As you may have seen from my live blog featured on www.cruises.co.uk I have recently returned for a trip with Fred Olsen on board the fantastic Balmoral. In total I spent 3 nights on board the ship along with a 1 night pre cruise stay in Gdansk, Poland. I was part of a group of 19 fellow travel professional and I must say I had an absolutely fantastic time & met some fantastic people who I hope to keep in touch with.
Our flight was to be from London Heathrow, so to avoid an obscenely early start I decided to travel down the night before and stay at a hotel close to the Airport. We flew with Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) changing aircraft at Copenhagen and overall the flights were fantastic – even if the Copenhagen – Gdansk flight was on a VERY small aeroplane.
Having never previously visited Poland I wasn’t to sure what to expect in Gdansk but I was more than pleasantly surprised. We stayed at the 4* boutique Hotel Gdansk which was absolutely fantastic. Well if it was good enough for the Barcelona football team (the hotel seemed very proud that they were recent visitors) then it was certainly goof enough for me! The fact that the hotel was a converted brewery that boasted the best beer in Poland was simply enough bonus.
I could not fault a single thing with the hotel at all – the rooms were spacious, the staff were friendly and the food was absolutely fantastic. You can see more of my photos of Gdansk here
As many readers of our forum may have seen while away I was live blogging each day from the ship. Just in case you haven’t seen what I got up to here we go -
Day 1 -
Day 1 – Gdansk
My trip began with a flight from London Heathrow to Gdansk, Poland where I spent a night in the Fantastic Hotel Gdansk – a 4* boutique hotel before joining Balmoral at the port of Gydinia. Having never previously visited Poland I wasn’t totally sure what to expect.
The first day of my trip started bright an early with a guided walking tour of Gdansk where we had the opportunity to see some of the famous sights (I have taken plenty of photo’s to show you all) the city has to offer. Upon completion of the tour we set off to embark Balmoral for the first night of our cruise.
After a brief nap and a spot of room service (yes I think I’m getting old!!) It was time to get ready for the formal night and cocktail party. We all met at the Neptune lounge for pre dinner drinks and a few nibbles that were absolutely fantastic!
As any of you that my have read my blog will probably already know I absolutely adore my food. We ate in the Ballindalloch restaurant and I must say Fred Olsen did not disappoint with all 4 courses being absolutely fantastic. The highlight being the Baked Alaska Parade (I shall upload a video of this for people who may not know what I am talking about)
Whether due to the pre-dinner cocktails or the wine consumed at dinner the next step was the Lido Bar for the karaoke (I’m glad to say there isn’t a video of my rendition of Robbie Williams’ Angels – well not this time, readers of James’ blog may have seen one of my past performances then after another few cocktails I decided to call it a night as I have a big day planned for today.
As I type this the Beer Festival is just about to begin so I feel it is my duty to sample them all and let you know which I recommend So far I am having a fantastic time on board and am looking forward to telling you tomorrow all about what I get up to today!
If anybody has any recommendations for me, or anything you would like me to find out let me know
Day 2 -
Good afternoon everyone, sorry I’m a little late posting today we have just completed out tour of the various ships cabins – Think I’m going to have to request an owners suite next time as that was absolutely fantastic!!
Day 2 – Kiel Canal
Yesterday Balmoral completed her transit from the Kiel Canal as she heads back to Southampton. After a rather hectic day that included a fantastic tour of Gdansk it was nice to have the chance to relax a little and enjoy some of the ships facilities. The day began with a fantastic breakfast in the Palm Restaurant – I can highly recommend the Eggs Benedict!
Next in store was the Beer Festival – complete with fantastic hot dogs as we began the transit through the canal. Up next was a rather dismal showing in the quiz, with a frankly rather poor 9/20 the regular quizzers had nothing to worry about!! We did have slightly more luck at the bingo though with one of our party winning (unfortunately another 5 people also won meaning he had to share the prize)
Lunch was next and was absolutely fantastic as the seafood tagliatelle followed by the melon sorbet was possible my favourite meal so far! After all this amazing food the majority of us returned to our cabins for an afternoon siesta – eating all this fantastic food can be rather exhausting you know!
