6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
Fred Olsen Balmoral – Xmas/New Year 2018/19 – Canaries All in all, this was a most enjoyable cruise and a great way to spend both the festive season and celebrate my husband’s birthday on Christmas Eve. This was our first time ... Read More
Fred Olsen Balmoral – Xmas/New Year 2018/19 – Canaries All in all, this was a most enjoyable cruise and a great way to spend both the festive season and celebrate my husband’s birthday on Christmas Eve. This was our first time with “Fred”, although we’ve cruised a lot since getting the bug a decade ago. Compared with other lines, we were delighted that there was no constant hard sell, ship wide announcements were kept to an absolute minimum and queueing was practically non-existent. Of course the ship photographers were there as you ate at the gala dinners, but not always as you got on and off the ship - perhaps by the time we disembarked, they were on the excursions looking for material to go on the DVD. We always buy one and are looking forward to watching it on a snowy day – they’re really a great way to remember the cruise. One morning, I saw a photographer having breakfast, so took a photo of him, then told him it would be ready the next day! I thought it was funny, but have no idea what he must have really thought - he simply smiled very politely, then got on with his breakfast! Embarkation was truly straightforward, as was disembarkation (we cannot fathom why people sat on the stairs waiting to get off the ship when there were plenty of places to sit and wait). The only time we could have queued was at the Captain’s Receptions, but even then, we sat nattering to other passengers and waited until the queue had gone down. That really is the beauty of sailing on a smaller ship. I’ll get the one downside (British Night) out of the way so we can concentrate on how lovely everything else was. With the way politics are, perhaps something more neutral might be more appropriate. Why on earth would you travel abroad and bring that horrid jingoistic nonsense with you? We’re there to see the world and be ambassadors for our country, not to tell people we rule the waves! We were on second sitting, and rather tired that night, so watched the show from our cabin. We were astonished that the Boomtown Rats (Irish), Debbie Harry and Meatloaf (both US) were featured as the “Best of British”, not to mention Riverdance! And don’t get me started on the bit where they all dressed up as school children. Anyway, that was the low point of the cruise for us, and I’m sure other opinions are available. I made my own little protest by wearing a blue shirt with a yellow bow tie which surprisingly got some very positive comments from those who had cottoned on to the colours of a certain flag it resembled! I also wore a red, white and blue rosette (or was it perhaps bleu, blanc, rouge?) We bit our tongues on the “B” word and tried to forget that many of our fellow passengers had probably voted for the mess the country has found itself in. Such a shame, as we’ve never met such a friendly bunch on a cruise ship. It is sensible to steer very clear of any mention of politics, not wanting to ruin our holidays, nor anyone else’s! Anyway, before I lose you completely, let’s go back to all the positives, and that must start with the cruise highlight - the pantomime. This will be etched in our memories forever. It was definitely worth Andrew Robley (the Panto Dame) bringing 14 suitcases aboard, even though his mum was found clambering over them in her cabin! The theatre entertainment overall was a high standard and very enjoyable. Inside Cabin 4154 The cabin was small and the L-shaped layout of the beds made the best use of the space available, although the unit housing some drawers and the console for lights, announcements etc went behind one of the beds, just giving an extra shelf (which came in handy for my husband’s birthday cards to be displayed). The console itself had a button to turn off ship announcements, with a handy red light to let you know that one was being made. Our cases were on the very large side, so didn’t fit under the beds, especially as there was a wooden plinth in the middle. One case went in the wardrobe, the other between the chair and the bed. My husband has a habit of bringing extra coat hangers, not always necessary, but it’s not particularly a battle I care to fight. Thirty years together has taught me to agree to disagree, and if packing too many coat hangers is the worst thing, then we’re not doing badly! An extra couple of hangers might not have gone amiss, but he’d managed to pack over 30, so we had far too many! I’m sure they’d have brought us some extra, had we asked… The layout of the cabin meant one bed didn’t have a bedside lamp or table, which was a little bit disappointing – I suppose we could have asked for the bed to be made the other way round, so the drawer unit could be used. Being two men of a certain age, neither of us have much hair, so having not one but two hairdryers in the cabin made us laugh as did the fact that our Christmas crackers both contained combs! Daytime activities (especially after 5) are extremely low key (or non-existent), so we enjoyed the interactive TV’s on-demand film and TV programme options which we were very pleased to find came at no extra charge. The cabin was towards the back (I’m sure there’s a technical term for the blunt end), so when the ship was coming into port, the engine noise was fairly loud – and when moving in high winds, it did tend to creak, so earplugs are very much recommended. Having said this, for most of the trip, it wasn’t a problem. One cabin we would advise avoiding is 5143 – there was a really loud vibration noise outside, not sure if it was audible inside that cabin, though, but it would surprise me if not. We were delighted with the kettle in the cabin. Perhaps a little saucer for used teabags wouldn’t go amiss, but we used one of the glasses to put teabags in. We brought our own redbush teabags, but they were available in the tea station, along with a large selection of other teas and infusions. Our cabin stewardess came from Thailand and was very good and thorough. We didn’t get any towel animals, but perhaps, like the baked Alaska parade, also missing, that’s another thing of the past. We had a couple of very minor issues with the cabin (both of our own making). They were dealt with very speedily, with a short note afterwards to say they’d fixed the problem, but reminding us not to hesitate to get in touch if the problem hadn’t been rectified to our satisfaction, or if there was anything else they could do. A very nice touch, we thought. Dining – Table 301, Spey We’d asked for a table of 8, but were given a table of 6, but were only 5 diners – pleased to say we got on exceptionally well with our fellow travellers, three solo women. We were tucked into the corner by the door and it was very noisy at times, which apparently is unusual for the Spey. Being next to a serving station made it even noisier, cutlery and plates were thrown into bins by the waiters. Once we’d had a word with our servers it was better - we did this a couple of times during the cruise, simply saying that the noise levels had increased again. Had our table mates not been as brilliant as they were, we might well have asked to be moved. Service was impeccable – no problem with menu variations, for example having a starter as a dessert. With a couple of rare exceptions, we were very happy with everything we were served, although we did wonder why the rather tasty soup called borscht didn’t contain any beetroot! On the one night things really weren’t to our taste (the burnt nut roast incident), alternatives were found very quickly. We immensely enjoyed a late breakfast in the buffet sitting outside by the pool (heaters were on when it was cooler) – and rarely used the Ballindalloch main restaurant. One tip - for breakfast and lunch, all three restaurants have both a waiter served menu and a very similar buffet, but the menu items aren’t available in the main buffet. At breakfast, I very much liked the selection of nuts (Brazil, cashew and walnut) along with the goji berries. We didn’t partake of the sparkling wine at breakfast on formal nights, but I poured the orange juice into champagne flutes to give a sense of occasion! Much to my husband’s disgust (being on second sitting we’d not long had dinner), I liked to have a “look” at the midnight buffet, which was varied and certainly not at all leftovers from dinner! Needless to say, this “look” generally turned into something landing on a plate and into my mouth… Portions at dinner were on the meagre side - I’m sure double portions were available but we never asked - a couple of times we had two main courses, or an additional one to share. There’s no way anyone could go hungry! Christmas/New Year The ship was wonderfully decorated throughout and at guest services, we thought it was a lovely touch that you could help yourself to satsumas and nuts. Christmas Eve had a carol service after which port, sherry and mince pies were served in abundance. We got back to the cabin to find that instead of a chocolate on our pillows, we had a small bag of chocolates to share. Christmas Day had a deck party in the morning, with a free egg nog station, which helped things along rather nicely! Lunch was just a normal sea day – they actually forgot the lunch I’d ordered from a waiter – I asked several times over 30 minutes - but I did get a free glass of wine to compensate! I just thought it was hilarious as we were on an all inclusive package. But as they say, worse things happen at sea, and I certainly didn’t go hungry for long! In the afternoon, my