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40 Fred. Olsen Europe - British Isles & Western Cruise Reviews

Having worked for four years in P&Os iconic ss Canberra, including her farewell cruise in 1998 prior to her being decommissioned, I have always avoided the temptation of a cruise holiday; party because I had 'been there and done ... Read More
Having worked for four years in P&Os iconic ss Canberra, including her farewell cruise in 1998 prior to her being decommissioned, I have always avoided the temptation of a cruise holiday; party because I had 'been there and done that' albeit from a different perspective, and also because I feared I would spend too much time complaining that 'it isn't like it used to be...' However a partner keen to cruise, a twenty year time gap and a curiosity to see how things had changed, combined to weaken my resolve. What I thought they did well: Firstly, the crew. I know it's a cliché, but the mainly Indian, Filipino and Thai crew could not have worked harder or done more to make our cruise enjoyable. They were friendly, engaging, always appeared happy and managed to remember our names and our favourite drinks. I really could not fault them. Our cabin: we booked a modest deck 2 outside cabin, which was surprisingly spacious and well appointed, though slightly dated decor-wise. The cabin was clean and our cabin steward(ess) (Kitty) was a delight. Even a severe flood requiring a cabin change on the last night was well-handled, with housekeeping staff appointed to help us pack and move. A letter of apology and a £50 credit to our on-board account to apologise for the inconvenience was a nice way to defuse any irritation we may have felt. Food: I thought the food was absolutely first rate. Every day I ordered breakfast from the menu rather than the buffet, and I could not fault it if I tried. The galley even made a slight adjustment to their kedgeree recipe to suit my spicier palate. Lunch as usually taken in the buffet or shore-side when alongside. The buffet was good with plenty of choice. Afternoon Tea (only taken twice) was perhaps the weakest offer - sandwiches were tasty but a but clunky and unrefined, the cake selection was limited, the scones were not the best (a bit dry) and served with UHT whipped cream, which as a shame given we were in port six of ten days so obtaining fresh stores should not have been a problem. Dinner, however, was the highlight of the day; we were lucky to have 4 great table companions whose company we enjoyed and who each added a different perspective to the conversation. Our Head Waiter (Xavier) and the Commis Waiter (Ryan) were efficient, charming and friendly. Each night we had a five course menu, with three to six choices of each. In total we had ten meals on board and I don't think I once left the restaurant unhappy. Full marks and thank you to all concerned. Guest entertainers: we had some super guest entertainers, including Leo Shavers (musician) whose impromptu jazz session was superb. The classical pianist was good, though I would like to have heard more of him, as was the Welsh baritone singer - both of whose names have slipped my mind (sorry). I also greatly appreciated the bridge lessons, which has whetted my appetite for the game. The Braemar Orchestra and the cocktail pianist were also super. Disembarkation: this morning we woke at 7am, were showered and packed by 7.45am and we're in our car on the way home by 8.45am. It could not have gone better. What I didn't like: Having been effusive in my praise for what I felt was done well, I will be equally honest in highlighting what I didn't like. Braemar Show Company: in fairness, a few of them put their heart and soul into the shows, but generally I thought their productions were uninspiring and badly choreographed and the team were very young and lacked believe-ability. Sadly I felt most of them didn't really want to be there and made little effort to hide the fact. Reception (Purser's Desk): I had little dealing with the front desk, apart from towards the end of the cruise when I noticed a billing error. We had upgraded to the 'all inclusive' drinks package for an additional £10 per person per night, this allowed complimentary 'house' drinks and 50% discount on branded drinks, cocktails and wine. When I checked my account on day 8 I noticed they had charged for all drinks. I raised this with the front desk, and rather than apologising and promising to investigate the error, I was asked if I could 'prove' we had paid for the all-inclusive package. I informed the receptionist that I was able to do so as I had just checked my online bank statement and I could see the £200 additional payment leaving my account. Having insulted me once by asking me to prove my case, she then insulted me again by asking how I was able to access my account as the ship's satellite wasn't working (for the record I had international data roaming and was able to access via my Blackberry). Having convinced her I was telling the truth I was then told that they would have to re-enter all our purchases with the relevant discount and we shouldn't order any drinks until this was done. Given this was an error wholly of the company's making, to have a member of staff twice infer I was lying and then to cause me further inconvenience whilst they sorted out an error of their own making, was a poor show. I honestly do not think they could have handled the situation more badly than they did. Show timings: it was also a slightly irritating that passengers on second sitting (8.30pm) had to watch the cabaret at 7.30pm (before dinner) with first sitting passengers watching the cabaret at 8.30pm. Personally, I like to relax with a glass of champagne or a cocktail and chat with my partner/friends pre-dinner - which I couldn't do unless I missed the cabaret. Nor did I particularly want to watch a jazz show or a comedian at 7.30pm before eating. I understand second sitting passengers usually watch a later show and it had been changed for this cruise. If so, I don't think it worked very well. Visibility of Senior Officers; my final gripe was the total lack of visibility of the 4 stripe officers on board. This might be a throw-back to my P&O days, but I would have expected to see the ship's senior management out and about in public areas most evenings, even if only for an hour pre-dinner. Apart from the welcome aboard Cocktail Party I didn't see the Captain, First Officer or Purser once during the whole cruise, which I thought was surprising and disappointing. Overall, despite the above complaints we had a super time. Would I cruise again? Much to my surprise, the answer is yes. And I would also happily cruise with Fred. Olsen in Braemar again. However the bar tenders, the stewards and the waiters were far better ambassadors for the company than the ships' officers and deserve to be acknowledged as such. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
Changed cabin after 1st night due to vibration and noise (deck 4) Changed ports of call due to bad weather, visited Santander instead of Sans Sebastian informed quicly and given the chance to book on new tours. New cabin great, both ... Read More
Changed cabin after 1st night due to vibration and noise (deck 4) Changed ports of call due to bad weather, visited Santander instead of Sans Sebastian informed quicly and given the chance to book on new tours. New cabin great, both cabins really clean; reception staff very helpful. Excellent staff and wonderful crew, good food; buffet kept open for us when the coach was late back from tour. Booked again for October 16 but on deck 6 this time Good value for money, shops on board needed to be better, shows were as expected. Welsh male choir on board very entertaining. Great visit to Bilbao very informative tour guide needed more time. In france stopped at La Rochelle and visited Courban Castle great tour informative but wanted time in the shops to buy souveniers. Great day exploring Santander on our own. Very clean city, found the bank! Travelled there and back by Eavesway coaches excellent Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
I went on a previous cruise in March - see my review "Absolutely magical experience" - this time with my wife, so the previous cruise was fresh in my mind and my descriptions in hers. This time departing from Rosyth, we found ... Read More
