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Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines: Balmoral

Balmoral Review

Named after the Scottish home of the Royal family, the Balmoral offers a classic British cruising experience as Fred. Olsen’s largest and newest ship. Still smaller than most cruise ships today, it has 710 cabins and suites with ample public space to accommodate 1,300

passengers. Dine in three formal restaurants, or mingle in the warm pub with occasional live music or comedy. Catch a cabaret in the Neptune Lounge. Drift the hours away with a cocktail and seascape in the Observatory Lounge. Nine cabins are now equipped for use by disabled passengers. Family-friendly, the arts and crafts room transforms to a children’s club during school holidays.

Although Balmoral entered service in 1988 as the Crown Odyssey for the defunct Royal Cruise Line, and then sailed for Norwegian Cruise Line as Norwegian Crown, Fred. Olsen gave the ship a makeover after acquiring it in 2007. With the addition of a 99-foot midsection, a completely refurbished Balmoral was relaunched in 2008 as the largest ship in the Fred. Olsen fleet. A wide range of entertainment, friendly service, well-prepared cuisine and well-planned itineraries at competitive prices make Balmoral a solid midrange choice. A loyal following of repeat customers return for spacious staterooms outfitted with the latest technology, friendly staff, professional entertainment, and the traditional afternoon tea service with white-gloved waiters. The spa is staffed by therapists recruited from international five-star resorts. Choose from a wide assortment of beauty and wellness treatments to rejuvenate body, mind, and spirit.

The large windows in the Observatory Lounge afford fantastic sea views, which are enhanced with binoculars strategically spaced around the lounge. A grand piano provides background music for dancing on the glass dance floor. The decor of a traditional-style English pub reflects more than a century of Fred. Olsen's history. A second bar and lounge venue overlooking the aft pool deck offers live music with views. Are you a bridge player or jigsaw puzzle master? Head to the game room to meet fellow enthusiasts.

With its Norwegian heritage of seamanship spanning over 150 years, family-owned Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has built a solid reputation of reliability and comfort for its UK-based fleet of smaller ships. Major refitting and refurbishment of old and recently acquired ships since 2008 have earned the company high industry accolades. Two sister ships from the defunct luxury Royal Viking Line, Royal Viking Star and Royal Viking Sky, have reunited under the Fred. Olsen house flag and now sail as Black Watch and Boudicca. The Balmoral and Braemar complete the four-vessel fleet.

Shipboard ambience is friendly, relaxed, and unabashedly British. As Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines expands, the line takes pride in maintaining the consistency their passengers prefer and expect, both on board—in the self-described "British country house" atmosphere—and ashore. Activities and entertainment are traditional cruise-ship fare with a laid-back tempo, albeit on a much smaller scale compared to a typical American megaship. Lectures and the Arts Club special-interest program are popular, with classes in subjects ranging from gardening to painting, history to wine appreciation, and even bird- and wildlife-spotting.

Ballroom dancers outnumber the late-night disco set, and evening entertainment is more cabaret than Vegas. Particular favorites with most passengers are theme nights and the crew show. Cruises range from four-night "mini-breaks" to lengthier 7- to 78-night sailings. British pounds are used for all transactions on board. Although the line is destination-focused—itineraries are seldom repeated within any cruise season—itinerary planning is versatile.

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What You Should Know

Pros

  • The ship is suitable for families, especially during school holidays
  • The Atlantis spa is popular (so much so that pre-cruise booking is a good idea)
  • Surrogate dance and game partners are available for single ladies

Cons

  • Poor sound insulation between cabins means more noise than you might want to hear
  • Entertainment is British-focused and may not appeal to international passengers
  • Decor and general atmosphere may feel old-fashioned
  • There's a 2% credit card surcharge to settle onboard accounts
Ship Stats
  • Crew Members 510
  • Entered Service 1988
  • Gross Tons 43,537
  • Length 715 feet
  • Number of Cabins 710
  • Passenger Capacity 1,350
  • Width 93 feet

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