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Fred's Gone?


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On 9/23/2023 at 8:28 PM, twotravellersLondon said:

FOCLs state that it will have enough cash to see it to the end of 2023 but "the continued uncertainty of availability of additional funding needed represents a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt upon the Company's ability to continue as a going concern." The auditors' report added, that in certain circumstances FOCLs "may be unable to realise its assets and discharge its liabilities as they fall due.'

 

On 9/25/2023 at 11:51 AM, twotravellersLondon said:

The wording in the report is... "An impairment loss has also been recognised during the year in relation to its subsidiary Balmoral Cruise Ltd, following a review of future strategic plans, trading performance, and longevity of the vessel bearing in mind environmental considerations with the age of the vessel." The amount would seem to be £17,966,000. However this suggests that no matter what the Balmoral's days with FOCLs are numbered.

 

I have a Balmoral cruise booked in 2025, slightly concerned now that there might not even by an FOCL let along the Balmoral in service.  Just have to keep my fingers crossed.

 

I am wondering, a few years ago had they made their new advert then Fred Jr would have undoubtedly featured, as part of the family history narrative.

 

But it seems the company is not doing well and the decision to buy the HAL sisters doesn't look like it was a wise one.

 

Was he forced out/made to carry the can for these problems, which is why his departure was rather under the radar, and with no fanfare announcing his departure?

 

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3 hours ago, Eglesbrech said:

@richard_london we have booked for 2025 as well. Let’s hope things don’t go downhill. While I swore I would never book early again this is one I think will be popular so rise in price.

 

On the bright side they seem to be doing the winter sailing this year at least, many were cancelled last year.

 

I have been wondering over the last few months if Fred would actually stump up the first big payment to Carnival Corporation which was due last month, or if he may just decide to give up on cruising.  So as Sept 2023 has now just passed, I have been feeling more optimistic about the future of the company as I would think that payment would have been made by now.  It must have cost a whole load of cash to repair and refurb thode ships to the standard they have been done though, so there is the potential loss of that cash anyway.  From a session we attended in the theatre of one ship with the captain and hotel manager last year it really does seem that those ships were in a pretty poor condition when taken on.  We are on Borealis mid November, so will try digging a bit as to how things are going now.  Not that I expect any clear indication, but senior staff attitudes and reading through the lines can sometimes be interesting.

 

Certainly as you say at least Fred is still running three ships this year, at a time when Bolette was laid up for a while last year, though that also highlights how the Northern departures are more worthwhile to him, which makes sense due to the lack of competition, which is now very high from the south.  Sadly Balmoral as the smallest and oldest ship, will, I expect, be the first to go as is the case with all cruise lines.  Aurora is in that position with P&O, yet the company insist she has a fair time ahead of her, (though that has been said previously, just before ships have been axed rather suddenly by them).  If Aurora and possibly even Arcadia are axed at some stage, that could well be a gain for Fred, though I would be sad to see those ships go, as will many others.

 

We have booked another Aurora cruise for next spring and although balconies were virtually sold out, there are still a number of outsides and a lot of insides, which are what are being sold at reduced price on all cruise lines now, especially on the bigger ships.   For P&O though, those relativity smaller ships have maintained prices pretty well whilst big reductions have been made on the other ships, which are very different as are their itineraries.  It does show that many people are not really interested in those lower grade cabins, I suggest particularly after Covid.  It also does seem to highlight that Fred did make a mistake on going for the ex HAL ships which have a lot of inside/outside cabins.  Those deck 7 suites are also way bigger than what you will find on other similar ships and even the deck 6 ones are what the Carnival brands would class as mini-suites, being a lot bigger than what their brands would call balcony cabins.  Even the insides/outsides on the ex HAL ships are pretty big compared to what you could get on other ships.  It is nice to have that extra space, but a higher class if cabin is what a lot of people would prefer, yet the ships still cost the same to run with less cabins for the amount of passenger cabin space.  It is interesting that the remaining HAL ships of the same size have more cabins on deck 7, that are the same size as the deck 6 ones.  I wonder if Fred may consider splitting those larger suites into two smaller ones.

 

Whilst Fred Itineraries have been curtailed on the ex HAL ships, he is still offering some interesting itineraries compared to other similar class lines.

