Fred Olsen Cruise Lines

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

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines cruise line logo

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines fleet

Review of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines

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 (fast-speed ferries in the Canary Islands) and Fred Olsen Energy (crude oil tankers).

In November 2022, Fred Olsen announced that is looking for a buyer for MS Braemar. The 30-year-old vessel was sold in December 2023 to Villa Vie Residences.

Company History

The cruise company and travel brand Fred Olsen was established in 1848 (in Hvitsten Norway) by three Olsen brothers (Petter, Andras and Fredrik-Christian) with the purchase of their first ships and starting international passenger shipping.

Today, this family-owned business (into its 5th generation) operates several companies specializing in cruise ship travel, ship crewing, shipbuilding, and 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.

The cruise company's current President and CEO is Peter Deere.

In July 2022, Fred Olsen Jr resigned, being the Fred Olsen Group's Chairman and Board Member for 29 years (between 1993-2022).

Fred Olsen's Head of Itinerary Planning and Destination Experience is Martin Lister.

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. The 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 the 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 two 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 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, all 4 Fred Olsen ships had planned visits to 228 ports/islands in 73 countries. The program also featured 91 scenic cruising destinations 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 the company's product without committing too much money or time. Booking these 1-night deals doesn'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 (renowned 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 the company's record year for cruise sales, with November 19 (Monday) being the year's most successful sales day (nearly GBP 1,6 million). Also in 2018 started charter operations Fred Olsen's first dedicated riverboat Brabant/fka Amadeus Princess. The 156-passenger ship cruises on the rivers Moselle, Rhine, Main, and the Danube.

Fred Olsen's 2020-2021 schedule (ocean and river voyages) listed a total of 277 ports/destinations in 90 different countries (6 continents) on 170 itineraries.

In August 2023 was signed the partnership with Go Stargazing (2002-founded, UK-based astronomy organisation) for 26 voyages scheduled for 2024 on 3x ships (Bolette, Borealis, Balmoral) visiting destinations like Norway, Iceland, Portugal's Azores, and Spain's Canary Islands. This partnership provided passengers on the select voyages to be assisted by Go Stargazing's experts offering laser-guided tours of constellations and insights into celestial objects, as well as the opportunity to observe sky phenomena like meteor showers and the northern lights/Aurora Borealis.

Fred Olsen cruise and ferry fleets' cellular services (onboard Internet/WiFi/connectivity) are provided by WMS-Wireless Maritime Services LLC (Miramar Florida-based company).

Fred Olsen Ferries

"Fred Olsen Express" (1974-founded 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. The company's main rival in this market is Naviera Armas.

Fred Olsen Express has a fleet of nine Ro-Pax ships (including 2 trimarans under construction, scheduled deliveries 2020-2021). Among these vessels is the 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 2015-2018-2021-2023

For the first time ever, on July 28, 2015, all four Fred Olsen liners (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 the company's 170th anniversary, Fred Olsen's fleet docked together in Cadiz (Spain). The 4 themed cruise itineraries ("Captains in Cadiz") were open 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 and ~4000 passengers were welcomed by "Los Sones de Cadiz" (music 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 initially planned for April 4, 2020, in Port Funchal (Madeira Island). All 4 itineraries (themed "Four Freds in Funchal") included as activities welcome ceremony, live music performances, specially-prepared food menus, fun competitions between the crew and passengers of each boat. However, due to the global health crisis, the fleet rendezvous was canceled and rescheduled for October 22, 2021 ("Four Ladies in Lisbon") in Port Lisbon Portugal.

Next are listed the 4 itineraries planned for the "Four Ladies in Lisbon" (fleet-meet 2021).

  • (Braemar) 27-night "Iconic Sites of Croatia and Italy" roundtrip from Southampton (September 30, from GBP 3800 pp)
  • (Balmoral) 16-night "Heritage Sites of the Med" roundtrip from Newcastle (October 12, from GBP 2000 pp)
  • (Borealis) 15-night "Exploring the Azores and Portugal" roundtrip from Liverpool (October 18, from GBP 2000 pp)
  • (Bolette) 15-night "Escape to the Canaries" roundtrip from Dover (October 18, from GBP 1900 pp)

Next are listed Fred Olsen's "fleet-meet in Funchal" itineraries scheduled for 2023. Prices ranged between GBP 2000-2100 per person.

  • (Bolette) 15-night "Spain & Portugal with Fleet in Funchal" roundtrip from Southampton (October 29)
  • (Balmoral) 15-night "The Canary Islands with the Fleet in Funchal" roundtrip from Southampton (October 30)
  • (Braemar) 15-night "Discovering Cultural Morocco with the Fleet in Funchal" roundtrip from Dover (October 30)
  • (Borealis) 14-night "The Azores with The Fleet in Funchal" roundtrip from Liverpool (November 1)

(Coronavirus crisis) passenger shipping pause 2020-2021

Due to the COVID pandemic, Fred Olsen suspended the entire cruise fleet's passenger shipping operations (all vessels - ocean and riverboats) canceling all voyages with pre-scheduled departures between March 14, 2020, and June 30, 2021.

River- and ocean fleets' operations were planned to resume on October 24, 2020, but were eventually canceled. Ocean voyages resumed in 2021 on July 5 (Borealis/Maiden Voyage, cruise to nowhere from Liverpool), and on August 16 (Bolette/Maiden Voyage, cruise to nowhere from Dover). Balmoral restarted in 2022 (May 2/Canaries from Newcastle). Braemar was scheduled to restart in 2023 (on April 28, from Southampton).

