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Cruise Ship Information

Balmoral is a cruise ship owned and operated by Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. She was built in 1988 by the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, West Germany, as Crown Odyssey for Royal Cruise Line. She has also sailed for the Norwegian Cruise Line as Norwegian Crown and Orient Lines as Crown Odyssey. In 2007–2008 she was lengthened by 30 m (98 ft) at the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg prior to entering service with her current operator.

Atmosphere on board


Balmoral will go into dry dock on December 9, 2014, for a 10-day refurbishment which will include various engineering works, general refurbishment and interior and exterior painting. The ship will also have a ‘Café Venus' installed on board, serving high-quality coffee and luxury chocolates. The new Café will be created on Balmoral on Lounge Deck 7, by reconfiguring the Library area, to create a more open space.

 

Balmoral was launched in 1988 as Crown Odyssey, originally constructed for the Royal Cruise Line. It was operated by Orient Lines and Norwegian Cruise Line before being bought by Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines in 2007. It joined Black Watch, Boudicca and Braemar in January 2008 as the largest ship in the Fred. Olsen fleet after a 99-foot section was added to the centre of the ship. Its classic lines were maintained despite the stretch, although extra balconies were added. However, it doesn't look like a floating hotel and has an intimate atmosphere greatly valued by many passengers. Most of those we spoke to were Fred. Olsen regulars, and all mentioned their dislike of big ships. They all felt at home on Balmoral.

 

The new central section adds some attractive public rooms on deck 7, including a large library, card room and Internet room. A glitzy 1980's glass and chrome atrium contrasts with the decor of the new section, which has a walkway leading off the atrium, carpeted in traditional patterns and furnished with comfortable sofas and armchairs. This leads to the Morning Light Pub, a large area stretching the width of the ship and furnished with wing chairs, through which the passengers have to make their way to the Palms cafe. As a pub, it's more Wetherspoons than the village local, but there is often a popular music act playing there until late at night. At the other end of the activity scale, there is a state-of-the-art spa and fitness centre on deck 10 with luxurious treatment rooms and a fully equipped gym. Throughout the cruise, you'll find a programme of exercise and ballroom dance classes, plus the first jazz dance class we have seen at sea.

 

Food is excellent, with many continental and Asian options, as well as traditional fare. There's a friendly and relaxed atmosphere throughout the ship, the English-only announcements are kept to a minimum, and a wealth of activities and entertainment is available with no pressure to take part in any of them. Smoking is banned throughout the ship, apart from certain sections of the outter deck. Balmoral, which goes into dry dock for a refit every two years, most recently in December 2012, would appeal to anyone seeking a relaxing environment while travelling the world.


Family with Kids/Teens


There were no families on our cruise, which was during school term time, but Balmoral does welcome families. Although there are no designated areas for children or teens, there is a member of the entertainment staff to organise activities like treasure hunts. There are some family cabins, with third and fourth bunk-style beds, folded away when not in use.


Past Passenger Programs


The atrium is the attractive, bright and colourful buzzing centre of the ship, with a range of boutiques on deck 7. Tables are also set out daily, selling a variety of souvenirs and novelty items. Leading off the atrium on deck 6 is a walkway that forms an art gallery leading to the Ballindalloch Restaurant. All the public spaces feature unusual pieces of artwork -- although some are not to everyone's taste. The upper deck of the atrium has comfortable seating and an outstanding string trio playing classical music for several hours every day. Real plants and flowers around the ship add to the atmosphere.

 

The library is well stocked with well-known board games, as well as a great selection of jigsaw puzzles stacked on one of the windowsills. With 11 days at sea during our journey to and from the Cape Verde Islands, the puzzles had each been completed and reboxed to make room for the next. Not a single one had been broken up by a passer-by, as sometimes happens on less-polite ships. Quizzes and a shipboard version of the Daily Mail are set out each day on the library table, and there are plenty of chairs facing daylight for the many keen readers. Next door is a large card room, fully occupied with a bridge club for most of our cruise. The Internet room has a number of computers, but the connection is very slow. There is also a Wi-Fi service with a number of access points throughout the ship. Two self- service launderettes are situated on decks 3 and 9.


Fitness And Spa


Two pools, situated on decks 7 and 11, each have two Jacuzzis -- one on either side. The pool on the top deck is part of the stretched section, and it's a most attractive area with statuary and mosaics. There is ample room for sunbathing around the pools, with plenty of sun loungers made of metal with plastic webbing, but some of these have seen better days. Both pools have access to alfresco dining, with the Palms Cafe adjoining the pool area on deck 7 and the Marquee bar on deck 11.

 

The state-of-the-art Atlantis Spa and Fitness Centre is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on occasional evenings. There is a well-equipped gym and a range of speciality classes. These include yoga, Pilates, stretch and relaxation, and exercise to music at an extra charge of £5 per session. There are also some free classes, such as aerobics and walk a mile. The beauty salon offers a wide selection of pampering sessions that include many types of facial and body treatments, manicures and pedicures, and various massage options. Prices range from £22 for a 30-minute express manicure to £66 for a 75-minute marine algae body wrap.

 

The promenade deck has a walking track; four circuits equal one mile. Golf clubs and balls can be borrowed from reception, and there is a golf net on deck 11, aft. Traditional deck games, such as quoits, are led by the entertainment staff.


