Fred. Olsen Cruise Ships Compared – Which Is The Best?



This post may contain affiliate links. If you click one, I may earn a commission at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Fred. Olsen is one of the world’s oldest cruise lines, having originated as a shipping company in 1848 in Norway and then started cruising in 1966.

Fred Olsen Ships

They have, understandably, gone through a few ships since then. So with that in mind, what is the current makeup of the Fred. Olsen cruise fleet? Which ship is newest, biggest, and best?

Let’s find out.

How many cruise ships does Fred Olsen have?

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines currently has three ocean cruise ships. None of the ships were built for Fred. Olsen, having been purchased and refurbished before joining the fleet. There are five ships that used to sail for the fleet but have been sold or scrapped.

The cruise line also briefly operated a river cruise arm, chartering the Amadeus Princess ship to sail as the Brabnant. This was only available from 2018 until 2020 when the cruise line decided to move away from river cruising.

Fred Olsen Ships By Age

Here’s a look at the current ships in the fleet, ranked by age from newest to oldest.

ShipBuiltJoined Fred. OlsenFormer name (s)
Bolette20002020MS Amsterdam
Borealis19972020MS Rotterdam
Balmoral19882007Crown Odyssey
Norwegian Crown

Which Fred Olsen ship is the newest?

The newest ship in the Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ fleet is Bolette, both in terms of when she was originally built (2000) and when she joined the cruise line (2020, at the same time as Borealis). She was purchased from Holland America Line, where she had sailed as MS Amsterdam.

Fred Olsen - Bolette ship
Bolette

Bolette and Borealis joined the fleet as part of a big refresh of the cruise line. Two former ships – Black Watch and Boudicca – were retired at the time and then in 2022 Braemar was also retired. 

Those ships were smaller, with a lower capacity, and they were starting to show their age too – especially Black Watch. A fleet upgrade was needed to improve the quality of the ships and add some capacity.

Fred Olsen Ships By Size

Let’s take a look at how the ships compare from a size perspective.

ShipGross tonnageLengthWidthTotal decksPassenger capacityCrew capacity
Bolette62,735237m34m121,338645
Borealis61,849237m34m121,360662
Balmoral43,537218m32m111,325551

How big are Fred Olsen ships?

Fred. Olsen cruise ships are small-to-mid-sized cruise ships, aimed at providing a relaxing atmosphere primarily for an older adult audience. The ships have a passenger capacity of around 1,300 each, helping to keep queues to a minimum.

If you’re looking for mega ships packed with all kinds of impressive activities then Fred. Olsen is probably not the cruise line for you. However they do still have a lot of smaller activities to engage guests during the day, and plenty of enjoyable evening entertainment too.

What is Fred Olsen’s largest cruise ship?

The largest ship in the Fred. Olsen fleet is Bolette, the former MS Amsterdam. She is 237 metres long, has 12 decks and a maximum passenger capacity of 1,338. Her internal volume measures 62,735 gross tons, which is around a quarter that of the biggest ocean cruise ships in the world.

What is the smallest Fred Olsen ship?

The smallest Fred. Olsen cruise ship is the Balmoral, which joined the fleet in 2007. She is 218 metres long, has 11 decks and a maximum passenger capacity of 1,325. Her gross tonnage is 43,537 GT meaning she is around 30% smaller than Bolette, and around a sixth of the size of the biggest cruise ships in the world.

Fred Olsen - Balmoral ship
Balmoral

Info About Each of The Fred Olsen Ships

Here’s a more in-depth look at each of the ships in the fleet.

Bolette

Bolette sailing out of Dover

History

Bolette is the newest ship in the fleet and one with a relatively simple history. She was built for Holland America Line in 2000 where she sailed as the MS Amsterdam, where she was the fourth and final ship in the R Class.

In July 2020, Holland America Line and Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines announced a deal where the MS Amsterdam and MS Rotterdam would be sold to Fred. Olsen, and a few months later the transfers went through.

Since then, Bolette has been the flagship of the Fred. Olsen fleet.

Itineraries

Bolette primarily offers cruises from the UK from the ports of Dover, Liverpool, Newcastle and Southampton, although she does have rare fly cruises from Reykjavik exploring Greenland too.

Most itineraries on Bolette focus on Northern Europe although a selection of cruises to the Canary Islands and Azores are also available.

Borealis

Fred Olsen - Borealis ship

History

Borealis shares a similar history to Bolette. She started life as the MS Rotterdam for Holland America Line, the original ship in the R Class.

But she was sold to Fred. Olsen as part of the package deal in 2020, taking the place of Black Watch and Boudicca. 

Itineraries

Borealis offers a range of exciting itineraries around Europe with more of a focus on the Mediterranean, although Northern Europe cruises are also available.

She is also the cruise ship that offers a 103-night world cruise, if you really want the ultimate itinerary.

In terms of regional departures, cruises are available from Liverpool, Newcastle, Portsmouth and Southampton.

Balmoral

Balmoral in Olden, Norway

History

Of the three ships in the current fleet, Balmoral is the one with the longest history.

She first launched in 1988 as the Crown Odyssey, sailing for Royal Cruise Line, a Greek company that was bought by Norwegian Cruise Line in 1989, although it operated as its own brand until 1996.

When the brand was made defunct, the ship became part of the main NCL fleet and was renamed Norwegian Crown. She sailed for four years before NCL bought Orient Lines, and transferred the ship to that brand, with her name reverted to Crown Odyssey.

In 2003 she was returned to the NCL fleet, refurbished, and given the name Norwegian Crown again. She sailed for the cruise line until 2007 when she was sold to Fred. Olsen and became Balmoral, named after the estate in Scotland.

Itineraries

Balmoral specialises in cruises to the Norwegian Fjords, but also some unique itineraries around Scotland and to some of the rivers of Europe. Yes, this is an ocean cruise ship that does river cruising!

