Jump to content

Fred's Gone?


Recommended Posts

4 hours ago, tring said:

 

Yes late offers not coming up really for the smaller P&O ships.  One of our winter cruises is Aurora round trip Caribbean,which we got at a decent price at launch, (it sold out within a few hours).  The others on Azura are cheaper again.  They are longer, (16nt and 20 nt), translocation cruises with midship, deck C balcony cabins (so double depth balconies).  We booked those Azura cruises for only a tad over £80pppn, but again for a single person that would work out more expensive.  Also if there is not much space on the open decks, staying on a balcony would be far less appealing if on your own IMO, but no problem for us if the weather is warm.  All a bit of a trial for us though since apart from an Arcadia Baltic in summer 2019 and a solar eclipse and northern lights, it has been a number of years since we did many P&O cruises, yet have a good few of those, (along with Swan Hellenic when linked to P&O), under our belts.  

 

I think we will see changes and with other cruise lines as well, they cannot keep the same clientele for ever and P&O have made it clear they want to go for the family market, though I do think we may still see some good deals off season with them.  There is a lot of choice out there, everyone just has to find out what is right for them,

 

Cheers,

 

Barbara

 

 

 

Tried Azura twice but would only be tempted again if I was guaranteed she was sailing no more than 75% capacity - so that's not going to happen...😂

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Britboys said:

Tried Azura twice but would only be tempted again if I was guaranteed she was sailing no more than 75% capacity - so that's not going to happen...😂

 

I doubt it will be completely full in these times, the first is early Oct, but at that price we will cope.  A fair number of ports with good weather as it is a fly cruise.  Also we got used to avoiding busier parts of ships, having been on Sky Princess and Ambience without social distancing.  Lunch in an MDR and evening meal.in the self service, goes a good way to that, which we can couple with a few visits to speciality restaurants.  Quite happy to eat at less busy times as well, so the bar areas tend to be quieter when we want to use them and we rarely go to the shows, so no probs there  As I said all a trial for us, but Manchester airport seems to be resembling pre covid times as well from reports, so land holidays are now realistic options as well and Man airport only 35 miles from home c.f. Southampton at 250 miles, though I do have a couple of cousins in Southampton and DH's school friends are in the Portsmouth area, so we do not mind going there say once a year or so.

 

Happy holidays, no matter how you spend them, 

 

Barbara

 

 

Edited by tring
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

21 hours ago, Britboys said:

If Fred Junior is taking some time out maybe whoever has the rudder will make some changes...

 

That surely has to happen and happen soon.

 

Way back in mid-June 2020, it was reported that Fred Jun had acquired the old Amsterdam and the even older Rotterdam from Holland America Lines on the basis of a 5-year tenor (hire-purchase scheme to common folk) FOCLs would pay nothing for three year and then there would be annual instalments of £7.43 million at a 2.5% fixed interest cost. There was also a report that it was HAL's finance people arranged the deal for FOCLs. I think that the repayment may be due to kick in mid-September 2022.

 

The 'transfer' of the ships to FOCLs is perhaps a bit of an over-simplification. The MS Borealis was actually transferred to a company called Borealis Cruise Ltd, a subsidiary of Fred Olsen (Holdings) Ltd on 10 September 2020. (FOHL is controlled by the Norwegian company Bonheur ASA.) The Borealis was hired on a charter to FOCLs at market rates. Peter Deer is one of three directors of Borealis Cruise Ltd but there are no Olsen's on the Board.

 

It's a very similar story for the Bolette which is owned by Bolette Cruise Ltd.

 

The conventional 'wisdom' is that if a cruise line can-achieve 70% occupancy rates/loading that it will be in profit.

 

The problem in the second quarter of 2022 would seem to be that FOCLs has stated that their occupancy rate was 73% but that the company still lost about £9.4 million... a back of a used-envelope scribble or two might suggest that FOCLs would need nearer 85% occupancy rate on all four of its ships just to break even... and that's before FOCLs thought about paying for the two old HAL ships or paying back the £94.1 million that they currently owe to other people.

 

We're certainly hoping that whoever takes the position as Chairman of FOCLs will steer the company in the right direction... but it needs to be at 'full speed ahead!'

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 8/20/2022 at 2:24 PM, twotravellersLondon said:

These vague, unsupportable 'Unique Selling Point' claims are really damaging the brand for us... with the uncompetitive pricing structure and the fact that it's really difficult to trust any company that advertises (terrace) cabins as balcony cabins when they don't have a balcony is very seriously deterring us from booking... although we still consider and compare almost every offer. 

 

Thinking back to before the pandemic started, the USP of smaller being best and bespoke itinerarites worked better with the smaller four ships Fred. had then.  To me, this was exemplified by the Braemar's Cornith Canal transit.  I think you'd have to look back to the Titanic Memorial Cruise back in 2012 to find an equivalent time when a Fred.Olsen ship was in the news and on social media.  That transit was such good publicity for the company.  Sadly it was beyond my budget, but I would have loved to have done that.   Strange then, that the Braemar is still laid up in Rosyth when she is the only ship of the "new" fleet that could do such an itinerary. 

 

People get very attached to ships, and feel great affection towards them.  Unceremoniously dumping the Bouddica and Black Watch during the pandemic and not even giving previous guests the possibility of taking part in a farewell season for both ships was a bad move.  Bringing in two new ships and claiming they were like-for-like small ships that are so unfamilar and different from the Fred.Olsen offering has likely alienated some previous guests (I know it has for me).  The pre-pandemic fleet had been with Fred for a while, so through the various refits their styles on board had become aligned, so there was a family feel that just doesn't exist on the HAL pair.  A light refresh, just adding Fred style carpet and soft-furnishing is not going to make them feel familar.  And given their age, I don't think they bring anything extra that the other ships didn't have, not when you compare to the Viking and Saga new-builds. 

 

Fred. have to have the Borealis and Bolette in service to try and earn the money needed to pay Carnival but it isn't working.  The Q1 report says both ships were out of service for two weeks due to "a significant number of crew members having to quarantine" because of Covid.   Then the latest Q2 report on Bonheur's website says an average 73% occupany across the three ships compared to 79% in the samer quarter in 2019.  So it's not going Fred.'s way, partly bad luck but mainly because they just can't get their former cruises back onboard, either people are cruising less or just not at all.  Clearly Fred Jr saw a good deal with the HAL ships, but it was only going to work if he could fill them with cruisers.  Seemingly he has failed.  So maybe that is why he has stepped aside.  He's had a year with them in service, but his gamble seems to have gone wrong.

 

As you pointed out, his own comment about loyal customers taking less cruises, that does seem rather self-defeating.  If your ships are (on average) over a quarter empty that can't be good for business.  Previous loyal cruisers such as ourselves are, I would say, "content" with the Fred. product, knowing the fleet is not the most modern or efficient.  So the product is not a barrier for entry, it is their pricing policy that is.  And with the cost of living and inflation issues we are having, people are going to choose the essentials over a cruise holiday.

 

If you are new to Fred. and say you have cruised with P&O, Saga or Cunard, you would look at your previous cruises and compare to Fred.'s and would most likely baulk at the higher prices.  Would you risk you hard earned money on a product you are uncertain of or feel is deficient compared to what you have experienced elsewhere?  If Fred.'s prices were lower, then perhaps new cruisers would feel it was a less of a risk to try. 

 

However many sales emails you send out, they aren't going to entice me, £100 onboard credit isn't going to cut it.  Please be sensible with your prices.

 

This current management philsophy of the Olsen Way and pricing strategy just aren't working.  The average occupancy rate proves it. 

 

Oh, and bring back the Braemar immediately.