husband had a sleep and I went to see the Queen’s speech which we all ended up listening to, as something was wrong with the technical setup. I very much applauded her sentiments against tribalism and the need to get on with ones neighbours, but bit my tongue! The entertainment team then played a game of charades, which was quite funny. We slept the rest of the afternoon until it was time to dress for the Captain’s reception. One of the entertainment guys was dressed up as Santa in the Captain’s parade on the way in, so I told him “all I wanted for Christmas is EU”, in quite a loud voice! It was Christmas, and I was well behaved for the most part! We thought our waiters seemed a bit rushed on Christmas Day, until we understood that they were all trying to synchronise and sing a few Christmas carols, which was another nice touch. We were very surprised to see that cocktail parties for certain loyalty level guests made up the main entertainment on Boxing Day, leaving very little to do for first time guests like us, or people who didn’t want to drink at 11am, but it did mean we got seats at the quiz, which was usually oversubscribed if you didn’t get there early enough. New Year’s Eve was great. There were two alternatives – one in case of rain, one for dry weather. The weather wasn’t too kind and we were glad to have brought rain ponchos with us which we put over our dinner suits. It’s a very comfy cruiseline and there isn’t any obvious stuffiness and pretentiousness we’ve found a couple of times on other lines. We were comfy and enjoying ourselves, so that’s what mattered! After dinner, we went to the show, then before we knew it, champagne (well, fizz) was flowing and the fireworks started which were absolutely fantastic and every bit as good as Sydney where we were lucky enough to see them on our honeymoon. One thing we didn’t hear, however, was a countdown, that’s not to say it didn’t happen. The festivities lasted long into the night and I knew it was time for bed when the conversation turned to football and all I could think to say on the subject was that some years ago, we’d really enjoyed seeing the Beverley Sisters – one of whom was married to a footballer. As I said, it was well and truly time for bed! I was very fragile the next day (one of the waiters even asked a couple of days later if I was still fragile!), we finally surfaced and went to brunch in the Spey at around 11.45am, after watching the ex-policeman’s talk on airport security on our cabin telly. We were surprised that it wasn’t really a brunch, but breakfast simply morphed into lunch at mid-day. After lunch, we went back to the cabin and watched a great film called What I Did Last Summer. After paying a visit to the future cruise desk, we sat at the back of the ship with a cuppa watching the most magical sunset, in a nice warm spot thanks to the outdoor heaters. Ports We’d been to most of the ports before - and all of them were very easy to walk to from the ship, as long as you’re able bodied. None of the ship excursions took our fancy, but we were most impressed with the booklet and maps that came before the cruise, although they could have done with a little more information about the ports themselves. The destination guide, Graeme, did a good job of giving some hints and tips and not being too centred on the excursions. However, his appalling pronunciation of place names left a lot to be desired! As a linguist I picked up on this and his pronunciation would probably have confused local people if you were asking for directions. For some reason, exact docking timings weren’t given until the day before, which made it a little difficult to plan too much in advance, but having said that, we did seem to be in port for longer than other cruises we’d been on. Lisbon We did a Free Walking Tour (you just pay a tip at the end) of the Alfama and Mouraria districts – you can easily book in advance online – they did stipulate a €2 deposit for not showing up, but were very accommodating when I said we were on a cruise ship and it depended on the weather if we could dock. The tour was excellent, even though we’ve been to Lisbon countless times, and I’d even spent a month here in the 80s, we learned quite a lot from our guide. The tour ended near to the Church of Graça, where there is an amazing panorama of the city, along with a wonderful little outdoor café serving light snacks and sandwiches, the ideal antidote to the fancy meals we were having onboard. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Our extended stay let us go a little further under our own steam. We went to Vegueta, the old town, on the number 12 bus for a couple of Euros, taking about 20 minutes. The architecture around the main shopping street, Triana, is beautiful and rather reminiscent of some parts of Old Havana. We visited the Museum of the Canaries which was a bit old fashioned and apart from a room full of skulls, not overly interesting. After a nice lunch, we went to the Christopher Columbus Museum (my Yorkshire upbringing and infantile humour still makes me giggle when I see the word “Colon”, his Spanish name)… It’s a fascinating place, with lots of old maps of how people thought the world looked, and housed in a beautiful old building. Highly recommended. After getting back, we still had time to go for a walk along the beach front and have a quick look around town, and even to the shopping centre by the port. One little tip – the port wifi reached into the ship, so on returning, I had a quick look at my emails, although we had taken advantage of free EU roaming earlier in the day. Gran Tarajal (Fuerteventura) It was too windy to dock, so we diverted to Puerto del Rosario, the capital. Not the prettiest of places, and with the exception of a very small museum dedicated to a philosopher who escaped from Franco and a shopping centre, we didn’t find too much to do here, so went back to the ship for lunch. Santa Cruz de Tenerife Once again, we were in port until very late evening, so we went by tram to the charming little town of La Laguna (the tram stop is called Trinidad and at the end of the line, making it very easy). After visiting a museum, we went for lunch at an old Canarian Restaurant (Patio Canario) which is housed in an old building. Far from being a tourist trap, most of the clientele were Spanish - the food and service were excellent, as were the prices. The tram ride cost a couple of Euros and was a very pleasant journey taking about 20 minutes. San Sebastian – La Gomera We hadn’t been here before, and I was intrigued that they have a whistling language, so was delighted to see that a local troupe do a demonstration of this, along with local dancing. Apart from that, we didn’t really find much else to do – we were only docked for the morning, so enjoyed a coffee in the main square with two of our table mates before heading back to lunch on the ship. Funchal - Madeira All aboard was 4.30pm which still left us time for a leisurely breakfast. With 11 cruise ships in port, we were very lucky to dock at the most convenient location possible. Funchal was understandably busy, and our attempt at visiting a Madeira wine lodge was thwarted by hoards of people. This was the only day where the weather was unkind with rain on and off, but we still managed to have a walk round. When it threw it down, we had a simple lunch (forgetting how large Portuguese portions were!) Walking round, we found parks wonderfully decorated for Christmas, and stopped by the lovely Christmas market, where we just had to have a ginjinha (cherry liqueur) in a chocolate cup, followed by a Madeira wine in a chocolate cup, then another just in case. And perhaps another, but I can’t really remember. We got back to the ship and slept it off until it was time for the Captain’s Reception and Gala New Year’s Eve dinner! La Coruña This is the one place I’d love to have spent some more time exploring. I’ve never really understood why you’d want to be off the ship for 8am when shops don’t tend to open until 10am or so, although if you’re on a tour to Santiago de Compostela, you would need to set off quite early to make it worthwhile. It’s a real shame we left La Coruña so early at 1.30pm as it was a lovely place for a wander around. We found a very quirky café and I enjoyed a black coffee while my husband had the most delicious thick hot chocolate. No wonder he didn’t have room for the midnight buffet! Walking round, it looked like there were a lot of interesting places for lunch which hopefully we’ll try next time. Ship activities We’d both been very busy before the cruise, so were very glad of time to relax. To be honest, we didn’t see too much of the daytime entertainment staff – there were no napkin folding/cookery demonstrations etc, but we did enjoy the talk with the dancers and singers explaining how things worked backstage. What daytime activities there were had a tendency to clash, for example the quizzes and the speakers. Most evenings there was very little to do after 5pm until dinner - that said, bridge players or dancers were probably very well served. That said, one night, there was a Mr & Mrs competition. We were going to join in, but by the time my husband said yes, we were pipped at the post by another couple. Probably just as well. Our meals meant that we missed the 10pm quiz, as it would have been too much of a rush to get to the theatre show afterwards. I’ve already mentioned Andrew Robley, who not only was brilliant as the Panto Dame, but also entertained us a few times during the cruise (both on and off the stage as he was around and about the ship quite a lot). There was also a comedian, a singer and a magician (to whom I joked that the passengers do a brilliant magic act – they can make food disappear at an amazing rate!) One thing we were surprised at was the suggested themes weren’t adopted by the waiting staff – we thought they should also wear a touch of red, tartan etc. We had a lovely and relaxing time and we’ve already put down a deposit on a future cruise, so that says it all, and we’d have no hesitation in recommending our cruise to the right demographic of mainly over 50s. It’s definitely more hip-op than hip-hop, Fred Olsen definitely know who their clientele is and look after them exceptionally well. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
