11 Fred. Olsen Balmoral Europe - Western Mediterranean Cruise Reviews

Mystery cruise was great fun ,no idea where we were going until we entered port .very well organised and the crew kept the secrets well .Fellow passengers were annoying in their determination to tell you they knew where we were going . I ... Read More
Mystery cruise was great fun ,no idea where we were going until we entered port .very well organised and the crew kept the secrets well .Fellow passengers were annoying in their determination to tell you they knew where we were going . I did not want to know and told them so .Way to many passengers were doing cruise price paid comparisons which I never understand , if you booked you must have been happy with the price you paid otherwise you would not book surely ?I think the price of extras in the ships general shop are excessive as in £5 for a standard size bar of Cadbury’s milk chocolate ,silly .service in the pub lounge was poor but the observatory bar was brilliant . The single travellers get together at the start of the cruise was a shambles and served no purpose . Balmoral is a great small ship well maintained and nicely appointed. Shame about some of the passengers !The food is 4 star country house hotel food nicely presented and good choices daily with good main course portions .The shows were very mixed but that is subjective I suspect . The classic piano recitals were superb . Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
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
Some things on the cruise were terrific. The waiting staff were. The food generally was of a high standard, at times excellent. Nothing was too much trouble and in that respect the cruise was 5 star plus. When I needed my trousers ... Read More
Some things on the cruise were terrific. The waiting staff were. The food generally was of a high standard, at times excellent. Nothing was too much trouble and in that respect the cruise was 5 star plus. When I needed my trousers repaired, the tailor appeared in moments, disappeared briefly, and reappeared with the trousers totally repaired. A lot of the staff were actually incredibly nice. In other respects it was a bit wide of the mark. The wifi was very poor, but that is being upgraded, apparently. The communal seats were sprayed with some sort of deodorant, so every time I sat on them, I had to change my trousers because they stank of something nasty. The washing machines all injected with a washing liquid automatically into the system, so after I washed my clothes, I couldn't wear them because I need a non-bio powder, and am allergic to the chemical ones. I was left with a couple of T-Shirts and a few pairs of pants that I had to recycle manually. There is a notice in the launderetter - an A4 laminated thing in black and white ink, that was stuck behind someone who was ironing- that alerts you to the fact the washing machines are self-powdered. i never saw it. Not sure I would have seen it had the person ironing not been there either. The downstairs launderette boasted 4 machines that didn't self powder...I tried one. it also automatically injected detergent. WhenI got back to the UK, I needed 5 washes to remove the strong chemicals from my clothes so that I was able to wear them again. So 10 washes in all. I raised these issues with F.Olsen, and they replied a stock reply. I pointed out that the reply was factually incorrect, and they replied that I was wrong and they were correct. I took umbrage. I wrote to their head office. They wrote back and said they were taking my complaint seriously. That was the last I heard. I could easily have gone for a 2 star rating here, but I feel that is unjust to the 1000 staff who work very hard onboard. There were other niggly things. A major problem is what happens when you dock. In Casablanca we experienced Taxi Wars. Eventually a gun toting policeman came in and starting physically fighting with the taxi drivers. A bit eyebrow raising at the best of times, even more so when you have a disabled person with you. As I waited for the scheduled bus, I was harangued and harassed by the same culprits as before...I then got totally lost in Casablanca, and ended up in the slums; as sundown approached I realized I could have a serious problem. If I had known how louche and potentially dangerous the place was, I would have been more circumspect. A decent map would not have gone amiss. I am surprised the Cruise Companies don't work together, and have a Local Guide in major ports who can handle things like....taxis...and so on. The Southampton Port Authority is a joke. Staff are rude and hostile. Lots of people were getting very irate. Don't suppose F.Olsen care, as they would say once off the ship it is not their responsibility. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
The price for two cabins were over priced as we were given cabins on the front of ship with port holes only. Cabins 5003 5001 Two Adults and three children. Cabins very dark . We were advised of children's club when booking only to ... Read More
