sjwright

Our coastline is scattered with the relics of bygone times in the form of piers in varying condition and docks that once welcomed hoards of day trippers from cruisers and paddle steamers. Even scarcer still are the operational vessels, but some do still exist and are as popular now as they were when they first came into operation. MV Balmoral is one such ship.

A little about the boat

62m long and capable of accommodating 800 passengers, the MV Balmoral was built (originally with a 10 car deck to the rear) to transport passengers to and from the Isle of Wight in 1949. Following this, she was unsuccessful as a floating restaurant and was eventually brought back into operation again, this time in the Bristol Channel.

In 2002, the original Newbury Diesel Company ‘Sirron’ engines were replaced by Grenaa Motorfabrik diesel engines, and in 2014 she was refit. Today, she has two bars, one restaurant, a heated observation saloon and a gift shop.

MV Balmoral cruise from Llandudno Pier

Our cruise started and ended from the recently refurbished landing stage on Llandudno Pier. We were unfortunate in that choppy seas delayed our boarding but the welcome was friendly and time was soon made up.

The cruise took us around the Great Orme headline, with running commentary throughout. Following this, we proceeded to the Conwy estuary, a beautiful view of medieval Conwy flanked by dramatic mountains reaching to Penmaenmawr and beyond.

The crowd wave off the MV Balmoral from Llandudno Pier

Crossing across the gulf between Anglesey and Llandudno, the cruise proceeded through the strait between Puffin Island and Pen Mon lighthouse, the informative commentary running throughout. After looping back on ourselves off the coast of Red Wharf Bay, we headed back across the Pen Mon/Puffin Island strait once more.

Passing Bangor’s Garth Pier in the Menai Strait

Proceeding up the Menai Strait, we were treated with beautiful, warm sunshine as we proceeded to pass historic Beaumaris on the starboard side and the university town of Bangor against a backdrop of the Snowdonia range and Ogwen Valley on the port side.

View up the Menai Strait towards Menai Bridge

The Menai Strait narrowed as we approached one of the docking points, St George’s Pier in Menai Bridge. After a short wait, we proceeded back on ourselves and back to Llandudno Pier.

The boat and staff

We found the cruise to be a comfortable experience throughout. Understandably given her age, MV Balmoral isn’t as stable as some of the modern cruisers, but at no point did we experience sea sickness or discomfort, despite it being quite a choppy day. I’d go as far as saying I was pleasantly surprised. The cruise went at considerable speed with ease, and thanks to the modern engines, we noticed no noise or fumes throughout the time we spent on deck.

MV Balmoral Sun Deck

The staff were brilliant from the moment we boarded to the point at which we disembarked. They truly couldn’t do enough to help us, and everyone greeted us warmly and took genuine pride in their work. The restaurant was quite well equipped and the selection was surprisingly good. The food quality wasn’t exactly fine dining, but given the working environment is at sea, they did well! The bar was well stocked and provided a good selection of beer, cider and spirits. The ship was impeccably clean throughout.

Conclusion

Although the excursion attracted a lot of people of a certain age, its an experience that can be enjoyed by all age groups and the boat more than comfortably accommodates a few hundred passengers. MV Balmoral cuts through the water at considerable speed, so I’d recommend taking a warm hat, gloves and coat.

We paid around £27 a head which represented excellent value for money. The trip makes an excellent day out doing something unique and makes an ideal gift for a friend or loved one. For further information and to book, visit MV Balmoral’s website.


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