My wife and I sailed to the Canaries for some winter sun and we had superior suite 9047. Lovely cabin , perfect size and a lovely balcony on the starboard side. On the very first evening I sat out there whist my wife was getting ready ... Read More
My wife and I sailed to the Canaries for some winter sun and we had superior suite 9047. Lovely cabin , perfect size and a lovely balcony on the starboard side. On the very first evening I sat out there whist my wife was getting ready , and I noticed a strange smell engulfing the balcony. I called my wife and we saw the passenger next to us smoking a pipe and the smoke was coming our way. Went out for the evening and next day every we tried to use our balcony again but this guy was out there smoking his pipe. We retreated inside BUT ..the smoke followed into our cabin! This happened every day and after a week we spoke to Jo in guest relations to see if she could move us but the ship was full and guests on all Fred Olsen ships are allowed to smoke on balconies. Fred Olsen are stuck in the old days with this. Only 2 or 3 cruise lines allow this so beware if you are a non smoker. They already have an outside area on deck 7 for this plus almost anywhere around the deck so this is completely unnecessary in our view. We paid good money for this suite but Fred Olsen would much rather look after smokers and upset premium passengers. We have contacted Fred Olsen since our return and customer relations have told us they have no plans to change the smoking policy and were very unsympathetic. In other words..tough luck! We also found that too many cuts are effecting the customer service with them now. Our waiter was rushing around because he had too many tables to serve. We also found the quality of food is suffering too, during the two week cruise not once was steak on the menu. Very disappointing. We have sailed with Fred Olsen many times but alas , this will be the last. What is the point of having a balcony you cant use ? Also because the ship was full, there was no seats available anywhere and the library is now a coffee shop . All in all, an awful cruise and we will not be sailing with them again. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
I had the Cruise booked for me by my Daughter, direct with Fred Olson. I had never been on a cruise before, except across the Mersey and to the Isle of Man once, many years ago. Arrived at Southampton to be kept waiting whilst ... Read More
I had the Cruise booked for me by my Daughter, direct with Fred Olson. I had never been on a cruise before, except across the Mersey and to the Isle of Man once, many years ago. Arrived at Southampton to be kept waiting whilst 'Green and Yellow Boarding cards were embarked first, I had a white one. One on board everything was fine, until I went to Dinner in the Ballindoch Restaurant, table 111 on second sitting. The soup was cold with a layer of grease on top, the main course was also cold (turkey with veg) although it was not supposed to be a salad. I walked out in disgust, I was on a table set for 8 only 3 of us were sat at the table. I later found out that the other 5 people (all single travellers had eaten in the Palm Cafe, after being warned). The cabin I was allocated 9034 was termed a 'Superior Inside Single' As someone whom has worked with the Hotel Industry, in Kenya, Greece, Austria and Portugal as a 'House Manager' there is NO WAY this cabin was 'Superior', it was very roomy and had 2 wardrobes, the Bathroom had a shower over the bath, I could forgive the chipped mirrors on the vanity unit doors. BUT there was no reading lamp over the bed, No Radio (BBC World Service) There was BBC World News T.V., Sky News and ITV Choices. But no Radio only 3 channels of low end supermarket pipped musac. To turn OFF the bedside light was a challenge, that I lost, I had to unscrew the two bulbs to get some darkness in the cabin There was only 1 thin pillow, when I asked for a second, the reply was 'You are a single - no, so why need 2 pillows. The second day I went to the singles coffee morning it was there that I was informed of the Palm Cafe, where I had taken breakfast that morning. The Palm Cafe is the jewel on this ship without any doubt, by Third day I had to queue to get a seat in the Palm Cafe, it was so popular, even my two table companions from my first night ended up eating in the Palm Cafe. Not only was the food excellent and there was always a make up your own salad every lunch time and evening, the Chef would cook omelets, on demand for breakfast lunch and even dinner, each Sunday there was a carvery. This Palm Cafe became my home on the Balmoral, so much so that the waiters all knew me and the headman reserved a table for a party of us at each meal time. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
We had been on two cruises with Fred Olsen before, not on the Balmoral, and we had noticed a slight reduction in quality between the first and second cruise. However we felt the standard had plummeted this time as corners were visibly cut ... Read More
We had been on two cruises with Fred Olsen before, not on the Balmoral, and we had noticed a slight reduction in quality between the first and second cruise. However we felt the standard had plummeted this time as corners were visibly cut particularly with the food. The ship hasn't been refitted for over 8 years and it showed. The smell of diesel was so strong at times you could smell it from the lounges when a great cloud of it was blown in from the door to the outside deck. The smell was constant in the pool area. The biggest disappointment to us was the food. The standard had really dropped. For example we had "potted shrimps" which were just prawns in butter. We had tough inedible meat and disgusting fish. The desserts, with one exception, were disappointing and the cheese selection down to 3 cheeses only. Only the soups were good and we suspected that those came out of a tin. Salads were served without dressing and main courses without vegetables to speak of (although we could order extra). On one occasion my wife had pink uncooked chicken served to her. Maybe the "norovirus" on previous trips was down to that sort of thing plus poor plumbing in the cabins (more below). Service was often very slow in the main restaurants, we felt that the staff level seemed much lower than before. On the final night I got the wrong main dish served to me, which I realised after I'd got it and when replaced with the steak pie I'd ordered, I found the pastry wasn't cooked. It's ridiculous to pay so much for coffee in the bars, I really think non-alcoholic drinks should be included in the fare. We are sure that the all-inclusive fare would have been very poor value as at £10 per person a night (if you book in advance) it only includes the revolting house wines although you get half-price on other drinks. Entertainment was variable - there was a rock band and dancers which were superb - saying that as someone who's not a rock fan. However the show I went to with crew singing was boring. One major issue for me was the Internet service which had gone from £30 paying for 24 hours of time to £41 paying for 2 hours of time.. Given how slow the service was, this time soon ran out. The only plus side was that it was usable in the cabins rather than at points throughout the ship. We had thought that tips were included as before but they were back again for this trip unless you ask for them to be taken off. We liked Madeira, La Palma and Lisbon but not so much the other places in the Canaries. We opted to just get off the ship and wander round rather than the excursions which seemed massively overpriced. Afraid that Fred won't be seeing us back again unless he really gets his act together again drastically. So disappointed. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
This cruise on Fred. Olsen’s ‘Balmoral’ (‘Canaries & Madeira Winter Sun’) was the third of a ‘three-for-the-price-of-two’ offer and followed voyages on the ‘Boudicca’ and the ‘Braemar’ – all in the space of nine ... Read More