The price for two cabins were over priced as we were given cabins on the front of ship with port holes only. Cabins 5003 5001 Two Adults and three children. Cabins very dark . We were advised of children's club when booking only to find upon our arrival on the ship that they had indeed a kids club but the children had to be accompanied by an adult at all times. Rather defeated the whole object !!!! Main Restaurant staff excellent and professional . Palm café and breakfast was very sub standard and staff tended to rush you out very quickly. Very little extras in the room other than shower gal and hand wash. The staff in the bar area 11th floor were very slow and although not busy we had to wait to be severed on and average of 25 minutes One port La Rochelle, that we arrived at, we had to wait for a shuttle bus to take us in area out of the port for one hour only to find that we had to wait another 45 minutes to get on a bus to take us into the town the day was nearly over. We had only one hour in the town centre as the boat was leaving early. We shall be looking for another cruise line next time!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
We have just returned from a great cruise to the Azores & Maderia. Thoroughly enjoyed visiting some of the islands in the Azores and spending time in Maderia Cabin was very clean and comfortable even if it was an inside, not my ... Read More
We have just returned from a great cruise to the Azores & Maderia. Thoroughly enjoyed visiting some of the islands in the Azores and spending time in Maderia Cabin was very clean and comfortable even if it was an inside, not my choice but booked at the last minute (our fault) much prefer an outside. There was problems on the ship due to the Novovirus which was still evident from the previous cruise but we must congratulate the staff who worked tirelessly to ensure our cruise was as comfortable as possible. In actual fact we got spoilt by them serving us all the time even in Palms cafe. This problem did not effect our time on the ship. I must congratulate the Balmoral Show Company which put on excellent shows and also the Crews Show which was brilliant specially the engineers so funny. I will be travelling with Fred Olsen again in the future. Our stewardess was excellent in making our cabin looking clean and tidy and she always had a smile on her face. The waiters who served us in the restaurant were very polite and helpful and the drinks package good value for money. The excursions we went on were very interesting and informative but also it was nice to be able to stroll around these lovely places on your own Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
We were encouraged to try a cruise after friends visited the Fjords last year and loved it. So as a sort of last holiday with older teenagers, us and 4 other families-17 people in total decided on a western Mediterranean trip for 14 nights ... Read More
We were encouraged to try a cruise after friends visited the Fjords last year and loved it. So as a sort of last holiday with older teenagers, us and 4 other families-17 people in total decided on a western Mediterranean trip for 14 nights departing Southampton. We all booked separately through The Liverpool Cruise Club-and despite reviews I have read, they were very accommodating and helpful in that we were all sited near to each other on board, had the same time dinner sitting in the same restaurant on the same or adjoining tables with a wonderful view of the sea through huge portholes. TLCC were cheaper than booking direct and we made interim payments. We booked a year in advance due to the size of our party and are governed by school holidays, although better deals can be had if you are able to book at the last minute which many of our fellow travellers seem to have done and paid far less for better cabins. As we are a family of 5 and the cabins only sleep up to a max of 4 (there are 2 pull down wall bunks)we had the extra expense of 2 cabins so paid full price as if for 4 adults instead of just 2. Despite this and the cabins being fairly spacious it would have been quite cramped with 4/5. Prices vary on which deck you are on-the higher up the dearer it is and also varies on inside/outside cabins. We were on Coral Deck 4 in inside cabins. They are dark so lamps are needed at all times. Next time I would have an outside cabin as I did miss seeing outside, especially on waking. Embarkation at Southampton is painless and efficient. Lovely men take your luggage and the next time you see it is in your cabin. One of our cases did get damaged. We were given free parking vouchers but didn't use them as we all travelled together by coach. There was a bit of waiting around but nothing to moan about. Each person is issued with a cabin account card. When swiped this contains your personal details and photograph. This is also your room key and for getting on/off at stops. All purchases are made using this and can be viewed on your cabin interactive TV so keeping a check on your spending is useful especially with children. Mostly