TRAVEL REVIEW: Norwegian Festival and Fjords cruise with Fred. Olsen
And, who knew, relaxing on board a cruise ship, watching the Norwegian Fjords sail by, would be such a fantastic experience.
We boarded the Balmoral – Fred. Olsen’s flagship vessel - on a grim, wet day at Port of Tyne dock, bound for a five day adventure on the open waves.
Nothing, could be easier than the embarkation of this impressive ship. The Tyne dock proudly displays its prize of being voted the UK's Port of the Year 2014 in the National Transport Awards, and and from what I saw it was truly justified.
The demographic of the Fred. Olsen passengers is overall on the (ahem) older side, but there were helpful and friendly staff everywhere you turned making sure everyone found the process of getting on board a quick and stress free one.
Once on board we headed straight for our cabin and waiting luggage. We were greeted by our cabin steward Manni, who was a delight throughout the holiday, so friendly and helpful, as were all the members of staff on board Balmoral.
Now, a word of warning, for those of us who have very poor sea legs, the North Sea can be a bit choppy and I fell prey to motion sickness. My husband did his knight in shining armour bit and headed off to find the medical centre where they handed out the magic tablets, that after a couple of hours saw me right as rain and taking advantage of the free room service.
Balmoral isn’t the sort of gigantic, all singing, all dancing, lights and showbiz spectacular that some of the bigger cruise ships are, but what it does specialise in is comfort and relaxation.
Despite being more than 1,350 passengers and 510 crew members on board, everywhere was calm and quiet and it was always easy to find a comfy seat in one of the many bars to chill out and enjoy the peace.
As those who have cruised before will attest, if you are on a diet you might as well stay at home – for life on board a cruise ship very much centres around eating and drinking.
Balmoral was no different and providing guests with a feast of flavours to suit every pallet at every meal time – and mid morning, afternoon snack and midnight feast – was high on the list of priorities.
There was so much choice of food, I don’t know where to start. Meals were served in the main Ballindalloch Restaurant, the Spey or Avon restaurants and there was also the more relaxed Palms Café for a buffet style menu throughout the day.
Everything we ate was delicious and I heard several other passengers comment on how you couldn’t fault the food.
As well as the usual tried and tested dishes, such as steak, pasta and salad, every day saw new and exciting things for the more adventurous to try – such as soups made with fruit and desserts with Malibu caramel sauce.
The first day was spent on board the ship as we sailed towards Norway. I was concerned that it might become boring stuck on the ship, but there was plenty of activities and by the time we had eaten our way around the restaurants it was time to change for the evening.
Things certainly livened up each evening with shows, music, dancing and comedy. There was one formal evening during the cruise when the hubby pushed the boat out and donned a tux – but it was completely optional and a good many male passengers opted for a shirt and tie.
We found out that night what a Scotsman keeps in his sporran when one of our party produced a diamond ring from his and got down on one knee to pop the question to our overwhelmed host. Thankfully she said yes and we had a fantastic evening celebrating.
Our first port of call was the town of Bergen, a beautiful town, full of charming wooden buildings. We had chosen to join the Bergen and Mount Floyen tour and I was pleased we did because they had pre-booked our tickets on the Mount Floien Funicular to the top and we avoided the immense queues.
Everything in Norway is hugely expensive so we got back on the Balmoral for lunch before heading back out to do some afternoon sight seeing in Bergen and setting sail again in the late evening.
My favourite part of the trip was the following morning when we opened the curtains to be met by the magnificent view of Eidfjord, it was absolutely breath-taking. While all of our group were kayaking, I took myself off for a wander around this picture perfect village and a ride on the Trolltrain, which took us past a Viking burial site.
I was sad to leave Eidfjord, but the journey out, sitting on the deck of the ship with a drink and watching an amazing sunset among the mountains and waterfalls was a memory which shall be cherished.
The following day was spent at sea as we sailed back towards England. I had left it too late and the spa was fully booked, so my nails remained un-manicured, but we enjoyed the day taking part in games and quizzes.
All too soon, it was time for bed and we awoke, as if from a lovely dream, back in the Port of Tyne, where sadly the weather was even worse than when we left.
The five-day Norwegian Festival and Fjords cruise with Fred Olsen is well worth the money and there’s no need to splash out the hefty extra cost for a balcony cabin on such a short cruise as there are so many places to sit on board and enjoy the view and tranquillity.
A similar cruise in 2017 with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines will be a five-night ‘Norwegian Fjords’ cruise on board Balmoral, departing from Newcastle on 23rd August 2017. Ports of call include: cruising Lysefjord (Pulpit Rock & Kjerag Boulder), calling at Bergen and Eidfjord, cruising Hardangerfjord and Fureberg Waterfall, Maurangerfjord, arriving back in Newcastle on 28th August 2017.
Prices for this cruise start from Â£599 per person, based on an interior twin-bedded room – subject to availability – and includes all food and entertainment on board, and port taxes.
For further information on Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, visit the website at www.fredolsencruises.com.