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Pictured left to right outside the new store are: Paul Hardwick, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents Director of Retail; Emma Bailey, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents; Tutti Taylor, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents; Councillor Candy Vaughan, Mayor of Eastbourne; Trevor Ridler, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents Business Development Manager; and Shirley Waters, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents..

Victoria steps on board Balmoral

Day 1

I started off my travels by embarking Balmoral at Dover. It was a very smooth and quick check-in process from arriving at the port to getting on the ship. The staff were attentative and friendly; nothing seemed like too much trouble for them, it felt as if they were welcoming me into their family home.

I was delighted to be in a suite, which I found to be bright, airy and very spacious; one of the things that impressed me about Balmoral is each suite has its very own large balcony!, There was a bottle of prosecco plus a bowl of fruit waiting for me when I checked in. I was also given the option to have breakfast in my room at no extra cost.

Each evening I was treated to canapes left in my suite, followed later by a turn down service where a little chocolate was left on my pillow and an itinerary for the next day.  I found this a very nice touch.  The suite was kept immaculate with lots of complimentary toiletries for me to use.

After embarkation, we met in the main restaurant Ballindalloch for a delicious meal that was followed by a fantastic show of dancing and singing. It was an outstanding quality performance comparative to a West End show.

Day 2

Today we enjoyed a relaxing day at sea.   We had a training session on 'The Olsen Way'. It was an excellent training session and a great insight into Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines' values. We were also taken on full a tour of the Bridge, learning how the crew navigates and their individual responsibilities.

Later that day we were treated to a delicious afternoon tea - which was later followed by an outstanding meal in the specialty restaurant serving Indian cuisine. Afterwards we went back to see another outstanding live performance in the Neptune Lounge.

Day 3

Today we arrived in Rouen, France - We were lucky enough to go on a shore excursion to Claude Monet's House and Gardens. It was a fantastic experience with beautiful gardens. I was able to capture the same photographs of the places featured in the very famous paintings.

After the excursion, we experienced Rouen with its medieval architecture. Back on board we were given a full tour of the galley and witnessed a menu briefing. We learnt how to make delicious cocktails and then finished the day by watching the hilarious comedy show. It was a memorable fun-packed day!

Day 4

Today we arrived at Honfleur; I went on an excellent tour of the Calvados Distillery and even got to sample some of their brandy made there.

In the evening we experienced the Colours and Tastes speciality restaurant on board specialising in Asian Fusion, it was delicious. We were then taken behind the scenes with the entertainment team and shown what the staff have to do daily to get the shows ready.

Day 5

Disembarkation was early morning; it was an excellent and smooth process.  It starts by leaving your luggage outside the cabin the previous night  where it is collected and taken off the ship for you. I would have liked to have spent more time on board Balmoral as there is a lot on board we didn't have time to see or do on this particular trip. If I could do this cruise again, I would definitely go to The Atlantis Spa, experience the specialist destination talks on board, and use the gym.

I think this cruise would be great for everyone, especially those who love smaller ships.  I found there to be plenty of space and facilities on board to be enjoyed. This cruise is also ideal for solo travellers as there are plenty of activities to partake if they wish, and great for families who like the quieter side of cruising, as there is not the kids’ entertainment as found on larger ships. This cruise is also well set up for guests with mobility issues.

The sights I would recommend not to be missed are Monet's House and Gardens, Calvados Distillery, D-Day landings Tour and Chateau Gaillard.

My personal highlights of the trip would be Claude Monet’s House and Gardens, it was beautiful.  I also thoroughly enjoyed walking the streets of Rouen and visiting the cathedral there.

My favourite place to eat on-board Balmoral would be the Colours and Tastes Restaurant with its Asian Fusion.

The most memorable part of this trip for me was how friendly and attentive the Fred. Olsen staff were, they made me feel very welcome; as if I was an old friend returning home.