1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2018
Mystery cruise was great fun ,no idea where we were going until we entered port .very well organised and the crew kept the secrets well .Fellow passengers were annoying in their determination to tell you they knew where we were going . I ... Read More
Mystery cruise was great fun ,no idea where we were going until we entered port .very well organised and the crew kept the secrets well .Fellow passengers were annoying in their determination to tell you they knew where we were going . I did not want to know and told them so .Way to many passengers were doing cruise price paid comparisons which I never understand , if you booked you must have been happy with the price you paid otherwise you would not book surely ?I think the price of extras in the ships general shop are excessive as in £5 for a standard size bar of Cadbury’s milk chocolate ,silly .service in the pub lounge was poor but the observatory bar was brilliant . The single travellers get together at the start of the cruise was a shambles and served no purpose . Balmoral is a great small ship well maintained and nicely appointed. Shame about some of the passengers !The food is 4 star country house hotel food nicely presented and good choices daily with good main course portions .The shows were very mixed but that is subjective I suspect . The classic piano recitals were superb . Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2018
This was the first time on this ship having sailed previously many time on Breamar and Black Watch. My wife has limited mobility and we did not find the ship user friendly.b The steps onto the external deck are steep and the ramp ... Read More
This was the first time on this ship having sailed previously many time on Breamar and Black Watch. My wife has limited mobility and we did not find the ship user friendly.b The steps onto the external deck are steep and the ramp placed over part of them is too steep. The disabled toilet being placed with the door on one side of a ‘porch’ like access does NOT have an electric door opener and hand button to actuate. Result is that access is not easy. Debarking is complicated by the fact that the waiting lounges are on deck 7 whilst gangway access is on deck 6 resulting for disabled people having to use only two local lifts resulting in congestion and delays. Overall the ship is good certainly brought up to a high level by the crew who are, as with other Fred ships, excelptional. Every member contacted was polite and very helpful indeed. The food was the usual Fred high standard but could have been presented on hotter plates. Overall and enjoyable holiday. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2018
we have travelled on the fred olsen ship Balmoral over 10 times and we joined her again in October 2018 in Southampton for our yearly cruise to the Canaries. As soon as you step on the Balmoral 's carpet you feel as if someone has put ... Read More
we have travelled on the fred olsen ship Balmoral over 10 times and we joined her again in October 2018 in Southampton for our yearly cruise to the Canaries. As soon as you step on the Balmoral 's carpet you feel as if someone has put their arm around you and says come on in we will give you a really good time. The weather on this cruise was not good but the crew always did their best to entertain us. The crew are so friendly and the entertainment is of a very high standard, particularly the show company . The daily activities are fun and varied and Alex and Duncan were great and organised the games and quizzes really well. The food is excellent and the service extremely efficient . Our waiters were so kind and attentive and accommodated any request which deviated from the menu. Our fellow diners were charming which is important as you are allocated set tables for the evening meal. You are of course at liberty to visit the self service palms cafe if you wish to dine more informally. The embarkation ran very smoothly and we can't wait to see her again. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
My wife and I recently took our first cruise. We travelled on Deck 5 in an outer, windowed cabin, on Fred Olsen's Balmoral to the North German ports of Bremen, Hamburg and Kiel dep Newcastle 19 November. To say it was grossly disappointing ... Read More
My wife and I recently took our first cruise. We travelled on Deck 5 in an outer, windowed cabin, on Fred Olsen's Balmoral to the North German ports of Bremen, Hamburg and Kiel dep Newcastle 19 November. To say it was grossly disappointing would be to ignore the few highlights, but even they are too few to persuade us to repeat the experience. The worst aspect was the selfish and uncouth behaviour of most of the passengers. Billed as 'adults-only' this should have been subtitled, 'ideal for greedy, self-centred and rude elderly people'. The experience began as soon as we got on board where we discovered what the 'Olsen Regulars' already knew - that the light afternoon tea of finger sandwiches and cakes were laid out self-service style. Because the staff made no attempt to serve the passengers, the Olsen Regulars who charged on board at the first opportunity had emptied the single tray of