or 3.30 not enough time for independent exploration. We missed one port in Cape Verde because of a medical emergency, which meant 9 days at sea but we didn't have longer at the next port. I was not sea sick, but I was sick of the sea by the end of this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
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
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
Five nights Norwegian fjords, our first cruise. What a revelation! Self catering holidays are now well and truly in the shade. Impressive organisation from start to finish, friendly efficient service, good food and entertainment, high ... Read More
Five nights Norwegian fjords, our first cruise. What a revelation! Self catering holidays are now well and truly in the shade. Impressive organisation from start to finish, friendly efficient service, good food and entertainment, high standard of cleanliness. Super spacious suite. In short everything ship shape. Couldn't fault any of it. Dined in Spey restaurant at table for 2 by a beautiful circular window. We want one of those at home now complete with waterfall. Lovely waiter and room stewardess looked after us very well. I wasn't expecting to enjoy entertainment and activities but the jolly atmosphere was infectious and ship's company great. Despite the ship being fully booked we never felt crowded. We had booked this cruise to celebrate our 30th Wedding Anniversary and it was a memorable and romantic way to mark the milestone. It was also my husband's birthday so the waiters ended up singing to us twice and presenting 2 celebration cakes. A delightful time was had and we are now converted. Next year's Fred Olsen brochure is open on the coffee table... 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
Most pleasant cruise to date. My husband and I have just returned from a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords with Fred Olsen. In a nutshell, it was a joy from start to finish. The organisation getting everyone on the Balmoral was fantastic, ... Read More
Most pleasant cruise to date. My husband and I have just returned from a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords with Fred Olsen. In a nutshell, it was a joy from start to finish. The organisation getting everyone on the Balmoral was fantastic, and getting off was so simple. Many people have a fear of larger ships. The Balmoral accommodates 1400 passengers. But at no time did we feel crowded. There was always somewhere to sit and enjoy the spectacular views. We had a simple inside cabin on Deck five and were most impressed with the L shaped layout.On other ships there isn't room to move. This cabin was spacious, with plenty of cupboards and draws to unpack all our clothes. We are travelling for more than seven weeks so had a full case. They fitted under the beds so we're out of the way. We had to lift the bed slightly and then slid them under. The ports of call were very different to our previous cruises as we visited stunning Norwegian towns rather than huge cities. When we got off the boat in Stavanger we were treated to spectacular parades throughout the day as it was Norway's National day on 15 May. The parades started at ten with thousands of children dressed in national costume and feeling so very proud. Later there was a youth parade, and at the end of the day, a people's parade with dancers and acrobats along with marching bands parading through the streets. Walking through the streets after each parade, the locals happily posed for photographs. Such a pleasant city filled with happiness on their special day. Ulvrok was a picturesque spot where we needed to catch a tender to the port. But once again, the process was so much better than we had experienced with other cruise lines. It was a quiet very small village but we enjoyed it after the busy day before. The day was wet, but we simply went for a long walk around part of the lake. Flam turned on fabulous sunshine once more and once again we pulled right alongside this very picturesque village. We bought a ticket for the Flam railway - make sure you sit on the right side if you go as the views on that side are beautiful. However, it really is just a two hour up and down trip. The highlight was stopping half way at a magnificent waterfall. Make sure you have your cameras ready when the music starts and Ulder, the lady of the Mountain appears in a flowing red dress. Very impressive. The cruise out of Flam down the Fjords made the view from the train pale to insignificance. We felt we had wasted our money so would do something else if we travel on this cruise again. Absolutely spectacular views for hours. Olden was another chocolate box town. We walked to both churches, around the river and back in glorious sunshine. Once again, a quiet location with magnificent scenery all round. Geiranger greeted us with rain, but it didn't dampen our spirits at all. We chose to walk up the road to the church, then follow this round to the top of the waterfall. There are 100s of steps, but it was worth it. For those unable to walk uphill, a simple flat walk round the water was lovely too. Bergen was the last stop and busiest port by far but no where near as busy as the ports on the Med we have visited. Some interesting architecture on the left as you leave the ship. We walked 20000 steps around the town that day. Be careful not to get lost! So all in all, this was a fantastic cruise. The accommodation and food were excellent. The nightly shows were terrific. I have never witnessed a more energetic and passionate cruise company as these fine young dancers and singers. Brilliant! We came on this cruise to spend time with friends. We were apprehensive, thinking it might be boring. How wrong we were. We'd go again and will now always look at Fred Olsen as our preferred cruise line. Thanks so much for an amazing trip Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