you just tell them your cabin number then sign the chit, but obviously you should keep it with you at all times. We had £140 on board credit for each cabin but this was used up by end of the first week. The card is also printed with lifeboat number and assembly info. You will need sterling for playing bingo £2 per board, and the dolphin/greyhound racing-£1 per bet. (They are only cardboard dolphins!) On the last day the bingo costs £5 per board but some lucky chap won £635! Cabins have huge storage space (cases fit under the beds) TV, air con, a self-combination safe, nice en suite with shower and only hand/shower gel in dispensers. There is a hairdryer fixed to the wall which is very slow so if you have long hair or get ready in a hurry, take your own. A european 2-pin plug is needed. Towels are provided as well as deck towels for sunbathing and can be changed for fresh at any time. However, you will need your own towels if you want to go to the beach at any of the stops. Beds are very comfy! There is very minimal noise from adjoining cabins. You have your own allocated hard working housekeeper who makes up your bed and turns it down each evening leaving you a chocolate on the pillow. There are tea/coffee making facilities and a large bottle of water which if you open, it is charged for. The crew and staff are mainly Philippine's, very friendly, polite and hard working although there is a grumpy waiter in Ballindalloch restaurant who we avoided. The waiters and waitresses (especially Layla in the 'observatory' and Mary in the 'Lido')are wonderful with great senses of humour and can remember your name, drink and cabin number after only a few days. Don't miss the 'crew show' at the end of your holiday. You are sort of expected to pay and charged to your account, 'tips' to your housekeeper and dinner waiter averaging £4 each per day from each person in your party which added up is quite costly (£40 per day for us which you wouldn't pay at home!) This can easily be removed by visiting reception during the first couple of days and telling them you wish to pay them directly at the end of your cruise. It's then up to you what you value their service at. On board and during the first couple of days of sailing when its still too cool to sunbathe there is plenty going on (even for teenagers). We enjoyed the nightly shows in the Neptune, the show company are talented, young and enthusiastic and also around and about doing various activities during the day. 10/10 for them! A mention also to comedian Taffy Spencer who had us in stitches. We had 3 formal evenings-black tie/evening dress, 3 theme nights which hardly anyone bothers with dressing up, hence only all our 'men' in grass skirts and coconut bra's on Hawaiian night! We had a laugh but very strange looks from others. 'Sail-aways' are fun. Informal nights still require jacket or tie, 'smart casual' you can wear jeans but no shorts/crops-this the men found tough especially when it got hotter the further south we sailed. As already mentioned an a la carte dinner is served you each night in the same restaurant, same time, same table. There is a good choice on the menu (these are posted outside during the day) and a children's menu. If you are a couple then you will be placed on a table with others. We were in Spey, Deck 10 at 8.30pm. The earlier sitting is 6.30pm or you can opt to go to the food themed evenings in Palms Cafe which is open seating. We enjoyed Indian and Chinese. All restaurants are open seating during the day. We loved supper club in Palms between 11.30pm and 12.30am. There is also morning tea/biscuits served as well as afternoon cakes/rolls and room service if you wanted it! We could not find fault with any of the food served anywhere on this ship (hence a 71b weight gain!) although talking to others they felt standards had dropped due to cost saving. Sara Sipek, the english executive chef and her team are amazing in that the same quality of food came out each time. Our restaurant waiters were Made (said Maddy) and Toddy who has the loveliest smile. They are whizzes at their jobs and Made was very entertaining with his after dinner tricks and posers. Unfortunately there was an outbreak of Gastroenteritis on Day 7 so self service was withdrawn which did slow down the process. You had to wait a while for toast or milk/sugar to go in your hot drinks. Even with the extra workload the staff were still polite and friendly. Sanitising your hands is a constant must! Stops included Gibraltar (a 10 minute walk in to town) then a 15 minute walk to the bottom of the 'rock'. We paid a local guide 20E each for the tour up to the top, this included the 'cave' tour. Taking the cable car costs 18E excluding the cave tour. The views are amazing but watch don't touch the apes! Barcelona, catch the free courtesy bus from the port. We did the open top city tour which takes 1-2hrs and costs again 20E each. Palamos, the beach is a 5/10 min walk from the ship. Mahon-you dock right on the edge of the town, alas sunday so very few shops open but a small market at the