After recently returning form a 6 day adventure to the Fjords on Fred Olsen Balmoral it is easy to see why people have such affectionate things to say about them. Many of my colleagues feel the same way regarding Fred Olsen. It is just the feel of the ship when you embark it just feels like you are back home. Maybe this has something to do with the smaller ships so much more personal and so much more warmth than the larger ships.
I sailed from Newcastle which was fab for me living in Leeds , only 90 minutes on the train, then 20 minutes from the station to the port. Check in was extremely easy and before we knew it we were on board. This was my third cruise with Fred Olsen and my second cruise on Balmoral. I travelled with my colleague Hannah who has also sailed on Fred Olsen , and was looking forward to being on board again.
I absolutely love cruising and nothing nicer is the feeling you get when you find your cabin drop your suitcases and then go and explore.
I stayed in a Superior Suite 9051 on deck 9 starboard forward, great location . What is great about this ship is that being so small everything is at your fingertips no matter where you are staying on board. It was easy being in this location personally as it was only two minutes to the forward stairs up to deck 11 where we had the observation lounge a small pool area and hot tubs which I have to say frequented once or twice. Superior Suite was great, bottle of wine on arrival and canapes delivered to your room at 5pm each evening. I will be honest in saying the canapes left alot to be desired but plenty of food on board a cruise so wasn’t a heartbreaker. Bathrobes and slippers also came with the suite which was great when you were off to the pool or hot tub. Loved the his and her’s in the bathroom.
Fred Olsen offer a drinks package on board now if this isn’t included with the fare when you book you can purchase it on board for £25 per person per night. Great Value and included are spirits and mixers, house wine lager, beer but what I find very odd is that standard coffee’s are not included. I don’t mean speciality coffees but if you want a normal coffee with milk it is chargable so a passenger we met on board had a rum and coke instead as was free in her package. A Gin and Tonic and Glass of wine are around £4.95 so I guess you can gage as too how much you drink would depend on whether the drinks package was worth it.
We were on second sitting for dinner on a table for 8. Think I would prefer a table of 6 in future as you couldn’t really engage with the people on your table opposite you as the table was so big. So a tip for future sailings. We had a great table though all of single ladies so had a lot of fun at dinner. I don’t know about you but I love to listen and here about other peoples lives and stories they have to share. We were surrounded by some wonderful single ladies. There are two main dining restaurants on an evening , The Spey and the Ballindalloch! Same menu just different decks. We had breakfast lunch and evening meal in the Ballindalloch most days but the food in the buffet restaurant was great and did a lovely afternoon tea each afternoon. I like how at every lunchtime they offer so many varied nationalities of food. Indian, Thai, Chinese, English, Italian. Seafood. Great choice. Food was great, rare occasion could have been better at lunchtime but only if I was picking.
Life on board a Fred Olsen cruise is very laid back and relaxed, the open air deck areas are there and intended in a way to group people together and to make friends and chat the days and nights away. There were many solo passengers on board and Freds made a huge deal of arranging get togethers each day and encouraged everyone to mix if they preferred too. We met a lady who sadly her husband passed away and she booked this cruise for the first time on her own. She was so nervous she was going to cancel a few days before sailing but her daughter encouraged her to go and have a great time. She is so glad she did as she loved every minute of it and made some great friends and would definitely do another cruise on her own.
Entertainment on board during the day was to be honest fairly busy there was always something going on. Might not be your cup of tea but to be honest it was nice to join in and experience all the activities . Although you will never see mt in a gym on board any cruise ship. I actually tried Bingo for the first time, hadn’t a clue what to do to be fair but that didn’t matter at all as somehow I won the first two rounds. A grand total of £82.00. Mind you we spent £20 each for the bingo cards. I am now an avid fan of Bingo. We even did well on the quiz too.
Arts and Crafts
You may be surprised to learn that I actually love this ship and experience on board. Such a different world compared to my normal Royal Caribbean and MSc experiences on the 6500 passenger vessels. I am fairly laid back so just being away no matter what ship I am on is great. Although I couldn’t take my 21 and 18 year old on Freds as they would be tearing their hair out at the lack of flow riders and ice skating rinks on board. That said we all know Freds pride themselves on giving older adults a great time.
Next time I will be focusing on the ports of calls and the experience I had in one Fjord not to be missed.