Having cruised on P & O and enjoyed the experience, we thought that Fred Olsen with its smaller ships stopping at ports unavailable to larger ships would be better. There are many positive things to say about this cruise including the ... Read More
Having cruised on P & O and enjoyed the experience, we thought that Fred Olsen with its smaller ships stopping at ports unavailable to larger ships would be better. There are many positive things to say about this cruise including the very friendly atmosphere. The accommodation was fine, the staff were fantastic, with nothing being too much trouble. The entertainment was exceptionally good throughout the cruise. The shore excursions were somewhat hit and miss, but overall fine. The great let down was the food. The restaurant food was passable, however the buffet options were the worst that I have ever experienced. The menus suggest that for health reasons, passengers should make sure that the food was thoroughly cooked so as not to risk individuals health. Unfortunately I was unable to find a single egg which you would consider safe to eat or even hot. For those who ate in the buffet areas when they opened, the majority of the food was cold. A breakfast of partially cooked fried egg, cold beans and cold sausage and bacon is not ideal. One fantastic plus for this cruise were the Phillapean staff who were amazing. Despite a very busy working schedule - they smile Day and night. Their attention to detail and warm personalities provide the kind of atmosphere that can only be admired. We did enjoy the cruise - shame about the food. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
we chose this cruise for its interesting itenary and size of ship...and the fact that one didn't need to fly to join her...as we booked late we selected an anchor package which suited our budget well... the staff cabin activities and ... Read More
we chose this cruise for its interesting itenary and size of ship...and the fact that one didn't need to fly to join her...as we booked late we selected an anchor package which suited our budget well... the staff cabin activities and adventures we had were great ..We particularly loved seeing the ice hotel, and having a great ride in Tromso with the beautiful huskies, cuddling the 6 week old husky pups and having the chance to interact with the dogs who were well looked after fun exuberant and cheeky. at the wilderness centre... although the weather was very wet and stormy much of the time, it didn't detract from the many adventures we had on and off the ship... the fellow passengers were amiable enthusiastic and a joy to spend time with. We particularly enjoyed our daily game of whist when on sea days.. ..thank you to all .who contributed to give us such a great time and adventure. This was our first time on Fred Olsen....and look forward to coming back again one day.... Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
I had the Cruise booked for me by my Daughter, direct with Fred Olson. I had never been on a cruise before, except across the Mersey and to the Isle of Man once, many years ago. Arrived at Southampton to be kept waiting whilst ... Read More
I had the Cruise booked for me by my Daughter, direct with Fred Olson. I had never been on a cruise before, except across the Mersey and to the Isle of Man once, many years ago. Arrived at Southampton to be kept waiting whilst 'Green and Yellow Boarding cards were embarked first, I had a white one. One on board everything was fine, until I went to Dinner in the Ballindoch Restaurant, table 111 on second sitting. The soup was cold with a layer of grease on top, the main course was also cold (turkey with veg) although it was not supposed to be a salad. I walked out in disgust, I was on a table set for 8 only 3 of us were sat at the table. I later found out that the other 5 people (all single travellers had eaten in the Palm Cafe, after being warned). The cabin I was allocated 9034 was termed a 'Superior Inside Single' As someone whom has worked with the Hotel Industry, in Kenya, Greece, Austria and Portugal as a 'House Manager' there is NO WAY this cabin was 'Superior', it was very roomy and had 2 wardrobes, the Bathroom had a shower over the bath, I could forgive the chipped mirrors on the vanity unit doors. BUT there was no reading lamp over the bed, No Radio (BBC World Service) There was BBC World News T.V., Sky News and ITV Choices. But no Radio only 3 channels of low end supermarket pipped musac. To turn OFF the bedside light was a challenge, that I lost, I had to unscrew the two bulbs to get some darkness in the cabin There was only 1 thin pillow, when I asked for a second, the reply was 'You are a single - no, so why need 2 pillows. The second day I went to the singles coffee morning it was there that I was informed of the Palm Cafe, where I had taken breakfast that morning. The Palm Cafe is the jewel on this ship without any doubt, by Third day I had to queue to get a seat in the Palm Cafe, it was so popular, even my two table companions from my first night ended up eating in the Palm Cafe. Not only was the food excellent and there was always a make up your own salad every lunch time and evening, the Chef would cook omelets, on demand for breakfast lunch and even dinner, each Sunday there was a carvery. This Palm Cafe became my home on the Balmoral, so much so that the waiters all knew me and the headman reserved a table for a party of us at each meal time. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