 

It will indeed be interesting to see what happens in the cruise world going forward, especially regards Fred, but no cruise line will continue if profits are not to be made, nor will they keep individual ships going if profits are not worthwhile on those ships.  Cruising is definitely recovering compared to a year or so ago overall though.  We will see in due course what happens, but meanwhile we are making the most of what we can on the ships that are still sailing as the big ones and their itineraries are of no interest to us.

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 10/7/2023 at 3:13 PM, Eglesbrech said:

@richard_london we have booked for 2025 as well. Let’s hope things don’t go downhill. While I swore I would never book early again this is one I think will be popular so rise in price.

 

On the bright side they seem to be doing the winter sailing this year at least, many were cancelled last year.

Yes, that's a good point, I had forgotten about those cancellations.  Let's take it as a good sign of things.

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3 minutes ago, richard_london said:

Yes, that's a good point, I had forgotten about those cancellations.  Let's take it as a good sign of things.

 

Apparently the quarter two accounts for this year have been published on the Bonheur website and I have seen reports that they are indeed doing better than last year, which is to be expected as all cruise lines are doing better this year then last.  I looked at them, but do not understand the business side really.  They will have paid the first payment to Carnival Corporation for the two new ships by now, so presumably that will not look so good on the balance sheet for this quarter, when it is published, but how business is progressing will be more important for the company going forward. 

 

Fingers crossed as good to have a choice of cruises, especially for those of us who live a distance from Southampton.

 

 

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On 10/17/2023 at 10:33 AM, tring said:

 

Apparently the quarter two accounts for this year have been published on the Bonheur website and I have seen reports that they are indeed doing better than last year, which is to be expected as all cruise lines are doing better this year then last.  I looked at them, but do not understand the business side really.  They will have paid the first payment to Carnival Corporation for the two new ships by now, so presumably that will not look so good on the balance sheet for this quarter, when it is published, but how business is progressing will be more important for the company going forward. 

 

Fingers crossed as good to have a choice of cruises, especially for those of us who live a distance from Southampton.

 

 

Yes, Southampton is best with me, but the Balmoral is doing very little in 2024 so I've booked one of the already announced 2025 cruises.  Seems an awfully long way off, I just hope she is still in the fleet by then.

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On 10/6/2023 at 8:15 PM, richard_london said:

But it seems the company is not doing well and the decision to buy the HAL sisters doesn't look like it was a wise one.

 

Was he forced out/made to carry the can for these problems, which is why his departure was rather under the radar, and with no fanfare announcing his departure?

 

We think that your absolutely right there, A hour long video on a popular channel has Peter Deer discussion how the old HAL ships would be so ideal as a way forward for FOCLs and how they would allow the company to charge premium prices... there was even talk of a 20% increase.

 

The real question for us is "What's the point of FOCLs today?"

 

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines only came into existence in about 1993.

 

Once upon a time "Fred" offered an array of affordable good-value cruise that competed well against holiday camps, coach-trips and seaside guest-houses. By the 20-naughties and the addition of the Braemar, the Boudicca and the Balmoral, "Fred" was running at over 90% capacity, popular cruises were often full, "Fred's" food, entertainment, customer care were really good, his loyalty membership was booming and "Fred" was attracting a more upmarket clientele. In the four years prior to Covid "Fred" was making an annual profit between £3 & £28 million a year.

 

Now...

 

The facts are that in the financial year to 31 December 2022, FOCLs made a loss of £105,638,000... compared with an annual profit of a few million in a "good" year prior to Covid. The Olsen family were personally subsidising the average cruiser by a significant amount for every day they were onboard a FOCLs ship. The Company was in debt by about £150,000,000.

 

FOCLs have been offering a vast array of "last minute deals" to increase occupancy rates but it would certainly seem that many people who took those deals would have cruised a less than cost price. Canny cruisers who chose not to buy the drinks package, pay the gratuities, afford Wi-Fi, take excursions or use the shops would have made an even greater saving against the break-even price. 

 

Competition is certainly hotting up and there are rumours that SAGA will extend it's free transfer service nationwide. We've just come off a SAGA river cruise and met folks who we've travelled with in the past on FOCLs who'd flown down from Edinburgh to join the rest of the group at Heathrow.

 

So "What's the point" of a small company doing far from well and drowning in debt. How long will the Olsen family subsidise cruisers who don't buy the drinks, use the shop, go on the excursions or don't pay the gratuities?

