Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Ship: 369 out of 500
Accommodation: 148 out of 200
Food: 258 out of 400
Service: 263 out of 400
Entertainment: 64 out of 100
Cruise: 271 out of 400
Overall Score: 1373 out of 2000
Size: Mid-size Ship
Cruise Line: Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
Former Names: Norwegian Crown, Crown Odyssey
IMO Number: 5034927
Builder: Meyer Werft (Germany)
Original Cost: $178 million
Entered Service: Jun 1988/Jan 2008
Registry: The Bahamas
Length (ft/m): 715.2/218.1
Beam (ft/m): 92.5/28.2
Draft (ft/m): 23.8/7.2
Propulsion/Propellers: diesel (21,330kW)/2
Passenger Decks: 10
Total Crew: 471
Passengers (lower beds): 1,747
Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 24.9
Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 3.03
Cabins (total): 828
Size Range (sq ft/m): 153.9-613.5/14.3-57.0
Cabins (for one person): 91
Cabins (with private balcony): 121
Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 9
Wheelchair accessibility: Good
Cabin Current: 110 and 220 volts
Casino (gaming tables): Yes
Slot Machines: No
Swimming Pools: 2
Hot Tubs (on deck): 4
Self-Service Launderette: Yes
Dedicated Cinema/Seats: No
Onboard currency: UK£
A well-designed ship with a very British ambience
Overview. Balmoral is best suited to British couples and single travelers wanting destination-intensive cruising in a ship that has European quality, style, and character, a sense of space, comfortable surroundings, decent facilities, and realistic pricing, and that provides good value for money.
The Ship. Balmoral, formerly Norwegian Crown, is a well-designed and built ship, originally constructed for the long defunct Royal Cruise Line. Norwegian Cruise Line then operated the ship for many years, before it was transferred to Orient Lines in 2000, and then back to Norwegian Cruise Line in September 2003.
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines bought the ship in 2007 and gave it a major refurbishment, including a ‘chop and stretch’ operation involving the addition of a 99ft (30.2m) midsection. Although the company’s logo includes the Norwegian flag, the ship is registered in the Bahamas.
The all-white ship has a relatively handsome, nicely balanced exterior profile, and one of its plus features is its full, walk-around teak promenade deck outdoors, although it becomes a little narrow in the forward section of the vessel. There are many nicely polished wood railings on balconies and open decks, and there is a jogging track on the uppermost deck outdoors. Atop the ship is the Observatory Lounge, with fine ocean views, central dance floor, and bar. Out on deck, there is a heated salt-water pool, but little shade (no glass dome for inclement weather).
The main public room spaces are on Lounge Deck. At the front of the ship is the Neptune Lounge, the main showlounge, with an integral bar at the back of the room; the raised stage and wood dance floor are surrounded by amphitheater-style seating in banquettes with small drinks tables. To its aft are the shops - a curved staircase connects this deck with the reception lobby on the deck below.
Next is the Braemar Lounge, alongside a lifestyle area that includes an Internet center with good separation for privacy; there are also a library and a separate card room. Aft of the Braemar Lounge is the Morning Light Pub (named after the very first Fred. Olsen ship, Morning Light). This venue is more like a lounge than a real pub, although it does have draft beers. Aft is the Palms Café, the ship’s casual self-service buffet-style café.
The high lobby has a large gold sculpture in the shape of a globe of the world by the famous sculpture artist Arnaldo Pomodoro (called Microcosm, Macrocosm); it used to revolve.
Balmoral offers a wide range of itineraries, which keeps people coming back to this very comfortable ship; passengers also receive a log of each cruise to take home. Niggles include an inflexible bed layout in some cabins, and dated decor in some older cabins.
Port taxes are included for UK passengers. Gratuities of £4 ($6) per passenger, per day, are suggested. The drinks prices are very reasonable, but laundry/dry-cleaning prices are quite high. The mostly Filipino/Thai crew is warm and friendly, and should help make your cruise enjoyable.
Accommodation. There are 21 price categories; typically, the higher the deck, the higher the price. Most cabins are of the same size and layout, have blond wood cabinetry and accents, an abundance of mirrors, and closet and drawer space, and are very well equipped. All accommodation grades have a color TV set, a hairdryer, music console (plus a button that can be used to turn announcements on or off), personal safe, and private bathroom with shower (many upper-grade cabins have a good-size tub).
All towels are 100 percent cotton, and quite large; a soap and shampoo dispenser is mounted on the shower wall and a shower cap is provided. Duvets (single) are standard, blankets and bed linen are available on request, as are double-bed-size duvets. On-demand movies are £2.95 from the in-cabin Infotainment System.
The soundproofing is generally good. Some cabins have interconnecting doors, so that they can make a two-room suite - good for families with children.
The largest accommodations are the suites on Highland Deck 10. They are quite spacious units, and provide a sleeping area and separate living room, including some nicely finished wood cabinetry and a large amount of closet and drawer space, together with a large, white marble-clad bathroom with a full-size tub and integral shower. There is a large private balcony, although some balconies can be overlooked from the deck above.
There are nine wheelchair-accessible cabins; these provide plenty of space to maneuver, and all include a bathroom with roll-in shower. But wheelchair accessibility in some ports on the many itineraries operated by this ship - particularly in Europe - may prove quite frustrating and wheelchair-accessible transportation may be limited.
Cabins in the new midsection have attractive, contemporary decor that is light and airy. Some of those on the upper decks (Decks 8 and 9) have bathrooms with a vertical window with a direct view from the large shower enclosure through the sleeping space to the outside, providing an enhanced feeling of spaciousness. Bathrooms have shower enclosures rather than tub/shower combinations (some have two washbasins), and enough storage space for toiletries.
Dining. The Ballindalloch Restaurant, in the aft third section of the ship, is the main dining room. It has ocean-view windows on port and starboard sides, and operates two seatings. It has comfortable seating at tables for two, four, six, or eight. However, the waiter stations are exposed and can be extremely noisy; indeed, the noise level in this main restaurant is high, so trying to hold a conversation can be frustrating.
Other dining options. The Avon Restaurant and Spey Restaurant, both named after rivers, are located aft on Highland Deck 10 - the deck that contains the higher-priced suites. The floor-to-ceiling windows provide lots of light. The decor is contemporary and minimalist, and the noise level is low, which makes for comfortable conversation. However, these venues also operate two seatings.
The 70-seat Palms Café is an alternative, more intimate venue for informal self-serve buffet meals. All venues have open seating for breakfast and lunch.
Entertainment. The Neptune Lounge is the setting for all entertainment shows, cabaret acts, lectures, and some social functions. It is a single level room with tiered seating levels. Sight lines are generally good, but could be better.
Revue-style production shows are staged by a resident troupe of singers and dancers, and there are cabaret acts. The quality of the shows, however, is average. Cabaret acts - typically singers, magicians, ventriloquists, comedy jugglers, and comedians - perform individually or as part of the revues.
A piece of trivia for ship buffs: a bar at the back of the showlounge was originally named Theo’s bar after one of the former Royal Cruise Line’s most popular bartenders.
Spa/Fitness. There is a reasonably decent - but not large enough - indoor wellness center, which includes a fitness room with great forward ocean views, plenty of muscle-pumping equipment, and several body treatment rooms. The wellness facilities and treatments are provided by Asian staff.