We usually travel with P&O during the January - March period to escape the British winter but they had nothing new this year so we thought a return to Fred Olsen with a different itinerary would be different.
We travelled on Balmoral 10 years ago and she has been sympathetically updated since and is very well maintained. The problem we had last time still exists unfortunately - she is just not up to maintaining her itinerary in heavy weather. Whereas P&O ships maintain 18 - 20 knots, we were down to 11-15 most of the time. This adds to the length of any passage; 6 days on the Atlantic rather than five for example. We missed 2 ports owing to this and our time in many ports was often reduced to little more than a half day. As we actually visited 13 ports in 62 nights, it was lucky that we enjoyed sea days! Fortunately the Atlantic was kind to us both ways so we lost no time there.
Unfortunately the ship picked up a fishing net in the Pacific (not anyone's fault despite popular opinion) and we were reduced to 10/11 knots maximum. Fortunately we were able to fix the problem in San Diego. All credit to the captain (and the excellent Cruise Director Elliot Taylor) who ran two forums for the passengers to explain the issue and its implications. He didn't have to do it and it was much appreciated. As a result, tours to Los Angeles had to run by coach from San Diego which was not viable for many. An unexpected side effect of the change to the itinerary was that in retrospect our days in the US ports co-incided with the few days of good weather during a cold wet period there. The original itinerary would have meant our visits would have quite bad weather. So it wasn't all bad luck!
We booked late and always want a balcony so we had little choice but to splash out on this suite. It was everything we hoped for with plenty of space, excellent appointments and far too much cupboard and drawer space! The Suite Dreams package of canapés, fruit, wine, and discount laundry was a good add on
This was the best port on the cruise. Luckily our delay for repairs meant we could really enjoy it. Impressive, clean, not busy and with lots to see and do. We visited the Maritime Museum and USS Midway - both next to our ship. We did a trolley tour round the city visiting Balboa Park which deserves day on its own. An excellent meal in a Little Italy restaurant. The city is home to the US Pacific fleet and we saw huge carriers and watched the air force doing some spectacular flying. Oh, there was a small dock that would have berthed our entire Royal Navy!