AUTHENTIC ANDALUSIA WITH FRED
We had cruised with Fred Olsen many times, the last one back in October 2010, on that cruise we were platinum members but because it was over 5 years since our last cruise with them we were downgraded to Zero, but rules are rules so we bravely got over our disappointment. The cruise went from Newcastle which for us was very convenient as we are only 2 hours away from the Port. The embarkation was smooth and very quick and we were soon on the ship. We had booked an Anchor Fare which means you cannot choose your own cabin, we were allocated 3044 on deck three right next to the Medical Centre. When we entered the cabin we were pleasantly surprised it seemed quite large and very light and airy and guess what - our luggage was waiting for us - what a bonus. We unpacked immediately, there were 3 wardrobes and over 20 drawers in the cabin we even used some for shoes and still had empty ones. Our cabin Steward did a very good job and kept our cabin very clean. Also with the Anchor fare we couldn't choose our dining sitting, we were allocated 2nd sitting in the Ballindalloch dining room, if we had wanted to change to 1st sitting it would have cost us 2 per person per day - No Freedom Dining on Balmoral. The waiters were lovely and very attentive. The food was of good quality although some of the starters were extremely small. The Prawn cocktail which was served was an insult, it could have been eaten in 2 mouthfuls and the only steak to be served was the steak in the Beef Wellington. There was a good choice of food for the main course, always a vegetarian and a British option, and the soup was always good. . None of the portions were large, but I can honestly say that I never left the table hungry. Breakfast was served in 4 venues. We used either the Avon or the Spey dining rooms which were on deck 10, they were all self selection. The selection on the Breakfast menu was superb much better than on other ships and I have to say that their Bircher Muesli is the best I have ever had on the high seas. Lunch was served in the same 4 venues, mainly self service but there was a small menu as well. The good thing about Fred is that in all the self selection restaurants you are not carrying large trays around as all the tables have cloths on and are set up with cutlery glasses cups and saucers etc. you only have to carry the plate with your food on. The ship is very well proportioned and there are lots of places to sit and the chairs are all very comfortable. There is a library which also has plenty of chairs in which to relax. There are swimming pools on deck 7 and deck 11 sadly there was no shallow end so no good for me as my feet have to touch the bottom of the pool. The entertainment was good The Balmoral show Company were excellent and they worked hard throughout the cruise. We had a singer called Jon Moses he had a beautiful voice we had a comedian/magician Martin Daniels (son of the late Paul Daniels). Brenda Collins was from the North East she was a very funny lady and a couple of other acts. The majority of the passengers came from the North East, they were so very friendly. It was a good itinerary, but it took 4 days to get to our first destination Cadiz. We spent 2 days in Malaga then on to Almeria back to Gibraltar, Lisbon Vigo and La Coruna. In Gibraltar we had to be back on the ship by 12.30 for sailing at 1pm, but 2 passengers failed to return. We waited until 2.30 but they did not make it. The next morning the Captain announced that the missing passengers were alive and well and had spent the night in an hotel in Gibraltar and were catching a flight to Lisbon to pick up the ship (An expensive lesson I would think) The drinks prices on the ship are very reasonable No 18% service charge added !!!!! An all inclusive package cost 15pppd if booked before sailing and 25pppd if booked on the ship. If you are considering a cruise with Fred OIsen don't be put off by negative comments give them a try if only for the Bircher Muesli !!!! If you have never sailed with them before I would recommend the Balmoral, it is just a little better (in my opinion) than the other ships in the fleet.
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