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Fred Olsen

History, Review, Itineraries, Ships, Deck Plans, News

Fred Olsen fleet

Review of Fred Olsen

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines is a Norwegian-owned, UK-based cruise shipping company headquartered in Ipswich (Suffolk UK). The company is part of Fred Olsen Group (family-owned, by Bonheur and Ganger Rolf). Other subsidiaries of Fred Olsen Group (headquartered in Oslo Norway) are the shipping companies Fred Olsen Express (ferries in the Canary Islands) and Fred Olsen Energy (crude oil tankers).

Company history

The cruise travel company Fred Olsen was established in 1848 (in Hvitsten Norway) by three Olsen brothers - Petter, Andras and Fredrik-Christian. They bought its first ships and started international passenger shipping. Today, this family-owned cruise line (into its 5th generation) operates several companies specializing in cruise ship travel, ships' crewing, shipbuilding, even in aviation and offshore industries. Fred Olsen Group also has business interests in the sectors of property development, estate management, luxury hotels, and electronics. Cruise company's current Managing Director is Peter Deer - with Fred Olsen Group since 1993.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines logo (CruiseMapper)

Fred Olsen ships are smaller-sized but attractive with stylish bars and lounges, smartly furnished staterooms and premium restaurants. Airy public areas provide excellent places to read, have a drink and relax at sea. Daily scheduled activities, uncrowded pool decks, luxury spas are among the other reasons to book cruise vacations with Fred Olsen.

Fred Olsen purchased its first ship in May 2006 - Norwegian Crown (now Balmoral), bought from NCL Norwegian Cruise Line. In November 2007, the vessel was drydocked for lengthening and refurbishment, adding a 40-m long pre-built midship section. The ship (renamed MS Balmoral) entered service in 2008. This project was repeated in summer 2008 with the extension of MS Braemar. Vessel's size was increased from 19,000 to 24,000 GT tons.

Fred Olsen provides traditional, home-like cruising with unhurried onboard life - the main reason for company's many repeating customers. The liners offer a variety of itineraries with different durations - from a few days (European mini-cruises) to around the world voyages. Brochure 2018-2019 ("Venture to the four corners of the world") included 2 World Cruises - 107-night (Black Watch, departing from Southampton on November 12, 2019, prices from GBP 9,850 pp) and company's ever-longest itinerary - 168-night (Boudicca, departing October 3, 2019, prices from GBP 15,000 pp).

On March 7, 2017, Fred Olsen announced its most successful cruise sales day ever. Total bookings were over GBP 3 million for that day. Most of the bookings were made by top tier loyalty club members, following the official release of Fred Olsen's 2018-2019 cruise itinerary program. The increase in bookings over the same launch day in 2016 was 15%. By the new program, the all 4 Fred Olsen ships will visit 228 destinations in 73 different countries. The program also featured 91 scenic cruising areas included in 135 unique itineraries.

The company enjoys a high repeat booking rate. To attract first-timers, since 2013 Fred Olsen offers "Enjoyment Promise". By this initiative, a full cruise full refund is guaranteed to anyone who doesn't enjoy the company's cruising vacation product. The cruise line guarantees that if passengers find that the experience is not for them, they can leave the cruise ship at the next available call port. The "Enjoyment Promise" offer applies only to new bookings and first-time customers.

Occasionally, Fred Olsen offers short-breaks (themed as "Taster Cruise") allowing potential customers to book 1-night UK cruise deals. This is a perfect opportunity to sample company's product without committing too much money or time. Booking these 1-night deals don't require purchasing travel insurance. Package price includes Drinks Package added for free. Optional flights from Belfast or Derry can be added with cruise port transfers for GBP 1000 pp. For cruise passengers who don't want to fly, overnight ferry (Belfast Ireland to Birkenhead England) can be added with cruise port transfers for GBP 100 pp.

In August 2017, the company contracted Speedcast International Ltd to provide fleetwide full package communication (voice and data) services. Speedcast (renown provider of remote communication and IT solutions) installed on all Fred Olsen ships satellite VSAT terminals plus land-based 4G data connectivity. The new technology allows seamless, automatic switching between various networks ensuring highly reliable connectivity at all times. The new network also provides connectivity between the company's offices and the fleet all over the world.

