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Aboard Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines'
ms Balmoral
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Dover to Tenerife
13 - 18 February 2008
First 5 Nights of Balmoral's
Inaugural Cruise
"South to Florida"


Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines' ms Balmoral first entered service back in 1988 as Crown Odyssey for Royal Cruise Line. 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 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"

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 - Balmoral

The 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.

Palms Café aft area open to the Pool - Balmoral

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.

Continued on Page 2


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