Update: Balmoral Refurb Runs Into Snags

January 29, 2008
(Tuesday 29 January) -- Cruise Critic received additional information today on problems surrounding the launch of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines' Balmoral. According to a company spokesman, "during sea trials and system tests, some issues arose relating to the integration of the new section with the original hull. These include watertight door and fire control systems, on which engineers are now working. The work is being done while the ship is in the port at Dover."

We'll keep you posted on Balmoral's progress.

The bad news for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines' Balmoral has taken a turn for the worse. Just a week after the line announced that it would have to forego the ship's originally scheduled three-day inaugural celebration in Dover, unforeseen technical issues have resulted in the cancellation of the first sailing, a 14-night Canary Island cruise. Balmoral was due to depart in only two day's time, on Wednesday, 30 January.

As of now, the ships' second sailing, a 20-night trans-Atlantic and Caribbean cruise due to depart Dover on 13 February, remains on schedule.

For passengers booked on the inaugural cruise, compensation will be doled out as follows:

All passengers booked will receive a letter confirming the cancellation and will be offered a full refund.

Passengers will also be offered a future cruise voucher to the value of 50 percent off any future cruise, combinable with any current special offer fare. The discount is valid for sailings of up 14 nights (excluding fly-cruises) for travel prior to December 31, 2010.

In addition, Fred. Olsen will cover any nonrefundable travel expenses related to the cruise.

The vessel sailed into Dover on Friday, 25 January, already four days behind schedule, but initial statements from Fred. Olsen said that the 30 January sailing would be unaffected. The inaugural festivities were cancelled after word came that more time would be needed to complete the extensive refit, which included a very involved stretching procedure (the ship has been augmented by a 30-metre mid-section), as well as the addition of new balconies, and a general overhaul of interior spaces.

Exactly what the technical issues are that caused the further delay remain unclear, and queries to Fred. Olsen were unanswered.

We'll fill you in as soon as we hear anything new.

--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor