There were lots of good things about this cruise. Embarkation and disembarkation were wonderfully swift and painless. there was no pressured up-selling, such as we'd experienced on other, more high-profile cruise lines. The food was good, even for a vegetarian like me; the drink prices on the Balmoral are far cheaper than on other cruise lines; the coffee bar is superb, with prices much cheaper and quality and service immeasurably better than on Celebrity, with whom we'd cruised three months before. Special offers on the chocolates, too, if you bought a coffee package! The staff were, for the most part, friendly and efficient; the entertainments were above average, with the comedian, the memory man and the classical pianist all superb; the ship was comfortable without being showy; and the range of destinations on this Christmas market cruise was ambitious, if not wholly successful.
The only real problem we had - but it was a biggie - was noise in our cabin, 4135. I think we must have been over an engine or something related that was noisy when the ship was at sea. We complained but got nowhere for some while (paradoxically, the few unhelpful staff seem to be allocated to guest relations!) and I learnt an important lesson. Go to the top! When I got access to her, Laura, the Guest relations manager, was brilliant. As soon as she could, she allocated us to a quiet cabin. Having never had this problem on a cruise before, we had never appreciated how a noisy cabin can, by stopping you sleeping, wreck an otherwise excellent cruise. Laura turned our cruise around and it's because of her that we've booked another cruise on this ship - but NOT in cabin 4135!
Looks like this review will not give me option to comment on destinations, so Ii will do so here. Copenhagen, Oslo and Hamburg were tremendous destinations with brilliant stuff to see and wonderful Christmas atmosphere at the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen and at Hamurg. We did good ship-organised trips at Copenhagen and Oslo. My only moan would be the perennial one of not enough time. I would have traded the other two destinations for more time at these three. Of those other two, Warnemunde/Rostock was OK though not special but Bruges was a total disaster - churning with crowds, a very ordinary Christmas market and, I felt, a major health and safety risk, especially with the horse and carts cutting corners and forcing pedestrian parties ever more tightly onto the pavements. I did not feel safe there. The two less good ship ships that we did were at these less impressive destinations.
The Kiel canal transit was beautiful.
This was the cabin we were moved to and it was excellent. See main review above for our problems with 4135 which i would NOT recommend.