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   Cruise Travel - Cruise Ships


Fred Olsen Cruise Lines

MS Balmoral

Rating:Four Stars
Submit your review hereSubmit your review
Operator:Fred Olsen Cruise Lines
Year Built / Last Refurbished: 1988 / 2007
Length / Tonnage: 710 / 43,537
Number of Cabins / Passengers: 710 / 1,350
Officers / Crew: Norwegian / British cruise staff, Filipino crew
Operating Area: Africa, Canaries, Mediterranean, Scandinavia and Baltic, Caribbean

Review by Pam Massey, TravelPage.com Guest Contributor

Fred. Olsen's ms Balmoral - An Old Friend Gets A New Look


Pam Massey, TravelPage.com, European Cruise Editor


Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines' ms Balmoral first entered service back in 1988 as Crown Odyssey for Crown Cruise Lines. Built at Jos. L. Meyer GmbH & Co. Papenburg, she became Norwegian Crown for Norwegian Cruise Lines in 1996 before being transferred to their subsidiary Orient Lines in 2000, when she reverted to the name Crown Odyssey. After a substantial refit including the addition of a fitness centre above the bridge in 2003 she was once again known as Norwegian Crown sailing for NCL. In August 2006 she was purchased by Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, but remained sailing for NCL under charter until the beginning of November 2007 when Fred. Olsen took delivery, promptly sending her off to Blohm & Voss, Hamburg for a complete overhaul/refit including the insertion of a 100 ft (30.2m) midsection, adding a number of additional cabins, public rooms & midships pool. A further extension was added to the uppermost deck aft to accommodate two new restaurants.

Unfortunately a few technical problems arose towards the end of the planned refit period with the original 18th January date of departure from Hamburg becoming 24th January. She arrived looking splendid in Dover on 25th January. The inaugural events & functions; the Media/Press receptions & Trade Visits had already been cancelled, but after further sea trials on the Sunday it was announced that the Inaugural Cruise for Fred. Olsen, originally set for 30 January 2008, was to be cancelled. Would her 2nd scheduled cruise for 13 February get underway? By all accounts there was still a lot of work aboard to be completed, both with the technical & safety aspects & the interior soft furnishings, carpets etc. With being booked as far as Tenerife on her 2nd cruise 'South to Florida', all fingers & toes were crossed. Balmoral sailed up & down the East Coast & down the English Channel during the next few days, arriving in Southampton on 4th February. There was much speculation about why she was there & would the now Inaugural Cruise on 13th Feb depart from Southampton or Dover. She slipped her moorings on 12 Feb, later than scheduled, but sailed off to Dover for her Big Day.

Balmoral's Builder's Plaque
"Schiff S. 616
Schiffswerft und Maschinenfabrik
Jos. L. Meyer GmbH & Co.
Papenburg / Ems 1988"

13th February 2008 dawned misty, murky, cold & miserable. The sun was however shining on Dover's Cruise Terminal Two later in the day.

Embarkation did not start until 3pm & we didn't finally get aboard until just prior to 5pm. Politely declining the assistance of an escort we made our way down one deck & along the port hallway to 5170. Pleasantly decorated & quite roomy. Glancing at The Daily Times, the Lifeboat Drill had been timed for half an hour earlier & it didn't look like we would make the departure time of 6pm either, with the view out the window of the amount of stores on the quay still to be loaded.

An announcement was soon made to say the Drill would take place at 5.45pm & it did, but things went slowly partly due to passengers not taking note of the requirement to state how many people were there from their cabin when the number was called, just responding with a 'yes' or in some cases nothing at all. First seating dinner was delayed & departure put back until 7pm.

Dover cruise terminal Two

Dover Fireworks

There was to be a firework display from the Prince of Wales Pier as we sailed. I popped out from dinner at 7pm to watch, but we didn't move; at least it looks like all the stores are aboard, including piles of new deck furniture stacked on the aft deck around the pool. Now scheduled to depart at 7.30pm. Back dining a rumble is felt; we're off - 7.25pm - I rush out on deck to view the fireworks. It's cold & a bit murky again, but the display was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Balmoral blasted & we slowly sailed away slipping through Dover Harbour's Western Entrance, Bon Voyage.

Now away from the clutches of shipyards, Classification Society & MCA inspections Balmoral could come into her own. A quick walk around confirms there is still much work to be done aboard, but nothing which is detrimental to the enjoyment of a passenger's cruise, unless one requires to wash some clothes; the launderette does not look like it will be functional for a while yet.