I went on a previous cruise in March - see my review "Absolutely magical experience" - this time with my wife, so the previous cruise was fresh in my mind and my descriptions in hers. This time departing from Rosyth, we found the port facilities inferior to before when I departed from Southampton, although actual embarkation was much more painless.There is no left luggage facility which made if complicated sending luggage ahead. It was not made clear that there is no taxi rank at the small Rosyth station, better to stop off at Inverkeithing which is a more major station (indeed some of the London trains stop there). The actual cruise got off to a slow start because the first and second days were taken up with port visits - there was no captain's welcome until the third night (and the captain couldn't even come to that) - this meant that ship-bound activities such as Bridge and similar (which we were looking forward to) didn't start until the third day, which was very disappointing, for example for disabled people unable to go on trips. The "at sea" days where there were more activities so crowded the timetable that many things we wanted to go to all clashed. The Bridge sessions were very well-run and enjoyable. Having come up from London on the train, we were disinclined to launch into 4-hour bus trips to Loch Ness and such on the first full day so we stayed on-board feeling we were wasting time. However with the first sea day things picked up well. We didn't end up going on port excursions as we chickened out of going on tenders to some places and I had had the experience of missing trips I'd booked because of injury before. I thought that the food, although very good, wasn't quite in the same league as before. The soups weren't as good and the desserts were mostly very disappointing. The main courses remained excellent. Unlike before there wasn't wholemeal bread, which we like, and none of the speciality breads such as walnut were on offer. We took out the "all-inclusive drinks package" which was a huge mistake. The only things included in the price for free were the very poor house wines, a cava which we soon got bored with and a limited ranges of beers and spirits. Yes you can get other drinks for 50% of the price (reducing good wines from 3 times the price to 1.5 times) but not basics like tea and coffee for which full price was still applied. I think we averaged out losing out by about £10 per night between us. We definitely won't get that again unless they refine it sensibly. We didn't go to many of the entertainment offerings, but those we did go to were very good, all things considered although the lack of a proper theatre hampered things.There was a theme of a detective mystery run over several nights which was good fun. I even got the answer right (but didn't win the prize). The crew were uniformly good-humoured and friendly - some remembered unprompted my likings from my previous trip which was amazing! Still we enjoyed it enough to wander round to the "future cruises" office and book one for next year - this time on the "Black Watch". Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
Embarkation was well organised and worked smoothly. The lifeboat muster was the most thorough that we have ever attended. All previous musters had ended in the muster station with a practice donning of the life jacket, but this time we ... Read More
Embarkation was well organised and worked smoothly. The lifeboat muster was the most thorough that we have ever attended. All previous musters had ended in the muster station with a practice donning of the life jacket, but this time we also practiced walking the route to the lifeboat embarkation point. The cabin was clean and comfortable, but with a torn carpet it was due for a bit of TLC. The ports of call were interesting to visit, and the Captain’s decision to miss out Horta because of weather conditions had a silver lining in that we had an extra day in Funchal when we were the only ship in port. The town, cable cars and attractions were quiet, unlike the following day (the originally scheduled day) when there were several large ships in port with the consequent crowds ashore. The food was generally good, but choice was more limited than on other cruise lines we have used. At dinner, main courses arrived completely plated, so there was no choice of vegetables. One evening the beef stew was just beef, gravy, and a few carrots cooked with the meat. There were no other vegetables on offer. Others must have complained because the headwaiter came round the tables asking if there had been a problem with the beef dish. In the Palms, the fruit salad seemed to be little else than melon, and the game was hunting the grape. I managed to find a strawberry on one occasion. Drinks were reasonably priced, and passengers on the all inclusive drinks deal had value for money. The crew, with the exceptions mentioned later, were friendly, courteous and efficient. The entertainment was very good. The resident show company were excellent, and the cabaret acts maintained the standard. There were several very interesting speakers on board, and there were consistently good audiences at their talks. There was a good range of activities on sea days. The ship seemed to be very clean, and passengers were constantly reminded to wash their hands and use the sanitiser dispensers found everywhere on the ship. However, at the welcome cocktail party I was given a drink in a pre-lipsticked glass, and at dinner one evening the table had been laid with a fork with food residue from a previous use. One began to wonder how well standards were being adhered to behind the scenes. Unfortunately, we were disappointed with several aspects of Fred Olsen’s service. The first was the lack of shuttle buses in Lisbon. Passengers were told it was an easy 15-minute 1.5km walk into Lisbon. 6kph is a brisk walking pace, which given the hot weather and the age profile of the passengers, is not an easy walk. It's the speed I do on a treadmill when I want to do some moderate cardio vascular exercise. Try it. Also, I would have liked to use my energy exploring Lisbon, not getting to and back from the city. The suggestion from the cruise director that passengers could use the local buses didn't seem to be taken up by many. I suppose they thought they'd be joining a queue of several hundred at the bus stop. Two things made the lack of shuttle buses additionally annoying. Firstly, P&O had provided them for their passengers on Adonia, which was actually moored nearer to the city than Balmoral. Secondly, Fred Olsen had provided them in Funchal a couple of days earlier, even though the distance was less than that in Lisbon. When my wife asked at reception why Fred Olsen had not provided buses as had P&O, the only answer she could get was that it was only 1.5km. The logic behind their decision whether or not to provide shuttles escapes me. The second problem was in Leixoes. A large number of passengers had departed on tours within a very short space of time. Many of the tours included a visit to a port wine producer where there was the opportunity to buy wine. The consequence was several hundred people with bottles of wine arriving back at the ship virtually all at the same time resulting in an exceptionally long queue to board the ship. I timed how long it was from when we joined the queue on the quayside until we passed through security on the ship. It was 42 minutes. As we went up the gangplank passengers were photographing the queue, which by then stretched beyond the stern of the ship, the gangway being level with the forward stairwell. On entering the ship we were then made to queue again to have wine bottles taken from us, and this further delayed the boarding procedure. There were a lot of very angry people. I assumed, naively as it turned out, that there would be an apology in the daily news bulletin, but there was no mention. I asked at the tours desk why they didn’t think it was appropriate to apologise to the passengers who had had to queue for so long in high 70s heat on the quayside. I was asked if there had been any problem on the tour. No, the tour was very good. They said that they only dealt with problems occurring on the actual tour, and that what had happened on the quayside was not Fred Olsen’s responsibility. I asked why so many people had been sent on tours at the same time, and the answer was that they had to take the times offered by the tour operator. If that was so, I suggested that they should have realized that all those passengers would return at the same time and that they should have been better prepared by providing a second gangplank. Unfortunately, it was a waste of time trying to discuss it, as the only response they would make was that it was not Fred Olsen’s fault. I think Fred Olsen were extremely fortunate that the queue was in the shade of the new terminal building. The temperature was in the high seventies, and if passengers had been forced to queue in direct sun having had nothing to drink for nearly five hours except any water they had taken with them, I think it more than likely they would have been dealing with collapsed passengers. The final piece of nonsense was that after having been forced to queue to have our wine taken off us, it was returned to the cabin the following day, two days before the end of the cruise. What was the point of all that? We’ve been on similar tours with other cruise lines and not had to hand over the odd bottle brought back onboard after a tour. The attitude of crew with whom I raised these issues was extremely poor, and the response seemed to be one of “So what?” They need to take a serious look at their passenger relations ethos. Disembarkation went smoothly and we were driving out of Southampton at 9am. Needless to say, we’ll never set foot on another Fred Olsen ship. I’m sure that won’t bother Fred as they have a loyal following that is happy with what they offer, but there’s much better available elsewhere.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