port. Saw lots of dolphins and 2 small whales between here and Portimao-This is an anchor port and you are tendered in which if there is a strong swell takes an age. Not a lot to entice you here though some did get a taxi to the beach. Lisbon is lovely, loads of shops and we went up the tower with fantastic views over the city. Cost 5E pp. We did not pay for any of the organised ship excursions. There is lots of info in your cabin about each stop and The Daily Times delivered each evening is essential to what's going on next day and where, dress code, entertainment etc. Cruise director Joanne Haley and deputy Jamie Clarke are great assets to the Fred Olsen company. We really enjoyed hearing the ship's Master, Robert Bamberg's daily announcements from the Bridge. On board there is a Spa with many treatments, beauticians, hairdressers, fully equipped, popular gym overlooking the ocean, launderette Deck 3(tokens £2 from reception, just press the button on the front for 5 secs for automatic liquid detergent dispensing)also free tumble dryers/ irons etc. There is a disco nightly in the observatory, Deck 11, which goes on quite late if your cabin is on or below that forward deck. There are also a jewellers (free to look and wish), a shop if you forget essentials or fancy a bit of choccy, a boutique and duty free with daily offers. Library and card/games room. Reception is expertly manned or I should say womanned and euro's can also be purchased here. Cabin accounts can be settled the day before by cash or euro's and the remainder taken automatically by credit card (this is registered when you board). Smoking is allowed in several places and on cabin balconies. You can use the free telephones around the ship to phone your's or other cabins. Loads of toilets on the decks and in all the right places. Disembarkation. Suitcases are left out the night before-take a holdall for overnight. This is done by Deck, starting at the top, but is quick and stressless, don't pack your cabin card as you need this. Cases can then be found in a set area by deck number. A few warnings: Loungers get snapped up very early around the pools on Deck 7 and 11. The pools are salt water and several times had to be emptied twice daily due to children being sick in them. The photographers are everywhere and catch you at your worst and best and not particularly bothered if they get somebody else in them too. We soon learned to always stand as a family rather than individually. They then charge you £6.50 for the small and £14.95 for the large prints. You are under no obligation to buy them. There was a mixed age range on board from a group on a lads only holiday, youngsters and elder teenagers with parents, up to the quite elderly. We did hear a few grumbles in passing from them about how many children were on board (only 77 up to age 16 out of 1350 passengers!)but hey ho our money is as good as theirs and they can go any time out of school holidays! In general we found most friendly, chatty and fun. Duty Free is limited to 1 ltr strong liqueurs, or 2 ltrs of fortified wine or 4 ltrs of still wine, 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco. Customs staff are vigilant and were stopping many going through the green channel. It's your risk! For our maiden voyage, Balmoral was everything we hoped for and more, we thought this was a last holiday with our boy's but they and the friends we travelled with loved it and all want to go again....guess we'd better start saving! And from the Bridge......'All is well'. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
Having been left some money by my late adored mother I decided to spend some of it on a cruise ,something I hadn't done since about 1979 when I took a party of school children on the Uganda to the eastern Med. That had been amazing ... Read More
Having been left some money by my late adored mother I decided to spend some of it on a cruise ,something I hadn't done since about 1979 when I took a party of school children on the Uganda to the eastern Med. That had been amazing and I wondered if cruising was still as good as it had been then. Well, the ship may be more modern but the atmosphere was just the same and heavily dependent for success on having a happy and efficient crew. No probs there as it would be impossible to be better looked after.Three cheers"and one cheer more" for an amazing crew. We had booked the Southampton to Venice via almost everywhere cruise from 6th June but at the last minute were offered the previous cruise to the Fjords at an unmissable price so took that as well and so were away for 28 nights. As followers of cruising will probably now know we never got to Norway because of a pilots' strike and so had to make do with an ad hoc tour of N. Germany,Denmark ,Sweden and Belgium. Disappointing of course but nobody's fault and I still enjoyed it as an hors d'oeuvres before the main meal. Apart from severe gales in The Bay of Biscay, fog ,which meant we never saw the Rock of Gibraltar, and being late into Almeria(well worth missing in my opinion!) and