Courtesy of Fred.Olsen
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Courtesy of Fred.Olsen
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Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Our Review
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger

So you may be wondering, what’s with the period after “Fred”? That’s the way the first Fredrik Olsen, a Norwegian who co-founded a shipping company back in 1848, spelled it — and the tradition continued as the company helped pioneer the modern cruise industry in the 1960s. Still owned by Norway’s Olsen family — now in its fifth generation — Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has a quirky charm that appeals to its primarily British passengers (the line is now based in England). Guests tend to be age 50-plus and are fans of its mid-sized ships, low-key ambiance, good value, and wide-ranging itineraries. Don’t expect a lot of bells and whistles, or the latest in ocean-going technology here. But Fred. Olsen offers a quality, traditional cruise experience, complete with swimming pools, Jacuzzis, spas, and stage shows.

What We Love

Mid-Size Ships: In an era of mega ships, Fred. Olsen has resisted the trend to go big. The three vessels in its fleet — Balmoral, Borealis, and Bolette — each carry fewer than 1,400 guests — and the latter two are former Holland America ships (Rotterdam and Amsterdam, respectively) acquired and refurbished in 2020.

Surprising Cuisine: Forget the British culinary stereotypes — Fred. Olsen ships serve up inventive meals with a choice of restaurants, including both formal and casual dining options, and diverse menus.

Best Known For

British Atmosphere: Have a pint in the pub, try your hand at deck quoits, read an Agatha Christie mystery in the well-appointed library, take traditional British afternoon tea — and don’t forget to pack your dinner jacket and cocktail dresses for formal nights. (The ships’ captains aren’t British, however.)

Intriguing Itineraries: Besides cruising the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Baltic, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Australia, the Arctic, and the Canary Islands, Fred. Olsen also offers around-the-world voyages. Its smaller vessels can reach off-the-beaten-track ports the mega ships cannot.

Who It's Best For

Retirees and Anglophiles: Those who like to see the world from a deck chair and discuss the latest offerings from the BBC should love Fred. Olsen.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

Ships Are Old-School: The Fred. Olsen fleet is comparatively old-school (and old) by current cruise ship standards, with Balmoral dating back to 1988, Borealis to 1997, and Bolette to 2000. That said, they can also be considered “classics,” and the line has done numerous upgrades to the cabins and public areas during refittings and refurbishments.