2018 was company's record year as cruise sales, with November 19 (Monday) being year's most successful sales day (nearly GBP 1,6 million). Also in 2018 was started the charter operations of Fred Olsen's first dedicated riverboat Brabant (Amadeus Princess). The 156-passenger ship cruises on the rivers Moselle, Rhine, Main, and the Danube.

In April 2019 was introduced the "Brexit Promise" guarantee. In cases of cruise cancellation due to UK's Brexit, the company guarantees a full refund to all bookings - plus a free cruise. In 2020-2021, Fred Olsen ships (ocean and riverboats) will visit a total of 277 destinations in 90 different countries across 6 continents on 170 itineraries.

Fred Olsen Ferries

"Fred Olsen Express" (founded 1974 as "Ferry Gomera", headquartered in Tenerife) is also part of Fred Olsen Group. The company provides regularly scheduled inter-island passenger shipping services via fast ferries in the Canary Islands. Company's main rival on this market is Naviera Armas Ferries.

Fred Olsen Express has a fleet of nine Ro-Pax ships (including 2 trimarans under construction, scheduled deliveries 2020-2021). Among these vessels is world's first trimaran ferry (HSC Benchijigua Express, launched 2005) with a capacity of 1350 passengers and 357 vehicles. Each of the new trimarans is powered by four Rolls-Royce engines (MTU Series 8000 M71L / 20-cylinder) with combined power output 36,4 MW. Trimaran's max capacity is 1100 passengers and 276 cars. Max speed is 38 knots (44 mph / 70 kph).

Currently, Fred Olsen ferries operate 12 routes in the Canaries, connecting the islands Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, La Palma, and La Gomera. Crossings travel time range between 25 min (Lanzarote - Fuerteventura) and  4 hours (Lanzarote - Gran Canaria).

Fred Olsen fleet meets 2015-2018-2020

For the first time ever, on July 28, 2015, all four Fred Olsen ships (the whole fleet) came together in Bergen - Norway's second largest city after the capital Oslo.

  • The four vessels arrived at 8 am and left the port at 6 pm.
  • MS Balmoral was on an 8-night "Norwegian Fjords" cruise from Southampton UK (July 25). Arriving from Stavanger Norway, it docked at Bontelabo Terminal.
  • MS Black Watch was on a 9-night "Cruising the Fjordland" cruise from Liverpool UK (July 23). Arriving from Flam Norway, it docked at Skolten South Terminal.
  • MS Boudicca was on a 7-night "Glaciers, Fjords and Waterfalls of Norway" cruise from Newcastle UK (July 26). Arriving from Newcastle upon Tyne, it docked at Skolten North Terminal.
  • MS Braemar was on a 14-night "Falls, Fjords and Faroe Islands" cruise from Dover UK (July 18). Arriving from Akureyri Iceland, it docked at Festningskaien Terminal.
  • The day-long festivities in Bergen included quayside live music performances (marching drummers, singers, music bands), onboard entertainment (afternoon show, open deck party, live band music), onboard treasure hunt, "‘water cannon" send-off show as all Fred Olsen ships were leaving the port.
  • All four Fred Olsen ships visit Bergen every year since 1997.
  • Following the "fleet meet" day, Balmoral continued to Flam, both Black Watch and Braemar to Eidfjord, Boudicca - to Alesund.

On September 10, 2018, for company's 170th anniversary, Fred Olsen's fleet docked together in Cadiz (Spain). The 4 themed cruise itineraries ("Captains in Cádiz") were opened for booking on September 28, 2017. Port's excellent facilities are located within the city and allowed all 4 liners to be berthed alongside each other.

  • All 4 liners sailed into Cadiz harbor at ~8 am. The total 4000 passengers were welcomed by ‘Los Sones de Cadiz’ band. The ceremony was attended by Fred Olsen Junior, as well as the city's Mayor, Cadiz Port Authority's President, and other VIP guests.
  • At 5 pm, all 4 liners departed in convoy, serenaded by a local jazz band. They were led out of Cadiz Harbour by a fire tugboat spraying water cannons. The fleet passed under "Constitution of 1812 Bridge" information: Braemar returned to Southampton; Black Watch and Balmoral went to Lisbon; Boudicca - to Ibiza.

