Fred Olsen

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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) and 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.

Fred Olsen Cruises logo

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 UK cruises (themed as "Taster Cruise") allowing potential customers to book 1-night cruise deals. This is a perfect opportunity to sample the line'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.

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, as 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 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-night round-trip itinerary includes overnight stays in Port Elizabeth, Richards Bay, and Durban. The 3-night 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. In 2018-2019, the 1,350-passenger flagship Balmoral offers roundtrip departures out of Edinburgh (Rosyth) for the first time ever. There are a total of 9 cruises scheduled (May through July), including a 5-night Norwegian Fjords, 14-night Scandinavia and St Petersburg, Baltic discovery, 9-night ‘German Waterways’.
  • 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.

At the launch of line's new 2019-2020 cruise program, Fred Olsen revealed that it is to offer even more itineraries from Newcastle in 2019-2020, with 16 sailings between April 2019-March 2020, onboard Balmoral. Liverpool expects a bumper number of line's departures in 2019-2020, with 22 itineraries between April 2019-March 2020 onboard Black Watch.

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. Itineraries highlighted in Fred Olsen’s brochure include:

  • June 18, 2019: 13-night ‘Icelandic Wonders & Wildlife’ aboard Boudicca, round-trip from Dover UK, from GBP 1,849 per person. Ports of call include Eskifjordur, Akureyri, Isafjordur, Reykjavik, Kirkwall.
  • June 30, 2019: 11-night ‘Exploring the Natural Wonders of Iceland’ aboard Balmoral, roundtrip from Edinburgh (Rosyth), from GBP 1,600 pp. Ports of call include Reykjavik, Isafjordur, Akureyri, Seydisfjordur.
  • August 7, 2019: 16-night ‘Fjords of Greenland’ aboard Boudicca, round-trip from Dover UK, from GBP 2,399 per person. Ports of call include Reykjavik, Qaqortoq, Narsarsuaq, Nanortalik, Kirkwall.

Fred Olsen's fleet of 4 ships visits a total of 219 destinations in 75 different countries around the world, covering 79 regions of scenic cruising throughout 2019-2020. Complementing the United Kingdom departure ports of Liverpool, Southampton, Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Dover, there is an expanded program of fly-cruises. Fred Olsen ocean cruises include 13 maiden calls: Agios Nikolaos, Alotau, Ambon, Broome, Ermoupoli, Galway, La Romana, Lembar, Patras, Penneshaw, Sabang, Sumatra, Svolvaer, and Wewak.

In 2019-2020, ‘closer’ cruising is still at the fore of Fred Olsen cruise experience. Signature Norwegian fjords itineraries are offered in 2019-2020, along with Greenland fjords, and Musandam fjords in Oman, accessible on dhow boat voyage. Fred Olsen is also operating 5-night ‘taster’ sailings from all 5 UK ports along the Seine and to the Norwegian fjords. The UK-based cruise operator is expanding the program on Brabant in 2019-2020 to feature the Rhine, Main, Moselle and Danube rivers.

Examples of Fred Olsen ‘Best Time To Go’ itineraries 2019-2020 include:

  • 14-night ‘Mediterranean with Lavender in Provence’ onboard Braemar in July 2019;
  • 14-night ‘Baltic with Tallinn Song and Dance Festivals’ (cultural events which only take place every 5 years) onboard Boudicca;
  • 12-night ‘Spain and Portugal with the Seville Fair’ onboard Braemar in May 2019,
  • 14-night ‘Northern Norway with Sami National Day’ onboard Black Watch in January 2020, featuring ‘yoik’ folk choirs and traditional festivities.

Fred Olsen line also offers an all-inclusive cruise package upgrade (additional fixed price PP per day) and the UK fly cruise deals to Canary Islands (year-round discounted airfare from Southampton, England).