roast beef sandwiches leaving just the egg mayonnaise and other lesser fillings for the others. Mind, that didn't stop the Olsen Regulars pushing, (actually 'forcing' would be more accurate), their ways past those who boarded later to wreck and largely waste the cake display. So greedy were these people they misused the serving tools and instead of serving themselves a single portion of cake they destroyed one or two others which they left for the lesser mortals behind them and helped themselves to a third or even fourth undamaged cake. I'm told by more experienced travellers that this is normal behaviour on cruise ships, especially Olsen. If so the solution is within the cruise lines' control, ie serve these teas so all passengers get a fair share. Hardly rocket science. It was a coincidence that one of the films showing in the cabins was The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - not only an excellent film but also very apposite. In the open sequences the character played by Dame Maggie Smith explains to an American hotel employee who's just served her a mug with a tea bag and a flask of warm water that 'tea is a dried herb that's brought back to life by infusion in boiling water, not the lukewarm piss you've served'. That's exactly what every cup of tea served on Balmoral tasted like, grey, tepid urine. And the coffee's not much better unless you pay extra for it when they actually use real coffee. Again the solution is within Olsen's control, either teach your staff how to make tea and coffee or subcontract to Costa or Café Nero. Like un-monitored pre-school children, guests were allowed to behave as they wished regardless of the inconvenience they caused other passengers. For instance couples spread themselves and their knitting and newspapers right across a four-seat settee and refused to make space for other passengers wanting to sit down and buy a coffee. Far too many passengers using their own powered wheelchairs used the public areas like raceways to the detriment of everyone else. As we were disembarking at Newcastle the queue refused to budge for one elderly man trying to back out of a lift pulling his wife in a wheelchair, while at the same time another, obese man using a walking stick was trying to force his way into the same lift and complaining volubly because the wheelchair was in his way. God knows how many would have died due the selfish attitudes of passengers towards others if the ship had sunk. Now for some due praise. The cabin service was excellent, flawless. The girls deserve a raise for if anyone comes back it will be in large part due to them. True, the corners of the bathroom could do with steam cleaning with an industrial machine but that's a small point. The serving staff in the Ballindalloch restaurant were also generally excellent and are due similar praise though a little more attention to the cleanliness of glassware wouldn't go amiss. Sadly the quality of the staff didn't extend to the so-called premier restaurants, Spey and Avon. On two days my wife and I took lunch in these restaurants. On the first day we chose self-service, on the second we selected from the menu. That day we shared our table with a courteous and polite solo passenger. After our meal we were offered coffee and all of us accepted. The waiter brought two coffee cups, one saucer and a pot containing half a cup of lukewarm coffee. When we pointed out his omissions the waiter shrugged his shoulders and walked away. Other deficiencies we noticed in these restaurants were that waiters removed plates before diners had fully digested their last mouthful and plates were removed from one diner in a party who had finished eating before the others had completed their meal. There is little point in having an industrial toaster if the waiter operating it pre-toasts the bread and places this hot toast on a plate (albeit inside a napkin) so it's ready cooled for the next customer. This is idiocy. In general the food was adequate though occasionally tastes and flavours were rather too subtle and indiscernible. This comment applies especially to desserts, for instance lime and lemon cream item that's bright coloured but almost flavourless. My wife and I took the speciality Indian meal. We assumed that the kitchen does not include a tandoor oven but that really was no excuse for naan bread tasting more like cake. The spice in the curries was very muted and completely unrepresentative of Indian food that most passengers would know. A very poor extra. We purchased the All-in bar supplement but frankly this was not a good idea. Bar staff served erratic measures and didn't always get the right drink e.g. gin and vodka were often confused. Furthermore they constantly urged passengers to order doubles which obviously saved them work but was in contrast to the rigidly-enforced rule that passengers mustn't be served a second drink was the first is on the table. The maitre d' and the charming couple running the bridge sessions need to get some balls. In the case of the maitre d' it is not acceptable when the majority of passengers have observed the dress code for the two formal nights to have to suffer passengers seated on the same or nearby tables who have refused to conform