Short break. Old ship but friendly and very clean Adapted cabin Well positioned Close to lift.. Twin beds . Bed next to window very cold. Impossible to sleep even with extra quilts and heating full on plus very noisy children ... Read More
Short break. Old ship but friendly and very clean Adapted cabin Well positioned Close to lift.. Twin beds . Bed next to window very cold. Impossible to sleep even with extra quilts and heating full on plus very noisy children running up and down corridor till early hours.. Cabin basic but shower suitable for disabled. Food good in Ballindoloch restaurant but strangely no vegetables included. Buffet Very good in Avon and Spey restaurants Entertainment .Lots of noisy screeching and manic dancing.. Not to our taste. We love the headliners on P &O Ballroom dancing between shows very pleasant but spoiled by young children racing around dance floor. Very dangerous. Nobody stopped them.. There was a disco on another deck and they could have had their own fun and games but nothing was organised . No separate pool for adults only and a visit to jaccuzi in beautiful sunshine spoiled by lots of children jumping in and out. They were completely out of control and again nobody stopped them. We were very disappointed and abandoned it. My wife is disabled and it was too risky. Honfleur very pleasant , beautiful weather. Would only go again on an adult only cruise . On other ships they have a kids club and their own programme and it is not a problem. We love kids but not running wild. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
We are seasoned Olsen customers and have sailed on Balmoral (again this time) Braemar and Black Watch. This cruise got off to a shaky start due to very long delay for embarkation at Southampton.. Most ports interesting, but Casablanca ... Read More
We are seasoned Olsen customers and have sailed on Balmoral (again this time) Braemar and Black Watch. This cruise got off to a shaky start due to very long delay for embarkation at Southampton.. Most ports interesting, but Casablanca should be avoided unless on an organised tour. We settled for the shuttle bus into town and were dumped in a most appalling location. Like several hundred others in our position we stayed for about 15 minutes and headed back to ship. Olsen really must address this problem. A totally wasted port of call. Those on organised trips apparently had a good time. As always, onboard crew magnificent. If attempting to book a future cruise while onboard you may need to hassle a bit; at the fourth attempt a cabin to our satisfaction became available whereas previously nothing available. Other tour companies are taking block bookings at the expense of loyal Olsen customers. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
We are fit 70 plus ex-teenagers from Middlesbrough. Travelling from Newcastle to Port of Tyne is very convenient and quick for us. We chose this cruise because our previous 2 Fred Olsen cruises, one to the Baltic and the other to the ... Read More
We are fit 70 plus ex-teenagers from Middlesbrough. Travelling from Newcastle to Port of Tyne is very convenient and quick for us. We chose this cruise because our previous 2 Fred Olsen cruises, one to the Baltic and the other to the Arctic Circle on the Black Watch were wonderful in all respects. We were not quite as lucky this time. Before we left home we were upgraded, once to Deck 6 by choice and on arrival at the port, we were upgraded again to Deck 9 for reasons unknown. We guessed there had been a problem on Deck 6. So our large cabin was comfortable and clean with a few extra niceties but being near to prow on the Bridge Deck in high winds with an Atlantic swell on the way to Spain, Portugal and the Canaries proved to be rather unpleasant, especially for my sea-sick husband. Rocking and rolling was not of the musical variety! Despite taking appropriate, prescribed medication from home, he spent more than 24 hours during the 3rd and 4th nights and days in the cabin feeling rather ill. I was okay but the feelings of being very unbalanced and slightly dizzy for most of the voyage have remained with me despite being back on dry land for several days. When I met others who had suffered similar symptoms, it was rumoured that perhaps stabilisers were not in use in order to save fuel. (I hope this is untrue as it is enough to dissuade us from taking another such cruise.) I am a retired qualified nurse. One member of medical staff who answered my phone call for advice, was not very helpful and did not listen to me properly. She told me to go and buy Stugeron tablets from the reception desk. (I already had some.) I told her my husband had no symptoms of Norovirus. Having already given prescribed tablets for sea sickness, I was not given chance to explain, neither was I prepared to give another dose which was contra-indicated under the circumstances. She failed to understand that he was taking other medication then she tried to tell me I was giving the wrong medicine. I knew I was correct so I was not impressed. Our cabin steward was hardworking and very helpful. She appeared to work very long hours and showed extra consideration to my husband's problem. She deserved a medal. All the restaurants