For the last two years, the MV Balmoral has been laid up in Bristol. In 2007, the landing stage on Llandudno Peir was deemed unfit for use. On the 2 July 2015, the MV Balmoral “steamed” into Llandudno Bay and tied up at the pier.
MV Balmoral was built in 1949 by John I. Thornycroft & Company at Woolston for the Red Funnel Line (formally known as the Southampton, Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. Limited). Originally the Balmoral could carry up to 10 cars on her aft car deck, providing a ferry ferry service from Southampton to Cowes on the Isle of Wight. From her introduction she also occasionally performed excursion duties. As dedicated car ferries were introduced, her role became more focussed on offering coastal cruises around the south coast of England. When Red Funnel ceased excursions in 1969, the MV Balmoral became based in Bristol under the White Funnel name until 1980. At that time she became a floating restaurant in Dundee, until being becoming a partner to the Paddle Steam Waverley, providing Clyde Cruises when the Waverley went south, and Bristol Channel cruises in the summer.
At the end of the 2012 season MV Balmoral was laid up in Bristol and her future was uncertain. The MV Balmoral Fund was created to take on ownership, with a subsidiary, White Funnel Limited to operate. In April 2015, ownership was transferred and 19 June 2015, the MV Balmoral started a programme of cruises.
Llandudno Pier has a long history, and in its current incarnation, it was rebuilt in 1877 to a design of Brunlees and McKerrow with ironwork cast at the Glasgow Elmbank works. The landing stage at the end was rebuilt several times, latterly in 1969 when a concrete construction was built enabling it to take larger ships,including those of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.
Llandudno Pier and MV Balmoral became re-acquainted on Thursday 2 July, when she call at the pier on an excursion from Liverpool. Day trippers in Llandudno had the opportunity for a 90 minute trip along the North Wales Coast towards Colwyn Bay.
Being an overcast day, the ship was lightly loaded for this trip. There are four undercover saloons:
On our trip, the second bar was closed, although available as a lounge area. Due to the low numbers on board, no-one was using it.
After a second call at Llandudno, the Balmoral returned to Liverpool.