Fjords and Coastal towns of Norway - Sept 2013 My partner and I have been on 4 cruises but this was our first with Fred Olsen and our first away from the Med. The food, service and entertainment on board the Black Watch were all fantastic ... Read More
Fjords and Coastal towns of Norway - Sept 2013 My partner and I have been on 4 cruises but this was our first with Fred Olsen and our first away from the Med. The food, service and entertainment on board the Black Watch were all fantastic and the staff and fellow passengers were the friendliest we've ever encountered. Fortunately for us, we managed to evade the Norovirus! An email from Fred Olsen 2 days prior to our departure from Rosyth gave us our new, later boarding time. We later learned that this was due to the vessel being sanitised after a Norovirus outbreak on the previous trip. All embarking passengers received a personal sanitiser and instructions on how to avoid contracting and spreading the virus. However, a day into our journey all public toilets were closed and word spread that the virus had returned. During the week more passengers were taken ill and confined to their cabins under doctor's orders. The ship was being sanitised constantly and passengers were not allowed anywhere near food. I don't know how many people suffered with the virus but increasing amounts of empty seats at dinner tables indicated that it was not being contained. Sitting in the theatre one morning awaiting a tender to take us ashore, we witnessed about a dozen people handing back organised trip tickets belonging to family/travelling companions, all giving illness as the reason. We also heard the tale of an elderly woman who had booked a last minute deal just a couple of days prior to the cruise; she contracted the virus on the second day and was confined to her cabin for 5 days, thus missing every stop on the journey. She allegedly told a Fred Olsen representative that she would have never booked the holiday had she known there was a virus onboard the vessel. Fred Olsen offer an all-inclusive upgrade for £10 per day which is great for us as we both enjoy a drink on holiday. My 72 year old diabetic mother accompanied us on this trip but, as she does not touch alcohol, preferred not to pay extra for the package. At the time of booking, our travel agent was informed by a Fred Olsen representative that we were allowed to have all-inclusive and non all-inclusive passengers on the same booking but we would not be allowed to sit at the same table for dinner as diners on different packages were separated. This more or less forced us to book all-inclusive for the three of us. On board the vessel we quickly learned that, although there was allocated seating in the Glentanar restaurant (the main restaurant), the Braemar Garden Cafe and Orchid Room both offer free seating and all restaurants serve the same food. Also, our allocated table in the Glentanar restaurant had a 50-50 mixture of all-inclusive and non all-inclusive diners! To make matters worse, the soft drinks option on the all-inclusive package offers only one sugar free drink suitable for diabetics (my mother) which is diet coke, all other sugar free drinks incur a further charge - 50% off for all-inclusive passengers. Unfortunately my mother does not like diet coke! Just one more piece of useful information - there are two sittings for dinner in the Glentanar restaurant, 6.15pm and 8.15pm. If you wish to change your allocated sitting time there is a charge of £2 per person, per day. So, if you have a preferred meal time, it may pay to sort it with your agent or Fred Olsen prior to boarding. None of this has put any of us off future trips with Fred Olsen but we do feel like we were misinformed and I hope this information is beneficial to others.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
We have just returned from our 1st cruise with Fred Olsen, we have however, cruised 22 times previously ! Having heard some mixed reviews about FO we decided to give them a try for ourselves. Our itinerary was a 3 night trip ... Read More
We have just returned from our 1st cruise with Fred Olsen, we have however, cruised 22 times previously ! Having heard some mixed reviews about FO we decided to give them a try for ourselves. Our itinerary was a 3 night trip Harwich-Amsterdam-Newcastle. We arrived at Harwich, check in was efficient , easy and the staff friendly. We were invited to wait in the check-in area until we were invited for boarding. Boarding started at 2pm deck by deck, everyone was onboard I would say by 2.45pm or so. We went to our cabin, another 1st for us, a low deck external cabin ( no balcony). It was on deck 3 , smallish, but very well designed, beds in an odd L shape,this layout though, did provide alot of space though ! The cabin was spotlessly clean, flat screen TV ,the usual dire selection of channels as on all cruise ships ! This cabin featured 3 large wardrobes and drawers , so on a long itinerary, plenty of storage ! The shower room was functional, clean and the usual twice a day servicing. The cabin also had tea/coffee making facilities. After we had unpacked, we made our way up to the cafe area , where a very pleasant afternoon tea was available, buffet style, a good choice of sandwiches, cream cakes , scones, cream and jam. A trio was playing which was very pleasant. The ship has several nice bar areas, with friendly staff and a nice atmosphere. The restaurant experience was exceptional. We requested , and paid extra for a table on the late sitting and a table for 2, albeit this was very close to a table for 4, so in effect, as we got our courses at the same time, was almost a table for 6!Choices for each course were excellent, the food was always beautifully presented and hot. For breakfast, you had a choice of waiter service or buffet, kedgeree was excellent ! On our 2nd day, a Sunday, lunch featured a Roast Beef carvery, with all the trimmings, delicious ! On our sea day, there was a seafood buffet on offer, also excellent ! The Captains cocktail party was well attended and the drinks flowed....not always the case on larger vessels ! We enjoyed 2 shows onboard, the ships dancers and singers put alot into their acts . Outside deck space was good, 2 large pools , with steam coming from them (important for this itinerary), several whirlpools, a good sized gym also featured. The ship, personally , I feel , is suited to warmer climes as it didn't feature any indoor pools or whirlpools. But in fairness, its an old ship ! The staff onboard seem genuinely happy and this makes for a nice atmosphere. All in all, we enjoyed our 'FRED' experience and I would repeat the experience !   Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
Introduction: This was an 8-night cruise visiting four ports, two each in Portugal and Spain, which afforded the opportunity to fulfil a long-standing ambition of visiting Santiago de Compostela. Sailing from Southampton, the itinerary ... Read More
Introduction: This was an 8-night cruise visiting four ports, two each in Portugal and Spain, which afforded the opportunity to fulfil a long-standing ambition of visiting Santiago de Compostela. Sailing from Southampton, the itinerary was: Lisbon - Porto - A Coruña - Aviles. The Ship: The Black Watch is a relatively small (it's barely a minute's walk from the restaurant astern to the forward show lounge), comfortable, easily navigated ship offering a relaxed sea-going experience - when not bobbing up and down in the Bay of Biscay or the Atlantic, that is. It is also one of the world's oldest ships, having begun life as a Viking vessel! There are plenty of public spaces both inside and out and the classic, wide promenade deck allows for enjoyable strolls. The white exterior was rather blighted by rust streaks and contrasted sharply with an elegant, tastefully decorated, clean interior. Announcements were in English only and the passengers with whom I came into contact were all from the UK and almost all were young in spirit if not in body. Embarkation and Disembarkation: We used ParkAtMyHouse and found the drop-off and pick-up to be pain-free and reliable. Having previously used off-port parking, either can be recommended. Embarkation was severely delayed due to an impromptu inspection by the Maritime Cruise Authority, and air-bridge problems. To his credit, Fred laid on a shuttle to Southampton town centre and we, like many other passengers, took advantage of this. The passenger safety drill was conducted as we moved away from the port. Disembarkation was efficient and