The Master, Captain Martin Birkeland, a very pleasant person with a superb dry sense of humour, leads the team with Hotel Manager Peter Reeves, Cruise Director Anthony Borradaile & Executive Chef Ewald Fabian. Together with the rest of the Officers & Crew they are to be congratulated in running a lovely ship, providing the best possible experience one can. There are no announcements apart from the Captain's Nautical & Weather information from the Bridge at 9am & Midday. The Daily Times provides all the information required along with the binder in each cabin. Smoking is prohibited in all cabins & on balconies [as it is on all Fred. Olsen's Fleet], with designated smoking areas clearly marked in some of the bars/lounges, and on deck.

Time to Embark on a Tour of ms Balmoral Deck by Deck:-

Post Stretch ms Balmoral has 746 cabins, 1340 Passengers [double occupancy], 471 Crew, is 218.18m long, with a beam of 28.3m, draft of 7.5m & from keel plate to top of the masthead is 60m. Her tonnage is 43,537gt.

What hits one most while wandering around initially to orientate oneself is the stark contrast between the old and the new. The inserted mid-section is quite evident internally from the entirely different and up to date décor, along with the smooth unmarked through wear & tear, white companionways & stairwell. Norwegian Crown & Crown Odyssey remains almost untouched, bar new carpet, in places; the Atrium, Neptune Lounge port entrance amongst others, while elsewhere all has disappeared or been partially refurnished, when she is then most definitely Balmoral. Art is everywhere, love it all, none of it, or maybe only enjoy the paintings of previous Fred. Olsen Line vessels, one can't help but take note.

1st Generation of the ship owning Olsens
First Generation of the ship owning Olsens. Fredrik Christian Olsen (1815 - 75), Andreas Olsen (1826 - 93) and Petter Olsen (1821 - 99), who were based in Hvitsten near Oslo

Marina Deck 3

Medical Centre, Arts & Crafts Room, Launderette

Main Deck 6

Photo Gallery, Reception, Shore Tours, Future Cruise Sales & Customer Relations. Ballindalloch Restaurant & Art Gallery

Lounge Deck 7

Neptune Lounge, Boutiques, Braemar Lounge, Card Room, Internet Room, Library, Morning Light Pub, Palms Café - Aft Pool Area

Lido Deck 8

Lido Lounge, Gaming Tables, Lido Bar

Highland Deck 10

Fitness Centre, Atlantis Spa & Beauty Salon, Spey & Avon Restaurants

Marquee Deck 11

Observatory Lounge, Marquee Bar/Grill, Marquee Pool, Sun Deck

Down on Marina Deck 3 in the centre of the new mid-section is the Arts & Craft Room. Bright & White; no windows, tables, chairs & a kitchenette for the utensils required. Table Tennis [maybe a bit of a low ceiling for a proper match] & a dart board too. Tournaments were held for both. During the course of the cruise Crafts Classes with Chris Birch included "St. Valentine's Day Card" & "Beadwork Bracelet", while Watercolour Classes with Eric Kay covered an "Introduction to Watercolour", "Colour Mixing: Landscape Techniques" & "Painting Trees & Skies". Art packs are available for purchase.

Aft of the Arts & Crafts Room is the Launderette which still in a state of construction seemed to be used more as a store for fitters' gear at present. Although with the evidence of previously installed plumbing lining the floor and walls, and a stack of machines covered with sheets sitting in the middle of the room, I am sure it will be quite a functional delight [as far as such places can be] before too long; by Miami?

Arts & Crafts Room - Balmoral

Fwd Stairwell Balmoral

Fwd of here is the Medical Centre where one is confronted with quite an alarming set of fees for the various services available. Thankfully it is closed, the opening hours being "At Sea 09:00 - 10:30 17:30 - 19:00" and "In Port 08:00 - 09:30 17:30 - 19:00". There are 2 ship's doctors aboard.

The new midships stairwell, ahead of the Medical Centre, which rises to the Marquee Pool on Deck 11 is quite plain with white walls both top & bottom; only the occasional picture is hanging. However in the mid level areas it is either partially or fully panelled with a picture or two. The same carpet covers all stairwells, companionways, some public areas & Atrium; what has become the almost standard 'Olsen Carpet' turquoise with thin swirls of colour; also in place on their other vessels. Both the fore and aft stairwells retain the original Tiffany style coloured glass panels, brass and glass banisters.