She primarily sails out of the north, either from Newcastle or Rosyth in Edinburgh, but some cruises from Southampton are also available.

Fred. Olsen Ship Features

In terms of onboard features, the ships are all very similar – there aren’t really unique features, but there are some subtle differences in the number of bars or pools. Here’s a full comparison of the features of each of the ships:

FeatureBoletteBorealisBalmoral
Restaurants666
Bars & Lounges887
Show Lounges111
Swimming Pools212
Hot tubs224
Fitness CentreYESYESYES
Atlantis SpaYESYESYES
Thermal SuiteYESYESYES
Shops333
Golf NetsNoNoYES
LibraryYESYESYES
Card RoomYESYESYES
Laundry RoomYESYESYES
Art StudioYESYESNo

There are very few unique features to mention. The only one that is truly unique is the option of practising your golf swing on Balmoral, while the Art Studio is an option on both Bolette and Borealis.

Art studio on Borealis


But otherwise, the ships all have very similar features.

In terms of accommodation choices, things are a little more different – there are some cabins you can only find on the newer ships, and Balmoral has some exclusive options too.

Here’s a breakdown of the accommodation options on the Fred. Olsen fleet:

Cabin/SuiteBoletteBorealisBalmoral
Olsen SuiteYESYESNo
Premier SuiteYESYESYES
Balcony SuiteYESYESNo
Marquee SuiteNoNoYES
Superior SuiteNoNoYES
Balcony Junior SuiteYESYESYES
Single Balcony SuiteYESYESYES
Superior Balcony CabinNoNoYES
Balcony CabinNoNoYES
Terrace Cabin*YESYESNo
Superior Ocean View with Picture WindowYESYESYES
Ocean View with Picture WindowYESYESYES
Single Ocean View with Picture WindowYESYESYES
Ocean View with PortholeYESYESYES
Single Ocean View with PortholeNoNoYES
Superior InteriorYESYESYES
Single Superior InteriorNoNoYES
Single InteriorYESYESYES
InteriorYESYESYES

Terrace Cabins are like a Balcony Cabin but instead of a private balcony, your French Doors open out directly onto the ship’s promenade. So it’s not quite as private.

Terrace Cabin on Borealis

For more information about cabins, check out these guides:

What Happened to Older Fred. Olsen Ships?

What happened to the Boudicca cruise ship?

Boudicca was a popular Fred. Olsen ship that was retired in 2020 to make way for the arrival of Bolette and Borealis. Once retired she was eventually scrapped in a shipyard in Turkey in 2021.

What happened to Black Watch?

Black Watch was a long-serving ship for Fred. Olsen. She joined the fleet in 1996 and sailed until 2020 when she was also retired ahead of Bolette and Borealis joining the fleet. She was scrapped in India in 2022.

What is happening to Braemar?

Braemar is the third Fred. Olsen cruise ship to have been retired within the last few years. She was retired in 2022 following 21 years of service for the cruise line.

Braemar has now been renamed as Villa Vie Odyssey and will offer an epic 43-month itinerary with guests living permanently on board.

Older Ships

The cruise line has had two earlier cruise ships as well. Blenheim was built in 1970 and served for Fred. Olsen until 1981 when she was sold to Scandinavia World Cruises, although three years later she burnt out. She was then rebuilt and sailed as Discovery 1.

The first ship in the fleet was Black Prince, which set sail as a combination ferry/cruise ship in 1966. In 1987 it was remodelled into a full cruise ship and it sailed for the cruise line until 2009.

Fred Olsen Ship FAQs

Where do Fred Olsen ships sail from?

Fred. Olsen cruises are available from a number of regional ports around the UK, including Dover, Liverpool, Newcastle, Portsmouth, Rosyth and Southampton. There are also fly-cruise options that depart from Singapore, Reykjavik, Sydney and Dubai.

Do Fred Olsen ships have balconies?

All Fred. Olsen ships have balconies but they don’t all have Balcony Cabins. On Borealis and Bolette there are Balcony Suites available, but Terrace cabins lead directly onto the promenade, not a private balcony. Balmoral does have Balcony Cabins.

Do Fred Olsen ships have swimming pools?

All Fred. Olsen cruise ships have swimming pools. Both Bolette and Balmoral have two pools, while Borealis has one. Bolette and Borealis also have two whirlpools each – Balmoral has four.

Do Fred Olsen ships have free wifi?

WiFi is not free on Fred. Olsen ships – you would instead need to pay for one of the two internet packages. The Social Media package allows access to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter but not WhatsApp – that, and emails, is available on the General Browsing Package.

Do Fred Olsen ships have casinos?

The Fred. Olsen ships do not have casinos, but they do have card rooms where guests can enjoy friendly card games with other passengers on the ships.

Do Fred Olsen ships have cinemas?

Fred. Olsen cruise ships don’t have cinemas, but there is a theatre for live shows in the evening, while the bars and lounges also have musicians playing. During the day, quizzes are regularly hosted to entertain guests.

Final word

There you have it – a complete guide to the Fred. Olsen cruise fleet and the ships that you can sail on. Hopefully, this makes it easier for you to choose a favourite, or just to plan for your upcoming cruise.

There isn’t really a ‘best’ ship for Fred Olsen cruises. Bolette is the newest, but Fred. Olsen passengers don’t really care about ‘new’. They are really fond of the ships regardless of age. So, hopefully the information in this guide is useful if you want to pick a ship, but the experience is broadly similar regardless.

I’ve only sailed on Borealis and Bolette myself so far but make sure you read my Borealis review and Bolette review if you want to know my thoughts on these ships – I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed them!

Related Posts:

If you found this interesting, please share!

Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

Read more about me



Leave a comment