 

Unless this happens I don't see a bright future for the company.  Unfortunately, none of us are getting younger, so some of Fred's current customers won't be their customers in ten year's time, so they will need to bring in new-to-Fred cruisers.  If Fred. are serious about cruising, then they are really going to need a new build to compete with Viking, Saga and all the new expedition type cruise companies encroaching on Fred's traditional market.

 

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 8/23/2022 at 3:12 PM, richard_london said:

 

Thinking back to before the pandemic started, the USP of smaller being best and bespoke itinerarites worked better with the smaller four ships Fred. had then.  To me, this was exemplified by the Braemar's Cornith Canal transit.  I think you'd have to look back to the Titanic Memorial Cruise back in 2012 to find an equivalent time when a Fred.Olsen ship was in the news and on social media.  That transit was such good publicity for the company.  Sadly it was beyond my budget, but I would have loved to have done that.   Strange then, that the Braemar is still laid up in Rosyth when she is the only ship of the "new" fleet that could do such an itinerary. 

 

People get very attached to ships, and feel great affection towards them.  Unceremoniously dumping the Bouddica and Black Watch during the pandemic and not even giving previous guests the possibility of taking part in a farewell season for both ships was a bad move.  Bringing in two new ships and claiming they were like-for-like small ships that are so unfamilar and different from the Fred.Olsen offering has likely alienated some previous guests (I know it has for me).  The pre-pandemic fleet had been with Fred for a while, so through the various refits their styles on board had become aligned, so there was a family feel that just doesn't exist on the HAL pair.  A light refresh, just adding Fred style carpet and soft-furnishing is not going to make them feel familar.  And given their age, I don't think they bring anything extra that the other ships didn't have, not when you compare to the Viking and Saga new-builds. 

 

Fred. have to have the Borealis and Bolette in service to try and earn the money needed to pay Carnival but it isn't working.  The Q1 report says both ships were out of service for two weeks due to "a significant number of crew members having to quarantine" because of Covid.   Then the latest Q2 report on Bonheur's website says an average 73% occupany across the three ships compared to 79% in the samer quarter in 2019.  So it's not going Fred.'s way, partly bad luck but mainly because they just can't get their former cruises back onboard, either people are cruising less or just not at all.  Clearly Fred Jr saw a good deal with the HAL ships, but it was only going to work if he could fill them with cruisers.  Seemingly he has failed.  So maybe that is why he has stepped aside.  He's had a year with them in service, but his gamble seems to have gone wrong.

 

As you pointed out, his own comment about loyal customers taking less cruises, that does seem rather self-defeating.  If your ships are (on average) over a quarter empty that can't be good for business.  Previous loyal cruisers such as ourselves are, I would say, "content" with the Fred. product, knowing the fleet is not the most modern or efficient.  So the product is not a barrier for entry, it is their pricing policy that is.  And with the cost of living and inflation issues we are having, people are going to choose the essentials over a cruise holiday.

 

If you are new to Fred. and say you have cruised with P&O, Saga or Cunard, you would look at your previous cruises and compare to Fred.'s and would most likely baulk at the higher prices.  Would you risk you hard earned money on a product you are uncertain of or feel is deficient compared to what you have experienced elsewhere?  If Fred.'s prices were lower, then perhaps new cruisers would feel it was a less of a risk to try. 

 

However many sales emails you send out, they aren't going to entice me, £100 onboard credit isn't going to cut it.  Please be sensible with your prices.

 

This current management philsophy of the Olsen Way and pricing strategy just aren't working.  The average occupancy rate proves it. 

 

Oh, and bring back the Braemar immediately.

 

Unless this happens I don't see a bright future for the company.  Unfortunately, none of us are getting younger, so some of Fred's current customers won't be their customers in ten year's time, so they will need to bring in new-to-Fred cruisers.  If Fred. are serious about cruising, then they are really going to need a new build to compete with Viking, Saga and all the new expedition type cruise companies encroaching on Fred's traditional market.

 

 

Thinking back to before the pandemic started, Fred's older ships had something of a vintage charm. 

 

We were on the Boudicca when the pandemic was declared during what was to be the Boudicca's last ever cruise. The ship was looking wonderful, especially all lit-up at night. Captain Mikael Degerlund was a great host... we had lots of little receptions, parties, cabarets and so-on. It certainly seemed most of the people had a very good time. There was just a hint of vintage cruising from half a century ago... something more relaxing, more leisurely, more sociable.... something more like a ship-community. It was a real joy. 

 

We were on the Corinth Canal Transit in 2019 with Captain Jozo Glavic and there was a similar feeling... there are few ships that the captain will mingle with the passengers at the post-transit BBQ and very few ships where a captain will receive a unanimous and whole hearted five-minute standing ovation from assembled passengers in the packed Neptune Lounge when he gave his farewell speech. It was one of the most moving collective moments that we've ever experienced on a cruise ship.

 

Indeed just before Covid we saw an ad. by an independent cruise site... "For those who have little recollection of the cruising world during the late 20th century, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines offer a chance to revisit this era on board their charming and elegantly renovated new vessels. The small size of the line’s current vessels enables them to sail to destinations and even along rivers which are generally considered to be inaccessible to larger ships." Now we think that was a really good Unique Selling Point. It was certainly one of the reasons that we sailed on Fred again and again and again.

 

So... "Pre-covid, Fred did have a clear, recognisable USP, a substantial and very loyal following and made money. In those days, Fred's four ships offered 3,879 berths and ran at an average occupancy rate of about 73%. FOCL's revenues averaged about £50 million each quarter, and he was clearing over £1 million a quarter in profits even after buying in services from the other parts of the Bonheur empire.

 

But then Fred Jun acquired the two old ships from Holland America Line. Fred Jun is reported to have said... "This acquisition forms part of an optimization of the Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ fleet composition and with a high yielding cabin mix and large public spaces, these vessels will enhance Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ earnings capabilities." Time would tell...

 

Two years later... FOCLs has the 10 point "Olsen Way," a brand where loyalty seems to be declining and the company that is making historically high financial losses. These days, FOCLs' four ships theoretically offer 4,959 berths... (4,035 while the Braemar remains out of action) and the three remaining ships run at 73% occupancy rate. FOCLs' revenues are over £67 million in the last quarter (April/May/June 2022) but, despite charging about the same amount of people a lot more for their cruises,  it looks like Fred made a lost of about £40 million in that quarter... so it's costing FOCLs twice as much to keep the ships afloat as it did two years ago... and passenger numbers are virtually the same despite the fact that fleet capacity has increased from 3,879 berths to 4,959 berths. 

 

As prospective cruisers, we feel that the fact that if the company seem to have no effective succession plan and no decision has been made about a chairman in these challenging times... is a bit like expecting us to cruise on a ship that doesn’t have a captain, go to a show that doesn’t have a cast or eat in a restaurant that doesn’t have a chef.

 

It now very much looks as if other people may have the same idea. We've seen one report of an email that's gone out today to people who were cruising on the Bolette in the next few months; "The winter is always a quieter period for cruising and this year a small number of sailings have not quite reached the guest numbers we were hoping for, at a time when fuel costs are particularly high for us all... In light of this, we have made the decision to cancel a small number of Bolette’s cruises this winter."

 

As was explained so well above... "This current management philosophy of the Olsen Way and pricing strategy just aren't working.  The average occupancy rate proves it." 

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 8/24/2022 at 6:36 PM, twotravellersLondon said:

As prospective cruisers, we feel that the fact that if the company seem to have no effective succession plan and no decision has been made about a chairman in these challenging times... is a bit like expecting us to cruise on a ship that doesn’t have a captain, go to a show that doesn’t have a cast or eat in a restaurant that doesn’t have a chef.

