Balmoral Cruise Review by WalkerC
- Sail Date: July 2017
- Destination: Norwegian Fjords
- Cabin Type: Outside with Porthole
Embarkation from Newcastle was easy with lots of pleasant, helpful staff. There seemed to be lots of first timers on this trip, first cruise, first with Fred and first time to Norway and, perhaps because it was school holidays, there seemed to be a lower than normal (for Fred) age range, with families (some three generations) and younger couples amongst the 'oldies'. There was an excellent friendly atmosphere on board and I can honestly say that I heard barely a complaint at all.
As we have always found, the staff on Fred were fantastic, they really cannot do enough for you and the show company were excellent, one of the best we have seen.
Our cabin girl (Natt) was a delight and looked after us so well - everywhere throughout the ship was spotless and I heard of no instances of illness. For the first time we were in a porthole cabin on deck 4 (this was an extra cruise for us this year so we were watching the budget!) and we found this to be okay - you don't get so much light into the cabin with portholes but as we spent little time in the cabin in any case it was fine. Bed was comfortable and no noise from adjacent cabins and shower always had lots of hot water.
We thoroughly enjoyed the food and had no complaints - our waiter Ruben and his colleague were friendly and professional. We enjoy second sitting as it seems to give a longer evening and you don't have to rush back onboard for a 6.30pm sitting if you are ashore. We found the drinks package good value and also enjoyed many half price cocktails.
The itinerary of this cruise was perfect for anyone new to the fjords. After a day at sea we had an evening of scenic cruising and it was great to see the stunning Pulpit Rock followed by a dry day in Bergen (!). I have to say that Bergen was exceptionally busy - there were four cruise ships in port - and I would probably avoid in July/August in future (other times of the year have been fine) as for instance, it was impossible to get on the funicular without an hour+ queue.
There followed lots of scenic cruising to the following ports.
Olden is a small port with a few shops a short walk away from the quayside. I can definitely recommend a trip on the new skylight from Loen to Mount Hoven (excursion from ship or tickets and shuttle bus available on quayside). This was one of the highlights of our trip - the steep cable car ride only takes 5, very smooth, minutes to the top of the mountain where there are absolutely stunning views into the fjords and to the glacier. There are lots of accessible walks at the top and and a lovely restaurant beautifully designed to take in the views and with lovely textiles and finishes - and delicious hot chocolate!
Flam too was very busy as a large MSC ship also in port. My husband did a nice walk in the valley to a waterfall and I went on the wonderful Flam railway which really is impressive (you need to book tickets in advance at busy times of year either by a ship excursion or online before your visit). I did a ship excursion which took us to Myrdal at the top of the railway and then back down to Berkevam where we cycled back to Flam 11km downhill all the way. This was brilliant and I really enjoyed it - made me want to go back to do a longer cycling trip. There is a nice wool/gift/ice cream shop a short walk up the valley towards the church if you want to get away from the very busy shops at the quayside.
Eidfjord is a pretty little town at the head of a fjord. There are some nice walks here if you don't want to don't want to do an organised excursion. In the past we have enjoyed trips to the Sima power station (we are a bit geeky!) and also to the Voringfoss waterfall where I understand there are new view points. The Xtreme Norseman Triathlon was taking place here the next day so it was interesting to see all the organisation for this and people swimming in the fjord.
Evening entertainment onboard was good with something for everyone - the quiz was fun and the shows were excellent. Late night entertainment in the Lido Lounge and Morning Light pub was really good with lots of dancing and everyone enjoying themselves. Rosario classical trio were good around the ship and very good pianist in the Observatory Lounge early evening. Bar staff were cheerful and friendly as always - especially lovely Sunny in the Lido Lounge - she must have the brightest smile at sea.
All in all, we, and our friends and the people we met, thoroughly enjoyed our holiday with Fred and, personally, I can't wait to sail out of Newcastle on Balmoral again.
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Adjacent cabins are a three and four berth - we heard no noise but I think there were couples in there so might be noisier if they were fully occupied.
Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
BergenBergen is an interesting city to visit and quite compact for walking around. Can recommend a visit to the Fish Market on the harbour (inside and out) and, if feeling energetic, take a trip on the funicular to the top of Mount Floyen and after spending some time at the top walk down through small woodland then past the modern and old wooden houses (allow about 40 minutes for the walk).View All 638 Bergen Cruise Port Reviews
View Cruise Critic's Bergen Cruise Port Review
EidfjordVery small town at the top of the Hardanger fjord. Few shops including a nice yarn/gift store. Look out for the ladies selling hand knitting and hand quilted items on a stall near the shops - lovely items at reasonable prices for the work involved. If not doing an excursion there is a very pleasant walk to the Viking Burial Ground.View All 164 Eidfjord Cruise Port Reviews
In the past have done excursions to the Sima Power Plant and Voringfoss Waterfall which were good - understand there are good new viewing platforms at Voringfoss.
View Cruise Critic's Eidfjord Cruise Port Review
Bicycle RentalGreat bike ride after journey on the Flam Railway. Ride was 11km down from Berekvam, downhill except for about 100 yards. Very enjoyable and would suit most cyclists - keen cyclists might prefer to arrange their own bike hire from Myrdal and have a more challenging ride down.View All 8 Bicycle Rental Reviews
Flam RailwayThis is a great train journey. Must book in advance as often no tickets available 'on the day'.View All 187 Flam Railway Reviews
OldenSmall town with a few discount outdoor shops and one nice gift/general shop. Highlight of our visit here was the Mount Hoven skylight from Loen - tickets available for skylight and shuttle bus from quayside (if not on your ship). This is a stunning experience, not to be missed, amazing views and lovely walks at the top of the mountain and a very nice cafe/restaurant. Not to be missed!View All 157 Olden Cruise Port Reviews
View Cruise Critic's Olden Cruise Port Review