The next fleet meet was scheduled for April 4, 2020, in Port Funchal (Madeira Island). All 4 itineraries (themed "Four Fredsin Funchal") included as activities welcome ceremony, live music performances, specially-prepared food menus, fun competitions between the crew and passengers of each boat.

Itinerary of Fred Olsen

The ships of the Fred Olsen company are based in Britain during most of the year, with cruises departing from UK departure ports (homeports) Southampton, Dover, Falmouth, London Tilbury, Harwich, Liverpool, Newcastle, Rosyth-Leith (Edinburgh), Portsmouth, Greenock-Glasgow and Belfast. The Braemar’s winter Caribbean fly-cruise program operates from Barbados and provides connecting flights from Manchester and London Gatwick.

Itineraries range from areas that are quite popular, like the Baltic, Canaries, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Norway, to longer cruise routes - ‘Around the World’ and ‘Around South America’. The list of destinations operated by Fred Olsen ships includes the Adriatic, Africa, Canary Islands, Transatlantic, Canada/New England, Northern Europe/UK ((Around Britain/British Isles, Iceland), South America, the US. One of the most British cruise companies, the Fred Olsen fleet consists of smaller size cruise ships - weight/tonnage from 11,000 to 43,000 GRT.

Fred Olsen river cruise itineraries

The company launched its new European river cruise program via a chartered vessel. Fred Olsen river cruises are operated on the 156-passenger river ship MS Amadeus Princess (renamed "MS Brabant").

MS Amadeus Princess cruise ship (Brabant, Fred Olsen)

Fred Olsen's river program includes itineraries on the rivers the Danube, Main, Rhine, and Moselle, with a total of 30 departures. Itinerary durations are from 5 to 25 nights, complemented by high-quality tours and excursions ashore. The new program was specifically planned to include a large amount of daylight river cruising, allowing passengers to enjoy as long as possible the riverside scenery along the itinerary routes.

The new river cruise itineraries on Brabant include Dusseldorf to Amsterdam (Holland), Dusseldorf to Nuremberg, Nuremberg to Budapest (Hungary), Budapest to Bucharest (Romania), Dusseldorf to Basel (Switzerland), and Bucharest to Dusseldorf.

Fred. Olsen River Cruises new 2020 programme on MS Brabant includes a total of 26 itineraries that cover 43 ports of call. Fred Olsen is due to introduce ten maiden calls onboard the 156-passenger Brabant, in 5 new areas, showcasing the beautiful Rhine, Main, Moselle, and Danube Rivers, across 6 countries.

New for 2020 are maiden cruises into Luxembourg, taking in Grevenmacher and Remich, as well as scenic voyages of the Danube Delta, with inaugural calls to Trier, Nierstein, Cetate, Galati, Dobreta-Turnu Severin, Donji Milanovac, Enkhuizen, and Vukovar.

Every Fred Olsen river trip is due to incorporate a lot of daytime scenic cruising so that travelers can enjoy some of the most fantastic European scenery with 14 areas of scheduled scenic cruising that are included across the itineraries. Brabant passengers can also benefit from the introduction of line's new enrichment programme with almost every voyage featuring an onboard speaker, specifically tailored to the itinerary and cruise highlights.

Each itinerary also features an optional shore trips package, which for the set price of GBP 200 includes 5 shore tours, relevant to the specific cruise themes.

Highlights of Brabant’s new 2020 programme include:

  • 14-night ‘Eastern Europe Discovery to the Danube Delta’ fly-cruise with flights from London/Manchester, ex Budapest on May 31, 2020. Prices start from GBP 2,899 per person.
  • 7-night ‘Sailing the scenic Moselle to Luxembourg’ fly-cruise with flights from London/Manchester, ex Cologne on August 9, 2020. Prices start from GBP 1,699 per person.
  • 7-night ‘Historic Gems of Germany’ fly-cruise with flights from London/Manchester on September 27, 2020. Prices start from GBP 1,599 per person.