 

With the news breaking yesterday of the cancelled Bolette cruises and the Balmoral's propeller issue, all following on from Fred Jr's departure it's looking like a difficult patch for FO.  It is worrying that they can't fill their cruises, we've discussed at length for a while the low occupancy rates on the three ships in service and it just seems to confirm the premature retirement of the Bouddica and Black Watch in the favour of the two larger HAL ships was a mistake.  I do worry, I'm waiting for the Braemar to be back in service.  There needs to be something demonstrable from Bonheur's leadership to get things in order, and show confidence in the company, because the cruise industry without Fred with be a lesser place.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 hours ago, richard_london said:

 

With the news breaking yesterday of the cancelled Bolette cruises and the Balmoral's propeller issue, all following on from Fred Jr's departure it's looking like a difficult patch for FO.  It is worrying that they can't fill their cruises, we've discussed at length for a while the low occupancy rates on the three ships in service and it just seems to confirm the premature retirement of the Bouddica and Black Watch in the favour of the two larger HAL ships was a mistake.  I do worry, I'm waiting for the Braemar to be back in service.  There needs to be something demonstrable from Bonheur's leadership to get things in order, and show confidence in the company, because the cruise industry without Fred with be a lesser place.

 

 

We were also very interested to see the message released by Peter Deer, FOCLs' current Managing Director, late on Thursday evening and we thought that his explanation of why Bolette cruises and one Balmoral cruise had been cancelled was refreshingly open. 

 

We would certainly agree that FOCL's are going through a difficult patch but so are all cruise lines at the moment and it's really up to the leadership of cruise-lines to have the ambition,  energy and vision, to steer a course and follow their own particular star... but they do need to know what that star... or goal... is!

 

Very surprisingly, Peter Deer's suggestion that; "We continue to be proud of our family-run business with both Fred. Olsen and Anette Olsen remaining on our board." seemed to underestimate the scope and scale of the Olsen Empire. It is chaired by Fred Olsen Sn. and is managed by Anette Olsen but the cruise sector is just one tiny, tiny part of a very large and complex concern.

 

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines was incorporated on 12 December 1991. The current company officers are Jeremy Dowler, Richard Aa, Peter Deer and Anette Olsen. Fred Olsen Sn. was a company officer between 15 November 2005 and 11 September 2008. Fred Olsen Jr. was a company officer between 19 July 1993 and 4 July 2022.

 

The immediate parent company of FOCLs is First Olsen (Holdings) Ltd which acts as a holding company for the Fred Olsen cruise businesses. The current company officers are Jeremy Dowler, Richard Aa, Peter Deer, Fred Olsen Sn. and Anette Olsen. Fred Olsen Jr. was a company officer between 3 December 2002 and 4 July 2022. First Olsen (Holdings) Ltd owns an number of companies; Fred Olsen Cruise Lines Ltd, Black Watch Cruise Ltd, Boudicca Cruise Ltd, Balmoral Cruise Ltd, Borealis Cruise Ltd, Bolette Cruise Ltd. First Olsen (Holdings) Ltd also has a 50% share in Fred Olsen House (JV) Ltd.

 

The immediate parent company of First Olsen (Holdings) Ltd is the Norwegian company, First Olsen Holdings AS.

 

The ultimate parent company is, Bonheur AS in Norway, a holding company which owns a considerable number of Olsen related companies. There are six directors on the Board. The only Olsen on the Bonheur Board is Fred. Olsen Sn. Bonheur ASA has no employees. However a different company, Fred. Olsen & Co. has about 40 employees and is owned and managed by Anette Olsen. Fred. Olsen & Co. provides administrative, financial, legal and HR services to Bonheur ASA and its subsidiaries, associates and other Fred. Olsen related companies. The Olsen companies employ about 4,500  people spread over more than 18 different countries.

At the time of the last annual report, privately owned  Fred Olsen related companies owned a controlling interest in Bonheur. A little under 50% of the company was owned by, mainly, institutional investors including major banks. The company is a major player in the renewable energy market and electricity generation. The operating income given in the last annual report was NOK 7,541 million (£660 million). Over the last five years the Bonheur share price has increased from about €8.3 to €40. It's a vast empire... it's the stuff that billionaires are made of! 

 

So the cruise line begins to pale into relative insignificance.

 

After scrutinising every detail that we could find about the old HAL ships, listening to the views of friends who were very regular FOCLs cruisers who had sailed on these "refreshed" ships several times, we've also been put-off booking again until the Braemar is back in service.

You're perfectly right that the cruise industry without FOCLs would be a lesser place. It's very much to our advantage that the cruise industry is a competitive market so that the cruise lines do focus on offering the very best product at the most competitive rate. We whole heartedly agree that there needs to be something demonstrable from Bonheur's leadership to get things in order, and to show confidence in the company in a way that will win the trust of folks like us and persuade us to book ahead with FOCL's rather than other companies.

 

We feel that there just seems to be a lack of awareness in FOCLs that, to many people, the pricing strategy is a major problem. Telling people that they can cruise from a certain price when "gratuities" are then added automatically is just wrong. Charging clients for water in cabins and when leaving on excursions is similarly wrong. Pricing balcony cabins, that many people now regard as standard, so many time higher that the "Cruise-from" price is a real turn-off. Offering launch deals that are then undercut prior to departure is really off-putting. 

 

Groups of clients crowding around the free WIFI hubs at ports because the cost on board FOCLs is so high... is not a good look. If FOCLs would rather have a cabin empty than allow a single person to use it at the same fare as everyone else... no wonder cruises are being cancelled due to so few bookings. It all gives the impression that someone, somewhere has been far too busy "bean-counting" for years to be aware or to understand what impression all of this makes on paying-passengers... who, in many cases,  can, do and have taken their cash elsewhere.

 

That's why the suggestion that, "There needs to be something demonstrable from Bonheur's leadership to get things in order, and show confidence in the company." is so important...  that's why it's really up to the leadership of cruise-lines to have the ambition, energy and vision, to steer a course and follow their own particular star and to enthuse and attract clients to join them on the journey. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Everyone has been mentioning the competition with P&O Cunard etc but the one cruise line we have continually gone back to for an excellent week away is Marella……all inclusive, great food and entertainment and very friendly crew.. We love Fred….are booked on the African and Indian Ocean Adventure….but agree there are many downsides to their operations…….hopefully by the time Nov 2023 comes around things might be sorted and our cruise will be as enjoyable as all the other long ones we have done on Fred.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

22 hours ago, twotravellersLondon said:

If FOCLs would rather have a cabin empty than allow a single person to use it at the same fare as everyone else... no wonder cruises are being cancelled due to so few bookings.

 

With Fred's bad news at the moment I thought I should try and book a cruise to show some solidarity with them.  I looked at a number of itineraries and was staggered by the pricing for solo cabins.  I've done a comparison based on the 8 day European River Cities on the Braemar (https://www.fredolsencruises.com/cruise/european-river-cities-m2410)

 

Looking at advertised prices and clicking to book online first as a couple and then as a solo, which is my requirement

 

2 PAX

Superior suite (SS) = £2,799 per person
Suite (BS) = £2,499 per person
Deluxe balcony (DC) = £2,299 per person
Balcony (BA) = £2,199 per person
Superior ocean view (A) = £1,749 per person
Ocean view porthole (D) = £1,399 per person

 

1 PAX

Superior suite (SS) = No comparable grade
Suite (JB) = £3,399 per person
Deluxe balcony (DC) = No comparable grade
Superior Ocean view (advertised as ocean view but has balcony) (J) = £2,999 per person
Single ocean view (K) = £2,599 per person
Ocean view porthole (L) = £2,299 per person

 

So some grades aren't comparable because there aren't as many single cabins, but the difference is astonishing.