for their own personal reasons. The code is well published and if any diner doesn't wish to observe it they should be obliged to eat elsewhere. Frankly the dress code is unimportant to the men but a courtesy to the ladies who can choose to dress up a bit if they wish. The same criticism must be levelled at the couple who run the bridge sessions. My wife and I were looking forward to learning to play bridge but our experience was completely spoiled by another couple who turned up at the beginners session despite being very experienced players. Their objective was simply to impress us with their expertise (and conversely our mediocrity) and furthermore to criticise the explanation and teaching being given by the experts. In contrast, although my wife and I were only observers, the dance tutors and hosts performed in an absolutely exemplary manner. They were not only skilled but courteous and polite and frankly a credit to whoever employs them. There is an air of parsimony in many cases throughout the ship. For example, doctors regularly recommend the elderly to drink a litre of water per day. For Olsen to charge £1.50 for a bottle in the cabin shows the company in a very poor light The entertainment offered on-board varied from first-class to puerile. The three headline acts, Geoff Taylor, Andy Eastwood and Paul Broadwood were excellent. The second level entertainers were adequate and Howard Johnson deserves special mention. Adam Reece on the other hand needed to practice. Having said that, playing music for others to talk through is a thankless task. However there is no excuse for the frankly paltry concert party. It was amateur, the singers were often out of tune and frankly Bolton amateur operatic society (with which I have no connection) would have done a better job. A number of guests who had sailed on Balmoral earlier in the season told us they had already seen the concert party performances and they were no better even after practice. If shows are contracted over a season and customers are likely to find themselves seeing the same shows twice or more they should at least be warned. For readers with young children around them the leader was reminiscent of the very talented Mr Tumble - though completely devoid of talent, charm, stagecraft or ability. He couldn't sing either. Although only six piece, the house band in the Neptune lounge was terrific. The same cannot be said of the Lido quartet who needed a considerably wider repertoire. Despite the description printed regularly in the ship's newspaper, Amy Winehouse is not representative of music of the 60s 70s or 80s. The music that was performed was too often music to slit your throat to. Even worse was the indulgence by the Olsen company of the leader of the concert party with a solo performance one evening the purpose of which he was quite open about was to provide him with a video for his CV. Again his comments revealed that his parents and possibly his grandmother were also on board and a number of people sitting near us wondered aloud how much discount they'd received. Of course staff discounts may be extended to their family but I suggest Olsen reviews the publicity staff are allowed to give this perk and treat them in the same way as British Airways staff are required to do, ie don't draw attention to your family. Of course cruise passengers realise that itineraries may have to be varied according to the vagaries of the weather. In our case it required us to remain a second day in Hamburg and all passengers were impressed by the announcement that tickets on the shuttle buses on the second day would be free in contrast to the £5 round-trip ticket charge the day before. The gesture was, of course, completely hollow since the queue to get on a bus into the city involved a 90 minute wait in line on the dockside and a 60 minute wait in the Hamburg street for the return journey. Bearing in mind how many passengers needed walking sticks and other aids the parsimony was a disgrace. You urgently need a competent cruise director who knows that his job is organising things like adequate numbers of buses and not replacing the compere at the Palladium. He needs also to be taught to speak clearly not gabble. Clearly Olsen is terrified of Norovirus. I have no experience of it but I do know that the way you handle the refusal of the captain and his crew to touch passengers even at a formal reception needs a serious review. By all means replace the receiving line with a pleasant, personal welcome and presentation but to word it in the way it was unnecessarily proscriptive. Additionally, on that subject, all the chairs in the dining rooms need a serious cleaning – the wooden arms and lower frames of most chairs were sticky. Again, most of the Dyson hand dryers in the men's toilets need urgent servicing. They only dry the backs of the hands - almost no air comes out of the palm elements. A final note of praise: the selection of films available on the televisions in the cabins was varied and should have appealed to most tastes. Overall, I would define our experience with Fred Olsen lines and Balmoral as a better-than-average holiday camp afloat. It had all the disadvantages of an all-inclusive hotel holiday without the single benefit that you can always walk out the door and into town. On the evidence of this cruise, once you've seen one German port you've seen the lot. We took advantage of the two days in Bremen to take a train to Lübeck and spend a delightful and informative – if a little wet – day in a fascinating city, but this was an exception. Our experience with Fred Olsen has ensured that we shall not be cruising again nor going to the pantomime in Billingham on Teesside where the majority of the concert party have apparently been hired to perform. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