provided excellent service. The waiters were great! At a table of 6, we enjoyed the company of our compatriots very much. Entertainment was excellent. We attended some of the brilliant evening shows given by the new Balmoral company. One of the new girl singers was understandably nervous but the choreography was out of this world. They all worked so hard. My husband, a seasoned Bridge player enjoyed playing Bridge on some of the days at sea. He said the Bridge classes were good and encouraging for the newcomers. Meanwhile I joined an excellent art group as there was no craft class on board. It was a large class of 47 so the teacher and his wife were to be congratulated on coping with so many pupils. We were provided with packs of art materials for a reasonable cost. Our end of cruise exhibition was enjoyed and well attended. Some of us look forward to meeting up on a future cruise if at all possible. The seven port excursions we chose were well organised with many photo opportunities but these trips were rather expensive. During coach tours of the places visited, at times, we felt we were being rushed from one port or one place to another especially as some people were disabled and/or had difficulties with mobility. One person delayed us on our first trip out as on returning to the coach she boarded the wrong one. (Some people do not listen to advice.) The tour operator showed great concern and patience. This threw our planned schedule into chaos while he tried desperately to find out where she had gone. The hunt and several phone calls caused a 40 minute delay meaning a huge rush back for the ship's due departure from port. All our tours apart from one, happened to be on consecutive mornings with very early starting times so towards the end, we became rather weary. Of course, we understood that the itinerary could not possibly please everyone. In some of the resorts, it turned out to be very busy due to bank holidays and local festivities. Some people had their tours cancelled due to lack of support. This is one disadvantage of choosing and paying for tours in advance. Customers have no prior knowledge of tour times until arriving on the ship. Embarking and disembarking was easy for us fitter elderly people but it was noticed that there were difficulties for some who had to walk much further than they expected from their buses to and from the ship. It was noted that there were a few accidents both on and off board. We would have liked some extra time in Lisbon. We would appreciate an extra night's rest in port at some places. If we book another cruise in future, we will not be booking so many tours in advance. On the whole, apart from 2 days at sea outward and 3 on the return journey, it was a good cruise. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
There was much that was good about this cruise, in particular the staff, entertainment and food. However from day 2 passengers were falling ill with gastrointestinal outbreaks. This affected the facilities available, for example closure ... Read More
There was much that was good about this cruise, in particular the staff, entertainment and food. However from day 2 passengers were falling ill with gastrointestinal outbreaks. This affected the facilities available, for example closure of the jacuzzis, closure of the gaming tables, some of the toilets around the ship, no table top sales, temporary closure of the gym, no self service buffets, constant hand washing and teams of specialist cleaners washing down surfaces constantly. Etc. All of this meant that the cruise we paid for was not as expected. Fred Olsen customer services have offered platitudes and apology but accompanied by a point blank refusal to offer any compensation. Whilst we did not expect anything other than a discount off a future cruise it is very disappointing that the company consider they do not have any moral responsibility to their customers feeling satisfied. Needless to say our party of 6 will NOT be cruising with Fred again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
“Worse things happen at sea.” They did. BE WARNED. . . . . We selected the Fred Olsen cruise to The Baltic 1) because it coincided with our 30th Wedding anniversary and 2) We would be in St Petersburg for 2 days the highlight of our ... Read More
“Worse things happen at sea.” They did. BE WARNED. . . . . We selected the Fred Olsen cruise to The Baltic 1) because it coincided with our 30th Wedding anniversary and 2) We would be in St Petersburg for 2 days the highlight of our trip. As a bonus there will be a gym, a library, self service coffee/tea bar. What more could you want? Here is what we experienced: THE SHIP - BALMORAL All painted in her new livery. I wonder what a jolly day they had at the board meeting where they made that decision. “Our highly paid team of advisers said we must update our image and repaint the fleet. Ok what shall we have? A bright blue ? A wizzy red? No let’s paint them dark battleship grey. . . “ Balmoral is a 30+ year old ship. No better nor worse than a 3 star hotel that gets well used. The cabin – deck 5 -we had was perfectly adequate. The public lounges were comfortable and plenty of seating. Piped music was everywhere. Your only escape for peace and quiet was your cabin because the public address system was not working there. The passengers were almost all elderly many with infirmities. You had to admire their pluck making the journey. All the passengers were very friendly. The ship was remarkably stable – even in a force 7 sea you were hardly aware of any