Aft on Main Deck 6 is the Ballindalloch Restaurant. Spruced up with all new soft furnishings in blues, but retaining the original look with its glass, chrome and coloured ceiling, it's the largest of Balmoral's Main Restaurants [The Seven Seas Restaurant on Norwegian Crown]. The menus are the same as in the Avon & Spey and one will be allocated dining in any of the three, although the latter two smaller venues may not be used if the passenger load does not require it. Avon & Spey seemed to be more popular with passengers coming to the doors trying to wangle their way in for dinner, but with open-seating at various times there is always the chance to sample dining in each venue whatever ones dining allocation. There are two serving stations for breakfast/lunch buffets. Plenty of natural light through the windows, but dark in the central area albeit lit with a large multi-bulbed glass light fixture, surrounded by backlit coloured glass panels. The tables are well appointed with quality ware & plenty of room between. There are two sittings for dinner at 6.15pm & 8.45pm. The menu choices & standard of food are excellent. Fred. Olsen has certainly turned the cogs up some notches in this respect. There was nothing 'not quite right'; all was well presented & delicious with attentive service from the waiters & their assistants; no request had to be made twice.

Ballindalloch Restaurant

Ballindalloch Restaurant

The dinner menus contain a selection of two or three Appetisers, Soups [one chilled] & Salads, the option of a Cold Main Course, four or more Hot Main Courses [& Lobster was on the menu one evening], two Vegetarian Main Courses along with a number of desserts, ice cream and sorbet & a selection of cheese [vegetarian available] & biscuits with grapes & radishes. Lighter Bites, Chef's Recommendations & Dishes suitable for vegetarians are indicated. There are four dress codes which are adhered to. Formal:- Dark Suit & Tie or Dinner Jacket/ Cocktail or Evening Dress. Informal:- Jacket & Tie or Lounge Suit/ Smart Evening Dress/Trouser Suit. Smart Casual:- Stylish leisure wear; open neck shirts with collars/casual separates & dresses. Casual:- Comfortable attire with a casual elegance.

At both Breakfast & Lunch there are Buffets, with a wide choice of items, varying daily. One can also order items off menu; even mix 'n match - there is no excuse for anyone to say there is not enough choice, quite the opposite, too much.

Outside the entrance to the Ballindalloch Restaurant, which is merely a hallway, is the 'Wine Table'. Here one finds a daily selection of wines chosen to compliment the evening meal along with the wine list [which is quite extensive & reasonably priced]. Order the wine and it is ready waiting at the table on arrival for dinner. This is also outside the Avon & Spey Restaurants.

Food on Balmoral

Ballindalloch Hallway

Moving forward we come to the 'Circus Tent', my nickname for the first half of the hallway, which is in two quite distinct sections, the old and the new, the dark and the bright, leading to the lower lever Atrium & Reception. Retaining the Crown Odyssey/Norwegian Crown décor, black shiny walls with strip lights meeting at an apex ceiling, one finds a series of pictures of Ballindalloch Castle, Scotland, in place of the previously displayed Greek Artifacts.

The 2nd part of the hallway, after a couple of restrooms, is the Art Gallery. White walls & ceiling, turquoise carpet, well lit & opens out into a wider area. The walls are lined with various pieces of art for admiring [this is not an art auction area]. At times when passengers are passing through on the way from dining a string trio plays here giving the area quite some atmosphere, which otherwise can appear cold & harsh.

Into Reception; another contrast. The lower level of the two storey Atrium which retains Balmoral's original décor, all shiny mirrored reflecting surfaces, lights everywhere [there is no natural light], curved staircase to the upper lever with a large Tiffany style light at the top. The Reception Desk, Shore Tours, Photo Gallery, Customer Relations & Future Cruise Sales Offices surround the area. Seating for a few & the centerpiece, almost tucked away under the staircase is the original Arnaldo Pomodoro Globe, a small one which I felt was quite out of place with all the reflections in its brass surface from the lights & most noticeably the patterned carpeting. I don't think many even noticed it, let alone gave it a 2nd glance.

Up the staircase to Lounge Deck 7; the upper level Atrium, once again full of reflecting surfaces, surrounded by the two Boutiques, one containing jewelry & watches etc, the other clothes, souvenirs & sundries, & a lovely model of Balmoral by Riera Models, Barcelona.