 

AS we've said... We've just returned from a cruise on the Danube. The last time that we did that was five years ago with "Fred" on the Brabant. Since then Viking river cruises have flourished, SAGA has built the Spirit of the Danube... and FOCLs' river cruise division has closed up shop with little or no notice. FOCLs seems to have been unable to compete.

 

We're not going to try to second-guess the Olsen Family... we'll just wait and see. In the meantime we've already booked another couple of cruises but not with FOCLs.

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On 9/27/2023 at 2:51 PM, richard_london said:

They lost the Corinth Canal transits when they stopped using the Braemar, which I never managed to do, and really regret now having missed out.  If the Balmoral goes, any pretence of "small ship" cruising by FOCL will be pure fiction.

 

We did the Corinth Canal transit on the Braemar and would have gone again the following year but... the same cabin would have cost us twice as much. 

 

After Covid the very notion that we would be willing to fly out to Cuba to reach the Corinth by a trans-Atlantic crossing and then a Mediterranean cruise was simply a bizarre idea.

 

At the same time the old HAL ships just didn't appeal to us.

 

We felt that the company had just lost the ability to really understand its loyal customer base. Our feeling was that the whole atmosphere and ethos of "Fred," the company that we had grown to love so much, had gone.

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On 10/17/2023 at 10:21 AM, richard_london said:

Yes, that's a good point, I had forgotten about those cancellations.  Let's take it as a good sign of things.

 

On 10/7/2023 at 3:13 PM, Eglesbrech said:

On the bright side they seem to be doing the winter sailing this year at least, many were cancelled last year.

 

FOCLs' third quarter 2023 financial figures have just been released as part of the parent company, Bonheur's, quarterly report on the Oslo Stock Exchange...  and they're good in places... a bit like the proverbial curate's egg.

 

Reasons to be cheerful... 1... 2... 3 ?

 

1, Firstly... operating revenues for the quarter are about £68 million... well up from about £46 million in the 3rd quarter of 2022 and pretty impressive compared with pre-covid 3rd quarter levels.

 

However the revenues in the last year as a whole are only about £140 million. Pre-covid, "Fred" was pulling in annual revenues of between £200-£212 million a year. Clearly FOCLs has a way to go before it reaches the level of operating revenue achieved when Fred Jun was the Chairman.

 

2, Secondly, the quarterly profit of about £11 million is a huge turn -round from the £41 million loss in 2022... and much better than the pre-covid result of £41 in 2016. 

 

Perhaps not... the Devil is in the detail.  One good quarter doesn’t make a turn-around So far FOCLs have lost £80 million over the last year. That a lotta-lotta money for a company which was making only a few million in profit per year in the decade before covid.

 

3, Thirdly, Passenger numbers are about 76%.... a level not seen since about 2016. 

 

The Elephant in the Dockyard is the 929 berth Braemar which hasn't cruised again since passengers had to be repatriated from Cuba early in 2020 after the ship was refused entry to Caribbean Islands and the United States. The Braemar is still owned by First Olsen Holdings Ltd... the holding company that owns FOCLs and the other ships. Obviously if the Braemar berths were taken into account. If they had been, occupancy/loading levels would be in the low 60s rather than the mid 70s.

 

 

So is it time for FOCLs management and staff in the Ipswich HQ to retreat this afternoon to their very own "Morning Light Pub area" and have a celebratory sausage roll and a half-glass of the company's own Cava?

 

The bottom line is that a year ago FOCL had a debt of about £88 million and in the last year that's increased to about £110 million. A year ago the company was in negative equity of about £108 million and that's now increased to £117 million.

 

The possibly good news is that the company management is being restructured. Peter Deer who was Managing Director is to be replaced by turn-around specialist Samantha Stimpson, who will head the company as CEO by the beginning of February 2024.

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1 hour ago, twotravellersLondon said:

 

 

FOCLs' third quarter 2023 financial figures have just been released as part of the parent company, Bonheur's, quarterly report on the Oslo Stock Exchange...  and they're good in places... a bit like the proverbial curate's egg.

 

The possibly good news is that the company management is being restructured. Peter Deer who was Managing Director is to be replaced by turn-around specialist Samantha Stimpson, who will head the company as CEO by the beginning of February 2024.

