Adam's First Ship Visit - A Balmoral Cruise Ship Review
23 Dec 2022
New to Cruising - Balmoral's Imposing Presence
As a newcomer to the Travel Industry, especially to cruising, I wasn’t sure what to expect during my first ship visit! As a child of a Naval Officer, I am used to going on large grey ships, clambering down minuscule ladders, and ducking every few steps! It just so happened that my first ship visit was in Portsmouth, a port I am incredibly familiar with due to my family background. This time, however, I got to enjoy the facilities of the cruise terminal – a novelty in itself!
Having already spotted Balmoral coming into Portsmouth, stepping off the shuttle bus I was in awe of her size – for a ship I’d expected to be small, I was taken aback by her imposing presence. Upon entry, however, I was surprised by how intimate the entry deck was. Decorated for Christmas, we were greeted by the staff, every staff member we encountered gave a personal service you might not expect when boarding such an impressive ship! As someone who goes all out when it comes to Christmas decorations, the intricate Gingerbread town and train drew focus to just how thoughtful the Fred. Olsen team truly are.
Panoramic Views from Balmoral's Observatory
From here, we were taken to the Observatory and served a selection of pastries & beverages, accompanied by music from the onboard Balmoral Trio. Admiring the panoramic views from our plush seats, even the Portsmouth Naval base was framed as a special sight. We were lucky enough to receive a tour of the Bridge with 3rd Officer Sidney, who gave us an in-depth understanding of how the ship was controlled (not by a very large wooden wheel!)
Balmoral's Cabins - Stunning First Impressions
Split into groups, we explored Balmoral in more detail, including the various grades of cabin available across the ship. The quality of Fred’s product was outstanding, as each cabin felt welcoming no matter where it was located – the inside cabins in particular were not at all what I had expected, as they were still spacious, bright and airy. I had an expectation also that obstructed view cabins would affect being able to admire the scenery during a sailing – this was not the case. Of the several we saw, all still retained external sightlines, so there was only a very slight impedance on what you could see.
Balmoral's Glamorous and Colourful Common Areas
Between cabins, we got to explore the common areas of Balmoral – this was where she came into her own. Whatever preconceptions I had about being aboard a cruise ship were dashed. There was a very classic feel across the ship, evoking a very glamorous vibe with colourful carpets and plenty of gold reflective surfaces. There was a variety of shops, one of the most intriguing being a florist! As well as shops, there was games rooms, a library, spa & gym - no shortage of options to keep yourself entertained on your voyage.
Six Atmospheric Restaurants - Exquisite Menus
By this time, lunch was calling us! There are six restaurants aboard Balmoral, and we went to one of the largest, the Ballindalloch. The expansive space can be divided into smaller rooms, which was how our lunch was conducted. Each table had its own serving duo who were attentive from the second we sat down, offering water and a choice of wines and soft drinks. The atmosphere felt like being in a fine dining restaurant, and again, nothing was too much trouble for our waiters, who kept an eye on the table without ever feeling intrusive. The menu was exquisite; I chose the sesame goats cheese to start, fillet steak main and raspberry mille-feuille to finish. There are not enough adjectives to express just how wonderful the food was; perfectly cooked, presented and served in a timely manner that never felt rushed.
Fred. Olsen's Balmoral - Parting Thoughts
As this was an agent visit, the day was capped with a presentation in the Neptune Lounge, where we got to meet the entertainment director, some loyal Fred. Olsen cruisers, then hear about the plans for the future. Fred. Olsen care about their guests, which was evident from the experience I had, but every member of the crew aboard exuded happiness, which cemented the family aspect of Fred. Olsen's ethos.
Unfortunately, the day had to end, and as we disembarked, guests on the next voyage began boarding. As I said, I wasn't sure what to expect when I arrived that morning, but any expectations from my first few months in the industry were shattered. Fred. Olsen treat their guests like family from the second you step on board, and in spite of their smaller sized vessels, I felt like the amount of amenities on offer would contribute to a truly memorable voyage. I look forward to being able to explore more of the Fred. Olsen fleet, and immerse myself as part of their family.