This cruise on Fred. Olsen’s ‘Balmoral’ (‘Canaries & Madeira Winter Sun’) was the third of a ‘three-for-the-price-of-two’ offer and followed voyages on the ‘Boudicca’ and the ‘Braemar’ – all in the space of nine months. The ‘Balmoral’ compared very favourably with the other two (smaller) ships, not having the tired appearance of the ‘Boudicca’ and being more elegant that the ‘Braemar’. On all three ships we were located in a Superior Suite, but Cabin 9059 on the ‘Balmoral’ was the most ‘superior’ of the trio. The Starboard-side suite was spacious, well-appointed, and had plenty of storage space. The bathroom had a bath with an excellent shower which consistently provided plenty of hot water. The toilet, however, did not always flush thoroughly, but overall this was an excellent bathroom facility. Despite having the two ‘Scandinavian’ duvets, the double bed provided a very good night’s sleep, aided by the fact that there was little extraneous noise. The lounge area had a large table with a settee and two comfortable chairs. The adjacent balcony was of an adequate size and was equipped with a small table and two chairs. There was often a smell from the ship’s engines on the balcony and, if frequent use of the balcony is important, it would probably be better having a similar grade of cabin farther forward. The servicing standard of the cabin was very disappointing. In contrast to our other cruises with Fred. Olsen, we saw little of the stewardess, servicing levels were minimalistic and not very efficient. It may have been that the cabin staff had too much to do, as this was also the impression in the dining room where the waiting staff seemed to have too many tables to attend to – although our waiters were very courteous, attentive, and pleasant. The maitre d’ was charming and always helpful. We had requested a table for two, but found on the first evening that Table 326 was laid for four. This was a very small table, but fortunately, no other diners ever appeared and the table was subsequently only laid for two. Except for one incident when the roast beef was inedible, the food was excellent with the huge choice that we have previously experienced with Fred. Olsen. All our evening meals, and most breakfasts and lunches were taken in the Avon/Spey pair of restaurants on the Tenth Deck. These restaurants were spacious and civilised places to eat, with large windows providing an excellent ambience. In contrast, our limited use of the Ballindalloch restaurant and Palms Café proved to be crowded and noisy experiences. The standard of entertainment in the Neptune Lounge was very high, both from the Balmoral Show Company and the individual artists. The appreciation of the shows was enhanced by the fact that the stage of the Neptune Lounge was raised for these presentations – thus dealing with the poor viewing standards of the ‘Balmoral’s’ sister ships where this facility does not exist. The final night’s show (‘The Best of the Entertainment’s Team’) was excellent but it would have been better to see this at the commencement of the cruise so as to be able to appreciate what entertainment was available throughout the ship. There were also some excellent lectures and guitar concerts. Embarkation and disembarkation at Southampton were handled efficiently and swiftly, the latter a benefit of booking a suite. All ports of call were reached, in contrast to our previous cruise with Captain Victor Stoica who failed to get us to two ports on the schedule. We had pre-booked four excursions, one on each of the four islands in the Canaries. The first of these, at La Palma, was cancelled at the last minute due to lack of support. This was an eight hour tour when the ‘Balmoral’ did not get into port until about 1pm – so much of this ‘sightseeing’ excursion would have been in the dark. The other three excursions were good, and it was easy to explore independently in Madeira and Lisbon. Overall, an enjoyable cruise that would have been better if some of the staff had been able to devote more attention to providing a personal service. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
I boarded the ship at Doper which is the most convenient cruise port for me. I parked my car in the port which efficiently organised. After check-in I boarded immediately and my luggage followed only a few minutes after. It was one of the ... Read More
I boarded the ship at Doper which is the most convenient cruise port for me. I parked my car in the port which efficiently organised. After check-in I boarded immediately and my luggage followed only a few minutes after. It was one of the quickest start to a cruise I have experienced and I have taken 40+ cruises. Our cruise took us to three of the islands in the Azores, Madeira, Lisbon and Oporto. The "Balmoral" is a fine ship and looks to be in a very good condition. I still have some difficulty in recognizing the the grey hull livery. I expect I will accept it in due course. I had a single outside cabin on deck 4 which is ideal fro my needs. It had a picture window, effective air conditioning and was spacious. There was plenty of storage, in fact enough for two on this relatively short cruise. The safe and the tea/coffee facilities was additional benefits. The cabin was serviced twice daily and kept in good condition. I dined in the Avon restaurant on deck 10 which is an ideal place. The food was very good as was the service. I ate in the Spey and Ballindalloch restaurants for the occasional lunch and breakfast. The Palms Cafe was ideal for coffee, afternoon tea and the occasional speciality night, sadly only one on this cruise. The daytime activities followed the normal pattern. Some of the lecturers were very good indeed. The occasional classical concerts were first class. The evening cabarets in the Neptune lounge were very good with the Balmoral Show Company performances and, of course, the Crew Show outstanding. One of the strong points of Fred. Olsen cruising is the high quality of their staff.They are efficient, friendly and cheerful. I booked excursions for all ports of call. Those in the Azores and Madeira were excellent mainly because I chose take 4x4 (Land Rover) trips which meant there was a driver cum guide and 3 or 4 passengers. We visited sites which were inaccessible to coaches and taxis so we saw something of the real life of these islands. We sailed from the UK in warm sunshine but sadly on the voyage South the weather was disappointingly damp, grey and windy. The sea was occasionally choppy but nothing to upset all but the inevitable few. The weather in the Azores was mixed but didn't spoil the visit. In Madeira, Lisbon and Oporto we rediscovers the sun. The return voage to dover was on calm seas. Overall, it was a good cruise on my favourite ship. Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
We chose this cruise as it stayed overnight in Madeira for the Flower Festival and what a treat that was, we could not believe that we were the only cruise ship that stayed overnight. Celebrity left on the day of the flower festival and ... Read More
We chose this cruise as it stayed overnight in Madeira for the Flower Festival and what a treat that was, we could not believe that we were the only cruise ship that stayed overnight. Celebrity left on the day of the flower festival and the MSC and Aida both arrived the day after - well done Fred Olsen and thank you. As always we found the food and staff to be the same excellent standard as we have experienced in the past. There was plenty of choice both at lunch time and in the evenings and no meals were repeated. Indeed we were on the Balmoral in January, and the meals were quite different. All the staff from the waiters, to the entertainment staff to the Show Company were outstanding, especially as they did have to cope with the dreaded Norovirus and all the extra work that it entails for all on board. They were still cheerful and always had time to talk to you. It doesn't help when passengers who are infected with norovirus leave their cabins and go into the shops, spreading the disease further, and one lady refusing to use soap after visiting the toilet - then we wonder why these incidents keep happening. Perhaps the people should be banned from cruising and thrown off the ships. We look forward to returning to the Balmoral in July and are very pleased that we will have the same Show Company who were outstanding - can't wait to see the shows again. Anyone that doesn't know that Fred Olsen caters for the more mature passenger, hasn't done their homework! Read Less
24 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
Fred Olsen ships go to really interesting places so we wanted to like cruising with them. The cruise we went on was a last minute booking as we needed the break and it was one of the few going from the UK to anywhere warm, and back again. ... Read More
Fred Olsen ships go to really interesting places so we wanted to like cruising with them. The cruise we went on was a last minute booking as we needed the break and it was one of the few going from the UK to anywhere warm, and back again. We booked on a guaranteed cabin basis and a few days before sailing received the documentation which had a cabin number - but not the grade we had booked. Promptly got in touch with Fred Olsen and came back with a new cabin of the right grade, but we didn't get any documentation as there was no time. At check in Fred Olsen only had the original cabin for us - which we were not going to accept. After some time we were given our correct cabin - but as if this was a favour, rather than our right - and we boarded. The cabin was fine with lots of storage space. When we unpacked we went to get something to eat (not having eaten since the night before as we don't do breakfast) and were very surprised that there was nowhere on the ship to get any food apart from a few biscuits at 4.00 - this is the first ship we have been on where no food was available in the buffet restaurant for fairly long periods of time during the day. We were on late sitting so were quite peckish by that time! There was no real daily program for the day of embarkation so no activities - we spent the time exploring the ship, which didn't take long as it is quite small. All seemed fine - clean and well maintained, but very dated. Maintenance was an on-going activity with crew painting or replacing windows at all times of the day and night. As the sea days went on we became bored - again, a first for us on a cruise. We play bridge so went to the Improvers classes at 11.00, which were excellent, and therefore missed the one guest speaker who was a military historian. Apparently he was very interesting but the topic is a bit limiting. The only other 'speaker' was a photographer who taught photography - again, interesting if you want