Atrium Ceiling - Balmoral

Mr Peacock

Fwd is the Neptune Lounge. For the full effect one should enter by the port entrance past what was once described as an item to catch one's "fancy"; a "fabulous caged peacock, made of light-carrying fibers with ever-changing colors" & a "worthy introduction to what awaits you inside". Time has now moved on & Mr Peacock, whose cage is also surrounded by a semi circle of mirrors, is rather out-dated being deemed "awful", but in years to come he may well be in the *in* thing again, so glad he has been left. He certainly achieved the aim of being something of a talking point.

In what was once Theo's Bar, now the Neptune Lounge Bar there are three large images of figureheads from previous Fred. Olsen vessels, pictured how they are displayed today in Hvitsten, Norway. Bataan 1947, Venus emerging from her shell from Bolette/Bollsta 1951 [this is one of two, the other being displayed aboard Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines' ms Braemar] and Berby 1950.

The Neptune Lounge is the main entertainment and cabaret venue. A bright room in oranges & browns, mainly good lines of sight, but the occasional support or someone's head gets in the way. Also used for Concerts, Passenger Events, Port Talks, Lectures from Guest Speakers, Captain's Welcome & Farewell Cocktail Parties, Oceans Club Get-togethers, Dancing [there are four Gentleman Dance hosts], Church Services, Music and two Performances of the Main Show each evening.

Amongst the entertainers/lecturers on our trip were Arts Club - Comedy Speakers Vincent Powell & Don Reid, Commander Jeff Tall OBE RN "The Mechanical Whale" & "U - Boats in WWI", Anthony Cooke "Let's Get Away From It All" a light-hearted history of cruising "The Great Liners", Bill Martin [Hit song writer] "Golden Age of Musicals", Virtuoso Violinist Greg Scott, Variety Entertainer - Tufty Gordon, Dain Cordean, Stacey Wylde & You - Chiung Lin. Quite a selection for everyone - then there is the Grand Tea Dance.

Walking back past the boutiques is the Braemar Lounge to starboard, which is really an extension to the upper level Atrium, laminate flooring, veneered bulkheads, with seating, dark orangey/brown to the windows, cream the other side, & acts as a walk through, on a rather bright orangey carpet to the Morning Light Pub & then Palms Café. No bar, but there is waiter service. Live music too at times. The Library, Card/Internet Rooms are to port.

Balmoral's Card Room is lined with Olsen ship pictures. Bridge & Whist, Beginners & Improvers Classes, Duplicate Bridge & Rubber/Chicago, Card & Board Games, take your pick. Plenty of tables, with an appropriately patterned carpet, but it was at times packed!


Balmoral's Library/Reading/Writing Room & Internet Room [along with the Card Room & Braemar Lounge] occupy the areas of the Crown Club & Crown Club Casino on Norwegian Crown, midships to port. Lovely rooms & again with many paintings and pictures lining the walls. The Library is in the same 'circular' layout with compass on the floor as onboard Black Watch & Boudicca, with different wood colourings. In the centre of the Library is a large model of an unnamed Norwegian Warship. Books are available 24hrs, with a fair selection of foreign language ones too. CDs & DVDs are available for loan between 4-5pm each day. The Daily Mail "Instant" news is available at midday; please return after use. The Internet Room has 17 terminals [no wi-fi] but the cost is prohibitive. Access is by one's key card & charges accrue by the amount downloaded, not by time.

Outside the entrance to the Internet Room is a lovely painting of M.V. Balmoral 1949.
The Plaque Reads :-
" M.V. Balmoral (1949 - )
off Puffin Island, Anglesey, June 2007
Presented to Her Namesake, Jan 2008
by her friends at www.waverleyexcursions.co.uk"

Between the Library & Morning Light Pub is a hallway lined with yet more interesting pieces of art, Erling Enger images on the aft bulkhead with a Suchi's Bombay 2006, flanked by 2 Bhairavi Modi pieces fwd. This area is used for playing Carpet Bowls and Golf Putting Competitions.

mv Balmoral

Now we enter the Morning Light Pub, named after Fred. Olsen's largest sailing ship, located midships on Lounge Deck 7 between the Palms Café & Library. Extending the full width of Balmoral, there is a single entrance aft, with the bar to starboard & entrance either side fwd. The focal point is a model of the 1891 built "Morning Light" along with a painting on the fwd bulkhead of the 1st Generation of the ship owning Olsens, shown above. The Pub is full of pictures of previous Olsen vessels & panels between the brown benched alcoves are decorated with yet more. The bar is open from 11:00am to 1:00am with live music at lunchtime & throughout the evening. The pub is also used as a hospitality meeting point for singles get-togethers; find someone to go ashore with etc; Masons & Service Club Meetings etc.