Fred Olsen cruise itinerary changes

Fred Olsen cruise line adds a South Africa itinerary program on the Boudicca ship. The new program is operated with the UK to South Africa fly-cruise deals. The Boudicca's cruise fares are inclusive of flights from London (or Manchester) to Cape Town (departure port). The 14-day round-trip itinerary includes overnight stays in Port Elizabeth, Richards Bay, and Durban. The 3-day stay in Cape Town offers as tour options Scale Table Mountain (cable car ride), wine tours (Stellenbosch, Constantia), Camps Bay strolling, visiting the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront complex and the Newlands (cricket ground), Cape Town Harley Davidson bike tour, boating, shark diving, whales-dolphins watching.

  • mv Balmoral (1988) - the UK/British Isles, Baltic Sea (Russia-Scandinavia and Norwegian Fjords) and the Canary Islands leaving out of Newcastle (home-port), also from Dover and Southampton (home-port) including on Transatlantic round-trip cruises to South America. 
  • ms Black Watch (1972) - World Cruise from Southampton, Northern Europe (Norway Fjords, Russia and Scandinavia) leaving from England (Dover, homeport) and Scotland (Edinburgh-Rosyth homeport).
  • ms Boudicca (1972) - UK/British Isles, Azores, and Madeira, the Mediterranean leaving from Liverpool (home-port), World Cruise round-trip from Southampton to the Caribbean and South America. Select departures from Greenock-Glasgow, Belfast, and Rosyth are also available.
  • ms Braemar (1993) - Baltic Sea (Russia and Scandinavia, Norway Fjords), France (Atlantic Coast ports), Canary Islands and Eastern Mediterranean out of Southampton (home-port). During winter season offers Caribbean cruises out of Barbados.

Fred Olsen Boudicca cruise ship

Holidaymakers who are looking to explore Iceland and Greenland can now benefit from Fred Olsen's free door-to-door transfers up to 90 miles on 5 selected scenic itineraries in 2019, as the cruise line released its "Lands of Fire & Fjords of Ice" brochure. Passengers can choose to visit the ancient Hvalsey Norse ruins, cruise past one of the ‘Ten Wonders of the Arctic’ - Tasermiut Fjord in Greenland, or discover Paradise Island, close to Isafjordur in Iceland, on a vacation which starts without the hassle of arranging transport to/from the United Kingdom departure port.

Passengers are also able to benefit from exclusive excursions on line’s newly-installed Rigid Inflatable Boats, at an extra charge. The new "RIBs" have a capacity of up to 12 people each and specialize in giving ‘off the beaten tourist track’ experience.

Fred Olsen also offers all-inclusive cruise package upgrades (additional fixed price PP per day) and UK fly-cruise deals to Canary Islands (year-round discounted airfare from Southampton, England) and to Japan (on Boudicca in 2021).

Fred Olsen introduced its inaugural 34-day ‘"American Waterways in the Fall with New York" cruise on MS Balmoral in September 2020. The US voyage is due to arrive first in Canada, following a Transatlantic crossing. From Canada, Balmoral sails south to the USA, where highlights include scenic cruising on Hudson River (fleet's first) and the narrow waterways of Cape Cod Canal, Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Balmoral then returns in the Atlantic from Baltimore through Bermuda to the Azores. Prices for the 34-day itinerary (roundtrip from Southampton UK departure September 29, 2020) start from GBP 4,800 per person.

In 2020-2021, Fred Olsen ships (ocean and riverboats) visit 277 destinations in 90 different countries across 6 continents, on 170 itineraries. Complementing the UK departure ports DoverEdinburgh-RosythLiverpoolNewcastle, and Southampton, Fred Olsen also offers an expanded fly-cruise program. The company’s 2020-2021 ocean program has 144 itineraries, including 9 maiden ports (Hiroshima, Beppu, Kochi, Nagoya, Fakarava, Raiatea, Savusavu, Halong Bay, Surabaya). MS Brabant's passengers cruise on Danube, Main, Moselle and Rhine rivers on 26 itineraries, including Luxembourg City (maiden port). In 2020, Brabant visits a total of 43 ports in 13 countries, covering 14 scenic cruising destinations (of which 5 brand new).