to learn all about photography, but limiting. In the afternoons we played bridge until about 4.30 at which point we had missed the one opportunity to get any food after lunch and before dinner. We were late arriving in Madeira for some unknown reason. The Bay of Biscay had been 'exciting' but no more than usual. We had been followed out of Southampton by Black Watch which went into Lisbon for a day and arrived in Madeira not long after we did. The ports visited were on a variety of islands with excursions offered in each one. For do-it-yourself travellers there was no transport to the towns at any of the ports visited. Given the average age of the passengers this was a surprise - the towns were some distance away for anyone with walking difficulties. Yet again, a first on a cruise for us not to have a shuttle bus available, even if not free. There was a bit of excitement during a crew drill when a lifeboat made a bid for freedom and hung nose down from the davits. That side of the ship was closed to passengers while the crew worked out how to get it back. Eventually it was lowered into the sea, scraping the side of the newly painted ship as it went, and eventually found its way onto the front of the ship. The front of the promenade deck was out of bounds for days so it couldn't be seen, except via the ships camera on TV! Generally there was a feeling of penny pinching everywhere. A cafe (with specialty teas and coffees which were not free) had been put into the Library, which became a rather noisy cafe with a few books rather than a quiet place for reading and contemplation. As a result tables for people to do jigsaws or play boardgames were not available anywhere except the Card Room, which was fine if there was no lecture/class going on or a bridge session - all of which were on the daily programme. It seemed rather odd to bother to engage a specialist to teach bridge and to conduct bridge sessions but not provide a dedicated area for them to do so. Some of the people playing games while lectures were being conducted were extremely rude and made no effort to lower their voices. I doubt if they would have talked and laughed through a lecture in any other venue of the ship - but maybe I'm wrong about that. There was a 'Specialty' restaurant available on a few nights - The Grill, with a steak and seafood menu - but in a cordoned off area of the Palms Cafe. Not very inspiring and at £20 a head somewhat expensive. Not a patch on the Specialty restaurants on other ships we have been on which are generally cheaper and in dedicated rooms with some atmosphere. We tend not to go to the Shows on cruises - just not our thing - but as there was nothing to do after 10.30 in the evenings except the Shows or a disco we did go to some of them - generally not brilliant and too many crew shows - very cheap. More penny pinching. The one thing I can praise was the food in the main restaurants - usually excellent with a good choice, both at lunch and dinner. The Palms cafe food was sometimes lukewarm and the staff not as friendly and helpful as in the main restaurants but the specialty nights such as the Indian buffet were good. Generally we were so disappointed with the experience and are very unlikely to cruise with Fred Olsen again. They have a group of very loyal passengers who seem to love everything Fred does but we are not among them. Read Less
30 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
Background: My wife and I (aged 60 & 62) are new to cruising - we took a Last Minute Budget All Inclusive Mediterranean 7 Day Cruise in June 2014 to see if this type of holiday suited us before committing to a more expensive and ... Read More
Background: My wife and I (aged 60 & 62) are new to cruising - we took a Last Minute Budget All Inclusive Mediterranean 7 Day Cruise in June 2014 to see if this type of holiday suited us before committing to a more expensive and sophisticated version over Xmas and New Year (18/12/15 to 05/01/16). We booked (3 weeks before departure in the Black Friday Sale) the Balmoral sailing to the Canaries and Cape Verde Islands. I gambled that I would be 'signed off' by the hospital physiotherapist on 4th December after a hip replacement operation - I need not have worried! The main attraction of the cruise was a) Winter Sun and b) visits to 6 ports over 18 days to give a decent balance of sea days and visits. We actually visited only 4 ports and spent 14 days at sea - not what we signed up for! Travel to Embarkation: We drove from Fife, Scotland whilst the Forth Bridge was closed so had to leave at 03:30. We had booked the Marriott Meon Valley Overnight Stay, Free Parking (up to 28 days), Evening Meal (extra charge), Breakfast and free taxi to/from Southampton Cruise Terminal. Total cost £212.88 compared to £136 for only the Port Parking - £76 for Dinner, B&B and taxi transport for 2 adults was very good value for money and the entire operation was smooth. friendly and professional. Ship Information: 1300 berth stretched 27 year old vessel - not a modern tower of flats at sea by any means - 'shabby chic' is a reasonable description - care worn but serviceable. The ship is very clean and the Norovirus protection regimes is borderline obsessive - a good point - with two auto dispensers and two serving staff in support, armed with manual 'squeegee' antiseptic dispensers. The cruise brochure says that Fred doesn't bother with climbing walls etc - just as well since the average passenger age is about 70 (with a fair few in the late 50s/early 60s age range and a lot of 80 years+ passengers). The Reception Area (Deck 6) on embarkation afternoon resembled a Mobility Support Convention - buggies, zimmerframes, crutches and walking sticks in all sizes and hues - until everyone had found their cabins. About 6 shops on Decks 6 & 7 - watches, perfumes and a decent range of clothing & accessories, especially bearing in mind the space constraints - we only used the clothing shop (needed the next size of shirt after 12 days of cruise dining ...) and the service was excellent. There is a promenade on Deck 7 (4 laps for a mile) where the Daily Walk (led by Hristov from the Gym) takes place at 09:15 - not well attended because most people were either eating breakfast or undertaking other activities. Throughout the day, a hardcore of power walkers and a couple of joggers were steaming around - the deck width is just comfortable for two strollers side-by-side so it is necessary to squeeze in when the 'Scuse me ...' cry goes up as the more athletic zoom by. Most entertaining when the overtaking occurs on the slalom sections where the walkers and joggers have to dodge the crew who are on permanent repainting duty (more of which later). Don't wear your best jeans or shorts when walking unless you want a free white stripe on the right leg. The poolside furniture is plentiful as are the seats on the promenade deck - but all is well worn with yellowing rubber support straps for the seating/reclining portions - careworn but serviceable. Pools (seawater) and jacuzzis are on Deck 7 (rear of Palms Cafe) and Deck 11 (can be reached by both internal and external stairs - good exercise). The Daily Newsletter became something of a joke - no proofreading undertaken. Crosswords were printed without corresponding clues - make up your own answers ... and details of one port of call for Cape Verde was a straight 'cut & paste' from an earlier voyage, referring to a port in the Azores! Cabins: We booked the Anchor Fare Inside Cabin and were allocated number 5031 on Deck 5 - about six cabins short of the prow of the ship - like sleeping on a roller coaster during the Bay of Biscay section in each direction. Wardrobes, between-bed chest of drawers and dressing table were worn and a catch was missing from the chest of drawers and one from the wardrobe. Only a problem in the Bay of Biscay where drawers flew open every 20 minutes or so and after the chair we jammed against the drawers travelled some 6 feet down the cabin, we gave up and lived with the cacophony. The furniture quality was 'decent charity shop' standard - usually advertised at up to £35 each unit. Cabin cleaning and bedmaking/turning down was excellent every day, despite the staff having more cabins to clean than on previous years (according to other passengers). The cabin crew and serving staff are really superb and should be the standard that other areas of the operation aspire to. Towels were changed regularly and the bathroom kept spotless - a lot of work since the washbasin is quite shallow and the 'Off to Full Power' settings on the tap were very fine, resulting in the mirror being spottled with splashes each time it was used. The shower was very powerful but the hot to cold setting was very fine - a challenge not to burn or freeze. There was no waiting time for the water to heat up - less than 5 seconds. Dining: Formal dining in the Ballindalloch (Deck 6) and Avon and Spey restaurants (Deck 10) whilst Palms Buffet on Deck 7 served breakfast, morning coffee (and cakes), lunch, afternoon tea (and cakes), evening meal, Supper Club (and cakes) which explains why I bought a larger shirt ... We were allocated Ballindalloch restaurant for Dinner (2nd sitting, which we requested so that we could have maximum time in port - sore point). The serving staff in all restaurants are excellent and are probably a major reason for Fred's loyal customer base; the sight of a waiter (humming 'Here Comes the Bride'), carrying two bowls of soup at the same time as supporting two quite frail elderly ladies who clung onto his arm as we crossed the Bay of Biscay in really heavy seas, was a joy to behold. Yosi ('You see' phonetically) and Jonathan were superb - remembered names, preferences etc