The reason for choosing this cruise were many One the embarkation and disembarkation port was only half hour from home so we did not have any extra travel to join the ship.TwoThe ship Balmoral, we have sailed on this ship in the past and ... Read More
The reason for choosing this cruise were many One the embarkation and disembarkation port was only half hour from home so we did not have any extra travel to join the ship.TwoThe ship Balmoral, we have sailed on this ship in the past and have had a wonderful time . The food,entertainment and ports of call had always been good. The size off the ship was also to our liking, friendly yet spacious but there was always things to keep you occupied whether it be energetic or a quiet spot to do a jigsaw or sit with coffee and loose your self in one of the many books in the very good library. The talks during the day also give a change of interest or where some of the guests took advantage and had a sleep. If you needed help there was always one of crew around willing to give you a hand. We did have a problem with the cabin on this cruise in the shower and the toilet, later we had debris blowing from the ventilation we where offered a change of accommodation but told no guarantee that the same thing would not happen, so we declined. All of the problems were attended to soon after they were reported. We now look forward to our next cruise with Fred Olsen Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
Mainly itinerary and the time of year, less crowded places. Embarkation swift and efficient at the Port of Tyne. Very lucky with the weather for the time of year apart from Gothenburg and Helsinki. The food was of good quality and ... Read More
Mainly itinerary and the time of year, less crowded places. Embarkation swift and efficient at the Port of Tyne. Very lucky with the weather for the time of year apart from Gothenburg and Helsinki. The food was of good quality and varied, breakfast lunch and dinner. Service in the bars and restaurants was excellent although a little slow in the self service cafe. The crew and staff always seemed happy and smiling, friendly and efficient. Cabin although on deck 3 was adequate with plenty of wardrobe and drawer space, comfortable beds and a good shower. The two shore excursions we took in St. Petersburg were excellent with very knowledgeable guides. All other ports we explored by ourselves and found that easy using the maps provided. We only experienced two shows , one of which was the crew show, very enjoyable. We really loved the whole experience and booked while on board for next year. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
We have travelled with Fred. Olsen several times before but never on this, their flagship. Chosen for the itinerary and because it was a special event with all 4 Fred.Olsen ships meeting in Cadiz, a good place to visit. That was a very ... Read More
We have travelled with Fred. Olsen several times before but never on this, their flagship. Chosen for the itinerary and because it was a special event with all 4 Fred.Olsen ships meeting in Cadiz, a good place to visit. That was a very good day if a bit overcrowded. Very nice ship which probably was not seen at the best time, as it was full and so you could not get into the various events and there was always a struggle to find a sunbed or even seat inside. The average service may also have been due to the fact that the ship was full and waiters particularly were very stretched. On late sitting we were often eating until 10.30pm -too late for most people. However even when it was quiet, the bar waiters were very slack and we often went to the bar ourselves after waiting 5-10 minutes to be served. However my main complaint was that as a gluten free passenger my food choices and places to eat were limited, and this appeared to be acceptable to the senior management to whom I complained. I was even told that it was just a fad introduced by the Americans. Would therefore not recommend it if you are gluten free, unless you want to lose weight! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and were just viewing it as a means of getting to Orkney and Shetland and really were not expecting much. However how wrong we were. We found our inside cabin clean and spacious with a good ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and were just viewing it as a means of getting to Orkney and Shetland and really were not expecting much. However how wrong we were. We found our inside cabin clean and spacious with a good sized shower room. The food was excellent and we found the entertainment some of the best we have come across. We have cruised many many times with Cunard, Holland America, Princess, Carnival, Celebrity and Costa always having had either a suite or balcony so feel I am in a position to give an honest review of the Balmoral. We found the size of the Balmoral easy to walk around especially when in heels of an evening. The crew and staff were very friendly and there was none of the hard sell for good reviews from the restaurant staff or the maitre d. The only thing I would change is the disembarkation/embarkation at ports of call. This is the first ship where both have taken place on the same gang plank but I guess this may be due to size. The ports of call - Invergordon, Kirkwall and Lerwick were good and we were blessed with excellent weather. We toured independently and hired a car for the day in Lerwick through Bolts car hire who had car waiting on quay upon ships arrival at a reasonable price. The age range on board was varied and yes there were some people who had mobility issues and how nice it was that they too could enjoy a lovely holiday. I would definitely consider cruising on the Balmoral again. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
We chose this cruise for its itinerary and the Orkneys and Shetland were great and well worth visiting. We took a shore excursion at Inverness which was informative and well organised by our guide. Check in at Newcastle was fast and ... Read More
We chose this cruise for its itinerary and the Orkneys and Shetland were great and well worth visiting. We took a shore excursion at Inverness which was informative and well organised by our guide. Check in at Newcastle was fast and efficient. We booked an inside superior cabin on Bridge deck and it was OK with a larger than average bathroom. However, there were none of the touches such as hand cream, bath robes or flannels that we've had elsewhere. Just soap in a dispenser! The entertainment was adequate and varied for a short cruise. However, we found the food to be of a very basic standard and without a great deal of variety. Also the waiter service in the bars was very disappointing and more often that not, we had to go to the bar to order. The ship, overall, looks pretty tired and deck furniture definitely needs replacing with loungers showing rust and other signs of wear. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
I’ve always wanted to try a cruise so picked this one as I’ve always wanted to go to the Shetland Islands and it was short so gave us a chance to experience cruising. Arrived on the boat to our very expensive upgraded cabin. ... Read More
I’ve always wanted to try a cruise so picked this one as I’ve always wanted to go to the Shetland Islands and it was short so gave us a chance to experience cruising. Arrived on the boat to our very expensive upgraded cabin. Very disappointed. Only soap in a bottle supplied in the bathroom - just like a 3 star hotel. Very small towels. Thick rust round the taps and some black mould round bath. On the plus side, the beds were comfortable and we heard no noise at night. Food was excellent and nothing to complain about there. We didn’t go with the drinks package but the price of drinks was very reasonable and again nothing to complain about there either. Entertainment was aimed at an older generation, dance classes, tea dances and bingo etc. and nothing that I would participate in. In fact I question the amount of disabled people on board if there was an emergency. It would be interesting to see how quickly you were able to get to the lifeboats. There was nothing in terms of entertainment for children and yet there were quite a few on board. We participated in one very expensive shore excursion (£52 each) which was described as a walk through a forest to waterfalls and the description urged walking shoes and suitable clothing. In fact the walk was no more that 30 minutes in total and we spent a lot of that waiting for unfit people to catch up. I suppose the footwear of the guide gave it away really - fashion boots. We then visited a small town which was interesting but all of it could be seen in an hour or less. In Kirkwall we hired bikes for £20 and had a great day. In Lerwick we hired a car for £32 and saw all the area below Lerwick, which was fascinating. The day we were at sea all day was awful and we were bored stiff. We used the gym, which needs updating, for a couple of hours and then read for most of the day. The restaurant boasted a sea food lunch and certainly the display was wonderful but because the ship was busy there were queues for tables and we were shown to a table for 6. I really don’t want to eat with strangers, despite them being very pleasant. Overall I feel that this was very expensive for what you got, especially accommodation. Hopefully I have been fair in this review and maybe when I’m 80 and disabled I might choose to go on another one! Read Less
Balmoral Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 4.0
Dining 4.0 4.1
Entertainment 3.0 3.8
Public Rooms 4.0 4.1
Fitness Recreation 2.0 3.6
Family 2.0 3.6
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.5
Enrichment 4.0 3.5
Service 4.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 3.8

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