Balmoral Cruise Review by missy73
- Sail Date: December 2015
- Destination: British Isles & Western Europe
- Cabin Type: Inside
Having enjoyed many amazing cruises with Cunard, NCL and others, I returned to Fred Olsen after a three year break. My initial impression was not great of the atrium, as it lacked the glitz and finish of the larger, new ships. We were then shown to our inside cabins, which were spacious but not 'modern'.
Despite first impressions, I quickly remembered why Fred is so special. The greetings we had from staff were genuine and friendly; waiting staff remembered our preferred drinks from the very first order; the lounges and meeting spaces were comfortable and well designed; and we weren't bombarded with pushy staff selling drinks/ photographs/ tours/ spa.
On arrival at the Palms buffet, the buffet had been decimated by the hungry arrivals (I have experienced this on plenty of other cruise lines). However, after this initial experience we all found the food to be hot, plentiful and tasty. There was not the choice of the big ships (no pizza stations; no bbqs; less extensive salad and pudding choice), but in all honesty, the food choice was ample and we certainly did not starve! At every meal time, we managed to secure seats quickly and were served very professionally. Nothing was too much trouble for the waiting staff and the food was hot and tasty (if sometimes erring on the 'comfort' side, rather than the cuisine side).
We were booked on a sixties party cruise and the Balmoral certainly delivered for its target audience of mature british guests. As a forty year old, the headline acts were not to my taste (the headline was The Searchers). The comedy was old hat. However both acts went down a storm with the older passengers. My friends and I found plenty to entertain ourselves on the dance floor and a family 50s/ Rock n roll band. Whilst not the most sophisticated of entertainment, reindeer racing, line dancing, ballroom dancing and other activities were hosted well and good fun.
What our stateroom lacked in modern finish, it made up for in cleanliness, comfort and space. The beds were extremely comfortable and good nights sleep was had by all. Our cabin steward Kristine was excellent - available but unobtrusive.
We enjoyed an overnight in Antwerp. The balmoral could not have been docked in a more convenient location for the Christmas markets and historic city. Fred olsen makes it easy for guests to visit ashore independently, as well as their own excursions. Antwerp was great for chocolate shopping. If we had more time we would have visited Ghent or Brussels, but we only had two half days in port.
We paid an amazingly low price for this cruise and could not have been happier with the whole package. Having cruised with the higher end cruise companies, I would say that Fred Compares well with its own unique charms. If you are after glitz and glamour and 'hyacinth bucket' bragging rights, then Fred will not be for you. However if you are after comfort, charm and genuine hospitality, please consider Fred. I certainly will again.
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