 

Suite is + £900
Balcony is + £800
Ocean view window is + £850
Porthole window is + £900

 

They are basically charging 150 per cent of the per passenger rate but that cabins can't accomdoate two people, all the photos show single beds.  I can understand if I booked a two pax cabin for one person, that I would need to pay the 2 pax rate.  

 

So for the "privilege" of travelling as a solo pasenger with Fred, who like to say they cater for solo travellers, I am paying between £800  and £900 for a solo cabin more than my fellow passengers travelling as couples. 

 

I know Fred aren't alone in this, I do hate the single occupancy supplement.  It should be banned.

 

But in the meantime, as much as I'd like to show my solidarity with Fred I won't be. 

 

Edited by richard_london
  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 8/26/2022 at 7:49 PM, jessybell said:

Everyone has been mentioning the competition with P&O Cunard etc but the one cruise line we have continually gone back to for an excellent week away is Marella……all inclusive, great food and entertainment and very friendly crew.

I agree with this, Marella is a good alternative, and I've cruised with them many times.

However this year they only have fly cruises and I'm not going near an airport just yet. 

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 8/27/2022 at 5:14 PM, richard_london said:

With Fred's bad news at the moment I thought I should try and book a cruise to show some solidarity with them.

 

We're in the same position but find it so sad that folks like us are not unusual.

 

In the last quarter of 2019, Fred had a capacity over the four ships with a total of about 3,879 passenger berths and he carried, on average about, 2,533 cruisers a day... an occupancy of about 65% at a time of the year that ships have been traditionally hard to fill.

 

In late October and the beginning of November this year FOCLs' will only have one ship out of the four in the fleet cruising. The Braemar will still be mothballed, the Borealis will be in dry dock and the Bolette will have been taken out of service for about two months due to lack of sales. So for a small part of the last quarter of this year, FOCLs will be operating only one ship, the Balmoral, which may well struggle to attract 1,000 passengers and she currently seems to be far from full. 

 

We had fancied the Balmoral's Northern Lights cruise but if we buy it now; the price will most probably drop or offers will be added before the Balmoral sails and we'll be left out of pocket. The current £100 "come-on" offer is so small as to be insignificant. 

 

We can have a like-for-like cabin on a far newer, smaller ship with a real theatre, a superb cabaret lounge, better entertainment, far better food, premium drinks, speciality restaurants, 24 hr room service, travel to and from the port, insurance and WIFI all included. Even Arctic parkas and ice grips are included in the price! In addition, we now know what excursions will be available, exactly when the ship is due to arrive and leave every port, have a guarantee that if the price drops we'll be fully refunded  and... will be compensated by 20% of the full cost of the cruise if it's cancelled. In addition we'll have a full refund of any money we've paid and a generous discount off any future cruise. 

 

We can also help ourselves to free bottles of water anytime that we leave the ship! Fred changes... even those people with included drinks packages!

 

And that's why, in these hard times, we've booked with one of FOCLs competitors.

Edited by twotravellersLondon
Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 minutes ago, twotravellersLondon said:

 

 

We're in the same position but find it so sad that folks like us are not unusual.

 

In the last quarter of 2019, Fred had a capacity over the four ships with a total of about 3,879 passenger berths and he carried, on average about, 2,533 cruisers a day... an occupancy of about 65% at a time of the year that ships have been traditionally hard to fill.

 

In late October and the beginning of November this year FOCLs' will only have one ship out of the four in the fleet cruising. The Braemar will still be mothballed, the Borealis will be in dry dock and the Bolette will have been taken out of service for about two months due to lack of sales. So for a small part of the last quarter of this year, FOCLs will be operating only one ship, the Balmoral, which may well struggle to attract 1,000 passengers and she currently seems to be far from full. 

 

We had fancied the Balmoral's Northern Lights cruise but if we buy it now; the price will most probably drop or offers will be added before the Balmoral sails and we'll be left out of pocket. The current £100 "come-on" offer is so small as to be insignificant. 

 

We can have a like-for-like cabin on a far newer, smaller ship with a real theatre, a superb cabaret lounge, better entertainment, far better food, premium drinks, speciality restaurants, 24 hr room service, travel to and from the port, insurance and WIFI all included. Even Arctic parkas and ice grips are included in the price! In addition, we now know what excursions will be available, exactly when the ship is due to arrive and leave every port, have a guarantee that if the price drops we'll be fully refunded  and... will be compensated by 20% of the full cost of the cruise if it's cancelled. In addition we'll have a full refund of any money we've paid and a generous discount off any future cruise. 

 

And that's why, in these hard times, we've booked with one of FOCLs competitors.

We have probably booked the same Northern lights cruise as you from your description!We are interested in the Fred cruise to the Balkans next September but are not willing to pay the price knowing it is likely to be reduced nearer the time. I am hoping that Fred will bring back the 3 cruises for the price of 2 offer which I think would increase bookings

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting thread. We’ve done about six cruises with FO, only company we’ve gone with so haven’t compared competitor prices. I do get a 5% discount thanks to my old employer which helps. Only interested in no-fly cruises.

We’ve recently done the Adriatic cruise on Bolette (initially called the Balkan cruise, name changed presumably for marketing reasons!). We enjoyed Bolette, first time we’ve had a so-called suite with balcony. Theatre was much better size than on the smaller ships. There were about 850 px on board cf capacity, I think, of 1,300. Same captain as the one we had on the Corinth Canal cruise, excellent guy (as mentioned above).

Shore visits were slightly disappointing as some of them were little more than a half-day.  
Food was up to the usual standard, some days better than others. We did have a huge benefit in a £200pp on board spend.

Covid was a problem which I didn’t see mentioned above. Ship would only admit to 100 cases, but we suspect more. My wife was pinged, which meant she had to test daily before leaving the cabin. But this has put us off booking any cruises in the near future - the risk of being confined to your cabin for a prolonged period is just too great. Our final port was to have been Tangiers but they refused to let us dock because of the Covid situation on board.

 

Regards. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 minutes ago, ann141 said:

We have probably booked the same Northern lights cruise as you from your description!We are interested in the Fred cruise to the Balkans next September but are not willing to pay the price knowing it is likely to be reduced nearer the time. I am hoping that Fred will bring back the 3 cruises for the price of 2 offer which I think would increase bookings

 

 We've done a number of 3 for 2 offers and at first they were really excellent. However, the last time that we looked at one, the offer seemed to have been made shortly after the cruise prices had increased. It was really difficult to work out what the prices had been a couple of months before and it may be that we just got it wrong but we couldn't see any financial advantage... we would have wanted to be able to check real figures so that we could trust that an offer really was an offer.  

 

The point that you make really hits the nail on the head... for the last few years FOCLs' pricing strategy has been really difficult for prospective cruisers to fathom. 

 

Even Black Friday deals... last time that we looked the offers seemed to be wonderful... but when we looked closer... the offers only applied to one or two grades of cabin on certain cruises... everything else was the same price as it had been before. And... we weren't just weren't interested in the grades of cabin on offer.

 

However...FOCLs really did dramatically reduce the price for cabins with balconies on an Iceland/Greenland cruise that they did this summer... shortly before sailing. Some people who booked in the weeks before departure would have been able save thousands. So you may well be onto a winner by waiting.