faultlessly - and were endlessly cheerful in the face of some rude comments from other diners. They are a credit to Fred (as is Ruby-Ann in the Morning Light Pub). Serving staff in the Palms were a little more relaxed but still looked after passengers excellently. We took lunch in the Ballindalloch (and breakfast on 2-3 days) and also in the Avon and Spey restaurants (but not when crossing the Bay of Biscay - the sway was too much!) and were delighted with the service, quality and range of food - I am a picky eater and valued the ability to choose from the Menu and then forage in the buffet area to produce some quite eclectic food combinations that would probably have caused chef to despair. Other meals were taken in the Palms where the talents of the pastry chef were always evident - consistently superb. Entertainment: Meets the needs of the client group - safe. clean and gentle. The comedian was the most 'edgy' but kept to mildly naughty so very difficult to be upset. The nightly shows in the Neptune Lounge (Deck 7) were well produced - a couple of strong singers, from the in-house company, carried those whose voices were weaker or a little off-key. The crew panto was very energetic, rich in slapstick and generated lots of belly laughs - deserved for the amount of work that had gone into rehearsal. Not Broadway or West End - but it never claimed to be - and a pleasant way to pass the evening. Quizzes, Art & Crafts Classes, Bridge Classes, Line Dancing and Guest Speakers completed the line up. Some Guest Speakers were very good, others were very bad (one sent me to sleep - and other passengers suffered the same fate). The Elvis impersonator never appeared on stage although he was spotted wandering around the Decks from time to time. I believe these are volunteer Speakers who receive a free cruise for their efforts so it is unfair to expect experts in their field. The Rosario Trio played at least twice each day (violin, double bass and guitar) and had a really good and broad repertoire - jazz. classical, Spanish guitar etc. Very popular with the audience. The scheduled shows were changed on at least 3 occasions because of staff illness so the Entertainment Cancellations alternated with the Port Cancellations to keep the passengers guessing. Excursions: This is where matters fell apart with a vengeance. The itinerary was Funchal, Arrecife, Cape Verde (Mindelo and Praia), Las Palmas and Tenerife. At the Captain's Welcome Party (queued 15 minutes to meet him but then told 'just enter the Lounge at the other entrance when we declined to be photographed - grrr!), he said that there was an exciting new project - we had left Southampton with a white hull but would return with a new grey version. Our visit to Funchal was then cancelled (via the 'Daily Cancellation Broadcast' at noon each day), allegedly because of delays crossing the Bay of Biscay. In the absence of hard information from the Captain, rumours circulated that there were engine problems and that the power was inadequate after the new section of ship was added some years ago, meaning that the timetable was too tight for the plod across the Bay of Biscay, unless it was 'like a millpond with a good downhill slope' as one passenger eruditely described matters. Our first port visit was to Arrecife, Lanzarote was 23rd December after 5 days at sea. A 5 minute trip to the town in modern coaches that operated a smooth 15 minute shuttle service. This was the port where the Guest Speaker had sent me to sleep so everything was a pleasant surprise - the old castle and port area were very pleasant as was the small mini-pontoon where small private boats were moored and the circumference was occupied by market traders selling belts, wallets etc - the standard range. The town centre was pleasant in a low key fashion - we just wandered around and took photos (second objective of the cruise - wander, take pictures, drink coffee at an internet cafe, then repeat after lunch ...). It was nice to be on terra firma again. Christmas Eve and Day at sea - the atmosphere was a little muted with mutterings of discontent - 'It wouldn't be Fred if he didn't cancel at least one port - and this is our 4th cruise with him!' was one remark we overheard. Boxing Day was spent at Mindelo, Cape Verde. The tour buses were real museum pieces (40 years old oil burners - could have come from a film set!) - no air conditioning, seat belts and Anchor fare passengers were charged £5 each for the 10 minute ride to town). Mindelo town is a very poor area but we were stopped 3 times by locals who were very keen to practice spoken English and to tell us where to get the best photographs. We found a side street cafe (as did about 4-5 other passengers from the cruise) and spent a very pleasant hour or so amongst local residents, drinking huge mugs of capuccino and using the free WiFi - all for the princely sum of €2.30! On the walk back towards the tour bus, we were approached twice by beggars/pickpockets who were quite persistent - kept walking, tightened grip on camera and raised monitoring until we were back in the Town Centre. The Town Beach is quite charming - fishermen working, females taking the catch direct from the small boats and the running the length of the street trying to sell the fish to the cafes and restaurants. Numerous dogs on the beach, none of whom are toilet trained, so be careful if you need to step back to capture that important photograph. Mindelo is a developing area and I had to remind myself that my 'charming/quaint' photograph was someone else's daily poverty. Well worth the visit - although we seemed to be the only passengers who thought so! The island and its residents are working hard to develop tourism but it is very raw and basic - we hope to see it again before it becomes too commercialised. Next day was Praia, Cape Verde where we took the 2 hours minibus and Colonial Walk Tour with Eugene, a very erudite and entertaining guide who told us about his family and daily life for the Verdeans. Excellent pace - we have been on similar tours where the duration was crammed into 1-1.25 hours; Eugene left plenty of time for the photographers so we didn't miss any of the information at the next point of interest and we finished with a 30 minute cafe break for a coffee and a meat pie of unknown origins - it might have part of a rodent control team in a former life - who knows - but it tasted OK. 2 hours was probably a wee bit padded but it allowed a gentle pace and we felt we had received good value for our £25 per head charge for the excursion. The only downside was an attempted pickpocketing on my wife by a small 'blind' boy (no white stick and walked with far too much pace and direction to be visually impaired - no coincidence that his contact point was my wife's purse but her hand had reached it first). We left Praia early because, according to the Captain, quote 'This is not a safe place to be after dark' unquote. It would have been nice to have been advised of this earlier! Next came the Captain's Cancellation Message - Tenerife had been cancelled because he was expecting more bad weather (a staff member whose parents were on board had predicted this some 48 hours earlier ...) BUT, as a bonus (!), we would have more shore time in Las Palmas. We were pretty cynical by this time and had heard that Fred has a large operation in Las Palmas (tour buses, inter-island ferries) and so has a little more leverage. Because, staying until 23:00, the majority of the hull repainting was completed in port. Did Funchal and/or Tenerife refuse permission for a badger-coloured vessel to dock? The next Captain's promise was to 'try and dock off Funchal for the New Year's fireworks - we can't dock because there are no berths but I have a plan ...' This involved the ship circling in the outer reaches of the port for about 3 hours - great views of the fireworks display but going round in circles is not the same as a full day visit! A passenger was taken ill during the night and we had to return to Funchal at about 04:00 for a hospital transfer; later that day, we had to turn back towards Funchal for about 45 minutes to enable a helicopter evacuation of a sick passenger but this was aborted - we heard later that the passenger had died. Despite these delays, we managed to stay ahead of schedule for the rest of the voyage, despite slowing down to a 'pootle' speed for over 30 hours - we still arrived in Southampton some 2 hours ahead of schedule despite a real 'force majeure' Bay of Biscay storm that led to a string of injuries and the closure of the public areas of the ship to passengers one evening. The difference in distance between Tenerife-Southampton and Las Palmas-Southampton is only some 150 nautical miles and, had we maintained a normal speed, instead of dawdling for over 30 hours, we could have made Tenerife for the scheduled visit. This is supported by the fact that the Black Watch was in Funchal at the same time as the Balmoral but was still able to reach Liverpool before we made Southampton on the same day! Why doesn't Fred stay with the published itinerary - or at least refund the Port Taxes that the fare includes? Disembarkation: Smooth and quick after breakfast that was served from 06:30. We were waiting for our taxi back to Marriott Meon Valley Hotel at about 08:15 to collect our car - perfect! Conclusion: We booked the cruise because of the destinations - to cancel 2 from 6 is shoddy, as was the manner in which the reasons were given. The changes to the Entertainments at short notice and the Daily Newsletter/Misinformation sheet merely compounded the problem. The superb service by the serving and cabin staff was spoiled by the senior operational Managers who really should lead by example. Fred appears to have become cynical and complacent, trading on the ageing client group who value/need these elements. We may need to be guided to our seat and have our food fetched in 10-15 years' time - we have no intention of cruising with Fred until we reach that state. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