a rather relaxed affair. Cabin: Our clean and comfortable outside cabin was ideally located between the launderette and the beauty salon, and even had kettles and safe drawers. The beds were in an L-shaped configuration with one being made up as a settee during the day. A note in the bathroom cabinet explained that bars of soap (rather than the liquid soap provided), shower caps, sewing kit and other assorted items would be provided upon request. Dining: This was available in two locations, and the quality and choice of meat, fish and vegetarian options were a delight. Buffet dining was available in the slightly-too-small Garden Cafe. Breakfast and lunch in the Glentanar Restaurant was a mix of buffet items, and menu items on request. Afternoon tea included excellent scones and cream, against a backdrop of the occasionally-not-quite-in-tune musical trio. The patisserie offerings for the afternoon Tea Dance on the second sea day were indescribably good. Did you hear the one about the English couple, the Scottish couple and the Welsh couple? They all became friends at a fine dining table where the late-sitting experience in the Orchid Room (a slightly stuffy annex off the Glentanar Restaurant) was excellent. The cheerful waiters contributed to this bonhomie. There were two formal nights to which most of the men wore dinner suits and others, like me, wore smart, sober attire. There were also two themed nights: Nautical and Rock 'n' Roll. The ship, very commendably, even provided hats for the former and scarves for the latter. Most joined in but you didn't feel awkward in the least if you didn't. The Supper Club buffet, available from 11pm till midnight, included biscuits that were so large they could have been used for shuffleboard - conveniently they came in two colours. The hot-drinks station, located adjacent to the restaurant was spacious and open 24 hours although packet biscuits were only available for mid-morning coffee. Some cruise lines still don't appreciate that a drink's too wet without one! Entertainment: The shows in the Neptune Lounge were varied and generally entertaining, sometimes unintentionally so - the dancers can dance and the singers can sing, but the latter's struggle to cope with both disciplines led us to wonder if they might be graduates of the Eric Morecambe Performing Arts Academy. The late-night dancing and entertainment up in the Lido Lounge were particularly enjoyable - kudos to the musicians and dance hosts (and teachers for their tips on how to dance on 2). The photography and history lectures were informative, well-presented and well-attended, and the piano recitals were entertaining and deservedly well-received. What is it about port lecturers and piss-pronunciation? The Spanish and Portuguese for 'avenue' is 'avenida', not 'avienda'! Despite these and other locutionary lapses, the port lectures were not just focussed on the shore excursions but thankfully also offered useful information for the independent traveller. Public Rooms and Spaces: The ship has an always-open library, internet room, card room, games room, observatory lounge (whose function was militated against, initially, by uncleaned, salt-sprayed windows), and bars and cafes both indoors and out by the pools. Warning! People can be very possessive about jigsaws. (I promised JacqTar not to reveal that it was she who caused one particular male passenger to lose his rag.) The onboard shops were quite adequate and included a small but varied book selection, and the photo shop quickly sold out of their stock of Canon cameras with viewfinder. There was also a gym, and self-service launderettes where cruise passengers are more commonly exercised. Unfortunately the decks were not smooth enough for playing shuffleboard - copious quantities of spinach should be consumed before playing. Ports of Call: We did not take any shore excursions but those that did seemed happy with them - although we met some who were a little grumpy due to a lot of standing around in Santiago de Compostela (they should have joined us in the adjacent parador for Cola Cao and almond cake). 1. Lisbon (a 15-minute walk or 5-minute bus into town): An enjoyable day visiting Sintra and some of its outlying palaces and gardens. 2. Porto (a 30-minute ride on a tourist bus - they come out to Leixos for cruise ships): A fine day exploring port warehouses on one side of the river and tourist attractions on the other. 3. A Coruña (a 10-minute walk into town): An enjoyable visit by train to Santiago de Compostela, followed by exploration of the port. 4. Aviles (a 2-minute walk into town): A wonderful day boozing in bodegas and generally chilling in a lovely, little-visited port. Summary: This was an extremely enjoyable cruise visiting interesting and some less-frequented locations. The experience was enhanced by sunny (if not particularly warm) weather (the ship does not feel claustrophobic even if outside spaces can't be used), helpful and pleasant crew, fine food and even finer dining companions. A combination of swells and winds made for a generally bumpy ride - and particularly challenging dance lessons (my triple-time waltz steps tended to be 1-2-3 stutterstutter; 1-2-3 stutterstutter). With hot drinks on tap and a traditional promenade deck I would certainly consider sailing aboard her again but please: - Clean the windows - Paint the ship - Smooth out the shuffleboard Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
This review will be quite detailed and is only my opinion but, as I'm a bit of a compulsive note taker, I have recorded information on the ship and ports which may be useful to others so here goes........... Background This was our ... Read More
This review will be quite detailed and is only my opinion but, as I'm a bit of a compulsive note taker, I have recorded information on the ship and ports which may be useful to others so here goes........... Background This was our first Fred Olsen cruise but our 30th ocean cruise...... can you tell we like cruising? My husband and I are in our mid 60s and I have some mobility problems. My husband and I are from the Midlands in the UK and we chose this cruise because it was very reasonably priced and fitted in with our holiday dates. Travel arrangements We travelled down by car from our home on the day before the cruise and stayed at the Premier Inn Central in Basingstoke which is roughly 30 miles from the dock in Southampton. I booked this hotel well in advance and got a room at a very reasonable rate (£36). The hotel is conveniently situated about 1mile from the town centre and within a leisure park with cinema and chain restaurants. Car Parking We pre-booked car parking with 'Cruise Parking' which is situated a 20 minute mini bus drive from the port area. The cost once again, was reasonable, especially compared to the port 'on site' car parks. The whole process was very straight forward. We drove into the site, handed over our keys and transferred our cases onto the mini bus trailer. From drop off to arriving at the port terminal took no more than 30 minutes. On arrival back in port we saw a representative from the company standing right outside the customs clearance area and he directed us to a waiting coach. Once again, it was approximately 30 minutes from getting out of customs to getting into our car. We will certainly use this company when cruising from Southampton. Boarding Unlike many other cruise lines, it is not worth arriving early at the terminus as the ship did not start boarding until just after 2.00p.m. We had been given 2.30p.m. as our embarkation time and we actually got on board at 2.45p.m. - Check-in was fairly quick -- about 20 minutes from arriving at the terminal (cases were whisked away) to completing the security checks and sitting down in the lounge. - There is a magazine stand just outside the departure lounge with many free travel and concept magazines. - There is plenty of seating inside the departure lounge together with toilet and snack facilities. - There was a stand advertising 'silver service afternoon tea' at £6.50pp. The same food is available without charge in the Palms Buffet. - Passengers are given a boarding number and groups of 20 are called to go through. This prevented a mad rush to get on board. - Once on board we were directed, not shown, to our cabin. Balmoral - the ship. My husband and I actually sailed on this ship in 2005 when it belonged to NCL and was Norwegian Crown. When it was sold to Fred Olsen the ship was stretched to add extra cabins and some new facilities. It was good to see that some of the original features still remained and we recognised the dining room, rear pool and buffet area. Balmoral is 43,500 tonnes with 1,300 passengers and 500 crew so a relatively small ship in comparison with many of today's liners. I felt it was geared towards the more mature passenger and had a definite British ambiance although there were a few guests from other countries on board and, as it was half term for many