Highlights of Braemar ship's ‘closer’ programme from Southampton 2019 include:

  • 13-night ‘Cruising to the Heart of the Baltic’ voyage, departing May 26, 2019. Prices start from GBP1,699 per person. Ports of call include Southampton, Copenhagen, Helsinki, St Petersburg (overnight), Ronne, Travemunde, Kiel Canal Transit, Southampton. The trip concludes with a scenic cruise along the Kiel Canal, which can be navigated only by smaller cruise ships, like Braemar.
  • 8-night ‘Cruising the Fjords of Norway’ voyage, departing August 14, 2019. Prices start from GBP1,199 per person. Ports of call include Southampton, Stavanger, cruising Hardangerfjord, Eidfjord, cruising Nordfjord, Olden, cruising by Hornelen, Bergen, cruising Lysefjord, Southampton. In Norway, the ship can sail right along steep-sided Lyesfjord, which is restricted to others by a 50-meter tall bridge at the entrance.
  • 13-night ‘Cruising to the Heart of Seville & Bordeaux’ voyage, departing September 14, 2019. Prices start from GBP1,799 per person. Ports of call include Southampton, Bordeaux, Cruising Gironde & Garonne Rivers, cruising Guadalquivir River, Seville (overnight), Cadiz, Vigo, Aviles, Southampton. The ship sails 49 miles up Guadalquivir River into port Seville, passing by Donana National Park.

Fred Olsen introduced its inaugural 34-night ‘American Waterways in the Fall with New York’ cruise onboard ms Balmoral in September 2020. Fred Olsen’s ‘American Waterways in the Fall with New York’ cruise is due to arrive first in Canada, following an Atlantic crossing. From Canada, ms Balmoral sails south to the US, where highlights include scenic sailing along Hudson River (maiden call for Fred Olsen) and taking in 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 Balmoral’s 34-night ‘American Waterways in the Fall with New York’ voyage, ex Southampton UK on September 29, 2020 start from GBP 4,799 per person.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines started its 2019-2020 cruise season from Dover UK on February 13, 2019, with a romantic 4-night ‘Valentine’s in Antwerp with Amsterdam’ trip, aboard Boudicca. After the sold-out shorter sailing, Boudicca repositions to Newcastle's Port of Tyne on February 18 for two 8-night ‘Norway Winter’ journeys before returning to Dover UK on March 9 for a 14-night ‘Landscapes of the Canary Islands’ voyage. The ship is operating 24 itineraries in her 2019-2020 cruise season, between February 2019-March 2020. These include a 7-night ‘D-Day 75th Anniversary Voyage’, via the partnership with The Royal British Legion, sailing out of Dover UK on June 2, a 168-night ‘Grand Voyage’, departing on October 3 - the longest sailing ever undertaken in line’s history, with the opportunity to visit 61 different cruise ports, cities, and towns across the globe.

Fred Olsen’s 2019-2020 cruises from Dover UK include chances to explore Norwegian or Greenlandic fjords; sail size-restricted waterways to cities like Amsterdam, Bordeaux, Stockholm, and Hamburg; go in search of Baltic highlights; and experience Monaco’s Formula One Grand Prix.

Examples of Boudicca’s cruises from Dover UK in 2019-2020 include:

  • 22-night ‘Amalfi, Tuscany & the Italian Riviera’ cruise (D1910, adult-only), departing on April 25, 2019. Prices start from GBP 2,499 per person.
  • 13-night ‘Icelandic Wonders & Wildlife’ cruise (D1914), departing on June 18, 2019. Prices start from GBP 1,899 per person.
  • 9-night ‘Scenic Fjords of Norway’ cruise (D1920), departing on August 28, 2019. Prices start from GBP 1,299 per person.

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

Fred Olsen's Longest Cruise Ever

A 168-night 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 line’s 2018-2019 "Venture to the four corners of the world" brochure, also including a 107-night "Around the World with Sydney at New Year" trip in November 2018. The 168-night 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-night 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.

Fred Olsen 2019-2020 Cruises from Edinburgh

Fred Olsen confirmed its commitment to Edinburgh with a 2nd programme of departures from the Scottish port aboard Balmoral in 2019-2020. During its 2019-2020 cruise season, mv Balmoral offers 8 cruises from Edinburgh, from June through August 2019, including a 7-night ‘Norwegian Fjords’, 14-night ‘Baltic Capitals’, and 9-night ‘European Rivers & Canals’ experiences.

Fred Olsen related cruise news