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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.  

Good cruise, but no more Fred Olsen for us.

Balmoral Cruise Review by happyafloat1967

3 people found this helpful
Trip Details
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.
 
happyafloat1967’s Full Rating Summary
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