Bermuda was very picturesque, but it was far colder than we had expected it to be. My eyes were telling me I was looking at the Caribbean, but my skin was telling me that I was already back in England! It was a shock to the system.
Shortly after Balmoral was given clearance by the local authorities, we left the ship and began our ‘Quintessential Bermuda’ tour. Neither my friend nor I had been to the island before, so we thought it would be the ideal way to introduce ourselves to Bermuda. We drove from Hamilton to Georgetown and then across to the Dockyard on the other side of the island. We had arrived on a Sunday, so virtually everything in Georgetown was closed – which turned out to be good given the prices of some things! Bermuda is certainly not a cheap place to shop.
During the drive, we passed some wonderful beaches and small harbours. We even drove right through the middle of a golf course at one point – can’t say I’d ever done that before. The tour was good, I’d recommend it as an option if you prefer less walking on your days ashore, and although nothing really stopped me in my tracks, it gave me some ideas on where to go during my next visit to the island. I would have liked more time at the Dockyard as it was too big to explore in only 30-minutes, which is how much time we were given. We arrived back at the ship an hour later than expected but still 2 hours before our back onboard time, so we decided to have a walk around the port area. It was very pleasant and we managed to find a few shops that were open and selling souvenirs that we could afford!
Five sea days followed Bermuda and surprisingly, the weather was quite nice. It wasn’t hot, as such, but the sun was certainly warm enough to allow us to remain outside during the day, instead of retreating indoors with a book and a jumper. We would have lunch at around noon every day and by the time we were finished, the sun would be blessing a small corner on Deck 8 that allowed the wind to blow around us instead of right through us – perfect! We just had to make sure we got there first! 😉
Ponta Delgada was our final port of call and as we only had a few hours to spend there, we decided to get a taxi to the local mall, with our adopted grandma, and do a bit of shopping. I always find the Azores bittersweet. They mark the end of a fabulous western adventure and I never really want to go ashore there. I’d like to do a cruise one day that stops at the Azores at the beginning and then maybe I’d be a bit more enthusiastic about being on the island. I sound like such a grump, but I bet a few people can relate.
We were supposed to sail from Ponta Delgada at 14:00 but the winch for lifeboat 1 failed, which meant the boat couldn’t be brought back onboard using Balmoral’s machinery. In order to get our little yellow friend back where she belonged (sort of), we had to move across to a berth on the other side of the harbour, so that a dockside crane could lift it onto the bow – she sat there keeping look out all the way back to Southampton.
Balmoral’s ‘Central America and Mardi Gras’ cruise was a sailing that I will certainly never forget. I’ve never missed so many ports in 1 cruise, but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, the destinations we did visit and the hospitality of Balmoral’s wonderful crew. This was my longest cruise to date, but I could have happily stayed onboard for another 46-nights. I’m never quite ready to get off – there’s just no pleasing some people. 😉
I’d sailed on Balmoral just 4 months prior to this cruise and 5 months prior to that, so I knew what to expect. Nothing had really changed during that time, it felt like I had gone back home and I felt incredibly comfortable and safe. I know her layout like the back of my hand and almost every crew member’s face is familiar.
Some of the food offered during this cruise wasn’t quite as good as I’ve had on previous sailings with Fred. Olsen and I got tired of seeing veal and pangasius on the menu, however, I did have some superb dishes during the 46-nights. I can’t list them all, but I wanted to share just a few to wet your appetite. I ordered the Chateaubriand on one formal evening and it was perfection on a plate, both the surf and turf and tournedo of beef black and white I had near the end of the cruise were also very nice, and one thing you can never complain about on a Fred. Olsen cruise is the soup. As always, the soup offerings were excellent and I was never disappointed with what I had ordered. My absolute favourite even made an appearance in The Palms: fried chicken and buttered spaghetti. I know, it really is so simple, but the fried chicken is so incredibly good! Best fried chicken I’ve had at sea.
Another thing that Fred. Olsen do exceptionally well is Indian night. The food is delicious and it is always the busiest of all themed buffet evenings. Our Indian night was near the end of the cruise and we had all been patiently waiting for it, although I have to admit that I had already eaten my fair share of Indian food throughout the cruise. When things like chicken tikka and tarka dhal had been on the menu, I would always be drawn towards them, and when we returned to ship following our day in Miami, there was a chicken biryani on the menu. It was exactly what we needed and it was good, it was really good! I asked for mine without the extra chilli, so the chef gave me extra cashews instead – I wasn’t complaining! OK, back to Indian night – on offer during the themed night was: pork vindaloo, lamb jalfrezi, chicken shahjahani, masala machi and tangdi chicken. These were the hot options and there were at least 10 salad options, too! I couldn’t breathe by the end of my meal. I didn’t go wild, but I was nicely stuffed. As I said, Indian night is the most popular of all the themed evenings in the buffet and it gets VERY busy. I’ve experienced Indian themed food evenings on many ships and Fred. Olsen’s offering is by far the best. You won’t be disappointed.
