SARAH | August 29, 2017 | Fred Olsen Cruise Lines | Balmoral
Fred Olsen is not the first company you would think of for a school holiday cruise but it has never disappointed my family and the other families we have met while sailing on Fred Olsen during the summer months.
What makes this company and her small fleet of classic cruise ships so appealing?
Firstly, it is so easy to drive a short distance to join one of their local departure points in this instance Newcastle. You simply park at the pre-paid port parking where porters are on hand to take your luggage. Then it was just a short walk to the terminal and a very easy check-in with the children.
Once on-board your holiday has begun. Our cabin was a standard outside with a large picture window with extra beds that pull out of the wall for the children. A more than adequate size with lots of storage to make for a comfortable base for the next 9nts of our German Waterways cruise.
The German Waterways itinerary is a refreshing change from the typical European cruise ports. It’s something that only the smaller ships like those of Fred Olsen could navigate due to the transit of the Kiel Canal. River cruise is a rapidly growing sector of the cruise market as it offers a different sort of cruise experience that involves more scenic cruising up and down the rivers. It’s so lovely to see the pretty riverside towns with their chocolate box houses and their friendly locals waving and smiling as we pass by.
It is a lovely mix of both traditional ports and the larger more busier ports like Hamburg. With the added benefit of longer days and overnight stays in port.
We did not book any shore excursions as most were tailored for an older market and not for children. We did take advantage of the shuttle buses if these were running. These were payable if you were booked on an Anchor Fare at £5pp.
Ports of call…
KIEL – We docked within walking distance of the busy centre. We chose to catch a local bus to a lovely beach about 1 hour away. The transport in Germany is very efficient and reasonably priced.
WISMAR – Walking distance to the town centre. A pretty town to look around and enjoy a drink in the main square.
HAMBURG – Walking distance to the city. Although the city is vast and to get around it would involve a lot of walking but we used the local underground system which was very easy. You can get the underground from just outside the port into the centre. There is so much to see and do in Hamburg. we visited the Minatare Wonderland & a beautiful park in the north of the city. This was an overnight stop so many people took advantage of seeing Hamburg at night.
BREMEN – To get to the main town centre you needed to take the shuttle bus as it was 30mins away. Bremen is a large busy modern town but has an old town which is lovely to look around. At the port, itself there was a large outlet shopping centre which was well worth a visit.
The food on board Fred Olsen is outstanding. They have two classic dining times of 6.15pm and 8.30pm which would be requested at the time of booking. Ballindalloch is the larger of the main restaurants. There are 2 other restaurants on deck 10 which are called Avon & Spey. They can be requested but priority is given to the customers in suites. The alternative buffet restaurant is called Palms Café. The food is excellent in here and is open throughout the day , evening and also for the late night buffet. They also have themed nights in here like Asian night of which we tried and the food was outstanding.
During the school holidays and peak times like christmas, if there are enough children onboard they will run the LITTLE SKIPPER CLUB. Club sessions operate throughout the day and evening. It is a very friendly service which encourages you to get involved with the children in some activities but also enables you to have time to yourself. The minimum age for a child to be left at the club is 5, although younger children can join in if with their parents. All of the childrens hosts on this ship were teachers that come on during their holidays so the level of care is very high and they fully understand how to get the best out of the children.
Seniors and singles are the main target audience for a Fred Olsen Cruise. This starts with the size of the ships which are all easy to get around and the attentiveness of the crew. This ship is perfect for customers who do not want a large ship but still want plenty of facilities and choice of entertainment. Everything is designed to make life as easy as possible. Starting from the easy embarkation with a choice of many local departures to avoid long travelling distances. The warm and attentive staff who make it a priority to get to know and look after the passengers. Many of the ports avoid tenders so that everyone can easily take advantage of every port. They always had adapted transport for the less mobile customers. The entertainment is more designed for the older market. The shore excursions cater more for the older market very few would be of interest to a young family. Dance hosts for ballroom and Latin dancing are available along with bridge instructors and other specialists on hand for lectures and demonstrations. If you are a single traveller you are well looked after and they encourage you to meet with the entertainment team and other single travellers every day. The nature of the ship means that it is also easy to make new acquaintances and lots of opportunity to join in with group activities. I have also seen many groups on board of all ages. Families and younger couples would enjoy these ships as we have done but it is more limited to peak season cruises when there are other passengers of a similar age.
The entertainment on Balmoral is both traditional and British influenced including west end style production shows, variety acts, quizzes, lectures, classical musicians, karaoke just to name a few.
If the weather permits there are two lovely pools with large sun deck areas where you can sunbathe and relax.
Overall a wonderful cruise with many amazing memories both ashore and on board.
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