Tunis everything else went like clockwork and the weather was glorious.Wonderful , eye opening visits to Corfu, Dubrovnik, Split, Venice( is there anything in the world as miraculous as sailing into Venice as the sun bursts through the morning mist?) No I didn't think so!Sicily, Malta,Ibiza and Lisbon completed the itinerary of a fabulous voyage and I was seriously reluctant to leave the ship even after a month (oh the joy of retirement.) Nothing to fault about the food(close at times to haute cuisine) and the cabins, we had lovely cabins on Coral deck for the first cruise as well as our super SS for the second. Only niggles might be a couple of poor value excursions and a few tour guides with "interesting" english and an inability ever to stop talking and allow us to watch the scenery pass by! Oh, and the presence of The Daily Mail "highlights" as ship's newspaper.Why does Fred Olsen assume that we are all right wing bigots? In real life I'd rather take poison than read that apology for accurate news. Anyway I'm hooked! Apart from The Fjords in August 2013 I've already booked The Canaries and Azores on Black Watch in November this year and I can hardly wait. I've at last found my dream holiday style that means I can take plenty of stuff with me and I NEVER HAVE TO DRIVE!!In the second we dined in the Spey restaurant which I thought magical as one dines while watching the sea and land pass by. And we had wonderful table companions in a couple from Brisbane which meant every evening had good conversation as well as good food. We also enjoyed the "special" food nights,Indian ,Thai, Chinese and Spanish in The Palms Cafe. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Embarkation was from Southampton, following a long coach journey with Portlink (which was quite pleasant). Not an entirely smooth embarkation, passengers sat around for sometime until called by batch numbers, 20 a time. Initial ... Read More
Embarkation was from Southampton, following a long coach journey with Portlink (which was quite pleasant). Not an entirely smooth embarkation, passengers sat around for sometime until called by batch numbers, 20 a time. Initial impressions of passenger mix - mainly UK & older clientele. Although we are in our early 60s, we felt a little young - although, to be fair, many were in 60s & 70s fit & healthy...but there were a significant proportion who were 85+ (regular medical emergencies happened throughout the cruise). Cabin was a bit of a squeeze, but sufficient storage & wardrobe space. However, soundproofing was poor - you could clearly hear neighbours' conversations. Cabin steward very good. Ship's facilities were very good for a medium sized ship, easy to get around, signposted quite well & stable ship. Several bars / lounges / good library. Crew were well organised. Quite a few spaces outside, sun deck, promenade deck, & tiered stern for quiet (if cramped) areas. Food was of average to good standard UK fayre, reasonable variety with efficient dining rooms + buffet at Palm's cafe, which we used for lunches. Dining room staff were attentive & efficient; good basic variety of wines. Entertainment was UK style shows, although the crew show was better than the professional company...demonstrating a rather talented crew, especially the engine room guys who were an absolute hoot! Standard fayre for organisation & information. Docking & free time excellent. A variety of tours were available, enjoyed the visit to Mini-Hollywood, where they film the spaghetti westerns. As mentioned, this was a themed cruise...& I undertook art classes under the tuition of Maurice Greenwood who inspired us to produce our own styles of watercolours...very gentle approach, fun & learned a great deal for someone who had never painted before! Overall, fair value for money with lots of daytime activities. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Myself and my husband are brand new to cruising and thought we would try a mini cruise to 'test the water'. Fred Olsen was recommended by (an older) relative, as it is a smaller ship and not overun by kids.Perhaps our ... Read More
Myself and my husband are brand new to cruising and thought we would try a mini cruise to 'test the water'. Fred Olsen was recommended by (an older) relative, as it is a smaller ship and not overun by kids.Perhaps our expectations of a cruise were too high, but speaking with other new cruisers who were doing the same as us on this 'taster weekend', I don't think so. This was Fred Olsen's opportunity to capture a new market and they failed miserably.Firstly admin: I had to call Fred Olsen twice to tell them that we hadn't received our tickets and in the end were issued with an e-ticket. They managed to send the bill to the right address so why not the tickets?The ship was delayed getting into port so embarkation was delayed by 3 hours. Fortunately we were emailed by FO to alert us to this so didn't leave home until later in the day, but many passengers didn't or couldn't. Needless to say check in was horrendous - lengthy queues and disorganisation ruled