We sailed on the "Balmoral" on 21 December. The "meet and greet" parking at Southampton was very courteous and efficient. Although the City cruise terminal was being renovated the temporary departure lounge was ... Read More
We sailed on the "Balmoral" on 21 December. The "meet and greet" parking at Southampton was very courteous and efficient. Although the City cruise terminal was being renovated the temporary departure lounge was satisfactory. Boarding was very swift (aided greatly bt membership of the "Oceans Gold" club). The ship looked in good condition as it had only come out of dry-dock two days earlier. We has accommodation on Deck 6 (main deck) which was fine. There was sufficient storage space and the air-condioning was effective. The picture window added to the overall aspect of the cabin. Overall it was in good condition. We were fortunate enough to have calm seas throughtout the whole cruise save on the final day when it was a little choppy. The weather was good which is not always the case in these climes in mid-Winter. The ship was beautifully decorated for Christmas and the "gingerbread town" was a triumph. We selected the Spey restaurant for dinner and the food and service was up to Fred. Olsen's usual standard. We took other meals in the various other restaurants and the standard of food was equally good. The Chinese and Asian speciality nights were particularly enjoyable. The staff and crew on board Fred. Olsen's ships are a key selling point and on this cruise it was no exception. We had port calls in Lisbon, Funchal, Santa Cruz (Tenerife), Las Palmas (Gran Canaria), Arricife (Lanzarote) and Gibraltar. All had their good points but the boat trip in Lisbon and afternoon tea at the gorgeous Reid's Hotel in Madeira were perhaps the best. Christmas Eve was was celebrated with a cabaret show, carol singing and a Holy Communion service at midnight. Christmas Day was also well celebrated althought afternoon was a bit lacking in entertainment and a little flat. Dinner that night was traditional and excellent. New Year's Eve was most enjoyable with an excellent dinner (including haggis and a "wee dram") and a deck party. Although the fireworks in Gibraltar were ok they didn't compare with Madeira. Also it was rather chilly. I don't think this is the ideal port for a New Year call. Although this was a pretty good cruise I do have a few gripes, 1. The ship was just out of dry-dock but there was a great deal of maintenance and painting going on which was, at time intrusive. When the reception was asked why this was necessary we were told that the ship had to be in good condition for the upcoming "long cruise". This is quite unacceptable. 2. The "Balmoral" orchestra plays at every possible occasion eg cocktail parties, receptions and "shows". The volume is so hight that normal conversation is virtually impossible. Thsi is an on-going problem which FOCL really should investigate. 3. As the weather was pretty good it was a pity that the swimming pool on deck 7 was so often closed. 4. The lecture weren't very good with the exception of those concerning millionaires. I would describe most as "minority interest talks. They was certainly not up to the normal standard.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2014
We chose this cruise primarily because we wanted to go to the Canaries at this time of year before it became too hot. The weather was just right and the Bay of Biscay was calm in both directions. Unfortunately we were not so happy with the ... Read More
We chose this cruise primarily because we wanted to go to the Canaries at this time of year before it became too hot. The weather was just right and the Bay of Biscay was calm in both directions. Unfortunately we were not so happy with the quality of the service on the Balmoral where it seemed that with the exception of the entertainment staff, the rest appeared to be working to suit themselves rather than the guests on board. We were very concerned after one incident when we discovered on returning to our suite that a glass shelf in the bathroom was mission but that there were pieces of glass on the bathroom floor and on the surfaces around the basin and on the bedroom carpet. It was 11.50pm when we discovered this and immediately telephoned reception who sent a lad to vacuum up the glass. We kept some of the pieces and sent them with a note to the Hotel manager the next morning as we were very concerned. It appeared that a member of staff had broken the shelf but nobody from management had come to see if the area was safe for us and there was no note left to warn us of any danger. We queried what safety procedures there were for dealing with such incidents. All we got back from the Hotel manager was a small note scribbled on a card and pushed under our door. No member of the management team came to see us in person. We do not consider this good customer care. Had either of us been diabetic and cut our foot on the splinters or pieces of glass, they would have had to call out an air ambulance in the middle of the night. We also had to inform reception that we were getting engine fumes through our air conditioning. It was so bad in the room at 7am that we had to get up and hold the balcony door open to air it but as soon as we closed it, the fumes built up again. There was no engine smell outside on the balcony which gave us to think that the air con system was being contaminated by an outlet from the engines. We put the balcony door on the latch to keep the fresh air circulating and went to report it at reception on our way out. Later we found a note from an engineer which said that the reason for the fumes was because we had left the door on the latch. At that point we gave up in utter despair! Two days later when the Balcony door was closed all day, we returned to our suite late in the afternoon after a tour to find that the air con had pulled in strong paint smells, but we decided that it wasn't worth telling reception. However it was clear that the air con had been drawing in fumes from elsewhere so we kept both doors open for a while to air the room. There is a distinct lack of care on this ship compared to that we have experienced with other cruise companies. At mealtimes, the staff were always in a hurry to clear plates from under our noses, often before we had finished the last mouthful. They always appeared to be trying to hurry us up. This is the third cruise lines that we have been on and the first where we have encountered any problems. This is a great pity as the entertainment on board was excellent as were the excursions that we went on at each port and we made friends with a large number of other travellers. However the incident with the broken glass has put us off travelling with the Fred Olsen company in future.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2013
Very different from our previous cruises with Fred Olsen. Embarkation, a queue backed up onto the top of an escalator so that people coming up were falling over one another; need someone at the top of the escalator to prevent that ... Read More
Very different from our previous cruises with Fred Olsen. Embarkation, a queue backed up onto the top of an escalator so that people coming up were falling over one another; need someone at the top of the escalator to prevent that happening. Weather was atrocious but that was not their fault. Very opportunistic, Even proper coffee chargeable! Some junior male staff chauvinistic and rude. Others polite and helpful. Daytime entertainment on port days for those unable or unwilling to go ashore was abysmal. Arranged Bridge for port days myself, provided score sheets and obtained cards with difficulty. Tipping automatically added to bill though one could opt out. This fact need to be made more noticeable in literature. Cabin maids very good but appeared overworked. Watched safety drill for crew when in port one day. Crew gathered at muster points but saw no evidence of instruction on how to evacuate obese, disabled people, people with walking difficulties or those who are generally slow. Plenty of those on board! Food not up to previous standard. New years eve, Haggis as main dish option - one small scoop haggis, one small scoop mashed potato, one small scoop mashed swede and a dribble of whisky! Unlikely to travel with FO again! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2013
After a care free embarkation at Southampton and a prompt delivery of our cases to our cabin we were prepared for another excellent cruise with Fred Olsen, having sailed on the Boudicca and the Black Prince and never disappointed. The ... Read More
