Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Balmoral

Fodor’s Expert Review

Ship Overview

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
Cruise StyleMainstream
Ship SizeSmall

Named after the Scottish home of the Royal family, the Balmoral offers a classic British cruising experience as Fred. Olsen’s largest and newest ship. Still smaller than most cruise ships today, it has 710 cabins and suites with ample public space to accommodate 1,300 passengers. Dine in three formal restaurants, or mingle in the warm pub with occasional live music or comedy. Catch a cabaret in the Neptune Lounge. Drift the hours away with a cocktail and seascape in the Observatory Lounge. Nine cabins are now equipped for use by disabled passengers. Family-friendly, the arts and crafts room transforms to a children’s club during school holidays.Read More

Although Balmoral entered service in 1988 as the Crown Odyssey for the defunct Royal Cruise Line, and then sailed for Norwegian Cruise Line as Norwegian Crown, Fred. Olsen gave the ship a makeover after acquiring it in 2007. With the addition of a 99-foot midsection, a completely refurbished Balmoral was relaunched in 2008 as the largest ship in the Fred. Olsen fleet. A wide range of entertainment, friendly service, well-prepared cuisine and well-planned itineraries at competitive prices make Balmoral a solid midrange choice. A loyal following of repeat customers return for spacious staterooms outfitted with the latest technology, friendly staff, professional entertainment, and the traditional afternoon tea service with white-gloved waiters. The spa is staffed by therapists recruited from international five-star resorts. Choose from a wide assortment of beauty and wellness treatments to rejuvenate body, mind, and spirit.

The large windows in the Observatory Lounge afford fantastic sea views, which are enhanced with binoculars strategically spaced around the lounge. A grand piano provides background music for dancing on the glass dance floor. The decor of a traditional-style English pub reflects more than a century of Fred. Olsen’s history. A second bar and lounge venue overlooking the aft pool deck offers live music with views. Are you a bridge player or jigsaw puzzle master? Head to the game room to meet fellow enthusiasts.

With its Norwegian heritage of seamanship spanning over 150 years, family-owned Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has built a solid reputation of reliability and comfort for its UK-based fleet of smaller ships. Major refitting and refurbishment of old and recently acquired ships since 2008 have earned the company high industry accolades. Two sister ships from the defunct luxury Royal Viking Line, Royal Viking Star and Royal Viking Sky, have reunited under the Fred. Olsen house flag and now sail as Black Watch and Boudicca. The Balmoral and Braemar complete the four-vessel fleet.

Shipboard ambience is friendly, relaxed, and unabashedly British. As Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines expands, the line takes pride in maintaining the consistency their passengers prefer and expect, both on board—in the self-described “British country house” atmosphere—and ashore. Activities and entertainment are traditional cruise-ship fare with a laid-back tempo, albeit on a much smaller scale compared to a typical American megaship. Lectures and the Arts Club special-interest program are popular, with classes in subjects ranging from gardening to painting, history to wine appreciation, and even bird- and wildlife-spotting.

Ballroom dancers outnumber the late-night disco set, and evening entertainment is more cabaret than Vegas. Particular favorites with most passengers are theme nights and the crew show. Cruises range from four-night “mini-breaks” to lengthier 7- to 78-night sailings. British pounds are used for all transactions on board. Although the line is destination-focused—itineraries are seldom repeated within any cruise season—itinerary planning is versatile.

  • 10 passenger decks
  • 3 dining rooms
  • buffet
  • Safe
  • refrigerator (some)
  • 2 pools
  • Fitness classes
  • gym
  • hot tubs
  • sauna
  • spa
  • steam room
  • 4 bars
  • casino
  • dance club
  • library
  • Dry-cleaning
  • laundry facilities
  • laundry service
  • Internet terminal
  • Wi-Fi
  • No-smoking cabins

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

Pros
Cons
The ship is suitable for families, especially during school holidays
The Atlantis spa is popular (so much so that pre-cruise booking is a good idea)
Surrogate dance and game partners are available for single ladies
Poor sound insulation between cabins means more noise than you might want to hear
Entertainment is British-focused and may not appeal to international passengers
Decor and general atmosphere may feel old-fashioned
There’s a 2% credit card surcharge to settle onboard accounts

What to expect on board

Staterooms & Cabins

Cabins
Bathrooms
Accessibility

Twenty-one cabin categories are listed on Balmoral’s deck plan—there are even six categories listed for single cabins—which makes it somewhat difficult to be certain what the accommodations you select will be like. All 710 cabins have adequate storage in closets and drawers and have an interactive TV, hair dryer, and personal safe. Suites and minisuites have refrigerators. Balcony sizes vary widely, and some are entirely under cover and shaded, while others are not. Some outside cabins have a porthole instead of a large picture window. Three categories can be booked on a male or female share basis for twin-occupancy only.

Many categories have a bathtub-shower combination, so ask about specific cabin design (if important to you) when booking a voyage.

The ship permits 12 wheelchairs onboard at any time and has 4 cabins modified for wheelchair users.

Food & Drink

Food

Breakfast and lunch in the main dining room and two smaller dining rooms are generally open seating, although dinners are served in two assigned seatings. A casual buffet option is available for meals, late-night snacks, and occasional evening buffets. For casual snacks near the pools, there is the Poolside Buffet and Marquee Pool Bar. An enhanced room service option offers a complimentary four-course meal. Room service can be ordered through the TV in each cabin. All restaurants are strictly nonsmoking. Smoking is permitted on designated outdoor deck areas and on cabin balconies only.

Entertainment

Evening fun is found in the Neptune Lounge, where passengers can listen to lectures, comedy routines, classical music concerts, and cabaret. Magicians and ventriloquists appear on theme nights. The Morning Light Pub recreates a typical British tavern. The Lido Lounge and Bar offers up live jazz and dance rhythms. The Observatory Bar is popular, converting to a late-night dance club.

Spa & Fitness

Stroll onto deck 10 for the well-appointed spa staffed by professional experts. Opt for a one-hour ancient stone treatment or 20-minute Balinese massage. The menu of treatments is expansive but treatments tend to book up early.

QUICK FACTS

SHIP STATS
Entered Service
1988
Number of Cabins
710
Passenger Capacity
1,350
Crew Members
510
Passengers to Crew Ratio
2.65
Gross Tons
43537
Width
93 feet
Length
715 feet
CRUISE LINE INFO
01/473/742–424

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