the day. This set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Queues and lengthy waits for everything including breakfast seating and drinks just made what should have been a relaxing break into alot of frustrating hard work.We booked a superior outside cabin which was reminiscent of a ferry cabin, and though it was clean, was very shabby and in much need of decoration and a new bathroom.We were booked into the Spey restaurant for dinner and even though on second sitting, we felt rushed all the way through. Waiters were surly and it was very difficult to attract their attention particularly at breakfast time when it was hard to get coffee and toast served in time to go with the rest of the meal.On the third morning we went into the Ballindalloch restaurant for breakfast and have to say that service was marginally better in there.Food could hardly be called 'fine dining'. It was adequate 'function catering' if rather boring - alot of it was based on roast meat and veg, starters and desserts were OK if generally tasteless. It's a pity that 'hot' food arrived at the table tepid, and cold food really was very chilled. We ate once in the Palms cafe - afternoon tea on the day of embarkation - after that we avoided it like the plague. It was noisy, tables were dirty, glass seating dividers were smeared with grease and upholstered seating was badly stained... not nice.The Captains Welcome Cocktail party was a joke - more rugby scrum mentality and shockingly bad service. The party took place in the Neptune lounge. It took us 30 mins to get a drink and no canapes got as far as the area in which we and 40 others were sitting. To us, it just felt like a 'hard sell' for tours, future cruises and of course the obligatory photo with the captain.Outside sitting areas were generally tidy and there appeared to be enough loungers and chairs, but then it was a bit breezy so maybe not everyone wanted to be outside. It did became quite difficult to move around when everyone sprawled out on loungers and grouped them together. It was also worrying to see passengers sitting in jacuzzis holding drinks in glasses, despite their being notices displayed forbidding it. Staff didn't seem to care. We will probably try cruising in the future, but definitely not with Fred Olsen. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
Departed on 23 April 2011 from Southampton, having stayed on the previous night at the Dolphin Hotel. For anyone cruising from Southampton, this is a cheap and cheerful option due to it's location and car-parking deal, but not ... Read More
Departed on 23 April 2011 from Southampton, having stayed on the previous night at the Dolphin Hotel. For anyone cruising from Southampton, this is a cheap and cheerful option due to it's location and car-parking deal, but not it's breakfast on the day we were there. Our cabin on deck 8 was lovely and much larger than we expected - after paying half- price upgrade in January. No bath, but the shower space was comfortable and the shower was a good strong one. We had a double bed, covered with two single quilts when we arrived. We requested a double quilt which was duly delivered, albeit on Day 2 of the trip.We had breakfast delivered to our room on all but two days, because we like to start our day in the comfort of our cabin, but did enjoy the breakfast in the main restaurant as well. The food we had throughout the trip was excellent and I found that I had the 'dish of the Day' on about 5 days, which included typical English fayre such as Cottage Pie and Fish Pie, which were very tasty. We also found that the portions were more than adequate, especially in light of the number of courses offered.We also felt that Casablanca was a disappointment, but we only went into the Town and not on a trip, so I can't comment on the experiences of thosebwho did. I have been to Gibraltar before but still enjoyed our independent visit here. We took a trip to Jerez when we visited Cadiz, visiting the Tio Pepe Bodego. The tourbaround Jerez itself was cut short because of the weather (agreed by all), but I felt that this trip was expensive for what was included. This w the only trip we took because we had to pay a fuel surcharge within a couple of weeks of paying our final balance. This was particularly galling as we had to pay much more due to our taking advantage of the upgrade offer.Lisbon was also a great independent visit, and we felt quite pleased with ourselves using the Metro, which was really cheap and so quick, it took us less than five minutes from the Centre back to the Ship. We were disappointed when we found that we were not visiting Portamao, as this was one reason for selecting this itinerary, but it gives us an excuse to make another trip!Embarkation was ordered and reasonably quick, but the disembarkation was the best we have ever had. We were at breakfast at 7.25 and back at our hotel in the town centre by 8.15 - fantastically well organised!All in all a great time. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