After a care free embarkation at Southampton and a prompt delivery of our cases to our cabin we were prepared for another excellent cruise with Fred Olsen, having sailed on the Boudicca and the Black Prince and never disappointed. The cabin size is good on the Balmoral and there is more than enough cupboard and draw space to allow for a 19 day cruise. Stewardess was lovely and couldn't be more helpful. The ship is well laid out with easy access to all areas except for decks 11 and 3. For some reason the forward lift is the only one which accesses these 2 decks. This means that if you are midships our forward you had quit a long walk to the lifts. 11 is the sun deck and 3 has the Medical centre on it. The itinerary was very good as it included the Verde Islands, a one-off visit is recommended. The £10 all-inclusive charge is well worth it if you drink more than 2 glasses of wine each day. Our disappointment came when it came to dining. No problem with breakfast but lunch and dinner, a different story. Selection on menue and at the buffet was very limited. The portions and selections at dinner were limited in size and choice. The average age was in the 70's and the chef must have thought we were all on restricted diets. Veg served was usually carrots and brochlili. Potatoes served cold. I was confined for 3 days and food served to the cabin was always cold.The medical staff were excellent. The staff on board were excellent, as they have always have been on Fred Olsen ships. Shame about the chef. Will check to see who is Chef next time we sail with them.   Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
We have done several cruises with Fred Olsen line on the Balmoral and compared to other cruise lines we have used , they come out head and shoulders above the rest in all categories. The cabins are very comfortable and cleaned daily, in ... Read More
We have done several cruises with Fred Olsen line on the Balmoral and compared to other cruise lines we have used , they come out head and shoulders above the rest in all categories. The cabins are very comfortable and cleaned daily, in fact I don't think I have ever seen such a clean vessel. The food was absolutely superb and really too plentiful, there was always something going for nearly every taste,and plenty of comfortable seating areas to relax in. The crew could not be faulted in any way, always happy , clean, and polite The entertainment was quite first class and very varied, the best of all was the section of the program where the crew provided the entertainment for the evening, absolutely incredible and very talented.. In future , when we want a cruise we will always pick the Balmoral, regardless of where it is going . Phil Foster   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2011
Various friends keen on cruising had suggested that we try it and so, after years of travelling abroad by plane and car, we chose Fred Olsen's Christmas and New Year trip on the Balmoral to Madeira and the Canaries to dip our toes in ... Read More
Various friends keen on cruising had suggested that we try it and so, after years of travelling abroad by plane and car, we chose Fred Olsen's Christmas and New Year trip on the Balmoral to Madeira and the Canaries to dip our toes in the water, as it were. In short, I have to say we both found it simply excellent. We stayed at the De Vere New Place hotel, 10 miles outside Southampton, the night before our embarkation and found their cruise package very good. It included dinner, bed and breakfast, 16 nights car parking and taxi transfers to and from the terminal before and after the cruise and we would certainly stay there again. At the terminal the check-in and embarkation process was trouble-free and we were delighted with our Superior Suite on deck 9. Our cabin stewardess, Ellen, was a delight, as were our two evening waiters. The food and entertainment was suitably varied and of high quality throughout our time onboard and what struck us most was just how friendly all staff were, from the Master down. It really was a happy ship. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day were simply superb thanks to the staff's efforts. We, in our mid 50s, were probably some of the youngest passengers aboard, but the age mix was not a problem for us as we made some good friends along the way. We tended to do our own thing whan ashore, but found the mix of land and sae days fine. Disembarkation was just as impressive, particularly compared to passing through airports. We enjoyed this trip so much that, whilst we will still look forward to other forms of overseas holidays, we will definitely look to cruise again and more than likely with Fred Olsen. In short, Fred and his team on the Balmoral made this the best Christmas and New Year we have ever had, and we are already eyeing up a trip for the same time this year. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2011
After extensive research I chose Fred Olsen and the BALMORAL Canaries Cruise departing Southampton 17.11.11 due to it being our first cruise and being advised to go on a smaller cruise ship so as not to be overwhelmed with too many ... Read More
After extensive research I chose Fred Olsen and the BALMORAL Canaries Cruise departing Southampton 17.11.11 due to it being our first cruise and being advised to go on a smaller cruise ship so as not to be overwhelmed with too many passengers. What my research did not tell me was that the average age would be 75+ or so it would appear. Never have I seen so many walking sticks, frames and mobility scooters in such an enclosed environment before! The cruise was advertised as Music and Laughter - I must have missed the bit about the sequence dancing and bingo. Every day prior to the shows x 2 there was approx an hour whereby Gentleman Hosts danced with single ladies both ballroom and latin - these ladies booked the cruise solely for this entertainment but as stated I must have overlooked this snippet of info. There was nothing on the cruise during the day for my husband and I to do whilst at sea - we are in the age bracket 50 -59 and felt totally out of place. We are not interested in patchwork, card making, bingo etc and the resident guest speakers were of no interest - only giving info on places we were to visit which had already been researched. That said, the cabin, food, service and prices at the bar were more than satisfactory. What was needed from our point of view was a sports bar where we could watch European/Domestic Football Cricket Tennis Golf etc or a Cinema/Theatre. The evening entertainment was sufficient but would have been better has second sitting guests, 8.30 been able to watch the show prior to eating maybe the shows starting at 7.00pm rather than not being able to see the shows until 10.45 whereby we were never able to go to bed until midnight as did not want to miss evening entertainment. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2010
We have visited the Canaries before in early 2009 and due to the good offer in the press in October we decided to have a repeat performance albeit with a change to a Fred Olsen ship. Our inside cabin was comfortable and had the benefit ... Read More
We have visited the Canaries before in early 2009 and due to the good offer in the press in October we decided to have a repeat performance albeit with a change to a Fred Olsen ship. Our inside cabin was comfortable and had the benefit of a tea maker which is not generally available on other ships. The shower as on the Black Watch was the most powerful and enjoyable we have experienced. All the staff we encountered were superb-courteous-efficient- hardworking and friendly. We were fortunate to have excellent waiters, Carlos and his assistant Ronnie and our cabin stewardess Liah likewise. The food was excellent and the hot food came "hot" to the table unlike some so called premium ships we have used. The lamb shanks (kleftiko) were the most enormous we have had anywhere. The chairs in the restaurant were comfortable and had arm rests, the tables were not too close together so it was pleasant to eat without disturbance. The suggestion £4.00 per day gratuity charge was the most reasonable on any of our cruises, but we opted out in order to give instant cash to our waiters and stewardess. Another point my attention was drawn to was the reasonable prices for soft and other drinks ie 75p for 150ml can or £1.25 for the 330ml can of Coke, unlike the Italian ships we have used at double this price with 15% service charge which does not apply on Fred Olsen ships.Overpriced drinks on cruises is an "own goal". The clientele of the cruise was nearly like ourselves the opposite of an 18 - 30 group and was 90% British. There was one little girl and one little boy on the cruise. The weather was mixed not much sun and the ship rode well in the force 9 seas. Our cabin was mid ships low down on deck 4 and was in fact calmer I understand than the more expensive cabins high up in the ship, and we did not have the noise of crashing waves as on some outside cabins. We enjoyed theme nights,especially the British one.The entertainers were really hard grafters. We also enjoyed the port lectures and the visiting History talks about the Victorian age. The captain gave concise and clear information at 9 am and noon every day in a cheerful manner. We missed out by not being able to have a little flutter on the one arm bandits, we feel that a small batch of these would not offend the respectable guests. We did one ships tour is Casablanca and were most impressed by the huge Mosque. This is the one guided tour we recommend. We had a atrocious weather in Maderia on December17th and were able to dock in the very rough seas, unlike the Queen Elizabeth which stayed off shore all day. There was a nice pre xmas atmosphere on the ship. The Balmoral is a fine ship and is kept very clean. It has given us great pleasure to write this positive review unlike the negative one we made three months ago about another cruise line. We most certainly would use this ship again like its loyal following. Read Less
Balmoral Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.5 3.9
Dining 4.0 4.1
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 4.0 4.1
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.6
Family 2.0 3.6
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.5
Enrichment 5.0 3.4
Service 5.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 3.8

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