As well as the line's signature ‘Norwegian fjords’ experiences, Fred Olsen is taking passengers to discover the beauty of 3 new scenic cruising areas, on Balmoral’s 34-day "American Waterways in the Fall with New York" cruise, from Southampton UK in September 2020: Cape Cod Canal, Hudson River, and Chesapeake & Delaware Canal. Shallow-drafted Braemar repeats her best-selling transit of the Corinth Canal on her 25-day "Corinth Canal and Greek Islands" voyage from Southampton in April 2021.

Another key theme is "Community & Way of Life" focusing on authenticity. Boudicca’s 14-day "Authentic Japan" fly-cruise from Tokyo in January 2021 is such an example, where passengers experience in-depth shore trips, including taking part in a tea ceremony, connecting with the heritage of the Samurai on a trip to Kamakura, the historic home of the fearless warrior caste, and watching a Geisha perform authentic dances.

The 32-day "Idyllic Islands of the Caribbean" itinerary (Black Watch from Liverpool in November 2020) is due to take in lesser-known parts of the region, such as Mayreau, Grenadine Islands, populated by under 300 inhabitants.

The line’s "Scenery & Wildlife" themed voyages highlight the world's best flora and fauna. Boudicca’s 14-day "African Wildlife Adventure" from Cape Town (December 2020) gives the chance to go in search of chameleons and lemurs in their native Madagascan habitat. From Port Elizabeth and Durban in South Africa, travelers can seek out the ‘Big 5’, on safari adventures. Balmoral’s 10-day "Icelandic Wonders & Wildlife" sailing from Edinburgh in June 2020 takes in the waterfalls of Godafoss and Gullfoss as well as offers the opportunity to search for humpback whales along Iceland’s longest fjord.

The cruise line is also due to be operating more of its "5-day" cruises. Passengers can see the best of Norway on Balmoral’s "5-day Fjordland Discovery" out of Edinburgh in July 2020 taking advantage of the strategic location of the port and its close proximity to Norway, along with Braemar’s maiden "Delights of Devon & Cornwall" getaway in August 2020, visiting St Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly, Falmouth, and Plymouth.

Examples of "Best Time To Go" itineraries in 2020-2021 include Black Watch’s 10-day "Authentic Flavours of Portugal" sailing from Liverpool in June 2020, that coincides with the "Feast of St. Anthony", also popular as the "Sardine Festival", Black Watch’s "Canaries & Portugal with Funchal Flower Parade" voyage, taking in the city’s floral spectacular; and a first for the line, Boudicca’s 28-day "Discovering Asia with Singapore at New Year" fly-cruise from Seychelles in December 2020.

Other highlights of the new 2020-2021 ocean cruise program of Fred. Olsen, include:

  • Black Watch’s 9-day "Mystery Cruise" from Liverpool (April 2020, adult-only)
  • Black Watch’s 14-day "The Fjords of Greenland" trip from Liverpool (August 2020)
  • Balmoral’s 9-day "Winter Fjords with Shetland" sailing from Southampton (January 2021)
  • Boudicca’s 14-day "Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Singapore" fly-cruise via Hong Kong (January 2021)
  • Balmoral’s "In Search of the Northern Lights in 8 Nights" itinerary from Newcastle (March 2021).

In April 2020, the entire Fred. Olsen ocean fleet is expected to reunite for the 3rd time in the Madeiran capital of Funchal to celebrate ‘Four Fred.s in Funchal’! In September 2018, the fleet came together to mark the line’s 170th anniversary in shipping via the ‘Captains in Cadiz’ celebration.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines confirmed that its 929-passenger ship, Braemar, is scheduled to return to the Corinth Canal in September 2022 for a 3rd time, offering more guests the chance to experience the record-breaking sailing. Fred Olsen’s cruise ship Braemar made history in October 2019 by becoming the largest vessel – at just under 186 metres long – to sail the 6.4-kilometre canal, which is just 24 metres wide at the narrowest point.