We could see Balmoral berthed as we approached the Cruise terminal at Dover but were puzzled when directed to a car park well away from the ship.There was a great deal of traffic leaving the area and we learnt that Balmoral had been held ... Read More
We could see Balmoral berthed as we approached the Cruise terminal at Dover but were puzzled when directed to a car park well away from the ship.There was a great deal of traffic leaving the area and we learnt that Balmoral had been held outside the harbor because of extremely high wins and a heavy swell.She had planned to dock at 5.00am but had not berthed until 11.00am!The result was chaotic as passengers disembarking met with incoming passengers and their vehicles. It certainly stretched the resources of Dover's Cruise Centre but theharbour staff were superb and handled the crisis with patience, skill and good humour.We had arrived at 1.00pm and were on board at 4.00pm.Their was a wait while the incoming passengers were documented,the allocation of cabin allocation was difficult as one had to seek a an Olsen crew member with a clip board,however we found cabin 6110 which was aft on the main deck.A comfortable double bed with large double window,Tv east chair,dressing table with large mirror,and bathroom with sower and a tub. There was plenty of hanging and storage place.Kettle'tray etc and effective air conditioning. We had a long wait for our luggage and I eventually found the last two cases on the reception area of main deck, obviously the late arrival had caused a huge problem fore the luggage handlers.The Captain welcomed us aboard over the p/a system and warned of very rough weather in the Bay of Biscay,because of the wind and high seas he said that all decks were out of bounds and the doors were being locked. Sadly these conditions existed for most of the trip and I briefly list the course of the voyage: Sun 18 Jan- Still in the English Channel but ship was rising and falling in the heavy seas and everybody had found sleep difficult in the stormy conditions. Access to decks still locked. Mon 19 Jan Another bad night we had to place everything on the floor as violent motion sent everything on lockers or shelves went spinning off to the floor. Captain Trond Lippestad said at 9.00am that he had been on the bridge all night and we were now in the Bay of Biscay with atlantic swells causing waves 40 foot high and a force 9 gale.We should have docked in La Corunna at 10.00am but arrive at 7 p.m. Tues 20 - Woke to heavy rain but it was good to be on terra firma.We found the town quiet and unhospitable in a heavy hail storm.There was more bad news when the Captain announced that the terrible weather meant he had to cancel the visits to Tangier and Lisbon.To go further south would mean he could not return to Dover by 27 Jan (the storms meant sailing at 10 to 12 knots instead of the normal20-22knots. Wed 20th-Docked in Bilbao mid morning,we are here for two days and revised itinerary is Fri 23 - La Rochelle, Sat 24 Jan -Lorient Mon 26 Jan - Cherbourg. Thursday22 Jan Left Bilbao at 4pm and Captain broadcast that a satellite weather map showed a hurricane moving towards the Bay of Biscay.He was forced to abandon plans to visit La Rochelle and Lorient and would head North for the relative shelter of the English Channel.Olsens were trying to find two Northern ports that we could visit en route to Dover.This was disappointing but the Captain bore the responsibility for 1300 passengers(many elderly) and 550 crew,apparently there had been several broken limbs reported due to violent movement of the ship. We had sunshine in Cherbourg and a warm welcome from the port authority during our 2 day stay in Antwerp.There were hastily arranged visits to The Bayeux tapestry at C.bourg and Brussels in A/werp but we felt they were a poor substitute foe Tangier and Lisbon! CONCLUSIONS A cruise break in January is tempting particularly to N. Africa but be prepared for violent seas in the Bay of Biscay.You have two days out and 2 days back.The need to maintain a strict adherence to the Olsens cruise calendar means that ports will be cancelled from the itinerary if the ship is not back in the home port on schedule. The Captain, Officers and crew of Balmoral maintained a calm very attitude during a very difficult cruise.Waiers with laden trays weaved across canting decks as did the dancers in the cabaret. Balmoral is a happy ship and we will certainly sail with her again(not in January) They were fair in pricing the cruise and refunded the fuel supplement of £60 that had been on our invoice days after returning home a letter from Mike Rodwell their M.D. apologizing for the disrupted cruise but offering 25% off a future Olsen cruise. Some passengers will claim they would expect a refund in compensation I believe the majority will accept we were the the victims of abnormal weather conditions and we together with Balmoral survived THE CRUEL SEA. ........................ Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
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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