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We usually travel with P&O during the January - March period to escape the British winter but they had nothing new this year so we thought a return to Fred Olsen with a different itinerary would be different. We travelled on Balmoral 10 years ago and she has been sympathetically updated since and is very well maintained. The problem we had last time still exists unfortunately - she is just not up to maintaining her itinerary in heavy weather. Whereas P&O ships maintain 18 - 20 knots, we were down to 11-15 most of the time. This adds to the length of any passage; 6 days on the Atlantic rather than five for example. We missed 2 ports owing to this and our time in many ports was often reduced to little more than a half day. As we actually visited 13 ports in 62 nights, it was lucky that we enjoyed sea days! Fortunately the Atlantic was kind to us both ways so we lost no time there. Unfortunately the ship picked up a fishing net in the Pacific (not anyone's fault despite popular opinion) and we were reduced to 10/11 knots maximum. Fortunately we were able to fix the problem in San Diego. All credit to the captain (and the excellent Cruise Director Elliot Taylor) who ran two forums for the passengers to explain the issue and its implications. He didn't have to do it and it was much appreciated. As a result, tours to Los Angeles had to run by coach from San Diego which was not viable for many. An unexpected side effect of the change to the itinerary was that in retrospect our days in the US ports co-incided with the few days of good weather during a cold wet period there. The original itinerary would have meant our visits would have quite bad weather. So it wasn't all bad luck! The crew, as always on Fred, were terrific. The Filipinos particularly appear to be a joyous and optimistic people and are so friendly and accommodating. On 'special' nights, the bar girls were often allowed to dress up in all their finery which made some of the passengers feel very old indeed! The crew shows are always a 'Must Do' on a Fred ship. The entertainment, particularly the Show Company was pretty good, as was the lecture programme (which included two submarine historians strangely). Violinist Michael Bacala was the star of the cruise for us - and it was good to see Captain Henrik Mattson keeping up the Fred tradition of getting involved by being thrown in the pool on one 'Pirate' event! One thing that did disappoint a little was the quality of the meals; the dinners in particular. They were often unimaginative and not very well done which was not usual in our Fred experience. On P&O the same meals are served up in different combinations to add a bit of variety but on Balmoral the menus were fixed - and appear to have been so for several years in some cases. The two Canal transits were well commentated, in good weather and full of interest. We actually did the transit four times - twice by ship, once by coach and once on the Panama Railway heritage train which is 'must do' tour. The ship had around 900 fellow passengers aboard - well below the ship's capacity. This was probably because we had many singles (who were well catered for) and nearly always good mixers. Inevitably the age profile was older but we found most people to be pretty friendly and they were nearly all frequent Fred travellers ; we were surprised by the loyalty everyone expressed. Fred really is a family concern. Whenever we encountered a big cruise ship in port, universal revulsion was expressed! Interesting since so few of our fellow passengers had ever sailed on a bigger ship! Fred does deservedly well to keep such a loyal following - hopefully they have a business strategy to cater for when we all die of old age! It was a good cruise that rolled happily along with lots to entertain us on the may sea days. Maybe people who are more interested in destinations would have been disappointed by our progress but we enjoyed it.

Round trip UK - West Coast US. A long trip with some great people

Balmoral Cruise Review by AdeAfloat

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Trip Details
  • Sail Date: January 2019
  • Destination: Around the World
  • Cabin Type: Superior Suite
We usually travel with P&O during the January - March period to escape the British winter but they had nothing new this year so we thought a return to Fred Olsen with a different itinerary would be different.

We travelled on Balmoral 10 years ago and she has been sympathetically updated since and is very well maintained. The problem we had last time still exists unfortunately - she is just not up to maintaining her itinerary in heavy weather. Whereas P&O ships maintain 18 - 20 knots, we were down to 11-15 most of the time. This adds to the length of any passage; 6 days on the Atlantic rather than five for example. We missed 2 ports owing to this and our time in many ports was often reduced to little more than a half day. As we actually visited 13 ports in 62 nights, it was lucky that we enjoyed sea days! Fortunately the Atlantic was kind to us both ways so we lost no time there.

Unfortunately the ship picked up a fishing net in the Pacific (not anyone's fault despite popular opinion) and we were reduced to 10/11 knots maximum. Fortunately we were able to fix the problem in San Diego. All credit to the captain (and the excellent Cruise Director Elliot Taylor) who ran two forums for the passengers to explain the issue and its implications. He didn't have to do it and it was much appreciated. As a result, tours to Los Angeles had to run by coach from San Diego which was not viable for many. An unexpected side effect of the change to the itinerary was that in retrospect our days in the US ports co-incided with the few days of good weather during a cold wet period there. The original itinerary would have meant our visits would have quite bad weather. So it wasn't all bad luck!

The crew, as always on Fred, were terrific. The Filipinos particularly appear to be a joyous and optimistic people and are so friendly and accommodating. On 'special' nights, the bar girls were often allowed to dress up in all their finery which made some of the passengers feel very old indeed! The crew shows are always a 'Must Do' on a Fred ship. The entertainment, particularly the Show Company was pretty good, as was the lecture programme (which included two submarine historians strangely). Violinist Michael Bacala was the star of the cruise for us - and it was good to see Captain Henrik Mattson keeping up the Fred tradition of getting involved by being thrown in the pool on one 'Pirate' event! One thing that did disappoint a little was the quality of the meals; the dinners in particular. They were often unimaginative and not very well done which was not usual in our Fred experience. On P&O the same meals are served up in different combinations to add a bit of variety but on Balmoral the menus were fixed - and appear to have been so for several years in some cases.

The two Canal transits were well commentated, in good weather and full of interest. We actually did the transit four times - twice by ship, once by coach and once on the Panama Railway heritage train which is 'must do' tour.

The ship had around 900 fellow passengers aboard - well below the ship's capacity. This was probably because we had many singles (who were well catered for) and nearly always good mixers. Inevitably the age profile was older but we found most people to be pretty friendly and they were nearly all frequent Fred travellers ; we were surprised by the loyalty everyone expressed. Fred really is a family concern. Whenever we encountered a big cruise ship in port, universal revulsion was expressed! Interesting since so few of our fellow passengers had ever sailed on a bigger ship! Fred does deservedly well to keep such a loyal following - hopefully they have a business strategy to cater for when we all die of old age!

It was a good cruise that rolled happily along with lots to entertain us on the may sea days. Maybe people who are more interested in destinations would have been disappointed by our progress but we enjoyed it.
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Cabin Review

Superior Suite
Cabin SS 9063
We booked late and always want a balcony so we had little choice but to splash out on this suite. It was everything we hoped for with plenty of space, excellent appointments and far too much cupboard and drawer space! The Suite Dreams package of canapés, fruit, wine, and discount laundry was a good add on
  Balmoral Deck Plans

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

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  • Panama Railway
    Colon is once of the worst ports we have ever been to - very run down, dark and scary - but as the gateway to the Railway it was well-worth a call. The railway runs alongside the canal for most of its c.50 mile journey with great views of the ships and wildlife. The journey was a on a heritage 1950's style US train with lots of refreshments included. each coach had an end balcony so you could get outside for photo's of the lovely scenery. We were delayed en route which added to the fun but meant that we saw a lot of Panama City in the dark! Maybe the tour could be shortened in these circumstances as there is no value in doing this. But it was the trip of the cruise
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  • Muir Woods
    A very peaceful interlude in a busy schedule. We felt one with a very precious and spectacular environment
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