 

Can I please ask what months those third quarter accounts cover?  Someone told me the quarters can vary, according to the company's chosen year end, though I am no business guru.  A lot of cruise lines are having trouble getting rid of their debts and they are now putting prices up, both of cruises and extra costs when on the ships.  I do wonder if more people will go back to land holidays, I have always though the cruise bubble will burst sometime.

 

I had a request from Fred to fill in a questionnaire last night, which I have done.  They said it will take about 15 mins depending on your answers, but took me a lot longer than that.  It was mainly asking about various cruise lines, (past travel, perception of certain cruise lines and what you would consider booking with in the future).  It also showed the most recent TV advert asking for feedback on that.  We have travelled with 11 cruise lines in the past, though small ships, not generally the main stream lines.  They were asking about specific cruise lines which I did not exclude in a "would never consider them" question, but they were all the mainstream ones.  I was surprised they did not focus much on Azamara, which is a strong contender to Fred for us.  All three of Fred's current ships mainly have inside and sea view cabins, rather than balconies, so he needs to fill them, yet they are often what does not sell on other cruise lines.  Shame Fred did not buy one or more Renaissance ships IMO, which would have been a better fit for him going forward.

 

At least the questionnaire shows a will to get that feedback, (I wonder if it has been requested by the new CEO), but not sure how many customers will get one, it did say I was chosen - but perhaps it would say that.....   We have done 6 Fred cruises since COVID (2 UK and four abroad), but none in the last year.  Fred needs to attract new customers as well as retain as many older ones as possible. 

 

 

 

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3 minutes ago, tring said:

 

Can I please ask what months those third quarter accounts cover?  Someone told me the quarters can vary, according to the company's chosen year end, though I am no business guru. 

 

I had a request from Fred to fill in a questionnaire last night, which I have done.  They said it will take about 15 mins depending on your answers, but took me a lot longer than that.  It was mainly asking about various cruise lines, (past travel, perception of certain cruise lines and what you would consider booking with in the future).  It also showed the most recent TV advert asking for feedback on that.  We have travelled with 11 cruise lines in the past, though small ships, not generally the main stream lines.  They were asking about specific cruise lines which I did not exclude in a "would never consider them" question, but they were all the mainstream ones.  I was surprised they did not focus much on Azamara, which is a strong contender to Fred for us.  All three of Fred's current ships mainly have inside and sea view cabins, rather than balconies, so he needs to fill them, yet they are often what does not sell on other cruise lines.  Shame Fred did not buy one or more Renaissance ships IMO, which would have been a better fit for him going forward.

 

At least the questionnaire shows a will to get that feedback, (I wonder if it has been requested by the new CEO), but not sure how many customers will get one, it did say I was chosen - but perhaps it would say that.....   We have done 6 Fred cruises since COVID (2 UK and four abroad), but none in the last year.  Fred needs to attract new customers as well as retain as many older ones as possible. 

 

 

 

 

Look at Bonheur's accounts and you'll find that...

 

1Q = Jan/Feb/March

2Q = Apr/ May/Jun

3Q = July/Aug/Sep

4Q = Oct/Nov/Dec

 

We completed what seems to have been a very similar questionnaire/fishing trip last night. FOCLs asked us to compare a very poorly relayed ad from one very popular company with a FOCLs ad that was shown at a much higher definition and sound quality... it's an American idea... subliminal auto-suggestion... we gave "appropriate" feedback. Odd that we had the request since we cancel a FOCLs trip in 2020 and haven't booked with FOCLs since.

 

Go back a few years to 2019. FOCLs was a partner to SAGA and FOCLs' cruises were advertised on SAGA's web-site. Quite large groups of SAGA and Titan passengers travel on FOCLs' ships and sometimes they were accompanied on board by a SAGA/Titan Rep.

 

All that came to an end about the same time as SAGA launched the Spirit of Adventure. So it's the fact than many of the types of people who would have travelled with SAGA on FOCLs in the late 20-teenies. in baccony cabins and above are now bolstering SAGA's fortunes by travelling on the Spirit of Discovery, the Spirit of Adventure and as we found out in the last few weeks, the Spirit of the Danube.

 

Our priority these days is that we want a cabin with a balcony, access to Wi-Fi  and any-time dining. That our choice, we're willing to pay for the best deal and the best value-for-money. We’re unapologetic about that because we've grafted very hard during our working lives and we're now more than willing to cruise less to afford what we consider better. If anyone wants to do things differently... we respect their choice  and wish then a happy cruise.

