Since she joined the Fred. Olsen fleet in 2008, the 43,000 ton Balmoral has enjoyed the distinction of being the largest passenger ship in the fleet, and also the line’s flagship. As such, she is one of the most popular ships sailing in the UK market today.
She was built by Meyer Werft in Germany for the now defunct Royal Cruise Line in 1988 as the Crown Odyssey, and quickly gained a reputation as one of the most luxurious and elegant cruise ships in service anywhere. Sailing on a series of world wide itineraries, the new ship quickly attracted a hard core of loyal passengers, drawn back time and time again by superb food and service, as well as by her elegant Art Deco interiors, and spacious cabins. In a few short years, she became something of a legend in the cruising firmament.
When Royal Cruise Line was absorbed into NCL (as it was then) the ship was renamed Norwegian Crown, and placed on the summertime New York to Bermuda run, with longer Caribbean cruises in the winter. A brief spell with Orient Lines, another NCL satellite, saw her revert to her original name, and she once again assumed far more of a world wide, globe trotting role.
When Orient Lines was wound up, she returned once more to NCL, and picked up the Norwegian Crown name for the second time. In this guise, she was often seen in South American waters during the winter. But, with the parent company intent on seriously big new builds, it was obvious that she would soon be surplus to requirements.
What came as the big surprise was the actual buyer.
Fred. Olsen had been looking for another ship to join their fleet, especially with the imminent, impending demise of the beloved Black Prince. They purchased the ship from NCL, renamed her Balmoral, and then sent her to a German shipyard for major cosmetic surgery.
This involved slicing the vessel in half, and the addition of a whole new mid section. This contained two new restaurants, several balcony cabins, a new pub and, outside, a new pool and hot tubs on the highest passenger deck. Though a substantial interior refurbishment was carried through to give her the classic Fred. Olsen ‘feel’, the company very sensibly retained much of her original elegant, highly lauded Art Deco styling. The ship was then put back into service.
As Balmoral, this still beautiful ship operates everything from three night, weekend party cruises to full world cruises in January. The Balmoral is just as likely to be found in the Norwegian Fjords or New York these days.
Steady, luxurious, and as intimate and well fed as the Fred. Olsen tradition has always dictated, the Balmoral has become one of the most popular and consistently successful cruise ships in the UK market today. With a large number of affordable single cabins, as well as some of the most commodious and expansive balcony suites found on any ship of her size, the Balmoral is one of the best buys in the cruise industry today.
The pictures in this collection were taken on board by me during a cruise to Norway in the summer of 2012. Enjoy!