Food & Dining


Passengers accustomed to round-the-clock cafeterias may take a short time to get used to Balmoral's dining arrangements. The restaurants and cafes have different mealtimes, but this adds up to a far more satisfactory experience. The main restaurant, the Ballindalloch, is traditional in style, stretching the width of the ship on deck 6. Two smaller, very attractive restaurants, the Avon and the Spey, are on deck 10 in the new section and have extensive views from floor-to-ceiling windows. All three serve formal dinner in two seatings -- 6:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. -- and have open-seating for breakfast (8 a.m. until 10 a.m.) and lunch with a limited waiter-service menu in addition to a buffet in each venue. It's wise not to order two courses from the waiter at the same time, as they may arrive together, but service is efficient and pleasant. Lunch specials ranging from roast beef and Yorkshire pudding to bouillabaisse are often available in these three restaurants, and there is an invitation for solo travellers to join their fellow guests for breakfast in the Ballindalloch.

 

The Palms Cafe is situated beyond the Morning Light Pub on deck 7, and it has open-seating for all meals. Breakfast is normally from 7 a.m. until 9:30 a.m., lunch from 12:30 p.m. until 2:30 p.m., dinner from 6:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. There is an extensive self-service buffet, as well as waiter service for tea and coffee. In between these times, the Palms Cafe and deck 11's Marquee Bar offer coffee, biscuits and snacks from 10:30 a.m until 11:30 a.m. and from 3:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m., and the Palms Cafe has a supper club from 11:30 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. The Marquee Bar also offers soup, sandwiches and specials of the day from noon until 2 p.m. This clever arrangement ensures that nobody needs to go more than an hour or so without food, yet the waiters have time to clear the tables to create a pleasant environment, avoiding the search for a table often encountered in a 24-hour cafeteria. One thing that is open 24 hours is a self-service tea and coffee station in the Palms Cafe with many different varieties of tea and coffee. An unusual addition there is a ready-made decaf tea dispenser.

 

Another welcome touch is a specialist dinner buffet in the Palms Cafe on certain nights during the cruise. These include Chinese cuisine, tapas and paella or Thai cuisine, when the Cafe and pub are decorated in the same theme and waiters are dressed accordingly. Even more special are bottles of Champagne placed on the breakfast buffets on formal nights so that cruisers can start the day by celebrating with a buck's fizz or just a glass of bubbly.

 

Formal dinner offers a wide choice of dishes from around the world in addition to traditional British fare, from starters, soups, salads and main dishes to desserts and a cheeseboard. There are specialities recommended by the chef, and it's always possible to have simple fare like omelettes. Vegetables are normally served al dente, but a note on the menu says that well-cooked vegetables are always available.

 

Cabin service is available from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m., except during embarkation and disembarkation. The menu offers soup, a selection of cold main dishes, sandwiches, desserts and afternoon tea pastries, plus tea, coffee, fruit juices and milk. There is also an extensive in-cabin bar service ranging from Dom Perignon Champagne at £98.95 to soft drinks at £1.40. A Special Occasion Selection of canapes and party platters is available at various prices. Continental breakfast is served in-cabin from 7 a.m. until 9 a.m. if ordered by 2 a.m.

 

There is no speciality restaurant with an additional fee, but a "white glove service" afternoon tea is offered in the Observatory Lounge on deck 11 for £6.95 per person from 3:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. on certain days during the cruise. This includes speciality loose teas, mini pastries and warm scones. There was also an enormous selection of cakes on two long tables outside the card room on one afternoon towards the end of the cruise, to accompany the Grand Tea Dance in the Neptune Lounge, where there was also waiter service for tea and sandwiches. Finally, the grand gala buffet on the last formal night in the Ballindalloch richly deserved the half-hour photo opportunity it was given before eating began at 11:45 p.m. It was truly magnificent.

 

All in all, Balmoral can stand up to any cruise dining experience, and it has some special touches of its own.


Fellow Passengers


Balmoral has a strong and loyal base of regular middle-aged to mature passengers, who travel only with Fred. Olsen. The hotel manager confirms that the clientele is 99.9% British, although a few Americans and those of other nationalities may join for sections of a world cruise. The ship is ideal for those travelling alone, with some single cabins, regular meetings for solos announced in the programmes, and dance hosts available. During school holiday periods, there is a wider range of ages, including some families, with staff devoted to a programme of activities for children and teens.


Tipping


Allow up to £4 per day (£2 each for your cabin steward and waiter) per passenger.


Our recommendation


Our Ship in Torquay is only a short walk from the town centre and some of the many excellent attractions this devon sea side resort has. We serve dinner bed and breakfast or bed and breakfast only hotel breaks. Check our recent customer reviews on our site or on tripadvisor and see other customers comments about our fantastic food and hospitality in Torquay.With two sun decks, there is an abundance of space to relax inside and out. There is a pleasant shaded area, as well as a sunning area with a spa pool available for relaxing in whilst cruising through the stunning countryside.

Shannon Princess's professional crew of five is comprised of Master Chef, Tour Guide, Deck-Hand and Hostess, led by a knowledgeable and experienced Captain who will ensure your cruise is highly enjoyable and memorable. Their knowledge of the region, combined with the 8 bicycles provided, will allow you to explore the areas you cruise through, in as much detail as you desire.