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Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Balmoral

Most readers will be aware of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines and many, in fact, would have travelled on one of their cruises.

Unlike most of their competitors who operate far larger, newer fleets, that has not featured in Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines highly successful modus operandi. Instead, they operate four smaller-sized, classicallydesigned cruise ships from local UK departure ports to hundreds of stunning destinations around the globe. The current marketing slogan makes the claim that “Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines brings the world closer to you”. Collectively, their vessels have had millions spent on them, so it is hard to easily interpret that they aren’t ‘newbuilds’.

This UK-based, Norwegian-owned cruise shipping lines Operational Company Headquarters are in Ipswich, Suffolk, in the United Kingdom. The company was founded by Petter Olsen in 1848 and, by his death, the company had 16 ships with offices in Hvitsten, near Oslo. Petter’s son Thomas Fredrik “Fred” Olsen whom the company is named after, took the company from a small business with a few boats into a powerful multinational shipping and shipbuilding business. During World War I, 23 of the company’s 44 ships sank.

Later, interests expanded, including the aviation business. During World War II, another setback presented itself. The company’s ships were in Allied service, and 28 were lost – about half the fleet. Subsequently, numerous other interests have been pursued including wind farms and fast ferries.

Fred. Olsen is, today, owned by Anette S Olsen, the fifth generation of the family and daughter of Fred Olsen. She took over ownership of Fred. Olsen & Co in 1995 and has since been CEO, though Fred Olsen has remained Chairman. Another interest worthy of mention, includes a major stake in Timex watches.

The balance of this article will relate to their cruise business and my first cruise with Fred. Olsen two months ago.

I had booked a passage on their largest vessel, the Balmoral, on a late autumnal cruise from and to Southampton entitled ‘’Landscapes of the Canaries and Morocco” that departed from the UK’s busiest cruise port on the 24th November 2018.

Firstly was the weather going to be kind? Yes, sunshine interspersed with cloudy skies and only one day with rain showers!

A surprise for me, based on the Norwegian parentage of Fred. Olsen, was the limited number of passengers from that country on board, only four out of a total count of 1,001 persons. The United Kingdom contributed 967 persons to that total. Another relevant statistic worthy of posting was the impressive Crew/Passenger ratio of 510/1001.

Since Fred. Olsen caters primarily to British travellers, influence is evident in all the onboard activities, enrichment programming, cuisine, even currency (charges are valued in GBP /pounds).

Yet another surprise for me was the repeat business enjoyed by Fred. Olsen ships. Whilst other lines attract regular return custom, I doubt if the competition inspire the extreme loyalty among past guests that Fred. Olsen manage to achieve. On this cruise, the amiable Austrian Hotel Manager Michael Prantz confirmed that some 70% of my fellow passengers were ‘Repeaters’.

Equally amiable was the Master of the Balmoral, Captain Victor Stoica. The noon reports provided interesting facts from this 17 year Fred. Olsen veteran from Romania.

The ports included in the itinerary had been well chosen and appealed to the passengers. Particularly Gran Tarajal, Fuerteventura. This Port had been totally refurbished for a three year period and our call on the 2nd December was the first call of a cruise liner. Notwithstanding it was a Sunday, the town came out to greet us. The Mayor and Civic Officials were at the Harbour Gate. Music was provided by five or six bands throughout the town, fashion shows were also organised, not forgetting the Market Place, which featured both Cotton Candy and a Chocolate Fountain that were also advertised in the colour leaflet produced for the occasion! Gran Tarajal was buzzing!

Prior to sailing, a slight weather related mishap occurred in the afternoon. A 22 knots east/south easterly wind decided it wished the Balmoral to enjoy an extended stay in the Port. The shallow breakwater on our port side also played its part. Assistance from a tug was required, and that was only able to be on station the next morning at 10am.

More on this and other news in Sea Breezes Magazine - January 2019 Issue
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