Christmas and new year on the Balmoral
The embarkation on the Balmoral was excellent and we were looking forward to a great Christmas/new year cruise but our hopes were dashed. The first few days were fine. We arrived at on Christmas Eve. Lisbon and bearing in mind the age range of the passengers no shuttle buses had been laid on. The Oriana and Ventura were both docked with us and had laid on shuttle buses for their passengers. It was quite a walk into town so unless some of our passengers did tours they would not have got off. Christmas Eve evening was lovely. There was a carol concert with the crew and then sherry and port with mince pies afterwards. Christmas Day started on a good note with the reindeer racing between the senior officers and then there was a great party on deck with mulled wine. The meal in the evening however left a lot to be desired. Our main course arrived and we all had plenty of turkey. I had one and half small sprouts, cut in half, no parsnip or carrot, one roast potato, and a sausage with no bacon. No stuffing. My husband had a slither of parsnip and carrot and no sausage. Our friends had similar meals. We called our waiter over, who was excellent for the whole cruise, and he bought some more veg by which time it was too late. The chef then came out but offered no explanation as to what had happened to our meals!!! We would the food overall had gone down a lot since we last cruised three years ago with Fred. The show team, i.e. the onboard dancers and singers, were excellent. In fact the best we have seen, but the cabaret artists, apart from the singer called Andrew (whose surname I cannot remember and who does every Christmas on Fred Olson) were dire. Fred Olson obviously don't like spending money on outside performers. We did three tours which were all very good and reasonably priced. The cocktail parties were a bun fight and we had difficulty getting a drink. We were all inclusive so in the end we gave up on them and had our own cocktail party in the bar. The last time we did new year's eve with Fred the sparkling wine flowed after 11.30 p.m. This time they came round with one glass per person. We play bridge and the bridge organiser (Will, Mr. Bridge) and his team were excellent and ran a very good afternoon. All in all this was a very disappointing cruise but we made the best of it. Would we travel with Fred again - the answer unfortunately is no. Their cutbacks now seem to be in line with the other major companies.
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