L1518 – Iberian Cathedrals & Museums on Balmoral
Katie anderson | May 17, 2015 | Fred Olsen Cruise Lines | Balmoral
Just returned from a relaxing 6 night break aboard Balmoral, sailing from the mayflower terminal at Southampton. We paid ?75 for valet parking through AB Parking, where we had a long wait in our car for about 45 mins until we could park up outside the terminal & leave our keys. This was due to Balmorals late arrival that morning. As we were late on the ship we headed for the Palms Cafe for our evening meal as the first sitting 6.15pm dining was too early for us. We changed to 8.30pm dining without problem for the rest of the cruise which worked out well as our waiter & wine waiter in the Spey Restaurant were excellent.
First day at sea was spent mostly in one of the 4 jacuzzis and around the Marquee outdoor bar area on the top deck, with comfortable seating and plenty of sun loungers. The ship is small but we were always able to find somewhere to sit out on deck.
La Coruna was our first port, we headed off on our own for a walk along the coastal path and into the old town. We were lucky with the sunny weather, about 21 degrees. Bilbao was our next destination. We took the complimentary shuttle from the ship into Getxo, then paid about 4 Euros for a return metro ticket to Bilbao. We walked to the Guggenheim museum, then found a lovely park with fountains, plus time for a look in the many shops before heading back.
La Rochelle was delightful, very pretty port with plenty of bars and restaurants dotted around. We paid ?12.50 through Fred Olsen for a return transfer to/from the ship into La Rochelle. A visit to the Towers of La Rochelle cost around 18 Euros for a family of 3. Worth a visit.
Balmoral lived up to Fred Olsen’s reputation of great service and dining, however if you’re looking for glitz and glammer this is not the ship for you. The ship is old, with the average passenger approx 70+ years, with entertainment quite low key. At times during the evening we were walking around the public areas for signs of other passengers!
Sea days were obviously a bit busier and on a couple of occasions we saw single passengers meeting up at designated points, so if you’re travelling solo you would find this to be a sociable ship.
To summarise we had a lovely time for an autumn break. If you’re looking for a quiet, friendly ship then give Balmoral a try.
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