We then met at 8.30pm (second sitting) at the main restaurant for another fabulous meal followed by the Balmoral entertainment team preforming ”songs from the musicals’ which was absolutely fantastic and certainly amongst the best shows I have seen on a cruise – many of the passengers agreed it was the best performances of the entire cruise so far!
I have another busy day planned today with a lecture in forensics booked for 2.15pm quickly followed by afternoon tea at 3.30pm and the bingo at 4.15pm – hopefully I will do a little better today!!
Once again I have taken plenty of photos for you all to see and I shall post them as soon as I return home. I hope you are enjoying my live blog and once again if there is anything you would like me to find out please let me know
Day 3 -
Once again apologise for the delay in my final post – as we joined the cruise at Gdansk we were required to meet UK immigration as soon as Balmoral arrived back at Southampton (meaning a lovely 5.30am wake up call)
Day 3 began similarly to days 1 & 2 will a trip to Palms restaurant for breakfast. We then met at the conference room to embark on a tour of the ship, given us a chance to see the difference between the various cabins. Two things stood out to me from this tour – Firstly Fred Olsen sell some Outside Cabins as obstructed even though the obstruction is minimal to say the least (they also allow us to check each individual cabin on our system to see exactly how obstructed a cabin is – a great little feature) Secondly the sheer size of the Owners Suite – I did ask If i could ‘look after the key’ to that suite
Next it was time for a lecture on forensic finger printing, which may not be for everyone but I found fascinating, we even had the option of being finger printed ourselves for a small donation. The lecture itself was very interesting and taken by a former forensic specialist from Scotland Yard. He spoke about various cases he had worked and how forensics had help to catch various types of criminals.
This was followed by afternoon tea – that Fred Olsen kindly treated us to – and wow I could get used to this!! After choosing our preferred teas we were seated and served with a try of sandwiches, cakes & scones with jam and clotted cream – as soon as you finish a try your are quickly refilled, I was glad I had opted to skip lunch so I could make the most of the wonderful cakes and sandwiches. I must say I can see why this is so popular and for £6.99pp I would recommend to book this as soon as you get on board.
Our evening meal was again in Ballindaloch and once again was fantastic – Chicken Liver Parfait was to die for and the Red Snapper with Scallops was absolutely amazing! Also as it was our final night I decide to accompany the fantastic food with a few glasses of wine
After dinner it was off to the Neptune Lounge for the farewell show – this was great as it was a taster of every act that had preformed on board so what got to see some of the entertainment we had missed – even if it was just a glimpse. Next was off to the Observatory Lounge for a couple (OK maybe 5 or 6) farewell cocktails with the rest of the group.
I had such a great time on Balmoral and got to meet some wonderful people. I hope you all enjoyed my blogging, if you have any questions please do ask me
You can find all my photos from Balmoral here
Overall I was extremely impressed with the Balmoral and would certainly recommend her highly. The first thing that really impressed me was the relaxed atmosphere on board, never once did I feel rushed in anything at all.
Secondly I was very impressed by the service of the staff on board. Not that I am saying there is anything wrong with over attentive staff but sometimes on a cruise as soon as you put your drink down a waiter is almost on top of you taking your next order. I was pleased to discover this was not the Fred Olsen way, service was very attentive but never did I feel like I had to order another drink etc.
Entertainment on board was also very good. During a sea day there were a choice of lectures to attend, or you could opt for a game of bridge in the card room. Evenings were where it all happened and I was surprised at just how lively some of the bars got (no it wasn’t just down to me I promise) My favourite moment entertainment wise had to be the Balmoral Show Company preforming songs from the musicals – I must admit as not a huge lover of west end style shows I wasn’t convinced I was going to enjoy but it was absolutely fantastic!
Onto my favourite part of cruising – the food! If you have ever ready any of my previous blog post I am sure you will have noticed I have a rather big passion for food, well Fred Olsen did not disappoint. I felt it was my duty to experience both room service and the restaurant for breakfast and both were faultless. Once again lunch was out of this world, with a choice between a buffet or ordering from waiter service menu. A personal highlight of mine was definitely the afternoon tea – it was fantastic.
Should you have any questions about Balmoral, or if you would like to add any of your personal experience I would love you to leave a comment below