Our allocated restaurant during the cruise was the Spey, much to my delight! I love to watch the world go by through those giant portholes on Deck 10. It’s a small and intimate option and it will always be my first choice when sailing on Balmoral. We had a table for 2, right at the far end (where the sun is gleaming through the doors in the picture), and we became good friends with those on the tables surrounding us – we said to each other one evening that we should try and make a table of 6, but I think it would have restricted the space too much. Instead, we chatted between tables.
A few days before the end of the cruise we enjoyed Traditional Afternoon Tea in the Observatory Lounge, it has become my end of cruise Fred. Olsen tradition and as always, it was very satisfying. Tasty sandwiches and even tastier cakes! They really do make good cakes on Fred. Olsen. Do you see the chocolate cake right at the front on the below picture? Well, I devoured that in around 6 seconds, it was DELICIOUS!!! I also made short work of an egg mayonnaise sandwich and a prawn sandwich, and my rose tea. Traditional Afternoon Tea is offered across the Fred. Olsen fleet at a cost of £7.95 per person. It is only available on selected sea days, so be sure to make your reservation at reception before it fills up. You can also notify them of any food allergies or restrictions and they will do their best to accommodate you and offer suitable, alternative options.
While I am on the subject of food, I’d like to take the opportunity to say a big thank you to Manny and the crew in The Palms. My friend whom with I was travelling is Muslim and must refrain from eating pork, however, one of her favourite dishes is Paella. It was offered on the dinner menu in The Palms at the beginning of the cruise but was made with chorizo. We asked at lunchtime if it would be possible for her to have a small plate of Paella that had been cooked without pork and were told it would be no problem. When we arrived for dinner that evening there was a plate of pork-free Paella waiting for her – she was absolutely thrilled and it was packed with seafood.
There were issues with missed ports on the cruise and a lot of people were complaining. Yes, it is disappointing, but there’s not a lot anyone can do about the weather – it’s a risk you take when you book a cruise. Had the Captain carried on and something gone wrong, then people would have complained about that too. Sometimes, you just can’t win. I huffed and puffed every time we were told we were missing a destination, but I didn’t let it spoil the overall trip. Regardless of anything else, we were all aboard a wonderful ship and enjoying ourselves, some people will never have that opportunity, so I always try to make the best of what comes my way, even if it is not quite what I had signed up for.
To Balmoral, I love you, and to her wonderful crew, I MISS you! Big thanks to everyone onboard, but especially to Kook Kai, Supoj, Christian, Mr. Wilson, Manny, Chawalphat, Robert, Erwin, Mr. Bobby, Narinder, Conrad, Rupendra, Dante, Jittra, Pam, Polly Ploy, Nahta, Reika, Apple (and the rest of the reception staff), all three girls on the tours desk and the chefs in The Palms. You all enhanced my experience aboard Balmoral in one way or another and I thank you for that!
Before I reach the end, I’d like to introduce you to my lovely friend, Sara – the friend I have been referring too throughout my blogs from this cruise. She is in the process of starting her own travel related blog and would be thrilled if you could drop by her page and give her a like – you can find her under Modern Day Bedouins.
I leave you with this, a very funny poem by a wonderful lady named Shirley. We met Shirley during our cruise on Balmoral and we adopted her as our nanna. She kindly gave me permission to share this with you and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
I thought I’d book a Christmas cruise
the idea seemed quite nice
to get away from England
and escape the snow and ice.
I just arrived at Tilbury
with my hope of Christmas charms
when a woman rushed towards me
and thrust a lifebelt in my arms.
No, the ship was not in danger
(the thought made me feel ill)
It was, as she explained to me
the pre-sail lifeboat drill.
My cabin seemed quite cosy
which stopped me feeling glum.
but little did I know just then
that worse was yet to come.
The food was unappealing
(was the reason poor cooks?)
the menus were a riddle
they should have written mystery books.
My lucky streak departed
this was a major flaw
Was it all a plot to kill me
for my coq-au vin was raw!
I worried some about this cruise
but after all I’ve said
I should have known much better
and booked again with Fred.
The moral of Nanna Shirley’s poem: stick to what you know best. She will now only cruise with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. Lots of love Nanna Shirley, I know you will be reading this at some point! 🙂
So where will my next Fred. Olsen adventure take me? Well, not far, actually, as the next time I step aboard a Fred. Olsen ship, I’ll have to leave before she sets sail! 😉 Where will Fred. take me after that? You’ll have to wait and see, but I can tell you that I can’t wait – I’m having serious Fred. withdrawal!