Although I had never cruised on Balmoral before, I did spend some time onboard at the recent UK Cruise Convention in Southampton. In fact I was lucky enough to be the video presenter for Travel Weekly and Travel TV, and spent 3 hours filming around the ship.
I had booked the cruise nearly a year ago, and having recently seen how good Balmoral was, I was really looking forward to my short trip. I had booked an inside cabin but, much to my surprise, I was upgraded to a Premier Suite because of the filming work I had done in Southampton. This was a fantastic opportunity, as I now knew just how good the suites are.
Balmoral was a bit late arriving in Southampton, due to some rough weather in the North Sea the day before, so we didn’t board until about 4pm. We went straight to the suite and it was even bigger than I had remembered, and Ellena thought it was amazing. There was just so much storage space that we couldn’t hope to fill it.
Although the ship was built over 20 years ago, there have been regular updates over this time, with the last major refit being in 2008. This meant that when you were in the public areas you couldn’t tell the age, as everything looked new and was kept spotlessly clean. There are 710 cabins and a maximum of 1,350 passengers can be carried at any one time.
We ate in the main restaurant, the Ballindalloch on deck 6, and the food was of a very high standard. There are two other restaurants, the Spey and Avon on deck 10. The same food is served as in the Ballindalloch, but they are smaller restaurants. You can usually opt for which restaurant your clients prefer when booking the cabin. In addition to the 3 main restaurants, there is also the Palms Café on deck 7. This is self service, and they cook a great omelette at breakfast, and it is a very popular venue at lunchtime as well.
Other public rooms include the Neptune Lounge, where the main evening entertainment takes place, and the Morning Light Pub, both of which are on deck 7. The Lido Lounge and Bar, which includes a small casino area, is situated on deck 8. The Marquee Bar and Observatory lounge are situated on deck 11, and are very popular for a relaxing drink, especially when entering or leaving port. The Observatory Lounge, with its panoramic views, is also the venue for the late night disco.
Facilities around the ship include a pool and Jacuzzis both on deck 7 and deck 11, card rooms, a library, internet room and boutiques on deck 7, and a beauty salon, gym and fitness centre on deck 10. For those on a longer cruise there is a self service launderette (minimal charge) on deck 9.
As a travel agent I feel that Fred.Olsen has some really strong selling points, which puts them ahead of many other cruise lines when deciding on what to suggest to clients. They have 4 ships, 3 of which are less than 30,000 tons with the Balmoral being 43,537 tons, which suit many passengers, and they offer ex UK cruising 12 months of the year. I feel that the main points which set them apart are as follows: -
If you are thinking of putting a group together, then Fred.Olsen is a great choice, and in 2010 they won the ‘Group Leisure’ award for the ‘Best Cruise Line for Groups’. They have a dedicated department for group bookings and can offer you: -
If you have clients looking for a Suite, then Fred.Olsen has a great choice on their ships. On Balmoral for instance they have the Single Balcony Suites (JB), Superior Suites (SS), Marquee Suites (MS), Premier Suites (PS) and the Owner’s Suites (OS). They range in size from 200sq ft up to over 500 sq ft.
Passengers in these suites receive the ‘Suite Dreams’ package, which includes a welcome bottle of sparkling wine and fruit basket, flowers or plant in the suite, bathrobe and slippers, luxury towels, binoculars and world atlas for use during the cruises, afternoon canapé service, complimentary coach shuttle vouchers, free pressing service for formal nights..…