Family-owned Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines proudly boasts a Norwegian heritage of seamanship and a fleet of small ships that offer an intimate cruising experience. Although the fleet doesn’t consist of new vessels, all were well constructed originally and have been refitted since 2001. 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.
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, though on a much smaller scale than you find on the typical American megaship. Lectures are popular, and the ArtsClub special-interest program, which offers classes in subjects ranging from gardening to paining, 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.
Attractively presented and above-average in quality, a wide variety of menu options are available in the dining rooms and buffets. 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 clearly 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, but proper afternoon tea—a treasured British tradition—has been restored aboard Fred. Olsen ships with the introduction of a very special enhanced tea that restores the uniquely British meal to its former glory. Served in a relaxed atmosphere and accompanied by gentle background music, the new, enhanced afternoon tea does not replace the traditional tea that is still served daily as part of the cruise price, but it offers a slightly more formal experience for an additional charge of £5.95 per person. The new afternoon tea is served by waiters wearing white gloves and uses fine bone china. Guests have a choice of teas, including some herbal, Indian, and China varieties, and a superb selection of delicate sandwiches, freshly baked cakes, scones with cream and jam, and many more afternoon treats.
Fitness and Recreation
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 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.
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 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 your 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 apent 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 Web site; 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 101 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.
Choose This Line If
You are partial to British traditions and food and especially like a proper afternoon tea service.
You don’t like cigarette smoke. Smoking is strictly limited to outside decks on all ships and banned in cabins.
You don’t like taxis. The line always provides a shuttle (small fee) to beaches and town centers more than 15 minutes away by foot.
Don’t Choose This Line If
You want to drink your own duty-free liquor aboard. Everything is collected as you board and returned at the end of the cruise.
You like extravagant entertainment. Smallish showrooms comfortably stage only small reviews and stand-up comedians.
You must have instant access to your e-mail. Computer rooms are small, and Wi-Fi is limited to public rooms.
Theme nights, such as British Night, 1960s Night, and Tropical Night are festive occasions when passengers dress up and participate in related activities.
Special-interest cruises may bring aboard experts in specialized fields such as music, gardening, or painting.
To complement the number of single-occupancy cabins, Gentlemen Hosts are on hand to dance with unaccompanied ladies.
Good to Know
Unlike most cruise lines, Fred. Olsen does not sell timed packages for Internet access via its shipboard computers, and it can be discouraging to watch the charges add up while not much happens on screen.
With Wi-Fi, you pay £5 for 25 minutes or £10 for 50 minutes. However, coverage is not available from bow to stern or in cabins, as it is on many other cruise ships. On Black Watch it is limited to the Library; on Braemar hot spots are in the Library and the Braemar Lounge; and on Balmoral they are located in the Library, Braemar Lounge, and the Card Room. Wi-fi routers will be installed on Boudicca early in 2011.