UK schools, there were over 50 children who appeared to be well catered for by the designated crew members. Muster Drill This took place immediately prior to sail away and the muster stations were all indoors. We took our life jackets, listened to the safety talk and then were asked to put on our life jackets. Dining options Palms Buffet - Food is not available 24 hours in the buffet. - The set times for breakfast 07.00 -- 09.30 Lunch 12.00 -- 14.30 Afternoon tea 15.30 -- 16.30 Dinner 18.30 -- 21.00 - IMHO the food was generally good with a fair variety of hot and cold dishes. - I did like the fact that the tables were set with a flower decoration, table mats, fabric serviettes, side plates and the correct amount of cutlery. Dining rooms - Evening Dining is traditional set times and tables -- early sitting is 6.15p.m. and late sitting is 8.30p.m. - Breakfast and Lunch servings are open seating in all 3 main dining rooms. Breakfast 08.00 -- 10.00 and Lunch 12.00 -- 14.00 - There are 3 dining rooms -- the largest, Ballindalloch Restaurant, is on deck 6 and the 2 smaller ones, Avon and Spey, are on deck 10. - There are several tables for 2 available. - I found the service to be efficient without being intrusive. - The menus were varied and always included a 'British traditional favourite'. - Food quality varied but I never had a bad meal. There are no speciality restaurants. Entertainment - There is no casino but there were a couple of Roulette and Black Jack tables available in the evening in one corner of the Lido Bar on deck 8. - The 'Morning Light Pub' was the main bar with comfortable seats and musical entertainment in the evenings. - There is a large Library with comfortable chairs, a good selection of books available to borrow, British news paper each lunch time and quizzes, crosswords and Sudoku challenges each day.- There is an internet room with computers but we didn't use it so I can't provide any information. - There were a few shops selling jewellery, clothes, cosmetics, alcohol, cigarettes and general items etc. - The Marquee lounge and the Observatory lounge on deck 11 provided quiet areas with good views. - The Neptune Lounge on deck 7 was the main show lounge and had sofas, swivel chairs and small tables. There was a fairly large dance floor which rose up to form a stage for the shows. My DH and I are keen ballroom dancers and we were in heaven.....there was ballroom and sequence dancing every evening and there were dance hosts (4 gentlemen and 1 lady) for people who needed a dance partner. - There were 3 production shows which I thought were among the best I have ever seen on a ship, a comedian who had most of the audience laughing (me included), a singing magician who, in my opinion, was poor and a terrific 'crew talent' show......definitely the best I have seen afloat. - There were 2 formal evenings where probably 70% of the passengers wore formal/semi-formal clothes plus a 'tropical' night and a 'rock and roll' night where approximately 30% of passenger dressed up. - There was a Captain's welcome and a Captain's farewell reception with free drinks and canapes. - There were quizzes, lectures, recitals, card competitions, craft classes, cookery demonstrations, dance lessons etc on sea days. Launderettes Wow!.......I know it is a bit strange to get excited about launderettes but, with creased clothes, modern airline baggage weight restrictions and longer cruises, I find the launderette particularly useful and the 2 on Balmoral are the best I have come across on cruise ships. - There are 2 launderettes -- 1 on deck 3 and 1 on deck 9. - They are both quite spacious rooms and fitted out in a similar pattern. - Each room has 8 front loading washing machines and 8 driers. - Deck 9 has 2 irons and deck 3 has 3 irons. - A wash costs £2 (tokens available from the reception desk) and that includes detergent which is automatically dispensed onto the clothes at the push of a button as the wash cycle starts. - Driers and irons are free. Remember to empty the water condenser at the top left corner of the drier to make drying more efficient. - If the washer door has been closed on an empty machine, there is a yellow tag to pull down on the left corner of the washing machine. - Opening hours are from 08.00 to 23.00 Cabin 5218A inside superior (deck 5 mid-ship) We were pleasantly surprised with the size, layout and comfort of the cabin. We knew when we booked this grade of cabin that the beds would be arranged in an 'L' shape so were quite happy with that. - I found the bed to be reasonably comfortable and the pillows were soft and fluffy which I like. - I found the duvet to be on the heavy side but my DH thought it was a perfect weight....everyone to their own! - I loved the fact that there was a kettle with coffee and tea sachets provided along with sugar, sweetener and milk cartons. It was lovely to have our early morning cuppa and I really don't know why the American cruise lines do not offer this facility on all their ships. - There was ample storage with plenty of drawers and hanging space in the wardrobes. - There was a bucket style chair and small glass table along with a large dressing table. - The safe was in the wardrobe and you input your own number. - The cabin had very good lighting which could be varied to make it darker or lighter. - There is a flat screen TV with BBC news, Sky news and sports channel, a film channel, bridge cam and interactive options -- pay films and access to your OB account. - There are plenty of plug sockets but they are US/European style. I brought an adapter and 4gang extension and this worked well. - I thought the bathroom was a reasonable size compared to our experiences with standard cabins on other cruise lines. - The best thing is the largish shower stall which had ½ glass wall/ ½ shower curtain so NO sticking curtain. The shower power was good and hot water was plentiful. - Toiletries were basic but reasonable quality -- liquid soap on the counter and liquid body wash in the shower. You could request things like shower caps, solid soap etc. - Towels and wash cloths were changed on request. Ports and ships tours. Our ports of call were -- La Rochelle, Getxo (for Bilbao), Aviles and La Coruna We had already visited all the ports except for Aviles. We decided to do 1 ship's tour and that was to Ile de Re just outside La Rochelle. We chose this one because a French friend holidays there regularly and we wanted to see the places he talked about. We also chose this one because it did not have 'compulsory walking' (Fred Olsen's description of their tours contains this information) and I have some mobility problems. - A set of port maps was left in each cabin during our 1st sea day. I thought this was a nice touch. - Ship's tours departed from the Neptune lounge. - All ports were industrial areas La Rochelle The dock is approximately 5 miles from the centre of La Rochelle and is a controlled area. - There was a free shuttle bus to the dock gates but there is nothing to see there and it is a very long walk from there into the town. - There is a small terminal building with a shop, toilets and tourist information desk. - FO ran a shuttle bus into the centre of La Rochelle for £10pp with unlimited transfers. These run from the car park outside the terminal building - The town is easily walkable with some pretty streets, an interesting small harbour area, outdoor cafes and many shops. Unfortunately, many things were closed or opened late as it was the end of the holiday season. - The Ile de Re tour was quite interesting. We saw the best of what was on offer including the Monastery ruins and some pretty fishing villages - La Flotte, Sainte-Marie-de-Re and Saint-Martin-de-Re were the most notable. There was 45 minutes free time in Saint-Martin-de-Re which was definitely not enough to explore the quaint streets and pretty harbour. Getxo and Bilbao Getxo is a thriving suburb of Bilbao and has its own charm. - Again it is an industrial port area so, although you could walk out of the port, it was a long way to the town centre. - There is a small terminal building with a shop, toilets and tourist information desk. - There were maps available in there. - FO ran unlimited return shuttle buses into the centre of Getxo for £5pp. The bus stopped 100 metres from the metro station where there are frequent trains into Bilbao. - There is a very nice beach just at the edge of the port. - There is a shopping complex just outside the port. - Getxo centre has cafes and shops. - There are some beautiful and imposing villas along the coast road. We had been to Bilbao twice before when I was more mobile and we had seen the main attractions already -- the Guggenheim Museum, the river front promenade and the Old Town -- so we decided not to do a ship's tour but to get the metro and then make our mind up what to do when we got into town. The metro was easy to use: - Ticket machines have an option to have information displayed in English. - It was €3.20pp return for