 

We did a very similar cruise to Iceland and Greenland with another more up-market cruise-line at about the same time... and FOCLs last-minute reduced prices almost matched the daily rate of what we'd paid... once all of FOCLS' additional charges were included.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Really interesting to read the perceptions of the Fred brand here. As a very new cruiser with little/zero knowledge of the industry until a year ago, my perception of Fred Olsen was that it was the two-and-a-half star, beige, past it's best british seaside guest house version of a cruise line for the over 70s which visited wet and windy islands in the North Atlantic. (Harsh I know). So I'm really suprised to read about the high prices mentioned here but less suprised, therefore, to read about low occupancy and a company which seems to be struggling to know what it is.

 

I have had a look and some of the itineraries sound good to me, but as many of you have said, the prices and lack of balcony cabins, and for me the traditional dining approach, isn't going to encourage me to book.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

18 hours ago, jimbo1683 said:

Really interesting to read the perceptions of the Fred brand here. As a very new cruiser with little/zero knowledge of the industry until a year ago, my perception of Fred Olsen was that it was the two-and-a-half star, beige, past it's best british seaside guest house version of a cruise line for the over 70s which visited wet and windy islands in the North Atlantic. (Harsh I know). So I'm really suprised to read about the high prices mentioned here but less suprised, therefore, to read about low occupancy and a company which seems to be struggling to know what it is.

It hasn't always been like this.  But since they decided to milk their loyal passengers by offering the same product at my higher prices (and adding a few fripperies), the magic has gone.  The management seem totally disconnected to how many of their previous guests feel about their prices and their product.  Also, Fred like to portray themselves as a friendly, family company but as twotravellersLondon points out they are part of a massive conglomerate. 

 

Customer service can be appalling - back in 2012 days before the Balmoral did the Titanic Memorial Cruise Fred slapped a large number of guests with a big fuel surcharge fee.  One cruise I did with them was struck with norovirus and the cruise curtailed. It was a terrible experience and customer experience and compensation was rubbish (I got the money back for the shortened cruise but all they offered was a reduction on a number of largely similar itineraries in a short timeframe, so I said no).  Then, after the cruise, strangely no-one on the cruise got their email from Feefo asking for feedback on the cruise.  Apparently there was an IT glitch!

 

So despite liking their ships I've not always had the best customer experience.  Which is why when they stick their prices up, for a couple of tired old HAL ships that Carnival couldn't wait to jettison, I'm going to look elsewhere.  It's sad really, because I had two cruises booked with Fred before the pandemic, but I've just had no compulsion to re-book.  I wish someone from Fred was reading this thread and more widely on the forum as I'm sure some small changes could improve their offering and attractiveness to previous guests.

Edited by richard_london
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 8/29/2022 at 10:56 PM, jimbo1683 said:

Really interesting to read the perceptions of the Fred brand here. As a very new cruiser with little/zero knowledge of the industry until a year ago, my perception of Fred Olsen was that it was the two-and-a-half star, beige, past it's best british seaside guest house version of a cruise line for the over 70s which visited wet and windy islands in the North Atlantic. (Harsh I know). So I'm really suprised to read about the high prices mentioned here but less suprised, therefore, to read about low occupancy and a company which seems to be struggling to know what it is.

 

19 hours ago, richard_london said:

It hasn't always been like this.  But since they decided to milk their loyal passengers by offering the same product at my higher prices (and adding a few fripperies), the magic has gone.  The management seem totally disconnected to how many of their previous guests feel about their prices and their product.

 

Jimbo.... that's a really telling comment about a fresh perspective on the "Fred" brand... but as Richard writes... " It hasn't always been like this."

 

There's a lot of mythology surrounding "Fred"... millions of conversations to the music of clinking tea-cups, the munching of finger sandwiches and the snaffling of tea-time fancies in the lounges over the years have seen to that... some of the rumours even have an element of truth about them.

 

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines really began life in 1993 and Thomas Fredrik Olsen, a 33-year-oldish Norwegian 'shipowner' of Hamilton Bermuda was listed as a director. (None other than Fred. Olsen Jun... "Fred" perhaps to be associated with his highly respected father) The intention was that the company would be in the commercial management of a cruise ship and by late 1994 it was receiving an annual fee for doing so. In 1997 the company chartered the cruise vessels, the MV Black Prince and the MV Black Watch. By August 2001 the MV Braemar was the third vessel to be added to the fleet. The Boudicca was added to the fleet in 2005 and the Balmoral joined in 2007. "Fred," as the company soon became to be known as, even did a 78-night Round Africa cruise in 2006... so the tradition continues even 18 years later!

 

For people like us who have been with "Fred" for so long we probably have a rose-tinted view of the line but those early years... really were happy, heady days. 

 

The ships were often full. Captain's Welcome Parties were really fun... there were great cheers for passengers who'd come from Australia, New Zealand, European countries the USA and Canada. The was a very positive atmosphere on the ships and everybody, including officers and entertainers, mixed and mingled, chatted and socialised.... and the main topic of conversation was the extraordinary things that we had done that day, the amazing sights that we'd seen and the unbelievable things that we'd discovered.  The entertainment was always different and far better than we could see in our local theatre. The food was fabulous... lobster, beef wellington and rack of lamb on virtually every cruise. The exceptionally well attended midnight buffet was groaning with irresistible goodies. The accommodation was better than a holiday camp or a seaside guest house. There was a great sense of camaraderie on the smaller ships. Even a storm-force 10 in the dreaded Bay of Biscay could be fun! Many of the destinations felt exotic, exciting and exhilarating. We drank large glasses of Scotch on the rocks (broken from glacial ice... and delivered by Santa Clause who had borrowed a tender) on the ship's deck in Prince Christian Sund, watched Walrus in now off-limits Magdalena Fjord, scraped a foot of fresh snow off a table by the Lido to eat breakfast and we were even distracted from watching the midnight sun off the North Cape by a Fin Whale emerging from the waves. When on one Balmoral cruise the retiring show company appeared at the end of the show in the most fabulous Venetian Masked Ball costumes and slowly created the most magnificent crescendo as they moved to the edge of the stage singing "Time to say goodbye" it was an immensely emotional and moving moment for us all. We just didn't want to go home... never ever!

 

Age was never a problem. There were usually about a couple of dozen kids and youngsters on board during the school holidays and they added to the fun and enjoyment. One, "Captain Jack"' had completed over 50 cruises with his grandparents and had been awarded a white officer's dinner jacket for use in formal evenings. Those were the days.... when the flags were flying when we joined the ship, when we were all invited to meet the Captain up on the bridge and when any minor inconvenience, like a late arrival, would result in drinks all round with the complements of the Captain at dinner that evening... there was an overwhelming feeling of warmth and generosity.

 

But... as Richard so clearly explains sometimes in the twenty-teenies seems to have gone very, very wrong. FOCLs decided to milk their loyal passengers by offering the same product at my higher prices. In 2011 FOCLs' published strategy was to obtain above inflation yields and keep costs below the Retail Price Index... in simple terms... to charge more for less... and that's exactly what the company did for ten years. 

 

The "the magic" really has gone. We well remember the gasp of horror in the Neptune lounge at the end of one cruise, where many people had expressed dismay at the food offering, when the 'cruise-director' announce that the "good news was that the food costs were down". We also remember the groan of disappointment at a future cruise presentation when it was announced that the ship we were on would have no departures from English ports in the following season because FOCLs was introducing 10 regional departure ports. Add to that that the drinks package has increased by between 500% and 700% since it was introduced. And prices... we did the Corinth Canal cruise in 2019.... if we were to do a virtually identical cruise in the same cabin in 2024... the cost would be 100% more. And the offering? Shows were becoming highly repetitive; the same comedian, the same script the same punch lines again and again and again. Different show companies, doing the same show in the same costumes and singing the same songs but not as well as previous companies. Menus were the same for years and began to compare really badly with either our local gastro-pub down the road or with our local 'high-end' restaurant.