Palms cafe - BalmoralPalms Café aft area open to the Pool - BalmoralThe Palms Café [light & informal meals; alternative dining] located aft on Lounge Deck 7. A pleasant room with a central buffet area; 2 lines. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner are served here, the meals sometimes being themed eg we had Italian one evening & a Neptune Seafood Buffet one lunchtime. Self service tea & coffee is available 6:30am - 1:00am Afternoon Tea & Late Night Snacks, 11:30pm - 00:30am [A Fish & Chip 'special' was one Late Night Snack]. Tables are pre-laid with placemats, cutlery, napkins, glasses etc no need to carry these about and drinks served at the table

The aft section contains a bar with seating both inside and out, open to the main aft pool area. A Steel Drummer played here in the evenings. A selection of America's Cup photos adorn the walls.

The aft deck contains nice sized pool filled with sea water, heated & chlorinated. Unfortunately it was too rough for use during our trip with the water sloshing about once filled. Two Jacuzzis [two more on Marquee Deck] filled with fresh water and heated to 30 °C. Plenty of seating & loungers with a view of the terraced fantail up to the funnel. It is wonderful to sit on any of Balmoral's aft decks just watching the sea or the goings on about. Balmoral has a complete teak decked wrap around Promenade on this deck. Unfortunately it is very narrow in places with no room for loungers even at the widest points. There are some nice nooks & crannies, 'look-out' points between the lifeboats. Forward one can look over the bow with its mooring gear, amongst which is Balmoral's Bell. The Builder's plaque is situated on the fwd bulkhead of the Promenade.

Promenade - Balmoral

Aft Pool - Balmoral

Fwd Promenade - Balmoral

Up the aft ladder to Lido Deck 8 is the Lido Lounge. With its dark blue carpeting with blue, grey & cream bucket seats & a large dance floor this is a venue for all sorts & 2nd Show Lounge. Concerts, Music for Dancing & Listening, Dolphin Racing, Various Group Meets/Parties, Gaming Tables [2 port aft], Bingo & an Evening Showtime Session [2 Presentations]. Aft is the Lido Bar under 'glass' overlooking stern pool; a lovely area with great views.

Avon Restaurant - Balmoral

Avon Restaurant - Balmoral

Spey Restaurant - Balmoral

Onwards & upwards to Highland Deck 10. Aft are the newly constructed Avon [in green/beige] & Spey [in teal/grey] Restaurants named after the rivers flowing through Ballindalloch Castle grounds. Avon to starboard and Spey to Port they both command wonderful views through both large round and full length panelled windows [blinds may be needed]. They share a serving station in the centre for breakfast/lunch buffets. Menus are the same as that in the Ballindalloch Restaurant. There is access to the aft deck area through automatic doors, but the open doors did cause a through draft at times, so were kept 'locked' most of the time on our trip. These two restaurants are a real favourite; perhaps one of the nicest dining areas anywhere.

Balmoral's Bow from Fitness CentreFitness Centre - BalmoralOccupying the forward area of Highland Deck 10, a structure which was added by NCL, the Fitness Centre has the best forward views on the ship, but you have to be on a treadmill or using the free weights to take advantage. The Atlantis Spa & Beauty Salon is also here offering a variety of services; facials, body treatments, massages, body shaping, acupuncture, hair styling, nails & fitness programmes. A number of treatment rooms are available; also a Steam Room and Sauna. Altogether, apart from the views I found this area a bit dismal. FOCL would be wise to turn this into a wonderful Observation Lounge & send the beauticians & fitness centre up top.

The Fitness Centre's group activities include Yoga [£5 per class], Understand your Metabolism seminar, Pilates Institute Method - How to improve your Posture, Pilates Class £5, Legs Bums & Tums, Walk a Mile, Detox for weight loss, Healthy Abs and Backs, Fab Abs Classes etc while the Atlantic Spa offered a Comfort Zone Launch Party, "Time for your Hair", "What is Acupuncture" & "Massage Therapy & its benefits" seminars.

