Fred Olsen is one of the rare cruise lines that is still owned and operated by the same family that founded it in the 19th century. Steeped in a rich history, this company is truly a modern business success story. Begun as a shipping company, Fred Olsen evolved into a passenger ship line and today they operate four (soon to be five) cruise ships year-round from the U.K. In fact, they are famous for creating what has been referred to as a “British Country House” atmosphere at sea with their ships that place an emphasis on cosy intimacy and the traditional staples of cruising that bypass the glitz and glitter of the more contemporary, and generally US-based, cruise lines.
Fred Olsen’s four ships, Black Watch, Black Prince, Braemar and Boudicca sail worldwide itineraries of various durations, including grand voyages sailing throughout the world, lasting in excess of 100 nights. Their soon to be fifth ship, Balmoral, will enter service soon as well.
Fred Olsen doesn’t operate “mega ships.” In fact, all of their ships are on the smallish side, from the 412-passenger Black Prince through the 807-passenger Black Watch. The smaller sizes of Fred Olsen’s vessels guarantees a cosy, traditionally British cruising experience where passengers can get to know one another over afternoon tea or a leisurely dinner at sea. The onboard currency is the pound sterling, and the ships’ décor is comfortable and attractive, not at all flashy. Evening entertainment onboard is muted with none of the rousing production shows often found on the larger, more Americanised mega cruise ships.
Dress is relatively formal on the ships of Fred Olsen and passengers still dress for dinner, especially on the formal nights. Dinner is without a doubt the highlight of the day, and generally features a five-course meal that will be served by the excellent waiting staff. Drinks remain affordable and this encourages passengers to linger in the various lounges and bars, swapping stories of the day’s adventures with fellow passengers while enjoying their libation of choice.
Fred Olsen cruise ships also stock fairly decent onboard libraries, and it is not unusual on sea days to find passengers basking on the open decks with a good book in hand. Other activities onboard include special interest arts programmes and lectures on various subjects from gardening to wine appreciation.
Fred Olsen Cruise Line passengers are predominantly British with an average age into the mid to late 60’s. In the summer months, and at other times when schools are on holiday, that average age can drop significantly as more families with children take over the ships. At that time of the year, they also offer a comprehensive onboard children’s programme of activities.
This cruise line has found its niche in serving the cruiser who does not need to be entertained 24/7. Fred Olsen’s cruise customer is one who is steeped in the fine art of conversation. They make their own entertainment onboard and don’t need glitzy high-energy activities featured on the ship. They like the familiarity they enjoy with both their fellow passengers and the crew of these ships, and what they most look forward to when boarding is seeing a familiar face. That’s what keeps them coming back year after year.
Fred Olsen’s ships will call on some 306 ports in 116 countries during 2008. Several will be maiden calls in such diverse areas as Takoradi in Ghana, and Trivandrum in India. Forays will also be made into the United States, and in January of 2009 the Black Watch will depart Southampton on a 97-night “world cruise” headed west, while the Balmoral will sail on a 104-night world cruise in February of 2009, leaving from Dover and heading in an easterly direction.
By departing primarily from British ports, Fred Olsen cruise holidays have become a convenient option both for U.K. passengers as well as for Americans who are discovering that they like the ambience of a predominantly British ship, such as those Fred Olsen operates.
Find out about all the ships in the Fred Olsen Cruise Lines fleet