CRUISE SHIP REVIEW: Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines – Balmoral

Balmoral
“Balmoral at Sea” by Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines is licensed under CC BY-ND 3.0

Today I’m taking you on a tour in pictures of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Balmoral in my latest cruise ship review. Having now been on 30 cruises, while this was my first ever Fred. Olsen cruise, it certainly wasn’t my first cruise and I was curious if the British cruise ship Balmoral would stack up to some of my favorite cruises.

HISTORY:

Built in 1988, Balmoral was first in service with Norwegian Cruise Line as Norwegian Crown. In 2003 she underwent a refurbishment and was then sold to Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines in 2006. She then went into service as Balmoral in November 2007 and made her inaugural cruise on February 2008 to the Caribbean.

NAME:

What is the significance of the name Balmoral? Time to brush up on your Scottish as that’s the name of the Scottish residence of the British Royal Family.

SHIP STATISTICS:

Balmoral
Balmoral Deck Plan
  • Tonnage: 43,537 GT
  • Length: 218.18 m (715 ft 9 in)
  • Decks: 10 passenger accessible decks numbered 2-11
  • Fine dining restaurants continue Scottish theme: Ballindalloch, Avon, Spey
  • Capacity: 1,350 standard occupancy
  • Crew: 510
  • Total number of cabins and suites: 710

POOLS AND JACUZZIS:

Whether you choose the heated pool and jacuzzis on decks 6 or 11, there’s plenty of space to stretch out and soak up the sun.

BARS, LOUNGES & ENTERTAINMENT:

After a day in port or a long day at sea, you might find yourself in one of the great bars, lounges and entertainment on Balmoral. I took pics in the morning and this was probably the only time I ever saw them empty.

One of my favorite things to do on Balmoral was to sit outside and enjoy a drink at the Lido Bar deck overlooking the aft pool. If you’d rather stay inside and listen to music, dance, or participate in a game or two, the Lido Lounge might be for you.

Other options onboard include pulling up a chair inside the Observatory Lounge and enjoy panoramic views, catch a show in the Neptune Lounge, or head up to deck 11 and grab a drink in the Marquee Bar.

TSG Tip: I especially liked that in the main lounge, the Neptune Lounge, there weren’t any steps, but a gradual slope leading down to the stage. Made it far easier for everyone to move about, whether with difficulty walking or for women in heels.

DINING:

Why is it that most people associate cruise food with less than edible food? I’ll write more about dining on Balmoral in a separate post, but for now let me tell you that the dining options and restaurants onboard were fantastic.

TSG Tip: Did you know that there was always a vegetarian option available at every meal? The option wasn’t a throwaway salad or soup, but real food that was delicious every time.

GUEST SERVICES:

On the Main Deck you’ll find everything that you need including Guest Services. Also on this deck is the Port Shop if you need something quick like toothpaste, a razor, cough drops, etc.; the Photo Gallery and Shop; the Art Gallery; and the Shore Tours Office.

SHOPPING:

Did someone say shopping? If you’re looking for fine jewelry or designer brand items like fragrances, cosmetics, bags, clothing, or accessories, check out the boutiques onboard.

CABINS:

All cruise ships have one thing in common and that’s a place for you to lay your head at night. While accommodations can range from single to inside to balcony cabins and even suites, we were in ocean view cabin 5025 with a picture window. On Balmoral ocean view cabins range in size from 165-200 square feet. We had a bathroom with a shower, television, hair dryer, air conditioning, and the all important tea kettle.

All of the pictures above are of our ocean view cabin except for the last. A big thank you to the lovely Glaswegians across the hall who allowed me to take a quick pic of their inside cabin across the hall. It looked exactly like our cabin but for the window and the additional pull down beds and measures 160 square feet.

OUTSIDE DECKS:

While deck 11 was great if you wanted to sunbathe, there was plenty of space on the decks all around the ship. If you wanted to walk or jog, you could always head up to decks 7 or 8 and do a few laps.

PUBLIC SPACES:

Sometimes on a cruise you might want to do absolutely nothing. Instead of staying in your cabin, you could head to one of the many public spaces onboard, like deck 7, and read a book, play cards, or do nothing at all. It’s your cruise — you decide what to do and when.

TSG Tip: I should note that all of the carpeting, lights, brass railings, windows and anything you might see on the ship are all well cared for and look pretty much brand new. I’ve been on older ships, well ones actually newer than Balmoral, who looked ready for the scrap heap. I appreciate the attention to detail that Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has done to keep this ship looking modern, clean, and dare I say, practically new.

DRINK PACKAGES:

Like most cruise lines these days, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines offers guests an All Inclusive Upgrade, which allows you to enjoy alcoholic beverages for only £10 per person, per night. This includes wines by glass, branded beers in cans and draught, house spirits, and soft drinks and juices. For premium beverages and cocktails, you’ll receive a 50% discount. So if you like a fancy cocktail like I do, expect to receive a bill on your door the night before you disembark, but look at the drinks — they’re worth it.

PRICE:

Compared to other cruise lines, Balmoral cruises are on par with most mass market or mainstream cruise lines. However, I would have to say that for the price you get considerably more including a crew, incredible food, and a ship that clearly doesn’t show her age.

TSG Tip: Many passengers shared with me how the crew will remember not only your name, your drink, etc., but always remembers you by name every time you come onboard. How’s that for service?

Balmoral
Beautiful day at sea on deck 7

I was asked repeatedly while onboard what I thought of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines and Balmoral as one of only two Americans onboard. Considering her age, you’d think she was far younger, but isn’t that what every woman wants to hear? Seriously though, they’ve taken such great care of this ship that I would never call her or think of her as an older ship.

While Balmoral may be on the smaller side and is comparable in size to Holland America Veendam or Regent Seven Seas Mariner, that was something her repeat customers liked and said they would never want to go on one of the bigger and newer ships. She also has something that I’ve never encountered on other ships: Repeat cruisers dedicated to both the cruise line and to the ship. I met many people who had zero interest in trying another ship not to mention another cruise line. That tells me that Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines is doing something right and I got to experience that for myself first hand.

In upcoming posts I’ll cover the ever important food offerings as well as each of our many ports during my Mysterious Morocco and Seductive Spain cruise.  Have you ever cruised with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines? Share your experience in the comments below.

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