Continuing the tour up to the uppermost deck, Marquee Deck 11. The Observatory Lounge fwd. One cannot help but compare this lounge to those aboard Black Watch and Boudicca. Balmoral's is unfortunately a bit of a misnomer; observation is minimal. Forward one can only 'enjoy' the wide, & dirty, expanse of the roof of the Fitness Centre below [the bow is completely out of sight] & to the sides, a bit further back, although there is more clearance & indeed a view, balconies are below & it's the fwd observation one really wants! Stick the treadmills up here please.

Observatory - Balmoral

The décor remains in the original styling with new upholstery, dark blue similarly patterned carpet to that on the aforementioned vessels, with gold compasses, anchors, sextants & lanterns etc woven in & maps inserted in the table tops. A small dance floor is in the centre & Grand Piano. Numerous Daily Quizzes take place here, the Collective Quiz, Afternoon Quiz & 'Quiz Specials' - Valentine Quiz, Outburst - fun quiz, Chocolate Quiz.. if you like a Quiz you won't go short. Bar from 11am, Lunchtime Melodies, Piano Classics & Musical Melodies during the evenings followed by then Nightclub with DJ until 'whenever'.

Abaft the Observatory Lounge is the Marquee Bar serving the Marquee Pool area midships. Seating both inside & out. Outside are nice hand woven wicker type weather resistant chairs, settees and tables [Dedon]. Weather permitting it is open 10:30 until 18:30, serving morning coffee & afternoon tea with cakes/sandwiches & offers a light grill service.

The rest of Marquee Deck contains the lovely midships pool area with 2 jacuzzis & saunas screened from the wind. Further aft & around the funnel is the Sun Deck with wide open deck spaces, teak decking, full of loungers & tables, open to the elements with a railing surround. Aft of the funnel there are to be some golf nets installed. I did note that this area did tend to collect a bit of soot from the funnel though. The figurehead from the Fred. Olsen & Co. 1948 Akers mek built fruiter BALBLOM is displayed ahead of the midships pool. The figurehead, by Per Palle Storm, was previously on Black Prince (ii)'s afterdecks and before that, in the late 80s, in the Grand Staircase aboard the ferry Braemar (ii). Looking back over Balmoral's stern & after decks from above, watching the wake, is wonderful.

Midships pool, marquee deck - Balmoral

Balmoral Cabin 5170

Balmoral has a variety of different cabin categories, from insides to outsides, balcony cabins & suites. There are a number of single cabins, ones adapted for wheelchair use and 3 & 4 berths. All were occupied and only fleeting glimpses through the doors of those being serviced was possible. Our standard outside cabin 5170 on Atlantic Deck 5, port aft was a 3 berth good sized cabin, clean [except for some rust streaks under the window], fresh with new carpets & pleasantly decorated. Plenty of cupboards and drawers for a long trip. Coffee/tea maker with Highland Shortbread biscuits, safe [PIN operated], European 2 round pin 220 V outlets & 110 V US flat pin where the flat screen TV is plugged in, but no earth for a 2 flat/1 round lead. One bed was along the bulkhead under the window which was nice. The window ledge was screened off with a Perspex panel but a shelf ran the full width of the cabin there under. 3rd berth being a pull down bunk above the 2nd bed.

Bathroom with shower [double length] was an adequate size with masses of storage space. 110 V shaver socket. Shower gel/shampoo & hand soap by means of dispenser & also other toiletries in a small muslin bag with shoe cleaning kit, shower cap etc. Completely useless 650 W US hairdryer; even if you have cropped hair it would never dry. Plenty of soft white 100% cotton towels. Poolside towels are yellow, provided by the cabin steward/ess & need to be returned. Excellent water pressure although the temperature was up and down at times.

Interactive TV for cabin shopping, ordering wine for the table, shore excursions, bill check etc Free View Classic Movies & a selection of pay-per-view films. Bow view & trip information. The latter was lacking with detail & did not give details of the ship's speed/sea state/wind force or direction. Merely showing your position in various zooms using Google Earth. I kept touching the screen expecting the info to pop-up as per the ships' locator on Fred. Olsen's website - sadly not. The TV was not fully functional at times losing the link; but work on installation of the system was still ongoing. A card with magnetic strip [either cabin key card or any other] needs to be in the slot by the door for electricity. Remove it & the lights go out; remember to leave something in there if charging camera batteries etc. Fluffy Duvets cover the beds, but sheets & blankets are available if preferred. [Alcohol Shore Side purchases are placed in safe keeping by the Ship's Security Officers & returned at the end of the cruise].

