It’s cold up North. Especially, when the wind is blowing. But it is still a very friendly place to visit. We are in Newcastle on a messy murky day, grey and wet. The weather is what it is! A few feet from our car something is hopping from puddle to puddle clearly having a good time. Frog on the Tyne?
I don’t know many people called Fred in this world. Fred Flintstone, Fred Bassett and fiery Fred Trueman. Yet in the world of cruising Fred reigns supreme. Everyone knows Fred Olsen. “You must try a cruise with Fred. You are so missing a treat.” So here we are waiting to board his flagship Balmoral.
And as nature prepares for winter we are off travelling once more. Off again across the North Sea following in the footsteps of my favourite marauders – the Vikings. As long as we don’t have to travel Viking style, rowing, across the ocean then we are up for the trip. Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo. Scandimania is this year’s buzzword. Beautiful people, high cheek-boned, blonde, attractive and stylish. And jaw dropping scenery. The majestic beauty of Scandinavia is the stuff of legends.
The welcome on board was warm and friendly and we were directed to our cabin by a charming young lady. Our cabin was spacious and light comprising of two single beds with a chest of drawers in the middle. A table and two chairs and masses of drawers. More drawers than in IKEA! Plenty of wardrobe space too which is always useful. A nice tidy and compact bathroom. Everything was spotless.
Toiletries were supplied by Cole and Lewis. I would have preferred separate shampoo and shower gel instead of a single bottle of hair and body wash – we did find that it didn’t lather very well. There was a big bundle of towels too. They were clean but hardly soft anymore having seen many sail days and spin washes. They were too small to cover your confusion. Designed to be okay for a 6st beanpole but no one any bigger. All minor irritations but nothing that would spoil the cruise.
Balmoral has 710 cabins sleeping a maximum 1350 passengers serviced by 510 crew. Six bars and lounges and lots of places, quiet and otherwise, to sit and relax. Ballindalloch is the main restaurant, Avon and Spey are much smaller more intimate and as we found they offered much better service from a wonderful group of staff.
It is always a bit of a lottery, who you get as dinner guests. But we were so lucky. Although here was an age gap between us and the other six table companions we all got on so well. So we had a superb first evening with much laughter and chat. A great start to the holiday. As the cruise progressed we looked forward with anticipation and pleasure to our evenings with Joan, Gerry, Gordon, Pat, Audrey and Ron.
We decided on an early night having been up at the crack of dawn earlier today. As they say early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and more likely to get a sunbed the next day.
A day at sea gave us chance to discover this fine ship. So what was on offer? Stretch and relax, pilates, dancing in a straight line and otherwise, port talks, guest speakers, singing for fun, yoga, legs bums and tums, bridge, whist, chess. So many board games that you would never get bored. Dolphin racing, deck quoits, fun bowls, golf, bingo, charades and craft classes. Happy Feet- not the film but a mud foot soak. Quizzes galore, remember knowledge is power. Karaoke which we didn’t participate in because we were saving ourselves for the ABBA museum visit. Everyday there was a walk a mile with a smile (and sore feet). The knit and natter corner was a popular venue. My nan was a great knitter and an even better natterer. She nattered a lot when knitting. The library was to be honest a bit naff having been spoilt by Saga Pearl II earlier this year. We couldn’t even be bothered going to the ultimate adrenaline rush that was bean bag tossing!
The lecture ‘Successful Ageing – The Science of Wellbeing’ by Robert Anderson was very good. Not a lot of science mainly just common sense and stating of the obvious. Exercise for 45 mins at least three times a week, plenty of quality sleep, keep your brain active and then hope for the best and pray that your number doesn’t get picked in the longevity lottery.