The cruise line unveiled its new Corinth Canal voyage in Autumn 2022 as the first preview itinerary from the forthcoming 2021-2022 cruise programme. Details of Fred Olsen’s 3rd Corinth Canal cruise are as follows:

For those who cannot wait until 2022, there is still availability on Braemar’s 2nd Corinth Canal sailing in Spring 2021, on a 25-night ‘Greek Islands & Corinth Canal’ voyage from Southampton UK on April 16, 2021.

A 29-day Arctic exploration scheduled for August 2021 and taking in the natural wonders of northern Norway, Greenland, and Iceland is the latest itinerary to be previewed from Fred. Olsen's 2021-2022 ocean programme, ahead of the full unveiling in March 2020. The ‘Midnight Sun & Northern Lights’ cruise onboard the 880-passenger Boudicca gives guests the opportunity to catch the last of the ‘Midnight Sun’, with early glimmers of Iceland's ‘Northern Lights’.

On this getaway, there is also the chance to marvel at the picturesque villages, fjords, and waterfalls of Norway, as well as the chance to explore remote Svalbard (the most northerly town in the world), go whale-watching in Iceland, and take in the panoramic views of rugged Greenland. Fred. Olsen Boudicca’s 28-night ‘Midnight Sun & Northern Lights’ voyage departs from Dover UK on August 14, 2021. Prices start from GBP 4,199 per person.

Ports of call include Dover, Andalsnes, cruising Naeroysundet, cruising by Torghatten, cruising by Seven Sisters mountain range, crossing Arctic CircleSvolvaer, cruising TrollfjordTromsoHonningsvag, cruising by North Cape & The Horn, Longyearbyen, cruising Tempelfjorden & Tuna Glacier, cruising by Jan Mayen Island, Reykjavík (plus an overnight stay), cruising Prins Christiansund, cruising Tunugdlliarfik Fjord, Narsarsuaq (overnight stay), Nanortalik, cruising Tasermuit Fjord, cruising Prins Christiansund, IsafjordurAkureyri (overnight stay), Dover.

All prices are based on 2 adults sharing a twin-bedded Inside stateroom and include all meals, accommodation, and entertainment onboard, as well as port taxes.

This is the 2nd itinerary to be teased from the cruise line’s 2021-2022 ocean programme, following the release of its 26-night ‘Corinth Canal & Greek Islands Cruise’, when Fred Olsem's Braemar is scheduled to be returning to the Corinth Canal for a 3rd time, in September 2022.

Fred Olsen's Longest Cruise Ever

A 168-day voyage is set to be the longest sailing in the history of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines. The Grand Voyage aboard mv Boudicca departing in October 2019, takes in some of the most spectacular cities and islands in the world. The sailing is part of the line’s 2018-2019 "Venture to the four corners of the world" brochure, also including a 107-day "Around the World with Sydney at New Year" trip in November 2018. The 168-day sailing aboard Boudicca departs on October 3, 2019, with prices starting from GBP 14,999 per person. Highlights include Indonesia, the islands of Andaman, the Indian Ocean, Seychelles, Madagascar, Australia. In South Africa, there are safari adventures during visits to Richards Bay and Port Elizabeth, as well as opportunities to see the Boulders Beach penguins on tour out of Cape Town.

The 107-day Sydney at New Year voyage departs Southampton UK on November 12 onboard Black Watch, with prices starting from GBP 9,849 pp. There are ports of call in the Americas, including islands in the Caribbean, Colombia’s UNESCO-listed walled city Cartagena de Indias, Panama Canal journey, and an extended stay in Sydney, Australia for New Year celebrations. On the Asian leg of the trip, passengers can experience the contrast between Komodo Island, Indonesia, and Singapore. There is also overnight in Mumbai and visits to Arabia.

UK-Japan fly-cruise 2021

In mid-March 2019, Fred Olsen announced the company's ever-first "Authentic Japan" fly-cruise from homeport Tokyo with flights from Southampton. The itinerary program (on Boudicca) starts in January 2021 and features as maiden ports Beppu, Hiroshima, and Nagoya.

Itinerary's all call ports are Tokyo (overnight), Nagoya, Kobe (overnight), Hiroshima, Beppu, Nagasaki, Keelung (Taiwan) and Hong Kong China (overnight). Early bookings (made by May 31, 2019) received a complimentary package with included gratuities.

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