Between Dover & Tenerife we had three days at sea with a day in port at A Coruña [La Coruña, Corunna], a popular & busy port on the way south, the 2nd largest city in Galicia, NW Spain [after Vigo]. Built on a promontory, it is a bustling town, famous for its seafood restaurants, lovely beaches with plenty of Museums & sights to keep one busy, including Torre de Hércules, built by the Romans as a navigation beacon in the 2nd century A.D. - the oldest lighthouse in the world, which is still in use. During the summer months a tram runs around the coast & the main attractions, but with no tram & having visited before, we just wandered about the central area [remember most shops are closed during the afternoon for Siesta].

Castle of San Anton , La Coruna - Archaeological Museum

Bentago Express

The sun dawned on the day of disembarkation, well it hadn't actually when I awoke & first looked out of the window just before 7am, but had once I was on deck, just in time to see ARMAS' Volcan De Tauce enter the harbour of Santa Cruz de Tenerife ahead of us. Many vessels of all kinds, tankers, cargo vessels etc were at anchor off port, with La Palma (1912) still on stocks in the distance being refurbished as a Museum & Conference Centre. Far off I spotted one of the Fred. Olsen Express HSC's approaching at speed. Staying on deck to watch, it wasn't long before Bentango Express nipped by with a wave. We turned & backed into our slot, the first berth along Dique Muelle astern of LPG Lagos, opposite the ferry terminal where Trasmed's Super-Fast Galicia was also alongside. No tugs were used by Balmoral or even standing by. All tied up by 8.10am.

Off to our last breakfast in the Spey Restaurant. Did not see Kai as we left the cabin to say goodbye. Tirso & his assistant were there in the restaurant & commented again that hopefully next time would be a longer trip! Hope so; where else can one eat with the endless lovely views through those large round windows.

A hot sunny day saw us wandering the city centre & pottering over to the ferry terminal to watch the ferries which included Super-Fast Galicia, Super-Fast Andalucia, Volan de Tauce, Volcan de Tamadaba, Bentago Express & Bencomo Express. With midday fast approaching we soon had to return to Balmoral to await our transfer to Los Rodeos (Tenerife North) Airport for our flight home to Stansted on a Thomsonfly Boeing 757 "Eric Morecambe". This was a Fred. Olsen charter & we were pleasantly surprised to find tea/coffee & soft drinks were complimentary, including wine, with a hot meal provided - the rather aptly named 'Chicken Pomodoro' as a finale to a wonderful cruise.

Thomsonfly G-BYAO Boeing 757-204 27235 / 598 2004-11 "Eric Morecambe"

Balmoral's Stern

ms Balmoral is a medium sized ship at 43,537gt with 9 Passengers Decks. She is a cozy intimate vessel where one does not have miles to walk from bow to stern. There are many public rooms, lounges & bars offering quite diverse forms of entertainment, from 'West End' Shows to Port Talks, Enrichment Lectures on numerous subjects, to Bingo, Dolphin Racing, Ballroom Dancing & Art/Craft Classes; pleasantly decorated with some areas retaining their original décor while others have been completely refurbished or are new altogether. One is never short of something to do & if a quiet time is wished for, there's the lovely Library/Reading Room or Braemar & Observatory Lounges to while away the time. With masses of open deck space, a wrap around Promenade, two Outdoor Pools, four Jacuzzis & a wonderful set of aft terraces overlooking the stern, one can also soak up the sun or take part in something more energetic, walking the mile or pounding the treadmills.

The Cuisine is excellent, as is the service from the Multi-National Crew. Dining in the new Avon & Spey Restaurants at some point during any cruise is a must; don't forget the delicious cakes & pastries at the Grand Tea Dance either. ms Balmoral is certainly a worthy addition to the Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines' Fleet.

Itineraries are varied, from four nights to World Cruises, with sailings from the UK & fly cruises from the US & Mediterranean. She calls at the Major Cities along with smaller more unusual Ports. The majority of passengers are well travelled & in early retirement, with many an interesting story to tell. During school vacation periods there will be some younger passengers aboard, but not many.

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