 

What's the real cost to FOCLs? In the 10 years before the pandemic the occupancy levels on the ships declined from over 90% to almost 70%. And that's the real problem with FOCLs it can't retain many once loyal frequent cruisers like ourselves and it, seeming, can't compensate for that loss by recruiting new to FOCLs cruisers in sufficient numbers to compensate. The line still has some very loyal fans... some of whom would never dream of cruising with a different company and haven’t done so for years or, in some cases, ever. Many reviews on the FOCL's site comment on how; 'excellent', 'perfect', 'wonderful', 'brilliant', 'fabulous', 'amazing', 'fantastic', 'awesome' and 'superb' the line is and some people describe it as; 'first class', 'five star' while others write that they would never travel with any other line. But there again, passengers on certain FOCLs cruises are not invited to contribute. However, FOCLs remaining loyal fan base is clearly not sufficient to keep even three of the FOCLs ships cruising for two months this winter and currently it seems that the plan is to only have the Balmoral cruising in early November... and she would seem to be far from full. It may also be that these reviews, which are only posted by about 2% of the passengers on any cruise and are so full of hyperbole, may actually deter new cruisers from booking with company.

 

Like Richard, we wish someone in a leadership position at  FOCLs in Ipswich was reading this forum and considering just how the company can succeed in the future. "The Olsen Way" may mean that FOCLs are proud to do things differently and to sail its own course but that just doesn’t seem to be working. 

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 8/31/2022 at 1:08 PM, twotravellersLondon said:

And that's the real problem with FOCLs it can't retain many once loyal frequent cruisers like ourselves and it, seeming, can't compensate for that loss by recruiting new to FOCLs cruisers in sufficient numbers to compensate. The line still has some very loyal fans... some of whom would never dream of cruising with a different company and haven’t done so for years or, in some cases, ever.

 

I think this is the crux of the matter.  The pandemic has "broken" something for Fred.  Either their loyal cruisers aren't cruising at all or they don't want to cruise with the "new" Fred Olsen product.  I'm not sure which one it is, I imagine a bit of both, but I assume more of the latter.  When I spoke with long-term Fred cruisers they spoke very affectionately about the Bouddica and Black Watch.  I'm sure they are very much missed. 

 

The new offering isn't appealing to current non-Fred cruisers in sufficient numbers and the high prices are going to deter new-to-cruising people, when you can get a much better offering elsewhere.  New cruisers to Fred would have to adjust to the product, and perhaps they wouldn't find it offered what they had come to expect from their preferred cruise line.  Fred is very tradtional.  I like that, but the cruise market is saturated with so many different companies all vying for the same people.

 

But if Fred is to attract new cruisers by altering its offering, then it risks alienating its loyal cruisers.  So I think the company is stuck in a bit of a bind.

 

Trying to be delicate, Fred's loyal passengers ageing demographic and that isn't not going to provide any certainty going forwards, as people will beable to cruise less and less.

 

So where are Fred going to find people to cruise with them?  I have no idea what the future for Fred will look like.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What seems to be forgotten is that Fred is not currently offering the type of itineraries he was doing pre pandemic. Boudicca would have been off on her winter travels by the time Bolette was due to sail on her cruises which have been cancelled.  Also, the three ships currently sailing have a capacity quite a bit more than the previous foursome, so quite a task to match up to that in the current climate for any cruise line.  One of those HAL ships alone would have fulfilled the replaced capacity of the two which were removed from the fleet.  If indeed he does still intend to bring Braemar by back into service, that capacity will rise even more.  Whilst we did like Braemar a lot, she does have problems in bad seas, which I am sure we will all agree, and is clearly why she was put on fly cruise duties in the winter.  

 

When All Leisure went down, Fred picked up a lot of their custom, whilst we and some others would have travelled with Fred previously, (mainly when going north he was well known as being a very good option for those northern itineraries), they and us really wanted something much more interesting for the warmer, further afield cruises which cannot be fulfilled when sailing from the UK.  The Boudicca winter travels fulfilled those options, in fact a couple of his options brought out soon after the All Leisure collapse were virtually identical to itineraries we had booked but lost at that time.

 

I can see why Fred has not, as yet, started fly cruises, given the state of the aviation sector and with the increase in costs I am not convinced it will become viable, considering he has never been able to secure good flight prices, presumably because of his lack of ability to bulk buy those flights.  Apart from some Tenerife fly cruises we had not wanted those flights anyway as we wanted land combinations with those cruises and would still feel the same way in the future if traveling long haul.  A lot of Fred passengers did want those included flight options though, so he would have to be able to offer flights for those type of itineraries.

 

Regards Black Watch and Boudicca, I would suggest a lot of people were more interested in the size of the ships and ports they could visit, rather than the ships themselves, especially Black Watch with so many fixed L shaped bed configurations  We actually far prefer the Renaisance ships, which are similar occupancy.  We had travelled on Black Prince, but really had no wish to repeat that, though again the ports visited where extremely good.

 

Whilst everyone complains about Fred's prices (and I do agree there is much to be done regards his Freedom Fare prices), it cannot be forgotten that the ships even of the ex HAL ship size cannot be run profitably at a customer price anything like those offered by the far bigger ships running regular itineraries with many visits to certain ports presumably procured at a reduced price for the ports and excursions.  They is also seen in the P&O mid sized ships which are priced very differently to the larger ones, though are all still bigger than any of Fred's current fleet.  A lot of previous Fred passengers still want cruises at pre pandemic prices and sadly they will not happen, no more than the same prices for other cruise lines returning, unless in far bigger ships with those economies of scale.

 

We have travelled on a number of Fred cruises post pandemic and are convinced the same atmosphere has been on the ships as we remember from.previpus times.

 

I have heard of cruises from Liverpool being  full or fairly full more recently.  Whilst I have no personal knowledge to confirm that, it would make sense to me.  It is quite a hike for many people to get to the south coast as well as the extra costs of fuel and possibly extra hotel stays, which we know will rise.  We would happily travel from Merseyside to Newcastle or Scotland to pick up a cruise in preference to going the extra distance and busier roads to go south, particularly if it means traveling anywhere near London.  Hence Tilbury and Dover are not in the same category as Southampton is to us and most others living beyond the SE.  There are no alternatives for those northern departures, appart from a couple of cruises from each of a few regional ports to run of the mill destinations offered by Ambassador next year.  After our trial of Ambassador, we will not be repeating it, though I can see some may wish to try them.  For this reason as well as my previous comments it is no surprise to me that those Bolette cruises have been cancelled at a time of year all holiday have to be very competitively priced to get any interest at all.

 

I do wonder what wil happen to Fred, but do feel we would like the option of Fred, especially with the northern itineraries and would love to regain some of the lost Boudicca winter style itineraries, if they were to become viable in the future.  A part of one of Fred's longer cruises, such as around Africa, would be a definite interest to us, but we would not want to spend more than 45 nights or so on the ship as we would want to couple with other things.  There are passengers who use the larger cruise lines such as P&O, who would be happy to go with something smaller than the size ship they will be offering in the foreseeable future, but I am not convinced that will keep Fred sailing in the short term.  We will have to see what happens, but as unusual an itinerary offering as well as some good regional departures are crucial for that IMO.