 

Before we buy a cruise we do a spread sheet of the different cruise lines offering the same type of cruise at about the same type of the year.

 

Fred loses out on value for money every single time... and even worse, the prices of FOCLs cruises that we've had on a watch list have just been roller coasting... we really have better things to do with our time than to try to play cruise-fare roulette with Peter Deer.

So we look forward to the new CEO. We wish her every success and do hope that, in the future, FOCLs don't fiddle with prices and offers while once very loyal customers vote with their wallets and travel with other lines.

 

Before we buy a cruise we do a spread sheet of the different cruise lines offering the same type of cruise at about the same type of the year. Our priority is that we want a cabin with a balcony, access to WiFi  and any-time dining. Fred loses out every single time... and even worse, the prices of FOCLs cruises that we've had on a watch list have just been roller coasting... we really have better things to do with our time than to try to play cruise-fare roulette with Peter Deer.

 

So we look forward to the new CEO. We wish her every success and do hope that, in the future, FOCLs don't fiddle with prices and offers while once very loyal customers vote with their wallets and travel with other lines.

 

 

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28 minutes ago, twotravellersLondon said:

 

Look at Bonheur's accounts and you'll find that...

 

1Q = Jan/Feb/March

2Q = Apr/ May/Jun

3Q = July/Aug/Sep

4Q = Oct/Nov/Dec

 

We completed what seems to have been a very similar questionnaire/fishing trip last night. FOCLs asked us to compare a very poorly relayed ad from one very popular company with a FOCLs ad that was shown at a much higher definition and sound quality... it's an American idea... subliminal auto-suggestion... we gave "appropriate" feedback. Odd that we had the request since we cancel a FOCLs trip in 2020 and haven't booked with FOCLs since.

 

 

 

So the accounts are from a time of year which you would expect to be good, though the worst quarter of the year will be the next one - there are always good holiday offers of all kinds in that run up to Christmas, so loads of competition then for all companies.

 

The Fred advert came up very dark on my desktop screens so did not look good, though I had seen it previously on his website and did like it, I must admit and we recognised a number of staff.  It was certainly better than those more recent ones which showed cartoon like scenes (along with the brochure pictures then as well) and I said so.  Then followed a series of questions about things like, did the advert  make you more likely to book a Fred cruise, recommend Fred, or talk to friends about Fred?  Well no, certainly not, and told them that as well.  There is a lot more to choosing a cruise rather than seeing an advert, though adverts may just entice "new to any specific cruise line" customers to consider a cruise line as a possibility, hence look into it.

 

We do prefer a flexible dining option and balconies on ships when going to warmer climates, especially if a cruise was booked mainly for a good weather break (not a common case for us though).  Itineraries are definitely the main drive for us and we would consider a lower standard cabin on Fred considering there is so much outside deck space that is peaceful, c.f. the noisy decks on some lines that are totally no go for us.  Will be interesting to try the terrace cabin we have been upgraded to for our forthcoming Caribbean cruise as we will no doubt appreciate the chance to sit outside in a shady position (shade is not easy to find on most ships).  Will also be interesting to travel with Fred again after a  number of cruises with other lines (mainly P&O, which is becoming a bit tiresome for certain reasons).  We are going with an open mind for this one and will report back.

 

Yes, hopefully any changes will be for the better, but we will have to see.

 

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On 10/27/2023 at 2:40 PM, tring said:

So the accounts are from a time of year which you would expect to be good, though the worst quarter of the year will be the next one - there are always good holiday offers of all kinds in that run up to Christmas, so loads of competition then for all companies.

 

Yes & No. 

 

Pre-covid the 3Q tended to give the best revenues and then the 4Q was quite poor but the real low was in 1Q . So in 2019; 1Q -87 million NOK, 2Q 70 million NOK, 3Q 96 million NOK and 4Q 138 NOK. (1 NOK is currently worth about 0.074 of a Pound.) 

 

The companies can't really run longer cruises in 4Q because there's not enough time between the late end to the summer season and the Christmas/New Year bonanza.

 

Longer cruises in 1Q are "from" a very economical price (The average fare is less than cost price on FOCLs). It costs less to keep ships sailing through the winter rather than have them moored up for a few months.