All affected bookings were fully refunded, including on prepurchased through the cruise company packages and services. All bookings on Fred Olsen cruises 2020 (any itinerary) are allowed to cancel penalty-free (up to 14 days prior departure) and rebook any Fred Olsen 2021 cruise (river or ocean).

During the lay-up period, all ships were anchored in

Itinerary of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines

Fred Olsen"s cruise fleet is UK-based (homeported) during most of the year, with roundtrips out of UK departure ports - Southampton, Dover, Falmouth, London-Tilbury, Harwich, Liverpool, Newcastle, Rosyth (Edinburgh), Portsmouth, Greenock-Glasgow and Belfast Ireland. MS Braemar"s winter Caribbean fly-cruise program is from homeport Bridgetown Barbados and provides connecting flights from Manchester and London Gatwick.

Fred Olsen"s itineraries are in popular destinations like the Baltic, Norway Fjords, Mediterranean, Canaries, Caribbean. Longer itineraries include "Around the World" and "Around South America" voyages. The list of cruise destinations operated by Fred Olsen ships includes Mediterranean (also Adriatic), North Africa (Morocco), Canary Islands, Transatlantic crossings, Canada-New England, Northern Europe-UK (Around Britain/British Isles, Iceland, Norway), South America, USA-Canada.

One of the "most British" cruise companies, Fred Olsen"s fleet consists of smaller-sized vessels. Fleet"s largest liners (two former Holland America ships) joined in September 2020 - Bolette/MS Amsterdam (2000-built) and Borealis/MS Rotterdam (1997-built). At the same time, the fleet left Boudicca (1973-built, 47-years-old) and Black Watch (1972-built, 48-years-old).

Fred Olsen cruise itinerary changes

Fred Olsen added a South Africa program on MS Boudicca (transferred to Bolette) operated with the UK to South Africa fly-cruise deals. Boudicca"s fares were inclusive of flights from London (or Manchester) to Cape Town (departure port). The 14-day roundtrip itinerary included overnights 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.
  • sold and left the fleet in 2020/ 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).
  • sold and left the fleet in 2020/ 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 were also available.
  • ms Bolette (fka MS Amsterdam, 2000-built) was acquired from Holland America Line (Carnival Corporation) in July 2020.
  • ms Borealis (fka MS Rotterdam, 1997-built) was acquired from Holland America Line (Carnival Corporation) in July 2020.

After joining the fleet (in September 2020), Bolette and Borealis increased the company's passenger capacity by ~30%. To Bolette and Borealis were transferred the itineraries previously scheduled, respectively, for Boudicca and Black Watch.

At an extra charge, Fred Olsen cruise passengers benefit from exclusive excursions on newly-installed RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boats) with max capacity 12 people (each). 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).

In 2022, the company introduced 5x "Signature Experiences" (Itinerary Insights, Sky at Sea, Ship and the Sea, Scenic Discoveries, Treats of the Region) as part of its “Joy of the Journey” program.  All experiences are led by expert guides and include Sky at Sea (open-deck sunrise and sunset viewing, stargazing events, wildlife watching and nature-themed talks in the Observatory Lounge), Itinerary Insights (lectures and talks themed on culture, arts, and the history of the visited destinations), Ship and the Sea (themed on Fred Olsen company's history, including meetings with the Captains and crew), Treats of the Region (food- and dining-temed, led by the chefs and galley teams, live cooking demos for making and sampling local dishes).

OCEAN itineraries 2024-2025

Fred Olsen's 2024-2025 schedule lists specially-timed voyages to coincide with natural wonders/destination events, and opportunities to encounter wildlife/uncover rich histories across the planet. Among those are meteor showers, wildlife viewing (bird migrations, polar bears), participation in the world’s second-largest carnival (in Santa Cruz de Tenerife).

For the first time (since 2019) Fred Olsen schedules a "Mystery Cruise" (11-night itinerary without scheduled call ports) departing roundtrip from Southampton in November 2024), on which tourists will follow in the footsteps of explorers, seafarers, and navigators as they guess their next call port.

Traditionally for the brand, voyages in 2024-2025 are with departures from the UK homeports Dover, Liverpool, Newcastle/Tyne, Portsmouth, Rosyth-Edinburg, and Southampton.

Early booking and special promos offer up to GBP 150 per person in OBC/onboard credit on sailings of 5-12 nights, up to GBP 250 pp OBC and free door-to-door transfers (within up to 250 mainland miles from homeport) on sailings of 13-32 nights, plus special pricing for solo travelers.

Highlights of season 2024-2025 include:

(ship Balmoral) 5-night "Springtime Norwegian Fjords in Five Nights" leaves from Newcastle on May 23, 2024. Prices start from GBP 800 per person.

(ship Borealis) 14-night "Maritime Cities and Sailing Events of the Baltic" leaves from Dover on June 27, 2024. Prices start from GBP 2100 per person.

(ship Bolette) 27-night "Discovering the Arctic’s Wildlife and Remote Landscapes" leaves from Liverpool on July 19, 2024. Prices start from GBP 3800 per person.

(ship Balmoral) 15-night "Portugal’s Islands in Search of the Meteor Shower" leaves from Rosyth on August 7, 2024. Prices start from GBP 2300 per person.

(ship Bolette) 11-night "Spain, Portugal and the Spectacular Bird Migration" leaves from Liverpool on September 1, 2024. Prices start from GBP 1600 per person.

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 cruise program includes itineraries on Danube, Main, Rhine and Moselle rivers, with 30+ departures and itinerary durations from 5 to 25 nights (price-inclusive of luxury land tours and excursions). 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.

Every Fred Olsen river trip is due to incorporate a lot of daytime scenic cruising so that travellers 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 the brand's new enrichment program with almost every voyage featuring an onboard speaker, specifically tailored to the itinerary.

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