the 20 minute journey. - We decided to get off at 'Abando' station which was nearest to the Old Town and was a short walk across the river. After coffees and a croissant at a pavement cafe (€3.50 which we thought was extremely good value) we caught the tram (€1.40pp single journey) along the river front to the Guggenheim Museum where we got off and sat in the sun in the park area for a while just enjoying the sunshine and people watching. - We caught the metro back from the San Marmes station We had a lovely few hours for a very reasonable price. Aviles Aviles was a revelation and turned out to be, by far, our favourite port. The old town area was very attractive with some most unusual cafes, little food shops and fabulous arcades. This is a relatively new destination and, I believe that Balmoral was the first cruise ship to use the port earlier in the year. There is a lot of building work going on to extend the dock area. - You cannot walk directly from the ship so there was a free shuttle bus to terminus at the edge of the old town. - The terminus is just a tent with a few chairs and tourist information. - It is quite a long walk from the drop off to the town as you have to cross the river and the railway line by bridge first. - There is a very helpful Tourist Information centre at the beginning of the street which takes you to the Town Hall square. - The streets which radiate from the square are all quaint and there are some beautiful buildings, speciality food shops and gardens. - The newer town is to the right of the old town and has a nice food market and a shopping Mall. - We had beautiful weather and enjoyed sitting out in a cafe and people watching. La Coruna Unfortunately, the weather changed as we got to La Coruna and it became cold and overcast with torrential rain showers. It was also November 1st which is a national holiday in Spain the vast majority of shops and many restaurants were closed. These 2 factors combined to make it a disappointing port for many passengers. Fortunately we had visited La Coruna before and remember it in better weather and as a bustling shopping centre. - The ship docks in walking distance of the town centre. - There is a small terminal building with a shop, toilets and tourist information desk. - 2 minutes from the terminal building is a huge shopping mall with cinema, restaurants and upper market shops. - There are lovely walks around the promontory and a beautiful beach at the other side of the peninsula which can be reached by walking about ½mile through the town centre. - The Old Town has a large Town Hall square with many cafes and restaurants. It's approximately 10 minutes walk from the ship. And finally We were so impressed with the Fred Olsen product as a value for money option that we have booked 2 more cruises with them. Balmoral was not the glitziest or most modern ship we have been on but she was one of the friendliest and had many things that we really enjoyed. Read Less
Sail Date October 2012
After an unscheduled overnight stay in Southampton due to technical problems with a lifeboat and its certification (why is there never an inspector on 24 hour call outs,surely the cruise company fraternity can give someone a good wage to ... Read More
After an unscheduled overnight stay in Southampton due to technical problems with a lifeboat and its certification (why is there never an inspector on 24 hour call outs,surely the cruise company fraternity can give someone a good wage to facilitate such matters).So,this meant no stop off at the French port of Hendaye,disappointment for some but i was okay with it specially as F.Olsen had reimbursed us £50pp of OBC,which took care of my bar bill! Pleasant weather most of the time, though a bit rough for some as we sailed through the Bay of Biscay,lots of sick bags available on this day plus we heard the doc's surgery was busy handing out sea sickness jabs (always take your own pills).After a couple of days sailing we eventually got to Lisbon,a wonderful vibrant city.Took the Big red bus tour here (15 euro pp) rather than a ships tour of the city (£40pp) and the bus stop is right outside the terminal gate,they did not advertise that in the brochure and only at the very end of the port talk (wonder why). However we did take a ships tour in Vigo,our next port of call. Seeing it was Sunday and all but the cafes were closed though the main attraction today was the Aircraft carrier, Spain's Juan Carlos was in town and the Spanish public were queuing for literally miles to get on it as it was open to them today. Our trip was okay though as usual way too overpriced for a view of the harbour and city from a high vantage point and a trip to Bayona were we saw some ancient castle/fortress which now houses a 4* hotel (with 5* prices for drinks,2.80 euros for a small coke!) Next up was La Coruna,did our own thing again, a free shuttle bus through the port to the port entrance was laid on,then we took a leisurely walk around the quaint old town,then into the shopping district where we stopped off for a coffee and watched the world go by.Next day was the port of Getxo for Bilbao,took a ships tour here,again our first stop was to a high vantage point to get a panoramic view of the city,this view was quite spectacular.A couple of stops in the city to a sacred church and then into the old town centre,again quaint, and very picturesque finishing off with a look only at the carbuncle of a building that is the Guggenheim museum. After each trip the weather was very good for a spot of R&R on deck 11 with its warm Pool and even warmer jacuzzis and if you did not fancy a 4 course lunch there was soup and sandwiches. We dined in the Spey restaurant were the food was excellent,service slow at times,as the waiters had a "lot on". Breakfast taken mainly in the Palms self service,they do a wonderful ham omelette,cooked fresh to your liking here. Entertainment, could not fault the visiting "pro" acts though the Balmoral singers and dancers were ordinary,probably the worse we've seen on a cruise but hey. The other entertainment staff were good,thought Juliet had a great voice in the wonderful crew show. All in all a very good cruise would recommend to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We would consider ourselves to be experienced cruisers who go for the itinerary rather than the ship. If the ship is a good one ,then thats a bonus. We've sailed with 10 different cruise lines,some up to four times and on different ... Read More
We would consider ourselves to be experienced cruisers who go for the itinerary rather than the ship. If the ship is a good one ,then thats a bonus. We've sailed with 10 different cruise lines,some up to four times and on different vessels in the same line. Embarkation: Best ever! we joined at Rosyth, and as we live in Scotland's central belt we were on board one and a half hours from leaving home, plus we both 90kgs luggage allowance!! Just as well we did not load our luggage up to the mark as one of our cases was damaged during embarkation. Fred Olsen completed a form for our insurers. P.S. get a lift to Rosyth as Forth Ports charge over £7 per day to park Cabin : We were on the Main deck, starboard and towards the stern, we would normally book a balcony cabin but were not prepared to pay the prices asked for, we spoke later to one disgruntled couple who had paid almost £6000 more than us albeit for a suite. First impressions were that the (twin) cabin was small compared to what we are used to,but we got used to it. At least we had natural light coming in the double window, but we did find the cabin stuffy, in fact some of the public rooms were stuffy, but when you see the prevailing age of most of the guests you know thats what they like! The beds were comfy and warm, we had a bath and shower,safe,space for clothes ok, enough drawers as well. Coffee and tea maker provided but we never used it, would much preferred to have a fridge. Dining and Service: Have to say that we were pleasantly surprised here, We were not looking forward to the fixed 1st sitting after having got used to freestyle type eating, however, even in the main restaurant, breakfast and lunch was buffet style,so only dinner was served. The buffet area got a mite busy at times but there was never any shortage of food. Staff would fetch and serve breakfast and lunch to those less mobile. Breakfast was fine but repetitive, lunch options really good, dinner likewise, service was smart and friendly (as it was throughout the ship) There is an informal restaurant(secret garden cafe) which looked interesting,but we never used it, probably as its really too small and there was normally a queue waiting. Afternoon tea was served here and was very nice. Activities: We had a lot of sea days so activities were important..the lectures were good, Library and games room pleasant, gym well equipped,pool and jacuzzis fine, so the days passed reasonably well, but you would be advised to take plenty of reading material,or catch