 

With Fred Jun. (Freddy) gone on the 4th of July 2022, Peter Deer (Pete) seems to have spent a great deal of time (with some success) selling future cruises... one of the reasons that a company does this is to ensure that there is sufficient "cash-flow" to keep the company viable during a period of low income. Cruise deposits pay the wages at HQ and the cost of keeping the ships afloat.

 

Anyway the question asked months ago about why a new Chairman wasn't appointed to replace Fred Jun when he left well over a year ago has been answered... the management structure of FOCLs has been changed and a CEO will soon be in charge. We think that's good news.

 

 

Let's hope that soon,  "Happy days are here again!"

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  • 3 weeks later...

I think passenger demographics post covid also enter in to it. We have sailed on Rotterdam and Amsterdam when they were in the HAL fleet and they are nice, if elderly ships that really don’t offer what an ever more demanding younger market want. Think Iona, MSC, Royal Caribbean etc.

Those sort of ships are an anathema to me personally,  however I realise that with only a maybe three/ four years before insurance costs price out cruising as a holiday for my wife and I, we are not Fred’s long term target market. The question is - who is? As previous posters have pointed out, the reinvented SAGA are mopping up the better off ‘grey’  market and Ambassador are fulfilling a role at the budget end. That leaves the middle market’ still very price sensitive but with ever increasing expectations in terms of balcony cabins, dining etc. I cannot see Fred’s survival in the long term without a huge capital injection on top of huge losses.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 11/15/2023 at 9:17 PM, Mickb said:

The question is - who is? As previous posters have pointed out, the reinvented SAGA are mopping up the better off ‘grey’  market and Ambassador are fulfilling a role at the budget end. That leaves the middle market’ still very price sensitive but with ever increasing expectations in terms of balcony cabins, dining etc. I cannot see Fred’s survival in the long term without a huge capital injection on top of huge losses.

 

Your comments seem to have been prophetic!

 

The 2023 British Travel Industry Awards have been announced.

 

In 2022, the year that Fred Olsen Jun retired, FOCLs was the best Cruise Lines for no- fly cruise holidays. This year... P&O won, Ambassador was awarded Silver and Saga was awarded Bronze. FOCLs was unplaced.

 

Surely FOCLs can't go on like this... the new CEO will have her work cut out to reinvent the company next year.

 

 

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It's worth-while looking at the Cruise Critic awards...

 

In the 2019 and the 2020 Cruise Critic Awards FOCLs' Balmoral was judged the "Best mid-size ship overall". This year the award for the best UK mid-size cruise-lines overall have been awarded to Oceana cruises, with Holland America second and Ambassador third. FOCLs is unplaced.

 

In the 2019 and the 2020 Cruise Critic Awards FOCLs' Balmoral was judged the "Best mid-size ship for dining". This year the award for the best UK mid-size cruises overall have been awarded to Oceana cruises, with Holland America second and Disney third. Again FOCLs is unplaced.

 

So the first full year that Fred Jun. has gone and the FOCLs crystal cabinet seems to be a bit lacking in new bits of mainstream crystal.

 

It's now 10 years ago that berkshireboy, tigertom, heywood and Parsman were congratulating Fred Olsen Cruise Lines on the fact that in the Cruise International Awards the company have been voted Best Affordable Cruise Line and runner up in the Best Cruise Line category. All a distant memory now?

 

We can only hope the "Under New Management" approach will turn the company around.

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It’s a bit of a surprise that Ambassador beat FOCL ! Oceana, HAL and Disney are understandable as they operate modern ships with high numbers of balconies and multiple dining options. 
IMO the new management has a steep hill to climb with 2 functional but dated Ex HAL ships and Balmoral. Difficult to shake the money tree!

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On 12/13/2023 at 10:27 PM, Mickb said:

It’s a bit of a surprise that Ambassador beat FOCL ! Oceana, HAL and Disney are understandable as they operate modern ships with high numbers of balconies and multiple dining options. 
IMO the new management has a steep hill to climb with 2 functional but dated Ex HAL ships and Balmoral. Difficult to shake the money tree!

 

 

In November of this year, a FOCL's press release intimated that the company was in the running for five prizes at the Wave Awards 2023 – Best Ocean Cruise Line, Best Specialist Cruise Line, Best for Solo Travellers, Best for Excursions and Best for Cuisine.

