There’s no denying it: The European cruise market is hot. Even so, North American cruisers remain largely unaware of the niche lines that ply European waters year-round, long after the mainstream North American lines have sailed back to the Caribbean.
Fred. Olsen Cruises is one such line. Norwegian in heritage but based out of the UK, Fred. Olsen caters largely to the British cruise market, offering sailings that cover just about every area of the globe. At its core, however, are the numerous Northern Europe, Western Europe, Mediterranean and Canary Islands sailings the line is best known for.
Just because Fred. Olsen focuses on the UK market doesn’t mean cruisers from other countries aren’t welcome. In fact, far from it. For North American cruisers looking to see Europe and step outside the confines of the familiar mainstream lines, Fred. Olsen just might have an itinerary and on-board product that’s right for you. And with a variety of homeports throughout the United Kingdom, North American travelers have only to hop on one of the numerous flights to London’s Heathrow or Gatwick airports in order to take part.
One of the things we like best about this line is its incredibly diverse fleet of classic cruise ships, all of which have been carefully refurbished to bring them in line with contemporary vessels.
Black Watch and Boudicca are thought by many cruise enthusiasts to be some of the most beautiful ships ever designed, and they certainly turned heads when they were first launched. Built in the mid-1970’s for the now-defunct Royal Viking Line, these former sister ships have been reunited again under the Fred. Olsen flag. But don’t go thinking these ships will be all disco-boots and ABBA tunes: Both ships have been so tastefully refurbished that you’d be forgiven if you mistook them for vessels that are brand-new. What you get is really a blend of both worlds: a cruise ship with classic, oceangoing lines but without compromising modern features and amenities.
Braemar has had a long list of operators, from Cunard to Norwegian Cruise Line, but none have arguably taken better care of her than Fred. Olsen. Eagle-eyed observers may remember her from her days as Norwegian Dynasty, but as with Black Watch and Boudicca, Braemar has been through her own extensive refurbishment program.
The first step was to lengthen her by almost 100 feet; a job that was completed at the capable Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg, Germany. There, she was also fitted with new staterooms, public areas, and a new forward-facing observation lounge located high atop the ship’s navigation bridge. These additions increased her passenger capacity, but also gave her more amenities and features, like an expanded pool deck.
She is also an extraordinarily bright ship, thanks to walls of floor-to-ceiling windows in public rooms and an impressive, multi-story atrium flanked by walls of glass windows. If you like your ships light, airy and attractive, it’s tough to go wrong with Braemar.
Balmoral is probably better known to many as the former Norwegian Crown. Purchased from Norwegian Cruise Line, Balmoral also paid a visit to the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg to undergo an extensive renovation. She was cut in half and had a new midsection inserted, a process that increased her overall length by 100 feet and added new staterooms and public areas, increased her promenade deck space and doubled the length of her upper pool deck.
An entire deck of balcony staterooms was also created, and additional balcony cabins were refurbished, as with all the existing accommodations aboard Balmoral. Public rooms were gutted and entirely refitted in order to both modernize them and better reflect the tastes of the British market. The ship boasts new bars, new restaurants, a well-stocked library, and a new pub, the Morning Light.
While some refits are misfires, the great thing about what Fred. Olsen has done with Balmoral is that she looks even better after the refit than she did before. Her lines are still clean, her decks uncluttered. If you sailed the Norwegian Crown in the past, chances are you’ll be pleasantly surprised with her in her new role as Balmoral.
Curious to know more? Check out the new Fred. Olsen company profile and fleet overviews available right here on Avid Cruiser. In September, we’ll sail on the line’s Balmoral to France, Spain and Portugal to provide readers with a first-hand account of this interesting line, complete with a multitude of photos and video overviews to help you make cruise decisions from the cruise website that is always informed, inspired, passionate and personal.