 

Edited by tring
Link to comment
Share on other sites

We too were on the, what turned out to be, the last cruise of Boudicca and the atmosphere on the ship was great. Since the pandemic has "eased" we have done 2 cruises both with Cunard both cruises were run at maximum 66% capacity I believe to allow cabins for quarantine. We looked at Fred, but the prices shown appeared high, certainly higher than Cunard at the time. The itineraries could not be compared, many areas of the world were still shut down because of the pandemic. My wife has said, and I had to agree, that it would be doubtful we will look at Fred again, their prices seem to have risen alarmingly since, or because of, the "new ships" arriving. I. still look on the web site, but rather than offering on board spend, would much prefer to see lower prices.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

We have recently returned from a round Ireland 5 night cruise from Liverpool on   Borealis.   We have not been on FO since the 1990 ‘s when we did three cruises on Black Prince, two on  Black Watch and one on Braemar.   We then found Orient Lines and later HAL both of which suited us better.   We actually preferred fly cruises pre pandemic to maximise on better weather and not keep sailing the Bay of Biscay

 

Our return to FO came about because we do not particularly want to fly until 

things improve and an interest to see what FO had done to the  Rotterdam which was our favourite HAL ship.   Actually apart from a couple of carpets we thought they had done a good job but what struck us was that Fred had not moved on from the 90’s.

 

It has not really been mentioned here but I think fixed dining went out of fashion around 2000.  One reason for this was that speciality dining came in and many buffets started doing themed evenings and it became apparent that if you were not travelling with friends there would be empty seats at your table many nights.  Not a good look or enjoyable.  Also people are no longer prepared to be told when they must eat and also be forced to dress up on their holidays.   OK  not everyone but a growing majority.   We personally hate fixed sitting.  Who will you be put with and if dissimilar interests what can you talk about for two weeks.   It is not like that with open sitting.  Sometimes you meet ideal table companions who become lifelong friends and you arrange to meet every meal, sometimes people you get on well with you often say we must dine together again and you fix a date, sometimes you just enjoy meeting lots of new people.

 

I will use HAL as an example here.  We were on Rotterdam the first cruise which had open seating in the late 90’s.  This met with some disapproval with some passengers,  butHAL brought it in gently and had fixed seating in the upper dining room and open downstairs and it was about 50/50.   Each year the balance moved in favour of open and the last cruise we did although both were offered there were insufficient fixed diners to fill upstairs and many tables up there had become open.

 

Yes prices have gone up.   By the time you have added extras such as wifi etc you are able to go at a better price or similar price with a more upmarket line.

 

We will not be travelling with FO again as in addition to the prices, fixed dining and we thought the food was poor compared with other lines, and nowhere near as good as we remembered before.   We did think the bakery at the coffee bar was excellent.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Whilst agreeing with many of the comments made, the one thing nobody seems to have mentioned is the life aboard a Fred ship. We love joining in deck games and play cards.  We have made many good friends over the years through the social life onboard which in our opinion is much better than on other cruise lines…we find Fred definitely more friendlier…having done short and long cruises on most of the major cruise lines.  We loved Black Watch and also are fond of Balmoral…..

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

15 hours ago, mancunian said:

 

It has not really been mentioned here but I think fixed dining went out of fashion around 2000.  One reason for this was that speciality dining came in and many buffets started doing themed evenings and it became apparent that if you were not travelling with friends there would be empty seats at your table many nights.  Not a good look or enjoyable.  Also people are no longer prepared to be told when they must eat and also be forced to dress up on their holidays.   OK  not everyone but a growing majority.   We personally hate fixed sitting.  Who will you be put with and if dissimilar interests what can you talk about for two weeks.   It is not like that with open sitting.  Sometimes you meet ideal table companions who become lifelong friends and you arrange to meet every meal, sometimes people you get on well with you often say we must dine together again and you fix a date, sometimes you just enjoy meeting lots of new people.

 

 

 

Thanks for your up to date report.

 

We also do not like fixed seatings for dinner.  Fred had been saying that he will bring in a flexible dining option on the ex HAL ships and had been booking people on it for some cruises - in fact we were booked on the flexible option for a couple of cruises booked during the pandemic.  They decided not to bring it in after the pandemic as they said it would be too difficult with social distancing, which never made sense to me at all!  When we were last on a Fred ship in May/June, they had said they were going to roll out that option across the fleet, rather than just the new ships, (which I think have a larger MDR compared to passenger numbers), but they were not giving a date for it to start.  As I understood all covid restrictions, such as social distancing, were removed from the ships a good number of weeks back (apart from the deck 10 balconies to the rear of the lifts being retained for isolation), I do not understand why it has not been introduced and am now wondering if the new board have decided not to bother with that at all, which would be a major mistake IMO.  You will have an up to date knowledge about whether any restrictions are currently in place on Borealis though. 

 

Though we do far prefer flexible dining, it always amazes me how many people want to stick with the fixed seating and that some cruise lines still do not even have an option for a flexible option in the MDR - Cunard and Ambassador being two lines which apparently do not even have that as an option!  We have always been able to get a table for two on Fred, on request though, even if we had booked a saver fare which we have for a couple of Fred cruises over the last year, though being well known may well have helped with that. It makes little difference to us now though as we have other plans for this winter and without any decent fly cruise itineraries in Fred's plans, as well as the high Freedom fare prices, it is unlikely we would want to book anything ahead with Fred in the foreseeable future.  I have heard some good reports about Manchester airport in the last few weeks, once the totally disorganised early school hols period had passed, so we are feeling hopeful about that now, but will see for ourselves at the end of this month.

 

Edited by tring
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 9/3/2022 at 3:08 PM, richard_london said:

So where are Fred going to find people to cruise with them?  I have no idea what the future for Fred will look like.

 

21 hours ago, ovccruiser said:

it would be doubtful we will look at Fred again, their prices seem to have risen alarmingly

 

17 hours ago, mancunian said:

Yes prices have gone up.   By the time you have added extras such as wifi etc you are able to go at a better price or similar price with a more upmarket line.

 

Richard's comment that, " I have no idea what the future for Fred will look like." is very telling because, it might seem... neither does "FOCLs!"

 

It was only in July last year that Bonheur, FOCLs' Norwegian owner was reported in the trade press as expecting that cruise profits would bounce back to pre-covid levels by the summer of his year. They haven't... in the first half of 2022 "Fred's" losses ran in to the tens of millions of pounds.

 

In January/February 2022, Peter Deer, the current FOCLs managing director, was quoted extensively in the travel press as saying that a strong start to 2022 was reflected in new bookings across the 2022/2023 programme." There were also reports that FOCLs had enjoyed a bumper January with sales returning to pre-covid levels...and the company was "looking forward to a successful season of cruising... into the summer months and beyond.” That hasn't happened... in August this year FOCLs cancelled four autumn cruises on the Bolette... one of the reasons was lack of sales. In early November this year, only the Balmoral will be cruising... all of the other three ships will be laid up or in dry dock.

 

It may be that FOCLs lost the plot over ten years ago... long before covid was ever dreamt of.  Way back in 2011 FOCLs' published strategy was to obtain above inflation yields and keep costs below the Retail Price Index... in simple terms... to charge more for less. In 2019 it looks like it cost FOCLs about the same amount to run four ships as it had done in 2010. However in the same ten-year period FOCLs had increased his average price by well above inflation. As far as we can see, FOCLs had achieved that by cut after cut and additional charge after additional charge.

 

It's true that a great many people were great fans of the line... we certainly were. Many still are and describe FOCLs in glowing hyperbole and cruise as often as they can. In the past it wasn't unusual to see people queueing at the future cruise desks from the first sea day to secure their next bookings. In many cases, these folks, either hadn't or wouldn't cruise on any other line... and there was the off-repeated, dismissive mantra, delivered by every cruise director, every future sales presenter and many passengers, that other cruise lines ships were unacceptable "blocks of flats".