up on some writing, the Boudicca is not a resort ship! Entertainment: Generally very good,although the passenger talent show had a high cringe factor. Good tight dance and singing troupe, we had a Scottish comedian who was able to make us all laugh with clean material, an excellent crooner, and the musicians dotted around the lounges were also to a good standard. Of course its all geared to the older clientele so dont look for a disco! The Cruise Director was a very nice and experienced guy but I would say he is probably by his sell by date. Excursions: We only went on a few as two of the Greenland ports are really just walk off, however, the trips we did use were well organised and reasonable value, got to say this is when the smaller ship comes into its own,when waiting for tenders especially, dont have to get 3,500 people off !! Ship : Our last time with Fred Olsen was in 2000 on the Black Watch and it was hard to believe that in 2011 we were going on a ship nearly 40 years old. I suppose that Olsen will be able to cash in on the Vintage/Classic market soon! Best thing is that the main sailing crew are Norwegian and I always feel safe sailing with the Vikings, Captain Jan Thommessen is by a long way the best captain we've ever sailed with. He was informative,humourous,walked the ship and had a chat with everybody,instilled confidence when we had a few shaky hours in ice and fog, takes part in a jazz jam session,playing a good trumpet. When we had to miss an Icelandic port because of the ice problems the previous night he told us the reasons why he had to make straight for Reykajavik. OK the ship is a little tired in some public areas and the main theatre is really just a big lounge,so you have to be early to make sure you are not seated behind a pillar! Disembarking: No problems, little bit chaotic in the terminal(Rosyth)as its not really big enough. Summary: Despite our concerns about an older, smaller ship and being with the "blazer brigade" we would travel with Boudicca and Olsen again. We were concerned about the ships history of Norovirus, but we were exorted at every turn to use the hand sanitisers,even in the library! We felt the shop prices and bar prices were reasonable, and the photographers were excellent again with good value prices. The ship has a homely feel about it,but also has some character, a real nice touch was having the great grandchildren of Fred Olsen on board who assisted the Captain to throw a wreath over the stern during a small service of remembrance for Olsen merchant sailors who perished in WW2. We think though that as the older Olsen returnees(most of the guests we spoke to had never sailed with anyone else) pass on, they will have to address a few things. A wee bit too formal, we dont mind "proper formal" nights, but there were too many jacket and tie nights for us. Also need to enlarge the informal anytime dining area as more of us want dining flexibility. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
After considering many options decided to go for Fred Olsen as it has a reputation for old fashioned British style cruising. We took the mini-cruise as taster - just in case - as not been on anything more than a channel ferry in the past. ... Read More
After considering many options decided to go for Fred Olsen as it has a reputation for old fashioned British style cruising. We took the mini-cruise as taster - just in case - as not been on anything more than a channel ferry in the past. Found the booking process - direct with FO at the Telegraph Cruise show quick & easy. All documentation & tickets arrived on time. Booked parking through APB - again quick & easy. Didn't get the email from FO about the delay - so rolled up at Soton about 1230 - where the car was taken away before we we told there would be several hours to wait. would have been nice to know before we handed over the keys. The staff seemed in total disarray - got different stories about check in times depending on who you spoke to. Once through security spent 3 hours or so in a warehouse type lounge with one small expensive cafe/bar. Would have been a good gesture if FO had laid on some free refreshments at this stage. Not a good introduction. Once onboard things improved. Being on deck 9 had it's advantages - as we were amongst the first to board. Having got through the ID photo but we were told the cabins were available so we went straight there. All but one bag was waiting for us. Cabin was roomy, clean & bright. Dumped the stuff and headed for the Lido bar for a drink - service was polite & quick. Last bag was waiting at cabin on our return. Balcony cabin was as spacious and well equipped as many hotel rooms - could easily have spent a much longer cruise in there. Everything worked - although TV channels a bit limited and reception poor. Tends to vibrate a bit when ship is docking - probably as right at the back. However view (side&rear) from balcony compensates for this. Staff in general very polite & attentive. Found all bar staff to be helpful and unlike other reviewers never had to queue or wait for drink. Agree Lighthouse pub not very inviting. Dined in Ballindoch on second sitting. Food was good - some dishes better that others - served quickly and efficiently. Not piping hot - but plenty warm enough. Pre-ordered wine was waiting on the table. Took breakfast in the Palms - once again never had to queue and buffet was plentiful and of good quality. Only lunched on board once - went to the Spey restaurant - where we were ignored by the staff! Left after 5 mins - went back to Ballindoch were we greeted and the buffet layout explained a soon as we sat down. Afternoon tea in the Palms of same standard as breakfast. Shows/entertainment were as you would expect but good fun when taken in context. Didn't have cause to use the gym or other public rooms but all looked well equipped. Pool areas were nice if small - but noticed prople did tend to hog the jacuzzis. Daily news was very helpful. Going ashore a very organised process. On the last day we barely had time for breakfast before disembarking - all bags waiting for us, car just round the corner, so we were away from the dock in no time at all. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
The ship is of a very good standard and is always being refurbished. Our Cabin was a little on the small size but adequate for our needs. We personally would like a bath rather than shower, but cost prohibits such luxury. The service on ... Read More
The ship is of a very good standard and is always being refurbished. Our Cabin was a little on the small size but adequate for our needs. We personally would like a bath rather than shower, but cost prohibits such luxury. The service on board was first class, mainly Filipino waiters and waitresses. The shows were of a reasonable standard with some talented artists. I thought the ports of call could of been better. Casablanca was an utter disaster. I think as this cruise was mainly for the elderly a little more thought could of gone into the shows. We had a British night and a western night, and the shows were of a good standard, however, I got the impression the audience would of preferred a "sing a long" type show on each occasion. This was the first cruise I have ever had to pay for a "shuttle bus" to get from the ship to the main resort. All other cruises I have been on always provided a "free" shuttle bus service. Cut backs like this do no favours for the cruise line. The food as always was plentiful and the quality was superb. I did think the portions in the main dining room could of been a little larger. As I'm a fussy eater I was a little disappointed that the menu didn't cater for "plain food" eaters. Everything I received had one sauce or another poured on it, I don't like sauces. The price of alcohol on the ship is akin to a reasonable pub price so no complaints there. The "tax free" goods I think were rather expensive for what they were. Overall a good quality cruise, with good staff. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
My wife and I were avid cruisers and have sailed on the largest and smallest vessels. This was our first experience with Fred Olsen. We arrived at Southampton and all was well until we came to board. Although we had some heavy hand ... Read More
My wife and I were avid cruisers and have sailed on the largest and smallest vessels. This was our first experience with Fred Olsen. We arrived at Southampton and all was well until we came to board. Although we had some heavy hand luggage no help was offered and a fellow passenger assisted. This was due to medication which could not be packed in our cases. When on board the booking in was quick and efficient but we were not given any indication as to where the cabin was situated and it fell to a passing crew member to advise us where we should head. When we finally found the cabin (some 10 minutes later) we were pleasantly surprised at the size and general condition of the cabin. Food was acceptable. Tours were very good. Disembarkation was easy. However I can't say this was an experience to be repeated. Until now. I lost my wife to cancer and found how expensive it is to travel as a single passenger on both Cunard and P&O. Fred Olsen offer certain cruises with no single supplement so I thought I would try them again in a different vessel. I will keep you posted.... Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
