3 Fred. Olsen Balmoral World 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
We chose this cruise for the chance to see LA and San Francisco. what did we see . More sea than expected. All went well until we exited the Panama canal then an argument with a fishing net ( we lost) reduced our speed to 8 knots and ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the chance to see LA and San Francisco. what did we see . More sea than expected. All went well until we exited the Panama canal then an argument with a fishing net ( we lost) reduced our speed to 8 knots and our itinerary was lost as well , missed ports, reduced time in port and more tendering . LA no chance ,San Francisco 3 days down to 1and a half , We went to El Salvador a port I would have liked to have missed reminded me of Aden in the 60s only thing missing was the gunfire. Management seemed very reluctant to tell the paying customers what was going on. No news being good news I suppose. This would have been the time for the cruise director and onboard show company to shine but no they didn't rise to the occasion, The onboard activity was sparse ,the art class was in the hands of two lady ex teachers who thought they were still at kindergarten . I'm afraid I didn't stay the course due to the constant arguments , not the passengers the teachers. The craft class was good The food was good as was the restaurant service , cabin cleaning seems to have taken a down turn, balcony's not cleaned and windows dirty, we came back one day to a line of dirty footprints across our carpet ,not ours and housekeeping was very reluctant to clean it. We returned home to a letter apologising for all the problems and offering 10% off our next cruise provided we booked direct and within a year. Fat chance my money will now go elsewhere. I've had many cruise's with Fred in the past, most times things have gone wrong one way or another but this time they surpassed themselves and sadly they don't seem to care. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
I have been on the Black Watch twice before including a cruise around Africa and always had a most pleasant and enjoyable time. This last trip had too many things imposing on ones pleasure which made it at times an ordeal. There ... Read More
I have been on the Black Watch twice before including a cruise around Africa and always had a most pleasant and enjoyable time. This last trip had too many things imposing on ones pleasure which made it at times an ordeal. There were leaks all over the ship including one in my cabin after a rough crossing of the Bay of Biscay, At times there were so many repairs being made, it was like cruising in a shipyard. The hot and cod water system on the ship had leaks leading to continual repairs the last repair being made whilst the ship was in Malta the penultimate port on a world cruise. The internet service for which you had to pay was appalling. The television service in the cabin was intermittent and the crew could not raise the sound volume when the port talks were screened so that I could not hear what was being said. The accommodation for clothes and other items was inadequate in a number of cabins for those on a world cruise. At one point they ran out of bottled beer and coffee for the coffee machine and water in the restaurant was limited. Alterations have bee made in the catering arrangements which I did not like, The one redeeming feature was that the hosts, waiters, cabin stewards and crew were brilliant . Read Less
Sail Date January 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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