 

However, perhaps FOCLs underestimated many clients who may have cruised on other lines, chose to buy more expensive cabins and who could compare "Fred's" prices, offering and value for money with other types of holiday. Perhaps those people have been leaving FOCLs for years... in the ten years to 2019, FOCLs occupancy level has fallen by about 20%. Had FOCLs retained those people or replaced then with "new-to-Fred" cruisers... FOCLs would have been making tens of millions in additional profit every single year. 

 

So by the latter twenty-teenies, it seems that FOCL's strategic plan was all going terribly wrong. FOCLs' revenues fell in 2016, profits fell in 2017, 2018 and in 2019 and, with less passengers on board, the average cost of carrying a passenger increased. It really looks like FOCLs had already dug the company into a big hole even before covid appeared. By then, FOCLs ships had almost 4,000 berths but, on average, far less that 3,000 were filled. As it was, by the end of 2019, FOCLs was just scraping through.

 

FOCLs might have imagined that the company would have found advantage in the demise of UK based competitors. All Leisure Holidays went bankrupt on 4 January 2017. FOCLs saw an increase of about 23,000 passenger days by the end of 2018 but... by 2019, FOCLs figures seems to have been less than at any time since 2010.

 

As it was... FOCLs spent a great deal of time and effort encouraging a captive onboard audience to cruise again and again and again. On-board discounts, upgrades, sweet-dreams packages, goodie bags, receptions and so on. Up until about 2013, Page and Moy had done the same with the Ocean Majesty and the ALG had done the same with the MV Discovery. In both those cases... it didn't end well.

 

There was also the introduction of ten regional departure ports... the Boudicca first sailed from Avonmouth in April 2014. It wasn't totally successful and there was a big drop in the occupancy level of about 6% between 2014 and 2015. Even in 2030, we know of one group which is being transferred on a round trip of more than 700 miles at no additional cost to take up cabins on a Newcastle departure.

 

And then came covid... many cruise lines ran into an immediate cash-flow problem... CMV went into administration on 20 July 2020 and 3,266 budget berths were removed from the market. In contrast FOCLs increased its capacity by well over 1,000 berths by acquiring the MS Amsterdam and the MS Rotterdam from Holland America to replace the MS Black Watch and the MS Boudicca. At the time, a statement from FOCLs said, "This acquisition forms part of an optimization of the Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ fleet composition and with a high yielding cabin mix and large public spaces, these vessels will enhance Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ earnings capabilities once operations can safely resume." FOCLs capacity had been increased by 27% from 3,879 berths to 4,959 berths. FOCLs clearly thought that the company could buck the global trend.

 

In early 2020, at the beginning of the global pandemic, we were really put off FOCLs when the company made it such an unpleasant pain to have a cruise deposit refunded... and we found it difficult to trust FOCLs with our hard-earned cash again. In addition, we just didn't like the old HAL ships when we studied them in detail. We thought that it was disturbing to sell terrace cabins as balcony cabins when they didn't have a balcony... that damaged our trust in FOCLs and made us really question the company's every statement and claim. We were astonished that a "Welcome Back" cruise would have cost us more on a like-for-like per day basis for a sail around Scotland than it had done for a fly-cruise to the Caribbean a couple of years earlier. We lived in hope... but we really disliked the fact that if we bought a cruise on the "special members' day" that, weeks or months later, others would be able to have the same cruise in a like-for-like cabin cheaper (with all sorts of offers). Our loyalty seemed to count for nothing... we felt as if we were being taken advantage of!

 

Over recent years we've cruised with over ten different cruise lines, travelled extensively on land holidays throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia and bits of Africa and the Americas... and we enjoy good restaurants in London, the UK and abroad. We're lucky enough to frequently be able to enjoy the best in British theatre in Chichester, Stratford-upon-Avon and in London. In our opinion FOCLs offering isn't bad but it's certainly not; "first class", "wonderful", "five star", "excellent", "amazing", "fantastic" or "fabulous"... when we compared what we could do on other cruise lines and on land-based holidays for the same price. 

 

Put quite simply... for the same daily cost, or less, this summer on a FOCLs balcony cabin crossing a chilly, grey North Atlantic, we enjoyed a really fabulous new ship with fantastic entertainment, excellent food and stunning public areas. Alternatively, for the same amount as FOCLs was changing per day on a cruise, we could have paid for a fabulous historic hotel in central London, an excellent lunch, a wonderful pre-theatre dinner in an iconic fine-dining central London restaurant, a couple of glasses of real Champagne and top seats for an amazing West End blockbuster and still had more than enough to have a nightcap somewhere fantastically swanky... paid for by the additional £24 a day that FOCLs would've fleeced us just for the use of WIFI.

 

We fully accept that if we took the cheapest cabin on board, refused to pay gratuities, gave up alcohol and drank tap-water, left our phones switched off and so on... we might have been able to do the FOCLs' trip for about half that amount per day... so the alternative would be a good quality budget hotel but still in central London and a sandwich for lunch. That would leave about £100 for a really good meal for two in Chinatown or in Covent-Garden and another £120 for two modestly priced West-End theatre seats.

 

We fully realise that time has moved on and prices will be higher. But... we don't want to pay FOCLs' alarmingly uncompetitive prices for what seems to us to now be an inferior product.  (One cruise we went on in 2019 has more than doubled in price for the cabin we had!) We can pay less for much better on other cruise-lines. Or, if we chose to, we could have a first class, wonderful, five star, excellent, amazing, fantastic and fabulous time for the same price per day in one of the most exciting cities on earth that attracts over 30 million tourists a year.

 

In the year or so prior to the outbreak of covid we did six cruises, three with "Fred" and spent almost two months on board the more expensive cabins on his fleet. The fact is that now in the year since we've decided that it's safer for us to return to the high seas... we've booked four cruises, amounting to over four months on FOCLs competitors... but none with "Fred." 

 

While we'll retain fond memories of "Fred" in the past and we'll live in hope, scrutinise the brochures, look at the offers... unless there is a real change that means that we can trust FOCLs with our hard-earned savings and be sure that FOCLs will provide a worthwhile experience at a competitive value-for-money price, we doubt that we'll book again in the foreseeable future.

 

Fred's gone. So what will happen to FOCLs? Goodness only knows... the figures don't look good... the inability to attract and retain passengers has been a long-term problem for over a decade. We really don't think that a tweak here and there will make any real difference. on top of everything else... company reports show that there had been an increase in cancellations ... in addition to some other concerns... in the early summer. 

 

However, the parent company, Bonheur, owns/controls a dozen very significant windfarms in the UK supplying hundreds of thousand of home with electricity that's sells for more and more... so there are big pockets there. 

 

Fred Jun has left us and many other people with some very happy memories over the years.  We very much hope that Fred is now looking forward to celebrating his forthcoming 64th birthday and we also hope that he enjoys a long and very happy retirement.

 

 

DSC_0831.thumb.jpeg.717e1fbf06be84b287bab1c443c869af.jpeg

 

 

Edited by twotravellersLondon
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, twotravellersLondon said:

There was also the introduction of ten regional departure ports... the Boudicca first sailed from Avonmouth in April 2014. It wasn't totally successful and there was a big drop in the occupancy level of about 6% between 2014 and 2015. 

That wasn't entirely dow to Fred, the Avonmouth "cruise terminal" was in fact the warehouse used for fruit and veg and our great local authority was not willing to improve the facilities. I cruised out of Avonmouth on a 28 day cruise to Venice, it was a fabulous cruise and would have done it again had the local authority had the foresight to spend a little money to bring regular cruising to Bristol.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • Welcome to Cruise Critic
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • Canadian Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...