This was a Fred Olsen taster cruise for me, plus a few people onboard were using it as an office Christmas party/outing or seasonal treat. FOCL do tend to attract the older British cruiser and so the ship is tailored towards that clientel but you can still have a relaxed cruise if of a younger outlook. I think it was an adult only cruise as don't recall seeing any kids onboard plus very little for them to do even if they were.
Extra charge food plus the drinks are very reasonably priced onboard so you'd have to carefully weigh up the merits of a drinks package. Gratuities are lower too.
1 out of 5
Embarkation was a joke. We were told in advance that the ship wouldn't be there as it was coming from dry dock, however, it arrived at approx 4.30pm for an expected 6pm sailing. The queue to check in were massive & once checked in people then had to wait to be called to embark the ship. It was all a bit chaotic and it took 3-4 hrs to get aboard the ship. Fred Olsen staff were great, but the port authority staff need lessons in customer service & basic manners.
Loading & unloading of materials or providions meant the ship actually departed at 9pm.
Food and Dining
4 out of 5
The ship has 3 main MDRs, mine was Spey which i had chosen in advance. The MDRs are not big at all but are nicely decorated. The food is of good quality if lacking in options. 2nd sitting seems to be the more popular choice which was a surprise. Staff are attentive and although the buffet is the smallest i have seen so far on a ship you never have any trouble finding somewhere to sit - which you can't say of tbe bigger ships. Even in the buffet the staff will serve you hot drinks at your table rather than you going for them, which is a nice touch. The pricing on speciality restaurants is good value too.
1 out of 5
Was a ahort cruise so not really a chance to participate in any onboard activity
3 out of 5
I missed the comedian on the 1st night due to embarkation chaos etc but caught the Musical Jukebox show on the 2nd night. Due to the design of the venue there are limitations to what can be done in a show. That said the singers & dancers put on a great show and you were in no doubt it was a live performance! The range of the lead vocalist was amazing.
The other live music around the ship was varied from classical string trio to man on a keyboard, some goving more polished performances than others. The music in each of the bars seemed to be treated mostly as background noise so the less polished acts still seemed to hit a spot with their audiences.
Service and Staff
4 out of 5
The restaurant staff were vety attentive whether in tbe MDR or buffet - which was a pleasant surprise.
Never met my cabin stewardess but they did a good job in prepping the cabin morning & evening.
Any of the staff i met were happy to help. The Bar & Restaurant manager even took time to talk to everyone in the MDR about their dining experience.
The only negative i can quote is te Future Cruise dept. Having asked about a particular future cruise i got a better deal & cabin online direct with FOCL than quoted on the ship, so glad i never took the option at the time. Having said that the Future Cruise staff were pleasant enough.
4 out of 5
Being an older ship the design is sometimes compromised in places but its easy enough to get about & find your way.
Fred Olsen are obviously very conscious of sanitation and encourage their passengers to be the same.
Cabin / Stateroom
3 out of 5
The cabin was an interior one on deck 5.
Was a decent size - enough for a double bed, desk area and a sitting area. The bathroom was larger than newer ships and a good sized shower area with a lip that meant no sticky shower curtain when showering. A kettle for making tea or coffee in the cabin was provided too. Plenty wardrobe space which was internally lit. There was a shipwide tech problem with the tv which meant all you could watch was the safety video but once fixed the selection of movies was good. Cabin was attended to at least twice a day and a little chocolate left on tne pillow after turn down.
Sailing on Balmoral is more like taking a trip in a comfy country club than a glitzy city hotel. It's a more relaxed journey with smaller venues, more sedate entertainment and a more cozy atmosphere than bigger ships.
If you like the casino, disco & bling of cruising then this is not tbe ship for you.
If you can use the stairs on Balmoral as there is not always a lift option in each stairwell (i didn't use a lift once while onboard but they looked small) and you are only every going up or down 5 decks at most.
Wasn't sure what to expect from Honfleur itself. There were options to travel from the port to other nearby sights of interest but to overlook this charming town is a mistake. There's a shuttle to the bus station but you could walk it in 30-45mins. The town itself majors on art, from various styles of painting to sculpture and homestyling. Your credit card will take a hit though!
Its relaxing just to walk round the narrow streets of the Gothic quarter and window shop in the many galleries, eating places or other shops. There was a Christmas market going on during this visit and what seemed to be a Sat morning farmers market selling local food & drink produce. Not sure why more cruise ships don't visit here but head across the river to Le Harve?
5 out of 5
This was a breeze. I simply walked off the ship at a time that suited me having enjoyed breakfast first. No queue or hanging about to disembark. A marjed contrast to embarkation!
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