Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
Fodor’s Expert Review
With its Norwegian heritage of seamanship spanning over 150 years, family-owned Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has built a solid reputation of reliability and comfort for its UK-based fleet of smaller ships. Major refitting and refurbishment of old and recently acquired ships since 2008 have earned the company high industry accolades. Two sister ships from the defunct luxury Royal Viking Line, Royal Viking Star and Royal Viking Sky, have reunited under the Fred. Olsen house flag and now sail as Black Watch and Boudicca. The Balmoral and Braemar complete the four-vessel fleet.Read More
Shipboard ambience is friendly, relaxed, and unabashedly British. As Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines expands, the line takes pride in maintaining the consistency their passengers prefer and expect, both on board—in the self-described “British country house” atmosphere—and ashore. Activities and entertainment are traditional cruise-ship fare with a laid-back tempo, albeit on a much smaller scale compared to a typical American megaship. Lectures and the Arts Club special-interest program are popular, with classes in subjects ranging from gardening to painting, history to wine appreciation, and even bird- and wildlife-spotting.
Ballroom dancers outnumber the late-night disco set, and evening entertainment is more cabaret than Vegas. Particular favorites with most passengers are theme nights and the crew show. Cruises range from four-night “mini-breaks” to lengthier 7- to 78-night sailings. British pounds are used for all transactions on board. Although the line is destination-focused—itineraries are seldom repeated within any cruise season—itinerary planning is versatile.
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What to Expect on Board
Attractively presented and above-average in quality, food in Fred.
Olsen dining rooms and buffets is plentiful, though generally prepared to the tastes of older British travelers. Vegetarian selections are always available, and other special dietary considerations can be fulfilled with three to four weeks’ advance notice. The line’s Norwegian ownership is evident in the high quality of seafood and fish dishes offered. A fairly extensive and quite affordable wine list enhances the cuisine.
Unfortunately, there are no alternative-dining restaurants on board. While tea service is available to all, a more formal afternoon tea—served by white-gloved waiters on fine bone china with an assortment of sandwiches and sweets—is provided for an additional charge of £6.95 per person.
The “Music and Laughter at Sea” program with jazz, rock, opera, and other musical styles aims to please all tastes.
The Mediterranean cruise offers a gardening theme with free workshops as part of the Arts Club enrichment lectures. At night, a variety of artists and bands include a Rat Pack tribute band, the Honey B’s, and Opera Interludes (who have performed for the royal family). Guest speakers have included the crime writer D. I. Clifford Wrate. To complement the number of single-occupancy cabins, gentlemen hosts are on hand as dance partners or card game opponents for unaccompanied ladies.
Spas, beauty salons, and fitness centers are featured throughout the fleet.
Spas and salons offer a full menu of services, including some spa treatments clearly designed for older passengers, such as an Arthritic Body & Retention Fluid procedure. There is no fee to use fitness equipment in the gyms, but there is a charge for some specialized exercise classes, like yoga, Pilates, and kickboxing. Golfers can sign up for tee times for rounds ashore with the resident PGA pro, who freely offers tips and advice during play.
Key cruising tips
Well-traveled, mature British passengers who enjoy the time-honored shipboard environment with a formal style make up the majority on board Fred. Olsen sailings. However, it’s not unusual to find several generations of families all cruising together during summer months and school holiday breaks, when children’s activity programs are offered to please grandparents who wish to spend quality time with their extended families.
Requested attire is appropriately casual during the day and consists of three types of traditional shipboard evening dress—formal, informal, and casual. Most passengers still “dress” for dinner, which includes black tie on formal nights and a regular jacket and tie for men on informal evenings.
Cruises aboard Fred. Olsen ships are adult-oriented, and while families are welcome, no dedicated youth facilities are available, leaving parents completely responsible for their children’s behavior and entertainment. Teenagers with mature tastes (and who don’t mind the absence of a game room) might enjoy the intriguing ports of call.
The mostly Filipino staff provides good service with warmth and friendliness, but not a lot of polish.
Recommended gratuities, which are added to your onboard account, are £4 per passenger per day for your cabin steward and dining room waiter.
If you have cruised with Fred. Olsen within the past five years, you have automatically become an Oceans Club member. If you have not yet taken your first Fred. Olsen cruise, then you will automatically be given a membership upon return from your first trip. You will be issued a membership card with your individual six-digit membership number that you should use when making future cruise bookings to enjoy special benefits.
One cruise point is awarded for every night spent on board cruises that have departed since January 1, 2000. As more cruise points are earned, you will automatically be upgraded to the next level of membership.
Blue Level (1–30 points) receives a Membership Card; 5% advance-booking discount for reservations made at least six months in advance of departure date; advance notice of next season’s cruises; advance registration service; an “Introduce a Friend” reward scheme; Cruiselines newsletter; an onboard representative; a dedicated section of the Fred. Olsen website; and a dedicated email address to the Oceans Club Administrator.
Silver Level (31–100 points) receives all Blue Level benefits, plus Oceans Cocktail Party; 5% discount on onboard charges; and 5% discount off Flagship Golf packages.
Gold Level (over 100 points) receives all Blue and Silver Level benefits, plus a welcome aboard gift; personalized luggage labels; priority embarkation at UK ports; a dedicated telephone line to the Oceans Club Administrator; complimentary shuttle-bus pass; and 5% discount off shore tours booked prior to departure.