ISLANDS OF THE BRITISH ISLES CRUISE - L1009 Booking We booked this last minute deal with Fred Olsen Cruises on Balmoral just 3-4 weeks before we were due to sail. We were taken by the itinerary as we have always wanted to go to the ... Read More
ISLANDS OF THE BRITISH ISLES CRUISE - L1009 Booking We booked this last minute deal with Fred Olsen Cruises on Balmoral just 3-4 weeks before we were due to sail. We were taken by the itinerary as we have always wanted to go to the Isle of Man and the Orkney Islands. The price was good and the tickets and cruise details arrived very quickly. Once the tickets arrived we found we had been allocated an inside cabin on deck 8 and a second sitting table in the Ballindalloch restaurant. Travel and Embarkation We pre-booked to leave the car at the offsite Relyon car park, which we eventually found after following a long diversion. Then it was a short coach transfer to the Port of Dover. The embarkation process went like clockwork and before long we were boarding the ship. We found our cabin (8009), freshened up and went up to the Palms Cafe for afternoon tea and a drink. Our cases arrived quickly, we unpacked and then went up to the promenade deck to watch as we sailed away from Dover. We cast off from the quay at around 5.30 pm. Our first impressions of Balmoral were that it was very clean and well looked after ship. Cabin Cabin 8009 is a twin bedded inside cabin on deck 8. There was more than enough space for all of our clothes. The cabin was of a good size, larger than on some cruises I have been on, and had a bath with a shower. The cabin contained all we needed - Interactive TV, Tea making facilities, Safe, Radio, Hairdryer, Telephone, Complementary toiletries etc. Our cabin stewardess was very thorough and anything you requested she provided. The cabin was cleaned and tidied in the morning and the beds turned down in the evening. Dining and Drinks We ate in the main Ballindalloch restaurant every evening and were allocated a table for 8. The food was of a good standard as was the wine selection. We chose a selection of Rose and Red wines during the cruise which were all nice and very reasonably priced. We all got on very well with our table companions and the conversations flowed nicely. We ate our breakfasts and lunches in the Palms Cafe each day where there was a very good selection on offer. Drinks and wine were reasonable priced, for example a G&T was £3, and wines started at £12.75 a bottle. Ports of Call We visited St Peter Port - Guernsey, Dublin - Eire, Douglas - Isle of Man, Greenock - Scotland, Kirkwall - Orkney Isles, and Invergordon - Scotland. We pre-booked tours to Loch Lomond, an Orkney Island Tour at Kirkwall and a tour to Loch Ness. These were all very good and all fairly good value for money. The best tour by far, in my opinion, was the Orkney tour. The Orkneys are now on our list for a longer holiday in the next couple of years. Staff All the staff that we came across on the cruise were polite and smart. Our table waiter was pleasant and helpful, as was our cabin stewardess. The drinks service at most of the bars and theatres was good, although it sometimes took a while to get served. Entertainment We went along to see most of the theatre shows which were all high quality and the normal mixture of show songs, tribute shows, and musical numbers. The violinist was excellent and the musicians in general were very good. We spent a couple of evenings in the Observatory listening to the pianist, who was again very good. Disembarkation We arrived back at Dover at approx 6am and the first passengers started to disembark at 8am. We disembarked in deck order and deck 8 was called at 8.20am. All went very smoothly, as did our minibus transfer back to the Relyon car park. Overall A well run ship which offers good value for money, good quality food & entertainment, and friendly & helpful staff. We visited great ports and had reasonably good weather. In comparison with other recent cruises we found the average age of passengers a little higher on Balmoral although this could be due to the itinerary. Additionally, the day time activities were less comprehensive than with other cruise lines. There were no real negatives on this great cruise, which was made all the better by our visit to the Orkney Isles and the great company of the people we met on board and dined with. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
My husband booked a weekend cruise on The Balmoral to celebrate my 30th birthday we sailed from Dover to Belgium on a 2 night trip. We are seasoned cruisers and have travelled previously on Princess, RCI, NCL and Costa so are quite ... Read More
My husband booked a weekend cruise on The Balmoral to celebrate my 30th birthday we sailed from Dover to Belgium on a 2 night trip. We are seasoned cruisers and have travelled previously on Princess, RCI, NCL and Costa so are quite experienced with regards to service, food and entertainment and The Balmoral didn t dissapoint. Embarkation.Embarkation was organised and fairly easy what did dissapoint is when we got on board and went for lunch. Afternoon tea was being served in the Plams Cafe and Neptune Lounge with sandwiches and cakes on offer what was strange was the waiters/waitress were serving the sandwiches and cakes and you were given very limited amounts as they obviously didn t have enough for veryone on board. It made you feel like you had to constantly ask for more food which wasn t a great start to our mini cruise. Getting from the car park to the cruise terminal was a nightmare one mini bus taking 6 people at a time huge queues no communication from staff, appalling our advice WALK in will be much quicker for you! The life boat drill was awful disorganised, long and lack of communication from staff meant people were getting restless and angry, the worst drill we have ever experienced.Cabin.We stayed in an inside cabin in the middle section of the ship which is the new section which was perfectly acceptable with the largest bathroom we ve had on any ship and we usually stay in balcony cabins. Service was from our steward was good although we didn t actually them so couldn t thank them personally as we didn t know who they were.Food & Drink.Food was good however the menu in the main restaurant offered lamb and beef and no chicken dish on our 2 night cruise which I found quite strange as I don t eat red meat which was slightly dissapointing. Food is of course down to personal taste Ive personally eaten from menu s that are more to my liking however my husband thoroughly enjoyed it. The daily late night buffet was great for a snack before bedtime especially if you were on early dinner seating and felt a little peckish lots of choice of both hot and cold. Alcohol was reasonably priced costing £2.55 fr a pint of lager and £3.00 for a tall glass of pimms and cocktails around £3.50 I can recommend the Chi Chi cocktail if you like coconut!Entertainment.This was the area that didn t meet our expectations compared with previous cruises we have been on. The theatre was small and entertainment amateur and not to the standard of other cruise lines however, the evening quizes in the pub were fun followed by the disco in the observation lounge which had great views out to sea whilst dancing the night away.Service.Service overall was good the first day/evening wasn t great but it did improve considerably on the second day of our cruise.Port.Our only port of call was Antwerp in Belgium my husband had pre booked a trip which unfortunately was cancelled due to lack of numbers. What was dissapointing was out of the 6 trips offered in there brochure only 2 of the 6 were running. However Antwerp is a very pretty town and we decided to do our own thing and walk around and enjoy the culture and what Antwerp had to offer so it probably worked out for the best for us especially as the excursions are so expensive.Overall we had a very pleasant trip on the balmoral she is a small ship compared to what we are used to and we are not sure if we could stay on her longer than a short break because we are in our thirties we prefer to have the option of more activities and restaurants. One tip if you are thinking of cruising on her choose a cabin in the middle (new) section as we walked past other older cabins we noticed they were not to the standard of our cabin. We would definietly cruise on her again for a short break great value for money and no complaints. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
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