 

But in these really crucial indicators of the success or failure of a cruise-line FOCLs lost in every case... the company lost out to; Royal Caribbean International which was voted the Best Family Cruise Line; to Unforgettable Croatia which was voted the Best Specialist Cruise Line; to Riviera which was voted the Best For solo travellers; to Regent Seven Seas Cruises which was voted Best For excursions and again to Regent Seven Seas Cruises which was voted the Best for cuisine.

 

So what on earth has happened to the popular much-loved "Fred" that so many of us still remember with such respect? A clue just might be in one of the awards that FOCLs did win... the Engage Award 2023 for the Best Business Transformation Strategy... Engage Media, in its own words, works " with thousands of business leaders to improve their customer and employee experience. All so they can be more successful."

 

Very clearly FOCLs "best business transformation strategy" has been far from successful... and left the company with huge debts and now seen the managing director replaced by a `'trouble-shooting" CEO.

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  • 1 month later...

Money, Money, Money

 

Fred Olsen Cruise Line's fourth quarter 2023 financial figures (for October, November & December 2023) have just been released as part of the parent company, Bonheur's, quarterly report on the Oslo Stock Exchange. (Currently 1 NOK = 0.075 GBP.)

 

At a glance this quick snapshot of FOCL's performance in the last three months of 2023 makes very interesting reading... especially in the light of two important facts... The number of cruise days in 4Q 2023 was 276 compared to 204 days in 4Q 2022 (at one time in 2022 the company only had one ship in service)... and... the Braemar was sold during the 4Q for USD 13 million. The Braemar is expected to be delivered to the new owners by end of February 2024. The gain on sale of the Braemar was NOK 86 million. This gain of NOK 86 million included in EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortisation'... It's a measure of profitability)

 

The occupancy rate. on cruises (an indication of passengers numbers) has fallen 76% in 3Q 2023 to 71% in the 4Q... FOCL carried less passengers. 

 

Operating revenues (an indication of sales) has fallen from about NOK 921 million in 3Q 2023 (July, August & September) to NOK 856 million in the 4Q... FOCL took in less money. 

 

Net ticket income per passenger has fallen from about £189 in 3Q 2023 (July, August & September) to £161 in the 4Q.  Folks are paying out less on cruising and the various add-ons.

 

The net return revenues (an indication of profits) has risen from about NOK 146 million in 3Q 2023 to only NOK 48 million in the 4Q... FOCL made less profit. Had it not been that NOK 86 million from the sale of Braemar had been added... the company is likely to have made a loss in the 4Q of NOK 38 million. FOCLs isn't out of stormy waters as yet.

 

However FOCL's debt has decreased from about NOK 1,483 million in 3Q 2023 to only NOK 1,473 million in the 4Q. Had it not been for the sale of the Braemar, the debt may well have increased to NOK 1,559 million.

 

Taking the greater number of cruising days and the sale of the Braemar into account, the signs are that FOCL carried less passengers, took in less money and made less profit in October, November & December 2023 than it did in July, August & September of 2023.

 

That was not the plan! On 14 July 2021 Bonheur chairman Fred Olsen appeared in the global shipping news source,  "Tradewinds" with his daughter, Anette Olsen, the company's managing director, above the headline that "Fred Olsen expects cruise profit to bounce back beyond pre-Covid levels in the following year." 

 

However the good news for the UK cruise industry and for those of us who believe that a competitive UK cruise market in in our best interests is that FOCL's management is being restructured. Peter(Pete) Deer who was Managing Director and is Finance qualified, with many years of experience in cruise and shipping has become Chief Financial Officer. The role of Managing Director has been replaced by a Chief Executive Officer to take the company forward... and turn-around specialist Samantha Stimpson is now in post. New positions to oversee restaurants and food, drinks and bars and retailing across the fleet have been advertised. 

 

Fred Jun. may now have long gone as FOCL's Chairman... but with the advice of Fred Sen and the management expertise of Anette Olsen... (we suspect that Fred Jun may have a hand in appointing crew). Is now perhaps the time to look for signs of a renaissance in FOCL's fortunes?

 

Incidentally... (Recent reports are that the Braemar will be moved to Belfast in cooperation with Harland & Wolff in early March 2024. The plan is that a 10-week transformation the ship will be completed and she will transfer to Southampton on 12 May and will set sail from there on 15 May 2024.)  👋👋

Edited by twotravellersLondon
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