What a delight it was to be back onboard Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines flagship vessel Balmoral for a recent cruise to the stunning Norwegian Fjords.
For this cruise I departed from the Port of Tyne. It's a port I had never sailed from before. The check-in process was extremely quick and I was all checked in and ready to board in no time at all! During embarkation, instead of having your photo taken for your ID card, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines now take a scan of your passport which automatically uses your photo ID from your passport records – this really impressed me and speeded up the process!
As soon as I stepped onboard, I was aware that a number of areas have been extensively refurbished and redecorated from my previous visit in 2016. She is the largest of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines ocean-going ships, but still small enough to enjoy scenic cruising through many narrow Norwegian Fjords, which was a highlight on this cruise. Named after the Scottish residence of the Royal Family, the Scottish theme continues throughout the ship, with the dining venues (Ballindalloch, Avon and Spey) all having the Scottish influence.
The highlight of the onboard experience has to be the cuisine! Now since my last visit to the ship, there were a number of new dining venues on offer. At the rear of Palms Café you can now find the Poolside, where you can enjoy alfresco dining with amazing sea views. The Grill is a new addition to Deck 9, alongside the Lido bar, with its stunning panoramic views looking out to sea, it offers cooked to order steaks and seafood. If you have a sweet tooth, why not opt for a visit to Gelato Bar, just alongside Palms Café which offers a choice of 12 different ice creams and smoothies. There are the main three restaurants Ballindalloch, Avon & Spey and the casual help-yourself buffet Palms Café. You can’t help but notice the wide variety of mouth-watering dishes every single evening of your cruise, and if that’s not enough, don’t forget to check out the late night super club at 11pm in Palms Café!
During Fred. Olsen’s fleet-wide refurbishment programme there have been some changes to Deck 7 with the introduction of the Bookmark Café which offers a choice of speciality coffees with delicious chocolates it’s accompanied by relaxing music from the Rosario Trio. This has replaced the old Internet Room, if you are travelling without a device or tablet, iPads are available to hire from reception should you wish to keep in contact with what is happening around the world!
You can enjoy a variety of entertainment in the evening onboard Balmoral. Why not start the night with a relaxing drink in the Observatory Lounge on Deck 11, watching the sunset after a relaxing day listening to the melodies from the piano before taking in a show. The main show is the highlight of the evening, the talented Balmoral Show Company comprise of singers and dancers who will sing classic songs and perform memorable shows. Guest entertainers will also feature on your cruise too, on my cruise to the Fjords was an excellent comedian and a very gifted musician was onboard. Don’t miss out on the crew show, which is on selected cruises featuring a number of the friendly faces you will meet around the ship offering an insight into the culture of their home countries. You can enjoy ballroom dancing, with onboard dance hosts if you are a single traveller, or enjoy live music in the Morning Light, the local onboard Pub. And when it’s time to head to bed, why not pop up to the Lido bar for one last drink and take in the live band who perform in there every night.
There is a treat of offerings in the daytime as well – do check The Daily Times which is posted into your stateroom every evening, this will detail the port talks and lectures which you are free to take part in if you wish. In keeping with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines British tradition, there was a British Night onboard where everyone waved flags and sang along to some old favourites in the theatre. I like the fact that Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines still offer that traditional British Cruise experience, you can meet the captain, enjoy a drink at the Captain’s Welcome and Farewell Parties plus you can dress up to the nines in your formal attire too!
There is an excellent onboard Photo Gallery, where you will find a selection of photos from embarkation to port arrivals, and from formal nights to themed evenings which you can buy as a souvenir. Do also look out for the official cruise DVD which is the ultimate keepsake from your holiday. In addition to this, you will also find three more shops onboard – the Port Shop (for your holiday essentials, souvenirs and sweet treats), the Boutique (for your duty free perfume and clothing) and the Jewellery Shop.
Balmoral is a traditional cruise ship. You will find the teak deck promenade with two swimming pools, 4 hot tubs and plenty of sun loungers to relax with open space for deck games. There are a choice of spa treatments available and a well-equipped gym – I visited the gym daily and enjoyed a cycle to burn off some of those calories!
I think the one thing that makes Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines that extra bit special for me is the onboard staff. The bar tenders remember what you like to drink after a couple of orders and the staff remember who you are. One staff remembered my name from a cruise 4 years ago, it truly is amazing.
If you haven’t tried a cruise onboard Balmoral yet, then do it. Whilst she isn’t one of the mega resorts, she offers that traditional home from home with award winning cuisine, a variety of entertainment and that extra special friendliness from the onboard crew.