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Balmoral Review

4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating
227 reviews
31 Awards

Northern Spain on Balmoral

Review for Balmoral to Europe
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sjpo
10+ Cruises • Age 50s

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Additional details

Sail Date: May 2017
Cabin: Outside with Porthole

Once upon a time I was working at a shipping agency in a South American port, when a brand-new ship come into port. It was the Crown Odyssey, which belonged to the Royal Cruise Line and we were appointed agents for four calls during February and March 1989. The ship impressed even the experienced pilots by its easy manoeuvrability. Visitors and passengers were also impressed by the then ultra-modern décor, which was a bit dark and made extensive use of mirrors and brass surfaces. I recall that the authorities were received on what was called Theo’s Bar (Theo been a well-known barman for that line) and the entrance to it had a curved space, full of mirrors and in the middle a peacock on a golden cage. The whole peacock was covered by fibre optics which made it change its colours every minute or so. Nothing new nowadays but then it was a wow factor.

Fast forward 28 years and I find myself, from the Western Heights in Dover, looking at the now Balmoral. The ship has been stretched and the colours have changed as well as a spa added to what was an open deck before (and spoilt her lovely lines besides making her top heavy… Thanks NCL…). And soon I was on my way to board the ship for a cruise to Northern Spain, calling at four ports which would be new to me.

Unfortunately, Dover was not giving its best impression. I arrived the day before, stayed in a lovely guesthouse, but the town looked sad, with the High-Street empty on a Saturday and many shop spaces closed for good and for some time. Quite different from the town I used to visit 15 years ago.

Cabin Review

Outside with Porthole

Cabin F

My cabin, on deck 3, described as an Ocean View, had two single beds on a L configuration, and it was mostly original (new carpets and curtains). There was a glass table and chair and the wardrobe (mirrored doors) was large enough and there were a lot of storage space and options. The beds, however, are practically fixed on their settings and there was not enough space for my larger suitcase under them but not a major problem. Bathroom was large and original with the shower behind a glass and plastic curtain mix. The stewardess was attentive, efficient and friendly but rarely to be seen, which was not a problem.

Port Reviews

Dover

Unfortunately, Dover was not giving its best impression. I arrived the day before, stayed in a lovely guesthouse, but the town looked sad, with the High-Street empty on a Saturday and many shop spaces closed for good and for some time. Quite different from the town I used to visit 15 years ago.

La Coruna

From La Coruna, I took a ship excursion to visit the famous Santiago de Compostela and its cathedral, etc. A journey worth doing. Unfortunately, by the time we came back to the ship there was no time to visit La Coruna, which is a pity as it looked like a nice town.

Bilbao

Getxo, a lovely and upmarket suburb of Bilbao was our last port of call in Spain. From there it is easy to reach Bilbao on the underground line and the journey is worth it. Bilbao is another dynamic city, with a lovely historical center (which suffered a disastrous flood in 1983), some imposing buildings, as well as the famous Guggenheim Museum (great building but the collection failed to impress me). It Is mostly walkable but there is a good service of trams and buses. I had pintxos (the local version of tapas) at the restored market, by the river, which is also an impressive building.

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