big motions of the ship. THE CREW – were brilliant. Attentive, thoughtful and skilled at their job. The Guest Services team did their best but you felt the Cold Dead Hand of Head Office on all their decisions. THE TOURS TEAM - were hopeless – in fact the whole experience of booking tours on line direct with Fed Olen was a shambles from the beginning. We had to produce our own spreadsheet to make sense of times and dates of the tours. To cap it all the order confirmation of our bookings came back a complete jumble not in date order, port order, only a haphazard mess. The Tours were expensive. The tour guides however, not FOCL staff, were very good. BE WARNED: the stop overs in port were very short. For example two days in Stockholm yes but not 48 hours. We arrived around 2pm one day and left 2.30pm the next. THE CRUISE This started of with a bit of excitement, two hours out from Newcastle we had to turn round and go back into port – a passenger had had a heart attack. Among other diversions was a small fire in a cabin down from us. Our toilet flooded and pumped raw sewage all over the bath room floor. There were at least three if not four public announcements ‘Stretcher crew to the medical centre’. Sounded serious each time. All over the ship were sanitizing stations which squirted disinfectant onto your hands and twice daily reminders from the captain over the public address about hand washing and sanitization. BE WARNED – if you took advantage of the offer of a complimentary wedding anniversary or package DO NOT RELY on the Self Proclaimed Wonderful Customer Service provided by FOCL to do anything. We booked our 30th Wedding anniversary complimentary package on line in Oct 2015 soon after the time of booking our cruise– as requested we sent a copy of our marriage certificate by post as soon as it was requested. We failed to check that the Self Proclaimed Wonderful Customer Service had received it. They didn’t bother to check with us on its non arrival so again the Cold Dead Hand of Head Office did nothing. They probably thought we’d been ‘trying it on’ because we hadn’t sent the certificate.We paid over four and a half thousand pounds for this cruise didn't we deserve a phone call to check? So, on our anniversary on board, nothing happened. On querying why not were told they had no record of it. The Guest Services Manager hid in their office and would not talk to me to sort out the problem. By now the ‘shine’ on the celebration had been knocked off. After more complaints they did reluctantly honour their offer. If the Cold Dead Hand of Head Office are reading this I’m more than happy to provide evidence of our wedding 30 years ago. NORO VIRUS (projectile vomiting and diarrhoea) We weren’t 2 days out before the first cases broke out, and kept presenting throughout the cruise. The result was that the Gym was closed, the library was closed the laundrette was closed, Jacuzzis were closed. Poor crew members had to sit outside the public toilet doors (propped open) monitoring hand washing and sanitizing. Or the toilets were closed for deep cleaning at odd times so you had to rush from one end of the ship to the other to find a working toilet if you were caught short. BE WARNED - If you caught the virus you were confined to your cabin for 48 hours after the last incident. We were both confined to the cabin for over 60 hours although only one of us was affected. The result – we missed seeing Tallin and worst of all we missed St Petersburg, the main reason for the trip. We were ‘released’ with half a day to spare. We asked the Tour desk if they could find any tours we could get on. They said they’d come back to us – guess what ? They didn’t. I’m convinced they made no effort to help after our major disappointment of missing 2 important trips ashore at St Petersburg.. The cost of the ‘missed’ tours was refunded – big deal. We got a letter from FOCL offering us a ‘discount’ of around £395 off another cruise. Not good enough FOCL. If you Google Fred Olsen + Noro virus you’ll see that Balmoral has had repeated attacks of Gastro-intestinal problems. You will also see that a class action has been taken out by other sufferers and FOCL recently lost a high court appeal against not having to pay compensation. You will find the name of the solicitors bringing the action in one of the Google results. I have been in touch the solicitors and they told me a number of others from this cruise have been in touch with them – we may, and I say may, have a cause for action. BE WARNED : While Balmoral has a poor record of Gastro-intestinal problems I am reliably warned ALL Cruise ships suffer to a more or less degree of infestation and none of them seem to be able to get rid of the problem. SUMMARY On line booking was not a happy experience. Suggest you book via a travel agency The cruise offered a good selection of ports (if you got to see them), exceptional service from Crew, food good, accommodation OK. On board entertainment was very professional. The rest of the trip for us was an expensive disappointment in the extreme. We have no intention of taking up an offer to spend more thousands of pounds to get what we had been promised by this cruise and to be put at risk of being ‘poisoned’ again. I urge anyone contemplating a cruise – Google Cruise ships + Norovirus or gastrointestinal problems and you will see what a major problem it is. Think twice. . . . Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
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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