Travel Editor David Powell, takes a Norwegian Fjord cruise on Fred. Olsen’s cruise ship Balmoral ….
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines pride themselves on offering a special cruising experience to their guests. With a fleet of four ships, Balmoral, Braemar, Boudicca and Black Watch, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines cover a wide range of destinations worldwide. One of the most popular from the U.K. is a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords.
My wife and I were booked on flagship Balmoral, our first sailing with Fred. Olsen and we were looking forward to the experience. After embarkation at Southampton we made our way to our cabin, a Superior Outside. The cabin was spacious, well appointed and very comfortable. Lots of hanging wardrobe space and a separate bathroom with shower. There was a large picture window to watch the world go by, not that we planned to stay in the cabin for long, there was a whole ship to explore and discover! Cabin grades to suit most budgets vary from suites, balcony, outside, inside and single. After dropping off our carry- on luggage we made our way to the Palms Café at the rear of Deck 7 for a welcome aboard snack and afternoon tea.
Balmoral is Fred. Olsen’s largest and newest cruise ship named after the Scottish home of the Royal Family. A traditional cruise ship, very appealing and a lot smaller than most cruise ships being built now which gives a distinct advantage of being able to access smaller ports without tendering and allows the crew and staff to get to know you, refer to you by name, find out your likes and dislikes and generally make you feel a welcome and valued guest. There are 710 cabins and plenty of spacious lounges and public areas for the 1300 guests the ship can accommodate.
Soon it was time for the mandatory lifeboat drill and then the Sailaway. As we started
our journey down the Solent you could feel the excited anticipation onboard as we set
off on our 8 night cruise to the phenomenal Fjords. Now, however, time to change for pre-dinner drinks before making our way to the restaurant.
It’s fair to say that food is a high priority for British cruisers and on Balmoral you can expect a wonderful choice of food and fine dining. 5 courses, the mouth-watering dinner menu was varied with many delicious dishes to choose from each night. By now my wife and I had struck-up easy conversation with a few fellow guests onboard and we were already experiencing a friendly relaxed atmosphere. The restaurants are all rather stylish and tastefully designed with some fabulous views across the ocean. The Ballindalloch, The Spey and The Avon Restaurants all offer quality dining accompanied by a great wine list. Additionally the Palms Café is slightly less formal and is ideal for guests who prefer not to have set dining times.
The Marquee Deck 11 is a lovely relaxing area with sun deck, comfortable lounges, golf nets, the Observation Lounge and bar, swimming pool and two whirlpool jacuzzi’s. Atlantis Spa is situated on Highland Deck 10 with an abundance of treatments available for your self-indulgence – well why not .. you are on holiday! A fully equipped Fitness Centre takes up the front of the ship on Deck 10 and there’s a further pool on Lounge Deck behind The Palms Café.
Onboard facilities also include a library, card room, art gallery, promenade ideal for that traditional stroll around deck, internet centre, laundry room, medical centre and reception. An excellent choice of entertainment was on offer during days at sea to live music evenings in the lounges and bars.
The shops onboard offered a great range of goods and gifts from fragrances, cosmetics, and bags … to clothing, fashion accessories and jewellery. Most evenings my wife would purchase some accessory to wear much to the interest and delight of our fellow dining companions!
My wife and I found the ship and the whole Fred. Olsen experience to be really friendly and welcoming. A lot of staff and crew got to know us by name (especially in the shops!) and the Fred. Olsen saying “it’s all about the people” proved very true.
Norwegian Fjords and Tours
Aside from the ship facilities the itinerary is equally important and here Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines came into their own with some fantastic Norwegian ports of call and a splendid range of tours on offer.
This cruise brought together comfort and breath-taking natural beauty which left us with an unforgettable experience. Norway has some of the most stunning scenery in the world and everyday brought something new to see.
Our first port to visit was to be Stavanger, but Captain Victor Stoica, considering guests safety and comfort, decided to divert as he had received information of an impending huge gale in the Stavanger area. We certainly didn’t mind and we did, in fact, call at Stavanger on our return journey later in the cruise. On reaching the Norwegian coast we called at Bergen, known as Fjord Norway’s capital, a beautiful city with a great shipping tradition. In addition to free time which we spent walking around the city centre we took a tour of Bergen which included the Funicular Railway which took us right to the top of Mount Fløyen for a spectacular view!
We cruised and gazed in awe at the magnificent Fjords including the UNESCO listed Naerøyfjord and one of Norway’s longest – Nordfjord. One of the itinerary highlights for me was the stop at picturesque Flam with its magnificent landscape. Here we took another tour, expertly organised again by Fred. Olsen Cruises, on the famous Flåmsbana Railway regarded as one of the steepest and most beautiful journeys in the world. On the train our friendly companions in the adjacent seats had done this tour three times and at the end we could certainly see why.
Spectacular mountain scenery, wonderful unimaginable waterfalls, breath-taking Fjords, this was a super Norwegian experience. Thank you Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, we loved your ship, your food, your people, your itinerary and your tours – here’s to next time!